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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 43

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-34


Genesis 43:1, Genesis 43:2

And the famine was sore (literally, was heavy) in the land (sc. of Canaan). And it came to pass, when they had eaten up—literally, had finished to eat up, i.e. not nearly (Mercerus, Bush), but entirely consumed—the corn which they had brought out of Egypt,—it is probable that only Jacob's family partook of the Egyptian corn, the slaves supporting themselves on roots, vegetables, and milk (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Gerlach)—their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. What they could buy would be little in proportion to their needs.

Genesis 43:3

And Judah spake unto him, saying,—Judah now becomes the spokesman, either because Reuben's entreaty had been rejected, and Levi, who followed Reuben and Simeon in respect of age, had forfeited his father's confidence though his treachery to the Shechemites (Keil, Murphy); or because he could speak to his father with greater freedom, having a freer conscience than the rest (Lange); or because he was a man possessed of greater prudence and ability than the rest (Lawson), if indeed the suggestion is not correct that they all endeavored to persuade their father, though Judah's eloquence alone is recorded (Calvin)—the man (i.e. the Egyptian viceroy) did solemnly protest (literally, protesting did protest, i.e. did earnestly protest) unto us, saying,—with an oath which is not here repeated (Genesis 42:15)—Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

Genesis 43:4, Genesis 43:5

If thou wilt send—literally, if thou art sending, i.e. if thou art agreeable to send (cf. Genesis 24:42, Genesis 24:49; Judges 6:36)—our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: but (literally, and) if thou wilt not send him (a similar form of expression to the above, the two words יֵשׁ, being, and אַיִן, not being, including the substantive verb, and being conjoined with a participle for the finite verb), we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. Judah's peremptory language receives sufficient justification from the fact that he believed the Egyptian governor to be in thorough earnest when he declared that without Benjamin they should sue a second time in vain.

Genesis 43:6

And Israel said,—this is the second time that Jacob is so designated in the history of Joseph, the first time being in Genesis 37:1-36; which recites the sad account of Joseph's disappearance from the family circle. The recurrence of what may eventually prove another breach in the theocratic family is probably the circumstance that revives the name Israel, which besides seems to prevail throughout the chapter (vide Genesis 37:8, Genesis 37:11)—Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother! literally, whether yet to you a brother (sc. there was).

Genesis 43:7

And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? Though not appearing in the preceding narrative of the historian (Genesis 42:13, Genesis 42:32), it must yet be held as accurate that the information given to Joseph about Jacob and Benjamin was supplied in answer to direct inquiries, since Judah afterwards gives the same account of it (Genesis 44:19) when pleading before Joseph in behalf of Benjamin. And we told him according to the tenor of these words—literally, according to these words, i.e. either in conformity to his questions (Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Keil), κατὰ τὴν ἐπερώτησιν ταύτην (LXX.), juxta id quod fuerat sciscitatus (Vulgate), or like those words we have told thee (Kalisch). Could we certainly know (literally, knowing could we know) that he would say, Bring your brother down?

Genesis 43:8-10

And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me (Benjamin, though styled a lad, must have been at this time upwards of twenty years of age), and we will arise and go; that we may (literally, and we shall) live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him (the verb conveys the idea of changing places with another); of my hand shalt thou require him (vide Genesis 9:5): if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee,—the words are even more emphatic than those of Reuben (Genesis 42:37)—then let me bear the blame for ever—literally, and I shall be a sinner (i.e. liable to punishment as a sinner) against thee all the days (sc. of my life). The thought is elliptical. Judah means that if he does not return with Benjamin he shall both have failed in his promise and be guilty of a dire transgression against his father (cf. 1 Kings 1:21). For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time—literally, these two times. The nobility of character which shines out so conspicuously in Judah's language is afterwards signally illustrated in his pathetic pleading before Joseph, and goes far to countenance the suggestion that a change must have taken place in his inner life since the incidents recorded of him in Genesis 37:1-36 and Genesis 38:1-30.

