March 8, 2017

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

 

Topic # D: VISITS OF JOSEPH'S BROTHERS. Gen. 42:1-45:28                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

Lesson IV.D.6:They Dine with Joseph. (Gen. 43:26-34)                                      

 

 

 

Genesis 43:26-34 (KJV)

 

26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.

27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

28 And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

29 And he 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, God be gracious unto thee, my son.

30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

31 And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.

32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.

34 And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of their's. And they drank, and were merry with him.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.

 

“And when Joseph came home

 Joseph came home in order to eat the noon-time meal with his brothers, though they were still unable to recognize him.

 

 

“they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house

 It wasn’t “the present,” but a number of them including the money they found in their traveling bags, for Jacob had them take with them the best of everything their farm produced. Some of their presents, such as cattle and sheep had to remain outside, but there was enough remaining for every one of them to take a part of it “in his hand,” and take it to Joseph who was in the parlor, and presented it to him as a present from their father, or from themselves, or perhaps from both.

 

“and bowed themselves to him to the earth

 It appears from this that his brothers humbly prostrated themselves before him, thus indicating great respect for their host; and once again fulfilling Joseph’s dream, but more completely than before, for now all eleven of his brothers were together. In the dream his brothers were represented by eleven stars that made †obeisance to him (*Genesis 37:9).

 

27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

 

“And he asked them of their welfare

That is, he asked his brothers if their lives were peaceful and prosperous and he especially inquired about the health of their bodies, and whether they were well and in good health after so long a journey.

 

“and said, is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake?”

When they met with him during their first trip, they told him they were all the sons of one man, who dwelt in Canaan.

 

“Is he yet alive?”

Joseph was eager to hear from them whether their father is still “alive,” for he was well advanced in years. Perhaps he feared that death had claimed him during the time between their going and returning.

 

28 And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

 

“And they answered, thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive

Which is an answer to both questions (43:27); and by calling their “father” Joseph's “servant,” they did †obeisance to him, as well as by sending presents to him, which they delivered as coming from Jacob his “servant”; and it is not improbable that Jacob sent his greetings to him as his “servant,” and so that part of the dream of Joseph's was also fulfilled, which represented the sun doing †obeisance to him, *Genesis 37:9,

 

“and they bowed their heads, and made obeisance

For the second time, they did †obeisance to Joseph, as they did, no doubt, every time they answered one of Joseph's questions; and this is mentioned in order to show that Joseph’s dream has been fulfilled. This is the dream which had precipitated the hatred of his brothers and their action against him; selling him into Egypt.

 

29 And he 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, God be gracious unto thee, my son.

 

“And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin

He had seen him before when his brethren first presented themselves to him, but at that time he took no particular notice of him, only giving him a quick glance, but now he looked thoughtfully at him.

 

The writer is deliberately prolonging the welcome. He wants us to feel what Joseph felt. He is seeing his own blood brother after so long a time. And he gives him his blessing; “God be gracious unto thee, my son

 

“his mother's son

 Benjamin, like Joseph, is the son of Rachel his mother, and he is his only brother on his mother's side, the rest are his brethren on his father's side, for Jacob was their father, but they had different mothers.

 

“and said, is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?”

He knew Benjamin was the same person, but he wanted to hear it from their mouths, since that would lead on to something else he had to say.

 

“Is this your younger brother?”—Rather, your youngest brother. Joseph’s question was one of surprise. Can this young man, now nearly thirty, be the little Benjamin, who was just a child of eight or nine when he last saw him!

 

“and he said

 After they had answered his question, and told him it was he.

 

“God be gracious unto thee, my son

 Now he is speaking as a superior, a governor, in which capacity he was a father to his inferiors; and he is also speaking as a man, a relation, and a brother, though he had not yet reveled himself to them. He spoke in the most tender and affectionate manner, and, as a religious man, and a good man, for he wishes the best for his brother, the grace and goodness of God, which may be understood in the largest and most expressive sense, as including all good things, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.

 

“My son.” An indication of friendship from a great lord to a young man.

 

Joseph’s words come through an interpreter, so they are not aware of which god he refers to. Little do they realize that it is the God Whom they too worship.

 

30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

 

 “And Joseph made haste

His love excited his feelings to such an extent that he could no longer control himself, therefore he got out of the room--where he was with his brethren--as fast as he could, and sought a place where he could weep. This is 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 him: “He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes” (Genesis 42:24). He hid his affection, as a wise man would, till he had once more beaten passionately upon their guilty consciences; and so brought them to a more sound and serious knowledge of their sin, so that they might repent and receive a blessing for their souls.

 

“for his bowels did yearn (literally, were becoming warm, from intensity of tears) upon his brother

 His passions grew strong, his affections were raised, his heart was full of tenderness, and there was such a flood of love and joy at the sight of his brother, and the short conversation he had with him, that he was ready to burst, and he probably would have been discovered, if he had not immediately turned and got out of the room.

