“Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, 2 and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. 3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4 They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.’ ” (Genesis 44:1–5 (ESV)
The governor of Egypt and Jacob’s eleven sons had a wonderful lunch. However, the eleven brothers still do not know that the so-called Egyptian official they have lunched with is really their brother Joseph.
The brothers brought back the money Joseph returned to them from their first visit to Egypt to buy grain. This time, Joseph not only returned their money, unbeknownst to them, but also had his steward secretly place Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. The stage was set for one final test. This act was to see if Joseph’s elder brothers had truly changed from the men they were so many years ago.
What was the significance of the silver cup? Apparently, the silver cup was Joseph’s personal drinking utensil. It probably was also symbolic of his position and power in Egypt. It was also used to determine signs and the will of God (Gen. 44:5). For it to be stolen or lost would be a major incident.
Joseph used this particular item as an instrument to test his elder brothers’ integrity. The question would be whether or not Josephs’ elder brothers would come to Benjamin’s defense or look out only for their own selfish interests and preservation.
The following morning after their luncheon with Joseph, the eleven brothers set out at first light to travel back to Canaan. Their donkeys were loaded with sacks of grain and provisions. Benjamin’s sack contained the aforementioned silver cup.
Today’s text says that they had only traveled a short distance from the Egyptian city, of which no name is given. It was at this time that Joseph then told his steward, ““Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.’ ”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Although they will struggle with sin until death, believers will repent and press forward toward the goal God sets before His people (Heb. 12:1–2). Jacob’s son, Joseph, understood these truths well, and he knew that his brothers must repent and obey if they were to be the Lord’s people. Their crime of selling him into slavery because they were jealous of him (Gen. 37:25–28) did not automatically bar them from God’s promises — they would have been forever lost only if they, evidenced in an unchanged life, refused to serve God through an utter lack of faith. Happily, Joseph saw their newness of heart when they did not envy the favored position he gave to Benjamin (chap. 43). Yet Joseph could not see the hearts of his brothers, and he further pressed them, looking for proof of their changed hearts. Since they had been disloyal to God’s people when they betrayed him, Joseph thought he might discern the state of his brothers’ souls by testing their loyalty to Benjamin. Today’s passage describes how Joseph initiated this test to see if their repentance was genuine.”
John Calvin writes that, “if we have an arduous (difficult) conflict with the impetuosity of an angry temper, or the obstinacy of a disposition to hatred, we must pray to the Lord for a spirit of meekness, the force of which manifests itself not less effectually, at this day, in the members of Christ, then formerly in Joseph.”
May the LORD grant each of us who are believers in Christ a spirit of forgiveness. This spirit of forgiveness is in light of all which Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:31-32). Have a blessed day in the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!