Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth.
Ge 44:1-34. Policy to Stay His Brethren.
1. And Joseph commanded the steward—The design of putting the cup into the sack of Benjamin was obviously to bring that young man into a situation of difficulty or danger, in order thereby to discover how far the brotherly feelings of the rest would be roused to sympathize with his distress and stimulate their exertions in procuring his deliverance. But for what purpose was the money restored? It was done, in the first instance, from kindly feelings to his father; but another and further design seems to have been the prevention of any injurious impressions as to the character of Benjamin. The discovery of the cup in his possession, if there had been nothing else to judge by, might have fastened a painful suspicion of guilt on the youngest brother; but the sight of the money in each man's sack would lead all to the same conclusion, that Benjamin was just as innocent as themselves, although the additional circumstance of the cup being found in his sack would bring him into greater trouble and danger.
And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.
2. put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth—It was a large goblet, as the original denotes, highly valued by its owner, on account of its costly material or its elegant finish and which had probably graced his table at the sumptuous entertainment of the previous day.
As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.
3. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away—They commenced their homeward journey at early dawn (see on Ge 18:2); and it may be readily supposed in high spirits, after so happy an issue from all their troubles and anxieties.
And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?
4. When they were gone out of the city … Joseph said unto his steward—They were brought to a sudden halt by the stunning intelligence that an article of rare value was missing from the governor's house. It was a silver cup; so strong suspicions were entertained against them that a special messenger was despatched to search them.
Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.
5. Is not this it in which my lord drinketh—not only kept for the governor's personal use, but whereby he divines. Divination by cups, to ascertain the course of futurity, was one of the prevalent superstitions of ancient Egypt, as it is of Eastern countries still. It is not likely that Joseph, a pious believer in the true God, would have addicted himself to this superstitious practice. But he might have availed himself of that popular notion to carry out the successful execution of his stratagem for the last decisive trial of his brethren.
And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.
6, 7. he overtook them, and he spake … these words—The steward's words must have come upon them like a thunderbolt, and one of their most predominant feelings must have been the humiliating and galling sense of being made so often objects of suspicion. Protesting their innocence, they invited a search. The challenge was accepted [Ge 44:10, 11]. Beginning with the eldest, every sack was examined, and the cup being found in Benjamin's [Ge 44:12], they all returned in an indescribable agony of mind to the house of the governor [Ge 44:13], throwing themselves at his feet [Ge 44:14], with the remarkable confession, "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" [Ge 44:16].
And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:
Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold?
With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen.
And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.
Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack.
And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack.
Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.
And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.
And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?
And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.
16-34. Judah said, What shall we say?—This address needs no comment—consisting at first of short, broken sentences, as if, under the overwhelming force of the speaker's emotions, his utterance were choked, it becomes more free and copious by the effort of speaking, as he proceeds. Every word finds its way to the heart; and it may well be imagined that Benjamin, who stood there speechless like a victim about to be laid on the altar, when he heard the magnanimous offer of Judah to submit to slavery for his ransom, would be bound by a lifelong gratitude to his generous brother, a tie that seems to have become hereditary in his tribe. Joseph's behavior must not be viewed from any single point, or in separate parts, but as a whole—a well-thought, deep-laid, closely connected plan; and though some features of it do certainly exhibit an appearance of harshness, yet the pervading principle of his conduct was real, genuine, brotherly kindness. Read in this light, the narrative of the proceedings describes the continuous, though secret, pursuit of one end; and Joseph exhibits, in his management of the scheme, a very high order of intellect, a warm and susceptible heart, united to a judgment that exerted a complete control over his feelings—a happy invention in devising means towards the attainment of his ends and an inflexible adherence to the course, however painful, which prudence required.
And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.
Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.
My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?
And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.
And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.
And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.
And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.
And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.
And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.
And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us.
And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:
And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:
And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life;
It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.
Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.
For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.