Genesis 48:1–22

48 1 After these things happened, they said to Joseph, “Your father is sick.” He took his two sons with him—Manasseh and Ephraim. When someone told Jacob, “Your son Joseph is coming to you,” Israel gathered his strength and sat up in bed. Jacob said to Joseph, “God Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, blessed me, and said to me, ‘I will make you bear fruit and multiply you; I will make you into many peoples and give this land to your seed after you, to hold for the ages.’ Now, your two sons who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, they are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh, like Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. Those whom you will beget after them, they are yours, but their inheritance will come through their brothers’ names. Ahh, when I came back from Paddan, Rachel died … my grief … in the land of Canaan, on the road, with some distance yet to go to Ephrath, so I buried her there, on the way.” [Ephrath is Bethlehem.]
     Israel saw Joseph’s sons and said, “Who are these?”
     Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.”
     Israel said, “Bring them to me, and I will bless them.” 10 And Israel’s eyes were heavy with age; he could not see. Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them.
     11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face, but now God has also let me see your seed.” 
     12 Then Joseph drew them from Israel’s knees, and they bowed low, face to the ground. 13 Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim in his right hand to Israel’s left, and Manasseh in his left hand to Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it on the head of Ephraim, the younger one, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head; he crossed his hands though Manasseh was the firstborn.15 He blessed them and said,
               “The God before whom my fathers walked,
                    Abraham and Isaac,
               the God who has looked after me
                    all my life until this day,
               16 the messenger who protected me from all harm,
                    bless these lads.
               May my name be called through them
                    and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.
               May they multiply into a great multitude
                    throughout the land.”
     17 Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. He was upset and took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head and place it on Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, this one is firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.”
     19 But his father refused, saying, “I know, my son, I know. He will also become a people, and also be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his seed will become many nations.” 20 Israel blessed them that day, saying,
               “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying,
                    ‘God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So Israel put Ephraim before Manasseh. 
     21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Look, I am dying. God will be with you and return you to the land of your fathers. 22 As for me, I intentionally give you one portion more than to your brothers, a portion that I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”


Having heard that Jacob’s death was imminent, the storyteller revisits the beginning of Jacob’s birth and his wresting away of primogeniture from Esau. A variation on the wrestling of brothers is extended to father and son, following the motifs of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. Readers learn more about Jacob and Joseph, Jacob and his grandsons.

Joseph, learning of Jacob’s entering hospice, brings his sons to Jacob. A question arises: Is this the first time Joseph has brought the Egyptian and Hebrew parts of his family together?

Remembering his dream at Bethel and the promise of a plenitude of seed, Jacob proceeds to adopt Joseph’s children by the Egyptian Asenath. Jacob locates his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, on the same plane as the sons of Leah.

There is confusing talk about later sons of Joseph. If there are any, they will be connected to Canaan through Ephraim and Manasseh (those who have received a blessing directly from Jacob’s/Israel’s hand.

After a remembrance of Jacob’s first great loss, Rachel, he returns unaware of introductions already made. His age-blinded eyes were as his father Isaac’s when deceived by Rebekah and himself.

Embracing the lads, and perhaps smelling them for a scent of ascendancy, Jacob finds them placed with the firstborn, Manasseh, as his right hand, for a primary blessing, and Ephraim at his left, for a secondary blessing.

At this point, Jacob repeats the actions of his father, Isaac—he crosses his hands and offers a blessing to both while his right hand rests on the younger and his left on the older.

Joseph, desiring order that the center be clear, objects.

Jacob claims to know what he knows and confirms that the younger Ephraim will be “greater” than Manasseh. The shift from younger to older continues—Abel/Shem, Isaac, Jacob raised over Cain, Ishmael, Esau. Israel completes the ritual, “May YHWH adopt you as Ephraim the Younger and Manasseh the Older.”

Joseph is promised a return to Canaan. A question: in what capacity or leadership?

