for his brother is dead; meaning Joseph, Benjamin's own brother by father and mother's side; him he supposed to be dead, such circumstances being related and produced, which made it highly probable, and he had not heard anything of him for twenty two years:
and he is left alone; Benjamin being the only surviving child of his dearly beloved Rachel, as he thought:
if mischief befall him by the way in which ye go; that is, to Egypt, whether by thieves and robbers, or by the fatigue of the journey, or by any means whatever, so that he loses his life. All the Targums interpret this mischief of death:
then shall ye bring down my gray heirs with sorrow to the grave; the sense is, should this be the case he should never lift up his head, or have any more comfort in this world, but should pass his time with continual sorrow until his gray head was laid in the grave, or till he came to the state of the dead.
INTRODUCTION TO Genesis 43
This chapter informs us how that the famine continued in the land of Canaan, and the corn that Jacob's family had from Egypt being consumed, Jacob pressed his sons to go down for more, which they refused to do, unless Benjamin was sent with them, for whose safety Judah offered to become a surety, Genesis 43:1; Jacob with reluctance was prevailed upon to let him go, and dismissed them with a present to the governor of Egypt, and with double money to buy corn with, and with his blessing upon them, Genesis 43:11; upon which they set out for Egypt; and when they came into the presence of Joseph, he seeing Benjamin with them, ordered his steward to have them to his house, and get dinner ready, it being his pleasure that they should dine with him that day, Genesis 43:15; this threw them into a fright, supposing they were going to be called to an account for the money they found in their sacks; wherefore they related to the steward very particularly the whole of that affair, who bid them not be uneasy, for he had had their money; and as a proof that things would go well with them, brought Simeon out to them, and treated them very kindly and gently, Genesis 43:18; and having got their present ready against Joseph came home, they delivered it to him with great veneration and submission; who asked of the welfare of their father, and whether that was not their younger brother they spoke of, the sight of whom so affected him, that he was obliged in haste to retire to his chamber, and weep, Genesis 43:25; and having washed his face, and composed himself, he returned and ordered dinner to be brought, which was set on different tables, one for himself and the Egyptians, and the other for his brethren, whom he placed according to their age, to their great surprise; and sent them messes from his table to each, and to Benjamin five times more than the rest, and they were so liberally entertained, that they became cheerful and merry, Genesis 43:31.
their father said, go again, buy us a little food; just enough for him, and them, and theirs, for the present; hoping that the famine would be over quickly, and therefore orders them to go once more to Egypt, and buy some provisions: they made no motion themselves to go, as it is highly probable they determined they would not, since Jacob had resolved Benjamin should not go, but waited for their father's motion, and which he did not make until necessity obliged him.
saying, the man did solemnly protest unto us; meaning Joseph, though he then knew not that it was he; whom he calls "the man", not by way of contempt, or as thinking and speaking meanly of him, but the reverse, the great man, the honourable man, the governor of Egypt; and so the Septuagint version adds, "the man, the lord of the land"; he in the strongest terms, and in the most solemn manner, protested by the life of Pharaoh:
saying, ye shall not see my face; with acceptance, should not be admitted to come near him, or treat with him, and purchase any corn of him:
except your brother be with you; their youngest brother Benjamin.
we will go down and buy thee food; signifying, on the above condition, that they were ready and willing to take a journey into Egypt, and buy provisions for him and his family, otherwise not.
for the man said unto us, ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you; which they repeat both for the confirmation of it, and as an apology for themselves, to clear them from any charge of unfaithfulness.
wherefore dealt ye so ill with me; had done that which brought so much evil upon him, gave him so much grief and trouble, and threw him into such perplexity and distress, that he knew not what to do, or course to take:
as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? which he thought was done imprudently and unadvisedly, and that there was no need of it; which, had it not been done, would have prevented this anxiety of mind he was now in, and the mischief he feared would follow.1
and we will arise and go,.... Directly to Egypt for corn; Judah calls Benjamin a lad, because the youngest brother, and tenderly brought up by his father, who had an affectionate fondness for him as if he had been a child; otherwise he must be thirty two years of age, for he was seven years younger than Joseph, who was now thirty nine years of age; yea, Benjamin must have children of his own, who went with him and his father into Egypt, Genesis 46:21; for the computation of Benjamin's age, see Genesis 30:22,
that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones; he argues, that if they with Benjamin went down to Egypt for corn, there was a possibility, yea, a probability that they would all live, even Benjamin also; but if not, they must all in course die, and Benjamin likewise; and therefore it was most prudent and advisable, for the sake of all their lives, of them and theirs, and for the sake of Benjamin among the rest, for whom Jacob was so particularly concerned, to let him go with them to Egypt for corn, since he must die if they did not go, and he could but die if he did go; and there was great likelihood, if not a certainty, he would not; at least Judah was confident he would not, as appears by what follows.
