5 October 2015

Genesis 44:1-17

“God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” (v. 16)

Psalm: Psalm 103


The story of Joseph and his brothers starts in Genesis 37, and then runs from Genesis 39 to 47. It has been popularised in song by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. We read the climax of the story here and over the next few days.

As a teenager Joseph earned his brothers' hostility both by virtue of being his father's favourite and by the sense of superiority he consequentially chose to display. They sold Joseph into slavery and told Jacob their father that he must have been killed by a wild animal. But after a period as a slave and then a prisoner in Egypt, Joseph's God-given insights, particularly in interpreting dreams, led to him eventually becoming the country's first minister in charge of food distribution during seven years of famine.

Joseph's eleven brothers, for a second time, travelled from Canaan to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognise him, due both to the passage of years and their assuming he was a forgotten slave somewhere. On the first visit Joseph's only younger brother, Benjamin, who was not part of the original conspiracy had stayed at home. By accusing the other brothers of being spies Joseph insisted that one of them, Simeon, stayed in prison until they return with Benjamin to prove their story of being honest but hungry men. On seeing Benjamin with them on this second visit Joseph has been greatly affected emotionally and has treated them very hospitably.

Today's passage describes a ruse Joseph played, which in the rest of the chapter will lead to the ten older brothers revealing more of their back story though not what they had done to Joseph, and then in the next chapter to Joseph revealing his identity and a tearful reconciliation.

Judah is not the oldest brother but he was the one who had promised his father that he would stand surety should any harm come to Benjamin (Genesis 43:8-9) and so in this passage he becomes their spokesperson.

To Ponder

  • It seems the brothers interpreted the events whereby they seem likely to end up as slaves as the result of God finding out their guilt, not at having stolen the cup, but at having long ago sold Joseph into slavery. What do you make of this kind of justice as a way that God may act?
  • Divination, the art of discernment for which Joseph used his cup examining the way oil and water mixed within it, was a common practice in Egypt and other cultures of the time, but would later be forbidden for Israel (Deuteronomy 18:10). How are God's faithful people today able to discern the truth of things?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.