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Author Topic: Genesis; The Road To The Top
Sa:ji:sdo:de
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Gen 40:4b-17


†. Gen 40:4b-8a . . After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men-- the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison --had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

. . .When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house: Why are your faces so sad today? We both had dreams; they answered, but there is no one to interpret them. Then Joseph said to them: Do not interpretations belong to God?


Actually, in the literal, Joseph said: Aren't interpretations with the gods? Because the word for "God" isn't Yhvh, rather, it's 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which isn't one of the creator's proper names; it's a generic plural noun for all gods, both the true and the false.

†. Gen 40:8b . . Please tell me.

There's no record up to this point of Joseph ever interpreting a dream, not even his own. He dreamed in the past (e.g. Gen 37:5-7, Gen 37:9) but at the time he didn't know what his dreams meant; and in this particular instance, I seriously doubt he believed himself able to interpret a one. I think he was just curious. Jail is boring; what else was there to talk about? So what's going to happen next was probably just as big a surprise to him as it was to them.

Incidentally, there's no record of God ever speaking one-on-one with Joseph. He believed God was providentially active in his life, but was given no apparitions of any kind whatsoever to corroborate his confidence other than the fulfillment of his interpretations of people's dreams; which aren't eo ipso evidence of God at work. (e.g. Acts 16:16)

People's dreams normally don't stick in their memories for very long; but these two men's dreams seemed (to them anyway) to be of a mysteriously symbolic significance, and so disturbing that they can't get the details out of their minds.

In psychoanalysis, dreams are of interest because they're often expressions of subconscious anxieties and inner conflicts rather than portents and/or omens.

Dreams are both common and normal, and surely no one should try to derive a message from God out of them. But these men's dreams defied psychoanalysis because they were so weird and unnatural.

Had they been at liberty, they no doubt would have contacted one of Pharaoh's astrologers, or an occultist or a diviner, or a highly intuitive wiz kid to tell them the meanings. But for now they're stuck with Joseph-- a nice enough young fellow; but a total unknown in their world regarding matters of paranormal precognition.

†. Gen 40:9-13 . .Then the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him: In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand.

. . . Joseph said to him: This is its interpretation: The three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer.


From whence Joseph got his interpretation isn't stated. Genesis doesn't say he heard a voice, nor does it clearly say that God gave Joseph the interpretation. For all Joseph knew, (and them too) he was just taking a wild guess. It probably came right out of his head sort of like intuition or an imaginative locution.

†. Gen 40:14 . . But remember me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place.

He will eventually mention Joseph; but not right away.

†. Gen 40:15 . . For in truth, I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews; nor have I done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.

Joseph was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. He was in prison for the crime of rape. Whether he actually did it or not is immaterial. And he wasn't realistic: Joseph couldn't reasonably expect a courtier to take the word of a criminal; and a slave at that.

†. Gen 40:16a . .When the chief baker saw how favorably he had interpreted,

Apparently, for reasons unstated, the baker was somewhat reluctant to share his dream with Joseph at first, but relented when the first dream had a happy ending.

†. Gen 40:16b-17 . . he said to Joseph: In my dream, similarly, there were three openwork baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.

Birds are usually an ill omen in Scripture; sort of like the connotation borne by serpents. So, now it comes out why the baker was reluctant to tell his dream. If Pharaoh ever suspected that his food was being picked over by birds, he would be very disappointed in the quality of the care that a potentate had a right to expect from his own personal team of cooks. Food left uncovered, exposed and out in the open, is certainly not food fit for a king.

The baker's dream may have been his subconscious at work reminiscing the error of his ways. Up till now, the baker had no doubt insisted upon his innocence; which was nothing less than feigned since he knew very well with whom the real fault lay between himself and the cupbearer.

Apparently Pharaoh had actually gotten some sort of food poisoning, and the investigation underway by Potiphar sought to find the source; and likely to determine if it was in any way evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate Pharaoh.

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Gen 40:18-23


†. Gen 40:18-19 . . Joseph answered: This is its interpretation: The three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and gibbet you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.

It's lucky for the baker that he would be already dead before the gibbeting because a common method of gibbeting in those days was impaling; which was a grizzly spectacle. Wooden poles, about three to four inches in diameter were sharpened to a pencil point and forcibly inserted into the abdomen, up into the rib cage to catch on the spine in back of the throat; and the pole was then set upright to suspend the victim above the ground like human shish kabob.

I'm looking here at an impaling on an Assyrian stone relief-- in the July/August 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review --commissioned by Sennacherib for his palace at Ninevah to celebrate the capture of Lachish. The victims are three Israelites who still have their heads; strongly suggesting that they were alive when the poles were run into their bellies and up into their upper torsos.

Nobody could possibly survive an injury like that for more than a few seconds. The pole would not only penetrate the stomach, but also the liver, diaphragm, lungs, some large blood vessels, and the bronchial tubes; resulting in almost instant death-- quite excruciating, and very bloody.

Public impaling was no doubt a very effective deterrent to insurrection; and nobody in those days seemed overly concerned about executing criminals in a "humane" manner. Cruel and unusual punishments were the norm; and nobody dared stage an "Occupy Wall Street" protest about them lest their days end in like fashion.

†. Gen 40:20a . . Pharaoh's birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff.

What really is the purpose of a birthday party anyway if not to celebrate the continuance of your own existence?

For guys in Pharaoh's position (e.g. Kim Jong Un of N. Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Thein Sein of Myanmar) life is good: better than what you could ever hope to ask for; and of course that's cause for celebration. But for the majority of their subjects, life wasn't all that good, and nothing to celebrate. No doubt relatively few Egyptians in that day derived a significant amount of pleasure from their own existence.

People normally count Job as one of the most righteous men who ever lived, yet when he lost his health and wealth, Job cursed the day of his birth and wished he was never born. (Job 3:1-26)

†. Gen 40:20b-23 . . He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

One might wonder how it was possible for the cup-bearer to not be thoroughly amazed enough at the fulfillment of Joseph's predictions to begin exclaiming his prison experience with such enthusiasm as to totally rivet the attention of every single one of Pharaoh's courtiers and instantly secure Joseph's freedom.

But if we take into account the hand of God in the glove of His people's history, then it seems reasonable to conclude that God didn't want Joseph in the limelight just yet; so he put a mental block in the cup man's head to silence him for the time being.

No doubt when Joseph was apprised of recent developments by his friend Potiphar, he was deeply disappointed, and probably a bit consternated too. Joseph probably assumed-- and with good reason --that those successful predictions were his ticket to freedom at last.

But even if Pharaoh had taken note of Joseph at this particular point in the narrative, he was still Potiphar's property, and would have to remain in custody because of his "affair" with Potiphar's wife. Dreams or no dreams, does anyone seriously believe that Pharaoh would have taken the word of a slave over one of his own trusted courtiers?

So even had the cup-bearer brought Joseph's ability to Pharaoh's attention, it probably wouldn't have succeeded in gaining him the degree of freedom he really wanted. In point of fact, it may have even resulted in his death because Pharaoh would certainly want to know why Joseph hadn't been summarily executed on the spot for rape. No; bringing Joseph to Pharaoh's attention at this point would have caused problems for both the slave and his master.

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Gen 41:1-8


†. Gen 41:1a . .Two years later

Poor Joseph. He's now at the very threshold of his fourth decade of life and still hasn't slept with a girl, nor does he even really have a life of his own. He was under his dad's thumb for seventeen years as a kid, and now he's been a slave in a foreign country for thirteen; and has nothing to show for it whatsoever. Everybody would like their lives to count for something; but it looks like Joseph's is slipping away like water through a leaky bucket.

The very young often don't think far enough ahead. It's not till they hit their thirties that the aging process begins to work wonders on their perspective. I'm 73 as of this writing, and every time I see someone in their eighties, it only serves to make me sad as I realize that it's my own near-future I'm looking at. One day I'll look back at 73 and be amazed how young that was in comparison. But right now; I feel very old.

†. Gen 41:1b-7a . . Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. And lo, from the Nile there came up seven heifers, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. Then behold, seven other heifers came up after them from the Nile, ragged and bony, and they stood by the other heifers on the bank of the Nile. And the ragged and bony heifers ate the seven sleek and fat ones. Then Pharaoh awoke.

. . . And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven ears, shriveled and dehydrated by the east wind, sprouted up after them. And the shriveled ears devoured the seven plump and full ears.


Pharaoh's dreams are all the more disturbing because they contain incidents that are contrary to nature. Cows, as a rule, aren't carnivorous; and ears of grain derive their nourishment from the stems of their own parent plant, not dining upon each other.

The scenes in both dreams are extremely violent with the cows and the ears not just sitting down to dinner, but literally attacking their neighbors with desperate savagery, like ravenous caribes: eating everything-- flesh, hide, hooves, bones, grains, chaff, and all --raw and uncooked.

†. Gen 41:7b . .Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

The first dream was disturbing enough to wake Pharaoh from his sleep. But the second was so vivid and so real that when he awoke, he was actually surprised it was just a dream. And with that last dream, I'd not be surprised he was very relieved to discover it wasn't a reality.

†. Gen 41:8a . .The next morning, as he thought about it, Pharaoh became agitated as to what the dreams might mean. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them about his dreams,

Magicians in those days were not the same as the sleight-of-hand entertainers of our own day. Those occultists were scary; they used dark arts that actually worked, and they were really and truly in touch with paranormal powers. The magicians who opposed Moses (Ex 7:11) were able to duplicate several of God's miracles; so ancient magicians were legitimately powerful sorcerers and to be seriously reckoned with.

I think it was mentioned previously that "wise men" were highly educated men of extraordinary intelligence; sort of like ancient college professors and wiz kids. Although Moses himself isn't stated to have been a wise man; he is stated to have been educated in all that Egypt had to offer. (Acts 7:22)

Incidentally, although Genesis never mentions God directly in Joseph's life, Stephen confirms that it was God's providence that made the young man so successful, and protected him from mortal harm. (Acts 7:9-10)

†. Gen 41:8b . . but not one of them could suggest what they meant.

No doubt the magicians and wise men would normally have guessed the meaning of Pharaoh's dreams in an instant via their connections with the dark world. But this time the dark world wasn't responsible for those two dreams, and apparently God held the spirits in check and prevented them from making any contact whatsoever with Pharaoh's counselors.

That had to be a very tense moment for the think tank. Potentates have been known to execute brain trusts for failure to produce. (Dan 2:1-12)

One might ask how the dark beings can interpret dreams to foretell future events. Well . . there's a lot of activity going on in the unseen world; and quite a bit of it is being done by good angels. All that the dark angels have to do is spy on the good angels and they can pretty much figure out what's coming up.