of my hand shall thou require him; I will be answerable for him:
if I bring him not to thee, and set him before thee: do not return him from Egypt, and bring him to Canaan, into his father's house and presence safe, and sound:
then let me bear the blame for ever; of persuading his father to let him go with him; all this he said, to show what care he would take of him, and what confidence he had that no evil would befall him, that he would be returned with them in safety; which he might ground upon the assurance that Joseph had given, that they should not die if they brought their brother with them, Genesis 42:20; and perhaps Judah, as Schmidt thinks, might be under a special instinct of divine Providence, which directed him to say these things: and it may be added, that Jacob also might be under a divine impulse, which influenced him to regard what Judah said, or otherwise his suretyship was but a poor security, and of little avail.
surely now we had returned this second time; they would have made their journey to Egypt, and returned again with their corn, and their brother Benjamin too, as Judah supposed, before this time; so that by these delays they were losing time, and involving themselves and families in distress for want of corn.
if it must be so now, do this; if nothing else will do but Benjamin must go, which after all he was reluctant to, then he advises them to do as follows:
take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels; such as were the peculiar produce of the land of Canaan, and the best of it; for which it was most famous, and praised, as the word used signifies; these Jacob advises to take and put into their sacks they carried to bring back their corn in:
and carry down the man a present; the great man and governor of Egypt, whose name was not known, little thinking it was his son Joseph; this he proposed to be done, in order to procure his friendship, that he might carry it kindly and respectfully to them, release Simeon, and send back Benjamin with them. The present consisted of the following things:
a little balm: or rosin, of which there was great quantity in and about Gilead; See Gill on Jeremiah 8:22,
and a little honey; the land of Canaan in general is called a land flowing with milk and honey; and some parts of it were famous for it, as the, parts about Ziph, called from thence the honey of Ziphim (i): this is the first time mention is made of "honey" in Scripture. Some say (k) Bacchus was the inventor of it. Justin (l) makes a very ancient king of a people in the country, now called Spain, to whom he gives the name of Gorgoris, to be the first that found out the way of gathering honey; but by this it appears to be of a more early date. Dr. Shaw (m) thinks, that not honey, properly so called, is meant, but a kind of "rob" made of the juice of grapes, called by the Arabs "dibsa", a word near in sound with, and from the same root as this. And who further observes, that Hebron alone (the place were Jacob now was) sends every year to Egypt three hundred camel loads, i.e. near two thousand quintals of this rob: and Leo Africanus says (n), there is but little honey to be found in Egypt, wherefore it made this part of the present the more acceptable:
spices; of various sorts, a collection of them; though it is thought, by Bochart and others, that the "storax" is particularly meant; the best of that sort being, as Pliny (o) says in Judea. The Targum and Jarchi take it to be "wax", as do also other Jewish writers:
and myrrh; the liquor called "stacte", that drops from the myrrh tree. Some will have this "lot", as the word is, the same with "ladanum"; one should rather think that it should be the lotus or lote tree, the fruit of which, Pliny (p) says, is the size of a bean, and of a saffron colour, and Herodotus (q) says, it is sweet like a date; but that it was frequent in Egypt, and needed not be carried there. The Targum renders it "chestnuts", and so Ben Melech, as it does what follows:
nuts, and almonds, the oil of nuts, and the oil of almonds: the former design not common, but the pistachio nuts, as Jarchi observes from R. Machir; and these, as Pliny (r) says, were well known in Syria, and were good for food and drink, and against the bites of serpents; and, as Bochart (s) observes, are frequently mentioned by naturalists along with almonds, and as like unto them.
(i) Misn. Machshirin, c. 5. sect. 9. (k) "Et a Baccho mella reperta ferunt", Ovid. Fast. l. 3.((l) E Trogo, l. 44. c. 4. (m) Travels, p. 339. No. 6. Ed. 2.((n) Descriptio Africae, l. 8. p. 682. (o) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 25. (p) Ib. l. 13. c. 17. (q) Melpomene, sive, l. 4. c. 177. Vid. Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 92. (r) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 5. (s) Canaan, l. 1. c. 10. col. 389.
and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; that it might be ready to pay upon demand, should they be charged with nonpayment for the corn they had before:
peradventure it was an oversight; a mistake of the governors, or of those that were under him, concerned in the sale of the corn, and receiving money for it, or of Jacob's sons; he could not tell how it was, but some way or other he supposed a mistake was made.
