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2002 11 11
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Chapter 44


1 Then Joseph gave his head steward these instructions: "Fill the men's bags with as much food as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his bag.


In the mouth of the youngest one's bag put also my silver goblet, together with the money for his rations." The steward carried out Joseph's instructions.


At daybreak the men and their donkeys were sent off.


They had not gone far out of the city when Joseph said to his head steward: "Go at once after the men! When you overtake them, say to them, 'Why did you repay good with evil? Why did you steal the silver goblet from me?


2 It is the very one from which my master drinks and which he uses for divination. What you have done is wrong.'"


When the steward overtook them and repeated these words to them,


they remonstrated with him: "How can my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing!


We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money that we found in the mouths of our bags. Why, then, would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?


If any of your servants is found to have the goblet, he shall die, and as for the rest of us, we shall become my lord's slaves."


But he replied, "Even though it ought to be as you propose, only the one who is found to have it shall become my slave, and the rest of you shall be exonerated."


Then each of them eagerly lowered his bag to the ground and opened it;


and when a search was made, starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest, the goblet turned up in Benjamin's bag.


At this, they tore their clothes. Then, when each man had reloaded his donkey, they returned to the city.


As Judah and his brothers reentered Joseph's house, he was still there; so they flung themselves on the ground before him.


"How could you do such a thing?" Joseph asked them. "You should have known that such a man as I could discover by divination what happened."


3 Judah replied: "What can we say to my lord? How can we plead or how try to prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants' guilt. Here we are, then, the slaves of my lord - the rest of us no less than the one in whose possession the goblet was found."


"Far be it from me to act thus!" said Joseph. "Only the one in whose possession the goblet was found shall become my slave; the rest of you may go back safe and sound to your father."


Judah then stepped up to him and said: "I beg you, my lord, let your servant speak earnestly to my lord, and do not become angry with your servant, for you are the equal of Pharaoh.


4 My lord asked your servants, 'Have you a father, or another brother?'


So we said to my lord, 'We have an aged father, and a young brother, the child of his old age. This one's full brother is dead, and since he is the only one by that mother who is left, his father dotes on him.'


Then you told your servants, 'Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.'


We replied to my lord, 'The boy cannot leave his father; his father would die if he were to leave him.'


But you told your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes back with you, you shall not come into my presence again.'


When we returned to your servant our father, we reported to him the words of my lord.


"Later, our father told us to come back and buy some food for the family.


So we reminded him, 'We cannot go down there; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go, for we may not see the man if our youngest brother is not with us.'


Then your servant our father said to us, 'As you know, my wife bore me two sons.


One of them, however, disappeared, and I had to conclude that he must have been torn to pieces by wild beasts; I have not seen him since.


If you now take this one away from me too, and some disaster befalls him, you will send my white head down to the nether world in grief.'


"If then the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, whose very life is bound up with his, he will die as soon as he sees that the boy is missing;


and your servants will thus send the white head of our father down to the nether world in grief.


Besides, I, your servant, got the boy from his father by going surety for him, saying, 'If I fail to bring him back to you, father, you can hold it against me forever.'


Let me, your servant, therefore, remain in place of the boy as the slave of my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.


How could I go back to my father if the boy were not with me? I could not bear to see the anguish that would overcome my father."



1 [1-2] Replacement of the money in the men's bags is probably a redactional addition here, taken from the Yahwist account of the first visit. It is only the goblet in Benjamin's bag, not any replaced money, that plays a part in the rest of the chapter.

2 [5] Divination: seeking omens through liquids poured into a cup or bowl was a common practice in the ancient Near East; cf Genesis 44:15. Even though divination was frowned on in later Israel ( Lev 19:31), it is in this place an authentic touch which the sacred author does not hesitate to ascribe to Joseph, the wisest man in Egypt.

3 [16] Guilt: in trying to do away with Joseph when he was young.

4 [19] My lord . . . your servants: such frequently repeated expressions in Judah's speech show the formal court style used by a subject in speaking to a high official.

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