What does Genesis 43:34 mean?Eleven of Jacob's sons—the ten oldest and the youngest, Benjamin—are seated in birth order at a banquet hosted by the governor of Egypt (Genesis 43:32–33). The men don't realize the Egyptian leader is the missing brother, Joseph (Genesis 42:7–8). Though they sold him as a slave twenty years earlier (Genesis 37:24–28), he has risen to power and is now testing his estranged family (Genesis 42:19–20). This will all work out for good, eventually (Genesis 47:11–12). For now, Joseph seems interested in examining whether his older brothers can forgive favoritism.
Joseph's test involves giving Benjamin an outrageously large portion of food at the banquet. The proportion of "five times" might have been significant in Egyptian culture. This echoes the extreme favoritism shown by Jacob to Joseph many years prior (Genesis 37:3–4). It's possible Joseph wants to see if the older brothers show any signs of jealousy.
Regardless of any confusion or surprise, the men seem to become fully relaxed, eating and drinking and becoming "merry" with Joseph. The alcohol may have had something to do with their merriment, along with the stress relief of seeing Simeon released and their father's beloved Benjamin treated so well. Scholars debate if the Hebrew term shakar used here is a reference to drunkenness or simple happiness. The King James, for instance, translates this term as a reference to intoxication 16 out of the 19 times it is used in the Old Testament. That doesn't absolutely mean the brothers were drunk, but it does prove their spirits were high and they didn't seem bothered by Benjamin's oversized portions.
Of course, more surprises are yet to be revealed in this encounter (Genesis 44:1–2).