This is a weekly guest devotion written by my mother, Estelle. Each week she shares with us scripture and a short devotion to encourage us.
The last time we met, Joseph’s half-brothers had returned home from their travel to Egypt to buy food for their families. Simeon was being held prisoner in Egypt until his brothers brought Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son, before Joseph. But Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to go in fear that he too would die.
This is where our lesson begins today. Enjoy reading the Word of God.
Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ ”
Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”
They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I bereaved, I am bereaved.”
So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon.”
The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”
So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. “Please, sir,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”
“It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.
When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”
They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed low to pay him honor.
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? And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.”
They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. The men had been seated before him in the order of their age, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
Have you ever watched a movie and wondered how the character could be so unaware of the circumstances surrounding him? You want to shout, “HE IS LIEING TO YOU. CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?” Or maybe you want to say, “SHE LOVES YOU. DON’T WALK AWAY!” You know all the facts because you see the big picture, but the character only sees a small portion of the picture. Sometimes the circumstances aren’t what they seem to be.
That is the case in today’s lesson. During the men’s first journey to Egypt, Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He questioned them about their father and any other sibling that might be living. Joseph had a plan, but they were unaware of what was happening. He told them not to return unless they brought their youngest brother with them. More than likely he put great fear in their hearts to insure that they would obey his command.
Obviously it took quite a long time for Jacob to agree to allow Benjamin to travel to Egypt with his brothers because Judah said that if they had not delayed, they could have completed the journey twice. Jacob proved he had a greater love for Benjamin than Simeon by refusing to send Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers immediately. I wonder how Simeon felt as he sat in the dark prison.
Upon their arrival in Egypt with Benjamin and their apologetic gifts, Joseph had Simeon released from prison and ordered his steward to prepare a noon meal for all of them at his house.
What were the first thoughts that entered the men’s minds when they were taken to Joseph’s house? They came to the conclusion that they were going to be taken as his slaves because it looked as if they were guilty of stealing the silver they had found in their bags. They thought the worst. Isn’t that what we do? I know I am guilty of negative thinking.
But they were assured by Joseph’s steward that he had no intention of bringing harm to them. In fact, if you noticed, he even said that God gave them treasures. This tells me that Joseph had a wonderful influence on the Egyptian people, especially those with whom he came in close contact. What about you? What kind of influence are you having on the lives of people you touch throughout the day?
When Joseph saw his mother’s only other son, Benjamin, he had to leave their presence and weep. It was a very emotional moment for him. He had not seen the brother he loved dearly for over thirteen years. I wonder if the men thought it a bit strange that this man of great power entered the room, questioned them about their father and their youngest sibling, and then left their presence. Doesn’t it seem to you that they should have been suspect of why a man, who was second in command over the country of Egypt, would be interested in the welfare of their father and brother? Not only that, but what ruler would demand that another sibling be brought before him from another country just so they could buy food? I confess that I have a tendency to over analyze everything so please forgive me for my crazy wonderings.
Another fact I find interesting yet upsetting is that Joseph was served separately, his brothers were served separately, and the Egyptians were served separately for the sole reason that Egyptians found it detestable to eat with Hebrews. A Hebrew was made the most powerful man in all of Egypt except for Pharaoh, yet he was not good enough to sit at the same table with the people he ruled over. Wow! That is hard to believe.
The Bible does not say that Joseph’s half-brothers became jealous because the portions served to Benjamin were five times more than theirs. The portions served is another cause for suspect. Not only that, but the men were seated according to their age.
If I had been there, I think I would have had to conclude that all of these suspicious acts could not have happened by coincidence. But I have seen the big picture. I have been exposed to all the facts. It all would have definitely been something to question.
The character of these men had been tested and tried over and over again by their brother they had sold into slavery years earlier. Will they have to endure more testing?
Join me next week and see.