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Bible: What Does Genesis 43-44 Teach Us About Joseph and His Strategy?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Jacob and Sons

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A Courageous Brother


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Jacob Sends His Sons to Egypt

The famine worsens, and Jacob and family run out of supplies (vv. 1-2).

The patriarch tells his sons to “buy us a little food,” but Judah reminds his father of the administrator’s (Joseph’s) directive regarding Benjamin (vv. 3-5).

When Israel (Jacob) asks them why they told Joseph that they had another brother (the seemingly unreasonable question of a distraught father), his sons lie to him (an unnecessary evasion?), but then also point out their innocent ignorance of Joseph’s intentions (vv. 6-7).

[The text (42:9-13) says nothing about Joseph’s asking pointed questions concerning the family.

Perhaps he did examine them in this way, but the text is silent about it].

Now Judah offers to take Benjamin to Egypt (v. 8).

Unlike Reuben, however, he does not wish to forfeit his sons’ lives if his mission is unsuccessful, but only his own name (“let me bear the blame forever” [v. 9]).

Then he chastises his father for delaying his decision (v. 10). Jacob finally relents and allows Judah to take Benjamin to the “man.”

Old Jacob also sweetens the gift to Governor Joseph, sending Judah with assorted goodies and double the payment (not including the other money that Joseph had returned to them) [vv. 11-13].

Dismissing Judah with a prayer for God’s mercy upon his errand, Jacob resignedly ends his blessing (v. 14).

Joseph and His Brethren

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Joseph's Audience With His Brothers

The men journey to Egypt and stand before Joseph (v. 15), who commands his steward to prepare a feast for them (v. 16).

Guided by the steward, they arrive frightened at their brother’s home, believing that he is going to enslave them for their theft (vv. 17-18).

After they attempt to explain their plight to the steward (vv. 19-22), the latter calms their hearts by informing them that God has blessed them and that he (i.e., the steward) had their money in safekeeping.

To top it off, he then restores Simeon to them (v. 23).

The steward shows them all the customary hospitality (that is, giving them water for drinking and bathing, and feeding their donkeys) [v. 24].

Afterwards, they ready their present for Joseph (v. 25).

After receiving his brothers’ homage and their present, Joseph inquires of Jacob’s health; they respond with further prostrations, “He is well” (v. 28).

When Joseph sees Benjamin, he is barely able to bless him before emotion overcomes him, and he needs to leave the court to weep in his chamber (vv. 29-30).

Having controlled his emotions, Joseph returns to the feast, yet dines apart from his brothers and other Egyptians (v. 32).

[It must have been a curious sight: Joseph, seated by himself; his brethren, seated according to birthright and youth; and the other Egyptians, seated apart from Joseph because of rank, and apart from the brethren because of pride].

Benjamin receives five times more food than his brothers; nevertheless, everyone has a wonderful time (vv. 33-34).

Brother Benjamin with Joseph

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Genesis 44

At his master’s command, Joseph’s steward supplies each brother with abundant food, returns their money, and puts Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s sack (vv. 1-2).

[Joseph’s plan to bring Jacob to Egypt is still in motion; hence, he develops this “cup” strategy].

After the brethren leave, probably “sky-high,” Joseph sends a messenger with fearful words to retrieve the “stolen” cup of divination from them (vv. 3-5).

[It seems strange that a godly man such as Joseph should profess to practice divination (vv. 5, 15). Without a doubt, it was a ruse to further his plan].

Surety for Benjamin


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When Joseph’s servant confronts them, the brethren offer a good defense, stating that it was impossible for such honest men as themselves to steal any gold from him (vv. 6-8).

So certain are they of their innocence that they present themselves as slaves and the thief as condemned to death if the servant should find the cup on him (v. 9).

Wanting to enslave only the thief, the steward revises the penalty; then, after a thorough search, he finds the cup with Benjamin (vv. 10-12).

Grief-stricken, the brothers return to the city (v. 13).

Falling down before Joseph, Judah, unable to find any words of explanation, confesses their guilt and presents himself and his brothers as slaves (vv. 14-16).

[He still seems to believe that God is punishing them for their treatment of young Joseph].

Joseph only wants Benjamin the “thief” (v. 17).

This decision, of course, does not sit well with Judah because of his promise to Israel to bring Benjamin back to him (see 43:9).

Therefore, he boldly approaches Joseph and explains to him the whole story, especially emphasizing how the loss of Benjamin would kill (“bring down the gray hair with sorrow to the grave”) his old father (vv. 18-31).

Judah offers to remain in Egypt as surety for Benjamin and become Joseph’s slave, so that the boy can return to Jacob/Israel (vv. 32-34).

© 2014 glynch1

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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Much is made of the wisdom of Solomon, but Joseph had to have been a close second. The wisdom of God shines through him not just here, but throughout the story. There's so much we can learn from the life of Joseph. Thanks for the continuing information, challenge and encouragement.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I agree with lifegate about Joseph's wisdom. He is one of my favorite Bible characters. The picture with him and his brothers speaks volumes. thank you for relating his story.

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