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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 43

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 43:0


The Return to EgyptThe Return to Egypt with BenjaminThe Second Journey to EgyptJoseph's Brothers Return to Egypt with BenjaminJacob's Sons Leave Again with Benjamin
Genesis 43:1-10Genesis 43:1-7Genesis 43:1-10Genesis 43:1-2Genesis 43:1-10
Genesis 43:3-5
Genesis 43:6
Genesis 43:7
Genesis 43:8-14 Genesis 43:8-10
Genesis 43:11-15 Genesis 43:11-15Genesis 43:11-14Genesis 43:11-14
The Meeting with Joseph
Joseph Sees BenjaminGenesis 43:15-25 Genesis 43:15-17Genesis 43:15-17
Genesis 43:16-25 Genesis 43:16-25
Genesis 43:18-22Genesis 43:18-23
Genesis 43:23
Genesis 43:24-27Genesis 43:24-25
Genesis 43:26-34Genesis 42:26-34Genesis 43:26-34 Genesis 43:26-34
Genesis 43:28
Genesis 43:29-34

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 43:1-10 1Now the famine was severe in the land. 2So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, "Go back, buy us a little food." 3Judah spoke to him, however, saying, "The man solemnly warned us, 'You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.' 4If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, 'You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.'" 6Then Israel said, "Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?" 7But they said, "The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?' So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, 'Bring your brother down'?" 8Judah said to his father Israel, "Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. 9I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. 10For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice."

Genesis 43:2 The text does not say how long the first installment of grain lasted, but Simeon is in prison the whole time and Jacob has not acted!

Finally when the grain ran out Jacob took action.

1. go back, BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. buy us a little food, BDB 991, KB 1404, Qal IMPERATIVE

Genesis 43:3 "Judah spoke to him" At this point in the narrative Judah will become the significant son. The leadership of Reuben has been diminished.

"solemnly warned" This is an intensified grammatical structure (i.e., the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and PERFECT VERB of the same root which is also found in Genesis 43:7 [twice] and Genesis 43:20). The VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil PERFECT) means to bear witness (cf. Exodus 19:21; Deuteronomy 32:46) or warn (cf. Exodus 21:29; 1 Kings 2:42; Nehemiah 13:15, Nehemiah 13:21).

"see my face" This is an idiom for an audience with Joseph (cf. 2 Samuel 14:24). He supervised the sale of grain. If they could not see him, they could not buy grain (cf. Genesis 43:5).

Genesis 43:4-5 Judah continued to address his father, Jacob/Israel.

1. we will go down, BDB 432, KB 434, Qal COHORTATIVE

2. we will buy you food, BDB 991, KB 1404, Qal COHORTATIVE

Judah's (and the brothers) actions are dependant on Jacob's decision about sending Benjamin.

Genesis 43:6 Jacob criticizes them for sharing too much information about the family.

Jacob uses a strong VERB (BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil PERFECT). Its basic meaning in the Hiphil stem is "to do harm" (cf. Genesis 19:9; Genesis 31:7; Exodus 5:22-23; Numbers 11:11; Numbers 20:15; Joshua 24:20).

Genesis 43:7 The brothers defend themselves emphatically.

1. The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the Qal PERFECT VERB of the same root

2. How could we possibly know. . ., BDB 393, KB 390, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the Qal IMPERFECT VERB of the same root

3. That he would say, "bring your brother down," BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

Genesis 43:8-10 Judah (fourth and last son of Leah, cf. Genesis 29:35) becomes the spokesman again for the nine older brothers (cf. Genesis 44:14-34; Genesis 46:25-34).

1. Send the lad with me, BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. We will arise, BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal COHORTATIVE

3. We will go, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal COHORTATIVE

4. That we may live, BDB 310, KB 309, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

5. And we may not die, BDB 559, KB 562, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense (cf. Genesis 42:2)

When the bread was eaten it was time to make a decision. Judah's pragmatism is to the point (cf. Genesis 43:10). If they do not go for bread, all of them will die, including Benjamin and Jacob. The rationale is overwhelming. They had to go to Egypt for more food and the condition for more food was the presence of Benjamin. Judah again tries to assure his father in Genesis 43:9, which seems to imply a belief in an afterlife.