Genesis 47:11–31

47 11 Joseph settled his father and brothers and gave them holdings in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land of Rameses, just as Pharaoh had said. 12 Joseph sustained his father, his brothers, and his father’s entire household, including the mouths of the little ones.
     13 Of bread, there was none in all the land, because of the severity of the famine. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan shriveled during the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the silver to be found in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan in exchange for the grain which people bought. The silver was deposited in Pharaoh’s treasury. 15 When the silver from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was exhausted, all of the Egyptians came to Joseph saying, “Bread! We need bread! Why should we die in front of your eyes? The silver is gone.”
     16 Joseph said, “Give me your livestock. If the silver is gone, I will give you bread for your livestock.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them grain for the horses, flocks, cattle, and donkeys. He got them through that year with bread in exchange for all of their livestock.
     18 When that year ran out, they came to him the next year saying, “We can’t hide from my lord that the silver is gone and the livestock belongs to my lord. Nothing remains for my lord than our dead bodies and our farmland. 19 Why should we die in front of your eyes? As for us, for our farmland—possess our farms and us in exchange for bread, and our farms and we will be slaves to Pharaoh. Give us seed that we can live and not die, and so that our farmland will not turn to desert.” 
     20  Joseph acquired all the farmland of Egypt for Pharaoh because every Egyptian sold his field when the famine deepened. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 The people were resettled, town-by-town, throughout the borders of Egypt. 22 However, Joseph did not acquire the soil of the priests because the priests had a subsidy from Pharaoh, and they ate from the allotment from Pharaoh. Therefore, they did not sell their farmland.
     23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have purchased you and your farmland for Pharaoh, here is seed for you. Sow the soil. 24 When the harvest comes, you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. The other four parts are yours to seed the field, and to feed your household and your children.”
     25 The people said, “You have kept us alive! May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” 26 So Joseph fixed a law lasting to this day: from Egypt’s soil, Pharaoh receives one-fifth. Only the soil of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.
     27 Israel dwelled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. They took holdings there, bore fruit, and greatly multiplied. 28 Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. Jacob’s days, the years of his life, were seven years and a hundred and forty years. 29 Israel’s days neared death. He called his son Joseph, and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh, and act toward me with steadfast kindness—Do not bury me in Egypt! 30 When I lie down with my fathers, carry me up from Egypt and bury me in their place of burial.”
     Joseph said, “I will do it according to your words.”
     31 Israel said, “Swear to me!” and Joseph swore. Then Israel bowed, at the head of the bed.


Joseph settles his Hebrew family (different from his Egyptian family) in Rameses (a synonym for Goshen or a foreshadowing of the place of Hebrew enslavement).

Where there was no bread to be had in the inhabited world, Joseph fed his birth family.

All others had to pay for grain from which they could make sustaining bread. The silver from these transactions impoverished Egyptians, Canaanites, and others, while, correspondingly, the coffers of the Pharaoh were enriched.

Eventually, every form of economic transaction fails. It was not long before there was no silver to be had, outside of Pharaoh’s treasury.

Nonetheless, pleas for bread continued. Joseph then agrees to receive any remaining livestock in lieu of silver.

In relatively short order, hunger returns. A post-silver, post-livestock appeal for grain rises to Joseph. As before, Joseph shifts the required payment for grain to the soil itself and the lives of those living on it. Enslavement to Pharaoh was the cost of continued breathing and eating.

As has happened in every enslavement, relocation occurs. There is a removal of people from their place—a dislocation that removes community and organized resistance from people consolidates the power of Pharaoh (and, of course, Pharaoh’s administrator, Joseph). For a current example of this tradition, readers might see Netanyahu in the role of Joseph.

Note the church/state (priest/Pharaoh) connection that enriches the priests—with food and other perks from Pharaoh, priests are able to maintain their land.

Joseph offers the landless an offer they cannot refuse and remain alive. They become share-croppers with a tax level that will keep them poor (enslaved) in perpetuity.

Israel’s household profited in the same way as did the priests. They essentially had state support that privileged them. They were able to see their seed moving toward numbers such as the sand and stars.

As Jacob neared death, he called Joseph to promise for him not to be buried in Egypt, but with his ancestors in the cave purchased by Abraham

.Joseph was with Jacob for 17 years. Israel was with Joseph for 17 years. These numbers mark an identified episode.

