|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #41, 42 and 43|
9 August, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible studies, in the Book of Genesis, has traced Jacob's family to the point where Joseph, after years of slavery and imprisonment in Egypt, has been appointed second in command to Pharaoh himself. He had authority to organize Egypt's grain harvests during seven good years before seven famine years arrived.
Now his brothers, who sold him into slavery some twenty-four years before, must return from Canaan the second time, to replenish their tribal grain supply. They have not recognized in the stern countenance of the high Egyptian official their own brother whom they sold. They must again come to bow before him, accompanied by their half-brother, and Joseph's only full brother, Benjamin. Joseph, of course, had recognized them, and he seeks to know if they have repented of their sin in selling him into slavery. He has devised a test. Simeon was held hostage in Egypt, while the rest went home, their asses laden with grain, and hidden therein, the money they had paid for it.
We pick up the Biblical account at Genesis 43:15, as these sons of Jacob-Israel, half-brothers to Joseph and to Benjamin, prepare to go once more down to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob is extremely apprehensive, and reluctant to see Benjamin, his last link with the beloved Rachel, depart. He has advised that, if they must go, they must take a present of the produce of the land of Canaan, little though it may be, and double money, to cover the amount of the former purchase, lest they be accused of stealing it, and must then repay the recognized lawful penalty amount for stealing.
15. 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.
16. 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.
Joseph, married to Asenath, daughter of Potipherah, priest of On, might have chosen that hour, the time when the sun was at its height in a land of sun worshippers, a time of day holding special significance, to share this most dramatic and significant meal with his brethren.
17. And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house.
18. 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.
The brothers still do not recognize Joseph, and they do not realise that, though speech is being translated by an interpreter, Joseph knows perfectly well the thoughts of their hearts as he understands completely what they are saying in their own language. Naturally, they are very nervous, and place the worst possible construction upon the turn of events.
Having been accused of spying on the former visit, they now sense the possibility of being accused of stealing back their money which they found buried in the sacks of grain on the way home from the first encounter.
19. And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,
20. And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
21. 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.
22. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.
23. 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.
What the steward here tells them must have been perfectly true. Indeed, he must have "had their money", for how else could the money have been secreted back into their sacks as they were filled with grain at Joseph's command! And, it would, indeed, be God, their God, and the God of their father, that had moved Joseph to so order this situation, for had not Joseph told them this very thing in Genesis 42:18, saying "This do, and live; for I fear God"! There is, indeed, much of prophetic symbolism in the whole situation as it is unfolding.
24. 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.
25. And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.
26. 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.
Here, once more as before, they bow, fulfilling the prophetic dreams of Genesis 37:5-11 which Joseph had reported to them so many years before. He had stated, you may remember, his dream of the sheaves of wheat bowing to his sheaf and the dream of the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowing to himself; dreams which, at the time had so angered his brothers.
The two dreams had conveyed the message and now they had received a double fulfilment. Israel, in subsequent history, was to be symbolised by those symbols of grain and of the sun, moon and stars to the number of the tribal groupings. We can see this in a number of references, notably the loaves in the tabernacle of Leviticus 24:5-9 representing the Tribes of Israel and the woman clothed with those heavenly symbols in Revelation 12:1-6 who flees into the place of safety.
27. And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?
28. And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
Can we, for a short moment, picture the scene as Joseph must have viewed it? No doubt he has been praying and waiting for this moment for all those approximately 24 years of service. He was perhaps a year or so in Potiphar's house, and then twelve years in the prison. He has experienced probably about nine or ten years as the highest official under Pharaoh in the whole of Egypt, and he has been married into a priestly family and has now two sons. He has had the experience as organizer of the seven years of grain harvest, and subsequent distribution of that harvest. This time of trial and responsibility is outlined in Psalm 105:17-22. At this point Joseph must have exerted tremendous self control. Verse 32:
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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.
As shown by Dr. E. W. Bullinger, in his book, "Number In Scripture", the number five is a symbol representing Grace in many places in Scripture, and I feel sure that the Biblical record would not here remark upon the quantity of the serving to Benjamin unless that significance was intended. We ought to keep in mind the overall prophetic nature of the proceedings before us in this account. I hope to examine that aspect more fully on a forthcoming broadcast.