 

“and he sought where to weep”

He wanted a place where he could vent his excitement in tears of joy, and relieve the stress he was under.

 

“and he entered into his *chamber, and wept there

There in his bedroom, he would be comfortable and his weeping could not be overheard by his servants and his brothers. There in the seclusion of his own room he could be free to give vent to his feelings

 

31 And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.

 

“And he washed his face

He washed the tears off his face, so that no one could tell that he had been weeping.

 

“and went out

He left his room (chamber) and entered again into the room where his brethren were.

 

“and refrained himself

He stopped weeping, and refused to show any excess of passion, love, joy, etc.

 

“and said, set on bread

Joseph gave orders to his servants to bring in dinner, and set it upon the table; “bread,” as before, being put for all kinds of food.

 

32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

 

“And they set on for him by himself

 A table was placed in one part of the room so Joseph could eat by himself, and food was placed upon it. This may have been done for a couple of reasons: first, because he was a Hebrew, and the Egyptians could not eat with him, nor he with them; or second, because after Pharaoh he was the most important man in the kingdom, and custom required that they honor his position by seating him alone; or third, it was considered an “abomination” for an Egyptian to eat with foreigners and they could not bear to sit at a table with persons from other nations. History does not neglect to remark that in this point he adhered to the custom of the country.

 

“and for them by themselves

 Another table was set up and food was provided for Joseph's brethren by themselves, the reason is given above, that is, because doing so would be considered an abomination. Herodotus 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. 

 

“and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves

A third table was set up for Egyptian noblemen and others, who were at this time Joseph's guests, or were used to dining with him. Egyptian exclusiveness was proverbial. Their priests were not allowed to eat or drink anything that had come from a foreign country. Because of their superstition and idolatry, it was deemed to be an abomination for an Egyptian to eat with foreigners; partly because they worshipped the creatures which the Hebrews and others did commonly eat; and partly because of some peculiar rites and customs which they had in the dressing and preparation of their diet.

 

“because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an †abomination unto the Egyptians

The reason given most often, is because the creatures the Egyptians worshipped the Hebrews eat; but it is a question whether such creatures as oxen, sheep, goats, etc. which were eaten by the Hebrews, were worshipped by the Egyptians so early in their history; though they were in later times. There is yet another reason why the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; that is, the prejudice may have arisen from the loathing they felt for the oppressions of the shepherd-kings. Also, please read the first part of this verse.

 

33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.

 

“And they sat before him

The tables were arranged so that he had a full view of them. The Egyptians are always represented on the monuments as sitting at their meals.

 

 

“The firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth

The seating was according to age; Reuben, the firstborn was first, and so on to Benjamin who was the youngest: coincidentally, this is how they used to be seated in their father's family, or they were placed that way by Joseph; and if this was the case they must have supposed that Joseph possessed powers of divination. There must have been a reason for it and a very important one at that, which caused them to ask themselves; “What is this all about?” for next we read….

 

“and the men marvelled one at another

It was not the Egyptians that marveled, but the guests of Joseph, his eleven brethren, seeing they were placed in this manner and them being Hebrews, and noticing how much they were the recipients of whispered comments and stares. They either wondered at how they had been seated and how Joseph had come to know their respected ages, or at the honor done them to dine with the governor, and at the grandeur of the entertainment, and at the separate manner in which the governor, and the nobles of Egypt, sat at meals; or at what follows.

 

34 And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of their's. And they drank, and were merry with him.

 

“And he took and sent messes unto there from before him

The various dishes were set before Joseph, and he cut them up and sent to everyone their part and portion, which was not unusual in those times and countries. From the start, they were called, “missus,” and we may have gotten our word “messes” from that word.

 

“but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs

Joseph begins to show his great affection for his youngest brother, seeing that he was his own brother both on his father’s and mother's side; and, as some think, to test his brethren, to see how they interacted with Benjamin, and observe if this raised their envy of him, as his father's great love for him had raised it in them against himself; and if the attention he paid to Benjamin did increase their envy of Benjamin. Joseph wanted to know if he would be able to provide for his safety, should his brethren attempt to treat him as they had Joseph himself. This undoubtedly was intended as a mark of special honor and respect, since it was customary for princes to send “messes” from their tables to those they favored; and particularly it was the usual practice with the Egyptians for their kings to have double messes more than the rest, in honor of them. Benjamin's mess consisted either of five parts, or it was five times bigger than what was sent to the rest.

 

“and they drank, and were merry with him.

After dinner they drank generously of Joseph’s wine, but not to excess and drunkenness, yet they were cheerful and in good spirits; their fears being all dissipated by this generous feast, also provided by Joseph.

 

 

Scripture Reference

*Genesis 37:9:  “Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, "Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

 

 

 

Definitions

Obeisance: A movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture.

Chamber: closet, bedroom, storeroom, storehouse, inner rooms, inner room.

†Abomination: The technical term expresses that which was abhorrent and a source of ceremonial pollution. 

Bowels: the seat of pity, tenderness, or courage

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