Genesis chapter 43

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What does Genesis chapter 43 mean?

The previous chapter ended with Jacob's insistence that he would not allow his beloved youngest son Benjamin to be taken to Egypt with his brothers (Genesis 42:38). He was willing to leave Simeon in prison there (Genesis 42:19–20, 24) rather than risk seeing Benjamin come to harm. This continues a pattern of outrageous favoritism that started with Jacob's own parents (Genesis 25:28) and continued into his own life (Genesis 37:2–4).

Some time has passed since the ten oldest sons came back with grain—and the money they thought they had paid for it (Genesis 42:25–28). The famine rages on, and the family's food stores are getting dangerously low once more. Jacob finally tells his sons to go buy more food from Egypt. Speaking on behalf of his brothers, Judah must remind their father that they cannot buy food in Egypt if they do not return with Benjamin. The Egyptian ruler insisted on it. Taking a bold stand, Judah flatly refuses to go if Benjamin does not come (Genesis 43:1–5).

Jacob lashes out, blaming his sons for even mentioning Benjamin to the Egyptian governor (Genesis 42:13). It's not clear how much time has passed, but it's long enough that the situation goes from bad to worse, and the family is on the verge of starvation. Pressing the issue, Judah sways his father in two ways. First, he points out that the family, including the little ones, and Benjamin, will all die without food from Egypt. Second, Judah offers his own life as a pledge of safety for Benjamin, committing to be responsible if anything should happen to his youngest brother. Jacob can either let everyone die, including his youngest son, or he can send the entire group to see if they can obtain food (Genesis 43:6–10).

Finally, Jacob agrees. He orders his sons to take a gift for the Egyptian ruler, along with double the amount of money needed to cover the cost of both their last purchase of grain (Genesis 42:26–28) and a new one. Finally, he prays to God Almighty for mercy for his sons (Genesis 43:11–14).

Soon, Jacob's sons find themselves bowing before the Egyptian ruler once more, this time with Benjamin at their side. The men still do not realize this powerful man is their estranged brother, Joseph (Genesis 42:8), whom they sold into slavery twenty years earlier (Genesis 37:24–28). This fulfills one of the prophetic dreams for which Joseph's older brothers hated him (Genesis 37:5–8). Joseph orders his house steward to bring them to his home and to prepare for them a noon meal. At first afraid that Joseph means to ambush them for stealing during their last trip, the brothers are assured by his steward that God Himself put the money in their packs. The steward releases their imprisoned brother Simeon to them (Genesis 43:15–25).

When Joseph arrives, the brothers present him with their gifts of goods from Canaan. Joseph takes special interest in their youngest brother, offering a blessing for him. Overwhelmed with emotion, Joseph must leave to go to his own room and cry before returning to them. The banquet guests are seated separately, according to Egyptian tradition. Joseph then seems to test his brothers' jealousy by giving the youngest, Benjamin, five times the portion given to the others. As it happens, everyone seems happy and the meal proceeds with great joy (Genesis 43:26–34).

The understanding, at this time, is that all 11 brothers will be sent back to Canaan with full sacks of grain. Things are going better for Joseph's brothers than any of them could have hoped. Joseph has one last test in mind, however (Genesis 44:1–2), before revealing his identity (Genesis 45:1–3).
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