Whenever you see men digging a huge, deep, square hole in a city lot, then logic and experience tells you that a new building is going up. Well . . the dark world has had thousands of years of experience; so factor that in and it's not too difficult to understand how they come to know so much about the future. And then too, you have to expect that the dark world is digging their own holes at the same time; and they'd quite naturally be experts on the outcomes of those.

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Gen 41:9-14


†. Gen 41:9-13 . .Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh: Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

. . . Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.


Why wait till now to talk about Josephs' abilities? Well . . first off, God more than likely put a mental block in the cupbearers head to forget all about Joseph; and that mental block could have been something as simple as a very reasonable decision on the cupbearer's part. Pharaoh already had a corps of magicians and wise men who were actually very proficient at their jobs. What need was there to suggest taking on another one; and a Hebrew slave at that?

No doubt during the performance of his duties over time, the cupbearer had seen lots of dreams correctly interpreted, so Joseph's dog and pony show was nothing new to him. The kind of mental block where people talk themselves out of something, is quite normal and very common. But now, circumstances are going to twinge the cupbearer's conscience, not just about Josephs' ability, but the fact that Joseph had practically begged the man to talk to Pharaoh and get him released as a return for the favor.

†. Gen 41:14a . . So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,

Normally, Egyptians didn't associate with Hebrews (cf. Gen 43:32) and that cultural barrier no doubt factored in to the cupbearer's mental block. But Pharaoh was at his wit's end, and was favorably disposed to swallow his pride for a matter that, to him, seemed of the utmost importance to not only himself, but also to the welfare of his whole country.

†. Gen 41:14b . . and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.

All this was done so that Joseph could appear in court that very day, not some other time. Pharaoh was anxious.

†. Gen 41:14c . .When he had shaved and changed his clothes,

Shaving for an Egyptian meant not only trimming and sculpting their beards (by now, Joseph must have looked like Rumpelstiltskin) but also cutting their hair; actually shaving their scalps bald like Vin Diesel. According to Herodotus, the Egyptians had extreme care for cleanliness and would let their hair and beards grow out only during periods of mourning.

†. Gen 41:14d . . he came before Pharaoh.

Jiminy! Here's this no-account sheep rancher from the outback getting the full-on attention of one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, monarchs in the world of that day!

You know, there comes a day-- and that day may never come for some people --when you get that big break. It's at that moment when you better have your ducks in a row and your peas in their pods because opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared for it. For all others, it's bye-bye; and don't call us; we'll call you-- or worse. If Joseph blows his big moment, he could very well end up not just sent back to prison for life; but gibbeted just like the baker. This is a tense moment, and somebody's life is about to change.

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Gen 41:15-24


†. Gen 41:15 . . I had a dream last night; Pharaoh told him; and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have summoned you.

Potiphar of course would have been responsible for delivering Joseph, and probably informed him of the purpose. But just to set his mind at ease, I'm assuming Pharaoh himself personally informs Joseph of the reason why he's there because when prisoners like Joseph were summoned to a Pharaoh, it was more than likely for trial.

†. Gen 41:16 . . It is beyond my power to do this; Joseph replied. But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease.

A verse like that is ambiguous since the Hebrew word translated "God" in that verse is plural so that verse could just as accurately be read: "But the gods will tell you what it means . . ." However, Pharaoh would have no problem with the god being Yhvh because his land was literally infested with gods and were a common part of everyday Egyptian life.

Although Mr. Pharaoh is probably not going to like what he hears, at least he'll have the peace of mind of knowing what to expect. How many of us really want our doctors to lie to us? No, we want the truth; even if it's terminal cancer.

†. Gen 41:17a . . So Pharaoh told him the dream.

Pharaoh is really grasping at straws here since Joseph had no credentials nor could produce any references aside from the cup-bearer's to recommend him and vouch for his skills; and he had only one successful interpretation to his credit thus far; so you can see just how desperate Pharaoh really is.

†. Gen 41:17b . . I was standing on the bank of the Nile River; he said.

The Nile River's role in the dream is highly significant since it was a major factor in Egypt's economy; especially its agriculture. Every year the Nile overflowed it banks; leaving behind a deposit of silt; which kept the land's flood plain replenished with a nice new layer of fresh topsoil. Take away the Nile's flooding, and eventually the soils would become depleted in an era when hardly anybody knew anything about crop rotation.

Not only that, but winds coming in from the eastern deserts would not only dry the soils out and blow them away, but in the process leave behind sands that would eventually render the land unproductive like during America's depression era when its croplands turned into dust bowls.

Lower the Nile's water level significantly, and it would make irrigation very difficult in a time without pumps powered by internal combustion engines or electric motors.

Joseph is going to predict a famine; and in those days, as even now, famines were caused by insufficient rainfall. Reduced rainfall results in less natural irrigation and less runoff, so that Egypt's worst fears will be realized: crops will dry up, the Nile won't overflow its banks, and its levels will shrink.

Back in chapter 2, Genesis says that a flow welled up from the ground to water the whole surface of the earth, and a river watered the garden of Eden. River systems irrigate the subsoil and replenish aquifers. Lower a river system too much, and see what happens.

I can recall an instance, I think it was somewhere in Australia, where the natural aquifer below a farmer's land went down because a marsh nearby was drained for commercial purposes. The aquifer was like a dam. When it went down, salt water moved in to take its place and the stuff percolated up and flooded the man's property. All his trees died and the land became good for nothing. Tamper with nature too much; and nature will tamper with you.

†. Gen 41:18a . . when out of the river

That is so perfect because the Nile was Egypt's source of life; so that whatever happened to the Nile, or whatever the Nile produced, effected Egyptian life in a big way.

During Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, the Nile was turned into blood (Ex 7:17-25), and subsequently Egypt's streams, rivers, ponds, and their pools. Next, God made the Nile produce myriads of frogs (Ex 8:1-6), so that the frogs were so thick, they became a serious infestation. So then, the Nile, which ordinarily was a blessing, became a superfund site.

†. Gen 41:18b-24a . . there came up seven heifers, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. After them, seven other heifers came up-- ragged and bony, I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The hideous heifers ate up the seven fat heifers that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as hideous as before. Then I woke up.

. . . In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted-- withered and thin and dehydrated by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads.


This second dream sounds like a redux of The Little Shop Of Horrors.

†. Gen 41:24b . . I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.

Since Pharaoh's brain trust couldn't figure out the dreams, then they certainly wouldn't be able to devise effective contingency plans to deal with their meanings. It's always nice to know the future so you can get ready for it; and certainly nobody likes to be kept in the dark.

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Gen 41:25-32


†. Gen 41:25a . .Then Joseph said to Pharaoh:

Note Joseph's quick response time. He didn't even go off and pray about it and wait for an answer from God-- no: right to it. Since Genesis doesn't say that God spoke inside Joseph's head, or by an audible dictation that only his own ears could hear; then I have to assume he figured out the meanings of those dreams by intuition.

That's not an unreasonable assumption. Even in the secular world, there are people who have the Midas touch; good investments just seem to come second nature to them. And how about "gifted" musicians, painters, and sculptors? I once watched spell bound as a young man drew pencil drawings of super heroes. He made no erasures, and the heroes came out in perfect physical proportion; in any posture he chose for them; and viewed from any angle.

I asked him how he did it. He said he didn't know; they just came out. Well; Joseph's gift wasn't music, or charcoal, or pencil, or mathematics, or paints, or sculpture, or architecture, or engineering. His gift was dreams; and he was really good at it too. But if you were to ask him how he did it; he'd not answer "I don't know; they just come out". Instead; he would no doubt answer it was a gift from the gods; especially one god in particular.

†. Gen 41:25b-32 . . Both dreams mean the same thing. God was telling you what he is about to do. The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, ugly cows and the seven withered heads of grain represent seven years of famine. This will happen just as I have described it, for God has shown you what he is about to do.

. . .The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten and wiped out. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so terrible that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having the dream twice, it means that the matter has been decreed by God and that he will make these events happen soon.


The "twice" method was first seen in Gen 37:5-11. Peter's vision (Acts 10:9-17) was the same one three times over, while Joseph's and Pharaoh's two dreams apiece were redundant, indicating that God meant business and wasn't going to change His mind regarding this matter. You know though, with some people, no matter how many times, or in how many ways, you try to tell them something, they refuse to listen; like when a girl keeps saying NO to a boy's advances and he just keeps coming on anyway because for some strange reason the boy thinks she doesn't mean it; and he's somehow convinced that her protests aren't serious.

Everybody accepted Joseph's interpretation without question-- Pharaoh and all the magicians and wise men (Gen 41:37) --and that is pretty amazing in itself.

Suppose you were President Obama in San Diego for a one-night campaign fund raiser and a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President said he heard that the Border Patrol had an illegal immigrant from Sinaloa in custody for rape down in San Ysidro who says he knows exactly how to balance the Federal budget, stop processed food from poisoning Americans, eradicate genetically engineered crops, solve all your problems with Iran and North Korea, and get America out of Afghanistan. Would you be interested? I don't think so; you'd have to be pretty desperate.

I believe that while Pharaoh and his corps of geniuses were listening to Joseph's interpretation, God was doing a number on their minds so that they would accept what Joseph was telling them; and by the time he finished, they were amazed that they hadn't thought of the interpretation themselves because it seemed not only quite simple, and obviously true; but also the only possible explanation.

God wasn't bringing all these things to pass for the purpose of embarrassing or of dethroning the king of Egypt (not this one anyway). As a matter of fact, Pharaoh's control over the country would be strengthened by these events. The underlying purpose of it all had to do rather with God's plans and purposes for the people of Israel. Therefore, not only did God give Pharaoh the dreams, and give Joseph the true interpretation of the dreams, but also provided an effective action plan for Egypt's survival.

People often complain that they can't respect a hell-fire God because He only uses the threat of eternal suffering as coercion to get people in line. But the Bible's talk of hell and eternal suffering isn't meant to intimidate people. No, it's just like Pharaoh's dreams: talk of hell and eternal suffering is meant as an early warning of things to come-- inevitable things.

A danger foreseen.
Is half-avoided.
Cheyenne Proverb

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Gen 41:33-36


†. Gen 41:33-36 . . Now therefore I suggest Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.

. . . And have them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up grain under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.


A grain czar "wise and discreet" was necessary so that the man appointed wouldn't be tempted to profit from his own country's misfortune like so many of Wall Street's sociopaths are wont to do. Thank God Pharaoh had the cool to realize that what his country faced was not just long lines at the gas pumps, but nothing less than a full blown national emergency.

On the other hand, a central bureaucracy could easily lead to despotism, red tape, favoritism, cronyism, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, bribes, artificial shortages, black marketing, and political manipulation; especially if all the available food supplies were in the hands of self-serving corporations like
ENRON, Monsanto, Bechtel, and Nestlé.

