About 4,000 years ago, there was a young man named Benjamin who was falsely accused of stealing a silver cup. A silver cup sounds like a small thing, but this was actually a big problem. His life was at stake, and the health of his father was in jeopardy. Furthermore, the only reason Benjamin was in this predicament was because there was this man in Egypt who had a knack for putting Benjamin’s family at a disadvantage.
Benjamin was the youngest of twelve brothers. All twelve brothers were the sons of one man, Jacob. But they did not all have the same mother. Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons of Rachel. Jacob dearly loved Rachel, but she died while giving birth to Benjamin, and her death brought sorrow to Jacob.
Since Joseph was the son of Jacob’s old age, Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons. This caused Joseph’s brothers to envy him. They sold Joseph into slavery and deceived their father into thinking that Joseph had been killed. After losing both Rachel and Joseph, Jacob was very protective of Benjamin. Jacob sheltered Benjamin in an attempt to make sure he didn’t lose him, also.
When Benjamin was still fairly young, a famine came. Jacob heard that Egypt had food, so he sent his 10 oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain, but he did not send Benjamin with them because he was afraid something would happen to Benjamin.
Let’s look at this on a map. This is where Jacob and his sons lived. This is Egypt. It was approximately 240 miles from Canaan to Egypt. People can walk about 20-30 miles per day, so the journey from Canaan to Egypt would have taken around 5-10 days.
When Jacob’s sons arrived in Egypt to buy grain, they had to buy from the governor of the land. The governor was actually Joseph. Joseph recognized his brothers, but his brothers did not recognize Joseph. Joseph did not reveal himself; instead, he accused the brothers of being spies, he put Simeon in jail, and told the other brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt and prove they were not spies. The nine brothers returned home and told their father what had happened. When they ran out of food again, Jacob very reluctantly allowed Benjamin to go to Egypt so they could buy more food. Jacob was reluctant because he was afraid Benjamin would be harmed.
Gen. 43:15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.
Jacob sent a present for the governor of Egypt, hoping to gain favor with him and gain the release of Simeon. The brothers took double the money because when they arrived home after the first trip to Egypt, every man’s money was in their sack. They didn’t want to be accused of stealing, so they took the money they had taken the first time plus enough money to buy more grain. The text is clear that Benjamin went along. Once again they stood before Joseph. Joseph knew who they were, but they still did not know that the governor was the brother they had sold into slavery.
Gen. 43:16 ¶ When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.”
Gen. 43:17 So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house.
Notice that they slew an animal. When we read this story, it is easy to lose sight of how much time passed by. When Joseph decided to feed his brothers, they didn’t just pull some meat out of the freezer. Instead, they had to get a live animal, kill it, butcher it, and then cook it. It was very time consuming.
Gen. 43:18 Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.”
The governor had been harsh with them the first time they were in Egypt, so they had reason to be afraid when they were taken to his house. They knew they had paid for their grain the first trip, but they had no idea how their money had been returned to them, so they had good reason to be concerned that they might be accused of stealing. Simeon had been bound during their first trip, so it was also reasonable for them to be afraid that they would be bound this trip.
Gen. 43:19 So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house,
Gen. 43:20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food,
Gen. 43:21 and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand.
Gen. 43:22 “We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.”
The brothers were very proactive about their fears. They went to the house steward right away and told him the whole story of how they had paid for their grain the first trip, but their money had been returned to them in their sacks.
Gen. 43:23 He said, “Be at ease, 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.
Gen. 43:24 Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder.
Gen. 43:25 So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.
The steward immediately put them at ease and acknowledged that they had paid for their grain. Notice that Simeon was brought out.
Washing their feet and feeding their donkeys gives more indication of the amount of time that was elapsing before they ate. Once again there is a reference to the present they had brought for Joseph.
Gen. 43:26 ¶ When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him.
Gen. 43:27 Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, “Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”
Gen. 43:28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” They bowed down in homage.
Gen. 43:29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.”
Here’s another reference to the present for Joseph. When Joseph was a young man, he had had a couple dreams in which his brothers bowed down to him. These dreams were part of the reason his brothers did not like him and sold him into slavery, but these dreams came true. Here, we are told twice that the brothers bowed down to Joseph. Joseph very specifically identified his brother Benjamin.
