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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 44

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Introduction

CHAP. XLIV.

Joseph commands his steward to hide his cup in the sack of Benjamin, and then to pursue his brethren. He declares that he will retain Benjamin with him for his servant: Judah pleads with him, and offers himself as a bondman in the place of Benjamin.

Before Christ 1706.

Verse 2

Genesis 44:2. My cup See on Genesis 44:5. Joseph ordered this cup to be privately put into Benjamin's sack, in order to make a further trial of his brethren's temper, and to see whether, moved with envy, they would give up Benjamin, or help him in his danger. But I cannot think, with some, that he really designed to have made this a pretence for detaining Benjamin; or that he could be ignorant of his father's solicitous attachment to this his younger son.

Verse 5

Genesis 44:5. Whereby indeed he divineth This cup, which the Septuagint call κονδυ, kondu, the AEgyptian name for a cup, was a goblet or bowl, it is thought, with a great belly. It is plain, this was a cup used for common purposes; for the steward says, is not this it in which my lord drinketh? It is evident also, from Gen 44:15 that to divine signifies to know or foretel things which are beyond the reach of common understandings: it is therefore probable, that there was some sort of divination by cups then in use among the AEgyptians. The Greeks and Romans, who had much of their religion from AEgypt, practised this method of divination, particularly, by observing the sparkling of the wine in their libations. It does not however follow, that Joseph really practised any such art; the steward may be supposed only to ask this question, to make the brethren think that he did so; and perhaps, from his being a known interpreter of dreams, the people might fancy that he was skilled in divination. Some interpreters, of good authority, think, that as the original word sometimes signifies simply to try, or make experiment, ch. Genesis 30:27. 1Ki 20:33 the passage might be expounded thus, and whereby indeed he would make trial, namely, of your honesty. Others, who refer the word it, not to the cup, but to the theft, would read, will he not, by making trial, search it out? i.e.. do you imagine that your theft can be concealed from one who is so sagacious in discovering secrets? But as Joseph, in the 15th verse, speaks in the character of an AEgyptian, still desirous to conceal himself from them, I should rather think he refers to some custom or method of divination among the AEgyptians. The author of Observations on Passages of sacred Scripture observes, that "when Mr. Norden was at Derri, in the farther part of AEgypt, or rather in Nubia, in a very dangerous situation, from which he and his company endeavoured to extricate themselves by exerting great spirit; a spiteful and powerful Arab told one of his people whom they sent to him in a threatening way, that he knew what sort of people they were; that he had consulted his cup, and had found by it that they were those, of whom one of their prophets said, that Franks would come in disguise, and, passing every where, examine the state of the country, and afterwards bring over a great many other Franks, conquer the country, and exterminate them all." Nord. Voy. vol. 2: p. 150.

Verse 8

Genesis 44:8. Behold, the money Joseph's brethren urge, as a good proof of their honesty, and of the improbability of the charge laid against them, that it could never be supposed that they, who so faithfully restored the money found in their sacks, which they might so easily have concealed, would scandalously pilfer what was of so much less value, and which might be so easily discovered. Conscious of their innocence, they make the most confident, though incautious proposal; for, having been so strangely deceived with respect to the money found in their sacks, they ought to have been slower, at least, in the present case; see Genesis 44:9.

Verse 10

Genesis 44:10. Let it be according unto your words There appears a contradiction in this translation; the steward offering to accept their terms, and yet immediately proposing different ones; compare the ninth verse. Calmet is for rendering the verse thus: Certainly at present it would be just to treat you according to your own words; but he only who hath committed the theft, shall be my slave; I will take no advantage; the rest of you shall be blameless.

Verse 13

Genesis 44:13. Rent their clothes Loniginus lays it down in his Treatise on the Sublime, that one of the first means to attain it, is an accurate and judicious choice of the most suitable circumstances. We cannot have a higher instance of this excellence, than in that striking circumstance in the present narration, which fills the mind with a vast series of ideas: they rent their clothes, says Moses, by which single expression he paints their anguish and confusion, in more lively colours than could have been done by an enumeration of every circumstance indicating grief.

Verse 14

Genesis 44:14. Judah and his brethren Judah, though not the eldest, is mentioned first, as being the principal actor in this scene, and as having particularly engaged with Jacob for Benjamin. It must have been peculiarly affecting to Joseph to have seen his brethren thus prostrate before him, covered with shame, and throwing themselves upon his mercy. Judah speaks with a pathetic energy, Gen 44:16 what shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? nothing can be more natural, eloquent, or expressive of perturbation of mind, than these broken sentences.

