Why Did You Tell This Man You Had Another Brother?
The tension in the home must have been unbearable, especially for Benjamin.
While Jacob was protecting his preferred son, who was voicing concern for Simeon in Egypt and his family in Canaan?
Unwilling to face reality, Jacob was living in a private dream world and making others suffer.
They could not see God’s overall plan of sending them to Egypt to be reunited with Joseph and fed from Egypt’s storehouses.
If you are praying for relief from suffering or pressure and God is not bringing it as quickly as you would like, remember that God may be leading you to special treasures.
But the famine continued to ravage the land of Canaan. When the grain they had brought from Egypt was almost gone, Jacob said to his sons, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
Genesis 43:1-2 (NLT)
A little time passes, and the famine does not let up. The grain supply purchased and brought back from Egypt is exhausted. Apparently, the 9 sons of Jacob (Simeon is still back in Egypt held hostage) who had earlier sat in a depressed state and did nothing to try and save their clan from starvation are once again completely passive. So, Jacob tells them to go back to Egypt and get more grain.
But Judah said, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food. But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either. Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
Genesis 43:3-5 (NLT)
Of course, Jacob is reminded by his sons that they cannot go without Benjamin. Jacob is still unconvinced to hand over Benjamin to his treacherous sons.
Jacob: Why did you do this to me? Why did you tell this man you had another brother?
Genesis 43:6 (VOICE)
Jacob tried to put the blame on the boys for even mentioning their youngest brother, again trying to make them feel guilty because of his sorrows. ‘Why did you bring this trouble on me?’
“The man kept asking us questions about our family,” they replied. “He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ So we answered his questions. How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
Genesis 43:7 (NLT)
This question about Israel (their father) wasn’t recorded in the previous chapter. It’s unclear whether this really happened or if this was another one of their lies in an effort to escape responsibility. Genesis 42:24 does reveal Joseph communed with them, and the things they spoke about were not recorded.
Then, Judah speaks.
Judah (to Israel, his father): Send the boy with me, and let’s be on our way. It’s the only way we’re going to live through this famine and not die of hunger—you, us, and all of our little ones. I will guarantee his safety. You can hold me personally responsible if I don’t bring him back to you in one piece. If anything happens to him, I am perfectly willing to bear the blame forever. Had we not waited this long already, we could have made the journey twice now and have enough food.
Genesis 43:8-10 (VOICE)
Judah, humbled by life, humbled by his daughter-in-law Tamar’s bold act when Judah failed to respond to her plight appropriately, now offers HIMSELF as the surety bond for Benjamin.
Now, one might ask, just exactly what penalty could Jacob extract from Judah should he fail on his mission to take Benjamin to Egypt and return him safely home?
Well, as we discussed a while back, Judah almost certainly saw himself as the likely inheritor of the wealth and authority of the clan of Israel. He apparently knew that Rueben was no longer going to receive the first-born blessing for he had defiled his father’s bed. And, of course, Jacob’s 2nd and 3rd sons were the ones who led the raid of revenge upon Shechem, killing every male and then leading the plundering of the remaining inhabitants…this would have disqualified them.
So, with Joseph, formerly Jacob’s favorite, now thought to be dead, Judah, 4th in line, must have seen himself as that person who would soon be the leader of the tribes of Israel. Judah, by agreeing to accept all blame if something were to happen to Benjamin, had much to lose. He, too, could have been disinherited. Jacob knew that, too, and must have felt that if it were at all possible for Benjamin to be spared, Judah would do all that could humanly be done to see to it.
Here, finally, was a son who could be trusted…Jacob could trust Judah in this matter. But, even more, Jacob would trust God. If he was to lose all of his sons, then so be it. It is in God’s hands.
Accepting responsibilities is difficult, but it builds character and confidence, earns others’ respect, and motivates us to complete our work. When you have been given an assignment to complete or a responsibility to fulfill, commit yourself to seeing it through.
So their father, Jacob, finally said to them, “If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this. Pack your bags with the best products of this land. Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake. Then take your brother, and go back to the man. May God Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it.”
Genesis 43:11-14 (NLT)
There’s a difference between surrendering to God’s loving providence and bowing to blind fate, and Jacob’s statements show where he stood. “If it can’t be avoided. …If I must lose my children, so be it.”.
This kind of response certainly doesn’t sound like the Jacob of Bethel who claimed the promises of God and had angels caring for him! Nor is it the Jacob who led his family back to Bethel for a new beginning with the Lord. His feelings of grief and despair had almost extinguished his faith.
Always the controller, Jacob told his sons exactly what to do. Of course, there had to be a present for the Egyptian ruler who could release Simeon (see 32:13ff) ; and they had to take twice the amount of money so they could return the money they found in their sacks as well as purchase more food.
It’s interesting that Jacob said, “Take your brother also” (Genesis 43:13) and not “Take also my son.”
Was he emphasizing their personal responsibility to take care of their own flesh and blood?
He sent them off with his blessing, asking that El Shaddai (God Almighty, the All-Sufficient One) change the heart of “the man” so he would show mercy by releasing Simeon and not hurting Benjamin. But his final statement didn’t give evidence of much faith or hope: “If I be bereaved of my children [Joseph, Benjamin, and Simeon], I am bereaved.” Perhaps he wanted those pathetic words to echo in his sons’ minds as they journeyed to Egypt.
So the men packed Jacob’s gifts and double the money and headed off with Benjamin. They finally arrived in Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.
Genesis 43:15 (NLT)
To Be Continued…