Monday, July 04, 2011

The Steward Finds Joseph’s Cup in Benjamin’s Sack - Genesis 44:11-13

Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack.  And he searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.  Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.

Once the consequences had been set by the steward, Joseph’s brothers actually ‘hurried’ to get this over with.  Each of them lowered their sack down from his animal and quickly opened it.  Can you imagine the tension as each man awaited the inspection of his sack by Joseph’s steward?  While they all were in this together, it is possible a slight hint of human nature comes into play here as it now appears it was ‘every man for himself’ – “Here, check my bag; see, I’m clear.”

The steward actually searched through the brothers’ sacks in order of the bothers’ ages, starting with the oldest.  He did not go randomly nor did he search them in the order they were standing around in.  Knowing that the cup would be found in the sack of Benjamin, and being a bit of a showman himself who liked a good climactic finish, the steward decided to leave the youngest’s sack until the end.

Interesting that no mention was made of the finding of each man’s money in his sack during the inspection.  That was left unrecorded although it did occur as Joseph had also instructed his servants to return each man his money in his sack.  And as the steward found each man’s money, can you imagine the feeling that came over each one individually and the group collectively?  They were all guilty of this theft.  Now even if the cup were found in a sack that still had to be searched, all were party to the crime.

But here the crux of the story is all about the cup and the fact that it was in the sack of the youngest brother, Joseph’s full brother, and Jacob’s last and beloved son.  And sure enough, Joseph’s cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

The text then says, “they tore their clothes”.  They did not tear their clothes as the money was being found, but upon realizing that Joseph’s cup was in their youngest brother’s sack.  The wailing and lamentation that likely took place was not for their inconvenience or embarrassment or even guilt but for the fact that they would now have to explain to their father how all this came about and that Benjamin would have to serve as a slave the rest of his life in Egypt.  This news would no doubt kill their father.  Their burden was indeed heavy.  There is earlier reference to the tearing of clothes in this story.  We saw it in Genesis chapter 37, verse 29 when Reuben, on his way to rescue Joseph from the pit the brothers had thrown him in, discovered he was not there.  Later in that chapter in verse 34, we learn of Jacob doing likewise when he heard of his son Joseph supposedly being devoured by a wild beast.

Once the distraught group settled down, each slowly reloaded their donkey and accompanied Joseph’s steward back to the city.  Even though they didn’t have to, in accordance with the terms the steward had demanded, there was no way they were going to let Benjamin go back alone.  Or perhaps it was that they had no desire to face their father Jacob without Benjamin.  It is also possible that the fact that each man was found guilty of stealing the money found in his sack, that they too were asked to return.  In any case, the solidarity and unity of the brothers continued to be evident.

Sometimes our plans and our journeys have a way of being abruptly rerouted by a crisis.  The secret is in how we deal with what God has allowed to befall us at the time it hits.  If you are facing a crisis today, put on the shield of your faith, accept the circumstances, enter into the refuge that God provides with that shield, and seek His wisdom and guidance. 

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