Genesis 47:1–10

47 1 Joseph came and told Pharaoh, saying, “My father and brothers with their sheep, oxen, and all that is theirs have come from the land of Canaan and are here in the land of Goshen.” From his brothers, he selected five men and set them before Pharaoh.
     Pharaoh said to Joseph’s brothers, “What is it you do?”
     They said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, we and our fathers.” And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land because there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is heavy in the land of Canaan. We ask you to let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”
     Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Let them dwell in the land of Goshen. If you know capable men among them, make them chiefs of my livestock. 6 [Joseph’s father and brothers had come to him in Egypt, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, heard. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is open to you. In the best of the land, settle your father and brothers. Let them live in the land of Goshen.]
     Joseph brought Jacob, his father, and had him stand before Pharaoh. Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of your life?”
     Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourn are thirty and a hundred years. I’ve been a traveler for 130 years. Few and trying have been the days of the years of my life. They have not achieved the years of my fathers in their days of sojourning.” 10 Jacob gave Pharaoh a farewell blessing and went out from Pharaoh’s presence.


Joseph comes to Pharaoh to complete the task of bringing his family to Egypt. He brings five brothers with him. Readers are not told which five he brings. The words in Hebrew are not direct but points toward these five as being representative of them (half the number who sold him into slavery—they are only half bad?) or as the pick or best of the brothers. Given the way Genesis plays with numbers, the five-times as much given to Benjamin might be weighted toward those who will present the best appearance.

Of course, even the best appearing shepherd is still a shepherd—not an endearing quality for Egyptians. Immigrants in today’s anti-immigrant America would be an apt similarity.

There is a tension between the Masoretic and Septuagint texts in verses 5 and 6. The text above follows the Septuagint, via Alter, to smooth the conversation. Other readers may have a different sensibility and record it otherwise.

The brothers successfully complete their role with Pharaoh and receive a blessing to reside in Goshen. As they depart, Jacob enters, and Pharaoh shifts his question from “What do you do?” to “How old are you?”

Jacob responds that he is 130. This is impressive to Pharaoh as the Egyptian ideal for a well-lived life is 110.

Jacob goes on to acknowledge his life, though he received all he wanted—the status of firstborn, beautiful Rachel, and wealth—he has been discontented (notably with the presentation of Joseph as dead and the risk of losing Benjamin). Not only does Jacob not have a satisfied mind, but he is also shorter-lived than his ancestors (Noah, Shem, Arpashad, Shela, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, and Isaac). [Note: This does accord with a direct-line movement toward the mandate following the Flood of an upper limit of 120 years.]

As the elder, Jacob blesses Pharaoh and, unbeknownst to anyone at this point of drawing his life to a close, lives another 17 years.

Genesis 46:28–34

46 28 Israel had Judah sent ahead for Joseph to give directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, 29 Joseph harnessed his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. When Joseph appeared, he threw his arms around his neck and wept, weeping long upon his neck. 30 Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, after seeing your face, for you are still alive!”
     31 Joseph said to his brothers and his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, saying, ‘My brothers and my father’s household who were in the land of Canaan have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds. They have always cared for livestock. They have brought their flocks and herds and everything that is theirs.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls for you and says, ‘What do you do?’ 34 then say, ‘Your servants have handled livestock from our youth until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you will be able to settle in the land of Goshen. Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”


Now in Egypt, Jacob does not rely on Joseph but turns to Judah to lead his house to the land of Goshen, metaphorically halfway back to Canaan—held between Nile and Desert—a productive land not caught by either luxury or want.

Once settled in Goshen, Joseph puts on his newest exceptional presence, a state chariot instead of a coat, and appears in his glory before Jacob. The language here is reminiscent of a manifestation of a God before a human.

It turns out Joseph has come to weep over the past but does not know how to move into a different future.

After hearing his father Israel’s absolution for past separation and pain, Joseph turns to his brothers and proposes that he will let Pharaoh know that the family, for which Pharaoh had provided wagons and provisions to bring them to Egypt, has arrived.

Joseph gives instructions that his brothers are to claim the status of shepherds that they might reside in the land of Goshen with their flocks.

As far as safety from famine goes, this is good for the family. A difficulty arises in that Joseph continues to claim special status as Pharaoh’s chief administrator. Joseph and his family are separated in the same space of Egypt—Joseph in the seat of power and the rest of the family as the support of that power by way of providing a resource that can be exploited by the powerful—food.