The success of Joseph's plan relied heavily upon the integrity of its administrator. The right man would be a savior; the wrong man could become a tyrant; and if the top man was a crook, everybody under him could be expected to be crooked too, and instead of a program intended to help the poor, it would only serve as a golden opportunity to line the pockets of officials like Indian Agents of the old west who embezzled Native Americans out of thousands of dollars worth of food, tools, livestock, implements, shelter, and clothing.

It's been shown by historians that tithing was practiced in ancient Egypt and other nations, as a form of taxes or tribute to the king; but a 20 percent levy would be very unusual, and might well be resisted, especially if enacted by an unpopular sovereign. Thus, the chief administrator of Joseph's plan would have to be skilled in diplomacy and persuasion: a veritable expert on how to win friends and influence people.

Actually, the 20 percent wasn't a hardship. Egypt's agricultural production was so good that no doubt at least 20 percent went to waste anyway even after all the people were satisfied and Egypt's export commitments were fulfilled. (Here in the USA, we waste upwards of 40% of our annual purchases of food)

Some citizens might gripe at first, but it's hard to feel deprived when things are going good. The seven years of plenty would be a time of bumper crops and overabundance; and heck, you could give the children's food to the dogs and not hurt them. The only real malcontents in Egypt would be people who are never happy about anything anyway.

Americans themselves have so much left over that there's enough perfectly good food thrown out in the dumpsters behind super markets and fast food chains like Wendy's, Carl's Jr, Subway, McDonalds. Arby's, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King to easily feed every homeless person in the USA three meals a day. And that's not even counting all the other restaurants and food courts that are tossing out literally tons of edible garbage every hour of the business day.

Although someone might get the wrong impression, there was really no indication in Joseph's presentation that he was throwing his hat in the ring. Such a thought could hardly have crossed his sheep-herder's mind. The last thing Joseph wanted was a long-term commitment to Federal employment in a foreign country when the only thing on his mind was getting back home to his dad in Hebron.

Joseph was not only an alien, but a slave; and a jailbird accused of rape. He had never held a political office of any kind whatsoever. His only experience in business management was the oversight of Potiphar's household affairs; nor had he any experience in either running or participating in a bureaucracy of the magnitude of which he spoke.

But there are people like Joseph who have a God-given natural aptitude in certain areas. The don't need training and they don't need experience. They're like some combat platoon sergeants who, when you throw them into the mouths of canons, don't panic and don't get flustered. They perform like they've been doing that sort of thing all their lives.

Joseph probably wasn't aware that he had a God-given knack for running a big show like a national food bank. But God was, and that's exactly why He's going to persuade those big shots to put His own man in charge because the very survival of the people of Israel heavily depends upon an effective contingency to meet those inevitable seven years of famine; and even after the famine ended, there would still yet be a time of recovery before Egypt got back up to speed.

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Gen 41:37-46a


†. Gen 41:37-38 . . Joseph's suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisers. And Pharaoh said to his courtiers: Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of the gods?

If there was one thing those old-time pagans valued, it was a connection to the spirit world, and they sensed that Joseph had it. I think they were not only in awe of him, but maybe even just a bit afraid of him too.

The Hebrew word for "gods" is 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which is both plural and ambiguous, so you could just as easily translate it gods as God; but in the Egypt of that day and age, "gods" makes more sense.

Joseph is going to become very popular with Pharaoh, and it's all to the one true god's credit.

"God was with him . . . and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt." (Acts 7:9-10)

The Greek word for "favor" in that verse is charis (khar'-ece) which is the very word translated "grace" in English versions of the New Testament. So then, you could say that Joseph found grace in the eyes of Pharaoh just like Noah found grace in the eyes of God back in Gen 6:8.

Putting it all together, it says that Pharaoh was inclined to bless Joseph just like God was inclined to bless Noah; viz: to do good for him; provide for him, and protect him from harm. God trusted Noah, and assigned him the Herculean task of building the ark. Pharaoh trusted Joseph, and assigned him the Herculean task of implementing a plan to save his country from certain ruin. Noah's ark kept the human race alive. Joseph's plan kept the Egyptians alive (and his family too). Quite a few parallels in Noah and Joseph.

But in order for Joseph's plan to work, he had to have absolute power in the country of Egypt. Everybody had to fear him so they'd be sure to cooperate.

†. Gen 41:39-43 . .Then Pharaoh said to Joseph; Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you. So Pharaoh said to Joseph; I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

. . .Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, "Make way!" Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.


Pharaoh's signet ring was for signing documents and authorizing whatever purchases and requisitions Joseph might need to fulfill his duties; and for mustering and/or conscripting the necessary manpower to get it all done. That signet ring was terrifying. With it, Joseph could actually order people gibbeted if he wanted and nobody would question it. (Hag 2:20-23)

†. Gen 41:44 . . Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph; Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

Although Joseph was directly responsible to Pharaoh and to no one else, his powers were limited. He couldn't wage war or set foreign policy. He had no say in the balance of trade, or the colonization of foreign lands. There were other people taking care of those operations. Joseph's jurisdiction for the moment was related to the task he was assigned, sort of like the head of homeland security, a drug czar, or a FEMA commander. Joseph's position was in supreme oversight of Egypt's domestic product.

†. Gen 41:45a . . Pharaoh then gave Joseph the name Tsophnath Pa'neach, and he gave him for a wife Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On.

Tsophnath Pa'neach was an Egyptian name, same as Moses is an Egyptian name; which reflected Joseph's transition from Palestinian goat-herder to a naturalized Egyptian citizen; which of course had the effect of emancipating him from slavery.

Poti-phera is essentially the same name as Joseph's original master: Potiphar.

The city of On was possibly Heliopolis, a city dedicated to the worship of the Sun god.

Priests were a highly respected caste in Egypt. Having a father-in-law in the priesthood secured Joseph a privileged social status appropriate for a man in his position, and no doubt landed some good connections right in his lap. There's no record that Joseph protested the marriage, but likely saw it as an advantage he could exploit.

Joseph's fortunes bring to mind the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. For years The Terminator was just a big clunky muscleman; an ex body builder from Thal bei Graz Austria who made it good in Hollywood, and then one day found himself Governor of Cah-lee-forn-yah. Mr. Schwarzenegger though, in contrast to Joseph, is ambitious and worked hard for his success; it wasn't handed to him on a silver platter like Joseph's, but you kind of get the idea.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, like Joseph, married well too: a Kennedy girl no less. His marriage to Maria Shriver gave him an in with the Kennedy clan and access to the speaking and writing skills of an intelligent, widely respected, female journalist. A few political pundits are pretty sure that Maria's "Women Joining Arnold" website was responsible for gaining her husband a large block of female voters in the aftermath of his "groping" accusation. Good connections are always an asset in the political world.

Everything Pharaoh did for Joseph worked in his favor towards giving him a highly visible public profile.

†. Gen 41:45b-46a . .Thus Joseph emerged in charge of the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Joseph went from slave to aristocrat practically overnight; and with neither political, nor business experience on his résumé whatsoever.

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Gen 41:46b


†. Gen 41:46b . . Leaving Pharaoh's presence, Joseph traveled through all the land of Egypt.

That reminds me of how U.S. Presidents fly over disaster areas in a helicopter to "assess" the situation. Well Joseph didn't have a whirlybird at his disposal. If he was going to assess Egypt's agricultural assets first hand, and decide where to strategically locate his granaries, then he would have to do it in that spiffy government-provided conveyance that came with his job.

Joseph would actually get himself dirty down on the ground on Egypt's highways, byways, townships, and farmlands, rather than cruising aloft in the luxury and comfort of an Air Force One and delegating all the leg work to a corps of go-fers and fact-finders.

Joseph hasn't seen his dad for 13 years now, and if there ever was a golden opportunity for him to escape and get back to Canaan, this was it. But he couldn't. Joseph was in a catch-22. If he went back home at this point, the coming famine might destroy his own family. He had to stay and make sure Egypt became the world's bread basket so his kin would have somewhere to go and get food when those seven years of desperate want finally came along.

True, Pharaoh could just appoint someone else to the task if Joseph deserted his post, but Joseph couldn't take the chance his replacement wouldn't be a devil instead of a savior. Sometimes, when you want the job done right, you just have to do it yourself.

Then too, taking off now might cause Pharaoh to lose confidence in Joseph's predictions. He might suspect, and who wouldn't, that Joseph made it all up just so's he could get out of jail. Then Pharaoh would probably cancel any and all preparations for the years ahead; with tragic consequences. No, Joseph was stuck.

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Gen 41:47-52


†. Gen 41:47-49 . . During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

When there's small amounts to work with, it's easy to use small containers to tally it. But Egypt's abundance was so great that it was impractical to tally the grain with standard containers. Instead, I would think Joseph did it simply by building his silos to a standard size and dimension. So, instead of tallying "bushels" of grain, Joseph simplified the process by tallying silos.

Although storing the grain near the communities where it was grown was a practical consideration for later distribution, it was also a wise diplomatic move. When people see their hard-earned things carted off to the unknown, it makes them nervous about getting their stuff back. Putting his granaries nearby, reassured local growers and consumers that Joseph meant well by them and wasn't just taxing their produce for personal profit.

I would like to think that Joseph employed local labor for the construction of his granaries rather than contracting it out to a global construction company that polished the apple with him via his father-in-law's contacts; thus once again showing good faith by injecting wages into local economies. Little by little, Joseph was gaining the Egyptians' trust, which must have no doubt pleased Pharaoh well and made him feel pretty good about his choice of man for the job.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, Joseph's marriage was holding up okay and he became the father of two boys.

†. Gen 41:50 . . Before the years of famine came, Joseph became the father of two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On, bore to him.

In the Bible, it's the fathers who determine tribal ancestry; so the two boys were Hebrews by birth rather than Egyptians. I don't know how Mr. Poti-phera felt about that, but what was he to do? One of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, monarchs on earth had arranged his daughter's marriage to Joseph so there really wasn't much he could say about it.

†. Gen 41:51 . . Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said; God has made me forget all my troubles and the family of my father.

The meaning of Manessah's name in Hebrew is self explanatory. However, there is just no way that Joseph forgot all about his family. That verse has to be interpreted according to the progress of the narrative.

I seriously doubt that God deleted Joseph's memory; but rather, helped him to get over doting about his misfortunes. Doting can lead to serious psychological damage, dark thoughts, and long term depression, and/or in the case of anger, it can lead to malice and sleepless nights plotting revenge, or rehearsing retorts over and over again to counter something someone said that you didn't like.

Though they weren't ideal, Joseph was at peace with his current circumstances. Exactly how God brought him to that point isn't stated. But in chapters ahead, Joseph will inform his brothers that his misfortunes actually benefited everyone so that Joseph became a savior; not only to Egypt, but to his own family as well (Gen 45:4-11, Gen 50:20).

So then, in the end, Joseph accepted his plight graciously and held no hard feelings towards anyone in particular, nor was he blue and sad about being away from home all those years because he was fully aware it all worked toward the greater good.

