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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 44

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 44:1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks [with] food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth.

Ver. 1. And he commanded the steward.] Peccata extrinsecus radere, et non intrinsecus eradicare, fictio est, saith Bernard. Humiliation for sin must be sound and soaking, or else it is to no purpose. Hypocrites "hang down their heads as a bulrush," [Isaiah 58:5] while some storm of trouble is upon them; but in a fair sunshine day, they lift up their heads as upright as ever. Something they do about sin, but nothing against it. As artificial magic seem to wound, but do not; or as players seem to thrust themselves through their bodies, but the sword passeth only through their clothes. This Joseph well knew; and therefore, that his brethren might make sure work, and have their hearts leavened and soured (as David’s was, Psalms 73:21) with the greatness of godly sorrow; that they might mourn as men do in the death of their dearest friends; [Zechariah 12:10] that their sorrow might be "according to God" ( η κατα Yεον λυπη, 2 Corinthians 7:10), deep and daily, like that sorrow, 2 Samuel 13:36; that waters of Marah might flow from their eyes, and their hearts fall asunder in their bosoms like drops of water; he puts them to one more grievous fright and agony before he makes himself known unto them. And this was a high point of heavenly wisdom in him. For had he presently entertained and embraced them as his brethren, they would sooner have gloried of their wickedness than repented of it. Neither would a little repentance serve for a sin so ingrained, and such a long time lain in. Their hearts were woefully hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, their consciences festered: and had it been fit for him to break their bones before they were set; and lap up their sores before they were searched? "Repent ye," saith St Peter to those that had crucified Christ, and were now "pricked in their hearts." [Acts 2:37-38] He saith not, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven," now that you feel some remorse for them; but, Stay a while upon the work of repentance, and be thorough in it; leave not circumcising your hearts, till you find them as sore as the Shechemites felt their bodies the third day. And this the apostle said to such as already felt the nails wherewith they had crucified Christ sticking fast in their own hearts and piercing them with horror. Take we heed of laying cordials upon full and foul stomachs: "the feeble minded" only are to be "comforted," such as are in danger to be swallowed up with grief. But some men’s stains are so inveterate, that they will hardly be got out till the cloth be almost rubbed to pieces.

Put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth.] Should they not have been content that their sacks were filled with corn, though there had not been money in the mouth of them? And should not we also rest satisfied with our many mercies? &c.


Verse 2

Genesis 44:2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Ver. 2. He did according to the word.] Servus est nomen officii. A servant is not αυτοματος, one that moveth absolutely of himself, saith Aristotle; but the master’s instrument, and ολως εκεινου, wholly his. Such was this servant of Joseph; and such should we all be to God.


Verse 3

Genesis 44:3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.

Ver. 3. The men were sent away.] This was no small courtesy to them, that were so willing of their way.


Verse 4

Genesis 44:4 [And] when they were gone out of the city, [and] not [yet] far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?

Ver. 4. Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?] This, blind nature saw to be the sum of all sins. Ingratum dixeris, omnia dixeris. Some vices are such as nature smiles upon, though frowned at by divine justice; not so this. Hercules is much condemned by the heathens for killing his schoolmaster Linus; Alexander, for doing the like by his friend Clitus; Nero, by his tutor Seneca: Muleasses, king of Tunis, is cried out on, for torturing to death the Manifet and Mesnar, by whose means especially he had aspired to the kingdom. (a) Philip, king of Macedonia, caused a soldier of his, that had offered unkindness to one that had kindly entertained him, to be branded in the forehead, with these two words; Hospes ingratus. Unthankfulness is a monster in nature, a solecism in manners, a paradox in divinity, a parching wind to dry up the fountain of further favour. Benjamin’s five fold mess was no small aggravation to the theft here laid to his charge. (b)


Verse 5

Genesis 44:5 [Is] not this [it] in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.

Ver. 5. And whereby indeed he divineth.] Junius reads it thus - Et nonne ipse experimento certo didicerit per illum, quales sitls? q.d., Hath he not by this fact of yours, found out your fraud and false dealing; whereby ye have hitherto sought to delude him? Is it not plain ye are spies and naughty-packs? The Jerusalem Targum seemeth to tax Joseph here for a soothsayer; or, at least, a seeker to such; which God forbade. [Deuteronomy 18:10] Calvin also thinks he did grievously offend in pretending to be such a one; and did impiously profane the gift of the Spirit in professing himself a magician. But, pace tanti viri, this is too heavy a censure, and a forcing of the text, saith Junius. All that Joseph did was to sift his brethren, and to try their affection to Benjamin. And if he took upon him to be a diviner, he did it not seriously; but made use of that conceit the vulgar had of him: like as St Paul made use of that superstitious custom among the Corinthians, of baptizing over the dead, to prove the resurrection. (a)


Verse 6

Genesis 44:6 And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.

