Genesis 44:5

5 Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’ ”

Read Genesis 44:5 Using Other Translations

Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.
Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.'"
Why have you stolen my master’s silver cup, which he uses to predict the future? What a wicked thing you have done!’”

What does Genesis 44:5 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Genesis 44:5

[Is] not this [it], in which my lord drinketh
Which was for his own particular use, and so the more ungrateful in them to take it, and whereby indeed he divineth?
according to our version and others, Joseph is here represented by his steward as a diviner or soothsayer, and so he might be thought to be by the Egyptians, from being such an exact interpreter of dreams, foretelling things to come, and that he made his divinations by the silver cup; and we are told that the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, used to fill basins with water, in which they put plates of silver and precious stones, marked with certain characters, and pronouncing certain words, called to the devil, who uttered a voice in the water like an hissing, and returned answers to the things inquired about F9: a like practice is used by the Africans now F11; which method Andronicus took to know who would be his successor, but was reckoned among the most infamous and scandalous parts of the magic art F12 wherefore, as Joseph never practised any thing of this kind, so neither would he dissemble, or make as if he did; though it must be owned that the Arabs F13 in Egypt at this day pretend to consult with the cup and divine by it: but the words will bear another version and sense, for it may signify to tempt, to try, to make an experiment, and by experience to know a thing, as in ( Genesis 30:27 ) ; and so the Arabic version, "and indeed he hath tried you by it": so Aben Ezra interprets it of his trying of them by it, whether they were thieves or not, whether they were a parcel of light fingered filching fellows: the cup, he pretends, was set before them, and he turned himself another way, either Joseph or the steward, and they took the opportunity of carrying it off; or else, as others think, he tried them by drinking in it very freely and liberally, what sort of men they were, how they would behave themselves in their cups, when truth is commonly spoke, the wit being out when the wine is in: but of these two senses the former is to be preferred; though it seems best of all to understand this not of the cup as the instrument by which he tried, searched, and inquired into things, but as the object searched after and inquired of; for the word signifies to inquire, and make a strict observation of things, and thereby make shrewd guesses and conjectures, as in ( 1 Kings 20:33 ) ; and so the sense is, either according to R. Jonah {n}, that his master would diligently inquire of the soothsayers concerning it, in order to find out who took it away, and so Ben Melech; for the words may be rendered, "for which he certainly makes", or has made, or will make "divination", which agrees with ( Genesis 44:15 ) ; for if the cup was gone, how could he make divination with it? it must be for it; or indeed they might well conclude themselves, that as such a thing would soon be missed, diligent inquiry would be made after it, and it would be at once conjectured that it was taken away, not by any of the household, but by those strangers that had dined with Joseph; and a man of his sagacity and penetration would soon find it out, and therefore it was madness and folly to do such an action, and think to get off clear: ye have done evil in so doing:
both a mad and foolish action, and a base, wicked, and ungrateful one, as well as what was infamous and scandalous; for nothing was reckoned more so than for a guest at a prince's table to carry away a cup, or anything of that kind, with him: so Claudius the Roman emperor, a guest of his, the day before, having taken away a golden cup, as was supposed, ordered an earthen one to be put in its place F15, which was a putting him to public shame and reproach: Dioxippus the Athenian, being at table with Alexander the great, a golden cup was taken away privately, by some that envied him; and the hint being given as if he had done it, all eyes were turned on him as the thief, which he could not bear, but went out, and wrote a letter to the king, and then killed himself F16.


FOOTNOTES:

F9 Julius Serenus de fato, l. 9. c. 18. apud Rivet. Exercit. 165. p. 808.
F11 R. Leo. African. Descriptio Africae, l. 3. p. 335.
F12 Nic. Choniates in Andronico, l. 2.
F13 Norden's Travels in Egypt, vol. 2. p. 150.
F14 Apud Aben Ezram in loc.
F15 Suetonius in Vita Claudii, c. 32.
F16 Curtii Hist. l. 9. c. 7.
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