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Genesis 44

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATION

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB (follows MT)
The Brothers Are Brought Back Joseph's Cup Joseph Puts His Brothers To a Final Test The Missing Cup Joseph's Cup in Benjamin's Sack
44:1-5 44:1-5 44:1-5 44:1-5 44:1-2
        44:3-5
44:6-13 44:6-13 44:6-13 44:6-9 44:6-13
      44:10-13  
44:14-17 44:14-17 44:14-17 44:14-15 44:14-17
      44:16  
      44:17  
  Judah Intercedes for Benjamin   Judah Pleads for Benjamin Judah Intervenes
44:18-34 44:18-34 44:18-34 44:18-23 44:18-34
      44:24-29  
      44:30-34  

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:1-5
  
1Then he commanded his house steward, saying, "Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack. 2Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph had told him. 3As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. 4They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, "Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good? 5Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.'"

44:1 This is the second time Joseph has done this (cf. 42:25).

1. fill, BDB 569, KB 583, Piel imperative

2. put, BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative

 

44:2 The placing of Joseph's silver cup (cf. v. 5) in Benjamin's sack is new. Joseph is still testing his brothers to see if their jealousy and aggression against his full brother (Rachel's children) is finished.

It should be noted that the term translated "cup" (BDB 149) is really a larger vessel, possibly a bowl or even a pitcher (cf. Jer. 35:5). The normal word for "cup" is found in BDB 468 I (cf. 40:11,13,21; II Sam. 12:3; Ps. 16:5; 23:5; Pro. 23:31).

44:4 "the city" Which city depends on who the Pharaoh is. Later in Genesis it seems that Joseph talks to his father in the land of Goshen and Pharaoh in the capital in the same day. This implies a capital in the delta region. The Hyksos had their capitals there. The next Pharaoh to move the capital to this region was Seti I. He was the Pharaoh of the brutal treatment of the Israelite people before the exodus, probably during Rameses II's reign.

See OT Survey, Introduction to Exodus at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

Joseph commands his servants to a follow-up action.

1. up, BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative

2. follow, BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal imperative

3. when you overtake them, BDB 673, KB 727, Hiphil perfect used in an imperative sense with a temporal element. This is a hunting term for pursuing game. It was used of Laban chasing after Jacob (cf. 31:25).

4. accuse them (with a question) of theft!

 

▣ "Why have you repaid evil for good" The LXX (followed by the NRSV, TEV) adds after this sentence, "Why have you stolen my silver cup?" The Peshitta does not have this addition.

44:5 "Is this not the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination" Throughout these three chapters Joseph has been developing a plot which would test his brothers' character. However, it is somewhat surprising to see him mention divination (BDB 638, KB 690 in an intensified grammatical construction of the infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root, cf. v. 15). This may be just another element of his Egyptian disguise, for most of the leaders of Egypt during this period would have been diviners or used them. The term originally meant "to whisper" or "to hiss" (cf. Lev. 19:26 and Deut. 18:10, where it is later condemned). In the Septuagint it is translated "augury" which means to know the will of God by observing a flight of birds.

The Jerusalem Bible mentions in a footnote (p. 67) that the divination was done by

1. the way water fell into the cup (hydromancy)

2. the sound of the water falling into the cup

3. the pattern of oil drops poured into the cup (lecanomancy)

which were all used in the ANE. S. R. Driver adds another one

4. pieces of gold, silver, or precious stones were dropped into the cup and their distribution or arrangement was noted (cf. UBS, Handbook on Genesis, p. 989).

Much of our information about divination techniques comes from old Babylonian omen texts (also note later techniques in Ezek. 21:21). There is not much information about divination methods in this period of Egyptian history (see James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 52-54).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:6-13
  
6So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. 7They said to him, "Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. 8Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house? 9With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord's slaves." 10So he said, "Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent." 11Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. 13Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.

44:6-13 These verses are a dialogue between Joseph's steward (also note 43:16-25) and the ten brothers.

44:9 This response is very much like Jacob's when he was overtaken by Laban (cf. 31:32). It is an honest response and yet they will regret making these kinds of statements when the cup will be found in Benjamin's bag.

44:10 "Now let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent" This again seems to be the general plot of seeing if they will abandon Benjamin or if they will stick together as a family. It would have been quite easy to leave Benjamin behind (cf. v. 17) and to scurry away to safety (as they did with Simeon's imprisonment).

The term translated "innocent" (BDB 667) is usually translated "blameless." The term is used in several ways.

