Jan. 15 Reading: Genesis 43-45 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 43-45 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as as slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Gen. 44:33-34) 

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5)

Genesis 43 – Benjamin Goes to Egypt

commentaryAfter some time has passed, Joseph’s brothers need to return to Egypt to buy more grain. But they know they cannot show up without their younger brother Benjamin. But Jacob is still reluctant to let them leave with Benjamin.

Judah steps up and offers to be surety for Benjamin. In essence, he is saying that Benjamin is under his protection and if anything happens to him, Judah will bear the blame forever. It’s a bold move considering the last time they were in Egypt their brother Simeon was taken prisoner. Who knows what could happen on the return trip.

Jacob finally relents, knowing there is no other alternative. But he instructs the brothers to take double money plus the the money that Joseph had put in their sacks. (No doubt Joseph had done this to test the intentions and greediness of his brothers. Remember in Genesis 37 Joseph had been sold into slavery for money.) Jacob also sends presents in the hopes of appeasing the man (Joseph) who was in charge of food distribution.

The Brothers Before Joseph

When the brothers are brought before Joseph the second time, they are treated very differently. They are brought in to dine with him. They are confused by this and initially fearful they are going to be confronted about the money in their sacks and forced into slavery (v. 18).

Instead Joseph’s steward spoke kindly to them. He brought Simeon from prison to meet them. He gave them water, washed their feet and fed their animals.

When Joseph arrives at the house, he again begins to question them about Jacob. But when he laid eyes on Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion and went into another room to cry. When he had finally composed himself, he returned to eat with his brothers, giving extra large portions of food to Benjamin.

Genesis 44 – Judah’s Plea to Joseph

All the while, Joseph has been testing and listening to his brothers. He wants to see or hear anything that shows their hearts have changed. He’s heard a little of their remorse but its not enough. He has one more trial to put them through.

When the men leave the city on this occasion, Joseph commands his steward to fill all their sacks with grain. He puts the money for the grain payment back into their sack. And he also places his special silver cup in Benjamin’s sack.

After they had gone away from the city a little ways, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in doing so'” (Gen. 44:4-5).

Of course when the steward confronts them on the road, the brothers have no idea what he is talking about. But then all is exposed as the sacks are opened. And when Benjamin’s is opened last, the silver cup is found. All the brothers return to face the wrath of Joseph.

When Joseph confronts their theft, it’s Judah that speaks up saying, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak. Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found” (v. 16).

But Joseph is having none of Judah’s remorse. He wants only Benjamin as a slave. The rest of the brothers are dismissed to go.

Judah Steps Up

At one point in his life, Judah had abandoned his family (Gen. 38) and put himself into some unsavory circumstances. Just like his brothers, he had hated Joseph and been complicit in sending him to Egypt. But now, with Benjamin’s life on the line – and in Judah’s mind, his father’s too –  he makes one final plea for mercy from Joseph.

Judah explains to Joseph how Benjamin’s life is tied to Jacob’s. He shares how Jacob has already grieved the death of one son (Joseph) and how Jacob will feel if he loses his youngest son. Clearly, Jacob will die if Benjamin does not return to him safely.

So to make ensure Benjamin’s safe return, Judah says to Joseph,

“Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as as slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Gen. 44:33-34) 

It’s a pivotal moment that is not lost on Joseph. This is what he has been wanting to see. Judah is offering himself for Benjamin.He is willing to take Benjamin’s place as a slave. Instead of being indifferent to the needs of a family member, he offered his own life for Benjamin’s.

Genesis 45 – Joseph Reveals His Identity

Upon hearing Judah’s plea, Joseph can no longer contain himself. In an emotional display, and much to his brother’s shock, he reveals his true identity to them. And the first person he asks about is his father.

One thing stands out immediately though. Joseph probably knows how they feel about seeing him again. A mix of fear, guilt and shame all setting in at once. So he tells them immediately,

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5)

Joseph’s compassion for his brothers exceeds the truth about their relationship. They were brutal to him to put it mildly. Yet, he forgave them by understanding God’s bigger picture. It’s not necessarily easy to forgive, but it’s what Jesus calls us to do. 

Eventually, all the brothers realize he is truly their brother. And when Pharaoh finds out Joseph’s brothers have come, he is pleased. He commands Joseph to bring his entire family, father and all, to Egypt to live off the best of the land. The brothers head home with great news to tell their father.

Or is it great news? We don’t know how those conversations went when they informed Jacob that Joseph was alive in Egypt. The truth had to have been exposed at some point. No doubt there was some difficult and emotional discussions about what had been done.

Regardless, once Jacob is convinced of the truth, he gathers his strength and heads to Egypt with his entire family.

Note: This would be the beginning of a 400 year period away from the Promised Land of Canaan.

Questions to Consider:

How do you forgive those who have wronged you deeply? What relationship do you need to make right today? When was the last time you stepped up and sacrificed something of value for another person? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 43-45 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.