Genesis 43:11

And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now (literally, if so now), do this; take of the best fruits in the land (literally, of the song of the land, i.e. of its choicest and most praised productions) in your vessels, and carry down the man a present. That Jacob could propose to send a handsome present of rich fruits to the Egyptian viceroy has been regarded as inconsistent with the prevalence of a famine in the land of Canaan for over two or three years (Bohlen); but

(1) the failure of the cereal crops does not necessarily imply a like absence of fruit, and

(2) it does not follow that, though Jacob selected the under-mentioned articles for his gift, they existed in abundance, while

(3) if the fruit harvest was small, an offering such as is here described would only be all the more luxuriant and valuable on that account (Kurtz, Kalisch). A little balm,—balsam (vide Genesis 37:25)—and a little honey,—דְּבַשׁ, grape honey, called by the Arabians dibs, and the Persians dushab, was prepared by boiling down must or new wine to a third or half; hence called by the Greeks ἕψημα, and by the Romans sapa, defrutum. It is still imported into Egypt from the district of Hebron. That it was not the honey of bees, μέλι, (LXX.), mel (Vulgate), is rendered probable by the circumstance that Egypt abounds in this excellent production of nature—spices, and myrrh (wide Genesis 27:25), nuts,—בָּטְנִים, an oblong species of nut, so called from its being fiat on one side and bellying out on the other (the pistacia vera of Linnaeus), having an oily kernel which is most palatable to Orientals (vide Kalisch in loco)—and almonds. The שָׁקֵד or almond tree, so called because of all trees it is the first to arouse from the sleep of winter, the root being שָׁקָד, to be sleepless, (Gesenius), does not seem to have been indigenous in Egypt, while it flourishes in Syria and Palestine (Kalisch).

Genesis 43:12

And take double money (literally, money of a second, i.e. of the same, amount; not twice as much as the first time, but simply as much as the first time) in your hand; and the money that was brought again (or returned) in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight (literally, a something caused to wander, a mistake, from a root signifying to go astray).

Genesis 43:13, Genesis 43:14

Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: and God Almighty—El Shaddai, the covenant God of Abraham (Genesis 17:1), and of Jacob himself (Genesis 35:11)—give you mercy (literally, bowels, hence very tender affection, the inward parts being regarded as the seat of the emotions) before the man, that he may send away—literally, and he shall send with you {Kalisch), or for you (Keil)—your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved—literally, and if I am bereaved, I am bereaved, an expression of the patriarch's acquiescence in the Divine will (cf. 2 Kings 7:4; Esther 4:16).

Genesis 43:15

And the men took that present (which Jacob had specified), and they took double money (literally, a doubling of the money, i.e. the first money, and as much again for the new purchase; the phrase is different from that used in Genesis 43:12, though the words are the same) in their hand, and Benjamin (so. they took with them); and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph (i.e. in the corn-market).

Genesis 43:16

And when (literally, and) Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he literally, and he) said to the ruler of his house,—literally, to him who was over his house, i.e. the steward (cf. Genesis 24:2; Genesis 39:4; Genesis 44:1)—Bring these men home (i.e. conduct these men to my house, which was probably at some distance), and slay,—literally, slay a slaughter. The assertion that the narrator is here guilty of an inaccuracy in representing Joseph as having animal food prepared for himself and his guests (Bohlen) is refuted by Herodotus (2.37, 40) and by Wilkinson, who says that "beef and goose constituted the principal part of the animal food throughout Egypt," and that according to the sculptures "a considerable quantity of meat was served up at those repasts to which strangers were invited.' "Though there was scarcely an animal which was not held sacred in some province, there was, perhaps with the only exception of the cow, none which' was not killed and eaten in other parts of the land" (Kalisch)—and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon—literally, at the double lights (צָהֱרַים), i.e. at mid-day, the time of greatest splendor.

Genesis 43:17, Genesis 43:18

And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house. And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house. "A more natural picture of the conduct of men from the country, when taken into the house of a superior, cannot be drawn. When they are told to go inside they at once suspect that they are about to be punished or confined. And they said (sc. To themselves), Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us,—literally, that he may roll himself upon us (cf. Job 30:14; Psalms 22:8; Psalms 37:5; Proverbs 26:3). "To say a man rolls himself upon another is the Eastern way of saying he falls upon him" and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses. The brethren of Joseph were clearly apprehensive of some serious stratagem to deprive them of liberty.

Genesis 43:19-22

And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house (literally, the man who was over Joseph's house), and they communed (or spake) with him at the door of the house (i.e. before they entered), and said, O sir,—literally, Pray, my lord; δεόμεθαπύριε (LXX.)—we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: and it came to pass, when we came to the inn,—or halting-place (vide Genesis 42:27)—that we opened our sacks,—this was not strictly accurate, as only one sack had been opened at the wayside khan, while the others were not examined till they had reached home; though, as an explanation of the difficulty, it has been suggested that all the sacks may have been, and probably were, opened at the inn, but that only one man found his money in his sack's mouth, as the next clause explains—and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack,—literally, a man's money in the mouth of his sack, i.e. one of them found his money there, while the others discovered their money, which was not "in the sack's mouth," but "in the sack" (Genesis 42:35), only on emptying their sacks at home—our money in full weight (literally, according to its weight): and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money (i.e. the second silver of Genesis 43:12) have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

Genesis 43:23

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God (Elohim), and the God of your father,—an indication that Joseph's steward had been taught to fear and trust the God of the Hebrews (Wordsworth, Murphy)—hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money (literally, your money came to me). And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Genesis 43:24

And the man (Joseph's steward) brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet (of. Genesis 18:4; Genesis 24:32); and he gave their asses provender.

