Genesis 43:1-14 . PREPARATIONS FOR SECOND JOURNEY TO EGYPT.
16. ruler of his house--In the houses of wealthy Egyptians one upper man servant was intrusted with the management of the house (compare Genesis 39:5 ).
slay, and make ready--Hebrew, "kill a killing"--implying preparations for a grand entertainment (compare Genesis 31:54 , 1 Samuel 25:11 , Proverbs 9:2 , Matthew 22:4 ). The animals have to be killed as well as prepared at home. The heat of the climate requires that the cook should take the joints directly from the hands of the flesher, and the Oriental taste is, from habit, fond of newly killed meat. A great profusion of viands, with an inexhaustible supply of vegetables, was provided for the repasts, to which strangers were invited, the pride of Egyptian people consisting rather in the quantity and variety than in the choice or delicacy of the dishes at their table.
dine . . . at noon--The hour of dinner was at midday.
18. the men were afraid--Their feelings of awe on entering the stately mansion, unaccustomed as they were to houses at all, their anxiety at the reasons of their being taken there, their solicitude about the restored money, their honest simplicity in communicating their distress to the steward and his assurances of having received their money in "full weight," the offering of their fruit present, which would, as usual, be done with some parade, and the Oriental salutations that passed between their host and them--are all described in a graphic and animated manner.
Genesis 43:31-34 . THE DINNER.
31. Joseph said, Set on bread--equivalent to having dinner served, "bread" being a term inclusive of all victuals. The table was a small stool, most probably the usual round form, "since persons might even then be seated according to their rank or seniority, and the modern Egyptian table is not without its post of honor and a fixed gradation of place" [WILKINSON]. Two or at most three persons were seated at one table. But the host being the highest in rank of the company had a table to himself; while it was so arranged that an Egyptian was not placed nor obliged to eat from the same dish as a Hebrew.
32. Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination--The prejudice probably arose from the detestation in which, from the oppressions of the shepherd-kings, the nation held all of that occupation.
34. took and sent messes . . . Benjamin's mess was five times--In Egypt, as in other Oriental countries, there were, and are, two modes of paying attention to a guest whom the host wishes to honor--either by giving a choice piece from his own hand, or ordering it to be taken to the stranger. The degree of respect shown consists in the quantity, and while the ordinary rule of distinction is a double mess, it must have appeared a very distinguished mark of favor bestowed on Benjamin to have no less than five times any of his brethren.
they drank, and were merry with him--Hebrew, "drank freely" (same as Solomon 5:1 , John 2:10 ). In all these cases the idea of intemperance is excluded. The painful anxieties and cares of Joseph's brethren were dispelled, and they were at ease.