To this day, resources, sustainable or not, are levers of power for a few that enslave many.

To be in the center and bowed toward is ground from which power plays its dividing game—to separate Joseph and Pharaoh from Jacob/Israel and sons. Political, military, economic, resource controllers do not mix with their bowed servants.

Genesis 46:1–27

46 1 Israel journeyed on with all that was his and came to Beer-Sheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God said to Israel in a vision of the night, “Jacob! Jacob!” He said, “Here I am.” He said, “I am El, the God of your father. Do not fear to go down to Egypt because a great nation I will make of you there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I myself will bring you up again. Joseph will lay a hand on your eyes.” 
     Then Jacob arose from Beer-Sheba, and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives on the wagons Pharaoh had sent for carrying him. They took their livestock and the possessions that they had gained in the land of Canaan, and arrived in Egypt—Jacob and all his seed with him. His sons and the sons of his sons, his daughters and the daughters of his sons: all his seed he brought with him to Egypt.
     These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt—Jacob and his sons. Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben and the sons of Reuben: Enoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Saul, the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). Perez’s sons were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. 15 These are the sons of Leah she bore to Jacob in Paddan-Aram, and also Dinah, his daughter. All of these persons, including his sons and daughters, totaled 33.
     16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and their sister Serah. Beriah’s sons were Heber and Malchiel. 18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah. She bore these to Jacob, 16 persons.
     19 The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, were Joseph and Benjamin. 20 To Joseph, in the land of Egypt, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him were Manasseh and Ephraim. 21 The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. 22 These are the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob, 14 persons.
     23 The son of Dan: Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. 25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel. She bore these to Jacob, 7 persons. 
     26 All of the persons who came with Jacob to Egypt—those going out of his loins, excluding the wives of Jacob’s sons—totaled 66 persons. 27 The sons of Joseph born to him in Egypt were 2 persons. All the persons of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt totaled 70.


On the way to Egypt, there is a stop along the way to visit the memory of ancestors—Beersheba. As Jacob, he engages the G*D of his father Isaac, who was constrained to the land of Canaan. As Israel, a vision of the night comes to him. This dream releases Israel from the bounds of Canaan. Word comes that it is in the unlikely place of Egypt that the promise of seed as numerous as sand and stars will be generated. Thus Israel is not to fear to go to Egypt.

Israel had left in joyous haste to be reunited with Joseph. Along the way, a second thought, as patriarch, may have entered his mind—“This is the land promised by G*D.”

Noteworthy is this particular G*D leaving his claimed territory and journeying with Israel and Company down to Egypt. Joseph has already claimed this G*D to have been with him and his interpretations of dreams. He has previously stated that being sold by his brothers has been turned to their benefit. Included in the message of this dream is a return to Canaan, followed by Israel dying and having his eyes closed by Joseph.

In time, this sequence will find Israel’s return, and his dying reversed. It will take generations for the return of his seed to Canaan.

Following this visionary episode, Jacob, yes, back to Jacob, and his sons break camp and continue on their way to see Joseph.

Having left homestead and possessions behind (limited by the capacity of the wagons sent by Pharaoh), the provisions for the journey up to Canaan and back down to Egypt were sufficient to arrive. The sons of Israel and their sons and daughters, his seed stock, arrive in Egypt. The auspicious number seventy is a large symbolic whole-number for the fullness of enough. The nucleus of a nation settles in, ready to multiply.

To honor the shift to a next part of the story—a genealogy.

Genesis 45:25–28

45 25 And they went up from Egypt and came to the land of Canaan, to Jacob, their father. 26 They said to him, “Joseph is still alive! He is ruler of all the land of Egypt!” Jacob’s heart failed him, for he did not believe them.
27 They spoke to him all the words Joseph had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry him down, Jacob revived. 28 Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.”


The caravan from Egypt to Canaan steadily made its way through the wilderness of Sinai. There was time to consider how to deal with Jacob, so resistant to losing the land promised to his father and father’s father. If Jacob only risked sending Benjamin until all other options for survival had been exhausted, how long would all this bounty coming his way delay his leaving?