Genesis 43:25

And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there. This must have been communicated to them after they had entered Joseph's palace, since they had obviously not learnt it upon the way thither (vide supra, Genesis 43:18).

Genesis 43:26

And when Joseph came home (after the dispatch of public business), they brought him the present which was m their hand (vide Genesis 43:11) into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. Thus they fulfilled the dream of the sheaves (Genesis 37:7; cf. Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1).

Genesis 43:27

And he asked them of their welfare (literally, peace), and said, Is your father well (literally, Is there peace to your father?), the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

Genesis 43:28

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

Genesis 43:29

And he (i.e. Joseph) 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 (without waiting for an answer), God be gracious unto thee, my son. The tenderness of this language was much fitted to encourage the brethren.

Genesis 43:30

And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn (literally, were becoming warm, from intensity of tore) upon his brother: and he sought where to weep;—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 himself (Genesis 42:24)—and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

Genesis 43:31

And he washed his face (an indication of the violence of his weeping), and went out (from his chamber), and refrained himself (keeping his tears in check), and said, Set on bread—an expression used at the present day in Egypt for bringing dinner.

Genesis 43:32

And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves. "Joseph eats apart from his brethren, keeping strictly to the Egyptian mode; and the history does not omit to remark that in this point he adhered to the custom of the country" (Havernick, 21). Because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews. Herodotus (2.41) 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. For that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. The reason for this separation from foreigners being that they dreaded being polluted by such as killed and ate cows, which animals were held in high veneration in Egypt.

Genesis 43:33

And they sat before him,—that the Egyptians sat at meals is in exact accordance With the representations on the monuments, in which they are never exhibited as reposing on couches, but always as seated round a circular table resembling the monopodium of the Romans—the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marveled one at another—probably thinking that Joseph must have been supernaturally enlightened to discover so exactly the ages of strangers.

Genesis 43:34

And he took and sent (literally, and he sent) messesmaseoth, from nasa, to take or lift up, i.e. things taken or lifted up, hence portions or gifts (2 Samuel 11:8)—unto them from before him (cf. 1 Samuel 9:23). The practice of thus honoring guests was also observed among other nations (vide 'Iliad,' 7:321). But Benjamin's mess (or portion) was five times so much as any of theirs—literally, exceeded the portions of all of them five hands, i.e. five times. Herodotus (6.57) mentions that among the Spartans the king received a double portion. The unusually large portion assigned to Benjamin was designed as an expression of his strong fraternal affection, and perhaps also as a test of his brethren to ascertain if they were now free from that spirit of envy which had prompted their former cruelty to him. And they drank, and were merry with him—literally, and drank largely with him. Though the verb שָׁכַר sometimes signifies to drink to the full (Haggai 1:6; So 5:1), and though intoxication was not unusual at Egyptian entertainments, there is no reason to suppose that either Joseph or his brethren were inebriated (Vulgate, Alford), or that more is meant than simply that their hearts became exhilarated "because their cares were dissipated by the kindness they were receiving, the presence of Simeon, and the attention paid to Benjamin" (Murphy).


Genesis 43:1-34

The second visit of Joseph's brethren to Egypt.

I. The. SCENE IN JACOB'S HOUSE AT HEBRON (Genesis 43:1-15).

1. The second journey proposed. "Go again, buy us a little food." It was necessitated by the long continuance of the famine, and the complete consumption of the corn they had brought from Egypt on the previous occasion.

2. The second journey agreed on.

(1) The difficulty started. As explained by Judah, it was useless to go to Egypt unless accompanied by Benjamin, since the governor had solemnly protested and sworn that without him they should not only not obtain a grain of corn, but they should not even be admitted to his presence. But to speak of taking Benjamin to Egypt, as Jacob had already testified, and now again declared, was like driving a poniard into the old man's heart. As he thinks of it he can hardly forbear reproaching his stalwart sons for having heaped upon him one more unkindness in even mentioning the fact of Benjamin's existence.

