The Brothers Return to Egypt

Genesis 43:1-34

Time passes, and again Jacob’s family needs food. Judah reminds his father that they cannot return to Egypt without Benjamin, and persuades him to send his youngest son by promising to take personal responsibility for his safety. Jacob agrees, instructing the brothers to take the viceroy a gift of the best the Land of Israel has to offer, as well as double the money they need, to repay what was found in their sacks when they last returned home.


Joseph instructs his staff to bring the brothers into the house and prepare a feast for them. When the brothers try to return the money they feel they still owe, the servant assures them Joseph already received his pay and clearly their God wished them to have their money.


When Joseph arrives, he asks the brothers after their father, whom they assure him is well. Joseph is also moved to tears by the sight of his younger brother, and excuses himself to cry in private.


Joseph used the banquet prepared as an opportunity to amaze the brothers with his knowledge of their birth order, and lavishes Benjamin with superior portions. The brothers drink and make merry with Joseph, never suspecting who he might really be.


The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who explains the purpose of the gift Jacob urges his sons to take the viceroy. The particular type of gift, a minkha, that he tells them to bring, is typically more for the benefit of the giver than the receiver. Obviously, this gift is intended to curry favor for the brothers in the eyes of the viceroy, but R’ Hirsch says Jacob specifically instructs his sons to bring the fruits of the land so that they might be reminded the whole time of their homeland and its blessings as they travel to Egypt.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Jacob was willing to accept Judah’s offer to take responsibility for Benjamin, but not Reuben’s in the previous chapter?

Comments ( 3 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Jehuda offered himself and hs life. So this was more serious business for Jehudah and for Ja’acov. Reuven offered 2 of his sons, so he himself remained out of sight.

  • I agree, but also, I think Yakoov found it hard to trust Reuben from the time he went into one of his (Yakoov's) concubines.

  • 8 And Yehudah said unto Israel his father: ‘Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. ח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה אֶל יִשְׂרָאֵל אָבִיו שִׁלְחָה הַנַּעַר אִתִּי וְנָקוּמָה וְנֵלֵכָה וְנִחְיֶה וְלֹא נָמוּת גַּם אֲנַחְנוּ גַם אַתָּה גַּם טַפֵּנוּ.
    9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him; if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever. ט אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ מִיָּדִי תְּבַקְשֶׁנּוּ אִם לֹא הֲבִיאֹתִיו אֵלֶיךָ וְהִצַּגְתִּיו לְפָנֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְךָ כָּל הַיָּמִים.
    Yehudah's vow to take personal responsibility rests squarely on him and him alone. He doesn't attempt to offer the life of another in the event that his plan fails. This is the offer of a man.
    Reuvan offers the lives of his two sons in the event of his failure, but doesn't actually invest himself fully in the outcome. Ya'acov would have been in the position of killing his own two grandsons to satisfy the vow and that wouldn't have made the situation better for anyone. Reuvan's offer falls far short of Yehudah's by comparison.
    Baruch Hashem.

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