Sorting through their options, it was decided that the strongest emotion of Jacob surfaced when it involved Joseph. Their plan needed to begin by using Joseph as a lure.

Upon arriving at Jacob’s tent, the brothers begin their practiced song-and-dance routine that Joseph was alive and living in Egypt.

As might be expected, such news caused Jacob’s heart not just to skip a beat, but to intermit—to hold its life-breath, to simply stop.

The brothers applied their verbal shock-paddles to Jacob and repeated Joseph’s words to Jacob. When he finally saw the wagons sent by Joseph, it is recorded that Jacob revived. This resurrection was different than anything Jacob had experienced with a vision of a ramp, the sighting of Rachel, his return meeting with Esau, or word about Joseph’s death.

Jacob’s usual behavior took a backseat to relief, and he wanted to start back without checking their water supply or the strength of the animals. He was so ecstatic that he had no regret for all that needed to be left behind.

Jacob was on his way to Egypt without hesitation. Where the brothers wondered how they could convince Jacob to leave, they now had to figure out how to constrain him from driving everyone and their remaining flocks into the ground.

Genesis 45:16–24

45 16 The news was heard in Pharaoh’s house—“Joseph’s brothers have come.” It was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his servants.  17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your pack animals and return to the land of Canaan. 18 Get your father and your households and come back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will live off the fat of the land.’ 19 And you are commanded: “Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and wives, and carry your father and come. 20 Do not regret seeing your possessions left, because the good things from all the land of Egypt are yours.”
     21 The sons of  Israel did this. Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh instructed, and he gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To all of them, each one, he gave a change of clothing, but to Benjamin, he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father, he sent ten donkeys carrying good things from Egypt, ten she-asses carrying grain and bread, and food for his father for the journey. 24 He sent his brothers off, and as they went, he told them, “Don’t be worried about a trap on the trip.”


Referring to Creation, G*D claims it to be good, day by day; Referring to the presence of Joseph’s brothers, Pharaoh claims it to be good.

At the end of the 6th day, G*D claims it to be very good. One tradition has Lilith coming forth from G*D’s lung on the word “very”. Unconscious chaos and wisdom follow in her wake. A question for Pharaoh as to what might be “very good” added to a “good” would be the bringing of all of Joseph’s family to Egypt. Pharaoh offers the best land available. The presence of one person, Joseph, in Egypt, is one thing, particularly as they have brought such a surplus to Pharaoh and put all of Egypt in Pharaoh’s debt—complements of Joseph. It will be the story of a next book or sequel to describe how different it would be to have a multitude of non-Egyptians in Egypt.

Pharaoh not only invites Jacob/Israel and his extended family to come, but facilitates their move by supplying them with wagons to convey children, women, and an elderly patriarch from Canaan to Egypt by way of travel through Sinai’s wilderness.

Joseph, Pharaoh’s number two, provides his administrative skill to provision the brothers to return to Canaan and return with the extended family.

Joseph, favored as Rachel’s firstborn, doesn’t seem to be able to leave his perceived center of power and privilege. He continues the entitlement cycle by giving Benjamin, Rachel’s second-born, 300 silver coins (15 times what his brothers received when they sold Joseph), and 5 changes of garments (5 times the number of clothing items given each half-brother). Joseph, additionally, sends 20 donkey loads of Egyptian luxuries and grain to his father (more than any other brother could begin to comprehend, much less give.

Finally, Joseph has a word for his brothers as they leave. It was a word that is difficult to translate. Its general use is the opposite of “peace”. Alter suggests it’s meaning may simply be that Joseph has given over his desire for vengeance upon them, and there will be no trap of hidden silver or goblet, this time.

Genesis 45:1–15

45 1 Joseph could no longer constrain himself in front of all who stood in attendance around him, and he called out, “Everyone, leave me now!” So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He loudly wept; the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” His brothers could not respond because they were dismayed before him.
     Joseph said to his brothers, “I ask you to come closer to me.” They moved close. He said, “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be pained and upset that you sold me here. It was to save lives that God sent me before you. For two years, there has been famine in the heart of the land, and there are another five years without plowing or harvest. God sent me before you to make you a remnant on earth, to keep you alive as a great group of survivors. So it was not you who sent me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, lord over his entire household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.
     “Hurry! Go up to my father and say to him, ‘Your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all of Egypt. Come down to me without delay. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, so you will be close to me, you and your sons and the sons of your sons, your sheep, your cattle, and all that is yours. 11 I will sustain you for five years of famine remain, and you will not lose everything, you, your household, and all that is yours.” 12 Your own eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin have seen it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 Tell my father about my importance in Egypt and all that you have seen. Make haste to bring my father down here.” 14 He fell upon the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 He kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After this, his brothers spoke with him.


