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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 43

Genesis 43:1

gen 43:1

When the corn brought from Egypt was all consumed, as the famine still continued, Jacob called upon his sons to go down and fetch a little corn (little in proportion to their need).

Genesis 43:3

gen 43:3

Judah then declared, that they would not go there again unless their father sent Benjamin with them; for the man (Joseph) had solemnly protested (העד העד) that they should not see his face without their youngest brother. Judah undertook the consultation with his father about Benjamin's going, because Reuben, the eldest son, had already been refused, and Levi, who followed Reuben and Simeon, had forfeited his father's confidence through his treachery to the Shechemites (Gen 34).

Genesis 43:6

gen 43:6

To the father's reproachful question, why they had dealt so ill with him, as to tell the man that they had a brother, Judah replied: "The man asked after us and our kinsmen: Is your father yet alive? have ye a brother? And we answered him in conformity (פּי על as in Exo 34:27, etc.) with these words (i.e., with his questions). Could we know, then, that he would say, Bring your brother down?" Joseph had not made direct inquiries, indeed, about their father and their brother; but by his accusation that they were spies, he had compelled them to give an exact account of their family relationships. So that Judah, when repeating the main points of the interview, could very justly give them in the form just mentioned.

Genesis 43:8

gen 43:8

He then repeated the only condition on which they would go to Egypt again, referring to the death by famine which threatened them, their father, and their children, and promising that he would himself be surety for the youth (הנּער, Benjamin was twenty-three years old), and saying, that if he did not restore him, he would bear the blame (חטא to be guilty of a sin and stone for it, as in Kg1 1:21) his whole life long. He then concluded with the deciding words, "for if we had not delayed, surely we should already have returned a second time."

Genesis 43:11

gen 43:11

And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: After this, the old man gave way to what could not be avoided, and let Benjamin go. But that nothing might be wanting on his part, which could contribute to the success of the journey, he suggested that they should take a present for the man, and that they should also take the money which was brought back in their sacks, in addition to what was necessary for the corn they were to purchase; and he then commended them to the mercy of Almighty God. "If it must be so, yet do this (אפוא belongs to the imperative, although it precedes it here, cf. Gen 27:37): take of the prize (the most choice productions) of the land-a little balm and a little honey (דּבשׁ the Arabian dibs, either new honey from bees, or more probably honey from grapes, - a thick syrup boiled from sweet grapes, which is still carried every year from Hebron to Egypt), gum-dragon and myrrh (vid., Gen 37:25), pictachio nuts and almonds." בּטנים, which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, - long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now, but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.

Genesis 43:12

gen 43:12

"And take second (i.e., more) money (משׁנה כּסף is different from משׁנה־כּסף doubling of the money = double money, Gen 43:15) in your hand; and the money that returned in your sacks take with you again; perhaps it is a mistake," i.e., was put in your sacks by mistake.

Genesis 43:14

gen 43:14

Thus Israel let his sons go with the blessing, "God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may liberate to you your other brother (Simeon) and Benjamin;" and with this resigned submission to the will of God, "And I, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved," i.e., if I am to lose my children, let it be so! For this mode of expression, cf. Est 4:16 and Kg2 7:4. שׁכּלתּי with the pausal a, answering to the feelings of the speaker, which is frequently used for o; e.g., טרף for יטרף, Gen 49:27.

Genesis 43:16

gen 43:16

When the brethren appeared before Joseph, he ordered his steward to take them into the house, and prepare a dinner for them and for him. טבה the original form of the imperative for טבח. But the brethren were alarmed, thinking that they were taken into the house because of the money which returned the first time (השּׁב which came back, they could not imagine how), that he might take them unawares (lit., roll upon them), and fall upon them, and keep them as salves, along with their asses. For the purpose of averting what they dreaded, they approached (Gen 43:19) the steward and told him, "at the door of the house," before they entered therefore, how, at the first purchase of corn, on opening their sacks, they found the money that had been paid, "every one's money in the mouth of his sack, our money according to its weight," i.e., in full, and had now brought it back, together with some more money to buy corn, and they did not know who had put their money in their sacks (Gen 43:20-22). The steward, who was initiated into Joseph's plans, replied in a pacifying tone, "Peace be to you (לכם שׁלום is not a form of salutation here, but of encouragement, as in Jdg 6:23): fear not; your God and the God of your father has given you a treasure in your sacks; your money came to me;" and at the same time, to banish all their fear, he brought Simeon out to them. He then conducted them into Joseph's house, and received them in Oriental fashion as the guests of his lord. But, previous to Joseph's arrival, they arranged the present which they had brought with them, as they heard that they were to dine with him.

