Lunch in Egypt

“Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him” (Gen. 43:34).  

- Genesis 43:16–34

When Jacob finally allowed Benjamin to go to Egypt, his trusting in the Almighty no matter what might happen was not stoic acquiescence to fate (Gen. 43:14). He took action to help smooth the way forward for his sons, knowing that the Lord uses the decisions of His people to work out His sovereign plan. Jacob understood trusting the Lord is not only intellectual assent, it also means doing what God tells us is right (James 2:14–26). Israel prayed for Benjamin’s safe return and sent a present to the pharaoh’s steward (Gen. 43:11–13), a wise move for those who approached royalty in those days. The honey, which could be found in diverse places such as rocks (Deut. 32:13), animal carcasses (Judg. 14:8–9), and trees (1 Sam. 14:25–27), was an extra-special treat during a famine.

Jacob trusted in God’s providence, and the Lord did watch over Jacob’s sons once he sent them back into the land of the Nile. In today’s passage they arrive at Joseph’s house in Egypt. Given how their brother treated them earlier, they are rightly afraid (Gen. 43:18), and they hear strange news when they attempt to pay for the grain they received for free on the earlier visit. Joseph’s steward tells them he received their payment and that God returned their money to their sacks (v. 23), putting into words the divine superintendence revealed in their circumstances. This reminds them of their vulnerability, preparing them to understand the depth of their past sins and to show they have changed since dropping Joseph in a pit (chap. 37).

Joseph gives his brothers an opportunity to prove they are now different when he eats with them. Their earlier sins against him were prompted by jealousy, and so he makes sure to shower Benjamin with gifts to see if they envied Rachel’s other son (43:26–34a). His formerly murderous siblings pass the test with flying colors, eating and rejoicing freely without being disgruntled at having less than their youngest brother (v. 34b). Truly, they have grown spiritually by leaps and bounds in the years Joseph has been away. But Joseph will test their fidelity one last time to see if they have actually been transformed by the Spirit and are now ruled by love.

Coram Deo

One commentator has said that Jacob’s sons demonstrate qualities demanded of God’s people in Genesis 43. Two of these commendable traits are responsibility and gratitude. They are responsible in their vow to protect Benjamin (vv. 8–10). Israel’s sons also rejoice when Benjamin gets more than they do, for they are grateful for what God has given them (v. 34). Are you grateful for and responsible with the gifts the Lord has provided for you?

Passages for Further Study

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