The famine got worse.
When they had eaten all the food they had brought back from Egypt, their father said, "Go back and get some more food."
But Judah said, "The man warned us most emphatically, 'You won't so much as see my face if you don't have your brother with you.'
If you're ready to release our brother to go with us, we'll go down and get you food.
But if you're not ready, we aren't going. What would be the use? The man told us, 'You won't so much as see my face if you don't have your brother with you.'"
Israel said, "Why are you making my life so difficult! Why did you ever tell the man you had another brother?"
They said, "The man pressed us hard, asking pointed questions about our family: 'Is your father alive? Do you have another brother?' So we answered his questions. How did we know that he'd say, 'Bring your brother here'?"
Judah pushed his father Israel. "Let the boy go; I'll take charge of him. Let us go and be on our way - if we don't get going, we're all going to starve to death - we and you and our children too!
I'll take full responsibility for his safety; it's my life on the line for his. If I don't bring him back safe and sound, I'm the guilty one; I'll take all the blame.
If we had gone ahead in the first place instead of procrastinating like this, we could have been there and back twice over."
Their father Israel gave in. "If it has to be, it has to be. But do this: stuff your packs with the finest products from the land you can find and take them to the man as gifts - some balm and honey, some spices and perfumes, some pistachios and almonds.
And take plenty of money - pay back double what was returned to your sacks; that might have been a mistake.
Take your brother and get going. Go back to the man.
And may The Strong God give you grace in that man's eyes so that he'll send back your other brother along with Benjamin. For me, nothing's left; I've lost everything."
The men took the gifts, double the money, and Benjamin. They lost no time in getting to Egypt and meeting Joseph.
When Joseph saw that they had Benjamin with them, he told his house steward, "Take these men into the house and make them at home. Butcher an animal and prepare a meal; these men are going to eat with me at noon."
The steward did what Joseph had said and took them inside.
But they became anxious when they were brought into Joseph's home, thinking, "It's the money; he thinks we ran off with the money on our first trip down here. And now he's got us where he wants us - he's going to turn us into slaves and confiscate our donkeys."
So they went up to Joseph's house steward and talked to him in the doorway.
They said, "Listen, master. We came down here one other time to buy food.
On our way home, the first night out we opened our bags and found our money at the mouth of the bag - the exact amount we'd paid. We've brought it all back
and have plenty more to buy more food with. We have no idea who put the money in our bags."
The steward said, "Everything's in order. Don't worry. Your God and the God of your father must have given you a bonus. I was paid in full." And with that, he presented Simeon to them.
He then took them inside Joseph's house and made them comfortable - gave them water to wash their feet and saw to the feeding of their donkeys.
The brothers spread out their gifts as they waited for Joseph to show up at noon - they had been told that they were to have dinner with him.
When Joseph got home, they presented him with the gifts they had brought and bowed respectfully before him.
Joseph welcomed them and said, "And your old father whom you mentioned to me, how is he? Is he still alive?"
They said, "Yes - your servant our father is quite well, very much alive." And they again bowed respectfully before him.
Then Joseph picked out his brother Benjamin, his own mother's son. He asked, "And is this your youngest brother that you told me about?" Then he said, "God be gracious to you, my son."
Deeply moved on seeing his brother and about to burst into tears, Joseph hurried out into another room and had a good cry.
Then he washed his face, got a grip on himself, and said, "Let's eat."
Joseph was served at his private table, the brothers off by themselves and the Egyptians off by themselves (Egyptians won't eat at the same table with Hebrews; it's repulsive to them).
The brothers were seated facing Joseph, arranged in order of their age, from the oldest to the youngest. They looked at one another wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next.
When the brothers' plates were served from Joseph's table, Benjamin's plate came piled high, far more so than his brothers. And so the brothers feasted with Joseph, drinking freely.