Genesis 43:9 "I myself will be surety for him" The word "surety" (BDB 786 II, KB 876, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 44:32) links this chapter with chapter 38 (cf. Genesis 43:17). Judah is becoming more and more a central figure (cf. Genesis 49:8-12).

Verses 11-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 43:11-15 11Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. 13Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; 14and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." 15So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.

Genesis 43:11-14 Jacob/Israel realizes the necessity and directs his older male children.

1. do this, Genesis 43:11, BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. take some of. . ., Genesis 43:11, BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. carry down to the man, Genesis 43:11, BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

4. take double the money, Genesis 43:12, BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE

5. take back in your hand the money that was returned, Genesis 43:12, BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (this is the third and fourth usage of this VERB in this context)

6. take your brother, Genesis 43:13, BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE

7. arise, Genesis 43:13, BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE

8. return to the man, Genesis 43:13, BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE

9. may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, Genesis 43:14, BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

10. that he may release your other brother, Genesis 43:14, BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel PERFECT

Genesis 43:11

NASB“the best products of the land" NKJV“the best fruits of the land" NRSV“the choice fruits of the land" TEV“the best products of the land" NJB“of the country's best products" REB"some of the produce for which our country is famous"

The word (BDB 275 II) is used only here in the OT. Other related roots may bring the connotation in this context of "acceptable Egyptian food." NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 119 says it is related to "strength," but that does not fit this context.

A list of items is given that were regularly part of caravans (cf. Genesis 37:25). Joseph knew the products well since he had to travel with one of these caravans (as a slave) to Egypt.

Genesis 43:12

NASB, TEV, NJB, LXX, JPSOA"mistake" NKJV, NRSV“oversight"

The term (BDB 993) is found only here. The root means "go astray" or "err." In Job 12:16 it is translated "misled." NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 44, says the root indicates an "intentional commission of wrongful acts" (cf. Leviticus 4:13; 1 Samuel 26:21; Psalms 119:21, Psalms 119:118; Ezekiel 45:20).

Genesis 43:14 "and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man" Jacob sends them off in the name of the covenant God. This name, El Shaddai, was used first by Abraham (cf. Genesis 17:1; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 43:14; Genesis 48:3). The term El is the general name for God in the Ancient Near East and seems to come from the root, "to be strong." The term Shaddai may be from the term for a woman's breast and implies "the all-sufficient One." It seems from Exodus 6:3 that this term El Shaddai was the common patriarchal name for God. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

Genesis 43:15 The bringing of a gift was a very common cultural practice of appropriate manners. The items listed would be unique to Canaan and would be sought after in Egypt, but they were not enough to keep one's family and cattle alive. The giving of a "present" (BDB 585) is similar to Jacob's gifts to Esau in Genesis 32:0.

Verses 16-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 43:16-25 16When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, "Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon." 17So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph's house. 18Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph's house; and they said, "It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys." 19So they came near to Joseph's house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20and said, "Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, 21and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. 22We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks." 23He said, "Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money." Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24Then the man brought the men into Joseph's house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. 25So they prepared the present for Joseph's coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.

Genesis 43:16 When Joseph saw Benjamin he prepared for a special noon meal.

1. bring the men into the house, BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

2. slay an animal, BDB 370, KB 368, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. make ready, BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

Egyptians mostly ate fish and fowl with vegetables and lots of bread. The slaughter of a larger animal was done at the home and only for special occasions (cf. James W. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 50).

Genesis 43:18 "he may seek occasion against us" This is an unusual and rare metaphor. The VERB (BDB 164 II, KB 193, Hithpoel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) means "to roll" or "to roll away." Here it implies "rolling over somebody so as to hurt them." The only other usage in this stem is 2 Samuel 20:12, where it denotes rolling in ones own blood.

"and fall upon us" This VERB (BDB 656, KB 709, Hithpael INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT), in the Qal stem is used for being attacked (cf. Joshua 11:7; Job 1:15) or falling into the hands (power) of an enemy (cf. Judges 15:18). The use of this VERB in this stem is unique to this text.

