Genesis (Part 201)

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

Genesis 44:6-13

When he overtook them, he spoke to them these words. They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing! Behold, the money that we found in the mouths of our sacks we brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants.” 10 He said, “Let it be as you say: he who is found with it shall be my servant, and the rest of you shall be innocent.” 11 Then each man quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 And he searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.


You might have thought that after their previous experience, Joseph’s brothers would search their own bags for this type of thing before leaving.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 44:6

And he (i.e. the steward) overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.

Genesis 44:7-10

And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do (literally, for be thy seesaws from doing) according to’s thing: behold, the money (literally, the silver)which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan (this was an irrefragable proof of their honesty): how then should we steal out of my lord’s house silver or gold? They were even so confident of their innocence that they ventured on a rash proposition. With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen—literally, for servants to my lordAnd he (the steward) said, Now also let it be according to your words. So LXX; Vulgate, and commentators generally; but Kalisch reads it as an interrogation, “Is it right according to your words?” meaning that strict justice demanded only the punishment of the thief, as he explained. He with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye (i.e. the others of you) shall be blameless.

Verse seven does not tell us specifically which if the brothers offered to let the one among them, with stolen items, be killed. The impression is that the sentiment among them was universal agreement on that point.

Continuing on with Ellicott’s bible Commentary:

(9-13) Let him die.—Joseph’s brethren, conscious of their innocence, deny the theft, and, like Jacob when accused of stealing the teraphim (Genesis 31:32), declare that the guilty person shall die, and the rest be made slaves; readily too they consent to be searched, and take their travelling-bags from off the asses on which they were riding. The steward, who knew where the bowl was, answers that only the man in whose bag it is found shall be punished, and that not by death but by slavery. Beginning with Reuben’s bag, the money is found, but this the steward makes light of; he then takes the next, and as each brother sees that he has with him more than he knew of, their minds must have been filled with confusion and terror. They would be liable to slavery for taking the money, but when the bowl is found in Benjamin’s possession all hope was gone, and they rent their clothes in uncontrollable grief.

The note from Ellicott reminds us that this moment harkens back to the story, earlier in Genesis, wherein Jacob made a similarly rash promise to Laban when he overtook Jacob’s party after Rachel stole the teraphim from his household.

Unlike his mother, Benjamin did not knowingly take anything. Also unlike his mother, Benjamin is found out. The scene presented is dramatic as one-by-one from oldest to youngest, they are found innocent, until the searchers reach Benjamin. When the cup is found with him, the brothers tear their clothes in grief and anguish.

Prior to the discovery, which the steward knew he would make, he softens the penalty proposed by Joseph’s brothers. Rather than the guilty die and the rest become servants, he states that the guilty will become a servant and the rest will be treated as though they are innocent.

The Pulpit Commentaries notes the following for verses 11-13:

Genesis 44:11-13

Then they speedily took down (literally, and they hasted and took down) every man his sack (from off his ass) to the ground, and opened every man his sackThus as it were delivering them up for examination. And he (the steward) searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngestand the cup was found (where the steward himself had put it) in Benjamin’s sack. Then (literally, andthey rent their clothes (on the simlah vide Genesis 9:23), and laded every man his ass (by putting on the sack which had been taken down), and returned to the city.

The brothers thus return to the city in the opposite circumstances to those in which they lost Joseph. They coldly sold Joseph and did not follow him, or do anything at all, to learn of what became of him or to get him back. Here, despite being deemed innocent by the steward, they do not give Benjamin up willingly and do not wish that he be enslaved. They return with the steward and Benjamin to the city in a state of anguish.