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. 2 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.
3 In the light of dawn, the men were sent off, they and their donkeys. 4 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? 5 Is not this the goblet from which my lord drinks and uses to divine? What you’ve done is wrong.’”
6 He caught up to them and spoke to them these words. 7 They said to him, “Why does my lord speak words like these? Never would your servants do such a thing. 8 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?” 9 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.