Verse 15

Genesis 44:15. Wot ye not i.e.. Knew ye not. Wot, is an old English word, the preterite of weet, to know, though itself often used for the present. It is of Saxon original.

Verse 16

Genesis 44:16. God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants There is no doubt from the context, that Judah here speaks of the iniquity of the fact in question, which he confesses, and speaks of as the iniquity of them all, though one only was guilty. Josephus understands it in this sense, though many commentators, without sufficient reason I think, explain it of their owning the justice of God in thus punishing them for their former cruelty to Joseph.

REFLECTIONS.—After their hospitable entertainment their fears are over, their beasts loaded, and home they are travelling, little suspecting the danger which seems to threaten them. An express arrives, charges them with a theft, as ungrateful as barefaced; they deny it solemnly; search is made, the cup is found on Benjamin, and he is arrested: they dare not leave their brother, nor make any plea to excuse him. They regard God's hand in the affliction, and return to yield themselves up servants to Joseph. Thus, 1. They most eminently fulfilled their own prediction, Shalt thou have dominion over us? They are not only suitors for favour, but bondsmen for life. 2. They shewed that regard for Benjamin, and that concern for Jacob, which Joseph wished. Note; Though once bad, it may not be always so. God can change men's hearts, and make them the reverse of what they have been.

Verse 18

Genesis 44:18. Then Judah came near unto him After the terrible sentence which Joseph had passed, Genesis 44:17. Judah became more immediately interested, and was concerned to plead the cause of his brother; and every man, who reads to the close of this chapter, must confess, that Judah acts here the part both of the faithful brother and dutiful son, who, rather than behold his father's misery, in case of Benjamin's being left behind, submits to become a bondsman in his stead; and, indeed, there is such an air of candour and generosity runs through the whole strain of his speech; the sentiments are so tender and affecting, the expressions are so passionate, and flow so much from artless nature, that it is no wonder, if they came home to Joseph's heart, and forced him to throw off the mask, as we find he does in the next chapter. The phrase, for thou art even as Pharaoh, signifies, for thou art of power and authority equal to Pharaoh; and therefore thy anger is as much to be dreaded, as even that of the king himself, Proverbs 19:12. Josephus and Philo have both largely paraphrased this speech of Judah; but there needs nothing more than a bare perusal of them to see the infinite superiority of that before us, in which true nature speaks. Dr. Jackson's remarks upon it cannot be too well observed: "When one sees," says he,* "such passages related by men, who affect no art, and who lived long after the parties that first uttered them; we cannot conceive how all particulars could be so naturally and fully recorded, unless they had been suggested by his Spirit, who gives mouths and speech to men; who, being alike present to all successions, is able to communicate the secret thoughts of forefathers to their children, and put the very words of the deceased (never registered before) into the mouths or pens of their successors for many generations after; and that, as exactly and distinctly, as if they had been caught and written in characters of steel or brass, as they issued out of their mouth. For it is plain, every circumstance is here related with such natural specifications, as if Moses had heard them talk; and therefore could not have been thus represented to us, unless they had been written by His direction, who knows all things, as well fore-past, as present, or to come."

* On the Creed, b. i. c. 4.

REFLECTIONS.—Bitter was the distress which now harassed the minds of the sons of Jacob. What shall they say? To confess the charge, were to acknowledge guilt they did not believe; to deny it, were still more dangerous, as a reflection on the governor's justice. In this dilemma, Judah, as most engaged, with rhetoric such as distress and nature taught, addresses with humblest submission the supposed offended ruler; and pleads with arguments, which, I doubt not, filled Joseph's bosom with deeper agitation, than even Judah felt. Benjamin's youth, the only son of a beloved mother; another brother he had, but dead; the aged father's life is bound up in the darling boy; it was at his command he was brought with reluctance; extorted from his father: should they return without him, death would instantly seize the good old man, and they be accessary to it: himself had become surety for the lad, and begs now to exchange; himself the bondsman, if Benjamin might be free. The thought of his father's sorrow recurs upon him; he can never think of seeing his face without the lad: he therefore casts himself upon the mercy of the Judge, and waits with terrible suspense to receive that sentence, on which the happiness or misery of Jacob's family depended. Note; 1. Every good child will make his parent's comfort one great business of his life. 2. When we address a ruler, title and honour are his due.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 44". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-44.html. 1801-1803.
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