The food which Jacob’s sons had brought from Egypt did not last long, for Jacob’s family was large. Most of his sons were married and had children of their own; so that the children and grandchildren were sixty-six, besides the servants who waited on them, and the men who cared for Jacob’s flocks. So around the tent of Jacob was quite a camp of other tents and an army of people.
When the food that had come from Egypt was nearly eaten up, Jacob said to his sons:
“Go down to Egypt again, and buy some food for us.”
And Judah, Jacob’s son, the man who years before had urged his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, said to his father: “It is of no use for us to go to Egypt, unless we take Benjamin with us. The man who rules in that land said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your youngest brother be with you’.”
And Israel said, “Why did you tell the man that you had a brother? You did me great harm when you told him.”
“Why,” said Jacob’s sons, “we could not help telling him. The man asked us all about our family, ‘Is your father yet living? Have you any more brothers?’ And we had to tell him, his questions were so close. How should we know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother here, for me to see him’?”
And Judah said, “Send Benjamin with me, and I will take care of him. I promise you that I will bring him safely home. If he does not come back, let me bear the blame forever. He must go, or we shall die for want of food; and we might have gone down to Egypt and come home again, if we had not been kept back.”
And Jacob said, “If he must go, then he must. But take a present to the man, some of the choicest fruits of the land, some spices, and perfumes, and nuts, and almonds. And take twice as much money, besides the money that was in your sacks. Perhaps that was a mistake, when the money was given back to you. And take your brother Benjamin, and may the Lord God make the man kind to you, so that he will set Simeon free, and let you bring Benjamin back. But if it is God’s will that I lose my children, I cannot help it.”
So ten brothers of Joseph went down a second time to Egypt, Benjamin going in place of Simeon. They came to Joseph’s office, the place where he sold grain to the people; and they stood before their brother, and bowed as before. Joseph saw that Benjamin was with them, and he said to his steward, the man who was over his house:
“Make ready a dinner, for all these men shall dine with me today.”
When Joseph’s brothers found that they were taken into Joseph’s house, they were filled with fear. They said to each other:
“We have been taken here on account of the money in our sacks. They will say that we have stolen it, and then they will sell us all for slaves.”
But Joseph’s steward, the man who was over his house, treated the men kindly; and when they spoke of the money in their sacks, he would not take it again, saying:
“Never fear; your God must have sent you this as a gift. I had your money.”
The stewards received the men into Joseph’s house, and washed their feet, according to the custom of the land. And at noon, Joseph came in to meet them. They brought him the present from their father, and again they bowed before him, with their faces on the ground.
And Joseph asked them if they were well, and said: “Is your father still living, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he well?”
And they said, “Our father is well and he is living.” And again they bowed to Joseph.
And Joseph looked at his younger brother Benjamin, the child of his own mother Rachel, and said:
“Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious unto you, my son.”
And Joseph’s heart was so full that he could not keep back the tears. He went in haste to his own room, and wept there. Then he washed his face, and came out again, and ordered the table to be set for dinner. They set Joseph’s table for himself, as the ruler, and another table for his Egyptian officers, and another for the eleven men from Canaan; for Joseph had brought Simeon out of the prison, and had given him a place with his brothers.
Joseph himself arranged the order of the seats for his brothers, the oldest at the head, and all in order of age down to the youngest. The men wondered at this, and could not see how the ruler of Egypt could know the order of their ages. And Joseph sent dishes from his table to his brothers, and he gave to Benjamin five times as much as to the others. Perhaps he wished to see whether they were as jealous of Benjamin as in other days they had been toward him.
After dinner, Joseph said to his steward: “Fill the men’s sacks with grain, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in his sack. And put my silver cup in the sack of the youngest, with his money.”
The steward did as Joseph had said; and early in the morning the brothers started to go home. A little while afterward, Joseph said to his steward:
“Hasten, follow after the men from Canaan, and say, ‘Why have you wronged me, after I had treated you kindly? You have stolen my master’s silver cup, out of which he drinks’.”
The steward followed the men, and overtook them, and charged them with stealing. And they said to him:
“Why should you talk to us in this manner? We have stolen nothing. Why, we brought back to you the money that we found in our sacks; and is it likely that we would steal from your lord his silver or gold? You may search us, and if you find your master’s cup on any of us, let him die, and the rest of us may be sold as slaves.”
Then they took down the sacks from the asses, and opened them; and in each man’s sack was his money, for the second time. And when they came to Benjamin’s sack, there was the ruler’s silver cup! Then, in the greatest sorrow, they tied up their bags again, and laid them on the asses, and came back to Joseph’s palace.
And Joseph said to them:
“What wicked thing is this that you have done? Did you not know that I would surely find out your deeds?”
Then Judah said, “O, my lord, what can we say? God has punished us for our sins; and now we must all be slaves, both we that are older, and the younger in whose sack the cup was found.”
“No,” said Joseph. “Only one of you is guilty; the one who has taken away my cup. I will hold him as a slave, and the rest of you can go home to your father.
Joseph wished to see whether his brothers were still selfish, and were willing to let Benjamin suffer, if they could escape.
Then Judah, the very man who had urged his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave, came forward, and fell at Joseph’s feet, and pleaded with him to let Benjamin go. He told again the whole story, how Benjamin was the one whom his father loved the most of all his children, now that his brother was lost. He said:
“I promised to bear the blame, if this boy was not brought home in safety. If he does not go back it will kill my poor old father, who has seen much trouble. Now let my youngest brother go home to his father, and I will stay here as a slave in his place!”
Joseph knew now, what he had longed to know, that his brothers were no longer cruel nor selfish, but one of them was willing to suffer, so that his brother might be spared. And Joseph could not any longer keep his secret, for his heart longed after his brothers; and he was ready to weep again, with tears of love and joy. He sent all of his Egyptian servants out of the room, so that he might be alone with his brothers, and then he said:
“Come near to me; I wish to speak with you.” And they came near, wondering. Then Joseph said:
“I am Joseph; is my father really alive?”
How frightened his brothers were, as they heard these words spoken in their own language by the ruler of Egypt and for the first time knew that this stern man, who had their lives in his hand, was their own brother whom they had wronged! Then Joseph said again:
“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But do not feel troubled because of what you did. For God sent me before you to save your lives. There have been already two years of need and famine, and there are to be five years more, when there shall neither be plowing of the fields nor harvest. It was not you who sent me here, but God; and he sent me to save your lives. God has made me like a father to Pharaoh and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Now I wish you to go home, and to bring down to me my father and all his family.”
Then Joseph placed his arms around Benjamin’s neck, and kissed him, and wept upon him. And Benjamin wept on his neck. And Joseph kissed all his brothers, to show them that he had fully forgiven them; and after that his brothers began to lose their fear of Joseph and talked with him more freely.
Afterward Joseph sent his brothers home with good news, and rich gifts, and abundant food. He sent also wagons in which Jacob and his sons’ wives and the little ones of their families might ride from Canaan down to Egypt. And Joseph’s brothers went home happier than they had been for many years.