Go again, buy us a little food.I. His CHANGE OF RESOLUTION (vers. 11-14).
II. His PIETY THROUGHOUT.
1. His faith in God.
2. His honest principle.
3. It is no reflection on his piety that he changed his purpose.Consistent with the unchanging truth of God, with the eternal law of righteousness, we must and ought to be; but not invariably consistent with ourselves; for our goodness is imperfect, and we are liable to mistake and error. Instead of adjusting our present conduct to our former habits and thoughts, we should act upon our present convictions, leaving the present and the past to reconcile themselves as they may. It is only by looking continually to God, and not to ourselves, that we can walk sure-footedly in the present life.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. THE JOURNEY.
1. The resolve of Jacob to send at last his son Benjamin to Egypt. In this consent of Jacob we read a double instance of faith, faith in God and in man.(1) Faith in God; for he says, "God Almighty give you mercy before the man" (ver. 14). Faith has been well defined thus, "the heart to make ventures for God." He alone knows what real faith is, who has been compelled to lose sight of or to relinquish hold of those most dear to him, relying only on the mercy and eternal love of God. Faith is that which makes us hold and cling to God when nothing else is left for us to cling to; the grasp of the dying sailor to the mast, that is faith.(2) There was, besides, faith in humanity, in his son Judah, in one scarcely worthy of his confidence, for once at least he had proved treacherous. But it was better so, and it is better for us if we possess this faith in man.
2. Jacob's honesty (ver. 12). We are bound not only to return that which is ours unjustly, but also that which is ours by the oversight or mistake of others. But there is another way of looking at this act of Jacob's. It seems somewhat to savour of his disposition to mollify and appease his enemies by presents; as, when he dreaded the enmity of Esau, he sent presents to him, flattering him with the name of god. And if it be so, we find here that which tells, not of honesty, but of pliancy.
3. The change of Jacob's resolution in permitting Benjamin to go. At first we might be inclined to charge him with inconsistency, but the circumstances were changed, and the only choice now left him was between famine for them all and the loss of one son.
II. THE ARRIVAL IN EGYPT.
1. The fear of Joseph's brethren when invited to Joseph's house. They came dreading some misfortune. They were suspicious of Joseph's intentions. They could not but think that he wished to entrap them and make bondsmen of them. And this fear of theirs arose partly out of their own capability for a similar act of treachery. "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all." It is the worst penalty of a deceitful and crooked disposition that it always dreads being overreached.
2. In the next place we observe the bowing down of the brethren before Joseph (ver. 26). This was an exact fulfilment of one of his early dreams, when the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down before him. But Joseph was now changed; he had been too much saddened by misfortune, and was far too much accustomed to Egyptian homage, to find any real pleasure in this, from which he had formerly expected so much. For us this is a pregnant example of the illusiveness of human life. Now that his dream was fulfilled to the very letter, he could not enjoy it.
3. We next observe Joseph's relief in the indirect utterance of his feelings. He asked, "Is your father yet alive, and your youngest brother?" &c. (ver. 27).
4. The feast of brotherhood.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
1. Did he at length admit the necessity of making the sacrifice which he declared he would never make? Let us never be ashamed to retract any hasty and improper resolution which we have ever formed. And when we perceive how necessary it is to give up any idol, or any forbidden indulgence, let us not hesitate a moment to act upon our convictions. No delays are so dangerous as those which take place between the formation and the performance of a good resolution.
2. Again, we must not attempt to procure the favour of Him who sits upon the throne of grace by any present that we have to bring, or any payment that we have to make. While we are willing to part with everything for the sake of Christ, we are not to bring anything as the price of our salvation, or to offer anything that we have, or anything that we can do, to recommend us to His favour.
3. Again, let us never forget that the desire for His salvation, and the broken and contrite heart which He has promised to accept, must come from God. The preparation of the heart of man is from the Lord. We must bring our heart when we come into His presence, and it must be upright and contrite if we would see His face in peace. But He only, who requires such a heart as this, can produce it for us.
4. For here, observe, the importance of a praying spirit is especially to be seen in Jacob's behaviour at this time. When he sent his sons away, it was with the humble and earnest petition — God Almighty give you favour before the man. Prayer ever was, and ever must be, the distinguishing mark of all the true sons of Jacob.
