Genesis 43:1-5 – In God’s provision the famine became so great that they were forced to do something. This is what it was going to take to make Jacob willing to allow his son Benjamin to go down to Egypt. Joseph was not going to be assured that no harm had befallen his brother until he could see him in person. Understandably he had serious reservations about the truthfulness and integrity of his brothers. Judah had become the spokesmen for the family, further demonstrating the loss of leadership that Reuben had experienced, and Simeon was in Egypt as a hostage, and Levi also was not considered a leader likely because of his cruelty to the Shechemites.
Judah reasoned with their father Jacob that they could not go to Egypt without Benjamin. They were not thrilled at the prospect of going to Egypt, their being jailed for theft was a very real possibility in their mind, and without Benjamin they certainly believed that Joseph would imprison them for spying. The expression Sheol is used for the second time in Scripture, the first being found in Genesis 37:35. Sheol is the abode of the dead in Jewish thought. Sheol was regarded as the abode of all the dead, both righteous and wicked (Job 30:23). It is in terms like these that Yeshua uses the illustration of Abraham and Lazarus (Luke 16:20ff).
Though the overall picture of Sheol is grim, the Old Testament nevertheless affirms that God is there (Psalm 139:8; Proverbs 15:11) or that it is impossible to hide from God in Sheol (Job 26:6; Amos 9:2). The Old Testament also affirms that God has power over Sheol and is capable of ransoming souls from its depths (Psalm 16:10;30:3;49:15;86:13; Job 33:18,28-30). In the majority of these passages a restoration to physical life is clearly intended, pointing to the basis and understanding of the Messianic hope, for example Psalm 49:15 with its image of God’s receiving the one ransomed from Sheol.
Genesis 43:6-10 – It is at this point that Jacob’s new name, Israel is utilized instead of Jacob. This may be a result of his beginning to accept the need to give Benjamin into the care of the Lord. However the old Jacob will not die easily. He rebukes his sons for mentioning Benjamin’s name in the first place.
The other brothers speak up telling Jacob that the governor had asked them specific questions about their family including if there were other brothers. They had no idea that their answers would be used to force them to bring their brother before this ruler. Judah put himself forward as a surety for the safe return of Benjamin to his father. If no action was taken they as well as Benjamin would die from starvation.
Genesis 43:11-14 – Jacob understands that Judah is explaining the only alternative that there was. Benjamin did not appear to hesitate in going, and so Jacob accepts what appears to be necessary for keeping his family alive. Jacob counsels them on the wisdom of bringing a gift to “the man”. Either they did not know his name or were unwilling to use it. Preparing a gift had worked very nicely in dealing with Esau, so he urges his sons to do the same for this encounter.
The gift includes the very best things that were available from the land and likely were unavailable in Egypt. They also took the money that was returned in their sacks and additional funds to buy more food. Jacob then calls on God to protect Benjamin and his sons that they might return to him safely, but committing their fate to the Lord.
Genesis 43:15-23 – The sons of Israel leave for Egypt with Benjamin. When they arrive they are immediately brought before Joseph. When he sees Benjamin he is overwhelmed with emotion. This is the first time he has seen his full brother in 20 years. He was only a child, and a flood of memories must have overwhelmed Joseph. His worries are allayed as he sees that he is in wonderful health and cared for by his brothers. Joseph is now convinced that there is a basis for reconciliation and prepares a dinner for them at the home of Joseph.
The brothers were no doubt greatly perplexed and perhaps a little frightened by such an invitation. Fearing that they were being set up for judgment they explain to the Joseph’s steward about the money that was returned to them. They tell him that they didn’t steal this money but that it somehow wound up in their sacks, and that they have brought that money with them and more money to pay for any other food that they would be able to purchase.
Genesis 43:24-31 – The servant of Joseph treats the brothers as honored guests in providing for them. They prepared the gifts that they brought with them to present to Joseph hoping to win even more favor with him. In precise fulfillment of the dream that Joseph had as young man, his brothers bow down before him when he enters their presence. Joseph was trying to maintain his cool, but no doubt was beginning to feel emotional about all that he was experiencing.
Joseph asked about the welfare of their father Jacob, and in response they bowed again sharing with them that he was alive and well. Then Joseph turned to his brother Joseph and as composed as he could he asked if this was indeed the other brother. Before they could answer he blessed him in the name of the Lord. With this he could not hold back his emotions any longer and left the room in tears. He composed himself and then washed away his tears to continue his discovery of whether or not his brothers had indeed changed.
Genesis 43:32-34 – The Egyptians would not associate or eat with the Hebrew people because they were shepherds. Joseph abided by their customs in order not to offend their Egyptian ways (1 Corinthians 9:22). So the sons of Jacob were at one table, the Egyptians at another and Joseph because of his position ate at a third table. The brothers noticed that they were seated in birth order, which appeared most remarkable to them. With eleven brothers present the odds are about 40 million to 1 that they would be arranged in perfect birth order.
This may have made them more sensitive to the moving Spirit of God in arranging their current circumstances. Then the servants gave to Joseph 5 times as much food as the other brothers. Joseph was still testing his brothers to see if this action might cause them to be jealous of their brother. They were unconcerned by this special attention showered on Benjamin. They ate and drank with great joy and contentment. Rather than their fears of imprisonment they were treated with honor and dignity.
They would be able to return to their father with both Benjamin and Simeon, as well as an abundant supply of food. But there was going to be one further test on them. They had shown sorrow for what they did to Joseph confessing their sin against him. They demonstrated their honesty, and shown no resentment to Benjamin. But if placed in a position of choosing between their own safety or risking themselves for the wellbeing of their brother, how would they respond?