Ver. 6. And he spake.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 44:2"} {See Trapp on "Genesis 43:17"}


Verse 7

Genesis 44:7 And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:

Ver. 7. God forbid that thy servants should do.] Rapine and robbery was ever condemned amongst very heathens, and severely punished. Tamerlane, in his expedition against Bajazet, took such order with his soldiers that none were injured; insomuch, that if a soldier had but taken an apple, or other thing of like value from any man, he died for it. One of his soldiers having taken a little milk from a country woman, and she thereof complaining, he ripped up his stomach; where when he found the milk, he contented the woman and sent her away, who had otherwise died for her false accusation. (a)


Verse 8

Genesis 44:8 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?

Ver. 8. Behold, the money.] Those that from a right principle can find in their hearts to make restitution, may be safely trusted as to wronging others, either by covin or ravin. (agreement or robbery)


Verse 9

Genesis 44:9 With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen.

Ver. 9. With whomsoever it be found, &c.] Innocency is bold, but withal had need to be wise, for fear of further inconvenience. {See Trapp on "Genesis 31:32"}


Verse 10

Genesis 44:10 And he said, Now also [let] it [be] according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.

Ver. 10. Shall be my servant,] i.e., Mine, in my master’s name and behalf.


Verse 12

Genesis 44:12 And he searched, [and] began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

Ver. 12. And he searched, and began at the eldest.] The better to avoid suspicion, for he knew well enough where to find the cup. So Jonadab, Amnon’s carnal friend but spiritual enemy, could tell David that not all the king’s sons, as the report ran, but Amnon only was slain by Absalom. The devil also when he hath conveyed his cups into our sacks, his goods into our houses, - as the Russians use to deal by their enemies, and then accuse them of theft, - his (a) injections into our hearts, if we fancy them never so little, will accuse us to God, and claim both them and us too for his own.

And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.] Sacco soluto apparuit argentum, saith Ambrose. When God comes to turn the bottom of the bag upward, all will out. Sin not, therefore, in hope of secrecy; on the fair day, at the last day, all packs shall be opened.


Verse 13

Genesis 44:13 Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.

Ver. 13. Then they rent their clothes.] In token of the rending of their hearts for their sins, which now had found them out, and they their sins: for misery is the best art of memory; being like to that helve Elisha cast into the waters, which fetched up the iron in the bottom. Conscience is like a looking glass, which while it lieth all covered with dust, showeth not a man his natural visage: but when it is wiped, then it makes the least blemish appear. Never till now could we hear these men confess. Now, what shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? saith Judah, the Confessor - so his name signifieth. Or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants. Not this, that they were now charged with (for why should they be false to their own innocency?); but their cruelty to Joseph, and other like foul offences; for the which God in his just judgment had now brought them to condign punishment. How could Joseph hold, when he heard all this; and not cry out, as Paul did, in a like case, to his disconsolate Corinthians:

“Though I made you sorry with a letter" (with a cup), "I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that this same epistle" (cup) "hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing … For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it hath wrought in you, yea, what apology, (a) yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” [2 Corinthians 7:8-11]


Verse 14

Genesis 44:14 And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he [was] yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

Ver. 14. They fell before him on the ground.] Humble submission, they knew, if anything, would make their peace, and procure their pardon -

“Sic ventos vincit, dumse submittit arundo.”

It is no hoisting up sail in a storm, no standing before a lion, &c. William the Conqueror often pardoned rebels, and received them into favour; as he held submission satisfactory for the greatest offences, and sought not to defeat them, but their enterprises. (a)


Verse 15

Genesis 44:15 And Joseph said unto them, What deed [is] this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?

Ver. 15. What deed is this that ye have done?] As Joseph here, so Christ sometimes impersonates an adversary, when he intends most love.

Wot ye not that such a man as I, &c.] If that be true that some conceive of Joseph, that he, here and at Genesis 44:5, made himself a soothsayer, he was certainly to blame. "The lip of excellency becometh not a fool," saith Solomon, but "much less do lying lips a prince." {Proverbs 17:7, marg.} That is, it is naught when wicked men will be using gracious words, to seem religious. But it is far worse, when good men will use the fashion of the wicked, that they may seem impious.


Verse 16

Genesis 44:16 And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we [are] my lord’s servants, both we, and [he] also with whom the cup is found.

