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Chapter 44

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A Silver Cup In The Sack  (ch. 44:1 - 34)


If you're not convinced yet that Joseph isn't playing with his brother's heads, you should be now.  In verses 1 and 2 Joseph tells his servants to fill the men's sacks full of grain, put the silver back in the sacks like before.  Yet this time, Joseph adds one more thing.  He told his servant to put his own personal silver cup in Benjamin's sack.  This would make it look like Benjamin stole the cup, which would be a disaster for him and the brothers if that were true.  The brother's would be more afraid than ever at this point.  What would happen to Benjamin if he was caught steeling Joseph's silver cup.


You might wonder just how the steward felt, and what he thought at this time with all the things that Joseph was asking him to do.  They probably did seem strange to him.  


The next day, in verses 3 to 5 Joseph tells one of his stewards to go after his brothers.  He was to catch them in the process of steeling Joseph's special cup.  The steward was to make it known that Joseph treated them very nicely, but they did not return the favour.  They stole from him. 


Notice there were two uses that Joseph had for this cup.  One is obvious, and that was to drink out of.  The other presents us with some problems.  The text says that Joseph used the cup for divining.  The practice of divination was often employed by many cultures in the Old Testament.  It is basically the attempt to reach the spirit world to gain understanding of things that normally could not be understood by humans.  It often had to do with foretelling the future.  There were many ways in which divination took place.  In Babylonian culture an animal was often killed.  They would retrieve the animals liver, divide it into sections.  The priests who were trained in divination say that they could meet with the unseen world as he studied the liver.  The reason why they used the liver was because they understood the liver to be the centre of man or animals, like we understand the heart to be the center of man in western culture.


Another way, among many ways,  to meet with the spirit world was to mix special liquids in a cup, which we see in this case. 


The pagan gods themselves practiced divination.  Divination was a higher source of power than the gods themselves.   There's other names for divination, such as magic, witchcraft, sorcery, and other such names.  The Law of Moses, that came after  the life of Joseph forbid the practice of divination, or anything of the like. 


The question is then asked, "did Joseph actually divine with his cup?"   The text here, and later on in this chapter, seems to suggest that he did.  The next question is, "why would he, a God fearing man, do such a thing?"  Divination was such a wide spread practice in Old Testament times that it often infiltrated Israel.  King Saul in later years drove out all of the diviners from the land of Israel.  He clearly knew this was wrong and an offense to God.  Yet later on, he himself made use of a diviner himself.   We just need to realize that Joseph was a believer in Elohim.  But at the same time, he still had much of the surrounding world in him.  There are some Bible scholars that believe that these Old Testament men at this stage in time were polytheistic.  That is to say, they believed in more than one god, but Elohim, was the supreme God.  I'm not convinced that this is so, but these scholars may have a point.  This might be why God made it so clear in years to follow that "He is one God, and the only God".


There is the matter of progressive revelation that some point out here.  Some Bible teachers say that God revealed His ways progressively, that is, one step at a time.  They might suggest that God had not revealed to Joseph, or the family of Israel, that divination was wrong. 


In verses 6 through 9 we note that the steward approaches the brothers and suggest that they did steal the silver cup.  The brothers were perplexed.  They said that this could not be and if the cup was found in the sack of any of them, that person would become the steward's slave.  The steward agreed to the brothers idea in verse 10.


In verses 11 and 12 the steward begins to search all of the sacks.  He started with the oldest and went to the youngest, probably for emphasis sake.  I would imagine that after each sack was checked and the cup was not found, the brothers might have felt a bit more relieved, but that relief, if indeed they had, soon came crashing to the ground.  Their heart's would have been terrified.


The cup was found in Benjamin's sack in verse 12.  In verse 13 the brothers tore their clothes as a gesture of distress and return to see Joseph.  Can you imagine how these men felt on the way back to Joseph.  Benjamin, the son who their father loved best would be a slave for life in Egypt, or perhaps even killed.  What Jacob feared would now come true. 


In verse 14 the brothers "throw themselves to the ground" in front of Joseph.  Once again, the dreams of Joseph at the age of seventeen come true.  The brothers fall to the ground before Joseph as seen in the dreams.  But this time the fall to the ground is more dramatic.  They just don't bow their faces to the ground as seen in the last couple of chapters.  They "throw" themselves to the ground and plead with Joseph with all they have.  This is one serious bow.


In verse 15 we note that Joseph makes himself amazed at the brothers.  He says, "don't you know that a man like me can find things out through divination."    This doesn't really prove that Joseph did practice divination, although I would not be surprised if he did.  The intent of this statement is to scare the brothers.  The intent of the statement was to tell the brothers that Joseph had ways to find things out and it was stupid of them to try to steal the cup. 


In verse 16 Judah speaks on behalf of the rest of the brothers.  He says that God has uncovered their guilt.  That would be in reference to them selling Joseph off to the Ishmaelites years ago.  I would think that Judah knew exactly what Joseph was getting at, and he did not make it easy on Judah and the others.   He let them all wallow in their guilt. 


Judah suggests that they all become slaves to Joseph.  Again, the intent of Joseph's dream is seen here.  Not only do they bow down, but they are willing to become slaves. 


I think that Judah suggested that all would become slaves because he did not have the heart to return to Jacob without Benjamin.  He did not have the heart to tell Jacob that his beloved son was now a slave in Egypt.  They all felt responsible, so they all should become slaves.


In verse 17 Joseph said no to Judah 's idea.  He told the brothers that only the one who had the cup in the sack would become his slave.  The rest would return to Egypt.  It's agony upon agony here with the brothers.  The hole they've fallen in gets deeper and deeper all of the time. 


I will not comment on the rest of the chapter.  Judah proceeds to plead with Joseph to let all of them return home.  He explains how Jacob feels about Benjamin and that he would just die if Benjamin did not return home.  One thing you notice over and over again in this section is the use of the words "servant' and "lord' from the lips of Judah.  He even calls Jacob, who has never been in Egypt with the brothers the servant of Joseph.  Once again, Joseph's dreams come true.



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