Genesis 43

CHAPTER XLIII

The famine continuing, Jacob desires his sons to go again to

Egypt and buy some food, 1, 2.

Judah shows the necessity of Benjamin's accompanying them,

without whom it would be useless to return to Egypt, 3-5.

Jacob expostulates with him, 6.

Judah replies, and offers to become surety for Benjamin, 7-10.

Jacob at last consenting and desires them to take a present with

them for the governor of Egypt; and double money, that which

they had brought back in their sacks' mouth, and the price of

the load they were now to bring; and, having prayed for them,

sends them away, 11-15.

They arrive in Egypt, and are brought to Joseph's house to dine

with him, at which they are greatly alarmed, 16-18.

They speak to the steward of Joseph's house concerning the money

returned in their sacks, 19-22.

He gives them encouragement, 23, 24.

Having made ready the present, they bring it to Joseph when he

came home to dine, 25, 26.

He speaks kindly to them, and inquires concerning their health,

and that of their father, 27, 28.

Joseph is greatly affected at seeing his brother Benjamin, 29-31.

They dine with him, and are distinguished according to their

seniority; but Benjamin receives marks of peculiar favour, 32-34.

NOTES ON CHAP. XLIII

Verse 8. Send the lad with me] As the original is not

yeled, from which we have derived our word lad, but naar,

it would have been better had our translators rendered it by some

other term, such as the youth, or the young man, and thus the

distinction in the Hebrew would have been better kept up. Benjamin

was at this time at least twenty-four years of age, some think

thirty, and had a family of his own. See Ge 46:21.

That we may live, and not die] An argument drawn from

self-preservation, what some have termed the first law of nature.

By your keeping Benjamin we are prevented from going to Egypt; if

we go not to Egypt we shall get no corn; if we get no corn we

shall all perish by famine; and Benjamin himself, who otherwise

might live, must, with thee and the whole family, infallibly die.

Verse 9. Let me bear the blame for ever]

vechatathi lecha col haiyamim, then shall I sin against thee all

my days, and consequently be liable to punishment for violating my

faith.

Verse 11. Carry down the man a present] From the very earliest

times presents were used as means of introduction to great men.

This is particularly noticed by Solomon: A man's gift maketh room

for him, and bringeth him before great men, Pr 18:16. But what

was the present brought to Joseph on this occasion? After all the

labour of commentators, we are obliged to be contented with

probabilities and conjecture. According to our translation, the

gifts were balm, honey, spices, myrrh, nuts, and almonds.

Balm] tsori is supposed to signify resin in general,

or some kind of gum issuing from trees.

Honey] debash has been supposed to be the same as the

rob of grapes, called in Egypt dibs. Others think that honey,

in the common sense of the term, is to be understood here: we know

that honey was plentiful in Palestine.

Spices] nechoth is supposed to mean gum storax,

which might be very valuable on account of its qualities as a

perfume.

Myrrh] lot, supposed by some to mean stacte; by others

to signify an ointment made of myrrh.

Nuts] botnim, by some rendered pistachio nuts,

those produced in Syria being the finest in the world; by others,

dates; others, walnuts; others, pine apples; others, the nuts of

the terebinth tree.

Almonds] shekedim, correctly enough translated, and

perhaps the only article in the collection of which we know any

thing with certainty. It is generally allowed that the land of

Canaan produces the best almonds in the east; and on this account

they might be deemed a very acceptable present to the governor of

Egypt. Those who wish to see this subject exhausted must have

recourse to the Physica Sacra of Scheuehzer.

Verse 12. Double money] What was returned in their sacks, and

what was farther necessary to buy another load.

Verse 14. This verse may be literally translated thus: "And God,

the all-sufficient, shall give you tender mercies before the man,

and send to you your other brother, and Benjamin; and I, as I

shall be childless, so I shall be childless." That is, I will

submit to this privation, till God shall restore my children. It

appears that this verse is spoken prophetically; and that God at

this time gave Jacob a supernatural evidence that his children

should be restored.

Verse 16. Slay, and make ready] teboach tebach, slay a

slaying, or make a great slaughter-let preparations be made for a

great feast or entertainment. See a similar form of speech,

Pr 9:2; 1Sa 25:11; and Ge 31:54.

Verse 18. And the men were afraid] A guilty conscience needs no

accuser. Every thing alarms them; they now feel that God is

exacting retribution, and they know not what the degrees shall be,

nor where it shall stop.

Fall upon us] hithgolel alainu, roll himself upon

us. A metaphor taken from wrestlers; when a man has overthrown

his antagonist, he rolls himself upon him, in order to keep him

down.

And our asses.] Which they probably had in great number with

them; and which, if captured, would have been a great loss to the

family of Jacob, as such cattle must have constituted a principal

part of its riches.

Verse 20. O sir, we came indeed-to buy food] There is a

frankness now in the conduct of Joseph's brethren that did not

exist before; they simply and honestly relate the whole

circumstance of the money being found in their sacks on their

return from their last journey. Afflictions from the hand of God,

and under his direction, have a wonderful tendency to humble the

soul. Did men know how gracious his designs are in sending such,

no murmur would ever be heard against the dispensations of Divine

Providence.