Ver. 16. What shall we say, &c.] An ingenuous and penitent confession, joined with self-loathing and self-judging; teaching us how to confess to God.

“Sit simplex, humilis, confessio, pura, fidelis,

Atque frequens, nuda, et discreta, lubeas, verecunda,

Integra, secreta et lachrymabilis, accelerata,

Fortis, et accusans, et se punire parata.”

These sixteen conditions were composed in these verses by the Schoolmen. And such a confession is the sponge that wipes away all the blots and blurs of our lives. [1 John 1:7] Never any confessed his sin in this sort to God, but went away with his pardon. Wot ye what, - quoth King Henry VIII. to the Duke of Suffolk, concerning Stephen Gardiner, when he confessed his Popery, for which he should have been, the morrow after, sent to the Tower, - he hath confessed himself as guilty in this matter, as his man; and hath, with much sorrow and pensiveness, sued for my pardon: and you know what my nature and custom hath been in such matters, evermore to pardon them that will not dissemble, but confess their fault. (a) How much more will God!


Verse 17

Genesis 44:17 And he said, God forbid that I should do so: [but] the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.

Ver. 17. But the man in whose hand, &c.] This was the heat that Joseph shot at in all this interdealing with them, - to try the truth of their love to Benjamin, and whether they would stick to him in his utmost peril God hath like ends in afflicting his children. "The king of Babylon stood at the parting way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination." [Ezekiel 21:21] So doth God. He knows that the best divining of men is at the parting way; there every dog will show to what master he belongs. God shoots at his servants for trial, as men shoot bullets against armour of proof, not to hurt it, but to praise it.


Verse 18

Genesis 44:18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou [art] even as Pharaoh.

Ver. 18. For thou art even as Pharaoh.] This he saith the better to insinuate; for great men love to hear of their honour, and are tickled with their great titles. Paulus Jovius, writing of Pompey Colomia, Bishop of Reatino, saith, that when the said bishop, by the means of many great personages, was reconciled again, and brought into favour with the Pope, whom he had formerly offended; and that when they signified so much unto him in a short letter, in whose superscription, Bishop of Reatino, by chance, was left out; he receiving the letter, threw it away, and bade the messenger go seek some other Pompeio, to whom the letter was directed.


Verse 19

Genesis 44:19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?

Ver. 19. Have yea father?] This we read not of till now, as we do of all the rest, in the next following verses.


Verse 20

Genesis 44:20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.

Ver. 20. {See Trapp on "Genesis 44:19"}


Verse 21

Genesis 44:21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.

Ver. 21. {See Trapp on "Genesis 44:19"}


Verse 22

Genesis 44:22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for [if] he should leave his father, [his father] would die.

Ver. 22. {See Trapp on "Genesis 44:19"}


Verse 26

Genesis 44:26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man’s face, except our youngest brother [be] with us.

Ver. 26. We cannot go down,] sc., Without breach of our promises, and danger of our lives. Before he had said, "We will not." [Genesis 43:5] Now he mends that expression.


Verse 30

Genesis 44:30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad [be] not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life;

Ver. 30. Seeing that his life is bound up.] God loved his Son Jesus infinitely more than Jacob did Benjamin; he exalts his love far above that of any earthly parent; which is but a spark of his flame, a drop of his ocean. And yet be freely parted with him, to certain and shameful death, for our sakes. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," &c. This is a Sic without a Sicut; there is nothing in nature whereby to resemble it.


Verse 31

Genesis 44:31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad [is] not [with us], that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

Ver. 31. That he will die.] For, so great is the love, (a)

Corporibus binis spiritus unus inest.


Verse 32

Genesis 44:32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

Ver. 32. For thy servant became surety.] So did Christ for us; and therefore he must acquit us of all our sins, ere he could go to his Father. Lo, herein lies the strength of that reason, "He shall convince the world of righteousness, because I go to my Father." [John 16:10]


Verse 34

Genesis 44:34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad [be] not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Ver. 34. For how shall I go up, &c.] Here love ascends, as fit it should. Judah, a man wise and well spoken, prefers his father’s life before his own liberty. He could not live to see the death of his aged father. A certain citizen of Toledo being condemned to die, his son ceased not with prayers and tears to entreat that he might be put to death instead of his father. This he obtained after much suit, and most gladly died for him. (a) At Gaunt in Flanders, when a father and his son were condemned to die together, the earl, desirous to make trial whether of the two were more loving, granted that he should live that would cut off the other’s head. And after much ado between them, the father, by many arguments, persuaded his son to be his executioner. (b)

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 44:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-44.html. 1865-1868.

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