Genesis 43: Jacob Sends Benjamin to Egypt; Joseph Welcomes His Brothers

face-washing man faucet water joseph genesis

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

The famine intensifies in Canaan so Jacob agrees to send Benjamin to Egypt with his other sons. Despite their fears, the brothers are welcomed into Joseph’s home. Joseph cries in private when he sees Benjamin. The brothers are served a meal in Joseph’s home and are mysteriously seated in their birth order.

II. Photo

Joseph gathers himself after crying in a side room: “Then he washed his face, came out, controlled himself, and said, ‘Serve the meal.’” (v. 31)

III. Outline

1-14. Jacob changes his mind about Benjamin

1. The famine grows in Canaan

2. Jacob tells his sons to return to Egypt when the grain runs out

3-5. Judah reminds Jacob of Joseph’s stipulation regarding Benjamin

6. Israel (called such) asks why his sons told Joseph about Benjamin

7. They reply that Joseph interrogated them

8-10. Judah forcefully tells Jacob to let him take responsibility and leave with Benjamin

11-14a. Israel sends his sons including Benjamin with gifts and doubles their original money

14b. Israel laments his state of childlessness

15-34. The brothers are welcomed by Joseph in Egypt

15. The brothers return to Joseph in Egypt

16-17. Joseph has his brothers brought to his home where a meal is prepared

18. The brothers are frightful regarding the money from last time

19-22. The brothers tell their side of the story to Joseph’s servant

23. The servant attributes the money to their god and returns Simeon to them

24-25. The brothers are treated well and prepare to meet Joseph

26-29. The brothers show deference to Joseph, who inquires about Jacob and Benjamin

30-31. Joseph steps aside so he can cry

32. Because of Egyptian practice, Joseph and the Egyptians ate separately from Joseph

33. The brothers were shocked to see themselves seated in birth order

34. Benjamin is given five times his brothers, and all eat and drink

IV. Select Verses

1-2: Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little more food.”

8-10. Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die—you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”

13-14: Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

27-30: He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there.

32: They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

33: When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement.

34:  Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

V. Comment

Back in Genesis 37:3, I noted that Joseph is called Jacob’s “child of old age” despite the fact that Benjamin was born after Joseph. One explanation is that the passage understands Benjamin to be older than Joseph, meaning it contradicts the previous narrative. There is an alternative explanation too. According to the medieval Jewish commentator Rashbam, Joseph was Jacob’s “child of old age” for many years before Benjamin was born. This period of time solidified Joseph’s position as his favorite child. This latter explanation makes sense in light of Joseph’s treatment of Benjamin in this and the previous chapter. Joseph was most likely interested in seeing his younger brother Benjamin because he never gotten the chance to get to know him.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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