A Daily Genesis

Genesis 43:31-34

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 43:31-32 . .Then he washed his face and came out; and regaining his composure, said: Serve the food. So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.[/B]

Apparently the brothers didn't think anything of Joseph eating alone. Maybe they just thought (as common Egyptian culture dictated) the other Egyptians were too far below their host to be considered worthy of an invitation to sit at his table. In their minds, to do so would have been fraternization; viz: associating with people of lower official rank; thus implying that they were equal in worth.

[FONT=Garamond][B]NOTE[/B][/FONT][B]:[/B] If the steward had told them Joseph was a Hebrew, I wonder how Jacob's sons would have reacted to that?

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 43:33 . . And they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another.[/B]

Reuben was the natural firstborn; but due to his incestuous tryst with Bilhah back in Gen 35:22, he lost the rank and Jacob transferred it to Joseph (1Chrn 5:1). However, with Joseph eliminated from the line-up, the position around the table probably fell back to Reuben by default.

The seating arrangement wasn't at the brothers' discretion. It was totally under their host's control and that's why they were all so amazed. According to permutation, the odds of seating the 11 men according to their respective ages by coincidence is like 39,917,000 ÷ 1

Since they had no reason to believe that Joseph knew any more about their family other than what they had already told him, perhaps at this point they suspected he was either clairvoyant or else blessed with an amazing degree of intuition; and they would have certainly been correct on that account even if circumstances had been different because any man with the ability to correctly interpret dreams should have no trouble figuring out birth orders.

[FONT=Garamond][B]NOTE[/B][/FONT][B]:[/B] A Jewish Midrash (Genesis Rabba 92:5) has Joseph pretending to "divine" their seating order by means of his special silver goblet-- a key item coming up in just a few more verses.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 43:34 . .Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin's serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they imbibed and were merry with him.[/B]

Every time I read that passage, my mind, like a knee-jerk reflex, instantly fantasizes a really hulking, heaping, ranch-size platter of vittles placed before Benjamin like is so often seen at buffets. Instead of making more than one trip to the food bars, there's invariably at least one person who piles everything they'll ever want onto just one plate, like Mt. Vesuvius, and then does a delicate balancing act while cautiously maneuvering their way to a table.

But a 5x serving isn't eo ipso a large amount; it would really depend upon the size of a standard portion. And if the food was served a' la carte, then five standard portions of just one item wouldn't necessarily take on the appearance of a banquet. Gourmet foods, especially, are typically small presentations that would barely qualify as an hors d'oeuvre to a strapping man like an ice-road trucker or a Pacific northwest logger. Five servings of gourmet food to one of those guys would amount to little more than an appetizer. But the point is: Benny's plate contained quite a bit more than his brothers' and that had to raise some curious eyebrows.

[FONT=Garamond][B]NOTE[/B][/FONT][B]:[/B] The Hebrew word for "merry" is [I]shakar [/I](shaw-kar') which means to become tipsy; in a qualified sense, to satiate with a stimulating drink or (figuratively) influence; which indicates that the beverage Joseph's brothers were served had alcohol in it.

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