by Don R. Richards
Back to Index 1999
Back to January 1999
Genesis Chapter 43
Joseph was the favored son of Jacob and had been presented the "coat of many colors" by his father. His brothers grew jealous, faked Joseph’s death to their father by pouring animal blood on the coat and handing over Joseph to traveling tradesmen heading for Egypt.
From the time Joseph was later sold into slavery, he began his rise to power in Egypt. He was favored in the house of the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. He shunned the improper advancements of a woman, she lied to cover herself and he ended up in prison. Because he then successfully interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh (dreams foretelling prosperous years followed by years of famine), he was released and eventually was placed in a leadership position over the lands of Egypt. In that position, he used the prosperous years to store away massive quantities of excess food. Then, he sold the food for Egypt to people of other countries to survive the famine. It was in this position that he recognized his brothers, who had been sent by their father Jacob to Egypt to buy food where the word was spreading the knowledge of Egypt’s storage.
Last time we reviewed this part of the Bible’s history story in Genesis Chapter 42, we learned that Joseph, keeping his true identity secret from his brothers who long ago sold him into slavery in Egypt, gave the brothers food and supplies, but sent them home to return with their youngest brother, Benjamin. To insure their return with Benjamin (with whom Joseph had been close when they were young), Joseph kept brother Simeon in the form of a hostage.
At home, the brothers told Jacob that Simeon was being held pending the return with Benjamin. Jacob refused to let Benjamin go. He said he had already long ago lost son Joseph (Jacob did not know Joseph was alive in Egypt and set up this entire scheme). Jacob told his family that he had now already lost Joseph, and apparently Simeon, and he would not lose his youngest son Benjamin.
However, as we learn in Chapter 43, the famine in Jacob’s land grew worse. Finally, Jacob instructed his sons to take money and return to Egypt to buy more food. Jacob’s sons reminded Jacob that they could not return to Egypt unless they brought youngest brother Benjamin with them. Brother Judah spoke up and pledged his life for the safe return with him of Benjamin.
Jacob again, not realizing Joseph was setting up his family, chided his other sons for even telling this Egyptian leader (Joseph) about the younger brother who remained home. The brothers responded (not yet catching on that this man in Egypt sure knew a lot of specific questions to ask) told Jacob that they had no choice but to tell the truth because of the straightforward questions they had been asked by this Egyptian leader.
Jacob then told his sons it was okay to take Benjamin and show him to this Egyptian leader, but he also instructed his sons to take gifts and money to this Egyptian leader to seek his favor so that all the sons mights safely return. Gen. 43, verses 11-14.
When the brothers returned to Egypt Joseph first noted that Benjamin was with them and instructed a feast be planned for himself all the brothers. The brothers was afraid, not knowing what the strange Egyptian leader would require of them. They offered him the gifts they brought. Joseph produced Simeon to join his brothers. Still not recognizing the unusual behavior of this Egyptian leader, they was asked specific questions about their father and whether he was still alive and well. Verse 27-28.
When Joseph saw Benjamin, he inquired if this was the youngest brother whom he had instructed them to bring back. Joseph kept hidden his joy at seeing his brother who was from the same mother as himself (the other brothers was all half brothers, each from a different mother and wife of Jacob following the death of previous wives). Joseph felt especially close to Benjamin. However, Joseph immediately had to leave the room to hide himself. The emotion of seeing Benjamin made him weep. He then washed his face to regain his composure and returned. Verses 29-31.
At the feast, the brothers were strangely seated in correct order, with the oldest on one end and the youngest on the other. They were shocked at the coincidence of the seating, but yet did not suspect this Egyptian leader was their long lost brother. When the servants fed them, they noticed that Benjamin was provided five times as much food as the others. Still they did not suspect the true identity of this Egyptian leader.
Joseph had one more major test for his brothers. After that, in the closing chapters of the book of Genesis, we learn how the Nation of Israel was formed, including the setting up of the order of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the separation of the Hebrews from the Egyptians. This and the ensuing story is the great historical background of the Jewish people. The groundwork is laid for the upcoming life and events of one of the Bible’s most well-known leaders - Moses.
Next: Joseph reveals himself to his brothers
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