Genesis 43: Lessons from Jacob’s Family on Spiritual Restoration After Sin

Introduction: For the casual reader of the book of Genesis, Joseph’s testing of his family might feel long and drawn out over too many chapters. God’s forgiveness can be instantaneous. But spiritual restoration is not always quick. An addict can receive God’s instant forgiveness through genuine repentance. God’s spiritual restoration of the addict, however, frequently involves a long process. Through God’s prior testing of Jacob’s family through Joseph, He slowly brought to the surface their hidden sins that were decades in the making. In this chapter, He patiently and lovingly laid the final foundation for the eventual spiritual restoration of Jacob and his fractured family. God would first need to remove the last defenses of each family member before He would use Joseph to confront the brothers with a final test in the next chapter. Through the events in this chapter, God reveals seven lessons on spiritual restoration after sin. These include: (1) dependence on God; (2) submission of your will for others; (3) faith; (4) godly fear; (5) Christ’s cleansing of sin; (6) seeking Christ’s fellowship; and (7) separation from sin.

First, Jacob initially refused to part with the only son left that he loved, Benjamin, in order to save Simeon. God was forced to prolong the drought across the entire area to break the stubbornness of this one man. When he then tried to send his sons back to Egypt for more food, his sons reminded him that they could not do that without Benjamin. Jacob could no longer depend upon his own understanding of the world to save his family. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you depend upon Him alone. Second, to allay Jacob’s fears, Judah offered to bear shame for the rest of his life if he failed to return with Benjamin. He made this offer even though he resented Benjamin. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you submit your will for the will of others, even the ones that you don’t like. Third, Jacob, who is now referred to by his name of faith “Israel”, submitted to El Shaddai. He stated that he would trust El Shaddai, even if Benjamin did not return. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you have faith in Him, even if you cannot see the positive outcome in a situation. Fourth, upon returning to Egypt, the brothers were filled with fear as they were summoned to Joseph’s private house. They felt fear because the Holy Spirit had convicted them of their many hidden sins. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you fear Him. The fear of God is defined as hating evil. Fifth, before the brothers could dine with Joseph, they had to wash their feet. This was similar to the instructions that Jesus gave at the Last Supper. Unless the disciples agreed to allow Jesus to wash their sins, they could have no part of Him. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you allow Christ to cleanse you of your sins. Sixth, upon meeting Joseph, all eleven brothers bowed to him in submission. They then dined with Him. Christ also offers to dine with you in fellowship when you submit to Him. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you seek out Christ’s fellowship. Finally, the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews. They considered them to be “loathsome”. The Hebrews forced separation later protected them. From this, God reveals that spiritual restoration requires that you separate yourself from sin.

1. Dependence: Spiritual Restoration Requires You to Depend Only on God. Gen. 43:1-7.

  • God’s use of a prolonged famine to break Jacob’s reliance upon himself and the world. Jacob previously was unwilling to part with Benjamin to save Simeon. Sin had made him spiritually blind and unwilling to trust God. To break Jacob’s stubbornness, God planned before time to make the entire region endure an extended seven-year famine. “1 Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ Judah spoke to him, however, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’’ If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.Then Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?’” (Gen. 43:1-7). Joseph previously conditioned Simeon’s release upon the brothers’ agreement to return with Benjamin (Gen. 42:19-20). Jacob, however, was not willing to part with his beloved son, even if it meant abandoning his son Simeon to forever rot in an Egyptian jail. “But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”’ (Gen. 42:38). Jacob was so blinded by his love for his last son through Rachel that he even scolded his sons for being truthful about Benjamin’s existence to the Egyptian master who interrogated them. God was forced to continue the drought until Jacob had no choice but to submit to His plan to restore and remold his family into a single nation. Because God planned everything before time began, this means that He was forced to make the regional drought and famine last seven full years to break the will of just one intransigent man.

Judah advised Jacob that they could not return to Egypt without Benjamin1

  • Trust God and lean not on your own understanding. Unlike Jacob, God wants you to trust in Him when everything appears to be going wrong: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Ps. 37:5). “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Ps. 55:22). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). Do you trust that God is in control of your life during both the good times and the bad times? (Ro. 8:28).

  • God sees you for your faith and not for your sins. Jacob’s original name means supplanter. He lived most of his life deceiving others. Yet, he showed a moment of faith after leaving Haran when he met a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus and asked for His blessings. This brief faith was enough for God, out of grace, to rename him as “Israel'” (Gen. 32:28). But Jacob then backslid, and God again called him Jacob. Years later, Jacob repented, and God again called him Israel (Gen. 35:10). Here, Jacob had again backslidden in his walk. But God still called him Israel (Gen. 43:6). This was no mistake. God referred to him as Israel because He knew that his lack of faith would soon melt away and God’s appointed leader would soon return. You too can give thanks that God sees you for the faith that Christ will perfect in you (Heb. 12:2). He does not see you as the sinner that you may be right now. In heaven, you will receive a new name to reflect the faith that Christ will perfect in you (Rev. 2:17). Are you living a life worthy of your new name of faith in heaven?