However, there is to be yet more to the testing which Joseph has devised before he can reveal the true situation. Joseph has at least established that his brothers have not to this point sold Benjamin into slavery or given him over to some other fate as they did to Joseph himself. Further, Joseph has seen that his brothers do conduct themselves with a certain degree, at least, of honesty in regard to business dealings.
But what has not yet been established is how deeply they are committed to protecting Benjamin from such a fate as slavery. What will they do if he takes Benjamin from among them? Do they care enough to place their own lives on the line for Benjamin? The answer to that must await our next Bible study.
16 August, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In our present series of Bible studies, we are looking at the Book of Genesis in which we find recorded the story of the Patriarchs; those great, yet all too human people through whom The Almighty God is working out His plan to bring the world into accord with Himself.
We have been following the well-known story of Joseph and his brothers, and we had come to that point at which Joseph, now the holder of the highest office under Pharaoh in the whole land of Egypt, but yet un-recognized by his own half-brothers who are before him, is about to put them to the critical test.
At the meal which Joseph had provided, he, being now considered to be of the Egyptian priestly caste, sat apart by himself, those Egyptians invited to the meal sat by themselves, and the brothers, seated, to their amazement in order of age, by themselves. This was to increase the mystification of these brothers regarding what was happening. By the way, The New Bible Commentary indicates that the eating of bread would probably be taken as a pledge of safety.
These brothers had, as we know, sold Joseph himself into Egyptian slavery, and Joseph now wants to find out if, after the passage of some twenty-three years, these brothers have changed. Will they do to his own younger full-brother, Benjamin, what they did to himself those many years before? Joseph must find out by placing these brothers in a position in which Benjamin is about to become a bond-servant. Will the brothers allow that to happen without making a sacrificial move to protect Benjamin from such a fate? That will be the main aspect of the test. Joseph has tested their susceptibility to expression of envy towards Benjamin by sending to him five times the amount of food apportioned to each of the other brothers at the meal. From the words "And they drank, and were merry with him", in verse 34, it is apparent that they passed that aspect of the testing which Joseph had planned.
How was Joseph to prepare the crucial test? We find the account in Genesis 44, starting at verse 1 where Joseph gives commands to his steward. I shall read this scripture with occasional insertion of comments as we follow the account. It says:
1. 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.
2. 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.
The money which those brothers had brought down with them into Egypt on their first trip to buy grain had been likewise hidden in their sacks, and while one had found his money on the way home, the rest had not discovered their money, hidden in their sacks until they stood before Jacob back in Canaan.
Over a year later, they had now returned for this second supply of grain bearing the money which had been found in those sacks. Perhaps we might suggest that this marked a changed sense of priorities regarding money for it displayed an honest attitude in business dealings and thus completed one part of the testing which Joseph had planned.
Remember that when the brothers sold Joseph to the slave caravan some twenty-three years before, one factor in that sale had been a desire to obtain money, both through the sale price of twenty pieces of silver, and also through the displacement of Joseph from his apparent share of the family inheritance as the favoured son of Jacob. Joseph has by this test established that their thinking has matured into a right sense of values in regard to money.
Now, on this second occasion, Joseph has ordered his steward to hide their grain payment in their sacks, as before, but with the addition of Joseph's own silver cup in Benjamin's sack. This silver cup would probably have been one of a most distinctive ornamentation. The Companion Bible suggests the cup was that from which portions of wine were poured into their cups. Joseph would no doubt have seen to it that, during the banquet, they would have some occasion to note the peculair design of that silver cup so that there might be no mistaking it when they next beheld it.
The non-Biblical Book of Jasher elaborates the account by explaining that this cup was "beautifully inlaid with onyx stones and bdellium", and that Joseph struck the cup before designating the order of seating of the brothers. (The bdellium would either be a fragrant yellowish hardened resin or a stone of similar appearance.) That Book of Jasher also indicates that Benjamin was invited to join Joseph apart from the rest, being seated on the steps of Joseph's throne and there Benjamin was privately, according to that non-Biblical account, given a hint of Joseph's identity and plan.
