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And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.―

GENESIS 43:15

The extended stay of Joseph’s brothers in Canaan before returning for more grain to Egypt was not without effect upon them. The longer they stayed the more they thought upon the things that had happened, and the more the conviction grew within them that God was punishing them for the sin that they had committed, especially against their younger brother. Thus, when finally Jacob had granted permission and once again they set out for Egypt, it was with heavy hearts, and their consciences pricked them deeply. They trembled before the hand of God and feared lest their chastisement might become even greater. The purpose of Joseph to lead his brothers in the way of repentance was having its desired effect. 

Meanwhile Joseph in Egypt was impatiently waiting their return. It had been hard to send them away without having made himself known. How he would have liked to talk to them as a brother, learning from them all that had happened in his father’s house during the years of his absence. Once the brothers had departed, doubts began to assail him even more strongly. Only through constant prayer and supplication could he be maintained in the faith that the way he was treating them was right. Eagerly he counted the days that it would have taken them to travel to Canaan and return, and then he began to scan the market place once again for their faces. His efforts were to no avail, for they did not appear. Almost unconsciously he began to calculate how long their grain supply could have lasted, and again began daily to look for their return. But still they did not appear. Countless days seemed to pass until at last Joseph’s courage began to fail. Had he been too severe with them so that they dared not return to his presence? Were they still such untrustworthy men that they would leave Simeon to perish in prison without trying to redeem him? Would his father Jacob rather starve without grain than entrust Benjamin to the care of his brothers? Beset by these questions, Joseph hardly dared any longer to look for their coming, or to hope. Not knowing what he should do, he committed his way unto the Lord, trusting that He would make it right. Finally one day he lifted his eyes and saw them, the nine brothers with another whom he did not recognize, but whom nonetheless he knew. They had come, and Benjamin was with them. 

Joseph, not trusting his own self-control, gave directions to the steward of his house to bring the brothers to his home. Obediently and filled with fear they followed him. Why were they separated so swiftly from the other buyers in the marketplace? Were they to be accused of nonpayment for the grain they had gotten before? Would they be thrown into prison once again? What would happen to their father if they did not soon return? Hastily they began to make explanation. “O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: and it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight, and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.” In a quiet, reassuring manner the steward gave answer to them. “Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money.” 

There are several things in the answer of this steward that are worthy of special note. In the first place, the steward had evidently been taken into the complete confidence of Joseph. Joseph could not have anticipated this concern of his brothers for the money which had been returned and instructed the steward what to reply to their explanation. Nonetheless, the steward by himself was fully capable of presenting them with a wise and discreet answer. In the second place, the steward was evidently a believing child of God. The reference to God, especially as the God of their fathers, implying recognition of the covenant, rings genuine and sincere. Finally, the answer was well adapted to serve the plan of Joseph. It was a truthful answer, for the steward had had their money; it was he that restored it to their sacks. Nevertheless, the answer did not expose the plan of Joseph. Rather it pointed them again to the all important fact that they were in the hand of God. This they might not be al1owed to forget. 

Much to the amazement of the brothers, Simeon was immediately brought forth out of prison. They were taken into the house of Joseph, and they were told to prepare themselves to share in his midday meal. Such kindness they could not understand. They had come expecting to be treated harshly again. Instead they were received as the guests of royalty. They were given water to wash their feet, and provender was provided for their asses. When Joseph finally appeared they presented him the presents which they had brought from Canaan and prostrated themselves at his feet, once again fulfilling the dreams of his youth.

For Joseph it was becoming ever more difficult to contain himself. He longed to be able to talk with his brothers openly about their own. Unable to restrain himself, the questions began to pour forth. “Is your father well, the old man of whom ye speak? Is he yet alive?” Had the brothers been at ease and alert, they might have questioned the reason for his extreme interest in their father. As it was, they were too confused to do anything but meekly provide the answer. “Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive.” But still Joseph’s interest was not satisfied. Turning to Benjamin, he asked, “Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?” But the question needed no answer. Although he had not seen him since he was a very small child, he knew instinctively that this was his brother. His heart went out to Benjamin, his only full brother, and with strained feelings he said, “God be gracious unto thee, my son.”