5. Lastly, Jacob at length determined to acquiesce in the appointments of Divine Providence, whatever they might be. So let every true penitent resolve to do, and he is certain eventually to be delivered out of all his fears.
1. The character under which the Lord is addressed — "God Almighty," or God all-sufficient. This was the name under which Abraham was blessed, and which was used by Isaac in blessing Jacob. Doubtless Jacob, in putting up this prayer, thought of these covenant promises and blessings, and that it was the prayer of faith.
2. The mistake on which the prayer is founded, which yet was acceptable to God. He prayed for the turning of the man's heart in a way of mercy; but the man's heart did not need turning. Yet Jacob thought it did, and had no means of knowing otherwise. The truth of things may in some cases be o concealed from us, to render us more importunate; and this importunity, though it may appear at last to have been unnecessary, yet being right according as circumstances appeared at the time, God will approve of it, and we shall find our account in it.
3. The resignation with which he concludes: "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!" It is God's usual way, in trying those whom He loves, to touch them in the tenderest part. Herein the trial consists. If there be one object round which the heart has entwined more than all others, that is it which is likely to be God's rival, and of that we must be deprived. Yet if when it goes, we humbly resign it up into God's hands, it is not unusual for Him to restore it to US, and that with more than double interest.
I. JACOB'S ENTREATY.
1. The occasion of it. Continuance of the famine. How dreary the prospect. Barren earth. Languishing cattle. Dry river-beds. The heavens as brass.
2. The character of it. "Buy us a little food."(1) "Buy." They had money. The money that was returned, and a little more. They probably took all they could well spare the first time, not thinking the famine would last so long, and intending to obtain enough to suffice till plenty was restored.(2) "A little food." It was all they could purchase with what money was left after they had restored the first purchase-money.(3) "Go again." He does not say a word about Benjamin. Did he think they had forgotten him; or that they would not press the matter? He speaks of food, not of Simeon or Benjamin.
II. JUDAH'S EXPOSTULATION. He at once assures his father that it is of no use except Benjamin goes too; and refuses to go without him, as a useless and perilous experiment.
III. THE BROTHERS' MEETING. They once more set out for Egypt. In due time they stand in the presence of the great lord. Joseph sees and recognizes Benjamin. Commands that a banquet shall be prepared in his own house. This new kindness filled them with new fear. They thought they were being ensnared, and would be sold as bondmen. Yet they had done to Joseph the very thing they feared to receive at his hands. Having had no opportunity of speaking to Joseph, they explain to the steward. He encourages them. Tells them not to fear. Reminds them of God's mercy. Joseph's present is therefore prepared, and they await the issue. In all this see how a guilty conscience destroys enjoyment of happy circumstances. If a man is right within, all will be right without; if he be wrong, all will be wrong. Learn:
I. To be thankful for plenty.
II. To pity the distressed.
III. Sin brings its own punishment.
IV. The brothers' meeting may remind us of our future meeting with our Elder Brother.
(J. G. Gray.)
If thou wilt send our brother. —
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
If it must be so now, do this. —
1 Peter 5:3). Here you have an illustration of the apostle's precept, and the reason by which it is enforced. Jacob's sons submitted to their father in going down to Egypt, and their father complied with them in sending Benjamin along with them; and God crowned their designs with success, and gave them wonderful displays of His favour in the event of their journey. How was Jacob persuaded to comply with a motion so adverse to his feelings? Not by Reuben's, but by Judah's solicitations. Judah addressed his father in words of wisdom and meekness, He set before him the absolute necessity of parting with Benjamin for a time, and the great comfort to be expected in the issue. Far was he from reproaching his father for his manifest partiality to this favourite son, but he gave him full assurance that his partiality should be gratified, if possible and necessary; for when Judah became surety for him, he, in effect, engaged to stand between him and every danger; and this promise he did not fail to perform. Complain not, young persons, of tyranny in your parents, when the truth probably is, that you have not learned to treat with due reverence the fathers of your flesh. Do they refuse to comply with your wishes? Can you say with uprightness, that your desires were such as ought to have been granted? And if this has been the case, have you showed due respect to them in expressing your desires? and have you borne, with a meek temper, those eruptions of passion which disagreeable circumstances may sometimes produce, even in the best men? You see in the instances before us, "that by much forbearing, a prince" and a father "may be persuaded, and that a soft answer breaketh the bone."
