Chapter 44

  1. Joseph’s Final Test

    • Joseph told his manager to fill each of his brothers’ sacks with as much grain as they could carry and to put each brother’s money in the top of his sack. Then Joseph told the manager to put his silver cup in the top of Benjamin’s sack along with his grain money.

    • At dawn, the brothers set out for home on their donkeys. When they left the city, Joseph told his manager to catch up to them and ask why they had repaid their kindness with evil. Joseph said, “Ask them why they stole your master’s silver cup that he uses for divination to predict the future.”

      • Some people say that Joseph was antagonizing his brothers because of their past cruelty to him, but HCSB commentary has a different explanation, “He wanted to determine whether his brothers would attempt to lie their way out of the situation. And he wanted to see if they would desert their youngest brother, Benjamin, in favor of their own self-interest- what they had done, essentially, in selling Joseph into slavery many years before.”

      • Did this verse just say that Joseph used the pagan practice of divination to predict the future?

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible has this to say, “Hydromancy (pouring water into oil) and oenomancy (pouring wine into other liquids) were methods of divination used in the Ancient Near East that would have required such a cup. Joseph was continuing his ruse- he knew that only God grants revelation (see Genesis 37:5-9; 40:8; 41:16).”

      • Guzik has this to say on the subject, “We know from other sources that ancients did use sacred cups as divination devices. It is possible Joseph did also, because there was not yet specific revelation from God that such a practice was forbidden. Yet, it was not Joseph who said he used the cup for divination, but his servant, who may have wrongly assumed Joseph’s spiritual insight and wisdom were more due to this cup than to his relationship with the living God.”

Silver-plated divination bowl, Egypt, 1801-1900
Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

        • It’s possible that the “cup” referred to in scripture, was actually a bowl since that is what is usually associated with Egyptian divination. Pictured above is an Egyptian, silver plated divination bowl.

    • When the manager caught up to the brothers, he did as Joseph had instructed him. The brothers responded, “Why would you accuse us of such things? We would never have done these things! We even brought back the money that was in our sacks the last time we came. We would never steal from your master! If you find this cup with any one of us, then kill him, and they rest of us will be your slaves.”

      • “They were so confident they did not have the cup (and trusted each other so much), they declared the thief should be killed and all the others taken as slaves.” (Guzik)

    • The manager replied, “That sounds fair. But only the one who is found to have the cup will be my slave and the rest of you can go free.”

    • Each of the brothers handed over his sack and the manager went through each of them starting with the oldest brother and ending with the youngest.

    • When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers tore their clothes in despair. They loaded up their donkeys and returned to the city.

      • “When Joseph was taken as a slave, the brothers allowed him to go and thought nothing of it. Now they were willing to stand with Benjamin as he faced slavery or death. This demonstrated a significant change in the heart and attitude of Joseph’s brothers.” (Guzik)

    • Joseph was still in his palace when the brothers returned and they fell to the ground in front of him. Joseph said, “What have you done? Don’t you know that a man like me can use divination to find the truth?”

      • Here, a casual reading actually sounds like Joseph is saying himself that he practices divination. However, notice the wording: the KJV translates Genesis 44:15 this way, “…such a man as I can certainly divine”. A closer reading seems to indicate that Joseph is continuing his ruse by using careful wording and being intentionally vague. He doesn’t directly say that he practices divination. Instead, by using the phrase “such a man as I”, he is clearly alluding to his Egyptian status. Since his brothers doubtless knew that the Egyptians commonly practiced divination, they would come to their own conclusions. His statement produced the desired effect: his brothers were terrified that it appeared that Benjamin had stolen a very important cup belonging to the second most important person in Egypt and they had no means of proving otherwise.

    • Judah speaks to Joseph, “My lord, what can we possibly say? We can’t explain it, and we have no way to prove that we are innocent. God is punishing us for our sins. We have all returned to be your slaves, not just the one whose sack your cup was found in.”

    • Joseph answered, “No, I would never do such a thing! Only the man who stole the cup will remain to be my slave. The rest of you can go back to your father peacefully.”

      • “With these words, Judah revealed God’s work among the brothers. In Judah’s mind, the bothers were now destined to live the rest of their lives as slaves in Egypt because they sold Joseph as a slave some 20 years before…The brothers were innocent of the sin of stealing the cup but were guilty of far greater sins. In the same way, we might take pride because we are innocent of some sin or another, yet we are guilty of far greater. You can’t hide from your sin. Time does not erase the guilt of your sin; only the blood of Jesus can…This resignation to slavery in Egypt was all the more significant considering these were middle-aged men who came from lives of relative privilege, wealth, and status.” (Guzik)

  1. Judah’s Plea for Benjamin

    • Judah stepped forward and asked if he could speak to Joseph. Judah said to Joseph, “You are as powerful as Pharaoh, please don’t be angry. You asked us if we had a father or a brother and we answered that we did indeed have an elderly father and a younger brother. This boy’s full brother is dead- he is the only child left of his mother’s children and our father loves him very much. You told us to bring him here so that you could see him. We explained that if we made him leave our father that our father would die, but you told us that if we didn’t bring him back with us that you wouldn’t see us. When we went back home and told our father what you said to us, he said, ‘You know that his mother only gave birth to two sons and one was killed. If you take Benjamin from me, it will send me grieving to Sheol.’ So, if I go back home without Benjamin, our father will die because his life is bound to Benjamin’s. Then it will be my fault that my father goes grieving to Sheol. I told my father if I didn’t bring Benjamin back to him that I would bear the blame forever. So, please, let me stay as your slave in Benjamin’s place, and let him return home with my brothers. I couldn’t possibly go back home without Benjamin and watch my father be overcome with grief.”

      • In his commentary, Guzik quotes some great theologians’ words regarding Judah’s impassioned plea, “Of Judah’s speech, F.B. Meyer wrote: ‘In all literature, there is nothing more pathetic than this appeal.’ H.C. Leupold wrote, ‘This is one of the manliest, most straightforward speeches ever delivered by any man. For depth of feeling and sincerity of purpose it stands unexcelled.’ Barnhouse called it ‘the most moving address in all the Word of God.’”

      • “Judah dramatically offered to lay down his life for the sake of Benjamin. This was a dramatic change from 20 years before when the brothers did not care about Joseph, Benjamin, or even their father Jacob… Judah distinguished himself as the one willing to be a substitutionary sacrifice, out of love for his father and for his brethren…Judah was the one who suggested selling Joseph 20 years earlier. (Genesis 37:26-27) Here he sensitively offered to lay down his life for the favored brother. This display of sacrificial love was another example of transformation in the brothers.” (Guzik)

      • Guzik lists the dramatic evidence of change in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers:

· They did not resent it when Benjamin was given the favored portion (Genesis 43:34)

· They trusted each other, not accusing each other of wrong when accused of stealing the cup (Genesis 44:9)

· They stuck together when the silver cup was found. They did not abandon the favored son and allow him to be carried back to Egypt alone (Genesis 44:13)

· They completely humbled themselves for the sake of the favored son (Genesis 44:14)

· They knew their predicament was the result of their sin against Joseph (Genesis 44:16)

· They offered themselves as slaves to Egypt, not abandoning Benjamin, the favored son, their brother (Genesis 44:16)

· They showed due concern for how this might affect their father (Genesis 44:29- 31)

· Judah was willing to be a substitutionary sacrifice for his brother out of love for his father and his brethren (Genesis 44:33)