Once more the tension of the moment became too great for Joseph to bear. Turning from his brothers he fled into his chamber and wept. His heart yearned to be able to talk with them in a more natural manner. Only his firm resolve to care for their spiritual lives first, kept him from yielding. 

Only after he had once more gained control over his feelings could Joseph return to his brothers. Washing his face to remove all traces of his tears, Joseph commanded that the meal should be served, and returned to the dining hall. Three different tables were set, one for the Egyptians who customarily did not eat with foreigners, one for himself by reason of his rank, and one for the brothers. It was necessary for Joseph to maintain this distance toward his brothers lest the relations should become more intimate than he could bear. One by one he assigned the brothers their place in order of their age from the oldest to the youngest. To the brothers this was amazing for they were all grown men and their differences of age were not very apparent. It only increased the feeling among the brothers that their lives were being controlled by a hand much greater than they could understand. At last Joseph was ready to begin the test he had planned from the beginning, feeling that it was so very important. As the meal was being served he had a portion five times as great as that of the others placed before Benjamin. It was a common sign in that day of special favor. It mattered not whether the person could eat it or not; it singled him out for special distinction. Anxiously he watched the faces of the others. Was there any sign of displeasure? of jealousy or envy? Joseph could detect none. Rather the brothers seemed pleased that Benjamin was received with such favor. The ten brothers ate and drank; their merriment appeared sincere. With relief in his soul Joseph felt more confident than he had for many a day. He was taken up into the merriment of his brothers. 

Still Joseph was determined not to be overly hasty in his conclusion. He would prepare one more test, the most difficult of all. It would be the final test, after which his own identity would have to be made known. He called his steward to him and told him to give the men as much grain as they could carry and again restore their money to the mouth of their sacks, for Joseph would not take money, from his brothers. In addition he was to place Joseph’s silver drinking cup in Benjamin’s sack and send the brothers on their way. 

Cheerfully the brothers set out on their journey home. Their conversation was more gay and lively than it had been for many a month. The reason for the sudden change of events they did not know, but they appreciated it just the same. It seemed as if the hand of God’s judgment had been lifted from off their souls. However, they had barely left the city when they heard loud shouts coming from behind them. Turning they saw the steward approaching very rapidly. Anger was written across his face as he spoke. “Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.” 

Once again a cloud of confusion settled upon the brothers. The dark face of the steward sent quivers of fear into their souls; but they knew not of what he spoke. “Wherefore saith my lord these words?” they answered. “God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing.” Had not they proved their honesty? “Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold?” As they spoke, confidence returned, and almost rash was their promise. “With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondsmen.” Speedily they alighted from their asses to help the steward in his search. 

The steward yielded to their suggestion: “Now also let it be according unto your words.” But first there was one qualification which he had to make: “He with whom it is found shall be my servant; and, ye shall be blameless.” Thereupon he began his search. Starting at the oldest he proceeded toward the youngest. 

One by one the baggage of each man was opened. Money was found in each one; but the steward had no interest in that. He had eyes only for the silver cup. Gradually the confidence of the brothers grew as the search of each man’s belongings in turn failed to produce the cup. Finally only Benjamin’s sacks remained, and they were almost gay again. He would be the least likely of them all to perpetrate such a petty theft. But alas when his sacks were opened, there lay the silver cup. 

Years or even months before there would have been little question among the brothers as to what to do; they would have left the one against whom the evidence pointed to make his way alone. But now things were quite different. Each man in turn had just passed through a strenuous search of his own soul. Each one felt himself to be the greatest among sinners and not nearly so ready to point his finger at another. They could not believe that this was something that Benjamin had done. Rather, it was the judgment of God resting upon them all. 

Rending their clothes in grief, they mounted again their asses and turned back to the city with common consent. As silently they rode together, there went up from each man’s soul a prayer that God would forgive, each man his own sin, that the family of Israel be not destroyed.

B.W.