Genesis 44:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 44:4, NIV: They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, 'Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid good with evil?

Genesis 44:4, ESV: They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good?

Genesis 44:4, KJV: And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?

Genesis 44:4, NASB: They had just left the city, and were not far away, 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?

Genesis 44:4, NLT: But when they had gone only a short distance and were barely out of the city, Joseph said to his palace manager, 'Chase after them and stop them. When you catch up with them, ask them, 'Why have you repaid my kindness with such evil?

Genesis 44:4, CSB: They had not gone very far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, "Get up. Pursue the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good?

What does Genesis 44:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jacob's 11 sons have just left the city, loaded down with grain (Genesis 43:1–2; 44:1). They were surprised to be honored with a banquet (Genesis 43:34). And, apparently, they understand the Egyptian governor has given them back the money they planned to use to pay for grain (Genesis 44:1). What they don't know is that the Egyptian governor is their estranged brother, Joseph (Genesis 42:8). Nor do they know he has arranged for his personal cup to be hidden in the bag belonging to the youngest brother, Benjamin (Genesis 44:2–3).

Read out of context, it would be easy to assume Joseph had a sudden change of heart about being kind to his brothers. In truth, he has planned to send his steward after his brothers all along. Joseph tells the steward to question the men harshly (Genesis 42:7) once he catches up with them. Specifically, he is to speak as if they have stolen Joseph's personal cup, accusing them once again of wrongdoing.

The brothers are innocent of any evil in this case. However, this is all part of Joseph's latest test. Twenty years earlier, these same men—except for Benjamin—had jealously sold Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37:24–28). Joseph seems to be creating another situation where the men must choose between their own desires and the good of their youngest brother.