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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 43

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Joseph Meets His Brothers a Second Time

A. Jacob decides to let the brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin.

1. (Genesis 43:1-2) Jacob gives the order to get more food.

Now the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.”

a. Now the famine was severe in the land: We have reason to believe the brothers went to Egypt for grain in the first year of the famine. Joseph knew it would last seven years, but his brothers did not. They probably thought it was one bad year, but second year of famine came quickly.

b. When they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt: Perhaps Jacob originally thought they had enough to survive the famine and they would never need to go back with Benjamin, and never need to go back and get Simeon. The famine wore on, and eventually they ran out of food.

c. Go back, buy us a little food: Necessity drove Jacob to do something he would normally never do. We might imagine Jacob prayed so hard for the famine to break, and asked God to send relief. We might imagine Jacob became angry and bitter against God for not answering those prayers. God had a plan and had something so much better for Jacob than he could ever imagine.

2. (Genesis 43:3-5) Judah explains why they had to bring Benjamin with them to Egypt.

But Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”

a. Judah spoke to him: Judah continued to show himself something of a leader among his brothers.

b. The man solemnly warned us: Judah didn’t know that the man was his brother Joseph, but he remembered what a strong and even fearsome person he was. He said, you shall not see my face unless Benjamin was with them.

3. (Genesis 43:6-7) Jacob complains and the brothers defend what they told the Egyptian.

And Israel said, “Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?” But they said, “The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”

a. Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother: Jacob was clearly desperate. They must have discussed this question a hundred times before, yet he brought it up again.

b. Could we possibly have known: The brothers gave a logical explanation to their father. The question of the Egyptian official was so unexpected, they could not have anticipated it.

4. (Genesis 43:8-10) Judah convinces his father to let them go to Egypt with Benjamin.

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.”

a. Send the lad with me: The reference to Benjamin as a lad makes us wonder how old he was at this time. Adam Clarke and others think lad here is better translated as youth or young man and that Benjamin was in his mid-twenties or early thirties with a family of his own (Genesis 46:21).

b. I myself will be surety for him: Judah put his own life on the line as a guarantee for Benjamin. This is the first good thing we see that Judah did. Previously, he was the one who had proposed the sale of Joseph. He was the one who wronged his daughter-in-law Tamar and had sex with her as a harlot.

i. Previously, Satan may have directed his attack against Joseph because he believed he was the one who would ultimately bring the Messiah. To this point, God had not yet revealed which of the 12 sons of Jacob the Messiah would come from.

ii. Satan not only hated the children of Jacob for what they were, but also for what God would make of them. The devil directs the same kind of hatred against believers today, as Satan considers the destiny God has for His people.

5. (Genesis 43:11-14) Jacob sends them with money and gifts for the Egyptian leader.

And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 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!”

a. Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man: Once before, Jacob gave a generous gift to a potential enemy and it worked well (Esau in Genesis 33:10-11).

b. Take double money in your hand: They took double money with them to Egypt to buy grain and the Egyptian leader’s favor. Since ten brothers went to Egypt and they took double money, there were 20 units of money. This answered exactly to the 20 pieces of silver they sold Joseph for (Genesis 37:28). The words for silver and money are the same.

c. May God Almighty give you mercy before the man: It was good for Jacob to say and believe this, but we sense too much fatalism and too little faith (If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!). Faith and fatalism aren’t the same.

B. The sons of Jacob face Joseph again.

1. (Genesis 43:15-18) Joseph invites the brothers to dinner.

So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.” Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and fall upon us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”

a. Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me: This was unusual interest and kindness. The brothers must have wondered why the powerful Egyptian official took such an interest in them, why he wanted to share a meal with them.

i. Joseph is a picture of Jesus: He wants to eat with us, meaning that Jesus wants close relationship with us. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).

b. Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house: Perhaps they feared that the kindness from the Egyptian leader was just to arrange their execution.