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
1. He acts prudently. He uses means of conciliation, and of bespeaking the good graces of the unknown ruler of Egypt.
2. He acts honestly. "The money that was brought again in your sacks, carry it again in your hands: peradventure it was an oversight." There are not a few who, in similar circumstances, would have been disposed to regard such money as, according to their cant phraseology, a God-send; and who would have thought no more about the matter. Not so Jacob. Before he would regard the money as his, or have his sons regard it as theirs, he must be at the bottom of the matter — he must have it accounted for, how came it there — he must know whether they can keep it honestly. Thus let all Christian transactions be regulated by the principles of high honour and sterling unbending integrity.
3. He acts piously. "And God Almighty give you mercy before the man!" When a human heart requires to be softened, and inclined to favour where there is seeming hostility, it is ours to do what we can, and to leave the result, by prayer and supplication, in the hands of God — of "God Almighty." How much more like himself does Jacob now appear; and how much more becoming an example does he set before his family!
4. He acts submissively. "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved!"
5. He acts affectionately. It may be truly said of Jacob, as a father, that "even his failings leaned to virtue's side." We can account for them from causes that are in themselves good. But the point to which my observation tends, as many of you may anticipate, is this. How come we to be so much in earnest in seeking to propitiate a fellow-creature to turn away his displeasure, and to conciliate his favour, in order to avoid what harm, and to ensure what good, he may have it in his power to do us; while we are so careless about averting the wrath and obtaining the grace of a higher than the highest of created powers? — of Him, whose wrath is so infinitely more to be deprecated, and whose grace is so infinitely more to be desired and sought, than those of all the agents of evil or of good combined, in the world or in the universe.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
Carry down the man a present. —
Psalm 50:12). He has no need of our corn, or of our fruits, or of our money: and yet He has commanded us to offer to Him. There follow close after, in this same Psalm, the words, "Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most Highest." God ordered His people (Deuteronomy 26.) when they came into the land of Canaan to take at harvest-time a basket of the first-fruits, and give it into the hands of the priest before God's altar, and say, "A Syrian ready to perish, was my father, and he went down into Egypt with a few — and became great and mighty." So the people of Israel were to be reminded of this visit to Egypt and its consequences, for by "the Syrian, my father," is meant Jacob. Let us look again at our picture, and see what it will teach us. Joseph, we may be quite sure, was pleased with the present, not for its value in itself, but because it showed that those who brought it wished well. But what pleased him most was the coming of his brethren themselves. He wanted them very much, especially the little one. And there was great joy when he had them all together, and made himself known and embraced them. Joseph is here again a type of our Blessed Lord. That which, above all, He desires, over and above the gifts which He welcomes, is the heart of the giver. St. Paul tells us exactly what it is He seeks — "not yours, but you" (2 Corinthians 12:14). "He is not ashamed to call us brethren" (Hebrews 2:11), though we have treated Him worse than Joseph's brethren treated him; and though we may be us shabby and poor as probably Joseph's brethren looked in his royal palace in Egypt, our Lord Jesus Christ will be ready with His kiss and embrace for us. And when I tell you that He seeks "not yours, but you," I do not mean that He does not want your little offerings; He does for your sakes. What you can give, of course, is nothing to Him: but do not allow yourself to be tempted into saying, as grown-up people sometimes say when the harvest is not so plentiful, and they are poor, and "the times are hard," that we must leave giving to those who are well off. Jacob and his sons were poor enough — there was a famine in the land — and yet they sent the rich governor of Egypt a present, and see what a blessing came out of it. I find, as I read my Bible, that it is "the poor of this world, rich in faith," who become "heirs of the kingdom" (James 2:5), through their faith and liberality. And our Lord has told us why it is He likes us to offer to Him of our little: He says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). He wants our hearts, and therefore He asks for our treasures. Let me give you an example. Only a few weeks ago I read a sad story in a newspaper. There were several young men, brothers, who went, I think, to Canada, and there worked very hard upon a farm out in the wilds, and earned a good deal of money. A man came to visit them, and persuaded them to trust him with their savings, saying that he would use it in the working of a mine which would yield them double their money in a short time. But one day they found out that this man was a rogue, and that he had spent all their money for nothing, and the news was so terrible a shock to them that they all went out of their minds. Their minds were all upon their money, and when that was lost they were lost. Learn, thin, as soon as you may, to lay up your treasure in heaven. Bring your little offerings to Jesus Christ,
"And what He most desireth,
Your humble, thankful hearts."