Verse 23. And he said] The address of the steward in this verse

plainly proves that the knowledge of the true God was in Egypt. It

is probable that the steward himself was a Hebrew, and that Joseph

had given him intimation of the whole affair; and though he was

not at liberty to reveal it, yet he gives them assurances that the

whole business would issue happily.

I had your money.] caspechem ba elai, your money

comes to me. As I am the steward, the cash for the corn belongs

to me. Ye have no reason to be apprehensive of any evil; the whole

transaction is between myself and you; receive therefore the money

as a present from the God of your father, no matter whose hands he

makes use of to convey it. The conduct of the steward, as well as

his words, had a great tendency to relieve their burdened minds.

Verse 24. Brought the men into Joseph's house, &c.] This is

exactly the way in which a Hindoo receives a guest. As soon as he

enters, one of the civilities is the presenting of water to wash

his feet. So indispensable is this, that water to wash the feet

makes a part of the offering to an image.

Verse 27. And he asked them of their welfare] This verse may be

thus translated: "And he asked them concerning their prosperity;

and he said, is your father prosperous, the old man who ye told me

was alive? And they said, Thy servant our father prospers; he is

yet alive."

Verse 29. He lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin]

They were probably introduced to him successively; and as Benjamin

was the youngest, he would of course be introduced last.

God be gracious unto thee, my son!] A usual salutation in the

east from the aged and superiors to the younger and inferiors,

which, though very emphatic and expressive in ancient times, in

the present day means no more than "I am your humble servant," or

"I am exceedingly glad to see you;" words which among us mean-just

nothing. Even in David's time they seem to have been, not only

devoid of meaning, but to be used as a cloak for the basest and

most treacherous designs: They bless with their mouths, but they

curse inwardly. Hence Joab salutes Amasa, kisses him with

apparent affection, and stabs him in the same moment! The case of

Judas, betraying the Son of man with a kiss, will not be

forgotten.

Verse 32. They set on for him by himself, &c.] From the text it

appears evident that there were three tables, one for Joseph, one

for the Egyptians, and one for the eleven brethren.

The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews] There might

have been some political reason for this, with which we are

unacquainted; but independently of this, two may be assigned. 1.

The Hebrews were shepherds; and Egypt had been almost ruined by

hordes of lawless wandering banditti, under the name of Hycsos, or

King-shepherds, who had but a short time before this been expelled

from the land by Amasis, after they had held it in subjection for

259 years, according to Manetho, committing the most wanton

cruelties. 2. The Hebrews sacrificed those animals which the

Egyptians held sacred, and fed on their flesh. The Egyptians were

in general very superstitious, and would have no social

intercourse with people of any other nation; hence we are informed

that they would not even use the knife of a Greek, because they

might have reason to suspect it had cut the flesh of some of those

animals which they held sacred. Among the Hindoos different

castes will not eat food cooked in the same vessel. If a person

of another caste touch a cooking vessel, it is thrown away. Some

are of opinion that the Egyptian idolatry, especially their

worship of Apis under the figure of an ox, was posterior to the

time of Joseph; ancient monuments are rather against this opinion,

but it is impossible to decide either way. The clause in the

Alexandrian Septuagint stands thus, βδελυγμαεστιντοισαιγυπτιοισ

[πασποιμηνπροβατων] "For [every shepherd] is an abomination to

the Egyptians;" but this clause is probably borrowed from

Ge 46:34, where it stands in the Hebrew as well as in the

Greek. See Clarke on Ge 46:34.

Verse 33. The first-born according to his birthright] This must

greatly astonish these brethren, to find themselves treated with

so much ceremony, and at the same time with so much discernment of

their respective ages.

Verse 34. Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of

theirs.] Sir John Chardin observes that "in Persia, Arabia, and

the Indies, there are several houses where they place several

plates in large salvers, and set one of these before each person,

or before two or three, according to the magnificence of each

house. This is the method among the Hindoos; the dishes are not

placed on the table, but messes are sent to each individual by the

master of the feast or by his substitute. The great men of the

state are always served by themselves, in the feasts that are made

for them; and with greater profusion, their part of each kind of

provision being always DOUBLE, TREBLE, or a LARGER proportion of

each kind of meat." The circumstance of Benjamin's having a mess

FIVE times as large as any of his brethren, shows the peculiar

honour which Joseph designed to confer upon him. See several

useful observations on this subject in Harmer's Observ., vol. ii.,

p. 101, &c., Edit. 1808.

1. THE scarcity in Canaan was not absolute; though they had no

corn, they had honey, nuts, almonds, &c. In the midst of

judgment, God remembers mercy. If there was scarcity in

Canaan, there was plenty in Egypt; and though his providence had

denied one country corn, and accumulated it in the other, his

bounty had placed in the former money enough to procure it from

the latter. How true is the saying, "It is never ill with any but

it might be worse!" Let us be deeply thankful to God that we have

any thing, seeing we deserve no good at his hands.

2. If we examine our circumstances closely, and call to

remembrance the dealings of God's providence towards us, we shall

find that we can sing much both of mercy and of judgment. For one

day of absolute unavoidable want, we shall find we had three

hundred and sixty-four, if not of fulness, yet of a competency.

Famines, though rarely happening, are everywhere recorded;

innumerable years of abundance are scarcely ever registered!

Such is the perverseness and ingratitude of man!

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