These brothers did not understand why they were being brought to Joseph's home and were very frightened. They thought it was related to their first visit and the money in their sacks (cf. Genesis 43:20-22).

Genesis 43:19 "So they came near to Joseph's house steward" This man seems to be very well informed. This is true not only of the details of Joseph's plan, but of the theology that informed Joseph's faith. It is my assumption that Joseph had shared with the members of his own household and Egyptian associates about his personal faith in the covenant God of Abraham. It is interesting that the sons of Jacob in Genesis 43:18 are so overwhelmed in the presence of the splendor of Egypt that they would have the nomadic fears of someone wanting to steal their animals. This is really a case of "country folks who had come to the big city."

Genesis 43:20 "we indeed came down the first time" This phrase is intensified by the use of an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a PERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 432, KB 434, both Qal stems).

Genesis 43:23 "Be at ease" There is no VERB, just a PREPOSITION and the NOUN shalom. It is an implied IMPERATIVE.

"do not be afraid" This VERB (BDB 431, KB 432) is a Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense.

Verses 26-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 43:26-34 26When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. 27Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, "Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?" 28They said, "Your servant our father is well; he is still alive." They bowed down in homage. 29As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, he said, "Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?" And he said, "May God be gracious to you, my son." 30Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. 31Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, "Serve the meal." 32So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. 33Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. 34He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

Genesis 43:27, Genesis 43:29 Joseph asks a series of questions about their family. They must have remembered their father's deep feelings about revealing this information (cf. Genesis 43:6).

1. Is your father well (no VERB, for shalom see Genesis 29:6)

2. Is he still alive (no VERB)

3. Is this your youngest brother (no VERB)

Genesis 43:29 "May God be gracious to you, my son" Joseph singles out Benjamin for a special greeting ("be gracious," BDB 335, KB 334, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense).

Notice Joseph expresses his theological worldview.

Genesis 43:30 "Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brothers" This is translated literally "his compassions were warmed" (BDB 485, KB 481, Niphal PERFECT, cf. 1 Kings 3:26). The word "compassion" (BDB 933) literally means "feelings for those of the same womb" (i.e., brotherly affection).

Genesis 43:31 "Serve the meal" This is literally "set on bread" (BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE). It is interesting from Genesis 43:31-33 that the Egyptians sat in chairs around a table for their meals, while the Canaanite Hebrews reclined on their left elbow. There were cultural tensions between the Egyptians and Canaanites (here Hebrews), cf. Genesis 43:32. This fits the historical situation exactly and shows the historicity of this account (cf. James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 52).

Genesis 43:32 "So they served him by himself" It seems that not only was Benjamin singled out for a special seat but also for extra food (cf. Genesis 43:34). Apparently Joseph is trying to make the other brothers jealous to see their reaction. He was trying to see if the same character traits which exploded in his own situation twenty years earlier were still present or if they had been mediated through the years.

"the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians" This may well be the explanation of Genesis 39:6 of why Potiphar was concerned about his own food preparation. Some quote Heroditus, 2:41, as a historical corroboration of this view. It seems that the Egyptians held in contempt all those who ate cattle for they viewed cattle as being sacred, much like the modern Hindus. This may clarify Genesis 46:34 and Exodus 8:26.

Genesis 43:33 Apparently, the Egyptian servants seated the brothers in birth order. How did they know this? Joseph is continuing to reveal his identity.

Genesis 43:34 "but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as theirs" It seems quite possible that the number "five" is a significant number in Egypt for throughout this account the number "five" appears regularly (cf. Genesis 43:34; Genesis 45:6, Genesis 45:11, Genesis 45:22; Genesis 47:2, Genesis 47:24). One wonders what the brothers must have thought when Joseph served them from his own table and gave Benjamin so much more?!

The term "portion" (BDB 673) denotes a piece of meat (cf. 2 Samuel 11:8; Esther 2:18; Jeremiah 40:5). It was not beef!

"they feasted and drank freely" The two VERBS ("drink," BDB 1059, KB 1667 and "drunk," BDB 1016, KB 1500) sound very much alike (cf. Genesis 9:21). What a party they had!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 43". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-43.html. 2021.
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