So there is a famine “in the world” as it says at the end of the last chapter. This makes me think about how God “flooded the world” in Chapter 7. The world to the people writing these stories was Egypt, Canaan, Israel, and Mesopotamia. Hardly global, if you ask me. Anyway, I digress
There is a famine and Jacob sends his son to Egypt because they have the good stuff. He sends all of his sons except Benjamin because he feared that harm might come to him (like he thought it did Joseph?). So the brothers went to Egypt and met the governor who they didn’t recognize as the brother that they sold off to the Ishmaelites. Joseph recognized them, though.
OK, I’m confused. Joseph accuses them of being spies. The brothers tell Joseph who they are and that there is one younger brother who didn’t come with them. Joseph says that he will test them by letting one of them go to get the youngest brother while the rest are imprisoned. However, after three days, he lets all but one of them go home with all the grain that can carry and they must come back with Benjamin. So did one brother go and then eight others with grain, or were they all imprisoned for three days and then nine were sent back together? This book is confusing. How do people take it literally?
Reuben points out that the brothers were being punished for the way that they treated their brother. Oh how right they are. Anyway, Joseph hears them talking and understands them, though they don’t this since he used an interpreter. He had Simeon bound and sent the rest home with free grain and provisions.
So the brothers head for home, but when they find the money, they think that they’re being set up. They make it back to Canaan and tell Jacob what happened in a word for word telling of the last section. Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go with them, but Reuben makes him an offer.
37Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 107). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
So, Reuben decides that Jacob can kill his two sons if any harm comes to Benjamin. That seems completely insane.
Jacob and his sons and their families ate up all the food that brought back in the previous chapter. Jacob tells his sons to go back to Egypt and buy more food, but Judah says, in not so few words, not unless they can bring Benjamin because the governor won’t even talk to them. Jacob wants to know why they even mentioned having a younger brother to which they essentially said, “What were we supposed to say?”
Anyway, Jacob let them take Benjamin, along with gifts of fruit and honey, and double their money to pay for the first load of grain. When they arrived, Joseph directed that they brought to his house, which was apparently the equivalent of getting sent to the principal’s office. However, Joseph’s steward assured them that their God must be smiling on them because he got his money.
Joseph got a little emotional when he saw Benjamin and went off into another room to get cleaned up so it didn’t look like he was crying. Then he ordered the feast to begin and Benjamin got five times the serving of his brothers. Also, Egyptians don’t eat with Hebrews because it is an abomination which is why Joseph was eating at a separate table.
The next morning, Joseph orders the steward to load up the sack with grain and put their money in the top of each sack. Then he told him to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Then he sent the Steward after them and accused them of stealing his master’s silver cup. The brothers assure him that they haven’t stolen anything and have, in fact brought the money they felt they owed back with them.
I am not reading the Bible as if I know nothing about it. I know plenty about the stories throughout and I know that when somebody offers themselves as a sacrifice or a slave, it’s sure to not play out well for the person making the offer. In this case, one of the brothers makes the offer that if the cup is found, in whoever’s sack it is found, then he shall be put to death, and the rest will become slaves. Luckily, the steward, upon finding the cup in Benjamin’s sack, simply keeps him as his slave and sets the other brothers free. At this, the brothers all tore their clothes, and they returned to Joseph’s house.
Judah pleads for Benjamin’s release by basically repeating the whole story from the beginning, including the part where Jacob essentially says, “Don’t show back up at this house unless Benjamin is with you.” Judah offers himself as Joseph’s slave in exchange for Benjamin.
There is not a lot to say about this chapter, at least not without the context of the rest of the chapters. Joseph could no longer contain himself and finally revealed to his brothers who he is. He told them that it was God who sent him to Egypt and that he now rules over the land. He sends his brothers to bring the whole family down along with their flocks and herds and live in the land of Goshen.
Pharaoh heard about this and basically repeated everything that was stated in the previous paragraph, and he even supplied wagons for the trip. He also gave them food, garments, and money. When they got back to Jacob, he demanded to see him before he died.