Thursday, March 31, 2011

Genesis 44:14-17 Joseph's Decree

Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him.  Joseph said to them, 'What is this you have done?  Don't you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?'

'What can we say to my lord?' Judah replied.  'What can we say?  How can we prove our innocence?  God has uncovered your servants' guilt.  We are now my lord's slaves -- we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.'

But Joseph said, 'Far be it from me to do such a thing!  Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave.  The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.'

Joseph reacts sternly when the desperate brothers fall at his feet.  He seems to be claiming that he has used divination to reveal the guilty party and to track them down.  At first I wondered why Joseph would speak like this, for surely as a worshiper of God he wouldn't be using divination!  Then I realized that he was probably just playing the part of an enraged Egyptian official for the brothers' benefit.
Joseph's brothers are resigned to their fate.  They can not abandon their brother, and they believe that although they are innocent of stealing Joseph's cup, they are guilty of far worse things -- in particular, the death of their brother Joseph.  Somehow, in their minds, God is punishing them for that through their current distress.

Joseph plays the part of the prime minister of Egypt to full hilt.  He declares that only the 'guilty' party -- Benjamin -- will need to remain in Egypt as his slave.

To the brothers, the prospect of returning to their father without Benjamin must seem far worse than a lifetime of slavery in Egypt.

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