WHEN Jacob's sons began taking the grain out of their sacks, each was shocked to find a bag of money there. It was the same amount each had paid the Egyptians. When Jacob learned about this, he was worried lest his sons be considered thieves and taken back to Egypt. "I have already lost Joseph and Simeon," Jacob said. "Now you say I should send Benjamin to Egypt. I won't do that because I don't trust you to return him to me." "Let me take Benjamin so that we may prove ourselves and rescue Simeon from prison," Reuben suggested. "If I don't return, you may have the lives of my two sons." "Don't make foolish promises," said Jacob. "I don't intend to part with Benjamin. If anything should happen to him, I would die of sorrow."
The Famine Grows Worse
As months passed, famine conditions worsened. Like most others, Jacob didn't know that there would be seven years without enough rain to make crops possible. Every day he prayed for rain, and each day he looked for a weather change. God had a plan He intended to carry out in spite of prayers from His followers. The food supply brought from Egypt became so low that Jacob had to tell his sons to go back to Egypt for more. (Gen. 43:1-2.) "There is no use returning for more grain unless we take along Benjamin," Judah respectfully told his father. "We were told by the governor that he wouldn't see us again unless we would bring our youngest brother to him." (Verse 3.) "If you want grain, Benjamin will have to go along. If anything happens to him, I'll be responsible." (Verses 8-9.) "Then take him," Jacob finally agreed. "Take also some gifts for the Egyptian governor. My servants will prepare packages of honey, spices, ointments, perfumes and choice dates and nuts. Also take back the money that was returned to you in your sacks. Offer all these things to the governor. I pray that God will be with you, and that all of you will return safely with Simeon."
Once again Jacob's sons went to Egypt, and once again they stood before the governor, who was their brother. When Joseph saw that they had returned with Benjamin, he was very pleased. However, he had to keep from showing his feelings. "Take these men to my house and have a very special meal prepared for them," he told his chief servant. (Verse 16.) The servant escorted the ten sons to Joseph's quarters. They weren't sure why they had been brought to such a fine place. They began to wonder if they were there to receive some sort of punishment. Therefore they told Joseph's chief servant about their first trip to Egypt for grain, and how their money had mysteriously been returned to them. They explained to him that they wanted to give the money back, and that they had more money for buying more grain. (Verses 20-22.)
"Don't worry about these things," the chief servant told them. "Make yourselves comfortable until my master comes."
Simeon Released from Prison
While the brothers waited, they were given the chance to bathe, and their animals were fed. Then, to their surprise, their brother Simeon, who had been a prisoner for about a year, was brought in to them. (Verse 23.) At noon Joseph arrived at his home with some high-ranking Egyptians. The brothers bowed low to the governor, and humbly presented the gifts they had brought from Canaan. Joseph thanked them and asked about their father. "Is this the brother you told me about?" Joseph asked, looking at Benjamin. "It is," was the reply. "This is Benjamin. He should help prove that we didn't come to Egypt last year as spies." Joseph was so glad to get a good look at Benjamin that he almost wept. He had to excuse himself and go to another room, where he broke into tears. He returned shortly. No one could know how he felt in standing before eleven brothers who weren't aware that he was their brother. (Verses 29-31.) Food was brought in for all present. With so many good things to eat and drink before them, the brothers quickly forgot their fears and worries. Benjamin enjoyed the meal more than anyone. For one thing, he was served far more of everything. Besides, he received special dishes not served to the others, inasmuch as Joseph quietly had instructed his servants to give him special treatment. (Verse 34.) Of course Benjamin didn't try to consume all that was set before him, but it increased his awe for the governor. He would have been more awed if he could have known that the governor was his brother!
Brothers Prepare to Return to Canann
Early next morning Jacob's sons set out for home with as much grain as their animals could carry. They were happy with the way matters had turned out. They couldn't know that something unpleasant was about to occur. Toward noon they noticed a cloud of dust off to the southwest. As the cloud grew larger, they could make out that a band of men on horses was swiftly coming toward them. They were surprised when the leader of the band turned out to be the chief servant of Egypt's governor. "Why have you treated your host, the governor, so badly?" the chief servant asked the brothers.
