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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 43

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Genesis 43:14. If I be bereaved. The patriarch Jacob having at length consented to the second journey, discovered very great wisdom in the instructions he gave to his sons; nor were his piety and submission less in commending them to God, and suffering Benjamin to go.

Genesis 43:23. Your God, and the God of your father. Joseph’s steward speaks in the character of an Egyptian, and conformably to the best theology of that ancient nation, the Egyptians having had the knowledge of the true God as taught by Noah. The Greek word ΕΙ was written in front of the temple of Minerva at Saïs in Upper Egypt. Professor Michaelis of Gottingen says, “They worshipped one supreme and first god, whom they call in Greek ΕΙΣ , the one. Iamblicus says of this deity, that before all things that existed, and before the first original beings, there is One God, θεος , ΕΙΣ . He is prior to the first God, [meaning the Son] and to the king; he is immoveable, and continues in the solitude of his unity. They call him Adad, or rather Ahad; that is, one, as appears from Macrobius. Saturnalia, lib. 1. cap. 23; Euseb. Præp. lib. 10. cap. 38; the אחד Achad of Isaiah 66:17. They believed further, that this god was quite incomprehensible, on which account they call him eternal darkness; in opposition to which St. Paul affirms, that he dwells in light unto which no man can approach.” See on Isaiah 66:17.

Iamblicus adds, “From this One, that God who is the original αυταρκης , kindled himself, εαυτον εξελαμψε . Wherefore he is called also his own father, and his own origin. A christian cannot assert the eternal divinity of the Son in stronger terms, for he is the original being, and the God of gods; One of one, before any thing existed; προυσιος , and before the beginning of existence. For from him came the possibility of being, and being itself. Whence he is called also, the beginning of things imaginable, νοηταρκης . The reader may be referred to a passage of Porphyry, which Cyril has preserved in his book against Julian. Of this god the Egyptians believed that he was the image of that God who only could be known in him. St. Paul, in Hebrews 1:3, and Colossians 1:15-16, exactly attributes to Christ, what the oriental philosophers taught concerning the Son of God.” I had your money. Joseph was a devout man, and therefore upright in Pharaoh’s interests. He had paid the treasurer for the corn his brethren took, and did not dare to give away the property of his sovereign. And he brought out Simeon unto them, who appears to have had a lenient confinement.

Genesis 43:30. He sought where to weep. Here was a conflict between his judgment and his feelings. He would gladly have discovered himself to them: but they being only just arrived, nothing was farther known concerning the reality of their repentance except the acknowledgment in the first journey, that their brother’s blood was required. Therefore Joseph wisely persevered in seeking that test; and through the whole of life, he preferred piety to every other consideration.

Genesis 43:32. An abomination. Because the Hebrews were shepherds who would eat bulls, which the Egyptians adored under the name of Apis. Critics do not give us any account of the origin of this idol. Herodotus narrates at large how Cambyses on being introduced with apparent reluctance on the part of the priests, found a bull richly decorated, and uttering many exclamations against the brutishness of the Egyptians, ran his sword into the bowels of the animal, and thus killed their god. Bullocks offered in sacrifice had been accepted with fire from heaven, Genesis 15:2, and that might give rise both to this idolatry, and to the Persian custom of worshipping fire. Exodus 8:26. Of the hatred of the Egyptians to shepherds we have two accounts, which are both probably true. Josephus, out of Manetho, says, that 200,000 Phœnician shepherds had been driven out of Egypt by king Amasis, after they had oppressed the country with the most bloody cruelties for 259 years. The other account is from the same Manetho by Eusebius, Præp. lib. 10. cap. 13, who says that shepherds, whom he calls king-shepherds, had invaded Egypt from the Grecian shores, and describes the disaster in two columns. It is not improbable that both the Greeks, and the Phœnician chieftains, were united in those cruel disasters.

Genesis 43:34. Benjamin’s mess. Joseph sent this to mark his superior love to his own brother. So Elkanah gave Hannah a worthy portion of the sacrifice. 1 Samuel 1:5. Samuel also reserved the shoulder for Saul. 1 Samuel 9:24. But it is probable, that Benjamin’s mess contained five portions, to equalize him with the sons of Leah.


Joseph’s brethren, returning home, would have a multitude of thoughts respecting their eventful journey. The conduct of the chief ruler in Egypt must have appeared to them singularly wise and upright, though in some respects severe. Still more extraordinary must it have appeared that Simeon, who had conspired against the life of Joseph when he was sold into Egypt, should now be fixed upon as the hostage for their return. Very singular also that one brother should formerly have been sold into slavery, and another now detained with scarcely any hope of his deliverance; for their father Jacob they were sure would not suffer Benjamin to go. Ah, Simeon’s sins, they would say, have now found him out; and it will be our turn to suffer next, because we consented to the deed. Thus time was given for reflection, and for repentance to soften their hearts. Theirs was a chronic complaint, an obstinate case, which did not admit of immediate cure. Our case as sinners too much resembles theirs, and no wonder if we meet with similar treatment; yet if the Lord should speak roughly to us, as Joseph did to his brethren, it is that we may be humbled in his sight, and afterwards be exalted.

Let us cast our eyes on the new troubles and encreasing sorrows of good old Jacob, whose whole pilgrimage was chequered with distinguished blessings and with sore afflictions. Long since he had been bereaved of Joseph, now Simeon is detained in Egypt, and Benjamin is next demanded. The day was dark and portentous, and amidst his grief and sorrow he concluded that all these things were against him. In the course of a few months the supply of corn was all consumed; famine and death, the most terrific ministers of vengeance, once more threatened destruction to the house of Israel. But when the crisis arrived, the venerable patriarch, finding himself in the power of imperious circumstances, calmly submitted to be deprived of his children, and rested the issue with his father’s God. In like manner the Lord may require of the aged christian the surrender of all that is most dear to him; but let him be assured notwithstanding, that all these afflictions and vicissitudes are not making against him, but are working together for his present and eternal good.

From the character and conduct of Joseph we may see the propriety of moderating our resentments, of mixing mercy with judgment, of overcoming evil with good, and waiting the openings of providence to promote the best interests of the offender. Joseph, with equal kindness and magnanimity, returned the money of his brethren, as though they had never wronged him; and after all his seeming rigour his heart was full of relentings towards them. Let us do likewise; let us constantly cherish those benevolent affections which adorn religion, and are beneficial to society.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 43". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-43.html. 1835.
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