Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
- Joseph and His Eleven Brethren
11. דבשׁ debash, "honey," from the bee, or sirup from the juice of the grape. בטנים bôṭen, "pistachio nuts." שׁקד shâqêd, "almond tree;" related: "awake." The tree is also called לוּז lûz. Some refer the former to the fruit, the latter to the tree.
The eleven brothers are now to bow down before Joseph.
The famine was severe. The pressure began to be felt more and more. The twelve households had at length consumed all the corn they had purchased, and the famine still pressed heavily upon them. Jacob directs them to return. "And Judah said." Reuben had offended, and could not come forward. Simon and Levi had also grieved their father by the treacherous slaughter of the Shekemites. Judah therefore, speaks. "Is your father yet alive?" "Have ye a brother?" These questions do not come out in the previous narrative, on account of its brevity. But how pointed they are, and how true to Joseph's yearnings! They explain how it was that these particulars came out in the replies of the brothers to Joseph. For the charge of being spies did not call for them in exculpation. Judah now uses all the arguments the case would admit of, to persuade his father to allow Benjamin to go with them. He closes with the emphatic sentence, If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me have sinned against thee all my days; that is, let me bear the blame, and of course the penalty of having sinned against thee in so tender a point. Both Judah and his father knew that this was a matter that touched the interest of the former very deeply. Reuben was bearing the blame of a grievous sin, and had no hope of the birthright. Simon and Levi were also bearing blame, and, besides, had not the natural right, which belonged only to Reuben. Judah came next, and a failure in securing the safe return of Benjamin might set him also aside. He undertakes to run this risk.
Jacob at length reluctantly sends Benjamin with them. He employs all means, as is usual with him, of securing a favorable result. "The best of the land" - the sung or celebrated products of the land. "A little honey." Palestine abounded with bee honey. A sirup obtained by boiling down the juice of the grape was also called by the same name, and formed an article of commerce. "Nuts." These are supposed to be pistachio nuts, from the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, a native of Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine. "Almonds." The almond tree buds or flowers earlier in the spring than other trees. It is a native of Palestine, Syria, and Persia. For the other products see Gen 37:25. "Other silver;" not double silver, but a second sum for the new purchase. "God Almighty" - the Great Spirit, who can dispose the hearts of men as he pleases. Jacob looks up to heaven for a blessing, while he uses the means. "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved." This is the expression of acquiescence in whatever may be the will of Providence. "Double silver," - what was returned and what was to pay for a second supply of corn.
The invitation into Joseph's house fills the brothers with alarm. "Saw with them Benjamin." This was an unspeakable relief to Joseph, who was afraid that his full brother, also the favorite of his father, might have incurred the envy and persecution of the brothers. "Brought the men to Joseph's house." This he eventually did, but not until after the conference between him and them took place. The men were afraid of a plot to rob them of their liberty and property.
They are encouraged by the steward of Joseph's house to lay aside their fears, and prepare their present. "Spake to him at the door of the house." This was, of course, before they entered. "When we came to the inn." The relater is prone to lump matters in the narration, for the sake of brevity. They began to "open their bags" at the first lodging-place, and finished the process at the last when they got home. Other silver. This explains the phrase "second silver" in Gen 43:12. "Peace be to you." Be at rest. All is well. Your God. The steward of Joseph expresses himself as one who fears and trusts God, the God of the Hebrews, who had displayed his omniscience and omnipotence in Egypt. "He brought out unto them Simon." While they still linger at the entrance, the considerate steward bethought himself of bringing out Simon to them, which reassured their hearts, and induced them to enter willingly. He now succeeds therefore, in bringing them in, and then bestows upon them the usual attentions of Eastern hospitality. They now "make ready their present."
They are now entertained by Joseph. They brought the present, and made a lowly obeisance before him. "They bent the head." See Gen 24:26. "God be gracious unto thee, my son." His kind treatment of Benjamin, on whose presence he had so much insisted, was calculated to reassure the brothers. The latter was born in his thirteenth year, and therefore, he was entitled to assume the paternal style in regard to him. Joseph still appeals with a natural and unconstrained reverence to his own God. "And Joseph hastened away." The little touch of tenderness he had involuntarily thrown into his address to Benjamin, is too much for his feelings, which yearn toward his brother, and he is obliged to retreat to his chamber to conceal his tears and compose his countenance. "They set for him by himself." As the governor, or as connected by affinity with the priestly caste, Joseph does not eat with the other Egyptians. The Egyptians cannot eat with the Hebrews. "That is an abomination to the Mizrites." For the Hebrews partook of the flesh of kine, both male and female.
But Herodotus informs us (ii. 41), that "male kine, if clean, are used by the Egyptians, but the females they are not allowed to sacrifice, since they are sacred to Isis." And he adds that "a native of Egypt will not kiss a Greek, use his knife, his spit, or his cauldron, or taste the flesh cut with a Greek knife." They considered all foreigners unclean, and therefore, refused to eat with them (see Rawlinson's Herodotus on p. q.). They sat in his presence; arranged according to the order of their birth, to their great amazement. Egypt was to them a land of wonders, and Egypt's sultan a man of wonder. "Benjamin's mess." The honored guest was distinguished by a larger or daintier portion of the fare (Sa1 9:23-24; Homer, ii. 7,321). A double portion was assigned to the Spartan kings. The fivefold division was prominent in Egyptian affairs Gen 41:34; Gen 45:22; Gen 47:2, Gen 47:24, Gen 47:26. "And were merry." They drank freely, so as to be exhilarated, because their cares were dissipated by the kindness they were receiving, the presence of Simon, and the attention paid to Benjamin.