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The Brothers Come Again, Bringing Benjamin


Now the famine was severe in the land. 2And 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.” 3But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; 5but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8Then 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. 9I 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. 10If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man—a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 13Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; 14may 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.” 15So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.” 19So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house. 20They said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food; 21and when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each one’s money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. 22Moreover we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23He replied, “Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24When the steward had brought the men into Joseph’s house, and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. 27He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. 29Then 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!” 30With 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. 31Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said, “Serve the meal.” 32They 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. 33When 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. 34Portions 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.

14. If I be bereaved. Jacob may seem here to be hardly consistent with himself; for, if the prayer which Moses has just related, was the effect of faith, he ought to have been more calm; and, at least, to have given occasion to the manifestation of the grace of God. But he appears to cut himself off from every ground of confidence, when he supposes that nothing is left for him but bereavement. It is like the speech of a man in despair, “I shall remain bereaved as I am.” As if truly he had prayed in vain; or had feignedly professed that the remedy was in the hand of God. If, however, we observe to whom his speech was directed, the solution is easy. It is by no means doubtful that he stood firmly on the promise which had been given to him, and therefore he would hope for some fruit of his prayers; yet he wished deeply to affect his sons, in order that they might take greater care of their brother. For, it was in no common manner that Benjamin was intrusted to their protection, when they saw their father altogether overcome and almost lifeless with grief, until he should receive his son again in safety. Interpreters, however, expound these words variously. Some think that he complained, because now he was about to be entirely bereaved. To others, the meaning seems to be, that nothing worse could happen; since he had lost Joseph, whom he had preferred to all the rest. Others are disposed to mark a double bereavement, as if he had said, “I have lost two sons, and now a third follows them.” But what, if we should thus interpret the words, “I see what is my condition; I am a most wretched old man; my house, which lately was filled with people, I find almost deserted.” So that, in general terms, he is deploring the loss of all his sons, and is not speaking of a part only. Moreover, it was his design to inspire his sons with a degree of solicitude which should cause them to attend to their duty with greater fidelity and diligence.168168     There is, however, another interpretation of the passage which is worthy of attention. In our version, the words are, “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved;” but the expression, of my children, is not in the original. The close translation is simply, “If I be bereaved, I am bereaved.” And this may be the language of entire resignation to the will of God. Jacob had had a severe struggle in his mind, before he could give up his beloved Benjamin: But having at length succeeded, he seems now freely to surrender himself and his family to the divine will. “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” I know the worst, and I am prepared to meet it. Ainsworth says, “A like phrase is in Esther 4:16, ‘If I perish, I perish.’ Both of them seem to be a committing of themselves, and of the event of their actions, unto God in faith; which, if it fell out otherwise than they wished, they would patiently bear.” — Ed.

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