2. (Genesis 43:19-23) The brothers explain the money and are treated well in Joseph’s house.

When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house, and said, “O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

a. They talked with him at the door of the house: The brothers thought it was wise to explain things to the steward of Joseph’s house before they had to explain it to the Egyptian official himself.

b. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money: This was not a lie, because he really did have it, and he gave it back. It really was because of God’s goodness that they had the money back.

c. He brought Simeon out to them: Joseph fulfilled his promise.

3. (Genesis 43:24-26) The brothers meet Joseph and bring their gift to him.

So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there. And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth.

a. Gave them water, and they washed their feet: The brothers expected to be seized as slaves and have everything taken from them (Genesis 43:18). Yet Joseph treated them with kindness. This love and goodness from Joseph would win them over and bring them to full repentance.

i. The brothers received the blessings of love and kindness from Joseph without knowing who he was. In the same way, God showers love and blessing upon man even when man doesn’t know from whom the blessings come.

b. They brought him the present… and bowed down: They once again fulfilled the dream Joseph had many years before. They honored this Egyptian official not only out of respect, not only out of gratitude, but also out of need. Sensing we need Jesus will prompt us to give to Him and worship toward Him.

4. (Genesis 43:27-30) Joseph’s emotional meeting with Benjamin.

Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there.

a. He asked them about their well-being: The mysterious Egyptian official had an unusual personal concern for these brothers and their family. Surely, he did not treat other grain purchasers this way.

b. Now his heart yearned for his brother: Joseph was especially affected at meeting his only full brother, Benjamin, whom he last saw as only a small child. He was so overcome with emotion that he went into his chamber and wept. He was sad and emotional because he never had a relationship with Benjamin.

5. (Genesis 43:31-32) The dinner tables are segregated.

Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.” So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

a. They set him a place by himself: Joseph did not eat with his brothers, because at the time, Egypt was one of the most racially separated societies on earth. They believed that Egyptians came from the gods, and all other people came from lesser origins. There was little social mixing with foreigners in the Egypt of Joseph’s day.

b. And the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves: The Egyptians would not eat with Joseph, much less the strangers from Canaan. Even with all his status and power, Joseph could still not eat with real Egyptians.

i. “It is known from Herodotus that Egyptians so abhorred things foreign, that priests, at least, ate and drank nothing that was imported, nor would they use utensils for eating that had been used by Greeks.” (Leupold)

ii. Here, we see the wisdom of God. Before Genesis account ends, God brought the entire family of Jacob into Egypt, where they were isolated from the surrounding people for some 400 years. In that time, they multiplied greatly, increasing to the millions. If God had allowed them to remain in Canaan, they would have simply assimilated into the corrupt and godless peoples of Canaan.

iii. God not only had to take the family of Israel out of the corrupt environment of Canaan, but He had to put them among a racially separated people who would not often intermarry or mingle with them. God simply sent Joseph on ahead to make the arrangements.

6. (Genesis 43:33-34) Joseph arranges them by order of birth and he favors Benjamin.

And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

a. The firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth: No wonder the brothers were filled with astonishment. This arrangement couldn’t happen by chance. Statistically, the odds of placing 11 brothers in their precise order of birth are something like 1 in 40 million.

b. Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs: This was another test, seeing how they reacted when the younger brother was favored, because they resented it so much when Joseph was favored by his father.

i. Joseph wanted to see if there was a change in the heart of his brothers, or if they were the same men who threw him into a pit and were deaf to his cries for help.

ii. This might have been his whole motivation in asking for Benjamin. He wondered if they would take care of Benjamin on such a journey, as they failed to do with Joseph.

iii. We should expect if we fail in a test somewhere, God will make arrangements for us to take the test again another time. This is a serious reason to take the test well the first time.

©2018 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


  1. Leupold, H.C. "Exposition of Genesis: Volumes 1 and 2" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976)

Updated: August 2022

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