(Archibald Day, M. A.)
The men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house.I. THEY DREAD SOME GREAT MISFORTUNE. They are driven to Egypt by a dire necessity. A presentiment of disaster weigh upon their hearts. They expect no favourable solution of their mysterious treatment.
II. THEY ARE POSSESSED BY AN INVETERATE SPIRIT OF MISTRUST, They interpret adversely even the most favourable appearances. The generous reception which was given them only serves to raise their worst suspicions and to alarm their fears. They cannot get rid of the belief that Joseph meant to entrap them by a cunning device.
III. THEY ARE HAUNTED BY THE MEMORY OF AN OLD CRIME. They are innocent respecting this money in their sacks, and yet they feel themselves to be guilty men. Conscience makes cowards of them everywhere.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. Fear misinterprets kindness.
2. We are often being tested while we are unconscious of the fact that we are so.
3. An illustration of the difference between the outer appearance and the inner life of a man.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(A. M. Symington, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him.I. HE LISTENS PATIENTLY TO THE EXPLANATION OF THEIR CONDUCT, OFFERED BY JOSEPH'S BRETHREN.
II. HE TREATS THEM WITH A WISE KINDNESS AND WITH PIETY.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. Just orders are readily entertained by honest servants from their masters (ver. 17).
2. The house of kindness may sometimes terrify souls as the house of dangers.
3. Innocency itself may be suspicious of wrong charges, to raise up fear.
4. Groundless jealousies pretend dangers where none are (ver. 18).
5. Wisdom suggests unto innocency a fair defence to prevent danger (ver 19).
6. Innocency's plain acknowledgment of its designs is its best apology (ver. 20.)
7. Declaration of events of providence as they are tends to justify the innocent.
8. Where providence orders good, souls may make question of receiving or keeping it (ver. 21).
9. Just souls will deal justly in dealing with others about buying, &c.
10. Innoceney may plead ignorance of the fact of sin plainly, being not guilty (ver. 22).
11. Upright hearts in power will speak peace and encouragement to fearful spirits.
12. Good hearts teach to ascribe all good providences unto God in covenant.
13. Just men will own their acts to discharge the innocent. So the steward.
14. Conditions being performed, hostages must be in justice returned (ver. 23).
15. Good hospitality will labour, to afford room and all convenient refreshings to its guests.
16. Hospitality in truth, provides for beasts as well as men (ver. 24).
17. Prudence will put men upon care to prepare a present for rulers in time of danger.
18. Courtesy from hosts gives opportunity for guests to express their returns.
19. Noon refreshments are suitable to morning's labours.
20. Good rulers are careful first to work and then to eat (ver. 25).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
And he took and sent messes unto them from before him.
I. As IT ILLUSTRATES SOME USEFUL PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL LIFE.
1. That we should not set up the pretence of loving all alike. Benjamin was specially honoured (ver. 34), and greeted with loving words (ver. 29).
2. That it is wise to observe the established customs of society when they are not morally wrong.
II. AS IT ILLUSTRATES THE SECRET AND THE OUTWARD LIFE.
1. In the case of the brethren.
2. In the case of Joseph.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. The banquet of Joseph's joy, of his hope, of his trying watch.
2. The feast of reviving hope in Joseph's brethren.
3. Their participation without envy in the honouring of Benjamin.
4. An introduction to the last trial, and a preparation for it.
5. The successful issue in the fearful proving of Israel's sons.
(J. P. Lange.)
1. The order of the tables. One for himself, one for the strangers, and one for the Egyptians. The design of this was to set them a thinking of him, and who he was, or could be? That the Egyptians and Hebrews should eat apart they could easily account for: but who, or what is this man? Is he not an Egyptian? Yet if he be, why eat by himself? Surely he must be a foreigner ....
