● Gen 44:1-2 . .Then he instructed his house steward as follows: Fill the men's bags with food, as much as they can carry, and put each one's money in the mouth of his bag. Put my silver goblet in the mouth of the bag of the youngest one, together with his money for the rations. And he did as Joseph told him.
When the brothers threw Joseph into that pit back in chapter 37, they fully intended to leave him there to die; all alone. So it makes sense that Joseph would want to gauge their reaction to his kid brother Benjamin being placed in a similar danger. Would they do to Benjamin what they had done to Joseph? . . . just leave him in Egypt to rot in a dungeon while they went back home to comfort and safety?
● Gen 44:3-5 . . As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their burros. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward: Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them "Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn't this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done."
Divination cups were usually made out of silver and adorned with symbols, spells, and religious phrases; and oftentimes the owner's name was inscribed on it too. Diviners used their goblets in various ways. Some read surface patterns when a few drops of one liquid (e.g. oil) was dripped into a second liquid (e.g. water). Others divined by the movement of objects floating upon, or sinking within, the goblet's contents. Others yet studied the patterns that particles of gold formed when they settled to the bottom. Divining cups were a kind of crystal ball for determining future events or solving current mysteries. I would suspect that Joseph's divination cup was a personal gift from his father-in-law Mr. Poti-phera; priest of On.
● Gen 44:6-8 . .When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him: Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?
The brothers' appeal to reason was of course a waste of righteous passion. It's well known that kleptomaniacs suffer a persistent neurotic impulse to steal without economic motive to do so. Booty to them is like blood to a vampire; viz: just the sight of it excites. Every once in a while, a famous celebrity gets caught shoplifting and we're all amazed that a millionaire would stoop to such a petty crime.
● Gen 44:9 . . If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord's slaves.
The brothers' rash response evidences their complete confidence that there is just no way on God's green earth that any of them would ever steal anything at all; let alone from an Egyptian big shot's home. Many a poker player has lost it all on just one hand with that kind of confidence. Sometimes, you just can't tell what the other guy is holding; and in this case, the situation is a stacked deck.
● Gen 44:10 . .Very well, then; he said; let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.
Either the steward wasn't listening, or he was instructed to say just exactly those words. They all volunteered to enslave themselves, but he'll settle on just the one who allegedly took the goblet, and it's because Joseph wants to gauge the elder brothers' reaction to his own kid brother's danger. If they failed to prove themselves honorable men, then I really think Joseph planned to harbor Benjamin and dispatch an escort for his father; but permanently bar the brothers from ever returning to Egypt. They would just have to make do on their own the best as they could till the famine was over regardless of their blood kinship.
● Gen 44:11-13 . . So each one hastened to lower his bag to the ground, and each one opened his bag. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest; and the goblet turned up in Benjamin's bag. At this they rent their clothes. Each reloaded his pack animal, and they returned to the city.
"they" didn't really have to go back; Joseph's steward had already pre-released them. But surprise of surprises; instead of leaving Benny to rot in slavery like they had done to his big brother many years previously, they accompany him back to Egypt.
This turn of events wasn't due to a sincere concern for Benny's safety. As it turned out, the real concern was for their father Jacob and how he would handle the loss of yet another of Rachel's babies.
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