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Gen. 43:1-34 - Banquet of Grace - Part 2
Vs. 1-15 - “Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”
They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your older brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, I am bereaved, I am bereaved.
So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.”
The worldwide famine was just as severe in Canaan as it was in Egypt, so it didn’t take long for the supplies they brought back from Egypt to run out. According to the text there was just enough grain left for their families to survive while the brothers made the trip.
Hopefully us men in here are gonna see that Jacob’s response to his circumstances was pretty bogus because it shows very poor leadership! And the characteristics of Jacob’s leadership that we see in this chapter are all too familiar today, are they not?
His first response was to “put it off,” to delay taking any action until their situation was in crisis mode. But Joseph had made an agreement with his brothers that they would take the desperately needed grain home, and then return with Benjamin as we saw last week. Gen. 42:19-20 “... if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in our prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.” And they did so.”
And this is what the brothers had planned to do, but Jacob stopped them from doing it and refused to let Benjamin leave his side. Gen. 42:38 - But Jacob said, ‘My son will not go down there with you...”
Not until their grain had nearly run out did Jacob finally face up to the matter. It was then that Judah, who had already spoken, took charge. He says to dad, “Listen dad, if we would have done this when we shoulda, we coulda went there and back twice by now!”
And if the first moronic aspect of Jacob’s twisted leadership skills were: “put it off,” the second was, “play it down.”
One of the ways we can put things off is by convincing ourselves that they really aren’t that important, right!
And Jacob started minimizing this whole matter of the famine, Simeon’s captivity, and the inevitable fact that ALL of his sons were going to have to return to Egypt. How did he minimize? Look at vs. 2 - where Jacob says: “Go back and buy us a LITTLE MORE food.”
Why would he tell his sons to buy only a little food? Why wouldn’t he tell them to buy all the groceries they could carry? Obviously he didn’t know that the famine would last 5 more years, but he WAS aware that the famine was severe. Judah was unwilling to accept the minimizing of his dad, after all, it wasn’t Jacob who would have to stand before that Egyptian governor and explain to him why Benjamin wasn’t there.
Joseph had INSISTED that he wouldn't see these men again unless their youngest brother was with them.
I haven’t seen Jacob’s leadership challenged much in the past chapters, but I give Judah props as he stood his ground against pops here and said they wouldn’t go back unless Benjamin was with them. Jacob was pretty shaken by the stance his sons took, but he wasn’t gonna give in that easy. The next verses show us a further attempt to deny reality and to hold off on sending Benjamin to Egypt when he said: ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man you still had another brother?’’
So here Jacob reverts to blame-shifting! He tried to change their minds by placing the responsibility on them. “This is all your fault, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t told the Egyptian dude about your brother!”
Then Jacob starts rebuking his sons for telling the truth!!! Isn’t that the old Jacob we’ve come to know and love? The old ways of deception were still in him, and during times of adversity he never hesitates to use them. Basically he is saying: Why don’t ya do what I woulda done and just lie about it?”
While Reuben’s efforts to get his father to let Benjamin return to Egypt had been resisted, Judah here begins to emerge as a leader in the family. His words encourage Jacob to make the painful decision to let Benjamin go, and Reuben promises to take full responsibility for the safety of Benjamin and even offers up his own 2 sons if they failed.
At that point Jacob had no intention of letting go of his favored son, and he probably didn’t have much respect for Reuben because of his previous sin of sleeping with Biliah, his concubine back in ch. 35. But Judah makes his offer a little more forcefully and basically tells dad to quit being so selfish and to start taking responsibility for the entire family!
While Jacob spoke only of “I,” “me,” and “my,” Judah thought in terms of “we,” “us, and “our.” Judah here seems to speak for all his brothers in refusing to go back to Egypt without Benjamin.
Then he rebukes Jacob for the needless delay in sending Benjamin to Egypt. And where Reuben offered only his sons in return if they fail, Judah offers himself as a guarantee for a successful mission.
It was probably a combination of all these things:
- the severity of the famine,
- the fact that they were almost out of grain,
- the threat of the brothers not returning to Egypt without Benjamin,
- and the assurances of Judah, which finally persuaded Jacob to allow Benjamin to journey to Egypt.
And the verses that follow indicate that Jacob is only passively and reluctantly surrendering to his circumstances.
I do want us to take note of something here. I find it interesting that Judah, the same brother who devised the plan to sell Joseph in Gen. 37 is now taking lead on this new mission.
The pledge in vs. 9 also connects this story with Gen. 38 and the pledge that Judah offered Tamar in exchange for the brief fling they had. These similarities also allow us to see the difference between the stories as well.
In Gen. 37 and 38, Judah’s successful plan and the offer of his pledge were both designed to serve himself and advance his own interests, while here they were designed to serve others at whatever cost to himself.
God was at work here, changing Judah even before he made the trip back to Egypt. It wasn’t yet a complete change, as Judah hasn’t yet confessed about when he and his brothers sinned against their father in the matter of Joseph. But we know from experience that radical and sudden 180 degree changes are not always the norm, but usually happens in small steps, right?
Maybe something we can be looking for in our messed up and shattered relationships are small steps towards change. Sometimes we expect or even demand unrealistic levels of transformation from people and refuse to make any compromises until the other person has changed completely. But change of any kind is a process, and we should recognize and celebrate baby steps in the right direction, while still acknowledging that the process has a good deal further to go.
Sometimes we ourselves are the ones who need to change. We recognize that we are the ones who have sinned and are sinning against those around us, yet we don’t have the power to transform ourselves. God’s work of sanctification in our hearts is often a slow process in our own lives, so we should recognize and celebrate every step in the right direction in others. Amen?
So we see here that Jacob’s leadership lacks any sign at all of spiritual maturity or even an iota of faith. After he gives in, his first thought is to “sweeten the pot” with a few of the choicest products in the land of Canaan. Maybe this wasn’t so much a “bribe” as a token of benevolence and respect.
In addition to the gifts, he told his sons to take the money they had found in their sacks and the additional money needed to buy a new supply of grain, and they were to give this double amount to the governor. Maybe the money was misplaced in their sacks and they're returning it would be further evidence of their honesty.
Finally, Jacob gave Benjamin into the care of his sons and his God.
Join us next week as we continue in the text. Blessings to you all.