2. The order in which they themselves were seated; it was "before him," so that they had full opportunity of looking at him; and what was astonishing to them, every man was placed " according to his age." But who can this be that is acquainted with their ages, so as to be able to adjust things in this order? Surely it must be some one who knows us, though we know not him. Or is he a diviner Who or what can he be? They are said to have "marvelled one at another," and well they might. It is marvellous that they did not from hence suspect who he was.
3. The peculiar favour which he expressed to Benjamin, in sending him a mess five times more than the rest. There is no reason to suppose that Benjamin ate more than the rest; but this was the manner of showing special favour in those times. It was therefore saying in effect, "I not only know all your ages, but towards that young man I have more than a common regard Look at all this, and look at me Look at me, my brother Benjamin. Dost thou not know me?" But all was hid from them. Their eyes, like those of the disciples towards their Lord, seem to have been holden, that they should not know him. Their minds however are eased from an apprehensions, and they drank, and were cheerful in his company.
1. Gracious hearts, however sometime they may deal severely, yet they desire their peace.
2. Providence sometimes orders peaceable entertainment, where worse is feared.
3. Nature itself, much more grace, inquire of and desires the peace of parents. He asked of their father, and meaneth his own (ver. 27).
4. It is equal that peaceable inquiries should have due answers.
5. In answering for others, Providence orders the accomplishment of his will The sunbows, &c.
6. All humility becomes their answers who are in fear of foreign powers (ver. 28.)
7. Sight of near relations moveth to inquire of their condition.
8. Natural affection desires to know its near relations for good.
9. Grace puts souls upon blessing relations as well as knowing them.
10. The best blessing is the grace of God procured upon souls.
11. Brethren may be fathers in blessing the fruit of the same womb (ver. 29).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Natural affection may speed to vent itself, after gracious benediction.
2. Natural bowels may burn in gracious souls to their relations.
3. Gracious wisdom teacheth to seek time, place, and measure of expressing affection to relations.
4. Secret venting of affections is best at some opportunities (ver. 30).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. PRESENTS FROM HOME. Those made to Joseph by men who little thought what feelings they might excite.
1. They were from his father. He would think of them as being selected by him. An act of homage.
2. They were peculiar to his native country and immediate neighbourhood. How often when a boy had he collected similar gums and nuts. They would take him back to the old time.
3. The presents we may receive from home have more of love in them than homage. We like them the better for that.
4. These presents were the gifts of poor men, who were the poorer by reason of the famine. Presents not to be valued by their intrinsic worth, but by the circumstances under which they were selected, and the feelings with which they are offered.
5. Every good gift is from above. God the author and giver of every good and perfect gift.
6. There is one unspeakable gift, made to us, suited to us; have we accepted this gift?
II. INQUIRIES ABOUT HOME.
1. They are asked concerning their welfare (see Exodus 18:7). Such inquiries from us often mean only the welfare of the body, or relate to temporal things. Family greetings pleasant. Should include an interest in highest and best things.
2. They soon regarded the absent. His father in particular, the "old man." It was about twenty-two years since he had seen his father. "Is he yet alive? A few years work great changes in families. Return to your native town after an absence of twenty-two years, and note the different names, and the vast changes. The father was poorer than when he saw him last by reason of the famine; the son was richer than when he left home to look after the shepherds in Shechem. The coat of many colours exchanged for a robe of state. The shepherd boy become a prince. Absent friends to be remembered.
3. Benjamin specially addressed.
III. THE BANQUET.
1. The president of the feast. Joseph at a raised table by himself. His state and grandeur. Perhaps the presents from home were placed before him. His knowledge of the guests, and their ignorance of him. Jesus at &he last supper knew all, and was little known; after the resurrection He was known in the breaking of bread.
2. The officers of his household. They would show the respect and honour in which he was held.
3. The Israelites. The arrangement of their places at the table. "Whence hath this man this knowledge?" Benjamin's mess. What could this mean? Whether they liked it or not, their father's regard for the younger son, whether Joseph or Benjamin, was to be respected. They needed to be taught this lesson. And we must honour our parents. As they thus sat and feasted with the prince, did they think of the time when they sat down to eat bread by the side of the pit where Joseph was once imprisoned? Joseph returned good for evil. Learn: Let us remember home, especially the heavenly home.
(J. C. Gray.).