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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 43

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Jacob, overcome by the entreaty of his sons, delivers Benjamin to them, and sends them again into AEgypt. Joseph receives his brethren with great kindness, brings Simeon out to them, and makes them a feast.

Verse 8

Genesis 43:8. Send the lad Benjamin was now more than twenty-four years of age, and a father of several children, see ch. Genesis 46:21. The Hebrews call the youngest of the family a lad, without regard to age, 2Sa 18:12, 1 Chronicles 22:5. See also ch. Genesis 37:30.

That we may live and not die The famine being severe, their corn is quickly spent. Jacob, with tender regard for his family, presses them to go; but Judah convinces him of the hopelessness of their journey, unless he will spare Benjamin, solemnly engaging to be surety for his return in safety. Judah's argument was very persuasive; he urged that Jacob could obtain nothing by withholding Benjamin, since, if he stayed at home, he must perish with all the family by famine: whereas, if he went, there was great probability of his returning in safety.

Verse 11

Genesis 43:11. Take of the best fruits Of the most rare and excellent productions of the land of Canaan; in the Hebrew, of the praise of the land. The authors of the Universal History observe, that "it is to be feared the generality of our expositors have not been very happy in their translation of some of the presents which Jacob sent into AEgypt; which has induced some learned critics, of a later date, to endeavour to give us a more rational account of them." Such were the honey, nuts, and almonds, which could be no great rarities in AEgypt; nor indeed any of the others, except the balm, which was that of Gilead, and of great price all the world over, a small quantity of which was a present worth accepting; but as for resin and wax, as many of our interpreters have rendered it, they could not be worth sending.

Bochart, indeed, in the place above quoted, thinks that it was either resin or turpentine, rather than balm of Gilead; because Gilead was on one side Jordan, and Jacob was then at some small distance from it on the other: but that does not prove that there was none to be bought there, or to be sent for upon such an occasion. He adds, indeed, that Josephus affirms balm to have been unknown in Judea till the queen of Sheba brought some of it to Solomon from Arabia Felix; but Josephus may be mistaken. Besides, how came Gilead to be so famous for it afterwards? The queen hardly brought the trees thither; and if Solomon had sent for them afterwards, he would have planted them, in all likelihood, nearer to him; but whatever it was, it is plain that resin and turpentine could not be a present worth Joseph's acceptance. The next is honey, which was indeed very much admired by the ancients, as well Jews as Gentiles, for a delicious food; but, unless that of Canaan was better than ordinary, it was scarcely worth sending to an AEgyptian prime minister, since it is not probable that that country was without it. It is most likely, therefore, that they were dates, which are called by the same name, דבשׁ debash, as the Jewish doctors observe, and which, when fully ripe, yield a sort of honey not inferior to the other. The Arabic calls dates duboos, and the honey of them dibo, or dibis, to this day; and it is plain that Judea abounded in palm-trees of all sorts, more especially about Jericho, if we may believe Josephus and Pliny. The next is what we translate spices; but the Hebrew word, נכאת nekath, rather signifies storax than spices, being a noble aromatic gum, which was put into all precious spicy ointments. Myrrh, or, as it is in the original, לוט lot, is rather the stacte or laudanum of the Chaldee and Septuagint, the last name coming nearer the Hebrew word. It is thought to be the gum of the cypress-tree, and was one of the aromatics in the perfume prescribed by GOD to Moses. The word botnim, which our version renders nuts, signifies, according to Maimonides and Kimchi, pistaches, a sort of almonds very much esteemed by the ancients, not only for their taste, but also for their stomachic and alexipharmic quality. Theophrastus and Diascorides join the almonds with these, as fruits of the same kind.

Verse 12

Genesis 43:12. Take double money i.e.. Both the money which was returned in the mouths of the sacks, and as much more, to buy a second supply of corn. See Genesis 43:21-22.

Verse 14

Genesis 43:14. If I be bereaved Houbigant says that the Hebrew is verbatim, But I, as I shall be bereaved, so I will be bereaved: ego autem, ut orbus ero, ita orbus ero. One word demonstrates the event of the thing; the other, a mind prepared for that event, and that not a desirable one. So Esther, before she went in to king Ahasuerus, said, "If I must perish, I will perish;" (so it is in the original;) Esther 4:16. The prudence of Jacob is discernible in the present which he sent to Joseph; his justice, in the care which he took to restore the money found in the sacks; his piety, in the address which he makes to God Almighty for the success of their journey: but that which crowns all these virtues, is the perfect resignation which he shews to the will of God—If I be bereaved, I am, or rather, will be bereaved; if Providence think fit to deprive me of my children, I will submit, and bear it as patiently as I am able, entirely referring myself and the success of this whole affair to him.

Note; 1. What a blessing is bread! Neither the mines of India, nor the spices of Arabia, can supply the want of it. 2. Submission to God's will is not only most for his glory, but for our comfort also. 3. Prayer should sanctify all our journies. If God Almighty go with us, mercy will compass us on every side.

Verse 16

Genesis 43:16. Slay, and make ready Hebrew, kill a killing; an expression denoting preparation for a grand repast, Proverbs 9:2. 1 Samuel 25:11. The usual time for the more solemn meal in these countries was at noon or in the evening.

