Genesis 44

Genesis 44:1-4 Fill the men’s sack with food . . . And put my cup . . . in the sack’s mouth of the youngest

Joseph sets a trap for his brothers.  Now, sometimes saints will wonder about the morality of Joseph intentionally setting them up.  He is laying a snare for his brothers and framing Benjamin as a thief.  Is that an abuse of power?  Is there something dishonest about it? 

Not in comparison to what has been done to him.  He was nearly murdered by them, sold as a slave that meant working as a bondsman that led to Joseph being falsely accused of impropriety with Potiphar’s wife.  He spent years in prison.  He had been separated from his parents and loved ones for years as well. 

It is not an abuse of power if Joseph uses a temporary ruse to help his brothers feel his pain.  It is a pain they fully deserve to feel.  The difference is that Joseph has no intention of making them suffer for any length of time.  Like the Savior, his plan is to let them taste the pain and suffering but then quickly take away their guilt by offering full forgiveness.  Joseph is completely and totally within his rights as a brother, as a ruler, as a follower of God to put his brothers through a little scare.  We shouldn’t question his methods.  He is acting in wisdom and righteousness, much like God does in sending us to earth to help us feel pain and fear but then providing a way out of the predicament.

Genesis 44:5 Joseph both drinks from and divines from the silver cup

“Joseph is referred to as one who practices divination, that is to say, one who foretells events by certain external signs, sounds, or movements—here, by the surface motion of wine in a special cup.  This practice, called hydromancy by the Greeks, was well known in the ancient Near East, as were numerous other forms of divination.  The Bible itself mentions several: the shaking of arrows and the inspection of livers and various forms of astrological prognostication (Ezek. 21:26; Isa 47:13; Jer. 10:2). . .

“These and other forms of soothsaying came under severe attack from Torah law and the Prophets and were called ‘abhorrent practices.’ Deuteronomy wanrs: “’Let no one be found among you who consigns his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or who inquires of the dead’ (Deut. 18:10-11).  The frequent repetition of these prohibitions bears witness to the continued popularity of such superstitions.  The Talmud enumerates a whole series of persistent (and condemned) divining practices.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 278)

Divining from his drinking cup is not a proper way to gain personal revelation.  The text does not necessarily prove that Joseph really used his cup for divination, but it does prove that his brothers were familiar with the Egyptian practice of divination.  Joseph claims that cup used for divination to give the cup even more value.  The value of the silver is one thing, the sentimental value is another, but the fact that it is his special cup for foretelling the future gives makes the cup priceless—at least in the minds of Joseph’s brothers.  It is a crime worthy of death!

Genesis 44:8-9 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths

Now the children of Israel knew that somebody had messed with their luggage.  As with their first exodus from Egypt, food and money had been placed in their sacks.  Well, this raises the clear possibility that the silver cup wasn’t in fact stolen, that it was planted.  While they had reason to wonder if it had been planted there, they are not in a position to make that accusation.  That would be accusing their benefactor of impropriety. 

In spite of their previous sins, the 11 brothers are honest men.  They aren’t thieves.  Their response as true men is to say, “Feel free to punish whoever has done this thing.” 

Genesis 44:13-16 they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city

Think about this return trip to Egypt.  They didn’t steal the cup, but they are beginning to feel the guilt of their betrayal of Joseph.  Human nature often will ask the question, “what have I done to deserve this?”  In the case of ten of the brothers, there was a clear answer, “we shouldn’t have sold our brother into the hands of the Ishmaelites.”  These thoughts must have been going through their minds as they return to face Joseph.  They were left to feel the sting of a “bright recollection of all [their] guilt.” (Alma 11:43)  This sentiment is contained in Judah’s response in verse 16, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.”

Genesis 44:18-34  Judah offers himself to take the punishment of Benjamin as a type of the Savior

This is Judah’s greatest moment.  They are caught red handed with the silver cup.  Judah talked Jacob into letting them return to Egypt with Benjamin.  Now they are in a real predicament.  Judah steps forward to offer an explanation.

In these verses, we see Judah, through whose seed the Messiah should come, present himself as a type for the Redeemer as one who presents himself as an offering on behalf of Benjamin.  He is Benjamin’s advocate before the throne of justice.  He is Benjamin’s intercessor and his protector.  He doesn’t make the mistake of creating some big lie to explain the situation. He tells the truth.  In so doing, he shows his dedication to his father.  He admits that it was he that had convinced Jacob to let Benjamin go, and he presents himself to take the Benjamin’s punishment when he declares, “let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my Lord.”  I will be your slave, but let him go.  I will take the punishment if you show mercy.  Just as “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), the forefather of the Messiah offered to pay the price.  Such mercy, such love is instructive and had the effect of melting Joseph’s heart.

James E. Faust

Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room schoolhouse in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’

“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”’” (General Conference, October 2001, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,