Genesis 43:33 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 43:33, NIV: "The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment."

Genesis 43:33, ESV: "And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement."

Genesis 43:33, KJV: "And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another."

Genesis 43:33, NASB: "Now they were seated before him, from the firstborn according to his birthright to the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment."

Genesis 43:33, NLT: "Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and to their amazement, he seated them according to age, from oldest to youngest."

Genesis 43:33, CSB: "They were seated before him in order by age, from the firstborn to the youngest. The men looked at each other in astonishment."

What does Genesis 43:33 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jacob's sons do not realize that the powerful Egyptian governor is their estranged brother, Joseph (Genesis 37:24–28, 42:8). They only know they were commanded to bring their youngest brother, Benjamin (Genesis 42:19–20) and are now being honored with a meal at the governor's home (Genesis 43:16–25). They are seated according to Egyptian custom, which means separating Egyptians from non-Egyptians, and likely priestly or government officials from common laymen (Genesis 43:32).

The brothers are seated according to their birth order. Since they are said to be "amazed," many interpreters assume the men were not told to sit in that order, but that the house steward seated them that way, on Joseph's orders. From their perspective, then, it would be incredible that they'd be seated in exactly the right pattern. Another possibility is that they were told to sit in birth order and are simply "amazed" at the entire process. This seating order will also provide a test for the brothers in the form of favoritism (Genesis 43:34).

Clearly, the group is still unaware that the Egyptian vizier who hosts them is Joseph, their brother. Modern readers can cover the chapters from Joseph's enslavement to this incident in only a few minutes. This makes it easy to forget that it has been some twenty years since Joseph lived with them. Joseph was seventeen when he was sold (Genesis 37:2), thirty when he became governor (Genesis 41:46), and it has been more than seven years since (Genesis 41:53–55). He has also been fully integrated into Egyptian culture, including his clothes (Genesis 41:42), his new name and wife (Genesis 41:45) and his use of Egyptian language (Genesis 42:23).

Joseph's brothers, on the other hand, have likely only grown older, but kept the same general appearance and language. As a set of brothers, they're also a more easily recognized group. It's not surprising that Joseph knew who they were when they first came to buy grain (Genesis 42:7).