Since Joseph couldn't leave Egypt himself to go home and visit his family, then one has to wonder why he didn't dispatch a messenger to let his dad know he was okay. Well; for one thing, to do so would have exposed his brothers' murderous scheme, and who knows what kind of disharmony that would have created in Jacob's home. This was one of those cases where it's better to follow the advice of some Beatles' lyrics; "Words of wisdom: let it be."

But seriously, I doubt Jacob would have believed it was actually his very own Joseph in Pharaoh's court but would have automatically assumed it was a cruel hoax. Later, Joseph is going to be sure that his brothers understand that they weren't being told second-hand about his prosperity, nor being fed a rumor; but were hearing about it from their long-lost brother's very own lips. (Gen 45:12-13)

†. Gen 41:52 . . Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said; God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.

Ephraim's name actually means "doubly fruitful" viz: bumper-crop fruitful; which is obviously in recognition of God's providence in a place where a man of God would certainly least expect to find it.

I still think that Joseph had given up all hope of prosperity, and of having a family of his own; but as it turns out, he got both anyway in spite of his unfortunate circumstances. Maybe he'd rather have married a girl back home, but you know what they say: Beggars can't be choosers. At least Joseph was no longer a jailed slave locked up as an accused rapist with no future at all. Asenath and Poti-phera may not have been Joseph's ideal in-laws, but things could have turned out a lot worse.

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Gen 41:53-57


†. Gen 41:53-54 . . At last the seven years of plenty came to an end. Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. There were crop failures in all the surrounding countries, too, but in Egypt there was plenty of grain in the storehouses.

Joseph had made no mention of the misfortunes of Egypt's neighbors to Pharaoh. But now comes out the reason for Egypt's incredible over-abundance during the good years. It wasn't meant just to sustain their own selves that God had so blessed the Egyptians, no, all around them countries were effected, became desperate, and forced to look outside themselves for relief.

In order for the countries all around Egypt to experience the famine, it would mean that they too were experiencing severe reductions in annual rainfall. Though northern Egypt, around the Nile delta, normally receives very little rain to begin with, it's agriculture prospers because of heavy rainfalls way down in Africa that feed tributaries flowing into the Nile; e.g. the Blue Nile. We're talking about a massive watershed encompassing several thousands of square miles of Africa's countryside. And that, added to the surrounding countries, really adds up to an incredibly large geographic area effected by an unbelievable large-scale drought.

†. Gen 41:53-56 . .Throughout the land of Egypt the people began to starve. They pleaded with Pharaoh for food, and he told them; Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you. So with severe famine everywhere in the land, Joseph opened up the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians.

Advocates of a welfare state might question Joseph's ethical integrity and want to know why he "sold" grain to his fellow citizens instead of just doling it out in soup lines. Well, for one thing, quite a few of the Egyptians had good incomes (Ex 3:20-22, Ex 11:2). They were quite prosperous and could easily afford to pay-- at least at first. Secondly, Joseph answered to a higher power than himself. It was his duty to look out for Pharaoh's best interests, and make sure his boss received adequate taxes even during lean years (cf. Matt 25:14-30, 1Cor 4:1-2, 1Pet 4:10).

†. Gen 41:57 . . And people from surrounding lands also came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.

The "world" wasn't the whole planet, nor did the drought effect the whole planet as the Flood had. The famine was severe throughout the world, but not everywhere under the whole sky (cf. Gen 7:19); meaning that wherever the famine was, it was severe; as opposed to severe in some places while tolerable in others; viz: nobody had it good. Wherever that famine went, if it went there at all, then it was all bad rather than some bad and some not so bad.

At this point, Joseph had been away from home for twenty years (cf. Gen 37:2, Gen 41:46, Gen 41:53) and had seen neither his dad nor his brothers even once in all that time. When he was sold into slavery, Joseph was just a young teen-ager; now he's in his late thirties. He was just a boy then; now he's a man.

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Gen 42:1-8


†. Gen 42:1 . .When Jacob learned that there were rations of grain in Egypt, he said to his sons; Why do you just keep looking at each other?

You can just picture what was going on. One brother would turn to another and ask; What are we going to do for food? And the other would just shrug and raise his eyebrows. They must have been doing that a lot lately because apparently it was beginning to grate on their dad.

†. Gen 42:2-4 . . He continued: I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die. Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.

To Jacob's knowledge, Joseph was dead. His mother was certainly dead, having died giving birth to Benjamin back in chapter 35. So, to Jacob's mind, all that's left of the love of his life is Benjamin. So that if something were to happen to him, he would have nothing left to remind him of Rachel, and that whole side of the family would be gone.

Benjamin, at this time, wasn't a little kid. He was born when the family moved south from Bethel to Hebron back in chapter 35. And as Joseph was now about 38, and sold into slavery at 17 while Jacob was at Hebron, then Benjamin is, at the bare minimum, at least 21.

†. Gen 42:5 . . So Israel's sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.

That must have been an interesting sight. The brothers mingled in with caravans traveling to (and from) Egypt, and there must have been a lot of them because the drought had effected the whole land of Palestine, possibly even clear up into Syria and Lebanon. Traveling in a caravan had its benefits. With food so scarce, grain would be more valuable than money, and lone travelers would be easy targets for desperate clans; and brigands too.

†. Gen 42:6a . . Now Joseph was powerful in the land; the one who sold grain to all its people.

Apparently, before anybody could obtain grain, they had to first go by the Minister Of Agriculture's office and purchase a permit in the form of an official receipt, which was then taken to a designated silo and redeemed for grain. Apparently, collecting the money, and issuing permits, was a task that Joseph personally supervised himself rather than delegate to subordinates: which tells me that Joseph trusted no one. And no surprise.

Those permits were a golden opportunity for graft and/or embezzling. A dishonest clerk could smuggle some of those permits out of the office and distribute them to friends and relatives and/or peddle them on the black market because they were just as valuable as Cap & Trade emission permits and food stamps. You could probably scalp those grain coupons for at least double what somebody paid for them.

†. Gen 42:6b-8 . . So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. Where do you come from? he asked. From the land of Canaan, they replied, to buy food. Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.

One can hardly blame Joseph for acting like a stranger. For all he knew, his brothers were still toxic; and might be inclined to find new ways to mess up his life yet once more like they did when he lived at home. When people have been burned by someone they trust; that trust is not easily regained; nor does it deserve to be. Those men tried to murder Joseph-- his own flesh and blood kin tried. That's something that's neither easily forgotten, nor easily forgiven; and shouldn't be. Joseph's reluctance to befriend his brothers at this point is fully justified. Only a fool would try to kiss a rattlesnake after one bites him on the nose.

But at the same time, this presents a dilemma for Joseph. No doubt he's anxious for an update of his father Jacob's health and welfare, and also of his one full brother Benjamin; against whom Joseph harbored no bad feelings whatsoever. I sincerely believe that if it wasn't for Joseph's concern for his father and kid brother back home, that he never, ever would have told his brothers anything about himself. They would have come and gone with no consciousness at all that they'd ever passed his way.

It's not surprising that Joseph's older brothers didn't recognize him. He was just a shiny-faced, 17 year-old teen-ager the last they saw him. They haven't seen their kid brother for the past 21 years. In that time his face and his voice had aged to that of a matured 38 year-old man. Plus he's cultured far different than any of Palestine's sheep herders. He has an Egyptian hair cut, an Egyptian beard, speaks the Egyptian language, wears the expensive clothing of Egyptian aristocrats; and he's a top-of-the-heap Egyptian government official; a position in which they would never in a million years expect to find their sheep-herding kid brother.

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Gen 42:9-14


†. Gen 42:9a . .Then he remembered his dreams about them

When Joseph had those dreams back in chapter 37, he probably had no clue as to how they would be fulfilled. He was only aware, from his father Jacob's interpretations, that he would be lord over his whole family, including his parents. Now it's becoming clear to him just exactly how those dreams were to play out in real life.

†. Gen 42:9b . . and said to them: You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.

That was a reasonable suspicion. Incursions into Egypt by Asians coming via the Way of Horus-- a military highway from Canaan that led through Gaza to El-'Arish --were a recurrent problem. So it would be only natural to assume that if Egypt was raided from the northeast during normal years, it could be expected to be raided even more often, and with greater boldness, during a food-related crisis that was effecting a huge part of the world of that day.

Foreign invaders would of course be encouraged to think that maybe the Egyptians were so distracted by just trying to survive that they'd let their guard down and have no heart for fighting. A nation in crises is a plausible target of opportunity for any ambitious conqueror. It of course fell to Joseph's responsibility to carefully screen foreigners to be certain of their true purposes for entering Egypt. Were they looking for food; or were they looking for weak points in Egypt's defenses?

Joseph really had no good reason at all to trust his own brothers. Not only had they been so callous as to plot their own kid brother's murder, and sell him to slave traders, but he no doubt remembered how two of them viciously hacked to death the entire number of men in the town of Shechem back in chapter 34. So far as he was concerned, they were capable of anything, even of pillaging a vulnerable Egypt under the guise of ordinary people just looking for something to eat like everybody else.

†. Gen 42:10-11 . . But they said to him: No, my lord! Truly, your servants have come to procure food. We are all of us sons of the same man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies!

Ten men all together is too obvious. I think that professional spies would split up and not travel together nor even enter Egypt on the very same day. Perhaps they hoped that by divulging details about their family, it would help convince their inquisitor that they weren't entering Egypt for military purposes. But even that story could be perceived as a cover to an official in Joseph's position.

†. Gen 42:12 . . And he said to them: No, you have come to see the land in its nakedness!

A word like "nakedness" can imply any number of things. One is that the once majestic, and superior, land of Egypt was debased and embarrassed by it's severely reduced agricultural production. It was world famous for abundance, and proud of its independence. Egypt needed help from no one, and asked for none. On the contrary, Egypt was everyone else's ace in the hole in times of trouble. However, during this particular famine, the once proud nation's agriculture was in ruins just like everybody else's and would have been destitute just like everybody else too except for one thing: Joseph and his federally-funded grain silos.

†. Gen 42:13 . . But they replied: Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.

For the second time they volunteer personal information about themselves; and probably for the same reason as the first. However, it was music to Joseph's ears because no doubt when he didn't see his kid brother Benjamin traveling with his eldest brothers, he began to be concerned that they had done to him what they had previously wrought upon himself. Although they lied about the "one" who is no more (lying about Joseph was by now probably a reflexive habit) they certainly weren't lying about the youngest because there was no reason to. If Benjamin were dead, then they simply would have said "two" are no more.

†. Gen 42:14 . . Joseph said to them: It is just as I told you: You are spies!

