Where Was Joseph’s Cup?
Let’s continue the story of Joseph as we move our way through Genesis. But, as we read Genesis 44, I want you to do something: everywhere we see Joseph dealing with his brothers, mentally picture Yeshua dealing with us.
As we’re going to see, Joseph is a kind of Old Testament version of Jesus, in more ways than immediately meets the eye. No, I’m not in any way suggesting that Joseph was an earlier incarnation of the Word; rather I mean that he is a “type”.
Joseph is used, partially, to create a pattern after which the Messiah will follow. Naturally, because Joseph is but a mere man, He cannot hold a candle to the essence and nature and stature and holiness of Yeshua HaMashiach; but we can learn some valuable principles about Yeshua from what we read of Joseph. The trick is to recognize patterns while avoiding allegory.
Joseph’s Silver Cup
When his brothers were ready to leave, Joseph gave these instructions to his palace manager: “Fill each of their sacks with as much grain as they can carry, and put each man’s money back into his sack. Then put my personal silver cup at the top of the youngest brother’s sack, along with the money for his grain.” So the manager did as Joseph instructed him.
The brothers were up at dawn and were sent on their journey with their loaded donkeys. But when they had gone only a short distance and were barely out of the city, Joseph said to his palace manager, “Chase after them and stop them. When you catch up with them, ask them, ‘Why have you repaid my kindness with such evil? Why have you stolen my master’s silver cup, which he uses to predict the future? What a wicked thing you have done!’”
When the palace manager caught up with the men, he spoke to them as he had been instructed.
Genesis 44:1-6 (NLT)
Despite the questions that the circumstances surrounding the banquet served to the 11 brothers must have inspired in them…being invited to dine in the home of the 2nd most powerful man in all Egypt…the incredible coincidence of their being seated in exact order of their birth…. the strange offering of the royal portion (5 times as much) of food given to Benjamin…they got the grain they had come seeking, packed up their donkeys and left at first light of the next morning. They likely figured their ordeal was finally over.
When the eleven brothers left Joseph’s house, they had every reason to be joyful. They hadn’t been arrested for stealing the grain money, Simeon had been released, Benjamin was safely traveling with them, and they were going home at last. They had also been honored guests at a wonderful feast, and the generous ruler had sent them on their way with their sacks full of grain. It was indeed a happy day.
But their joy was only a mirage. Authentic joy and peace can never be based on lies; they must be founded on truth. To build on lies is to build on the sand and invite certain judgment. Apart from righteousness, there can be no real peace, but only a fragile truce that eventually erupts into war. “And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.“ (Isa. 32:17).
Just as before, Joseph had each brother’s money placed back into his sack of grain; but a new twist was added. Joseph’s silver cup was place into the mouth of Benjamin’s sack.
No sooner had the brothers begun their journey home than Joseph’s house steward, sent by Joseph, catches up to these Israelites and once again accuses them of stealing from his master. The brothers are dumbfounded. The house steward tells the eleven exactly what Joseph had instructed him to say; that is,
Why have you repaid me evil for good, and why have you taken my goblet, or cup, from which I make my divinations?
First, let’s address the cup. Actually, it was a bowl…a silver bowl. The master of the house in Egypt in those days, if judged a sage, a seer, had a special bowl from which he and he alone drank. But, it was also used for the purpose of divining messages from the gods. One can only imagine how Joseph came by this “diviner’s bowl”…likely it was a gift from the Pharaoh, because Joseph was undoubtedly, after accurately interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, determined the highest and best sage, diviner, in all the land.
Typically, the bowl was filled with water, and then gold or silver objects, amulets, sometimes with magic inscriptions written on them, were put into the water, and from the reflections the seer would attempt to see the future.
It is unimaginable that Joseph actually used the bowl for anything except to drink from…but to keep up the appearance of being thoroughly Egyptian, he used the common knowledge of the bowl as an implement of divination to continue to test his brothers.
