Jacob was anxiously awaiting the return
of his sons, and on their arrival the whole encampment gathered eagerly
around them as they related to their father all that had occurred. Alarm and
apprehension filled every heart.
The conduct of
the Egyptian governor seemed to imply some evil design, and their fears were
confirmed, when, as they opened their sacks, the owner's money was found in
each. In his distress the aged father exclaimed, "Me have ye bereaved of my
children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away:
all these things are against me." Reuben answered, "Slay my two sons, if I
bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to
thee again." This rash speech did not relieve the mind of Jacob. His answer
was, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is
left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall
ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."
But the drought
continued, and in process of time the supply of grain that had been brought
from Egypt was nearly exhausted. The sons of Jacob well knew that it would
be in vain to return to Egypt without Benjamin. They had little hope of
changing their father's resolution, and they awaited the issue in silence.
Deeper and deeper grew the shadow of approaching famine; in the anxious
faces of all in the encampment the old man read their need; at last he said,
"Go again, buy us a little food."
"The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face,
except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we
will go down and buy thee food: but if thou wilt not send him, we will not
go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your
brother be with you." Seeing that his father's resolution began to waver, he
added, "Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live,
and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones;" and he offered to
be surety for his brother and to bear the blame forever if he failed to
restore Benjamin to his father.
Jacob could no
longer withhold his consent, and he directed his sons to prepare for the
journey. He bade them also take to the ruler a present of such things as the
famine-wasted country afforded--"a little balm, and a little honey, spices
and myrrh, nuts and almonds," also a double quantity of money. "Take also
your brother," he said, "and arise, go again unto the man." As his sons were
about to depart on their doubtful journey the aged father arose, and raising
his hands to heaven, uttered the prayer, "God Almighty give you mercy before
the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be
bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
journeyed to Egypt and presented themselves before Joseph. As his eye fell
upon Benjamin, his own mother's son, he was deeply moved. He concealed his
emotion, however, but ordered that they be taken to his house, and that
preparation be made for them to dine with him. Upon being conducted to the
governor's palace, the brothers were greatly alarmed, fearing that they were
to be called to account for the money found in their sacks.
that it might have been intentionally placed there, to furnish occasion for
making them slaves. In their distress they consulted with the steward of the
house, relating to him the circumstances of their visit to Egypt; and in
proof of their innocence informed him that they had brought back the money
found in their sacks, also other money to buy food; and they added, "We
cannot tell who put our money in our sacks." The man replied, "Peace be to
you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure
in your sacks: I had your money." Their anxiety was relieved, and when
Simeon, who had been released from prison, joined them, they felt that God
was indeed gracious unto them.
governor again met them they presented their gifts and humbly "bowed
themselves to him to the earth." Again his dreams came to his mind, and
after saluting his guests he hastened to ask, "Is your father well, the old
man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?" "Thy servant our father is in good
health, he is yet alive," was the answer, as they again made obeisance. Then
his eye rested upon Benjamin, and he said, "Is this your younger brother, of
whom ye spake unto me?" "God be gracious unto thee, my son;" but,
overpowered by feelings of tenderness, he could say no more. "He entered
into his chamber, and wept there."
recovered his self-possession, he returned, and all proceeded to the feast.
By the laws of caste the Egyptians were forbidden to eat with people of any
other nation. The sons of Jacob had therefore a table by themselves, while
the governor, on account of his high rank, ate by himself, and the Egyptians
also had separate tables. When all were seated the brothers were surprised
to see that they were arranged in exact order, according to their ages.
Joseph "sent messes unto them from before him;" but Benjamin's was five
times as much as any of theirs. By this token of favor to Benjamin he hoped
to ascertain if the youngest brother was regarded with the envy and hatred
that had been manifested toward himself.
that Joseph did not understand their language, the brothers freely conversed
with one another; thus he had a good opportunity to learn their real
feelings. Still he desired to test them further, and before their departure
he ordered that his own drinking cup of silver should be concealed in the
sack of the youngest. Joyfully they set out on their return. Simeon and
Benjamin were with them, their animals were laden with grain, and all felt
that they had safely escaped the perils that had seemed to surround them.
But they had
only reached the outskirts of the city when they were overtaken by the
governor's steward, who uttered the scathing inquiry, "Wherefore have ye
rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and
whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing." This cup was
supposed to possess the power of detecting any poisonous substance placed
therein. At that day cups of this kind were highly valued as a safeguard
against murder by poisoning.
steward's accusation the travelers answered, "Wherefore saith my lord these
words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:
behold, the money, which we found in our sack's mouths, we brought again
unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy
lord's house silver or gold? With whomsoever of thy servants it be found,
both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen."
"Now also let
it be according unto your words," said the steward; "he with whom it is
found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless." The search began
immediately. "They speedily took down every man his sack to the ground," and
the steward examined each, beginning with Reuben's, and taking them in order
down to that of the youngest. In Benjamin's sack the cup was found. The
brothers rent their garments in token of utter wretchedness, and slowly
returned to the city. By their own promise Benjamin was doomed to a life of
the steward to the palace, and finding the governor yet there, they
prostrated themselves before him. "What deed is this that ye have done?" he
said. "Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?" Joseph
designed to draw from them an acknowledgment of their sin. He had never
claimed the power of divination, but was willing to have them believe that
he could read the secrets of their lives. Judah answered, "What shall we say
unto my Lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath
found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants,
both we, and he also with whom the cup is found."
that I should do so," was the reply; "but the man in whose hand the cup is
found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your
father." In his deep distress Judah now drew near to the ruler and
exclaimed, "O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my
lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art
even as Pharaoh." In words of touching eloquence he described his father's
grief at the loss of Joseph and his reluctance to let Benjamin come with
them to Egypt, as he was the only son left of his mother, Rachel, whom Jacob
so dearly loved.
therefore," he said, "when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be
not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life; it shall
come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die:
and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father
with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my
father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to
my father forever. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead
of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.
For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest
peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father."