During that banquet, I would suppose that the brothers' empty sacks were taken away to be filled at some distance, and well out of their sight, for the granary from which this grain was to be drawn would not likely be in Joseph's palatial house where these brothers were being entertained.
Out of sight of these brothers, the steward could arrange matters completely in accordance with Joseph's commands, and probably these sacks of grain would be large and quite heavy. They would probably not even be opened until these brothers were well on their way home so there would be little chance that any of the money would be discovered prematurely in the early morning light.
3. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.
4. 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?
5. Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.
6. And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.
Now the testing begins in earnest. Regarding that statement describing the silver cup as one "whereby indeed he divineth", the New Bible Dictionary, under the word "divination", mentions that such divination in Egypt might have used the configurations of a drop of oil on water and it mentions the more recent parallel of the examination of tea leaves deposited in the bottom of a cup after the tea has been drunk. However it cautions that in the specific case of Joseph, which we are here studying, the reference is to a planned test, and so we cannot assume that Joseph actually made use of such a practice. Under the listing for "Joseph", this same reference mentions the possibility that the passage should be rendered "Is it not from this (= the silver cup) that my lord drinks and concerning which he will assuredly divine." The reply of the brothers follows:
7. And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:
8. 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?
9. With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen.
10. 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.
11. Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack.
While the brothers are quite sure of their innocence in this matter, a note in the New Bible Commentary indicates that they felt that God was judging their ancient guilt.
12. And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack.
While the search proceeds, the brothers are once again confronted with the fact that their chronological ages are known. What else may this Egyptian not know about their past? They are quite shattered by the discovery of the cup, as shown in the next verses:
13. Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.
14. And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.
15. 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?
That term "wot ye not...", used in the Authorised Version, of course, is an old form of the question "don't you know...?"
16. 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.
17. 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.
Here is the moment of supreme testing. Now the truth will be disclosed. How will these brothers react? As our time has gone, we shall have to leave Judah's reply for our next programme. However, just as Joseph was testing his brothers, we might find a parallel in the testing of our own resolve at certain crisis points in our lives. How often have we, also, been required to face some extremely demanding test of one type or another, particularly in regard to some occasion wherein we feel that a great effort to achieve on our part has somehow come unravelled in the course of events, and must be done again when our strength seems to have reached its limit?
We might particularly consider how often, both as individuals and as nations, the quality of our character has been tested by the call to serve Our Lord. In that regard, we ought to ask ourselves if, on occasions wherein the unravelling has been due to our own sin The Lord will find in us that sense of contrition and repentance that He desires to see? Do we presently hold the resolve to commit our ways to His direction both as individuals and as nations? That is a challenging question. We shall have to leave the rest of this study until our next programme.
23 August, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In our present series of Bible studies, we are looking at the Book of Genesis in which we find the initiation of the steps by which Almighty God will yet bring His creation into alignment with His ultimate purposes. The lives of the Patriarchs are not only basic to an understanding of these processes, but indeed, these same people are, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation understand, the ancestors of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today. It is through those same peoples in particular, we believe, that these purposes will be brought forward to a conclusion under His divine guiding hand.
Joseph, sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, has been promoted by Pharaoh to the most powerful position in the land. Unrecognized by his brothers who came to purchase grain during the first of seven years of famine, Joseph has resolved to test them, in order to find out whether they have had a change of heart in the intervening twenty-three years since they have last seen him.
On their first trip Joseph took Simeon prisoner as hostage pending their return. He demanded that they bring Benjamin on their second trip. This they have done, and now Benjamin has been accused of stealing a valuable cup from Joseph's table which was secreted by Joseph's steward in Benjamin's sack of grain.
