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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 44

 

 

Verses 1-34

Genesis 44. Benjamin is Accused of Stealing Joseph's Silver Cup, and Judah Pleads with Joseph to Punish him instead of Benjamin.—The narrative is from J. Joseph arranges this final test that he may be fully assured as to the true disposition of the brothers. At the same time, it is skilfully planned to prolong their suspense, swing them to and fro between hope and despair, and harrow them in their tenderest feelings. They have come safely through a rather perilous situation, Simeon has been restored to them, the trouble about the money cleared away, Benjamin is safely on the road for home, the Viceroy finally, it seems, convinced of their honesty and friendly in his attitude. But they have not left the city far behind when the steward overtakes them, and confronts them with a new and horrible complication: they have stolen Joseph's cup, his drinking cup, but also used for divination. Indignantly repudiating such an abuse of hospitality, appealing to their return of the money, they offer, conscious of their innocence, to accept death for the culprit and slavery for the rest. The steward replies that it shall be slavery for the culprit, freedom for the others. He knows where the cup is, for he has hidden it, and therefore leaves Benjamin's sack till the last. Sack after sack is opened and searched, time after time, with no result, while the spirits of the brothers rise. Then, when it seems as if their innocence was to be established, for one sack alone remains, and that Benjamin's, they are suddenly plunged into the blackest despair. It could not be worse: Benjamin was the most favoured of Joseph's guests, and Jacob's happiness, perhaps his life, hung on his return. Not accepting the freedom promised (Genesis 44:10) (for how could they go back without Benjamin ?), they all return, and Judah offers, not now that the culprit shall die, for it is Benjamin, and the rest be slaves, but that Benjamin shall be a slave and they forfeit the liberty pledged to them. Joseph reaffirms the steward's conditions (Genesis 44:10). Not that he desired to keep Benjamin and dismiss the others (it would have been unfilial to inflict this bereavement on Jacob), but to ascertain their response to this demand. It comes in a plea from Judah, unequalled in the OT for its blending of skilled presentation of the case, pathos, persuasiveness, and eloquence, culminating with the noble offer to remain as a slave in Benjamin's place, that his father may be spared the agony of losing Rachel's only surviving son.

Genesis 44:5. That it is a divining cup adds the guilt of sacrilege and the peril of meddling with the uncanny. Whether Joseph really used it in divination (cf. Genesis 44:15) or merely heightened their terror by claiming to do so is not clear.

Genesis 44:20. a little one: in Genesis 46:21 he is at the time father of ten sons, and assuming that Joseph had been twenty-two years in Egypt (Genesis 37:2, Genesis 41:46; Genesis 41:53, Genesis 45:6) and that Benjamin was born before Joseph was sold, he must have been more than twenty-two. The difficulty is greatly mitigated if P's chronology is set aside, and J may have regarded Benjamin as born after the sale of Joseph.

Genesis 44:30. Read mg.

XLV. Joseph Discloses his Identity and Sends for Jacob.—J and E are here closely united, E being the leading source. It is not worth while to discuss the analysis. Profoundly moved by Judah's noble plea, Joseph can no longer mystify his brothers, or repress his longing to reveal his identity. But this self-disclosure is too intimate, too sacred, to be made while others are present. When they have obeyed his order to depart, he bursts into uncontrolled weeping, and then, to the consternation of the brothers, declares that he is Joseph. In a fine and reassuring speech he bids them not be troubled, for God's hand was in it all, to save them in the famine. Then he tells them to return, inform Jacob, and invite him to come with all his family and possessions. This invitation was endorsed by Pharaoh in most cordial and generous terms. So they go with handsome presents for themselves and their father. The news is too good for Jacob to believe it till he sees the wagons Joseph has sent, and then he is reassured, happy that he will see his long-lost son before his death. It is assumed in Genesis 50:17 that Jacob learnt of the wrong Joseph had suffered from his brothers.

Genesis 44:10. Goshen: a fertile district E. of the Delta and near the frontier, part of what is now known as Wady Tumilat. It is mentioned only in J.

Genesis 44:24 b. Do not dispute about the apportionment of blame for your treatment of me.

Genesis 44:26. his heart fainted: his mind was too numb to grasp it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 44:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-44.html. 1919.

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