Verse 18

Genesis 43:18. The men were afraid Here again, as in ch. Genesis 42:28. we see how conscience operates; they who had shewn no mercy are prone to believe that none will be shewn to them. The phrase, May seek occasion against us, is, in the Hebrew, as the margins of our Bibles render it, May roll himself upon us; i.e.. says Le Clerc, May bring an accusation against us: it is a metaphor taken from wrestling; where he who has overthrown his antagonist rolls himself upon him to keep him down. So Job 30:14. In my desolation they rolled themselves upon me.

Verse 23

Genesis 43:23. Peace be to you Set your hearts at ease; your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure; as much as to say, you are to acknowledge the providence of God in what hath befallen you: for the rest, I had your money; it came to my hands, and you may make yourselves easy. There is an ambiguity in the phrase, proper, and, no doubt, designed to keep up a state of suspense in their minds.

REFLECTIONS.—Once more they are safely arrived, nor grudge their pains to relieve their hunger. When there is a famine of the word, shall we take less pains to travel for it? They are kindly received, and invited to Joseph's house; and this, instead of comforting, terrifies them. Fear makes every mole-hill a mountain, and creates suspicion even of our mercies. They resolve to prevent all accusation, by informing the steward of the money which was returned, with offers to repay it; but he quiets their fears with an acknowledgment of its receipt, bids them regard it as a gift from God, and takes all imaginable care till his master comes home. Note; 1. Honesty will be found the best policy. 2. Success in business should be regarded as treasure given of God.

Verse 27

Genesis 43:27. Is your father well, &c.— Houbigant renders it, Is your father well, who, ye told me, was yet alive? They answered, Our father is well; for he is yet alive. Nothing can be more tender and affecting than this scene. He calls Benjamin, my son, Gen 43:29 which was a courteous appellation, wherewith superiors usually saluted those beneath them.

Verse 32

Genesis 43:32. And they set on for him by himself There seems to have been three tables; one where Joseph sat alone in state, a second for the Egyptian courtiers, and the third for the eleven brethren.

Because the Egyptians The LXX translate these words, because every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians: and the paraphrases of Onkelos and Jonathan, because the Hebrews eat the animals which the Egyptians hold sacred. See ch. Genesis 46:34. and Exodus 8:26. The latter is the most generally received opinion, though both, perhaps, might concur in the present case. The Egyptians were addicted to such a number of superstitious niceties, even in their eating, that they could not endure to sit at table with the people of any other nation. Their aversion was not peculiar to the Hebrews; they had the same, as Herodotus informs us, to the Greeks; they would not so much as kiss the mouth of a Greek, nor eat with his knife or other instrument, apprehending it might be polluted by cutting or touching the flesh of one of those animals which they held sacred. There are many, however, who think that these superstitions were later than Joseph's days, and therefore resolve this abhorrence, not into a religious, but into a civil difference of manners between the two nations. Many learned men have thought, that the worship of the ox Apis was not only posterior to the times of Joseph, but that it was Joseph himself whom the Egyptians deified under the name of Apis, or the Father of his Country. See Vossius de Idolol. lib. 1: cap. 29.

Verse 34

Genesis 43:34. And he took, and sent messes In ancient times it was the custom, when all the meat was set upon the table, for the master of the feast to distribute their portion to every one. Joseph not only ranged his brothers in proper rank according to their age, which must have greatly astonished them, but, in the same order, sent each of them a mess, and to Benjamin, in token of his particular favour and nearer alliance, he sent five times as much as to any of the rest. Whether this was done merely as a distinguishing mark of kindness to Benjamin, or as a trial of his brethren's temper, to see whether they would look upon him with the same envious eyes as they had formerly done upon Joseph himself, it is certain that they were thus prepared for the opening of the plot, and would be more inclined to give credit to his words, when he discovered himself to them.

Were merry with him The Vulgate renders this very coarsely, inebriati sunt cum eo. The Hebrew signifies only, to drink heartily, in a middle, or indifferent sense. Song of Solomon 5:1.Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:6. In like manner the Greek μεθυομαι, by which the LXX often render שׁכר shecar, primarily signifies, to drink heartily, though not to drunkenness, and is plainly used in this sense in John 2:10.

REFLECTIONS.—At dinner Joseph returns: his brethren renew their lowly obeisance, and, in their father's name, bow down before him as his servants. The sight of Benjamin awakens all his tenderness. With a heart melted with love (and how could he refrain?) he inquires after the good old man: Is he alive? And now unable longer to endure the moving scene, after an affectionate blessing on the lad, he hastens to his chamber, to give vent in tears to those tender passions, which burst involuntarily from his throbbing heart. When thus the commotion in his bosom was somewhat abated, he washes, and returns to entertain them. The tables are spread severally for him, them, and the AEgyptians; and while they wonder at the disposition made according to their several ages, they are nobly entertained, forget their fears and cares, and are merry with him. Benjamin is distinguished by a peculiar mess, but it seems neither to awaken their suspicion of the cause, nor jealousy of the favour. Note; 1. The tenderest passions possess the noblest souls. 2. A prayer for a blessing upon the soul, is a better gift than even Benjamin's distinguished mess: in such charity, a poor man may be very rich. 3. If others, weak or scrupulous, choose not to eat bread in communion with us, after our manner, we should learn, as Joseph with the AEgyptians, to bear with them in love.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 43". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-43.html. 1801-1803.
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