Gen. 43:30 Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.
Gen. 43:31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.”
Meeting Benjamin was a very emotional experience for Joseph. Notice the phrase “deeply stirred”. Notice the words “weep” and “wept”. Notice the word “controlled”. Joseph was finding it very difficult to act normal.
Gen. 43:32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians.
Gen. 43:33 Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment.
Gen. 43:34 He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
This line tells us that Egyptians loathed to eat with Hebrews. Therefore, we’re told that there were three groups at the meal. Joseph was one group. The brothers were a second group. And the Egyptians were a third group. The brothers were seated by order of birth. The word astonishment tells us that they noticed that they were seated by birth order. They were astonished because they didn’t know how the Egyptians knew their birth order. It seems that this should have alerted them that something was not as it seemed. I’m not sure how the brothers may have reacted to the fact that Benjamin got five times as much as they did. Since Jacob had always sheltered Benjamin, the brothers may have been used to Benjamin getting preferential treatment.
Gen. 44:1 ¶ Then he commanded his house steward, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.
Gen. 44:2 “Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph had told him.
It’s very clear that the brothers did not fill their own sacks. Joseph’s steward filled their sacks. This fact will be important later. Once again, just as happened during their first trip to Egypt, each man’s money was put back in his sack. The important fact here is that the steward put Joseph’s cup into Benjamin’s sack. This makes it very clear that Benjamin was framed.
Gen. 44:3 As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys.
Gen. 44:4 They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, “Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good?
Gen. 44:5 ‘Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’”
Gen. 44:6 ¶ So he overtook them and spoke these words to them.
The phrase “as soon as it was light” tells us that the day after the meal, the brothers left early in the morning to return home. They had both Simeon and Benjamin with them, they had resolved the issue of their money being returned to them at the first visit, and they had bought more food, so they probably thought they were getting out of Egypt without any trouble. Well, Joseph had other plans. Not only was the steward to accuse the brothers of stealing, but he was supposed to magnify the crime as much as possible. The use of the word divination does not mean that Joseph actually practiced divination, this was just something the steward was supposed to say in order to magnify the seriousness of the theft.
Gen. 44:7 They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing.
Gen. 44:8 “Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?
Gen. 44:9 “With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”
The brothers had a very good point. They had clearly demonstrated their honesty by bringing the money back and they certainly had to be perplexed about why they were being accused of being dishonest. The brothers conceded that if any of them had the cup, that person should die. Remember that the brothers had not actually filled their sacks. Joseph’s steward had filled their sacks. It was foolish for the brothers to stake their life on their innocence when they knew they hadn’t filled their sacks. Their money had been returned to their sacks during their first visit without them knowing it, so they had experience with things mysteriously showing up in their sacks. It certainly could have happened again.
Gen. 44:10 So he said, “Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.”
Gen. 44:11 Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack.
Gen. 44:12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.
Gen. 44:13 Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.
Notice that the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. The phrase “they tore their clothes” indicates how serious this was. The brothers knew that their father was afraid something would happen to Benjamin. All the brothers would have been determined to keep Benjamin safe because none of them wanted to return home and have to tell their father that Benjamin was not with them. Simeon had been locked up during their first visit, so at this point they reasonably concluded that Benjamin would be locked up and never allowed to return home. This was the worst case scenario for them.
What happened next? This story actually ended well. Joseph soon revealed himself to his brothers, the brothers then realized they were indeed safe in Egypt, and soon Jacob went to Egypt and was reunited with Joseph.
What should we do when life goes awry? We know the ending of Benjamin’s story, but we don’t know how our problems will resolve, nor do we know if they will resolve. What should we do when we are falsely accused, or when someone takes advantage of us? What should we do when our rival is always a step ahead of us and uses that to our detriment? Consider the following verses.
James 1:2 ¶ Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
James 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
James 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Rom. 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
Rom. 5:4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Just as Benjamin and his brothers encountered some problems, so too we will encounter problems as we go through life. And while it is counter-intuitive to rejoice when problems come, the truth is we are to be glad because problems actually make us better people. Tribulation gives us perseverance. Perseverance improves our character. Character gives us hope. So the next time life goes awry, look on the bright side. Your troubles will make you a better person.