With Joseph's intelligence, and from his day after day experience with an endless stream of truly desperate people, he would have known by now (especially with that incredible intuition of his) that the ten weak-knees guys standing before him certainly weren't professional soldiers. He's being deliberately obtuse, and it's becoming obvious now (at least to us Bible students who know Joseph's true identity) that he's feeling his brothers out to ascertain whether or not they're the very same unrepentant, unremorseful, cold-blooded, steely-eyed, dirty rotten scoundrels they were in the past. Until he's certain they can be trusted, Joseph isn't going to afford them the even tiniest hint of who he really is.

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Gen 42:15-24a


†. Gen 42:15-17 . . By this you shall be put to the test: unless your youngest brother comes here, by Pharaoh, you shall not depart from this place! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain confined, that your words may be put to the test whether there is truth in you. Else, by Pharaoh, you are nothing but spies! And he confined them in the guardhouse for three days.

During those three days the brothers must have felt like they were in a purgatory as they endured unbearable anxiety while conferring amongst themselves about their current state of affairs. They were no doubt positive that Jacob would never allow his favorite little boy to be taken down to Egypt where this obtuse Egyptian big shot just might lock him up with the others so that in the end, all surviving eleven of Jacob's sons would never be seen again.

†. Gen 42:18-20a . . On the third day Joseph said to them: Do this and you shall live, for I am a God-fearing man. If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be held in your place of detention, while the rest of you go and take home rations for your starving households; but you must bring me your youngest brother, that your words may be verified and that you may not die.

This reversal of terms couldn't have done anything other than to reinforce the brothers' fears that not only was this Egyptian big shot obtuse, but also unpredictable.

Turning loose nine of the ten men would be dumb because, militarily, sacrificing one to save nine is an acceptable loss. Joseph's excuse for this obvious military blunder is that he's a "God-fearing" man; viz: just in case their story is true, he didn't want to be responsible for the starvation of innocent families.

Joseph had the advantage of knowing far more about their family than they dreamed. As it turned out, Jacob would have gladly sacrificed the brother who will be chosen to remain behind in order to protect Benjamin, except that to not return, meant certain starvation; and no doubt Joseph easily foresaw Jacob's dilemma in that matter. He really had them in a catch-22.

†. Gen 42:20b . . And they did accordingly.

The men agreed to Joseph's terms, but not without going around the room about it first. These guys are dumber than a stack of bricks. They discussed their current predicament, and their consciences, all within Joseph's hearing. (Never assume foreigners don't know your language just because they aren't speaking it.)

†. Gen 42:21-23 . .They said to one another: Alas, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on at his anguish, yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us. That is why this distress has come upon us. Then Reuben spoke up and said to them: Did I not tell you, do no wrong to the boy? But you paid no heed. Now comes the reckoning for his blood. They did not know that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between him and them.

Apparently the interpreter had been either dismissed and/or sent on an errand and left Joseph guarding the men by himself while they deliberated amongst themselves.

Isn't it interesting that those men carried the guilt of their treatment of Joseph all those 21 years that he was away from home? This probably wasn't the first time they blamed their bad luck on Joseph. Probably every time one of them hit his thumb with a hammer, or bumped his head on a shelf, he thought of Joseph.

Those men's minds hadn't enjoyed a moments peace since the day the slave traders carted their kid brother off to the big unknown in Egypt. At night, when the demons come, their minds would once and again, for the Nth time, rehearse his awful wailing and begging down in that hole, and see the pain on his face, a pain that was burned into their memories like a rancher's cattle brand. No doubt those poor guys all suffered from recurring nightmares about the incident too.

All those 21 years, Jacob hadn't stopped grieving for Joseph; so that every morning, those guys were treated to the sight of their father all blue and depressed at the loss of his favorite boy. Those poor guys. It was impossible to forget Joseph with their dad moping around all the time in a sorrowful state to remind them.

†. Gen 42:24a . . He turned away from them and wept.

Genesis offers no explanation whatsoever for Joseph's weeping; and I half suspect it's because unless somebody has actually themselves lived through an experience similar to his, then there is just no way even the brightest of Bible students can fully relate to what Joseph was feeling at that moment no matter how skillfully the best writers on earth tried to explain it. His weeping wasn't a matter of the mind; no, it was a matter of the heart; and oftentimes those kinds of matters can't be put into words by the very people themselves who are awash with those kinds of emotions.

Joseph certainly had no good reason to feel any particular bonding with his brothers. If anything, he should be feeling totally disconnected from them. They were never his friends, and not once did anything good by him; the rather, he was disowned in his own home by the very people who by all rights should have loved and supported him the most.

Although Joseph grew up with big brothers, he didn't, if you know what I mean. His only trusty companions at home were his dad Jacob, and his kid brother Benjamin; and it seems clear to me that it's for their sakes alone that he's tolerating these ten felons for even another minute. It must have taken a Herculean effort on Joseph's part to restrain his natural impulses to order their bodies immediately gibbeted and set out for the vultures.

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Gen 42:24b-29a


†. Gen 42:24b . . Returning, he talked some more with them. He then chose Simeon from among them and had him shackled in their sight.

Rueben had shown some good colors back at the pit in chapter 37, so the lot fell to Simeon seeing as how he was next in the line of seniority of the ten brothers (Gen 29:31-33). Simeon was a good choice since he and his brother Levi had so far shown themselves to be the cruelest among the brothers in the matter of Dinah back in chapter 34. Let's just give Simeon a taste of mortal fear for a change and see how he likes it.

Later, at home, neither Jacob nor the others will seem overly concerned that Simeon was selected to be detained, and the total focus will be upon Benjamin's safety rather than upon Simeon's rescue; in fact, Jacob will write him off as dead.

Apparently, Simeon wasn't all that appreciated by his own family: and no wonder with that savage nature of his. They were probably all, including Jacob, relieved to be rid of his company. Joseph's own lack of popularity among his elder brothers was a natural friction stemming from old fashioned sibling rivalry. But Simeon was just plain mean; while Joseph was likely a pleasant sort of guy and easy to get along with. Difficult people shouldn't be surprised when others around them spit on their graves.

†. Gen 42:25-26 . . Joseph then ordered his servants to fill the men's sacks with grain, but he also gave secret instructions to return each brother's payment at the top of his sack. He also gave them provisions for their journey. So they loaded up their donkeys with the grain and started for home.

Returning his family's money was something that Joseph did for himself. How could he possibly make his own desperate kin pay for food under his control? He couldn't. In his position, Joseph could easily provide for all of them at no cost to themselves whatsoever.

"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1Tim 5:8)

Joseph was a man of honor. No doubt he made up for their payment out of his own pocket so that no one could accuse him of abusing his privileges and giving Pharaoh's grain away for nothing to people who had demonstrated that they had the wherewithal to pay for it. A man's reputation, after all, is his singular most valuable asset.

"Choose a good reputation over great riches; for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold." (Pro 22:1)

Giving them free provisions for the trip would have included food and water not only for themselves, but also their beasts. That was a diplomatic gesture, and would go a long ways towards making the family feel welcome down in Egypt, and encourage them to return since they had certainly been given a degree of fair treatment way beyond what they had any right to expect from a foreign dignitary.

†. Gen 42:27-28 . . As one of them was opening his sack to give feed to his burro at the night encampment, he saw his money right there at the mouth of his bag. And he said to his brothers: My money has been returned! It is here in my bag! Their hearts sank; and, trembling, they turned to one another, saying: What is this that God has done to us?

Why is it people always tend to blame God for their misfortunes? But in this case, their perceived misfortune is not that at all. If only they hadn't been so infected with guilt they would have easily seen that the Egyptian big shot was demonstrating that he meant only the best by them. But no; instead, they go off the deep end and interpret their host's graciousness as an ill omen rather than a token of good will. Some people are so suspicious of anything nice that people do for them-- always looking for an ulterior motive.

†. Gen 42:29a . .When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan

If Jacob was still living in Hebron, the distance the men traveled to get back home was roughly 250 miles if Joseph's headquarters was possibly either in, or near to, the city of Memphis, which is about ten miles south of today's Cairo.


NOTE: In the millennia prior to mechanized conveyances, the greatest obstacle to travel was distance. Today the average American zips around in a vehicle that can easily travel 55 miles in just one hour. That same distance would take eleven hours at a burro's pace. In other words; in the time it takes a burro to walk 55 miles, an automobile at 55 miles an hour can travel 605.

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Gen 42:29b-36


†. Gen 42:29b-34 . . they told him all that had befallen them, saying; The man who is lord of the land spoke harshly to us and accused us of spying on the land. We said to him: We are honest men; we have never been spies! There were twelve of us brothers, sons by the same father; but one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.

. . . But the man who is lord of the land said to us; By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take something for your starving households and be off. And bring your youngest brother to me, that I may know that you are not spies but honest men. I will then restore your brother to you, and you shall be at liberty to move about in the land.


When they got home, they proceeded to report to their father Jacob the details of their experience. In spite of his age, which was near 130, Jacob was still the dominant figure in the family; and apparently well respected since no one seems to feel inclined to question his authority.

†. Gen 42:35 . . As they were emptying their sacks, there, in each one's sack, was his money-bag! When they and their father saw their money-bags, they were alarmed.

It must have seemed to Jacob that his sons stole the grain, or why else would they still have their money? To the men, it must have seemed like the obtuse Egyptian big shot was toying with them; to set them up for a charge of theft. As these thoughts raced through every man's head, Jacob became paranoid; which Webster's defines as: a psychosis characterized by delusions of persecution.

†. Gen 42:36a . .Their father Jacob said to them: You have deprived me of my children.

Jacob held his eldest sons responsible for Joseph's demise. But he is even more complicit. Jacob should have known better than to send his young teen-age son all by himself to find the others a good many miles from home in a mostly wilderness area. That was irresponsible.

†. Gen 42:36b . . Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!

Poor ol' Jacob. Little did he know that the night gets darkest before the dawn. Mr. Israel had little to celebrate at this point; but morning was right around the corner.

They all, including Jacob, should have thought the whole situation through for a minute. The big shot accused the brothers of spying. So now why would he trump up a charge of theft against them? Which is worse, spying or theft? Spying, of course, is much worse than theft. And how ever could thievery prove the big shot's much more serious charge of spying against them?

It couldn't. No proficient spy is going to do something dumb that is sure to draw attention to himself. When Joshua's spies entered Jericho (Josh 2) did they begin shop-lifting, or taking things off of people's clothes lines? No. They were discreet. Jericho's authorities still caught on to them anyway, but at least it wasn't for something stupid.

So the men must have reasoned that the big shot was hedging his bets. If he couldn't get them on a charge of spying, then he would get them for the lesser charge of theft. But they should have asked themselves: Why would the obtuse big shot be so anxious to nail them at all? Is that how he amused himself; by framing people and throwing them in jail for something they didn't do? That's not an unusual police activity. In our own day, Iraqi authorities, under the auspices of Saddam Hussein, used to do that all the time.

For some reason, it just never occurred to the men that maybe the big shot down in Egypt simply pitied them. He had, after all, professed to fear God; and by doing so, implied that just in case their story were true, he didn't want to be responsible for causing their families any undue hardship; but no, they assumed the worst instead.