and arise, go again to the man; the governor of Egypt, to buy corn of him.
that he may send away your other brother and Benjamin; release Simeon, and send him and Benjamin aiming with them when they returned:
if I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved; this he said, not as utterly despairing of their return, but as expressive of his patient submission to the divine will, be it as it may be.
and they took double money in their hand; besides what they found in their sacks mouths, which they also carried with them:
and Benjamin; they took him likewise with their father's leave:
and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph; presented themselves to him, and their petitions for more corn, as well as to answer to any questions that should be asked them.
he said to the ruler of his house; his steward, as be is after called, not his son Manasseh, as the Targum of Jonathan:
bring these men home; to his own house, for Joseph was now at or near the place where were the granaries of corn, and where that was said and distributed:
and slay, and make ready; or "slay a slaughter" (t), that is, of beasts for food; a sheep, or a lamb, or a calf, very probably, and order it to be dressed, boiled or roasted, or both, that it might be fit for food: wherefore Aben Ezra must be mistaken when Genesis 46:34; he says, that the Egyptians in those times did not eat flesh, nor might any kill a sheep; for it cannot be thought that Joseph could order a dinner for his brethren, to whom as yet he did not choose to make himself known, in direct violation of the customs and laws of Egypt, and who, it is plain by what follows, dined as an Egyptian, and with the Egyptians, and not as an Hebrew, and with his brethren as Hebrews; besides, for what purpose did Pharaoh get and possess such herds and flocks of cattle, if not for food as well as other uses? see Genesis 47:6; though in later times they abstained from eating various animals, as Porphyry (u) from Chaeremon relates, and particularly from sheep and goats, according to Juvenal (x):
for these men shall dine with me at noon; which was the usual time of dining with the eastern people, as it is now with us, though with the Romans at evening.
(t) "macta mactationem", Drusius, Schmidt; "macta animalia", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (u) De abstinentia, l. 4. sect. 6, 7. (x) "-----lanatis animalibus abstinet omnis Mensa, nefas illic foetus jugulare capellae." Satyr 15. ver. 11, 12.
(y) Radzivil, Thevenot, Le Brun & Lucas apud Jablonski de Terra Goshen, Dissert. 5. sect. 6.
and they said, because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; to examine and inquire of them how they came to go away without paying for their corn, take up their money again after they had laid it down, and take it away with them, and so were guilty of tricking and defrauding, if not of theft:
that he may seek occasion against us: or "roll on us" (z); cast all the shame on them, and leave the reproach and scandal of it on them:
and fall upon us; with hard words, and severe menaces, if not with blows:
and take us for bondmen, and our asses; imprison them, which was the punishment for fraud and theft, and take their asses as a forfeiture.
(z) "ut devolvat (hoc) in nos", Tigurine version.
and they communed with him at the door of the house; before they went into it, being uneasy and eager to know what should be the meaning of their being brought thither, which was unusual.
we came indeed down at the first time to buy food; not to spy the land but to buy corn, and not to get it by fraud or tricking but by paying for it the price that was required.
(a) "in me Domine mi", Montanus.
that we opened our sacks; to give provender to our cattle; by which it appears that they all did this, though it is only said of one of them at the inn, and of all of them when they came home, Genesis 42:27,
and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; nothing wanting of it; it being usual in those times to pay money by weight, and not by the tale of pieces:
and we have brought it again in our hand; in order to pay it for the corn we have had, having no design to defraud.
we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks; we are quite ignorant of it, and can by no means account for it, and therefore hope no blame will be laid on us.
your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks; the hidden treasure, as the word signifies, found in their sacks; was there by the providence of God, so disposing the heart of Joseph to order it to be put there, as the steward interpreted it; who by being Joseph's family had got some knowledge of the true God, and of his all wise and disposing Providence:
I had your money; he received it of them, which he acknowledges, and that was sufficient to acquit them from guile and theft, though he does not say that he put the money into their sacks, or by whose order it was done:
and he brought Simeon out unto them; either out of prison, or out of some other room to them, which was, no doubt, done by the direction of Joseph.
and gave them water, and they washed their feet; which was usually done in the eastern countries after travelling, and when about to take a meal, and was both for refreshment and cleanliness:
and he gave their asses provender; thus were they hospitably entertained, they and all that belonged to them.
for they heard that they should eat bread there; dine there, bread being put for all provision: this was told them, very probably, by the steward, or by some of the servants in the house, or they overheard what Joseph said to the steward, Genesis 43:16.
they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house; everyone took a part of it in his hand, and brought it to Joseph in the parlour where he was, and delivered it to him as a present from their father, or from themselves, or it may be as from both:
and bowed themselves to him to the earth; in the most prostrate and humble manner, now again fulfilling his dream, and more completely than before, for now all his eleven brethren were together, signified by the eleven stars in the dream, that made obeisance to him, see Genesis 37:9.
and said, is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? when they were with him before, and told him they were all the sons of one man, who dwelt in Canaan:
is he yet alive? which he was very desirous of knowing; for, being advanced in years, he might fear he was removed by death in the time between their going and returning.
