Joseph’s brothers have gone to fetch Benjamin to bring back to Egypt and secure the release of Simeon. Joseph is having some fun at his brother’s expense, and trying to reunite his family in Egypt, where Joseph has become quite powerful in the eyes of the Pharaoh (Rame’sis).
The brothers arrive back to their home and explain the situation to Jacob. Jacob is distraught, he has lost Joseph, now he has lost Simeon, and is afraid that if he sends Benjamin to Egypt that he will lose him as well. So Jacob decides to wait out the famine in hopes that it will be over before the grain runs out, and he will lose no more sons. But, God has other plans.
The famine outlasts the supplies they brought back so Jacob tells his sons to go again to Egypt and secure more grain. Judah tells his father that they were warned not to return without Benjamin, and the brothers refuse to go to Egypt without Benjamin on fear for their own lives. A debate goes back and forth between Jacob and his sons, finally Judah offers a deal: if Jacob will send Benjamin with them then he will bear whatever wrath Jacob sees fit if Benjamin does not return. Seeing no alternative Jacob agrees and sends them with an offering of the best fruits, nuts, honey, and myrrh that they have. Also, he sends them back with double the money from before: payment for their current needs, and the money that Joseph hid in their sacks when he gave them the grain. This, he hopes, will appease Joseph, and will see Benjamin safely back.
Joseph sees his brothers coming and makes plans for a celebration. He tells his steward to prepare a feast for noon, and to bring them to his house. When they hear that they are to be brought before him (with no knowledge of the feast) they are frightened that they are going to be enslaved over the money Joseph hid in their sacks. When they are brought before him they beg for their lives and explain the money they found, and that they have brought it back, along with money for more grain and their brother.
Joseph, still playing games with them, tells them not to worry, he received their payment, what they found must have been a gift from their God. Joseph leaves and they begin preparing the foods they brought to celebrate with him when he returns at noon. Joseph returns and asks about their (his) father, they tell him that all is well with Jacob. They then introduce Joseph to Benjamin, whom he then blesses; Joseph leaves the room to weep over seeing his brother. After he composes himself he returns and orders the feast to begin. This is the first time we see the emerging separation between the people of Israel and the gentiles, as they eat at separate tables; only at this time it is the Egyptians who cannot eat with Israel, considering it an abomination. The food is placed on the table of the Egyptians, and then distributed to the Hebrews, but we are told that Benjamin receives five times the amount of food that the others are given.
Once again Joseph plots, not for revenge, but to reunite his family. He orders the grain sacks to be filled, and the money to be again put into the sacks. But, this time there is an added bit…his cup, one of the signs of his authority, is to be put into Benjamin’s sack. In the morning the brothers leave for home, but in short time Joseph’s troops catch up with them and accuse them of the theft. Fearful of the consequences they deny the theft and say that whoever has the cup will be put to death and the rest will return as slaves. Their sacks are searched and the cup found, the troops then escort the brothers back to Egypt for punishment. Once before Joseph he reads them the riot act, and Judah pleads for his mercy, offering themselves as slaves if he would spare them. Joseph, however, has other plans, he tells them that they are to return to their father, but that Benjamin will remain and be put into slavery.
Judah is now afraid for what will happen if they return without Benjamin. He explains to Joseph that Benjamin is the youngest, and the only surviving child of his mother. If they return to their father without Benjamin that he will die of a broken heart. Judah then offers himself in exchange for Benjamin, he will remain as slave if Benjamin can be sent home to their father. Joseph could no longer carry on the ruse so he sends the Egyptians out of the room and reveals himself to his brothers. He tells them that while they sold him out of hatred that God has turned it to good so that he (Joseph) could prepare a place for them in Egypt to survive the famine. He then sends his brothers to go to their father and bring him back to settle in Egypt and live out the remaining five years of famine in comfort.
The servants take word of Joseph’s brothers to Pharaoh, and he calls Joseph to him. Pharaoh commands that Joseph’s brothers should go back to Canaan and fetch the rest of his family and return them all to Egypt. Once there Pharaoh will provide them with some of the best land in Egypt to live on. Joseph sends his brothers with wagons from Pharaoh to load up their families for the return journey. They are given the best of clothing and provisions to make the journey comfortable; but, to Benjamin, he gives 300 silver shekels and five festal garments. A shekel was the equivalent of two denar, and a denar was the base for a day’s wages, so Benjamin was given the equivalent of 600 days wages, or close to 2-2/3 years earnings. Not too shabby a gift.
The brothers return to Jacob and relate all that happened, Jacob is elated to hear that Joseph was still alive, and who really cares about the gifts, this was enough! Personally, I wouldn’t want to be one of the sons when his elation settled and the truth of what the brothers did hit him. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. Jacob offers a sacrifice to God for Joseph, and God speaks to Jacob, assuring him that He will be with them in Egypt and, when the time is right, will be with them when they come out of Egypt.
Pharaoh settles Jacob and his family in Goshen. Goshen is the land in the valley of the Nile river, the Nile River’s delta valley, emptying into the Mediterranean. Pharaoh has kept his word and placed Joseph’s family in some of the best land in all of Egypt. If you are not familiar with a river delta, this is where the rich soil brought down with the river is deposited, for farming there is no richer soil than a river delta, and in a desert country this is the best of all lands. Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph and his family, and that they are shepherds, and thus he puts them in charge of Egypt’s cattle. Pharaoh and Jacob sit down and have a nice talk about the days of their lives, just as any two aging men would do. Jacob leaves Pharaoh with a blessing, and Joseph takes them to their new lands.
Next time we finish the story of Jacob, and the exegesis into Genesis as well.