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Gen 42:37-38


†. Gen 42:37 . .Then Reuben said to his father: You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.

It would have been interesting to ask Reuben's boys how they felt about their dad's rash offer to trade their lives for Benjamin's. That is the very same stupid kind of deal that Lot offered the Sodomites back in chapter 19, only Lot's was dumber because he offered to trade his wife's babies for two perfect strangers' lives. What did men in those days think their offspring were? Cattle? Commodities? God pity kids that grow up in a home with parents that think so little of them.

And did Reuben really think that slaying Jacob's own grandchildren would somehow make him feel any better about losing Benjamin? That's like burning my house, and then stealing my car to make me feel all better about the loss of my home. Reuben either had a very low IQ, or must have been out of his cotton-picking mind! Sometimes I think Joseph rather pitied his elder brothers for being such imbeciles. Small wonder God chose Joseph to go down to Egypt. The rest of them had no more intelligence than a bar of soap.

†. Gen 42:38 . . But he said: My son must not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If he meets with disaster on the journey you are taking, you will send my white head down to sheol in grief.

Some translators render sheol (sheh-ole') as the grave; a place to inter a corpse. But though sheol can include one's grave; it's not the whole picture. The specific Hebrew word for grave is qibrah (kib-raw') e.g. Gen 23:4.

Qibrah is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word mnemeion (mnay-mi'-on) which means a remembrance, i.e. cenotaph (place of interment); viz: grave, sepulchre, tomb (e.g. Matt 27:60). So then, while qibrah indicates a corpse's disposal site; sheol indicates not only its grave, but includes a separate place for interring the spirit of the person who at one time occupied their body before it passed away. (cf. Jonah 2:1-6, Matt 12:40, Ps 16:8-10, Acts 2:22-31)

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Gen 43:1-14


†. Gen 43:1-7 . . But the famine in the land was severe. And when they had eaten up the rations which they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them: Go again and procure some food for us.

. . . But Judah said to him: The man warned us "Do not let me see your faces unless your brother is with you". If you will let our brother go with us, we will go down and procure food for you; but if you will not let him go, we will not go down, for the man said to us "Do not let me see your faces unless your brother is with you".

. . . And Israel said: Why did you serve me so ill as to tell the man that you had another brother? They replied: But the man kept asking about us and our family, saying "Is your father still living? Have you another brother?" And we answered him accordingly. How were we to know that he would say bring your brother here?


Judah is direct, and right to the point. If Jacob doesn't let the brothers take Benjamin with them on the next trip, then the family is certain to go without food. It's just that simple, and there's no use in sugar coating it.

†. Gen 43:8-10 . . Then Judah said to his father Israel: Send the boy in my care, and let us be on our way, that we may live and not die-- you and we and our children. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible; if I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I shall stand guilty before you forever. For we could have been there and back twice if we had not dawdled.

At this point, the number of kin for whom Jacob was directly responsible to provide numbered well over 70, upwards of 100, because the list in chapter 46 doesn't include his sons' wives, nor any of the wives of his grandsons. Truly, if Jacob wasn't careful, he would cause the loss of his entire clan in the interest of saving just one. Since the whole clan was now in mortal danger, they really had nothing to lose by risking Benjamin's life. He would die anyway from hunger; so why not have him die trying to obtain some additional grain from Egypt? It was an acceptable risk given the circumstances.

During all this discussion, the Egyptian big shot is only referred to as "the man" which means Joseph didn't tell the brothers his official Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah; and they couldn't have gotten it off their grain permits because Joseph signed all government documents with that signet gadget given to him by Pharaoh back in chapter 41.

†. Gen 43:11-14 . .Then their father Israel said to them: If it must be so do this: take some of the strength of the land in your baggage, and carry them down as a gift for the man-- some balm and some honey, labdanum, pistachio nuts, and almonds.

. . . And take with you double the silver, carrying back with you the silver that was replaced in the mouths of your bags; perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother too; and go back at once to the man. And may El Shaddai dispose the man to mercy toward you, that he may release to you your other brother, as well as Benjamin. As for me, if I am to be bereaved, I shall be bereaved.


The "choice" fruits would have to be limited to produce that doesn't spoil easily since it was probably three weeks travel time via burro.

Balm was a good gift, since it was a trade item (Gen 37:25) and a valuable first aid treatment.

Labdanum is a soft dark fragrant bitter oleoresin derived from various rockroses (genus Cistus) and used in making perfumes. Another trade item.

Before the advent of processed sugar and artificial sweeteners, honey was a lot more popular than it is now. There is no Hebrew word for sugar in the entire Old Testament. A little-known fact about natural honey is its medicinal value. Honey fights bacteria in wounds in several ways, including the steady production of hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. One type of honey-- Manuka --is especially effective.

Honey was valued in the old world; as evidenced by it being one of the nouns to describe the qualities of the promised land (Ex 3:8). The Hebrew word for honey-- debash (deb-ash') --is a bit ambiguous. It can mean the kind of organic goo produced in nature by bees and/or can indicate a thick, intensely sweet syrup produced from dates and grape juice; which Arabs call dibs. In this story, either one would have been as good as the other since neither were easy to obtain.

I would think that honey-bee honey would be the more prized since there's been found no evidence of scientific agriculture in the Palestine of that day. Any honey gathered would have to be found by first searching for it in the wild, and then braving its angry owners in order to collect it. (cf. 1Sam 14:24-27)

The almonds, honey, and pistachios were just treats; but the other items, given by a man, to a man, were about the equivalent of giving a girl jewelry. They weren't cheap. And considering the austere conditions in the land caused by the intense drought, anything edible would certainly be appreciated far more than normal.

Jacob knew God as Yhvh as well as by His name El Shaddai (Gen 27:20, Gen 28:13) but in this instance he depends upon God as El Shaddai; the God of Abraham's covenant (Gen 17:1-2, Gen 35:10-12) the god powerful enough to control nature and make the impossible happen. (cf. Eph 3:20)


NOTE: I'm not sure just how well-informed the ancients were about the nutritional benefits of almonds; but they are an excellent source of natural riboflavin (B2).

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Gen 43:15-29


†. Gen 43:15-18a . . So the men took that gift, and they took with them double the money; as well as Benjamin. They made their way down to Egypt, where they reported to Joseph.

. . .When Joseph saw Benjamin with them; he said to his house steward: Take the men into the house; slaughter and prepare an animal, for the men will dine with me at noon. The man did as Joseph said, and he brought the men into Joseph's house.


It's highly unlikely Joseph recognized Benjamin since he was just a little boy when big brother went off to Egypt. At this point, Benjamin is much older-- over 21 --and likely much older than that since, at this point, Joseph had already been in Egypt for at least that long. Later, Joseph will interrogate his elder brothers to make sure they actually brought him.

†. Gen 43:18b . . But the men were frightened at being brought into Joseph's house.

They had good reason to be frightened. It was common for Egyptian big shots to have dungeons under their homes where they kept their own private little penal colony.

†. Gen 43:18c . . It must be, they thought; because of the silver, replaced in our bags the first time, that we have been brought inside-- as a pretext to attack us and seize us as slaves, with our pack animals.

That's actually a pretty good mob trick; it's in movies like Godfather, and in TV programs like The Sopranos all the time. The mark is thrown off guard with courtesy, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, generosity, and friendship; until the moment of truth when the guns, knives, garrotes, anchor chains, and/or bags of concrete come out. The men are justifiably worried; and so rather than wait and be confronted about the silver, they come forward to cop a plea.

†. Gen 43:19-22 . . So they went up to Joseph's house steward and spoke to him at the entrance of the house.

. . . If you please, my lord, they said; we came down once before to procure food. But when we arrived at the night encampment and opened our bags, there was each one's money in the mouth of his bag, our money in full. So we have brought it back with us. And we have brought down with us other money to procure food. We do not know who put the money in our bags.


No true thief of course would go to all the trouble of actually bringing the silver back; sort of like people who are given too much change from a purchase and keep it; saying nothing.

†. Gen 43:23a . . He replied: All is well with you; do not be afraid. Your god, the god of your father, must have put treasure in your bags for you. I got your payment.

In the steward's thinking; which god is the god of your father? If he had used the name Yhvh it would be easier to answer that question. But in light of the times and the circumstances, it isn't unreasonable to assume that the steward had no idea who their own personal god was, nor did he care; since gods were plentiful in Egypt and the brothers would probably be like everybody else and simply worship the one they inherited and grew up with at home: whichever that might be.

†. Gen 43:23b-25 . . And he brought out Simeon to them. Then the man brought the men into Joseph's house; he gave them water to bathe their feet, and he provided feed for their burros. They laid out their gifts to await Joseph's arrival at noon, for they had heard that they were to dine there.

In the brothers' minds; all the leniency and courtesy being extended to them was little more than a pretext designed to accomplish just one purpose: to give them a false sense of security so they wouldn't suspect the real purpose for being brought to Joseph's home; which they truly believed was to confiscate their goods and their livestock, and to harness themselves in slavery.

†. Gen 43:26-28 . .When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts that they had brought with them into the house, bowing low before him to the ground. He greeted them, and he said: How is your aged father of whom you spoke? Is he still in good health? They replied: It is well with your servant our father; he is still in good health. And they bowed and made obeisance.

The Hebrew word for "obeisance" is shachah (shaw-khaw') which means to prostrate oneself in homage. That very same word is translated "worship" in other places. (e.g. Gen 22:5, Gen 24:26, Ex 34:14)

†. Gen 43:29a . . As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother's son, he asked: Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?

No doubt Joseph could tell by the looks on everybody's faces that it was indeed Benjamin so he didn't have to wait for an answer before responding.

†. Gen 43:29b . . May God be gracious to you, my son.

To be "gracious" is the Hebrew word chanan (khaw-nan') which means to stoop or bend in kindness to an inferior; viz: fraternize with someone below you; viz: waive the privileges of rank and descend to a less formal or less dignified level-- a mandated Christian social skill.

"Don't be conceited, and think so highly of yourself as to avoid associating with people below you." (Rom 12:16)

Somebody might be curious why Joseph called Benjamin "son" instead of brother. The Hebrew word for son (ben) is ambiguous and has a pretty wide application. It can mean not only a direct descendant, but also a grandson; or the result of an action like city building or township founding. It can also mean a subject, like citizens in a kingdom. In that respect, the potentate is regarded a father. (e.g. Isa 9:6)

It was no doubt in the "subject" aspect that Joseph applied it to his kid brother-- not as kin, but as below himself in rank because in Egypt, nobody was higher than Joseph except his own boss Pharaoh; which made Pharaoh a father to everyone under his jurisdiction; including Joseph. And besides, Joseph is not quite ready to reveal his true identity; so he has to maintain an air of aristocracy in order to keep them guessing.