2. Submission: Spiritual Restoration Requires That You Submit To Others. Gen. 43:8-10.

  • Judah’s willingness to submit to potential life-long shame for a brother he did not love. The extended drought also transformed Judah into the future leader of the family. The self-centered fourth son, who proposed selling Joseph into slavery, was now willing to bear life-long shame if he failed to come back with the brother that he resented; Benjamin. “Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. 10 For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.’” (Gen. 43:8-10). Reuben previously offered to sacrifice two of his children if he failed to return back from Egypt with Benjamin: “Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.”’ (Gen. 42:37). But Reuben’s offer was to sacrifice someone else, not himself. Sacrificing two grandchildren also would do nothing to solve Jacob’s pain. Both Reuben and Jacob understood that this was an insincere offer that would never be carried out if Reuben failed. Moreover, Reuben lost the moral authority to lead after he slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). He did this to usurp his father’s authority. Thus, Jacob did not trust him, and he ignored Reuben’s offer. By contrast, Judah softly rebuked his father and was able to change his mind through compassion and self-sacrifice. Even for a man that he completely resented, Judah was willing to bear life-long shame if he failed in his mission to return Jacob’s favorite son.

  • Christ submitted on the cross, even for His enemies. Like Judah, Christ was willing to sacrifice Himself for others. He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8). “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jo. 10:11). “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (Jo. 10:18). He willingly died for all, even for His enemies. (Ro. 5:10).

  • Sacrifice your needs for the needs of others. Like Judah and like Christ, you are also called to sacrifice your own will for others. Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book of life to save the Jews from their judgment in building the golden calf: “But now, if You will, forgive their sin-- and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Ex. 32:32). Paul also wished that he could become cursed if doing so could save his brethren: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” (Ro. 9:3). “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well).” (Philemon 1:18-9). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). Do you place the interests of others whom you do not love or even like before your own needs?

3. Faith: Spiritual Restoration Requires that You to Fully Trust in God. Gen. 43:11-14.

  • “Israel’s” trust in El Shaddai, even in the face of losing the only son that he still loved. Judah’s self-sacrifice effectively removed the scales from the man of faith, Israel. Having been freed from his fleshly instincts, Israel invoked the God of the Covenant promises, El Shaddai, and promised to trust in Him, even if Benjamin did not return. “11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; 14 and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’” (Gen. 43:11-14). Like most believers, Jacob’s transformation back to a man of faith came in uneven steps. Initially, he trusted in his own instincts by instructing the sons to bring the finest Canaanite commodities and double the purchase price. He initially employed the same strategy that he used with Esau by winning him over with gifts (Gen. 33:10-11). But Joseph was not Esau. As he slowly surrendered to God, the Holy Spirit then spoke through him. He told the sons to return the money that did not belong to them. He then signaled his full transformation by offering to trust El Shaddai, even if he lost Benjamin.

Jacob / Israel says goodbye to Benjamin and places his trust in God2

  • Without faith, God could not use Jacob. God could not transform Jacob back into the man of “Israel” until he trusted God in faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Even when things feel out of control, will you have faith in God?

  • God’s mercy and grace should always be sufficient for you. When God formed His covenant with Abraham, He identified Himself as El Shaddai. Although the name has no exact translation, it is translated into English as “God Almighty” “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.”’ (Gen. 17:1). When Isaac formally prayed in faith that the blessings of the Covenant be extended to Jacob, he again invoked the name El Shaddai: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.” (Gen. 28:3). When God renamed Jacob for the second time as “Israel”, He again identified Himself by His covenant name of El Shaddai: “God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.”’ (Gen. 35:11). The famous rabbi known as “Rashi” translated the name in this verse as God “who is sufficient”. (Rashi on Genesis 43:14). Whether God returned Benjamin or not, the man of faith “Israel” accepted that His mercy and grace were sufficient in his life. God gave a similar message to Paul: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Are you content with His mercy and grace? Or, do you complain to God or others about how unfair things feel in your life?

  • Give thanks for God’s mercy in your life. In Israel’s final words of faith, he said “may El Shaddai grant you ‘rahamim”’. (Gen. 43:14). The NASB translated this word as “compassion.” But this same word is better translated in both the King James Version and the New International Version as “mercy.” This is the first use of this word in the book of Genesis. The word appears only one more time in the book in verse 30. But God’s mercy is implied throughout every account in the book of Genesis. The God of the Covenant did not owe Jacob or his family. It was only out of mercy that He did not strike down Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s family for their many sins and their lack of faith. He could have started over with Joseph and Benjamin. Yet, out of mercy and grace, He kept His Covenant promises to Jacob. God is also merciful to you. It is His mercy that causes Him to withhold judgment when you sin against Him. Have you given thanks for His mercy?