(2) The difficulty removed. Skillfully the eloquent Judah reasons with his aged sire, first pointing out that it was only in reply to the grand vizier's interrogations that they had referred to Benjamin at, all, that, not suspecting any sinister motives on the part of their noble questioner, they had never dreamt of attempting concealment or evasion in their answers; urging the imperative necessity for Benjamin's going down with them if either they or their little ones were to be kept from starvation, solemnly engaging to be surety for the safe convoy of the beloved youth, and lastly delicately hinting that but for the delay occasioned by his (their father's) reluctance they might have been to Egypt and back since he first spoke of their going.

3. The second journey prepared for (Genesis 43:11-13). Since it was inevitable that Benjamin must go, Jacob recommended them along with him to take

(1) a present in their vessels for the great man whose favor they desired to secure;

(2) second money, or money for the purchase of the grain they wished, to show that they came not as beggars, but as buyers;

(3) the silver that had been returned in their sacks, to prove that they were honest, and regarded the matter simply as an oversight. It is well always to put the best construction on a dubious matter, and in particular to let not our good be evil spoken of.

4. The second journey began (Genesis 43:14, Genesis 43:15). Listening to their father's prayer,—"God Almighty give you mercy before the man,"—witnessing their father's sorrowful resignation,—"If I be bereaved I am bereaved,"—and observing faithfully their father's instructions, carrying a present of "the song of the land" and double money in their hands, the men rose up and went down to Egypt.

5. The second journey completed (Genesis 43:15). In the providence of God they reached the land of Egypt and stood before Joseph. It is a special mercy to travelers when, escaping all the perils of the way, they arrive at their desired destinations in peace.


1. The reception of the brethren (Genesis 43:16, Genesis 43:17). Scarcely had the brethren arrived at the public mart than they were observed by Joseph. Directing his eyes eagerly in search of Benjamin, he is gratified by noticing that he has not been left behind. Preserving as before his incognito, he gives instructions to his steward to convey them to his palace, and prepare a dinner for him and them at the hour of noon.

2. The apprehensions of the brethren (Genesis 43:18-24).

(1) The nature of them. They feared lest Joseph was only seeking occasion to fall upon them and take them for bondmen.

(2) The ground of them. This was the money which had been discovered in their sacks, and for which as they imagined they were now being arrested.

(3) The expression of them. Without directly saying what they dreaded, they begin to deprecate the wrath of the steward, and to offer explanations concerning the money (Genesis 43:20-22).

(4) The removal of them. Although the steward was not yet aware that the strangers were his master's brethren, he was perfectly cognizant of their innocence in the matter of the money, and of his master's desire to show them kindness. Accordingly he seeks to reassure them by encouraging them to dismiss their apprehensions—"Peace be to you fear not;" by telling them to regard the treasure in their sacks as a Divine gift, since it was indubitable that he had received their money—"Your God hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money;" by producing Simeon before them, no doubt in the enjoyment of perfect health and happiness—"and he brought Simeon out unto them;" by exercising towards them the rights of hospitality—"the man gave them water, and they washed their feet;" and by providing for the wants of their beasts—"and he gave their asses provender."

3. The homage of the brethren (Genesis 43:25-31).

(1) Its presentation: with precious gifts—the delicacies of the land of Canaan; with dutiful obeisance—"they bowed themselves to him to the earth."

(2) Its acceptance; which was indicated by the friendly inquiries of the governor—"Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?" "Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?" by the warm,, benediction, he pronounced on Benjamin—"God be gracious unto thee, my son; by the rising emotion which he could with difficulty repress—"his bowels did yearn upon his brother, and he sought where to weep;" and by the order which he issued to his servants—"Set on bread."

4. The entertainment of the brethren.

(1) The separation of the guests, first from the host, and then from one another, the Egyptians from the Canaanites, and both from Joseph, the reason being that the Egyptians might not eat with foreigners in case of contracting pollution.

(2) The order of the brethren, each being arranged before the governor in accordance with their ages, a circumstance which appears to have simultaneously evoked their wonder—"and the men marveled one at another."

(3) The portions from the host, one to each of the nine oldest, and five to the youngest, which were designed as marks of special favor.

(4) The hilarity of the company. The fears of the brethren disappearing, and their enjoyment rising, as they talked and drank with the gracious governor who had brought them to his palace.


Genesis 43:1-34

Lessons of life.