Genesis 43:26

gen 43:26

When Joseph came home, they handed him the present with the most reverential obeisance.

Gen 43:27-29

Joseph first of all inquired after their own and their father's health (שׁלום first as substantive, then as adjective = שׁלם Gen 33:18), whether he was still living; which they answered with thanks in the affirmative, making the deepest bow. His eyes then fell upon Benjamin, the brother by his own mother, and he asked whether this was their youngest brother; but without waiting for their reply, he exclaimed, "God be gracious to thee, my son!" יחנך for יחנך as in Isa 30:19 (cf. Ewald, 251d). He addressed him as "my son," in tender and, as it were, paternal affection, and with special regard to his youth. Benjamin was 16 years younger than Joseph, and was quite an infant when Joseph was sold.

Gen 43:30-31

And "his (Joseph's) bowels did yearn" (נכמרוּ lit., were compressed, from the force of love to his brother), so that he was obliged to seek (a place) as quickly as possible to weep, and went into the chamber, that he might give vent to his feelings in tears; after which, he washed his face and came out again, and, putting constraint upon himself, ordered the dinner to be brought in.

Gen 43:32-33

Separate tables were prepared for him, for his brethren, and for the Egyptians who dined with them. This was required by the Egyptian spirit of caste, which neither allowed Joseph, as minister of state and a member of the priestly order, to eat along with Egyptians who were below him, nor the latter along with the Hebrews as foreigners. "They cannot (i.e., may not) eat (cf. Deu 12:17; Deu 16:5; Deu 17:15). For this was an abomination to the Egyptians." The Hebrews and others, for example, slaughtered and ate animals, even female animals, which were regarded by the Egyptians as sacred; so that, according to Herod. ii. 41, no Egyptian would use the knife, or fork, or saucepan of a Greek, nor would any eat of the flesh of a clean animal which had been cut up with a Grecian knife (cf. Exo 8:22).

Gen 43:33-34

The brothers sat in front of Joseph, "the first-born according to his birthright, and the smallest (youngest) according to his smallness (youth);" i.e., the places were arranged for them according to their ages, so that they looked at one another with astonishment, since this arrangement necessarily impressed them with the idea that this great man had been supernaturally enlightened as to their family affairs. To do them honour, they brought (ישּׂא, Ges. 137, 3) them dishes from Joseph, i.e., from his table; and to show especial honour to Benjamin, his portion was five times larger than that of any of the others (ידות lit., hands, grasps, as in Gen 47:24; Kg2 11:7). The custom is met with elsewhere of showing respect to distinguished guests by giving them the largest and best pieces (Sa1 9:23-24; Homer, Il. 7, 321; 8, 162, etc.), by double portions (e.g., the kings among the Spartans, Herod. 6, 57), and even by fourfold portions in the case of the Archons among the Cretans (Heraclid. polit., 3). But among the Egyptians the number 5 appears to have been preferred to any other (cf. Gen 41:34; Gen 45:22; Gen 47:2, Gen 47:24; Isa 19:18). By this partiality Joseph intended, with a view to his further plans, to draw out his brethren to show their real feelings towards Benjamin, that he might see whether they would envy and hate him on account of this distinction, as they had formerly envied him his long coat with sleeves, and hated him because he was his father's favourite (Gen 37:3-4). This honourable treatment and entertainment banished all their anxiety and fear. "They drank, and drank largely with him," i.e., they were perfectly satisfied with what they ate and drank; not, they were intoxicated (cf. Hag 1:9).

Next: Genesis Chapter 44