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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Genesis 43

8. Joseph’s brothers’ second journey into Egypt ch. 43

Chapters 43-45 are a unit describing what happened when Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt. Like chapter 42, which this section echoes, it consists of seven scenes arranged palistrophically with the central scene being the arrest of Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 44:1-13).

A Jacob sends his sons to Egypt (Genesis 43:1-14).

B Arrival in Egypt; the steward and the brothers (Genesis 43:15-25)

C Lunch with Joseph (Genesis 43:26-34)

D The brothers arrested (Genesis 44:1-13)

C’ Joseph’s self-disclosure (Genesis 44:14 to Genesis 45:15)

B’ Departure from Egypt; Pharaoh and the brothers (Genesis 45:16-24)

A’ Jacob receives his sons’ report (Genesis 45:25-28). [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, pp. 418-19.]

Upon returning to Canaan the brothers had to persuade Jacob to let Benjamin accompany them on their next trip to Egypt, which they did with considerable difficulty. When they went back to Egypt and tried to return the money they had found in their sacks, Joseph received them graciously and dealt with them peacefully. He also showered Benjamin with lavish favoritism to test his brothers for jealousy.

Verses 1-15

Judah evidently took the lead and spoke for his brothers because Jacob had already refused Reuben (Genesis 42:37-38), Simeon was in Egypt, and Levi had previously forfeited his father’s confidence (ch. 34). As Reuben had done (Genesis 42:37), Judah offered to bear responsibility in Jacob’s place, but in contrast to Reuben, Judah took personal responsibility for Benjamin’s safety (Genesis 43:9). From this point on, Judah becomes the leader of Jacob’s sons (cf. Genesis 49:8-10; Matthew 1:2; Matthew 1:17; Luke 3:23; Luke 3:33).

Facing a crisis like his meeting with Esau (chs. 32-33), Jacob again prepared a lavish present to appease "the man," Joseph (cf. Proverbs 18:16).

"Jacob has no guarantee El Shaddai will do anything. His if I am to be bereaved, bereaved I shall be is the same construction as Esther’s ’if I perish, I perish’ (Esther 4:16) . . ." [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 545. See also S. B. Berg, The Book of Esther: Motifs, Themes, and Structure, pp. 123-42, for linguistic and thematic parallels between the Esther story and the Joseph story.]

Compare also Rebekah’s complaint when she thought she might lose both Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:45).

"The ’and Benjamin’ [Genesis 43:15] hangs like the resigned sigh of a father trapped between the need to live and the possibility of a life made utterly empty through another loss." [Note: W. L. Humphreys, Joseph and His Family: A Literary Study, p. 45.]

Verses 16-25

A better translation of, "I had your money," (Genesis 43:23) is, "Your money had come to me."

Verses 26-34

Again the brothers fulfilled God’s prophecy in Joseph’s dreams by bowing before Joseph (Genesis 43:26-28; cf. Genesis 37:5-9). Benjamin was 16 years younger than Joseph, so he would have been 23 at this time (Genesis 43:29). Joseph was 39 (Genesis 41:46; Genesis 45:6).

". . . according to the prevailing custom of the East, the very fact that they had been invited to Joseph’s table was in itself an encouraging circumstance. Though the Orientals are for the most part a revengeful people, yet if you eat with them, you are thenceforward sure of having their protection. Even should you have done them the greatest injury, yet you need be under no apprehension from their resentment." [Note: Bush, 2:316.]

The caste system in Egypt required that Joseph as a member of the upper class eat at a table separate from his Egyptian companions. The Hebrews sat at a third table since they were foreigners (Genesis 43:32). The Hebrews and other foreigners ate animals that the Egyptians regarded as sacred. [Note: Cf. Herodotus, Histories, 2:18, 41.] The Egyptians also followed strict rules for the ceremonial cleansing of their food before they ate it. This made the Hebrews "loathsome" to the Egyptians. [Note: See also the note on 46:34.] This segregation later allowed the Israelites to develop into a numberous nation within the borders of Egypt.

Joseph hosted a meal for his brothers who years before had callously sat down to eat while he languished in a pit. [Note: Sarna, Understanding Genesis, p. 302.] Joseph showed respect to Benjamin as his distinguished guest by giving him larger and better servings of food than his brothers received (Genesis 43:34). Special honorees frequently received double portions, but a fivefold portion was the sign of highest privilege. With this favor Joseph sought not only to honor Benjamin but also to test his other brothers’ feelings toward Benjamin. He wanted to see if they would hate him as they had hated himself, his father’s former favorite. Evidently they passed this test.

"Coming forth from this crucible, the formerly callous brothers emerge a bonded family, shining with integrity and love toward one another. . ." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 557.]

"Those who would participate in God’s program must be willing to take responsibility for their actions, make restitution when they are culpable, and accept their lot gratefully and without jealousy." [Note: Ross, Creation and . . ., p. 662.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 43". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-43.html. 2012.