After a third time of bowing by the brothers—a pregnant pause—and a third weeping by Joseph—this time without his leaving the room. At question is how repeated this pattern is. It appears that weeping is the breakthrough needed when there is an impasse between those constrained to bow and those all too comfortable with being bowed to. Why it takes so long to overcome this divide in every culture is a perennial question.

Joseph finally removes his trappings of power—interpreters and other servants are sent away—and he stands alone to try his mother tongue after all these years in Egypt and his training away any hint of his non-Egyptian background.

As the brothers hesitantly gather around Joseph, there is a subtle told-you-so as Joseph claims what the brothers meant as harm to him, personally, G*D and Joseph have transformed into good for many (including, particularly, his tribe).

Do note the “double causation” here. Though many commentators and translations try to turn this into a pious response from Joseph—giving all glory to G*D—Joseph is a critical center, providing a full sheaf that attracts famished sheaves to him.

A second note is the G*D designation—a simple ’elohim which can be understood as a general providence or fate without the grandeur of a monotheistic YHWH.

With all the brothers together in one room, Joseph sends for his father and his household to come and dwell in the region of Goshen that is both close to the Sinai and the pastureland of the Nile. As second only to Pharaoh, Joseph can privilege his family and arrange for them to survive another five years of famine in all the lands.

With the weeping and the invitation to Jacob/Israel, the brothers could again speak to one another. Joseph has well-played his part and his claim to tribal leadership as coming from G*D—except they are in Egypt, not the promised Canaanland.

Genesis 44:14–34

44 14 When Judah and his brothers came into Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they flung themselves to the ground in front of him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What deed you have done? Did you not know someone like me can divine?”
     16 Judah replied, “What can we say to my lord? What can we say or do to prove ourselves innocent? God has found out your servants’ guilt. Here we are, slaves to my lord, we, including the one who’s hand was found with the goblet.”
     17 Joseph said, “Assuredly, I would never do such a thing. The man in whose hand the goblet was found will be my slave. But you, go up in peace to your father.”
     18 Judah approached him and said, “Please, my lord, allow your servant to say a word in my lord’s ear and let not your anger burst against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a young child of his old age, whose brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’ 21 You said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I can see him.’ 22 And we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father. If he leaves, his father will die.’ 23 You said to your servants, ‘If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you shall never see my face again.’
     24 “When we went up to my father, your servant, we told him the words of my lord.25 Our father told us, ‘Go back and buy us some food.’ 26 We said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down. We cannot see the face of the man if our youngest brother is not with us.’ 27 Your servant, my father, said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore two to me. 28 One went out from me. I thought, “He was torn apart,” and I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from my presence, too, and harm befall him, you will bring down my gray head in despair to Sheol.’ 
     30 “So, should I now return to your servant, my father, and the lad is not with us—his life, so bound to the lad’s— 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die, and your servant will have brought down the gray head of our father, your servant, in grief to Sheol. 
     32 “Your servant, pledged himself for the lad’s safety to my father, saying, ‘If I don’t bring him to you, I will bear the blame to my father for all the days.’ 33 So, please let your servant stay instead of the lad as a slave to my lord. Let the lad go with his brothers. 34 For, how can I go up to my father if the lad is not with us? Let me not see the misfortune that would come upon my father.”


The last time there was a problem between Joseph and his half-brothers, Simeon was incarcerated longer than he expected. This problem seems even more significant. The brothers had agreed that the thief would die, and the rest would become slaves—never returning to their father in Canaan. No magical third time of bowing will get them out of this trap.

As Judah had previously negotiated with his father to have them return with Benjamin to purchase more grain from Egypt, so he takes the lead in negotiating with Joseph toward them returning with grain to Canaan.

