Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.
So far, this goes as well as Joseph and his brothers could have possibly hoped. In verse 26 we see again that his brothers are bowing before him. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And when Joseph came home (after the dispatch of public business), they brought him the present which was m their hand (vide Genesis 43:11) into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. Thus they fulfilled the dream of the sheaves (Genesis 37:7; cf. Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1).
Gen. 37:7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.”
This appears to be the second time that this vision was fulfilled, though this time Benjamin is included among the brothers bowing. Continuing:
And he asked them of their welfare (literally, peace), and said, Is your father well (literally, Is there peace to your father?), the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?
His interest in their lives must be a little unnerving to the brothers. Either he remembers their prior conversation in a lot of detail, which is probably odd considering the number of people he likely meets with, or he has studied them, and perhaps notes from their previous meeting. That is likely also odd. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(28) They bowed down.—This was the literal fulfilment of the first dream concerning the eleven sheaves making obeisance. As their business in Egypt was to buy corn, there was a fitness also in their being represented as sheaves.
Ellicott notes here that the sheaves dream is fulfilled again here. Joseph then sees Benjamin and asks about him. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And he (i.e. Joseph) lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said (without waiting for an answer), God be gracious unto thee, my son. The tenderness of this language was much fitted to encourage the brethren.
And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn (literally, were becoming warm, from intensity of tore) upon his brother: and he sought where to weep;—the second occasion on which Joseph is represented as overcome by the strength of his inward emotion, the first having been when his brethren were speaking about their cruelty towards himself (Genesis 42:24)—and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.
The note reminds us that this is the second time Joseph has been overcome with emotion during the interactions with his brothers. Ellicott explains his face washing here:
(31) He washed his face.—This was done to remove all traces of his tears.
Once he is back in control over his emotions, he returns to them. From the Pulpit Commentaries:
And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves. “Joseph eats apart from his brethren, keeping strictly to the Egyptian mode; and the history does not omit to remark that in this point he adhered to the custom of the country” (Havernick, 21). Because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews. Herodotus (2.41) affirms that the Egyptians would neither use the knife, spit, or basin of a Grecian, nor taste the flesh of a clean cow if it happened to be cut with a Grecian knife. For that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. The reason for this separation from foreigners being that they dreaded being polluted by such as killed and ate cows, which animals were held in high veneration in Egypt.
And they sat before him,—that the Egyptians sat at meals is in exact accordance With the representations on the monuments, in which they are never exhibited as reposing on couches, but always as seated round a circular table resembling the monopodium of the Romans—the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marveled one at another—probably thinking that Joseph must have been supernaturally enlightened to discover so exactly the ages of strangers.
The note here provides an explanation for the seating arrangements. For a little additional detail on the Egyptian veneration of cattle, I’ll point you in the direction of THIS wiki article:
Hathor (Ancient Egyptian: ḥwt-ḥr, lit. ‘House of Horus’, Ancient Greek: Ἁθώρ Hathōr, Coptic: ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ, Meroitic: 𐦠𐦴𐦫𐦢 Atri/Atari) was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who played a wide variety of roles. As a sky deity, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs. She was one of several goddesses who acted as the Eye of Ra, Ra’s feminine counterpart, and in this form she had a vengeful aspect that protected him from his enemies. Her beneficent side represented music, dance, joy, love, sexuality, and maternal care, and she acted as the consort of several male deities and the mother of their sons. These two aspects of the goddess exemplified the Egyptian conception of femininity. Hathor crossed boundaries between worlds, helping deceased souls in the transition to the afterlife.
Hathor was often depicted as a cow, symbolizing her maternal and celestial aspect, although her most common form was a woman wearing a headdress of cow horns and a sun disk. She could also be represented as a lioness, cobra, or sycamore tree.
Cattle goddesses similar to Hathor were portrayed in Egyptian art in the fourth millennium BC, but she may not have appeared until the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC). With the patronage of Old Kingdom rulers she became one of Egypt’s most important deities. More temples were dedicated to her than to any other goddess; her most prominent temple was Dendera in Upper Egypt. She was also worshipped in the temples of her male consorts. The Egyptians connected her with foreign lands such as Nubia and Canaan and their valuable goods, such as incense and semiprecious stones, and some of the peoples in those lands adopted her worship. In Egypt, she was one of the deities commonly invoked in private prayers and votive offerings, particularly by women desiring children.
During the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC), goddesses such as Mut and Isis encroached on Hathor’s position in royal ideology, but she remained one of the most widely worshipped deities. After the end of the New Kingdom, Hathor was increasingly overshadowed by Isis, but she continued to be venerated until the extinction of ancient Egyptian religion in the early centuries AD.
The origin of cattle veneration seems to be linked to a predecessor Proto Indo European religion. The PIE religion seems to have been an origin point for many of the polytheistic pantheons around much of the world.
Continuing with Ellicott through the end of the chapter.
(34) Messes.—A portion of food from that prepared for the chief is regarded in the East as a mark both of honour and friendship, and the largeness of Benjamin’s mess marked him out as the especial object of Joseph’s regard. The words literally are, “And the portion of Benjamin was great above the portions of all of them five hands,” that is, five times. It has been supposed that Joseph intended to try his brethren by this preference, and see if they were still envious. More probably it was dictated simply by his love.
They drank and were merry with him.—Heb., They drank and were drunken with him. The verb is that used of Noah in Genesis 9:21, but probably the rendering in Haggai 1:6, “and were filled with drink,” would give the right meaning. They lost all fear and suspicion, and gave themselves up to enjoyment.
The brothers are all reunited, enjoying each other’s company, but they do not yet know that Joseph is their host.