What does Genesis 43:1 mean?
ESV: Now the famine was severe in the land.
NIV: Now the famine was still severe in the land.
NASB: Now the famine was severe in the land.
CSB: Now the famine in the land was severe.
NLT: But the famine continued to ravage the land of Canaan.
KJV: And the famine was sore in the land.
NKJV: Now the famine was severe in the land.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous chapter, Jacob resolved not to allow any of his family to return to Egypt. He knew the Egyptian ruler in charge of selling grain was holding his son Simeon. That governor's demand was that his other sons return with Benjamin, the youngest. The ruler had demanded this as evidence they were not lying about not being spies (Genesis 42:10–12; 19–20). None of Jacob's family realizes this ruler is Joseph (Genesis 42:8), the son sold by his brothers into slavery some twenty years prior (Genesis 37:24–28).

In essence, Jacob was willing to sacrifice Simeon rather than risk losing Benjamin, as he had lost Joseph (Genesis 37:31–35). He held his other sons responsible for these losses. Now more time has passed. The famine remains severe (Genesis 41:57). Jacob's family is getting dangerously low on food once more. This will force him into a painful and risky decision.
Verse Context:
Genesis 43:1–15 describes how Jacob is forced to send his beloved son, Benjamin, to accompany his other sons to Egypt to buy more grain. If Benjamin doesn't go, they will not be allowed to purchase anything. This is by the order of the Egyptian governor, who the men do not realize is their long-lost brother, Joseph. Without grain, the family will starve. Jacob agrees, sending with his sons a gift for the man, along with double the amount of money needed to buy the grain. Finally, Jacob prays to God Almighty for his boys before allowing them to depart with his precious youngest son.
Chapter Summary:
Jacob must send Benjamin with his brothers, back to Egypt, to buy more grain for the family. Without it, they will starve, but the Egyptian ruler will not sell them grain if they don't bring Benjamin as agreed. Speaking on behalf of his brothers, Judah finally convinces his father. Arriving in Egypt, they are honored as guests in Joseph's house. They present a gift to him—still not recognizing him as their estranged brother—and Joseph, after being overwhelmed with emotion, pays special attention to Benjamin.
Chapter Context:
In Genesis chapter 37, Jacob sends his favorite son, Joseph, to visit his brothers. Joseph does not come home. In chapter 42, Jacob sends ten of his sons on a mission, and once again the group returns short one son. The Egyptian governor keeps Simeon as collateral and commands the family to return with Benjamin. Only when forced with starvation does Jacob risk his youngest son. Joseph, still unrecognized by his brothers as the governor of Egypt, honors the men as guests in his home, paying special attention to Benjamin. After further tests in chapter 44, Joseph will finally reveal himself in chapter 45.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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