I. The chief lesson of this chapter is the MINGLING TOGETHER OF THE PROVIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD WITH HIS PURPOSE OF GRACE. It was part of the Divine plan that Jacob and his family should be settled for a long period in Egypt. It could only be brought about by the transference in some way of the point of attraction to Jacob's heart from Canaan to the strange land. Hence c, Jacob" is now "Israel," reminding us how the future is involved in all the events of this time. "Judah" is the chief agent in this matter. The very names are significant of Divine promises—"Judah," "Israel," "Joseph," "Benjamin." The conduct of Joseph cannot be explained except on the ground of his inspiration. He is not acting. He is not trifling with human feelings. He is not merely following the dictate of his own personal affections. He is, under Divine direction, planning for the removal of his father's house to Egypt that the people of God may pass through their season of trial in the house of bondage. Another point—

II. God's blessing on a TRUE HUMANITY THE THOROUGHLY HUMAN CHARACTER OF THE NARRATIVE. The tenderness, the pathos, the simplicity, the truthfulness, especially in the case of Joseph himself. How little he had been spoiled by prosperity! That is the criterion of real greatness. The Bible histories help us to keep in mind that real religion does not suppress the human, but preserves and develops all that is best and noblest in the man.

III. THE GRACIOUS WISDOM OF THE GOOD MAN IN HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS OTHERS. Joseph's dealing with his brethren gradually preparing their minds for the great announcement which was soon to be made. Both his kindness to them and his particular inquiries after Jacob, and affectionate salute of Benjamin, must have roused their curiosity and disarmed their terrors. As they "drank and were merry" with the great Egyptian ruler, and their youngest brother rejoiced in the special mark of favor, which was favor to all, they must have felt the bondage of their previous apprehensions slipping away from them, and have anticipated some good thing in preparation for them. Moreover, there may have been the intention working in Joseph's mind of accustoming the Egyptians to the sight of those Hebrew people, and so opening the way to their subsequent elevation when as his brethren he should settle them in Goshen. There was great wisdom in all this lingering in divulging the great secret.

IV. THE MARK OF FAITH IS A SINGLE EYE TO GOD'S GLORY. We should endeavor to blend the personal with the larger interests of God's kingdom, Family life should be based upon religious foundations.R.


Genesis 43:18

Distrust the fruit of sin.

Why should they be afraid? The invitation was an honor not unusual. Abraham was received at Pharaoh's court (Genesis 12:15). And the brethren were evidently people of large possessions with a considerable retinue, as they were to carry food for so many; and they had brought the proof required that they were true men. Had Joseph intended to do them harm he might have done it before. It was conscious guilt that made them fear. What they had done to their brother suggested similar treatment being meted to them. Perhaps they had almost forgotten it. But God left not himself without witness to bring their sin to remembrance. The stain of sin on the conscience is indelible. Time cannot remove it. Occupation may turn the thoughts from it, but it returns again and again. The act of wrong may be little thought of at the time. Only afterwards is it felt that it cannot be undone (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9). This explains the attitude of so many toward God. Why is there such slowness to receive the gospel just as it is offered? When men are bidden to their brother's table; when his will is declared they shall sup with me (cf. Revelation 3:20), why is there such shrinking as if they were being led into danger; as if God were laying some obligation on them which they cannot fulfill, to bring them into bondage for ever? It is because of sin in the heart; perhaps unfelt, unthought of; but it is there, the fact of a self-chosen life. And if these are invited to closer communion with God, straightway they are afraid; suspicious of God. And hence, when the gospel invitation is pressed, and the Lamb of God held up, and the power of the blood of Christ and the welcome for all proclaimed, and they are bidden to trust, to accept salvation, men try to fortify their position: "O sir, we have done this or that (cf. Matthew 18:26), clinging to distrust instead of striving against it.

I. THIS DISTRUST AND SUSPICION OF GOD ARISES FROM THE PRESENCE OF SIN NOT FULLY RECOGNIZED AS SIN; while the man is still trying to set good deeds against bad ones, or to find. excuses for faults. It is the effect of sin before conviction by the Holy Spirit. Real conviction brings to God (Psalms 51:4; Luke 18:13). It is unacknowledged sin that separates.

II. DISTRUST IS REMOVED BY A REAL BELIEF IN THE ATONEMENT (Hebrews 9:25), God's plan for reconciling the sinful to himself (Romans 3:26). Hence this is the turning point of the spiritual life (John 3:18); the great work (John 6:29) out of which, as from a germ, the whole Christian life must grow.—M.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 43". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/genesis-43.html. 1897.
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