Genesis (Part 197)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 43:11-15

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.


Jacob/Israel relents and agrees to send his sons back to Egypt. He crafts a plan for how they should approach the Egyptian ruler (i.e. Joseph) to deal with any anger he might feel concerning grain theft. Most importantly, he agrees to let them bring Benjamin. We can start by looking at The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 43:11

And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now (literally, if so now)do this; take of the best fruits in the land (literally, of the song of the land, i.e. of its choicest and most praised productions) in your vessels, and carry down the man a present. That Jacob could propose to send a handsome present of rich fruits to the Egyptian viceroy has been regarded as inconsistent with the prevalence of a famine in the land of Canaan for over two or three years (Bohlen); but

(1) the failure of the cereal crops does not necessarily imply a like absence of fruit, and

(2) it does not follow that, though Jacob selected the under-mentioned articles for his gift, they existed in abundance, while

(3) if the fruit harvest was small, an offering such as is here described would only be all the more luxuriant and valuable on that account (Kurtz, Kalisch). A little balm,—balsam (vide Genesis 37:25)—and a little honey,—דְּבַשׁ, grape honey, called by the Arabians dibs, and the Persians dushab, was prepared by boiling down must or new wine to a third or half; hence called by the Greeks ἕψημα, and by the Romans sapa, defrutum. It is still imported into Egypt from the district of Hebron. That it was not the honey of bees, μέλι, (LXX.), mel (Vulgate), is rendered probable by the circumstance that Egypt abounds in this excellent production of nature—spices, and myrrh (wide Genesis 27:25), nuts,—בָּטְנִים, an oblong species of nut, so called from its being fiat on one side and bellying out on the other (the pistacia vera of Linnaeus), having an oily kernel which is most palatable to Orientals (vide Kalisch in loco)—and almonds. The שָׁקֵד or almond tree, so called because of all trees it is the first to arouse from the sleep of winter, the root being שָׁקָד, to be sleepless, (Gesenius), does not seem to have been indigenous in Egypt, while it flourishes in Syria and Palestine (Kalisch).

The note addresses what might feel like a contradiction (i.e. how does the land produce fruits, spices, etc., to give, as a present, while also going through a famine.) Ellicott’s Bible Commentary also includes a note, giving more detail, about the proposed gifts:

(11) The best fruits.—Heb., the song, that is, whatever in the land is most celebrated in song.

In your vessels.—The word used in Genesis 42:25, where see Note. Concerning this present two remarks must be made; the first, that it proves that though there was not rain enough in Palestine to bring the corn to perfection, yet that there was some small supply, sufficient to maintain a certain amount of vegetation; and but for this Jacob could not have kept his cattle alive (Genesis 47:1). And next, the smallness of the present does not so much show that Jacob had very simple ideas respecting the greatness of the king of Egypt, as that there was a scarcity even of these fruits. Probably the trade in them had ceased, and therefore even a moderate quantity ‘would be welcome. For the words rendered balm, spices and myrrh really balsam, gum-tragacanth and ladanum), see Note on Genesis 37:25.

Honey.—As both the honey made by bees and date honey were common in Egypt, many suppose that this was grape-honey, prepared by boiling down the juice of ripe grapes to a third of its original quantity. Hebron is famous for its preparation, and even in modern times three hundred camel loads used to be exported thence annually into Egypt. Diluted with water it forms a very grateful drink, and it is also largely eaten with bread, as we eat butter.

Nuts.—That is, pistachio nuts, the fruit of the pistachio, vera. As the tree delights in dry, rocky situations, it will not grow in Egypt. It has an oily kernel, both palatable in itself and also much used for making savoury meats. These and the almonds, which also do not grow well in Egypt, would be acceptable gifts.

Returning to the text in verse 12, with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 43:12

And take double money (literally, money of a second, i.e. of the same, amount; not twice as much as the first time, but simply as much as the first time) in your hand; and the money that was brought again (or returned) in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight (literally, a something caused to wander, a mistake, from a root signifying to go astray).

This note just clarifies what Israel/Jacob means by “double money.” Ellicott agrees with the interpretation from the Pulpit Commentaries:

(12) Double money.—So Rashi; but others render it literally, second money, that is, a second sum of money. This agrees with the phrase “other money” in Genesis 43:22.

From The Pulpit Commentaries and verse 13:

Genesis 43:13Genesis 43:14

Take also your brotherand arise, go again unto the man: and God Almighty—El Shaddai, the covenant God of Abraham (Genesis 17:1), and of Jacob himself (Genesis 35:11)—give you mercy (literally, bowels, hence very tender affection, the inward parts being regarded as the seat of the emotions) before the man, that he may send away—literally, and he shall send with you {Kalisch), or for you (Keil)—your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved—literally, and if I am bereaved, I am bereaved, an expression of the patriarch’s acquiescence in the Divine will (cf. 2 Kings 7:4Esther 4:16).

The instructions are completed in these verses. Benjamin is finally allowed to go and Jacob prays that God would give them mercy in their travels. Notably, and this should also not be overlooked, Jacob also accepts that if it does not go well, with his sons, than this must be “the Divine will.”

Ellicott adds to the interpretation of verse 14:

(14) God Almighty.—Heb., El Shaddai, the name by which Abraham’s covenant (Genesis 17:1) was renewed to Jacob (Genesis 35:11).

If I be bereaved . . . —An expression of pious resignation, united with heartfelt anguish. The inserted words of my children lessen the pathos of the patriarch’s ejaculation, which literally is “and I, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

Studying and knowing the underlying language proves beneficial here. We can infer that through the use of the name El Shaddai, Jacob is also calling upon God to remember their covenant. This is something that one might miss if reading only in the English translation. In some sense, this moment is for Jacob much like Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac. He feels to some degree like he is going to see his sons perish. His hope then is in God to keep His covenant promise – a hope which requires his sons to live.

Concluding the section of verses with The Pulpit Commentaries, Jacob’s sons leave for Egypt.

Genesis 43:15

And the men took that present (which Jacob had specified), and they took double money (literally, a doubling of the moneyi.e. the first money, and as much again for the new purchase; the phrase is different from that used in Genesis 43:12, though the words are the same) in their hand, and Benjamin (so. they took with them); and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph (i.e. in the corn-market).

We will see how their second meeting with Joseph goes in the next section of the text.