Genesis 44


Joseph commands his steward to put his cup secretly into

Benjamin's sack, 1, 2.

The sons of Jacob depart with the corn they had purchased, 3.

Joseph commands his steward to pursue them, and charge them

with having stolen his cup, 4-6.

The brethren excuse themselves, protest their innocence, and

offer to submit to be slaves should the cup be found with any

of them, 7-9.

Search is made, and the cup is found in Benjamin's sack, 10-12.

They are brought back and submit themselves to Joseph, 13-16.

He determines that Benjamin alone, with whom the cup is found,

shall remain in captivity, 17.

Judah, in a most affecting speech, pleads for Benjamin's enlargement,

and offers himself to be a bondman in his stead, 18-34.


Verse 2. Put my cup in the sack's mouth of the youngest] The

stratagem of the cup seems to have been designed to bring Joseph's

brethren into the highest state of perplexity and distress, that

their deliverance by the discovery that Joseph was their brother

might have its highest effect.

Verse 5. Whereby-he divineth?] Divination by cups has been from

time immemorial prevalent among the Asiatics; and for want of

knowing this, commentators have spent a profusion of learned

labour upon these words, in order to reduce them to that kind of

meaning which would at once be consistent with the scope and

design of the history, and save Joseph from the impeachment of

sorcery and divination. I take the word nachash here in

its general acceptation of to view attentively, to inquire. Now

there has been in the east a tradition, the commencement of which

is lost in immemorial time, that there was a CUP, which had passed

successively into the hands of different potentates, which

possessed the strange property of representing in it the whole

world, and all the things which were then doing in it. The cup is

called [Persian] jami Jemsheed, the cup of Jemsheed, a very

ancient king of Persia, whom late historians and poets have

confounded with Bacchus, Solomon, Alexander the Great, &c. This

CUP, filled with the elixir of immortality, they say was

discovered when digging to lay the foundations of Persepolis. The

Persian poets are full of allusions to this cup, which, from its

property of representing the whole world and its transactions, is

styled by them [Persian] jam jehan nima, "the cup showing the

universe;" and to the intelligence received by means of it they

attribute the great prosperity of their ancient monarchs, as by it

they understood all events, past, present, and to come. Many of

the Mohammedan princes and governors affect still to have

information of futurity by means of a cup. When Mr. Norden was at

Derri in the farthest part of Egypt, in a very dangerous

situation, an ill-natured and powerful Arab, in a threatening way,

told one of their people whom they sent to him that "he knew what

sort of people they were, for he had consulted his cup, and found

by it that they were those of whom one of their prophets had said,

that Franks (Europeans) would come in disguise; and, passing

everywhere, examine the state of the country; and afterwards bring

over a great number of other Franks, conquer the country, and

exterminate all." By this we see that the tradition of the

divining cup still exists, and in the very same country too in

which Joseph formerly ruled. Now though it is not at all likely

that Joseph practised any kind of divination, yet probably,

according to the superstition of those times, (for I suppose the

tradition to be even older than the time of Joseph,) supernatural

influence might be attributed to his cup; and as the whole

transaction related here was merely intended to deceive his

brethren for a short time, he might as well affect divination by

his cup, as he affected to believe they had stolen it. The

steward therefore uses the word nachash in its proper meaning:

Is not this it out of which my lord drinketh, and in which he

inspecteth accurately? Ge 44:5. And hence Joseph says,

Ge 44:15:

Wot ye not-did ye not know, that such a person as I (having such

a cup) would accurately and attentively look into it? As I

consider this to be the true meaning, I shall not trouble the

reader with other modes of interpretation.

Verse 16. What shall we say, &c.] No words can more strongly

mark confusion and perturbation of mind. They, no doubt, all

thought that Benjamin had actually stolen the cup; and the

probability of this guilt might be heightened by the circumstance

of his having that very cup to drink out of at dinner; for as he

had the most honourable mess, so it is likely he had the most

honourable cup to drink out of at the entertainment.

Verse 18. Thou art even as Pharaoh.] As wise, as powerful, and

as much to be dreaded as he. In the Asiatic countries, the

reigning monarch is always considered to be the pattern of all

perfection; and the highest honour that can be conferred on any

person, is to resemble him to the monarch; as the monarch himself

is likened, in the same complimentary way, to an angel of God. See

2Sa 14:17,18. Judah is the chief speaker here, because it was in

consequence of his becoming surety for Benjamin that Jacob

permitted him to accompany them to Egypt. See Ge 43:9.

"EVERY man who reads," says Dr. Dodd, "to the close of this

chapter, must confess that Judah acts here the part both of the

affectionate brother and of the dutiful son, who, rather than

behold his father's misery in case of Benjamin's being left

behind, submits to become a bondman in his stead: and indeed there

is such an air of candour and generosity running through the whole

strain of this speech, the sentiments are so tender and affecting,

the expressions so passionate, and flow so much from artless

nature, that it is no wonder if they came home to Joseph's heart,

and forced him to throw off the mask." "When one sees," says Dr.

Jackson, "such passages related by men who affect no art, and who

lived long after the parties who first uttered them, we cannot

conceive how all particulars could be so naturally and fully

recorded, unless they had been suggested by His Spirit who gives

mouths and speech unto men; who, being alike present to all

successions, is able to communicate the secret thoughts or

forefathers to their children, and put the very words of the

deceased, never registered before, into the mouths or pens of

their successors born many ages after; and that as exactly and

distinctly as if they had been caught, in characters of steel or

brass, as they issued out of their mouths. For it is plain that

every circumstance is here related with such natural

specifications, as if Moses had heard them talk; and therefore

could not have been thus represented to us, unless they had been

written by His direction who knows all things, fore-past, present,

or to come."

To two such able and accurate testimonies I may be permitted to

add my own. No paraphrase can heighten the effect of Judah's

address to Joseph. To add would be to diminish its excellence; to

attempt to explain would be to obscure its beauties; to clothe the

ideas in other language than that of Judah, and his translators in

our Bible, would ruin its energy, and destroy its influence. It

is perhaps one of the most tender, affecting pieces of natural

oratory ever spoken or penned; and we need not wonder to find that

when Joseph heard it he could not refrain himself, but wept aloud.

His soul must have been insensible beyond what is common to human

nature, had he not immediately yielded to a speech so delicately

tender, and so powerfully impressive. We cannot but deplore the

unnatural and unscientific division of the narrative in our common

Bibles, which obliges us to have recourse to another chapter in

order to witness the effects which this speech produced on the

heart of Joseph.

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