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Gen 43:30


†. Gen 43:30 . .Then Joseph made a hasty exit because he was overcome with emotion for his brother and wanted to sob. Going into his private room, he wept there.

Only people who have found long-lost relatives can understand the wave of emotion that swept Joseph at this moment. It's a strange human experience.

When my own full brother found me after losing track of each other for almost 26 years, I broke down and had to call in sick to work the next day. It was overwhelming; and I don't even like the man. My brother and I were never friends. In point of fact, our reunion took place over the phone and via US Mail: we never did actually meet up face to face. I informed him, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever came to my home I would call the Sheriff. Anon, I took steps to insure he never wrote me, nor called me, ever again. If my brother should die before me, I don't want to be told about it; and won't go to his funeral.

Somebody might ask: Why don't you forgive your brother and let bygones be bygones. No; they don't understand. My brother is toxic. He's on a third marriage and has left behind him a wake of broken-hearted, psychologically damaged wives and children. Everyone is secondary to his business ambitions. Nobody is on a plane with those ambitions-- nobody. He's extremely competitive, supercilious, and always has to be the center of attention at the expense of everyone else's self respect. My brother is cursed with a natural talent for making people in his presence feel bad about themselves.

No, it's not as simple as bygones-- it's as simple as self defense. I am not going to let my brother close enough to de-humanize me all over again, and I am certainly not going to let him near any of my own family. It's just not going to happen unless he goes through some very miraculous changes first.

Haven't you noticed how cautious Joseph has been with his own brothers? That's the lesson of this section; don't miss it. Joseph has been carefully gauging his elder brothers' reactions through all this to make very, very sure he can trust them enough to let them back into his life. There was too much at stake.

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Gen 43:31-34


†. Gen 43:31-32 . .Then he washed his face and came out; and regaining his composure, said: Serve the food. So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

Apparently the brothers didn't think anything of Joseph eating alone. Maybe they just thought (as common Egyptian culture dictated) the other Egyptians were too far below their host to be considered worthy of an invitation to sit at his table. In their minds, to do so would have been fraternization; viz: associating with people of lower official rank; thus implying that they were equal in worth.


NOTE: If the steward had told them Joseph was a Hebrew, I wonder how Jacob's sons would have reacted to that?

†. Gen 43:33 . . And they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another.

Reuben was the natural firstborn; but due to his incestuous tryst with Bilhah (Gen 35:22) Jacob transferred the position to Joseph (1Chrn 5:1). However, seeing as how Joseph wasn't seated with his brothers, then what would've been his position around the table defaulted to Reuben.

The seating arrangement wasn't at the brothers' discretion. It was totally under their host's control and that's why they were all so amazed. According to permutation, the odds of seating the 11 men according to their respective ages by coincidence is like 39,917,000 : 1

Since they had no reason to believe that Joseph knew any more about their family other than what they had already told him, perhaps at this point they suspected he was either clairvoyant or else blessed with an amazing degree of intuition; and they would have certainly been correct on that account even if circumstances had been different because any man with the ability to correctly interpret dreams should have no trouble figuring out birth orders.


NOTE: A Jewish Midrash (Genesis Rabba 92:5) has Joseph pretending to "divine" their seating order by means of his special silver goblet-- a key item coming up in just a few more verses.

†. Gen 43:34 . .Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin's serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they imbibed and were merry with him.

Every time I read that passage, my mind, like a knee-jerk reflex, instantly fantasizes a really hulking, heaping, ranch-size platter of vittles placed before Benjamin like is so often seen at buffets. Instead of making more than one trip to the food bars, there's invariably at least one person who piles everything they'll ever want onto just one plate, like Mt. Vesuvius, and then does a delicate balancing act while cautiously maneuvering their way to a table.

But a 5x serving isn't eo ipso a large amount; it would really depend upon the size of a standard portion. And if the food was served a' la carte, then five standard portions of just one item wouldn't necessarily take on the appearance of a banquet. Gourmet foods, especially, are typically small presentations that would barely qualify as an hors d'oeuvre to a strapping man like an ice-road trucker or a Pacific northwest logger. Five servings of gourmet food to one of those guys would amount to little more than an appetizer. But the point is: Benny's plate contained quite a bit more than his brothers' and that had to raise some curious eyebrows.


NOTE: The Hebrew word for "merry" is shakar (shaw-kar') which means to become tipsy; in a qualified sense, to satiate with a stimulating drink or (figuratively) influence; which indicates that the beverage Joseph's brothers were served had alcohol in it.

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Gen 44:1-13


†. Gen 44:1-2 . .Then he instructed his house steward as follows: Fill the men's bags with food, as much as they can carry, and put each one's money in the mouth of his bag. Put my silver goblet in the mouth of the bag of the youngest one, together with his money for the rations. And he did as Joseph told him.

When the brothers threw Joseph into that pit back in chapter 37, they fully intended to leave him there to die; all alone. So it makes sense that Joseph would want to gauge their reaction to his kid brother Benjamin being placed in a similar danger. Would they do to Benjamin what they had done to Joseph? . . . just leave him in Egypt to rot in a dungeon while they went back home to comfort and safety?

†. Gen 44:3-5 . . As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their burros. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward: Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them "Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn't this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done."

Divination cups were usually made out of silver and adorned with symbols, spells, and religious phrases; and oftentimes the owner's name was inscribed on it too. Diviners used their goblets in various ways. Some read surface patterns when a few drops of one liquid (e.g. oil) was dripped into a second liquid (e.g. water). Others divined by the movement of objects floating upon, or sinking within, the goblet's contents. Others yet studied the patterns that particles of gold formed when they settled to the bottom. Divining cups were a kind of crystal ball for determining future events or solving current mysteries. I would suspect that Joseph's divination cup was a personal gift from his father-in-law Mr. Poti-phera; priest of On.

†. Gen 44:6-8 . .When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him: Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?

The brothers' appeal to reason was of course a waste of righteous passion. It's well known that kleptomaniacs suffer a persistent neurotic impulse to steal without economic motive to do so. Booty to them is like blood to a vampire; viz: just the sight of it excites. Every once in a while, a famous celebrity gets caught shoplifting and we're all amazed that a millionaire would stoop to such a petty crime.

†. Gen 44:9 . . If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord's slaves.

The brothers' rash response evidences their complete confidence that there is just no way on God's green earth that any of them would ever steal anything at all; let alone from an Egyptian big shot's home. Many a poker player has lost it all on just one hand with that kind of confidence. Sometimes, you just can't tell what the other guy is holding; and in this case, the situation is a stacked deck.

†. Gen 44:10 . .Very well, then; he said; let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.

Either the steward wasn't listening, or he was instructed to say just exactly those words. They all volunteered to enslave themselves, but he'll settle on just the one who allegedly took the goblet, and it's because Joseph wants to gauge the elder brothers' reaction to his own kid brother's danger. If they failed to prove themselves honorable men, then I really think Joseph planned to harbor Benjamin and dispatch an escort for his father; but permanently bar the brothers from ever returning to Egypt. They would just have to make do on their own the best as they could till the famine was over regardless of their blood kinship.

†. Gen 44:11-13 . . So each one hastened to lower his bag to the ground, and each one opened his bag. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest; and the goblet turned up in Benjamin's bag. At this they rent their clothes. Each reloaded his pack animal, and they returned to the city.

"they" didn't really have to go back; Joseph's steward had already pre-released them. But surprise of surprises; instead of leaving Benny to rot in slavery like they had done to his big brother many years previously, they accompany him back to Egypt.

This turn of events wasn't due to a sincere concern for Benny's safety. As it turned out, the real concern was for their father Jacob and how he would handle the loss of yet another of Rachel's babies.

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Gen 44:14-34


†. Gen 44:14-17 . .When Judah and his brothers re-entered the house of Joseph, who was still there, they threw themselves on the ground before him. Joseph said to them: What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me practices divination?

. . . Judah replied: What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found. But he replied: Far be it from me to act thus! Only he in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave; the rest of you go back in peace to your father.


Surely Jacob wouldn't blame the older boys for the loss, since he was fully aware of the risks involved when he sent his sons back to Egypt for food; and the evidence against Benjamin made it appear he had no one to blame but himself for getting into trouble. And this time, the men wouldn't have to fake a death like they did Joseph's. It was a perfect situation; and I really think Joseph fully expected them to take advantage of Benjamin's plight and go back home without Joseph's brother; clapping themselves on the back for their good fortune at ridding themselves of yet one more "favorite" sibling.

I can only imagine Joseph's surprise to see them all, to a man, including the Terrible Trio-- Rueben, Simeon, and Levi --following his steward home with their clothing ripped, and their heads hung low with fear and anxiety.

Then, as if that wasn't surprise enough; Judah steps forward and pins the blame, not on Benjamin, but on all eleven of their own selves; thus demonstrating a degree of solidarity that I have no doubt Joseph had never before seen among his prone-to-rivalry elder brothers. Instead of asking how can Benjamin prove "his" innocence, Judah asks how can "we" prove "our" innocence. So then, Benjamin's alleged guilt is the whole family's guilt, rather than an individual matter; and in point of fact, it is a national matter too because those twelve men (counting Joseph) as a unit, represented the blossoming nation of Israel.

†. Gen 44:18 . .Then Judah went up to him and said: Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharaoh.

Joseph didn't dispute Judah on the matter of being the equal of Pharaoh. Not that he was a pharaoh; but that to Egypt's people, Joseph was as close to being the actual pharaoh as anybody under a pharaoh could possibly get. Compare Dan 7:13-13 where a human being is honored with the powers of God; so that God's subjects have to bend the knee to that highly exalted man just as if he were God in person. (cf. Ps 110:1 and Php 2:9-11)

†. Gen 44:19-34 . . My lord asked his servants: Have you a father or another brother? We told my lord: We have an old father, and there is a child of his old age, the youngest; his full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother, and his father dotes on him. Then you said to your servants: Bring him down to me, that I may set eyes on him. We said to my lord: The boy cannot leave his father; if he were to leave him, his father would die. But you said to your servants: Unless your youngest brother comes down, you will not see my face.

. . .When we came back to your servant my father, we reported my lord's words to him. Later our father said: Go back and procure some food for us. We answered: We cannot go down; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go down, for we may not see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.

. . .Your servant my father said to us: As you know, my wife bore me two sons. But one is gone from me, and I said: Alas, he was torn by a beast! And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to death in sorrow.

. . . Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us-- since his own life is so bound up with his --when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will send the white head of your servant our father down to death in grief. Now your servant has pledged himself for the boy to my father, saying: If I do not bring him back to you, I shall stand guilty before my father forever.

. . .Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me? Let me not be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!


Judah's impassioned plea isn't for Benjamin's sake, but for the sake of his father. That is an incredible turn-around since nobody seemed to care much about Jacob's feelings back in chapter 37 when they all to a man manipulated their dad into concluding Joseph was mauled to death by a wild animal.