(b) "ad pacem", Montanus, "de pace", Vatablus, Drusius, Piscator, Schmidt.
and they bowed their heads, and made obeisance; a second time, as they did, no doubt, at every time they gave answer to Joseph's questions; and this is again observed, to show the full completion of the above dream.
his mother's son; the son of Rachel his mother, and who was his only brother by his mother's side, the rest, though his brethren, yet only by his father's side, not his mother's sons:
and said, is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? he knew he was the same, but was willing to have it from their mouths, to lead on to what he had further to say:
and he said; after they had answered his question, and told him it was he:
God be gracious unto thee, my son; speaking as a superior, a governor, in which capacity he was a father to his inferiors; and as a man, a relation, a brother, though not as yet discovered; he spoke in the most tender and affectionate manner, and, as a religious good man, he wishes the best thing he could for his brother, the grace and goodness of God; and which may be understood in the largest and most expressive sense, as including all good things, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
for his bowels did yearn upon his brother; his passions grew strong, his affections were raised, his heart was full of tenderness, and there was such a flow of love and joy at the sight of his brother, and the little conversation he had with him, that he was ready to burst out, and must have discovered himself if he had not immediately turned and got out of the room:
and he sought where to weep; a proper place to vent his passion in tears of joy, and relieve himself
and he entered into his chamber, and wept there; where he could be the most retired, and not likely to be overheard.
and went out; of his chamber into the room again, where his brethren were:
and refrained himself; from weeping, or showing any excess of passion, love, joy, &c.
and said, set on bread; gave orders to his servants to bring in dinner, and set it upon the table; bread, as before, being put for all kind of food.
and for them by themselves; another table was placed and spread for Joseph's brethren by themselves, the reason of which is after given:
and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves; a third table was laid for such Egyptian noblemen and others, who were at this time Joseph's guests, or used to dine with him:
because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians; the reason of which, as given by the Targums of Onkelos and, Jonathan, is, because the creatures the Egyptians worshipped the Hebrews eat; but it is a question whether such creatures as oxen, sheep, goats, &c. which were eaten by the Hebrews, were so early worshipped by the Egyptians; though they were in later times, and particularly the Apis or ox, which is supposed by many to be worshipped on the account of Joseph, and so after his time; rather the abhorrence the Egyptians had the Hebrews in was on account of their being shepherds, on a political account, they having before this time suffered much by the insurrections and rebellions of such sort of persons among themselves, who set up a kingdom and kings of their own, called the "Hycsi", or pastor kings: or else this difference made between the Egyptians and Hebrews at eating, was not on account of what they did eat, as of the certain rites and customs the Egyptians had peculiar to themselves in dressing their food, and eating it; and therefore would not eat with any of another nation; so that this was not any particular distaste they had to the Hebrews, but was their usage towards men of all nations; for so Herodotus says (c), that"no Egyptian, man or woman, might kiss the month of a Greek, or use a knife, or spit, or pot;''that is, a knife a Greek had cut anything with, or a spit he had roasted meat on, or a pot he had boiled it in; and adds,"nor might taste of the flesh of an ox, cut with the knife of a Greek.''And indeed they would not eat nor converse with any of another religion (d), be they who they would.
(c) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 41. (d) Chaeremon apud Porphyr. de abstinentia, l. 4. sect. 6.
the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth; everyone according to his age, Reuben, the firstborn, first, and so on to Benjamin the youngest: thus they placed themselves as they used to be in their father's family, or they were so placed by Joseph; and if this was the case, it may be a reason, and a principal one, of what follows:
and the men marvelled one at another; not the Egyptians, the guests of Joseph, seeing eleven brethren placed in this manner, and these being Hebrews, taken so much notice of; but Joseph's brethren, who either wondered at the manner of their being seated so regular, according to their age; or at the honour done them to dine with the governor, and at the grandeur of the entertainment, and at the separate manner in which the governor, and the nobles of Egypt, sat at meals; or at what follows.