Friday, March 25, 2011

Genesis 43:1-7 Contemplating a Return to Egypt

"Now the famine was still severe in the land.  So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, 'Go back and buy us a little more food.'  But Judah said to him, "The man warned us solemnly, 'You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.'  If you send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you.  But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, 'You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.' "

Israel asked, "Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?"

They replied, "The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family.  'Is your father still living?' he asked us. 'Do you have another brother?'  We simply answered his questions.  How were we to know he would say, 'Bring your brother down here'?"  (Genesis 43:1-7 NIV)
Jacob is now in a dilemma.  Their food is just about used up, yet the brothers will not go back down to Egypt unless Benjamin is allowed to go with them.  Joseph had strongly impressed upon them that he would not allow further trade or even talk with them unless they brought their brother to him.  If Jacob allows Benjamin to go, he may come to harm.  However, if Jacob does not allow Benjamin to go, the entire household (Benjamin included) may eventually starve to death.

In frustration, Jacob wonders aloud why they have revealed so much about the family.  The brothers reply that they were simply answering the man's detailed questions.  They never thought that this would result in Joseph insisting upon seeing their youngest brother as proof of their innocence!

[By the way, Joseph's stern warning that he would not speak with the brothers again unless they had Benjamin with them was a brilliant move.  Knowing that the famine would continue for seven years, Joseph figured that the brothers were eventually going to need more supplies of grain.  This may be the only way that Joseph will get to see his brother again, so he sternly warns them not to return without their brother.  By refusing to see them unless Benjamin is present, Joseph nearly guarantees that he will see Benjamin.  At the same time, by making Benjamin the necessary key to their own survival, Joseph also protects his brother from the other brothers' unpredictable behavior.  If they need Benjamin to appear before Joseph, they are unlikely to harm him in any way in the meanwhile.  In this way, Joseph gets to see Benjamin, the younger brother is protected, and the brothers' good behavior is assured, even though Joseph himself cannot be there to watch over his younger brother.]

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