Back to Egypt: The Generosity That Brings
Conversion (Chaps. 43–44)
An Initial Turning and Joseph's Generous Meal (Chap. 43)
The Final Turning Back, Led by Judah (Chap. 44)
The scene begins with the painful decision to go back to Joseph, even though it means bringing Benjamin. It is painful for Jacob, because he has to let go, and painful for the sons because they have to take responsibility for their young brother, a sensitive point for them. But their visit, though a little nervous, becomes very positive. Joseph offers splendid hospitality, especially a wonderful meal (chap. 43).
Then on the way home, just when all seems well, the discovery of Joseph's silver cup in Benjamin's bag causes a crisis, a radical test of the brothers' responsibility with regard to their youngest brother and their father (chap. 44). In effect, they have to relive the crisis concerning the youngest, and they do so in the presence of Joseph.
The literary type in chapter 43 is partly that of a travel account (the journey down to Egypt; Westermann, III, 118). However, this journey to Egypt contains another major emphasis, namely food. The chapter begins with the lack of food (“famine …eating …food, ” 43:1–2), and later mentions it repeatedly:
Jacob's surprising generosity in sending scarce food to “the man” (Joseph, 43:11).
In Egypt, the preparations, ordered by Joseph, for a meal (43:16, 24).
Finally, the splendid meal (43:32–34).
It seems best therefore that Joseph's reception of his brothers (chap. 43) be classified as some kind of meal episode.
A partial precedent for such a meal occurs before the destruction of Sodom. Abraham's generous meal (18:1–8), itself linked to the generosity of God, sets the stage for the subsequent display of God's justice in Sodom and for Sodom's fateful decision, its refusal to repent (the sons-in-law treated the idea as a joke, 19:14). Likewise here, but more elaborately: Joseph's splendid meal sets the