By the way: notice that we never hear a word about the brothers’ questioning of whether or not Joseph was an Egyptian, which he was not.
So, why NOT?
Why don’t we hear the brothers wondering why Joseph doesn’t even LOOK like other Egyptians?
Egyptians, after all, are NOT Semites. They are from Ham. And, their physical features are quite different from Semites, the most obvious being their dark, rather than olive colored, skin.
Once again, we have another hidden illusion to the Hyksos rulership over Egypt at this time. The whole of the Middle East would have been quite aware of this political situation in Egypt, whereby Bedouins conquered and ruled Egypt.
So, it was of no surprise at all to these Israelites from Canaan…these Semites…that the viziers of Egypt looked, physically, much like themselves, even though he dressed in more typical Egyptian garb and adopted Egyptian customs and traditions. For the brothers well knew that Semites were, at this time, ruling over Egypt…. it was common knowledge.
“What are you talking about?” the brothers responded. “We are your servants and would never do such a thing! Didn’t we return the money we found in our sacks? We brought it back all the way from the land of Canaan. Why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man die. And all the rest of us, my lord, will be your slaves.”
“That’s fair,” the man replied. “But only the one who stole the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go free.”
They all quickly took their sacks from the backs of their donkeys and opened them. The palace manager searched the brothers’ sacks, from the oldest to the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack!
Genesis 44:7-12 (NLT)
So sure were the brothers of their innocence that they defended themselves passionately. For one thing, they argued; they weren’t the kind of men who went around stealing things.
Hadn’t they proved their honesty by telling the steward about the money they found in their grain sacks?
If they were thieves, they would have kept the money and said nothing.
In their defense, however, they went too far; for they offered to have the guilty party slain and themselves put into servitude. In doing this, they were imitating their father, for Jacob had made a similar statement when dealing with Laban (Gen. 31:32). But the steward rejected that offer and made another proposal: The culprit would become his servant, and the rest of the men could return home.
When the steward searched the sacks, he heightened the tension by working his way from the eldest brother to the youngest. This was the second time the brothers wondered how the Egyptians knew their birth order (Gen. 43:33). Once again, each man’s money was found in his sack, but nothing special is said about this in the text. While the steward was looking for the silver cup, the presence of their money in the sacks must have frightened the men. When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers were sure that this was the end.
It’s interesting to me that seemingly every time it becomes necessary for one or all of these Israelite brothers to prove their intent or honesty on a matter, or need to resolve a difficult situation, death is the answer.
- They killed the males of Shechem for raping their sister.
- They decided to kill Joseph, but ONLY sold him off into slavery figuring he wouldn’t survive very long in those conditions, anyway.
- Judah ordered that his daughter-in-law Tamar be burned alive for her supposed fornication and dishonoring of Judah’s family by her out-of-wedlock pregnancy,
- Reuben offers his own children’s lives to Jacob as retribution should anything happen to Benjamin…on and on.
What this shows me is that up to this point in their lives, ten of the 12 tribes of Israel had very little respect for life, and had utterly no understanding of God’s moral principles!
When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothing in despair. Then they loaded their donkeys again and returned to the city.
Genesis 44:13 (NLT)
The brothers showed genuine grief and distress by tearing their garments as if someone had died. Imagine the thoughts that raced through their minds as they traveled back to the city.
How could they prove their innocence?
Did Benjamin really do it?
Would he be made a slave or possibly be slain?
Why did they make such a foolish offer in the first place?
What would Judah say to his father when he returned home without his youngest brother?
Since their money was found in their sacks, would all of them be condemned as thieves?
Since he was responsible for Benjamin, no doubt Judah was preparing his appeal and perhaps praying that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob would give him success. His speech indicates that Judah decided to tell the truth and confess his sins and the sins of his brothers.
To Be Continued…
Focus on the Bible Commentary – Genesis: The Beginning of God’s Plan of Salvation
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Authentic