Espionage  Crime or Simple Guests of a Ruler?

Under a very interesting circumstances, the children of Jacob (Israel) found themselves at the mercy of the man who could change their destiny at the snap of a finger.  Without knowing what could befall them, they had been escorted to the home of this powerful ruler in the land of Egypt for lunch, the man who accused them of being Spies sent to scope out the land of Egypt.  A person that could potentially charge them with a crime, if their story was not corroborated. The corroborating evidence being the physical presentation of their youngest brother to the ruler in Egypt, a task which was almost impossible from their father’s perspective.

They entered the home of the ruler of Egypt, and in their mind, there was a great possibility of being charged with espionage knowing they were already on the watch list of the powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. However, they were made to feel at ease by both the steward of the house and the ruler himself who happened to be their brother but unknown to them at this point in time.

“But he said, “Peace be with you, 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. So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there. And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves.” (Genesis 43: 23-28).

At lunch a strange thing happened, the brothers were segregated from the ruler and the Egyptians   because at the time it was an abomination for Egyptians to dine with Hebrews.

“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” (Genesis 43: 32).

The irony though, is that the man the Egyptians revered as their own was also a Hebrew in “egyptian skin”. The dynamics at this lunchtime was both tense and emotional. There is Joseph, emotionally charged for seeing his brothers whom he never thought he would see again, knowing that if it had not been for God’s goodness, he would have remained a slave in Egypt or even be dead because of the action of his brothers. The grace of seeing his adorable brother Benjamin again, the knowledge that his beloved father is still alive and the possibility of seeing him again, all adding to the emotions. It takes a lot of strength and guts to keep all these under control knowing that timing is important. The people that sold him into slavery were the very ones at his home at the moment yet unknown to them. Time for revenge? It was well within his power if he wanted to, but there was something else happening that changed his focus. The family bond, the joy of reconnection, the assurance of a living father, the sight of a dear brother and above all the sudden realization that the dream God gave him a long time ago was unfolding right before him in fulfillment brought a better focus. What a moment!  In that moment, the memory, the pain and the struggles arising from the actions of his brothers became history as all the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. Suddenly, he began to understand why it all happened the way it did.

The brothers had mixed emotions, as to whether they were going to get a clean break and return back home together to their father and with their purchases. That decision remained the prerogative of the man who invited them to dine with him, a man whose authority in Egypt was second only to Pharaoh. Up to that point he had played nice. The Egyptians though, had no clue they were in the middle of a divine unfolding. For them, it was just a duty and the enjoyment of a privilege, dinning with their ruler. They were waiting to execute whatever the ruler would ask next for these Hebrews they had been asked to serve lunch.

In this story, it is important to note the things that set the stage for the good outcome we read about. First, the father of the brothers proclaimed a blessing over them before returning to Egypt.

“Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!” (Genesis 43: 14).

This blessing provided a framework for their interaction with the ruler who happened to be their own brother. Secondly, the brothers took gifts for the ruler upon the advice of their father in addition to returning the money they found in their bags showing a sign of goodwill and of integrity.

“And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight” (Genesis 43: 11-12).

Above all, we read of the good outcome because it was first and foremost it was part of divine orchestration. In this narrative, we see the hand of God weaving through events to establish a specific purpose. In this case, the eventual preservation of Jacob’s family (Israel). As we hold the events of our time in light of the scriptures, we can see very interesting things happening in our time.


January 17, 2019

“A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain counsel.” – Proverbs 1:5

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