We are not told how much time has passed since their trip. How long did it take all their families to consume those sacks of grain? A few months?
Had Jacob been hoping that the famine would be over by the time the need would arise to send Benjamin? It does not pan out that way, and now their father needs to send them back for more grain. Judah reminds him of the situation. Um, don't forget, dad: Benjamin must go or there will be no more grain.
Suddenly, Jacob is called by his covenant name - Israel - in this section. Once again he gripes about his sons mentioning to the Egyptian ruler that he has another child.
This time, Judah steps in and takes full responsibility for Benjamin, offering to take all the blame if anything should happen to him. What an amazing transformation of Judah. He was the one who had suggested the sale of their brother to the Egyptians in the first place. He then later left his family, married into a pagan family, broke his promise to his daughter-in-law Tamar, slept with a prostitute, and then tried to have Tamar killed for adultery... until it was revealed that the child was his. Oops.
Note: it is never too late to begin living a life that honors God.
At Judah's offer, Israel relents. Judah, the one who is to be chosen for the line of the Messiah (in spite of all his character flaws), offers himself now as intercessor - another picture of Messiah in the Joseph narrative. Does Israel relent because Judah himself has lost two sons?
Israel instructs his sons to bring all manner of gifts to this Egyptian ruler - pistachios, honey, almonds, spices, chocolate (ok, kidding, chocolate had not yet made its way from central America to the Middle East by then).
|Middle Eastern gift-giving|
In verses 13-14, Israel says,
Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”
Also, Israel's statement on bereavement bring to mind the words of Esther so many years later: If I perish, I perish.
|Silver - the symbol of redemption|
I wonder if Simeon's time in the slammer tames him at all. Food for thought.
In ancient Egypt, shepherding was the lowest of the low of professions. They would have thought, those stinky, low-class Hebrews! Additionally, Egypt was quite racist against not just the Hebrews but against most other cultures as well. They believed that they were descended from gods, and that their Pharaoh was a manifestation of the chief god.
|Dining with Joseph - in birth order!|
I always wondered why Benjamin was given so much more food thaneveryone else. Why not just double or triple? Five times the amount seems to be so very overkill. It's like Joseph gave Benjamin the 11:11 Burgers and Beignets challenge with that ridiculous amount of food.
But Joseph is really laying it on. He really wants to know if his brothers harbor any resentment toward Benjamin. And interestingly, the number five symbolizes God's grace, goodness and favor toward humans and is mentioned 318 times in Scripture. For example:
- There are five books in the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
- There are five kinds of offerings at the tabernacle
- The ten commandments are two sets of five (Five regarding our relationship to God, and five regarding our relationship to our fellow man)
- There are five sections to the Psalms
- Yeshua used five loaves to feed five thousand people