Joseph changes the volunteered death sentence to slavery for only the thief.

Judah recognizes the loss of Jacob’s new favorite son from favored Rachel would do Jacob in. Judah rehearses the story from when they first meet Pharaoh’s regent, whose position covers the identity of Joseph. The point of going through their journey to this point is to clarify the impossible choice to return home without Benjamin.

Judah attempts to change the command to leave by offering to take Benjamin’s place as a slave. His staying would affect no one (other than any commitment he had for support of Perez and Zerah, whom he had sired by his sons’ wife, Tamar).

Here there is more than a pregnant pause, an uncomfortable silence.

Many threads of storyline hold their breath to see what is next, what direction is chosen, what choices will be made toward and against the decisions of the powerful.

Genesis 43:31–44:13

43 31 Joseph washed his face, came back, pulled himself together, and said, “Serve bread.” 32 They served him and them by themselves and the Egyptians who ate with him separately because Egyptians will not eat bread with Hebrews; that is abhorrent to Egyptians.33 They were seated before him: the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his birth rank. The men looked in astonishment at each other about this. 34 Portions of food were passed from his presence to them, and Benjamin’s portion was five times as large as theirs. Then they drank and got drunk with him.
 
44 1 Joseph charged the steward of his household: “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can hold, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Put my goblet, the silver goblet, on top of the youngest brother’s pack, along with the silver for his grain.” He did just as Joseph had spoken.
     In the light of dawn, the men were sent off, they and their donkeys. They came out of the city but had not yet gone far when Joseph said to the steward of his house, “Arise, pursue the men; catch them up and say to them, ‘Why have you paid back dishonesty for good? Is not this the goblet from which my lord drinks and uses to divine? What you’ve done is wrong.’”
     He caught up to them and spoke to them these words. They said to him, “Why does my lord speak words like these? Never would your servants do such a thing. This silver we found in the mouth of our bags, we returned to you from the land of Canaan. How could we steal from your lord’s house, either silver or gold?” He of your servants who is found with it shall die, and we will become my lord’s slaves.”
     10 He said, “Agreed. By your words, so be it: The one who is found with it shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be clear.” 11 Everyone hurried to lower their bag down to the ground, and each opened his bag. 12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest—and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 At this, they rent their garments. Then each man loaded their donkey, and they returned to the city.


In the process of beginning a feast, Joseph is overcome when he first recognizes his full-brother, Benjamin. After a calming break, Joseph’s first word is to start the feast. This feast, beginning a shift in relationships, begins with a separation of Egyptian from the Hebrews. In this configuration, Joseph, appearing as an Egyptian, is different from the rest of his full- and half- Hebrew brothers. In terms of tribal leadership, there will be a question of whether or not Joseph can leave his Egyptian acculturation behind.

The scene is dream-like in its setting, with the two groups sitting opposite one another. Joseph has ranked the brothers by age—a mysterious sign that raises a curiosity in the brothers without giving away that they were intimately known. Joseph directs the food flowing from his table of entitlement to his brothers. Each half-brother received a portion, and Joseph’s full-brother received five times as much (excessive, even considering he is still a growing boy). To keep them befuddled, they ate and drank until sated and drunk.

After recovering, Joseph continues his trickery. The bags of grain of each half-brother contained both their grain and a return of their silver (twice the previous amount plus the original amount?). Benjamin’s bag contained grain and silver, and Joseph’s special cup used for divination.

Each hung-over brother was in a hurry to leave, lest another test come upon them. No one thought of their last return home, so no check was run on the contents of their packs.

As they neared the horizon, Joseph sent guards after them to look for a cup as spectacular as a previous tunic. After hearing denials of theft and other protestations, the brothers were lined up, again from oldest to youngest, and their bags opened. Each half-brother was found to be innocent of the theft of Joseph’s special goblet. Benjamin, Joseph’s full-brother, was found to have the cup (a balance to the extra portions of food he had received at the feast?).

A great cry and rending of garments followed this revealing of the goblet. Each brother reloaded their donkey, and they returned to the city under guard.At question is whether it is the brother’s word of “death” or the steward’s revision of “slave” that will be the fate of Benjamin.