Joseph Plans A Meal For His Brothers!
The nine brothers had enough to think about on their trip without pondering their father’s chronic grief. In fact, they faced three difficult problems for which they had no answers:
- Explaining to the officials why they had the money;
- Effecting Simeon’s release from confinement; and
- Protecting Benjamin.
But by the time they were heading back home, they thought all these problems had been solved.
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the manager of his household, “These men will eat with me this noon. Take them inside the palace. Then go slaughter an animal, and prepare a big feast.”
Genesis 43:16 (NLT)
When Joseph sees that Benjamin has returned to Egypt with his brothers, he sets up another test in order to observe how the brothers treat Benjamin. The plan includes bringing the men to Joseph’s house for a meal.
So the man did as Joseph told him and took them into Joseph’s palace.
The brothers were terrified when they saw that they were being taken into Joseph’s house. “It’s because of the money someone put in our sacks last time we were here,” they said. “He plans to pretend that we stole it. Then he will seize us, make us slaves, and take our donkeys.”
Genesis 43:17-18 (NLT)
When Joseph’s brothers are brought to his house, they fear that it is a ploy to get them away from everyone else so that they can be assaulted and seized as slaves.
The brothers approached the manager of Joseph’s household and spoke to him at the entrance to the palace. “Sir,” they said, “we came to Egypt once before to buy food. But as we were returning home, we stopped for the night and opened our sacks. Then we discovered that each man’s money—the exact amount paid—was in the top of his sack! Here it is; we have brought it back with us. We also have additional money to buy more food. We have no idea who put our money in our sacks.”
Genesis 43:19-22 (NLT)
They approach the steward of the house and try to explain that they did not steal the money for the grain on their first visit. They do not know how the money got into their sacks and they have brought it with them to show that they are honest men.
“Relax. Don’t be afraid,” the household manager told them. “Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks. I know I received your payment.” Then he released Simeon and brought him out to them.
Genesis 43:23 (NLT)
The reply they received from the steward must have both relieved them and astounded them. The steward tells them not to be afraid because he had received their money, and that they’re God and the God of their fathers must have put treasure in their sacks. Although this answer does not tell the whole story, it is true that the steward had received their money, and that the God of their fathers, the very same God that Joseph served, had sovereignly through Joseph provided this treasure.
The brothers are also reunited with Simeon. Instead of being seized as slaves, they receive their brother, who is released from custody. In God’s providence the fortunes of this family may be changing for the better.
The steward then went to get Simeon, and he brought him to his brothers. It must have been a time of great rejoicing, and Simeon was especially grateful that Benjamin had come along to rescue him.
How did the steward know that Benjamin was present and that Simeon should be released?
Joseph told him.
Did Simeon learn anything from his time in confinement?
If Jacob’s words on his deathbed are any indication, he probably didn’t (49:5-7). It’s tragic when we waste our suffering and don’t use it as an opportunity to grow.
The manager then led the men into Joseph’s palace. He gave them water to wash their feet and provided food for their donkeys. They were told they would be eating there, so they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him.
Genesis 43:24-26 (NLT)
The last thing the brothers expected was to be entertained at a banquet in the home of the second ruler of the land, the man who had dealt so severely with them during their first visit. When Joseph arrived, the brothers bowed and gave him their gifts; and they bowed again when they replied to his question about then-father. Now all eleven brothers bowed before him, and now the dreams were fulfilled.
After greeting them, he asked, “How is your father, the old man you spoke about? Is he still alive?”
“Yes,” they replied. “Our father, your servant, is alive and well.” And they bowed low again.
Then Joseph looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother. “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” Joseph asked. “May God be gracious to you, my son.”
Then Joseph hurried from the room because he was overcome with emotion for his brother. He went into his private room, where he broke down and wept.
Genesis 43:28-30 (NLT)
Joseph inquires about their, his, father’s well being, and they tell him he’s fine; then Joseph spots Benjamin. He is overwhelmed with emotion, and must leave them for a few moments to weep bittersweet tears in private.
Seeing his own full brother Benjamin caused Joseph to weep, so he left the room until he could get control of himself. Joseph’s sensitive heart was a miracle of God’s grace. For year’s dead Egyptian idols and the futile worship given to them had surrounded Joseph, yet he had maintained his faith in God and a heart tender toward his own people. He could have hardened his heart by nursing grudges, but he preferred to forgive and leave the past with God (Genesis 41:50-52).
After washing his face, he came back out, keeping himself under control. Then he ordered, “Bring out the food!”
Genesis 43:31 (NLT)
Now composed, Joseph returns and the meal is served.
The waiters served Joseph at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table. The Egyptians who ate with Joseph sat at their own table, because Egyptians despise Hebrews and refuse to eat with them. Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and to their amazement, he seated them according to age, from oldest to youngest. And Joseph filled their plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave the others. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
Genesis 43:32-34 (NLT)
The brothers eat together as a group, and the Egyptian house servants eat separately from both the brothers and from Joseph. It is well-documented Egyptian custom that the head of the house never eats with the servants.
But, why didn’t the servants eat with the Israelite brothers?
Well, we’re told in V32 that the “Egyptians despise Hebrews and refuse to eat with them”.
This is interesting stuff. You see Hebrews, as were many Semite tribes and people groups in this era, shepherds. The Egyptians saw shepherds as the lowest class of people, and their mere presence was offensive.
An Egyptian would NEVER eat with a shepherd. Egyptians valued cattle, not sheep. That’s one of the reasons that a Bull represented the Egyptian’s highest deity, Isis.
But, soon, another aspect of this Egyptian tradition would come into play: the Israelites were going to be given the land of Goshen to live in. A land where they would be away from the bulk of Egyptian society, to grow their sheep and not offend Egyptian sensibility.
As the brothers sat down to eat, each carefully seated by a servant in a place reserved specifically for each brother, they were stunned to see that they had been arranged from oldest to youngest, in perfect order of their birth.
What could this mean?
Even more, Benjamin was given a portion of food 5 times everyone else’s. Scholars have debated the meaning of this 5 fold blessing of food upon Benjamin, and the general consensus is that in Egypt, a prince or a ruler was given 5 times as much as everyone else as a sign of royalty.
Of course, that also raises the question, what was Joseph signifying with this?
My personal opinion is that Joseph was honoring the brother he would have had the most affinity to, the one with which he shared a common mother. And, the one who, of the 11 brothers, was completely innocent of any wrong doing in connection with Joseph being sold into slavery. But, we should also not overlook that the very first King of Israel would be a descendant of Benjamin.