The test is set. Benjamin stands accused, and is to be retained as a bond servant in Egypt. The rest are free to return home. Will they depart leaving Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin to endure the same fate they had arranged for Joseph himself those many years before, or have they had a change of heart? Judah was the brother, you will remember, who bound himself by his promised word to Jacob for the security of Benjamin. It was only on the basis of that promise that Jacob had been persuaded to allow Benjamin to come down to Egypt. Thus, Judah now feels his dread responsibility in the present development, and it therefore falls to him to take the initiative of addressing Joseph as he now does.
Although it may not appear so at first glance, I believe that Judah's appeal forms a most important development in the history of the future nation of Israel on a number of counts, so it is most important that we read it in its entirety, in spite of its length. We find the account of Judah's appeal written in Genesis 44, starting at verse 18. It says:
18. 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.
19. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?
20. 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.
21. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.
22. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.
23. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.
24. And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.
25. And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.
26. 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.
27. And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:
28. And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:
29. And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
30. 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;
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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.
Here several observations should at once be made. First, we note that, in making this appeal, Judah displays the greatest sense of honour in that he will not break his pledged word to the aged Jacob, even when he knows that he is placing himself in jeopardy of a lifetime of servitude, with no prospect of remission as far as he has any knowledge or expectation. I cannot help but wonder, incidentally, if one factor in Judah's resolve at this point might have been a sense of guilt over his treatment of Joseph, for it had been he who had diverted the murderous intent of his brothers by suggesting the sale of Joseph to the Ishmeelite slave caravan those many years before.
This was not the only occasion since that day on which Judah had given evidence of the development of such honest humility. We may recall that, upon being confronted with the signet, bracelets and staff by Tamar, his daughter-in-law, evidencing his having been father to the twins, Pharez and Zarah, Judah had resisted the natural temptation of pride in admitting "she hath been more righteous than I... ."
For whatever reason, Judah here displays a remarkably refined and matured character for which we must give him full credit and the greatest respect.
Second, he demonstrates that he really cares and has a real regard for the welfare of the young Benjamin. Although Benjamin's honesty would be generally assumed, we must remember that Judah cannot at this point have been certain that his young brother was innocent! In fact, all the evidence pointed to Benjamin's guilt! For that matter, not one of these brothers could be absolutely certain of the true situation. The question would have immediately arisen unspoken in their minds as they beheld with horror the incriminating sparkle of the evidence disclosed in the grain of Benjamin's sack. Had Benjamin's eye indeed been tempted by the valuable cup. Perhaps he had, indeed, taken it, unseen.
Third, the descendants of Benjamin would no doubt relate from generation to generation, with the utmost appreciation, this magnificent offer on the part of Judah, to submit to slavery in Egypt as a substitute for Benjamin, their own tribal patriarch in this crisis. If the theme was thus perpetuated, as it must have been, seeing that it forms part of our Scriptures, that latent tribal appreciation would perhaps form one of the influences by which God gave Benjamin to be a light to the House of David. Prophesying the break-up of the nation of Israel into the two kingdoms many hundreds of years later, I Kings 11:36 records: "And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there."
Benjamin indeed did thus become part of the Nation of Judah, rather than adhering with the rest of the Northern House of Israel at the time of the rending of the nation. We must ask, then, "Could this, in fact, have been one unspoken, latent factor guiding the eventual adherence of Benjamin, the "light-bearing" tribe, to side with Judah and the House of David, upon the rupture of the nation into the two Houses those many hundreds of years later?
Fourth, we ought to note that it was to be of Judah's tribe that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, would come to offer Himself as God's Substitute to accept the punishment for the sins of His guilty kinsmen. Thus did Judah here create a prophetic enactment of that which Christ would do for us.
A most perceptive comment is made by the New Bible Commentary. It says "more than this Joseph could not hope for. God had so changed his brothers' hearts that Judah's plea and self-offer carries away our thoughts involuntarily to the Servant born of his tribe who offered Himself for the transgressions of His people."
Perhaps we ought to leave the remainder of the story until our next broadcast. However let us carry from this message the thought that Almighty God was, even in this tense, anxious moment of Judah's honest selfless offer, working out His prophetic design, looking forward to the great gift of His only begotten Son, for our Salvation. We shall examine further of these matters on our next programme.
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