Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Then Joseph could not refrain himself--The severity of the
inflexible magistrate here gives way to the natural feelings of the man
and the brother. However well he had disciplined his mind, he felt it
impossible to resist the artless eloquence of Judah. He saw a
satisfactory proof, in the return of all his brethren on such an
occasion, that they were affectionately united to one another; he had
heard enough to convince him that time, reflection, or grace had made a
happy improvement on their characters; and he would probably have
proceeded in a calm and leisurely manner to reveal himself as prudence
might have dictated. But when he heard the heroic self-sacrifice of
and realized all the affection of that proposal--a proposal for which
he was totally unprepared--he was completely unmanned; he felt himself
forced to bring this painful trial to an end.
he cried, Cause every man to go out from me--In ordering the
departure of witnesses of this last scene, he acted as a warm-hearted
and real friend to his brothers--his conduct was dictated by motives of
the highest prudence--that of preventing their early iniquities from
becoming known either to the members of his household, or among the
people of Egypt.
2. he wept aloud--No doubt, from the fulness of highly excited
feelings; but to indulge in vehement and long-continued transports of
sobbing is the usual way in which the Orientals express their
3. I am Joseph--or, "terrified at his presence." The emotions
that now rose in his breast as well as that of his brethren--and chased
each other in rapid succession--were many and violent. He was agitated
by sympathy and joy; they were astonished, confounded, terrified; and
betrayed their terror, by shrinking as far as they could from his
presence. So "troubled" were they, that he had to repeat his
announcement of himself; and what kind, affectionate terms he did use.
He spoke of their having sold him--not to wound their feelings, but to
convince them of his identity; and then, to reassure their minds, he
traced the agency of an overruling Providence, in his exile and present
Not that he wished them to roll the responsibility of their crime on
God; no, his only object was to encourage their confidence and induce
them to trust in the plans he had formed for the future comfort of
their father and themselves.
6. and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be
earing nor harvest--"Ear" is an old English word, meaning
"to plough" (compare
This seems to confirm the view given
that the famine was caused by an extraordinary drought, which prevented
the annual overflowing of the Nile; and of course made the land unfit
to receive the seed of Egypt.
14, 15. And he fell upon . . . Benjamin's neck--The
sudden transition from a condemned criminal to a fondled brother, might
have occasioned fainting or even death, had not his tumultuous feelings
been relieved by a torrent of tears. But Joseph's attentions were not
confined to Benjamin. He affectionately embraced every one of his
brothers in succession; and by those actions, his forgiveness was
demonstrated more fully than it could be by words.
17-20. Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren--As
Joseph might have been prevented by delicacy, the king himself invited
the patriarch and all his family to migrate into Egypt; and he made
most liberal arrangements for their removal and their subsequent
settlement. It displays the character of this Pharaoh to advantage,
that he was so kind to the relatives of Joseph; but indeed the greatest
liberality he could show could never recompense the services of so
great a benefactor of his kingdom.
21. Joseph gave them wagons--which must have been novelties in
Palestine; for wheeled carriages were almost unknown there.
22. changes of raiment--It was and is customary, with great men,
to bestow on their friends dresses of distinction, and in places where
they are of the same description and quality, the value of these
presents consists in their number. The great number given to Benjamin
bespoke the warmth of his brother's attachment to him; and Joseph felt,
from the amiable temper they now all displayed, he might, with perfect
safety, indulge this fond partiality for his mother's son.
23. to his father he sent--a supply of everything that could
contribute to his support and comfort--the large and liberal scale on
which that supply was given being intended, like the five messes of
Benjamin, as a token of his filial love [see on
24. so he sent his brethren away--In dismissing them on their
homeward journey, he gave them this particular admonition:
See that ye fall not out by the way--a caution that would be
greatly needed; for not only during the journey would they be occupied
in recalling the parts they had respectively acted in the events that
led to Joseph's being sold into Egypt, but their wickedness would soon
have to come to the knowledge of their venerable father.