4. Godly Fear: Spiritual Restoration Requires You Fear God by Hating Evil. Gen. 43:15-18.

  • The fear of Joseph’s brother stemming from God’s conviction of their hidden sins. Upon meeting Joseph again in Egypt, the brothers were filled with fear. This fear came from the Holy Spirit’s conviction of their many hidden sins: “15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, ‘Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.’ 17 So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, ‘It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.’” (Gen. 43:15-18). Joseph directed that the brothers be brought to his house for a meal. They then feared that they would be sold as slaves at a place out of public view. The brothers expected hostility in the initial meeting. Joseph responded with kindness. The brothers thought they could earn Joseph’s favor. He responded with integrity and showed no interest in their gifts. By showing only kindness and integrity, he softened their defenses for their final test. Through love, he also brought their hidden sins to the surface: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Ro. 12:20; Prov. 25:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). If you are facing an enemy, God also wants you to repay evil with kindness.

  • Your righteousness is like a filthy rags before God. Jacob’s brothers thought that they could win Joseph over with double the normal grain purchase price and “a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11, 15). Yet, Joseph knew the true hearts of his brothers. Thus, he did not even acknowledge their gifts. As a righteous man, Joseph further was not moved by what would have been peanuts in the context of his power. One commentator also points out that by offering double the purchase price, the brothers unknowingly offered the price they received for selling Joseph into slavery: “They took double money with them to Egypt to buy grain and the Egyptian leaders favor. Since ten brothers went to Egypt and they took double money, there were 20 units of money. This answered exactly to the 20 pieces of silver they sold Joseph for (Genesis 37:28). The words for silver and money are the same.” (David Guzik on Gen. 43).3 When believers attempt to atone for their sins by pointing out their good works to God, He will also ignore them. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Is. 64:6). “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” (Zech. 3:3). When you boast of your good words, your works will also appear as filthy rags before God. Like Joseph, He will ignore them. He does want you to work for Christ. Yet, your works for Christ should be for Him and motivated by gratitude.

5. Cleansing of Sin: Spiritual Restoration Requires That Christ Cleanse You. Gen. 43:19-25.

  • The brothers’ cleansing through the washing of their feet. Out of fear, the brothers offered to return the money that was placed in their bags from their first trip to Joseph’s unnamed servant. But the servant was the one who placed the money back in their bags. The servant was not moved by the brothers’ offer. The unnamed servant told the men that credit belonged with their God Yahweh. Being rebuked for their lack of faith by an idol worshiping Egyptian only convicted them more. The servant then prepared the brothers for their meal with his master by giving them water to wash their feet: “19 So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20 and said, ‘Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, 21 and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. 22 We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ 23 He said, ‘Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. 25 So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.” (Gen. 43:19-25). The unnamed servant foreshadowed the Holy Spirit. He also convicts you of your sins and reminds you to give praise to God for each of His blessings (Jo. 14:26). Like the servant, the Holy Spirit also prepares you to cleanse your sins through Christ’s blood.

  • The importance of foot washing in the Old Testament. Washing was an important act in the Old Testament. For example, when Abraham met a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ with two angels, he washed their feet: “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree;” (Gen. 18:4). Washing was also an important part of the sacrificial laws. After an animal sacrifice, the priest washed both the entrails and the legs with water (Lev. 1:9). These parts of the animal were dirty. Water frequently symbolizes the cleansing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ez. 36:25-27). Many Christians have been led to believe that Christ fulfilled all the details of this sacrifice, and there is nothing left for them to do. But this is mistaken. We only need to read the details of the Last Supper to prove it.

  • You must wash your sins by reading the Word and confessing your sins. Jesus makes clear that your entrails (your inner thoughts) and your legs (what you do each day) still need to be washed after you have been saved (Lev. 1:9). At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). In other words, Christ died once for your sins, but your flesh gets dirty from sin each day and must still be washed. To do this, you must read God’s Word and pray to expose your hidden sins: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). Second, you must confess the sins that the Word and the Spirit reveal to you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9) Are you regularly reading the Word and praying to expose your hidden sins? When the Spirit reveals your hidden sins, do you then confess and repent of your sins so that Christ can forgive you and wash you clean?

