Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.
This goes better for Joseph’s brothers than they could have possibly imagined. Not only is Joseph not angry about the money, but he tells them that he received their money the first time and that their God must have given them some treasure.
Joseph, for his part, is apparently very pleased to see Benjamin with them as we will see looking at the commentaries. Starting with The Pulpit Commentaries:
And when (literally, and) Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he literally, and he) said to the ruler of his house,—literally, to him who was over his house, i.e. the steward (cf. Genesis 24:2; Genesis 39:4; Genesis 44:1)—Bring these men home (i.e. conduct these men to my house, which was probably at some distance), and slay,—literally, slay a slaughter. The assertion that the narrator is here guilty of an inaccuracy in representing Joseph as having animal food prepared for himself and his guests (Bohlen) is refuted by Herodotus (2.37, 40) and by Wilkinson, who says that “beef and goose constituted the principal part of the animal food throughout Egypt,” and that according to the sculptures “a considerable quantity of meat was served up at those repasts to which strangers were invited.’ “Though there was scarcely an animal which was not held sacred in some province, there was, perhaps with the only exception of the cow, none which’ was not killed and eaten in other parts of the land” (Kalisch)—and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon—literally, at the double lights (צָהֱרַים), i.e. at mid-day, the time of greatest splendor.
The commentary here is interesting because it cites another commentary for the sake of disagreeing with it. This is not uncommon among Bible Commentaries. They even more often cite each other to indicate agreement or to point in the direction of what might be perceived to be a better authority than the author of the commentary.
Continuing in The Pulpit Commentaries in the next verses:
And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house. “A more natural picture of the conduct of men from the country, when taken into the house of a superior, cannot be drawn. When they are told to go inside they at once suspect that they are about to be punished or confined. And they said (sc. To themselves), Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us,—literally, that he may roll himself upon us (cf. Job 30:14; Psalms 22:8; Psalms 37:5; Proverbs 26:3). “To say a man rolls himself upon another is the Eastern way of saying he falls upon him” and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses. The brethren of Joseph were clearly apprehensive of some serious stratagem to deprive them of liberty.
A modern reader might initially struggle to understand this. If one is invited into the home of an important political figure today, in a lot of the world, one does not fear that person will take you prisoner. This was not the reality in ancient Egypt. In verse 19, before they enter, they bring up the thing for which they fear they might be in trouble. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary we get a note about where they had this exchange:
(19) At the door of the house.—Alarmed at a thing so unexpected as being taken to the house of the governor, they can see nothing but danger, and will not enter until they receive the assurance of safety from the officer “who was over Joseph’s house.” (See Note on Genesis 43:25.)
The Pulpit Commentaries gives us a note on their entire story:
And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house (literally, the man who was over Joseph‘s house), and they communed (or spake) with him at the door of the house (i.e. before they entered), and said, O sir,—literally, Pray, my lord; δεόμεθαπύριε (LXX.)—we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: and it came to pass, when we came to the inn,—or halting-place (vide Genesis 42:27)—that we opened our sacks,—this was not strictly accurate, as only one sack had been opened at the wayside khan, while the others were not examined till they had reached home; though, as an explanation of the difficulty, it has been suggested that all the sacks may have been, and probably were, opened at the inn, but that only one man found his money in his sack’s mouth, as the next clause explains—and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack,—literally, a man‘s money in the mouth of his sack, i.e. one of them found his money there, while the others discovered their money, which was not “in the sack’s mouth,” but “in the sack” (Genesis 42:35), only on emptying their sacks at home—our money in full weight (literally, according to its weight): and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money (i.e. the second silver of Genesis 43:12) have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.
They explain that they did not intend to return home with their money and that they have returned again to Egypt with it, to make amends, in addition to bringing even more money for additional purchases. This is a provable show of good faith on their part. Then something unexpectedly good occurs. From Ellicott:
(23) Your God . . . —Either Joseph had instructed his steward what to say, or he had trained his household generally in the truths of his religion. (See Note on Genesis 42:18.) The word for “treasure” means hidden treasure, or as we call it a “windfall.” By bringing out Simeon he would remove their worst fears, and so at last they consent to go in.
The Pulpit Commentaries add this note for verse 23:
And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God (Elohim), and the God of your father,—an indication that Joseph’s steward had been taught to fear and trust the God of the Hebrews (Wordsworth, Murphy)—hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money (literally, your money came to me). And he brought Simeon out unto them.
The servant uses the word Elohim, for God, so we can infer that Joseph has taught his steward about his own God. Simeon also is returned to them, in this moment, in good health.
Finishing the section in The Pulpit Commentaries:
And the man (Joseph’s steward) brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet (of. Genesis 18:4; Genesis 24:32); and he gave their asses provender.
And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there. This must have been communicated to them after they had entered Joseph’s palace, since they had obviously not learnt it upon the way thither (vide supra, Genesis 43:18).
The brothers likely travel to Egypt, fearing death and imprisonment, and instead are met with the opposite of their first meeting with Joseph. Rather than be hostile with them, he treats them very kindly.
We will see more specifically how Joseph regards his brothers in the rest of the chapter. It is a good sign to Joseph that they returned with Benjamin, but he still has additional questions for them.
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