1. in a judicial sense, Exod. 23:7

2. referring to an oath, Gen. 24:41; Josh. 2:17,20

3. referring to a person, Job 4:7; 9:23; 17:8; 22:19,30; 27:17; Ps. 10:8; 15:5; Pro. 1:11

This statement by the steward foreshadows Joseph's statement in v. 17.

44:12 "beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest" This knowledge of the brothers' birth order had previously surprised them (cf. 43:33). Now the steward is also familiar with this information.

This steward was a very close and trusted servant of Joseph. One only wonders how much of Joseph's life and faith he was familiar with.

44:13 "Then they tore their clothes" No words could express their shock! This is one of several signs of mourning in Jewish culture. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES at 37:29.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:14-17
  
14When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. 15Joseph said to them, "What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?" 16So Judah said, "What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord's slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found." 17But he said, "Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father."

44:15 This is a false statement. It is made to inject tension into the situation. Joseph did not divine their theft; he engineered it!

44:16 Judah is the group's spokesman. He asked Joseph several rhetorical questions.

1. What can we say to my lord?

2. What can we speak?

3. How can we justify (BDB 842, KB 1003, Hithpael imperfect) ourselves?

4. v. 18 is also a question

5. v. 19 is also a question

6. v. 34 is also a question

 

▣ "God has found out the iniquity of your servants" Here again the theological aspects of the betrayal and selling of Joseph seems to have caused these guilt (BDB 730, cf. 4:13; 15:16; 19:15) feelings to have remained in his brothers all these years (cf. 42:21-22,28). However, the brothers seem to have truly changed for they are united in Benjamin's defense and Judah even uses a substitutionary option (cf. vv. 18-34, esp. vv. 32-33). This prayer is on the same level as the intercessory prayers of Abraham, Moses, and Paul.

SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER

44:17 "Far be it from me to do this" This is an idiomatic expression of not doing something that would violate a religious obligation or fairness (cf. Gen. 18:25; Josh. 22:29; 24:16; I Sam. 2:30; 20:2,9; 22:15; II Sam. 20:20; 23:17).

▣ "go up in peace to your father" This command (BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative) is obviously given to intensify the situation. The brothers could not return home without Benjamin because they were afraid Jacob would die (cf. vv. 30-31). There seems to be no hope of peace!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:18-34
  
18Then Judah approached him, and said, "Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord's ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. 19My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' 20We said to my lord, 'We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.' 21Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.' 22But we said to my lord, 'The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.' 23You said to your servants, however, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.' 24Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25Our father said, 'Go back, buy us a little food.' 26But we said, 'We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.' 27Your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28and the one went out from me, and I said, "Surely he is torn in pieces," and I have not seen him since. 29If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.' 30Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad's life, 31when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.' 33Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me-for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?"

44:18-34 Judah retells what has happened in the discussion about the brother's two trips to Egypt to buy food and the tensions at home about the second trip with Benjamin.

44:18 "in my lord's ears" This is an idiom for "may I speak clearly with you" (cf. 20:8; 23:10,13,16; 50:4; Deut. 5:1; 31:11,28,30).

▣ "do not be angry" Judah requests (BDB 354, KB 351, Qal jussive) Joseph not to become more angry (cf. 30:2; 39:19), but to let him explain their family situation in connection with this youngest brother.

44:28 "Surely he is torn in pieces" This is an intensified grammatical structure (infinitive absolute and perfect verb of the same root, BDB 382, 380), which is also found in 37:33.

44:30 "Now, therefore, when I come to your servant, my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad's life" This shows something of Jacob's doting on Benjamin. This concept of the life being bound up (BDB 905, KB 1153, Qal passive participle) is also used to describe the tremendous love and friendship between David and Jonathan in I Sam. 18:1. Jacob had been melancholy since the loss of Joseph and had taken comfort by focusing on the only other son of his favorite dead wife, Rachel.

44:33 This verse has two jussives. Judah is pleading for Benjamin's release and return.

1. let your servant (i.e., Judah) remain (lit. "sit"), BDB 442, KB 444, Qal jussive

2. let the lad go up with his brothers, BDB 748, KB 828, Qal jussive

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Joseph act in such cruel ways toward his brothers?

2. Why does Joseph seem to do such strange things in this chapter in relation to his brothers?

3. Why did Joseph want Benjamin to come to Egypt?

4. List the theological implications of premeditated sin controlling one's destiny.

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods