Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And the famine was sore in the land.When the corn brought from Egypt was all consumed, as the famine still continued, Jacob called upon his sons to go down and fetch a little corn (little in proportion to their need).
And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.
And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.Judah then declared, that they would not go there again unless their father sent Benjamin with them; for the man (Joseph) had solemnly protested (העד העד) that they should not see his face without their youngest brother. Judah undertook the consultation with his father about Benjamin's going, because Reuben, the eldest son, had already been refused, and Levi, who followed Reuben and Simeon, had forfeited his father's confidence through his treachery to the Shechemites (Genesis 34).
If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:
But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.
And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?To the father's reproachful question, why they had dealt so ill with him, as to tell the man that they had a brother, Judah replied: "The man asked after us and our kinsmen: Is your father yet alive? have ye a brother? And we answered him in conformity (פּי על as in Exodus 34:27, etc.) with these words (i.e., with his questions). Could we know, then, that he would say, Bring your brother down?" Joseph had not made direct inquiries, indeed, about their father and their brother; but by his accusation that they were spies, he had compelled them to give an exact account of their family relationships. So that Judah, when repeating the main points of the interview, could very justly give them in the form just mentioned.
And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?
And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.He then repeated the only condition on which they would go to Egypt again, referring to the death by famine which threatened them, their father, and their children, and promising that he would himself be surety for the youth (הנּער, Benjamin was twenty-three years old), and saying, that if he did not restore him, he would bear the blame (חטא to be guilty of a sin and stone for it, as in 1 Kings 1:21) his whole life long. He then concluded with the deciding words, "for if we had not delayed, surely we should already have returned a second time."
I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:
For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.
And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: After this, the old man gave way to what could not be avoided, and let Benjamin go. But that nothing might be wanting on his part, which could contribute to the success of the journey, he suggested that they should take a present for the man, and that they should also take the money which was brought back in their sacks, in addition to what was necessary for the corn they were to purchase; and he then commended them to the mercy of Almighty God. "If it must be so, yet do this (אפוא belongs to the imperative, although it precedes it here, cf. Genesis 27:37): take of the prize (the most choice productions) of the land-a little balm and a little honey (דּבשׁ the Arabian dibs, either new honey from bees, or more probably honey from grapes, - a thick syrup boiled from sweet grapes, which is still carried every year from Hebron to Egypt), gum-dragon and myrrh (vid., Genesis 37:25), pictachio nuts and almonds." בּטנים, which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, - long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now, but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.
And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:"And take second (i.e., more) money (משׁנה כּסף is different from משׁנה־כּסף doubling of the money equals double money, Genesis 43:15) in your hand; and the money that returned in your sacks take with you again; perhaps it is a mistake," i.e., was put in your sacks by mistake.
Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:
And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.Thus Israel let his sons go with the blessing, "God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may liberate to you your other brother (Simeon) and Benjamin;" and with this resigned submission to the will of God, "And I, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved," i.e., if I am to lose my children, let it be so! For this mode of expression, cf. Esther 4:16 and 2 Kings 7:4. שׁכּלתּי with the pausal a, answering to the feelings of the speaker, which is frequently used for o; e.g., טרף for יטרף, Genesis 49:27.
And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.
And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.When the brethren appeared before Joseph, he ordered his steward to take them into the house, and prepare a dinner for them and for him. טבה the original form of the imperative for טבח. But the brethren were alarmed, thinking that they were taken into the house because of the money which returned the first time (השּׁב which came back, they could not imagine how), that he might take them unawares (lit., roll upon them), and fall upon them, and keep them as salves, along with their asses. For the purpose of averting what they dreaded, they approached (Genesis 43:19) the steward and told him, "at the door of the house," before they entered therefore, how, at the first purchase of corn, on opening their sacks, they found the money that had been paid, "every one's money in the mouth of his sack, our money according to its weight," i.e., in full, and had now brought it back, together with some more money to buy corn, and they did not know who had put their money in their sacks (Genesis 43:20-22). The steward, who was initiated into Joseph's plans, replied in a pacifying tone, "Peace be to you (לכם שׁלום is not a form of salutation here, but of encouragement, as in Judges 6:23): fear not; your God and the God of your father has given you a treasure in your sacks; your money came to me;" and at the same time, to banish all their fear, he brought Simeon out to them. He then conducted them into Joseph's house, and received them in Oriental fashion as the guests of his lord. But, previous to Joseph's arrival, they arranged the present which they had brought with them, as they heard that they were to dine with him.
And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house.
And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.
And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,
And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.
And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.
And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.
And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.
And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.
And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.When Joseph came home, they handed him the present with the most reverential obeisance.
And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?Joseph first of all inquired after their own and their father's health (שׁלום first as substantive, then as adjective equals שׁלם Genesis 33:18), whether he was still living; which they answered with thanks in the affirmative, making the deepest bow. His eyes then fell upon Benjamin, the brother by his own mother, and he asked whether this was their youngest brother; but without waiting for their reply, he exclaimed, "God be gracious to thee, my son!" יחנך for יחנך as in Isaiah 30:19 (cf. Ewald, 251d). He addressed him as "my son," in tender and, as it were, paternal affection, and with special regard to his youth. Benjamin was 16 years younger than Joseph, and was quite an infant when Joseph was sold.
And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.
And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.
And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.And "his (Joseph's) bowels did yearn" (נכמרוּ lit., were compressed, from the force of love to his brother), so that he was obliged to seek (a place) as quickly as possible to weep, and went into the chamber, that he might give vent to his feelings in tears; after which, he washed his face and came out again, and, putting constraint upon himself, ordered the dinner to be brought in.
And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.Separate tables were prepared for him, for his brethren, and for the Egyptians who dined with them. This was required by the Egyptian spirit of caste, which neither allowed Joseph, as minister of state and a member of the priestly order, to eat along with Egyptians who were below him, nor the latter along with the Hebrews as foreigners. "They cannot (i.e., may not) eat (cf. Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 16:5; Deuteronomy 17:15). For this was an abomination to the Egyptians." The Hebrews and others, for example, slaughtered and ate animals, even female animals, which were regarded by the Egyptians as sacred; so that, according to Herod. ii. 41, no Egyptian would use the knife, or fork, or saucepan of a Greek, nor would any eat of the flesh of a clean animal which had been cut up with a Grecian knife (cf. Exodus 8:22).
And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.The brothers sat in front of Joseph, "the first-born according to his birthright, and the smallest (youngest) according to his smallness (youth);" i.e., the places were arranged for them according to their ages, so that they looked at one another with astonishment, since this arrangement necessarily impressed them with the idea that this great man had been supernaturally enlightened as to their family affairs. To do them honour, they brought (ישּׂא, Ges. 137, 3) them dishes from Joseph, i.e., from his table; and to show especial honour to Benjamin, his portion was five times larger than that of any of the others (ידות lit., hands, grasps, as in Genesis 47:24; 2 Kings 11:7). The custom is met with elsewhere of showing respect to distinguished guests by giving them the largest and best pieces (1 Samuel 9:23-24; Homer, Il. 7, 321; 8, 162, etc.), by double portions (e.g., the kings among the Spartans, Herod. 6, 57), and even by fourfold portions in the case of the Archons among the Cretans (Heraclid. polit., 3). But among the Egyptians the number 5 appears to have been preferred to any other (cf. Genesis 41:34; Genesis 45:22; Genesis 47:2, Genesis 47:24; Isaiah 19:18). By this partiality Joseph intended, with a view to his further plans, to draw out his brethren to show their real feelings towards Benjamin, that he might see whether they would envy and hate him on account of this distinction, as they had formerly envied him his long coat with sleeves, and hated him because he was his father's favourite (Genesis 37:3-4). This honourable treatment and entertainment banished all their anxiety and fear. "They drank, and drank largely with him," i.e., they were perfectly satisfied with what they ate and drank; not, they were intoxicated (cf. Haggai 1:9).
And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.