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Gen 45:1-3


†. Gen 45:1-2 . . Joseph could stand it no longer. Out, all of you! he cried out to his attendants. He wanted to be alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept aloud. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh's palace.

The brothers have repeatedly proven their integrity, their family unity, and their filial loyalty. Joseph could gain nothing more conclusive than Judah's impassioned plea by additional stratagems; and by now, his own emotional tension was becoming overwhelming; even for a big strong man like himself, and it was all he could do to order his entourage out of the room before totally losing his composure right in front of everybody.

I can well imagine the shock and confusion that Joseph's housekeeping staff must have felt when their normally rock steady, no-monkey-business master broke down and began sobbing like a little girl who just lost her favorite Barbie down the garbage disposal. They had probably never once seen the second highest man in Egypt make an open display of emotion like this before; and the palace grapevine was instantly abuzz about it.

†. Gen 45:3a . . I am Joseph: he said to his brothers. Is my father still alive?

That question is so unnecessary that it makes no sense he would even ask. The brothers had mentioned Joseph's dad no less than fourteen times up to this point. Reading between the lines, and given the stress of the moment, what Joseph actually said was: Is my father really, really still alive!? And I don't think he asked that question of his brothers; but of himself; like a lottery winner who asks themselves: I won!? Me!?

I think, that as the years in Egypt accumulated, Joseph had given up his dad for dead and fully expected never to see him again. The news of Jacob's continuing existence has been just beyond belief, and way too good to be true. No doubt some of us feel very strongly that the world would be a much better place to be rid of our own dads; but not Joseph. He enjoyed a normal relationship at home, and was in fact his own dad's favorite son over all the others.

Joseph was a very fortunate man to have lived with a dad who filled his developing years with love, nurturing, attention, and acceptance. Some of us, your host included, have no clue what that must be like; and never will. I've seen a report online indicating that upwards of 80% of prison inmates were victims of child abuse. Following are some interesting "father" facts.

Only about 50% of America's kids will spend their entire childhood in an intact family. 24,000,000 children in America sleep in homes where their natural fathers do not live.

Approximately half of the kids in the United States will live in a single parent home at some point before the age of 18.

Nationally, 40% of kids whose fathers live outside the home have zero contact with them. The other 60 percent have contact an average of just 69 days during the year.

Kids from father-absent homes are 5x more likely to live in poverty, 3x more likely to fail in school, 2 to 3x more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems, and 3x more likely to commit suicide.

Up to 70% of adolescents charged with murder are from fatherless homes; and up to 70% of long-term prison inmates grew up in a fatherless home.

People like that can't be expected to connect with Joseph's feelings for his dad. Reading this section in Genesis is about as emotional an experience for them as reading the Wall Street Journal. I'm not criticizing; I'm only pointing out that it's difficult for some people to relate to this section of Genesis all because they were emotionally mangled in the meat grinder of a affection-starved childhood.


NOTE: The physical growth of thousands of North Korean children is being stunted by malnutrition; while here in America where our cities' homeless eat like kings in comparison, the emotional development of thousands of children is being stunted by filial neglect and indifference. I really don't know whom to say is the worse off . . NK children or US children.

†. Gen 45:3b . . But his brothers could not answer him, for his sudden emergence was making them palpitate.

I think part of their internal shivering was due to the fact that they instantly realized that this man, whom they assumed was a foreigner, knew their language and perfectly understood everything they had been discussing in his presence all along. Coupled with that was their instant terror that their long-lost kid brother was in a pretty good position for revenge: to do unto them as they had done unto him. And the brothers were utterly powerless to prevent him from doing so.

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Gen 45:4-13


†. Gen 45:4a . .Then Joseph said to his brothers: Come close to me.

You can just safely bet they had reflexively shrunk back from him as far as the boundaries of the room would permit.

†. Gen 45:4b-7 . .When they had done so, he said: I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be disappointed in yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a progeny on earth and to save your lives by a great rescue.

If it was only God's ambition to preserve Israel's future, He could have easily prevented the famine. And if He was looking ahead to Israel's rescue from Egyptian slavery, then couldn't He have just simply ordered Jacob to move everybody down to Egypt? No, that wouldn't have worked because the Hebrews were an abomination to the Egyptians. They would never have allowed the Hebrews to immigrate and settle in Egypt's choicest land under normal circumstances. So then, God set things up so that Egypt would owe the Hebrews a big favor; and would welcome them in spite of their disgust. Pharaoh and the Egyptians couldn't just take Joseph's providence for granted; no, they were deeply indebted for saving them all from starvation and possibly conquest by foreign powers.


NOTE: Famines are the result of climate change; which is a natural earth cycle. Nowadays, climate change is depicted as a man-made evil; but in reality, climate change is normal and would happen anyway regardless of the amount of fossil fuel man burns or doesn't burn. In other words: God didn't cause the famine in Josephs' day as a special event like the Flood; no, He simply saw it coming before anybody else did; just as He had seen many like it in the past.

†. Gen 45:8 . . So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh; lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

The sense in which Joseph was a "father" to Pharaoh, was in the capacity of a guardian; viz: of a provider and a protector. If not for Joseph, Pharaoh's kingdom would have surely collapsed.

The Hebrew word for "father" is 'ab (awb); which is ambiguous in that it has several applications. It can apply to a genetic ancestor (e.g. Gen 2:24), an inventor of skills and trades (e.g. Gen 4:20-21), a political big shot (2Kgs 5:13), a spiritual counselor (2Kgs 6:21), and God. (Ps 44:1)

†. Gen 45:9-11 . . Now hurry back to my father and say to him "This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me-- you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.

Goshen was the fertile region in northeastern Egypt; situated to the west of today's Suez Canal: a district of about 900 square miles; which is pretty much the eastern half of the Nile delta.


NOTE: When Moses left Goshen, he didn't go directly to Palestine along the coastal trade route; but took Yhvh's people a bit south first towards the modern city of Suez (Ex 13:17-18). In his day, the Gulf Of Suez arm of the Red Sea extended about 50 miles farther north than it does now. Lake Timsah-- at the current town of Ismailia --and The Great Bitter Lake, and the Little Bitter Lake are all that remain as witnesses to that portion of the ancient sea bed.

†. Gen 45:12-13 . .You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.

Jacob would want to know just exactly how the brothers learned Joseph's Egyptian identity. By getting the news right from the horse's mouth, there would be no reason for Jacob to doubt their story.

Joseph didn't refer to Jacob as "our" father; no, he made his association with Jacob far more personal than that. He referred to Jacob as "my" father; which reminds me of another's statement.

"Go to my brethren, and say unto them: I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)

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Gen 45:14-28


†. Gen 45:14-15 . .Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

I seriously think the ten brothers were so consternated to the point of paralyzing terror as to be rendered utterly mute until Joseph adequately allayed their fears, and proved his good will towards them with all his blubbering and hugging; and I also think they never took their eyes off his hands the whole time, half expecting him to draw a jeweled dagger and pierce it through each man's liver in turn.

There was a time when the older brothers were so infected with rivalry towards Joseph that any conversation they had with him, if they had any at all, was punctuated with hostility (Gen 37:4). I think you can safely bet that at this point, their conversation is re-punctuated with supplication, humility, hats in hand, and profuse apologies rather than hostility.

Joseph was an extremely magnanimous man; with a degree of self control that is really quite amazing. If anybody in the Old Testament was justified to nurse a grudge, it has to be him. Surely he deserves some recognition for exemplifying at least one of Jesus' beatitudes.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9)

There are some people in this world who are simply implacable. They refuse to bury the hatchet and move on. No, for them, rivalry, revenge, spite, retaliation, stubbornness, and grudging are a way of life: every disagreement is an act of war-- they're emotional and reactive, and they thrive on criticism, sarcasm, chafing, carping, finding fault, thoughtless remarks, demeaning comments, insults, contempt, ridicule, bickering, retort upon retort, endless yeah-buts, telling other people off, and giving people a piece of their mind.

It should go without saying that warlike people can't possibly be allowed into heaven because God's home is a place of peace. It just wouldn't be fair to the others to let confrontational people loose in paradise to wreck it for everybody.

†. Gen 45:21-22a . .The sons of Israel did so; Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had commanded, and he supplied them with provisions for the journey. To each of them, moreover, he gave a change of clothing;

Their "change of clothing" wasn't just some fresh clothes. The changes were actually garments suitable for formal occasions like an audience with a king, or hob-nobbing with aristocrats (e.g. Gen 41:14, 2Kgs 25:27-30). So the changes were pretty expensive; like Valentino suits.

†. Gen 45:22b . . but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and several changes of clothing.

You know, some people just never seem to learn. It was because of favoritism that Joseph's brothers were provoked to malicious sibling rivalry in the first place; and here he is repeating the very same mistake grandpa Isaac made in chapter 25, and the very same mistake papa Jacob made in chapter 37. Benjamin had done nothing to deserve preferential treatment over and above his elder brothers. The only reason that Joseph treated him better than the others is simply the fact that they shared the same mother; that's all: which Webster's defines as nepotism.

†. Gen 45:23-24 . . And he sent to his father these things: ten jack burros loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female burros loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father for the journey. So he sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them: See that you are not distracted along the way.

Apparently the trade route from Egypt to Canaan offered diversions aplenty to entertain grown men; which Joseph would like his brothers to avoid this time around because he was anxious to get his dad moved into Egypt as soon as was practical. In point of fact, time was of the essence what with five more years of famine conditions yet to come; with each succeeding year much worse than those preceding it. I think Joseph wanted his dad settled in before the worst of it took hold of the region and put them all, including their livestock, in very imminent danger of perishing.

†. Gen 45:25-26 . . So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him: Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt. Jacob was stunned and didn't believe them.

He didn't believe them because for one thing; he was led to believe all these years that Joseph was dead; hence Jacob was incredulous and one could hardly blame him. As an example, suppose a total stranger should walk up to your door some day and announce you won a 42 million-dollar Powerball lottery. Now add that to the fact that you have never bought a Powerball lottery ticket in your whole life. Would you begin jumping up and down and shouting hallelujah? I don't think so. I think you would be skeptical; just as skeptical as Jacob.

The actual Hebrew of Gen 45:26 says that Jacob's heart became sluggish; viz: his blood pressure dropped and he quite literally paled. You have to remember that Jacob was 135 years old at this point in his life, and would live only another seventeen more (Gen 47:28). Older people don't do well with shock; it can actually kill them.

†. Gen 45:26-28 . . But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, their father Jacob's strength returned. And Israel said: I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.

No doubt Jacob had to sit down-- more likely lay down with his feet elevated --while his sons related their adventures in Egypt; and quite possibly it was right then that they confessed to their selling Jacob's favorite son into slavery. Better they tell him now than wait till he finds out later from Joseph.

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