6. Fellowship: Spiritual Restoration Requires Seeking Christ’s Fellowship. Gen. 43:26-31.

  • The eleven brothers’ submission to Joseph for a meal in his home. When Joseph returned, the eleven brothers bowed in submission. Joseph then blessed Benjamin, and the group prepared to dine together: “26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. 27 Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ 28 They said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’ They bowed down in homage. 29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘May God be gracious to you, my son.’ 30 Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, ‘Serve the meal.’” (Gen. 42:26-31). At the Spirit’s direction, Joseph prepared these events to bring about his brothers’ repentance. But Joseph was still human. He grieved at the sight of Benjamin. Because of sin, they had been deprived of more than 20 years of friendship. “If Jeremiah is called the so-called weeping prophet,’ Joseph is the ‘weeping patriarch.’” (Kenneth Mathews, “The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture” Genesis 1-11:26, Vol. 1B, (B&H Publishing Group Nashville Tenn. 2005) p. 791). Like Joseph, Jesus was a man of sorrow. He felt sorrow because of your sin and your suffering.

Benjamin comes to Egypt4

Benjamin before Joseph5

  • The purpose behind Joseph’s dreams of authority. With Benjamin bowing along with his brothers, God fulfilled Joseph’s prior dream of “eleven stars” bowing to him (Gen. 37:9). God did not give Joseph these dreams to puff him up with pride. Instead, He gave him these dreams to let Joseph know that God had orchestrated these events for His greater plan. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20). In his weakness, Joseph wanted to embrace Benjamin and reveal the truth to his brothers. Yet, had he done so, the brothers might not have repented of their sins. Judah also would not have been able to redeem himself by offering to give up his freedom to save the brother that he did not love. Joseph needed to faithfully execute God’s will, even though it caused him emotional turmoil.

  • Restore others in a spirit of gentleness. Like Joseph, you are called upon to restore a sinner through love and kindness: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it, for still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.” (Ps. 141:5). “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Tim. 2:25). Like Joseph, do you convict sinners with a spirit of gentleness and kindness? Or, when someone sins, do you scold them out of anger and bring them down?

  • Jesus’ offer to “dine” with His believers. Joseph’s offer to dine with his brothers also foreshadows the fellowship that Christ offers to all believers. When speaking to the Church of Laodicea, Jesus made an intriguing invitation to the believers that they could form an even deeper relationship with Him: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’” (Rev. 3:19-22). Many Christians quote part of verse 20 for the proposition that Jesus will come into the heart of a non-believer if he or she will open his or her heart to Him. But this message was directed to existing believers at the Church of Laodicea. Moreover, focusing only on the knock on the door fails to address Jesus’ specific offer to “dine” with the believers. In that time, to dine with someone was an intimate sign of a deep friendship. Jesus’ offer was therefore the fulfillment of the “fellowship offering” where believers were allowed to dine with God (Lev. 3:1-16). Even if He is your Lord and Savior, He wants your fellowship.

7. Separation: Spiritual Restoration Requires that Your Separate from Sin. Gen. 43:32-34.

  • The brothers’ forced separation from their Egyptian hosts. Before the meal, Joseph seated the brothers in birth order. He then served their food. Yet, Egyptian customs forced Jacob’s family to dine separately from their Egyptian hosts: “32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. 33 Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. 34 He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.” (Gen. 43:32-34). Joseph took several steps to expose the hidden jealousy that the brothers had toward Benjamin. First, by arranging the children in birth order, he showed who deserved the greatest honors. Yet, he did so without revealing his identity. He then fed the youngest five times the portion of the others. This would have chafed the brothers. He then gave them wine. He did not get them drunk because that would be a sin. Yet, by the statement that they “drank freely”, we can infer that he loosened their defenses for the coming test. He would soon give them the opportunity to dispose of Benjamin the same way they disposed of Joseph. This would test their willingness to sacrifice for someone they resented.

Joseph’s brothers ate at a separate table6

  • The forced separation imposed upon the Jews in Egypt. The fact that the Egyptians found the Jews to be “loathsome” also served an important purpose (Gen. 42:32). Jacob’s family showed that they had no ability to separate themselves from the Canaanites. Jacob settled his family next to the Canaanite city of Shechem. His daughter Dinah hung out with the Canaanites. When prince Shechem raped Dinah, Jacob was willing to accept a peace deal that involved his family intermarrying with the people of Shechem. Judah also hung out with the Canaanites. He married a Canaanite, and he engaged in temple prostitution. He also did nothing to teach his children to stay separate from the Canaanites or follow God’s law. God needed to send them to a place where they would be forcibly separated from sin.

  • Stay holy and separate from the sins of the world. God also wants believers to be holy because He is holy: “[B]ecause it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7). Being “unstained by the world” is one of the two definitions of “true religion.” (Jam. 1:27). The pathway to heaven is only available to those who are purified by Christ: “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, . . .” (Is. 35:8). Will you stay pure for His use by abstaining from the evil things of this world? Or, like Jacob’s family, are you forcing God to take steps to separate you to keep you pure?