"What do you mean?" they asked. "The governor's special silver cup is missing," was the answer. "That's the one he was using yesterday when you ate with him. He thinks one of you stole it!'.' "We aren't thieves," the brothers exclaimed. "We brought back the money that was returned to us on our first trip to Egypt. Why should we steal now? Search us. If you find the cup in our belongings, we will become your servants. If one of us is hiding the cup, he shall die!" (Gen. 44:4-9.) They felt that it would be impossible for the cup to be found with them. None would have dared take such a valuable article from the powerful governor of Egypt. "Let it be as you have said," agreed the chief servant, motioning his men to search the brothers' belongings. To the unpleasant surprise of Jacob's sons, money for the grain was again found in the sacks. And the silver cup was found in Benjamin's sack! (Verse 12.) In miserable silence the brothers packed their belongings back on their animals. Surrounded by their pursuers, they rode back to face the governor. When Joseph appeared, they fell down before him. "What have you been trying to do?" Joseph sternly asked. "Obviously you don't know that I sometimes have the power to recognize evil intentions." "What can we say?" asked Judah, the brother who told his father that he would surely look out for Benjamin. "There's no way of proving we aren't guilty, and we aren't. We've done some wicked things in our time, and if God wants to punish us by becoming your slaves, so be it." (Verse 16.) "It needn't be that way," Joseph said. "I ask that only Benjamin become my servant. The rest of you may return to your father." Perhaps some of the brothers thought that this was a fair way of settling matters. Judah didn't. He wanted to get the governor to set Benjamin free. He pointed out that his father had almost died of sorrow when he had lost a young son by the name of Joseph, and that his father was certain to die of sorrow if his youngest son, Benjamin, failed to return home. Joseph was so moved by Judah's plea that he could no longer keep his feelings under control. Joseph had treated most of his brothers harshly because he wanted them to be painfully aware of their evil deeds. He had returned their grain money twice to keep them in a sober state of mind. He had servants put the silver cup in Benjamin's sack so that Benjamin would have to stay with him for at least a while. (Gen. 44:1-2.)
Joseph Reveals Who He Is
Joseph was unable to continue acting the part of a stern ruler. He dismissed the Egyptian officials from his home so that he could be alone with his brothers (Gen. 45:1.) "I am Joseph, your brother," he tearfully told them. Instead of saying anything, his brothers only moved backward, staring in surprise and unbelief. "Come near me," Joseph said. "Look at me closely, and you should recognize the young brother you sold to Arabian slave traders years ago." (Verse 4.) His brothers continued staring in silence. Perhaps some of them remembered Joseph telling them of his dream of their bowing down to him. "Don't be unhappy because of my reminding you of things you have done," Joseph said. "God caused these events. He opened the way for me to be taken to Egypt and gave me ability to see a part of the future. It was for the good of many people, including you and your father, that God directed me to prepare for a famine. Five years without harvest are yet to come, so I want you to return to our father and tell him what has happened and what is going to happen. Tell him that as governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, I want him and his family and his animals and all of you and your possessions to come down to Egypt to live while the famine lasts. If you don't, you will probably lose all that you have." Joseph then embraced Benjamin and his other brothers. This caused them to lose their fear of this man they had regarded only as a stern governor of Egypt. They began to talk as only brothers talk among themselves. It turned out to be a happy time, especially because Joseph wanted to forgive them for wrong things most of them had done to him. When Pharaoh heard about Joseph's brothers, he was anxious to be of some help because of his high regard for Joseph. He supplied carriages and animals to take back to Canaan for the more comfortable trip to Egypt by the women and children that would come from Canaan. He felt that those who weren't up to the discomfort of travel by swaying camels and jolting donkeys would be helped. To this Joseph added new clothing. To Benjamin he was particularly liberal by including money. To his father he sent ten donkeys loaded with food (Verses 22-23.) Besides these things, Joseph's brothers took the grain they had been sent for. "Have a safe trip back home," Joseph said. "Go straight to Canaan and return as soon as you can with our father." With this advice, the governor of Egypt sent his brothers away.