21 November 2023

Genesis 44:1-34

'... please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy.' (v. 33)

Psalm 25: 8-22


Today’s passage is longer than usual but it's worth taking the time to read it carefully.

Before today's passage in Genesis 43 we read when Jacob first sent his sons to Egypt to buy corn he kept the youngest, Benjamin, at home. It’s clear that Jacob always had a special relationship with his youngest two sons and, having lost Joseph, was determined not to lose Benjamin as well.  But Joseph, having accused his brothers of being spies, insisted that Benjamin join them and held Simeon as surety until he came. Jacob was naturally reluctant to let Benjamin go, but Judah, the eldest brother, took particular responsibility for Benjamin’s welfare and so they returned, nervously, to Joseph in Egypt who welcomed them with lavish hospitality.  We also see something of Joseph’s vulnerability even in his position of power as on seeing Benjamin he was overcome with emotion and had to withdraw. 

In today’s reading, the brothers are tested once more. Joseph gets his servant to hide his special cup in Benjamin’s sack and then lets them depart only to catch up with them and discover the cup which has ostensibly been stolen by them. The brothers are naturally confused and dismayed as they are brought before Joseph. The question is whether they will allow old family tensions to come to the fore and abandon young Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother, as they disposed of Joseph many years before. This time, however, there has been a genuine change of heart and Judah offers himself as a substitute, not least to save his father Jacob from utter despair.


To Ponder:

  •  Was Joseph right to trick his brothers in this way and cause them such distress?
  • Judah offers himself as a substitute for Benjamin. In Christian thinking we often think of Jesus offering himself as a substitute for us. In Mark 10:45 he speaks of giving his life as a ransom for many. How easily do you relate to this idea?


Help me, Lord, to appreciate the depth of your love for me, and for all your children. Amen.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister originally from the Methodist Church in Ireland. He now lives in Solihull, near Birmingham. He has served as a circuit minister, as a university chaplain, as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission. Donald was also General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland for some years and its President in 2009/2010.

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