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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 44

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5:

The banquet Joseph ordered for his brothers passed pleasantly.

Early the next morning the brothers took their leave and began their journey back to their homeland. They were quite unprepared for the events Joseph had arranged for them. He gave special instructions to his "steward" that the money of each of the brothers was to be placed in their grain sacks. Special treatment was reserved for Benjamin.

The steward placed in Benjamin’s sack a special silver dish belonging to Joseph This was a "cup" or bowl from which Joseph drank. This dish had special significance in ancient Egypt. In the houses of the great sages of Egypt the silver bowl was commonly employed for divination. Unknown events were supposed to be revealed in the reflection of the water. In some instances, gold or precious gems were placed in the bowl to intensify the reflection of the light rays. There is no hint that Joseph employed his personal "cup" for purposes of divination, for it would have been impossible for him to "divine" that the cup was stolen if indeed it was stolen!

Joseph arranged a final test to determine his brothers’ attitude. He must determine if they were still the selfish, unloving, jealous brothers who once ignored his piteous pleas for mercy. Or were they indeed changed by genuine repentance for their evil attitudes and actions. Their reaction to Benjamin’s plight would be the evidence Joseph sought.

Verses 6-13

Verses 6-13:

Joseph’s steward overtook the brothers soon after they left the city. He charged them with base ingratitude, violation of the rules of hospitality, and theft. The brothers vehemently denied the charges, and protested their innocence. So sure were they of their innocence they offered to surrender for death the one with whom the steward should find the silver cup, and the rest would agree to become slaves.

The steward affirmed he would not require the death penalty for the guilty one, but would instead make him a slave. The others would be free to go their way. This was an important aspect of Joseph’s plan. The brothers must be free to make a choice: they could have their own freedom at the expense of their younger brother.

The search began. The Egyptians opened all the grain sacks, beginning with the eldest and progressing to the youngest. And there in Benjamin’s sack they made the startling discovery: The Egyptian lord’s silver cup! Now the brothers must make their choice. They were free to return to Canaan to their families. There would be no need to jeopardize their own safety. They could denounce Benjamin as a thief and leave him to his fate. All knew he was innocent, but that would be of no consequence if their attitude was the same as when they callously ignored the piteous pleas of their innocent brother twenty years earlier.

The brothers made their choice. Though they were appalled at the discovery of the incriminating cup in Benjamin’s sack, they were unwilling to leave him to his fate. This was another step in the full cycle of their repentance. They sorrowfully gathered up their belongings and accompanied the Egyptians as they returned Benjamin as a prisoner to the city.

Verses 14-17

Verses 14-17

Judah acted as spokesman for the brothers as they appeared before Joseph He readily admitted their complicity and attributed it to the judgment of Elohim. He offered himself and the others as slaves in retribution for the theft of the cup.

Judah’s offer showed the brothers’ willingness to identify with their younger brother who was accused of the crime. Still, Joseph must reinforce this with another test. He offered complete amnesty to the ten brothers; the finger of guilt pointed not to them, but to Benjamin. They were all free to return in peace to their homes: Benjamin would remain in Egypt as Joseph’s personal slave.

Verses 18-34

Verses 18-34:

Judah’s intercessory plea on behalf of Benjamin in one of the most moving speeches in the Old Testament. He reviewed the events leading up to their return to Egypt. He expressed deep concern for the well-being of his aged father. he was unwilling to bring such sorrow on Jacob’s venerable head. He offered himself as substitute for his younger brother. All this was in the deepest sincerity and spirit of self denial.

The old proud, selfish, envious attitude of the brothers was all in the past. They were fully repentant. Likely they saw what their wicked actions had done to their father. They regretted their former actions toward Joseph, and the deception they practiced upon Jacob to cover up their misdeeds.

The test was over. The brothers had been brought in deepest humility to recognize their past guilt, and to express deep sorrow for the heartbreak and suffering they had caused their father. Now they were in a position for grace to come to their rescue. This principle is operative in all ages. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6; Pr 3:34; 1Pe 5:5).

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 44". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-44.html. 1985.
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