Genesis 43:17

The trial of Joseph is over. Now comes the trial of his brethren and of Jacob. The Spirit of God is at work in all their hearts. True men they were and yet sinful men. Before they can be made partakers of the blessing of Joseph they must pass through the fire. He who is appointed minister of grace to them is the instrument of their trials. Notice -

I. The trial is one of CONSCIENCE. "We are verily guilty concerning our brother. "His blood is required." Face to face with one whom they supposed to be a heathen man, they are reproved. They have to tell facts which smite them with inward reproach.

II. The trial is one of HEART. To leave Simeon behind, to be afraid both for him and for themselves and for Benjamin. To be keenly perplexed and agonized for their old father. To be deeply wounded in the remembrance of their brother Joseph's anguish of soul and helpless cries for pity.

III. The trial is one of FAITH. "What is thin that God hath done unto us?" In the midst of all the roughness, and the fear, and the trouble there is still the feeling that they are being dealt with in some mysterious way by God himself, and there is a mingling of faith with their fear. Reuben again represents the better element in their character, and as they follow him they are led into peace. Joseph's smile is the smile of the loving heart which sometimes dissembles that it may reveal itself the more fully when the opportunity comes. He wept behind their backs. He was hiding the intensest love and the most abundant forgiveness and pitifulness, while he appeared to be a rough enemy. Still there were signs mingled with the harsh treatment that it was not all harsh. The sacks were filled with corn, and the money was returned. A deeper faith would have penetrated the secret. But those that have to be led from the feeble faith to the strong, have to be tried with appearances that seem, as Jacob said, "all against them. How often the believer says, All these things are against me," when he is already close upon that very stream of events which will carry him out of his distress into the midst of plenty, peace, and the joy of a healed heart in its recovered blessedness. Jacob poured out his natural fears and complaints, yet how little they were founded on truth. The son for whom he mourned yet lived and closed his eyes, and his gray hairs went to the grave in peace. - R.

The men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house.
I. THEY DREAD SOME GREAT MISFORTUNE. They are driven to Egypt by a dire necessity. A presentiment of disaster weigh upon their hearts. They expect no favourable solution of their mysterious treatment.

II. THEY ARE POSSESSED BY AN INVETERATE SPIRIT OF MISTRUST, They interpret adversely even the most favourable appearances. The generous reception which was given them only serves to raise their worst suspicions and to alarm their fears. They cannot get rid of the belief that Joseph meant to entrap them by a cunning device.

III. THEY ARE HAUNTED BY THE MEMORY OF AN OLD CRIME. They are innocent respecting this money in their sacks, and yet they feel themselves to be guilty men. Conscience makes cowards of them everywhere.

(T. H. Leale.)

1. Fear misinterprets kindness.

2. We are often being tested while we are unconscious of the fact that we are so.

3. An illustration of the difference between the outer appearance and the inner life of a man.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

It was a whisper aside, addressed to one who proved himself very capable of executing Joseph's wishes. This device of "bringing them home" and feasting them gave Joseph opportunity for testing their feelings towards Benjamin; it allowed them a chance of recognizing their brother; and it used them to his love as mingled and contrasted with his severity. Joseph wished to produce these three effects; but I scarcely think he intended another effect, which, however, was the first — the re-awakening of their fears. It was God who intended that.

(A. M. Symington, D. D.)

It has been objected here that the narrator must be in error in representing Joseph as giving orders for the slaughter of animals for food, since that must have been contrary to the customs of the Egyptians; but Wilkinson, in describing preparations for dinner, says, "an ox, kid, wild-goat, gazelle, or oryx, and a quantity of geese, widgeons, quails, or other birds were obtained for the occasion"; and Kalisch alleges that "though there was scarcely an animal which was not held sacred in some province, there was, perhaps, with the only exception of the cow, none which was not eaten in other parts of the land"; so that the description here is in perfect harmony with what we now know to have been the habit of the people.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Benjamin, Egyptians, Joseph, Simeon
Bade, Bringeth, Commanded, Joseph, Joseph's, Servant
1. Jacob is persuaded to send Benjamin.
15. Joseph entertains his brothers.
19. They discover their fears to the steward.
26. Joseph makes them a feast.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 43:1-26

     5325   gifts

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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