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Joseph Detains Benjamin
Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. 2Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. 3As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, “Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? 5Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’ ”
6 When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. 7They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! 8Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” 10He said, “Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.” 11Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. 12He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.
14 Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. 15Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practice divination?” 16And Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” 17But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
Judah Pleads for Benjamin’s Release
18 Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ 24When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. 25And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ 26we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. 29If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.’ 30Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ 33Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.”
Ge 44:1-34. Policy to Stay His Brethren.
1. And Joseph commanded the steward—The design of putting the cup into the sack of Benjamin was obviously to bring that young man into a situation of difficulty or danger, in order thereby to discover how far the brotherly feelings of the rest would be roused to sympathize with his distress and stimulate their exertions in procuring his deliverance. But for what purpose was the money restored? It was done, in the first instance, from kindly feelings to his father; but another and further design seems to have been the prevention of any injurious impressions as to the character of Benjamin. The discovery of the cup in his possession, if there had been nothing else to judge by, might have fastened a painful suspicion of guilt on the youngest brother; but the sight of the money in each man's sack would lead all to the same conclusion, that Benjamin was just as innocent as themselves, although the additional circumstance of the cup being found in his sack would bring him into greater trouble and danger.
2. put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth—It was a large goblet, as the original denotes, highly valued by its owner, on account of its costly material or its elegant finish and which had probably graced his table at the sumptuous entertainment of the previous day.
3. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away—They commenced their homeward journey at early dawn (see on Ge 18:2); and it may be readily supposed in high spirits, after so happy an issue from all their troubles and anxieties.
4. When they were gone out of the city … Joseph said unto his steward—They were brought to a sudden halt by the stunning intelligence that an article of rare value was missing from the governor's house. It was a silver cup; so strong suspicions were entertained against them that a special messenger was despatched to search them.
5. Is not this it in which my lord drinketh—not only kept for the governor's personal use, but whereby he divines. Divination by cups, to ascertain the course of futurity, was one of the prevalent superstitions of ancient Egypt, as it is of Eastern countries still. It is not likely that Joseph, a pious believer in the true God, would have addicted himself to this superstitious practice. But he might have availed himself of that popular notion to carry out the successful execution of his stratagem for the last decisive trial of his brethren.
6, 7. he overtook them, and he spake … these words—The steward's words must have come upon them like a thunderbolt, and one of their most predominant feelings must have been the humiliating and galling sense of being made so often objects of suspicion. Protesting their innocence, they invited a search. The challenge was accepted [Ge 44:10, 11]. Beginning with the eldest, every sack was examined, and the cup being found in Benjamin's [Ge 44:12], they all returned in an indescribable agony of mind to the house of the governor [Ge 44:13], throwing themselves at his feet [Ge 44:14], with the remarkable confession, "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" [Ge 44:16].
16-34. Judah said, What shall we say?—This address needs no comment—consisting at first of short, broken sentences, as if, under the overwhelming force of the speaker's emotions, his utterance were choked, it becomes more free and copious by the effort of speaking, as he proceeds. Every word finds its way to the heart; and it may well be imagined that Benjamin, who stood there speechless like a victim about to be laid on the altar, when he heard the magnanimous offer of Judah to submit to slavery for his ransom, would be bound by a lifelong gratitude to his generous brother, a tie that seems to have become hereditary in his tribe. Joseph's behavior must not be viewed from any single point, or in separate parts, but as a whole—a well-thought, deep-laid, closely connected plan; and though some features of it do certainly exhibit an appearance of harshness, yet the pervading principle of his conduct was real, genuine, brotherly kindness. Read in this light, the narrative of the proceedings describes the continuous, though secret, pursuit of one end; and Joseph exhibits, in his management of the scheme, a very high order of intellect, a warm and susceptible heart, united to a judgment that exerted a complete control over his feelings—a happy invention in devising means towards the attainment of his ends and an inflexible adherence to the course, however painful, which prudence required.