(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 21)

bread as a stranger. For he might seriously doubt what was the meaning 
of that remarkable promise, "I am God Almighty, grow and multiply: I 
will bless thee." It is profitable for us to know these conflicts of the 
holy fathers, that, fighting with the same arms with which they 
conquered, we also may stand invincible, although God should withhold 
present help. 
  3. "And Judah spake unto him, saying." Judah seems to feign something, 
for the purpose of extorting from his father what he knew he would not 
freely grant; but it is probable that many discourses had been held on 
both sides, which Moses, according to his custom, has not related. And 
since Joseph so ardently desired the sight of his brother Benjamin, it 
is not surprising that he should have labored, in every possible way, to 
obtain it. It may also have happened that he had caused some 
notification or legal summons to be served, by which his brother was 
cited to make his appearance, as in judicial causes. This however 
deserves to be noticed, that Moses relates the long disputation which 
Jacob had with his sons, in order that we may know with what difficulty 
he allowed his son Benjamin to be torn away from him. For, though hunger 
was pressing, he nevertheless contended for retaining him, just as if he 
were striving for the salvation of his whole family. Whence, again, we 
may conjecture, that he suspected his sons of a wicked conspiracy; and 
on this account Judah offers himself as a surety. For he does not 
promise anything respecting the event, but only, for the sake of 
clearing himself and his brethren, he takes Benjamin under his care, 
with this condition, that if any injury should be done to Benjamin, he 
would bear the punishment and the blame. From the example of Jacob let 
us learn patient endurance, should the Lord often compel us, by pressure 
of circumstances, to do many things contrary to the inclination of our 
own minds; for Jacob sends away his son, as if he were delivering him 
over unto death. 
  11. "Take of the best fruits." Though the fruits which Moses 
enumerates were, for the most part, not very precious, because the 
condition of holy Jacob was not such that he could send any royal 
present; yet, according to his slender ability, he wished to appease 
Joseph. Besides we know that fruits are not always estimated according 
to their cost. And now, having commanded his sons to do what he thought 
necessary, he has recourse to prayer, that God would give them favour 
with the governor of Egypt. We must attend to both these points whenever 
we are perplexed in any business; for we must not omit any of those 
things which are expedient, or which may seem to be of use; and yet we 
must place our reliance upon God. For the tranquillity of faith has no 
affinity with indolence: but he who expects a prosperous issue of his 
affairs from the Lord, will, at the same time, look closely to the means 
which are in his power, and will apply them to present use. Meanwhile, 
let the faithful observe this moderation, that when they have tried all 
means, they still ascribe nothing to their own industry. At the same 
time, let them be certainly convinced that all their endeavours will be 
in vain, unless the Lord bless them. It is to be observed, also, in the 
form of his supplication, that Jacob regards the hearts of men as 
subject to the will of God. When we have to deal with men, we too often 
neglect to look unto the Lord, because we do not sufficiently 
acknowledge him as the secret governor of their hearts. But to whatever 
extent unruly men may be carried away by violence, it is yet certain 
that their passions are turned by God in whatever direction he pleases, 
so that he can mitigate their ferocity as often as he sees good; or can 
permit those to become cruel, who before were disposed to mildness. So 
Jacob, although his sons had found an austere severity in Joseph, yet 
trusts that his heart will be so in the hand of God, that it shall be 
suddenly mounded to humanity. Therefore, as we must hope in the Lord, 
when men deal unjustly with us, and must pray that they may be changed 
for the better; so, on the other hand, we must remember that, when they 
act with severity towards us, it is not done without the counsel of God. 
  14. "If I be bereaved." Jacob may seem here to be hardly consistent 
with himself; for, if the prayer which Moses has just related, was the 
effect of faith, he ought to have been more calm; and, at least, to have 
given occasion to the manifestation of the grace of God. But he appears 
to cut himself off from every ground of confidence, when he supposes 
that nothing is left for him but bereavement. It is like the speech of a 
man in despair, "I shall remain bereaved as I am." As if truly he had 
prayed in vain; or had feignedly professed that the remedy was in the 
hand of God. If, however, we observe to whom his speech was directed, 
the solution is easy. It is by no means doubtful that he stood firmly on 
the promise which had been given to him, and therefore he would hope for 
some fruit of his prayers; yet he wished deeply to affect his sons, in 
order that they might take greater care of their brother. For, it was in 
no common manner that Benjamin was intrusted to their protection, when 
they saw their father altogether overcome and almost lifeless with 
grief, until he should receive his son again in safety. Interpreters, 
however, expound these words variously. Some think that he complained, 
because now he was about to be entirely bereaved. To others, the meaning 
seems to be, that nothing worse could happen; since he had lost Joseph, 
whom he had preferred to all the rest. Others are disposed to mark a 
double bereavement, as if he had said, "I have lost two sons, and now a 
third follows them." But what, if we should thus interpret the words, "I 
see what is my condition; I am a most wretched old man; my house, which 
lately was filled with people, I find almost deserted." So that, in 
general terms, he is deploring the loss of all his sons, and is not 
speaking of a part only. Moreover, it was his design to inspire his sons 
with a degree of solicitude which should cause them to attend to their 
duty with greater fidelity and diligence. 
  16. "And he said to the ruler of his house." Here we perceive the 
fraternal disposition of Joseph; though it is uncertain whether he was 
perfectly reconciled, as I will shortly show, in its proper place. If, 
however, remembering the injury, he loved his brethren less than before, 
he was still far from having vindictive feelings towards them. But 
because it was something suspicious that foreigners and men of ignoble 
rank should be received in a friendly manner, like known guests, to a 
banquet, by the chief governor of the kingdom, the sons of Jacob would 
conceive a new fear; namely, that he wished to cast them all into 
chains; and that their money had been craftily concealed in their sacks, 
in order that it might prove the occasion of accusation against them. It 
is however probable, that the crime which they had committed against 
Joseph, occurred to their minds, and that this fear had proceeded from a 
guilty conscience. For, unless the judgment of God had tormented them, 
there was no cause why they should apprehend such an act of perfidy. It 
may seem absurd, that unknown men should be received to a feast by a 
prince of the highest dignity. But why not rather incline to a different 
conjecture; namely, that the governor of Egypt has done this for the 
purpose of exhibiting to his friends the new and unwonted spectacle of 
eleven brethren sitting at one table? It will, indeed, sometimes happen 
that similar anxiety to that felt by Joseph's brethren, may invade even 
the best of men; but I would rather ascribe it to the judgment of God, 
that the sons of Jacob, whose conscience accused them of having 
inhumanely treated their brother, suspected that they would be dealt 
with in the same manner. However, they take an early opportunity of 
vindicating themselves, before inquiry is made respecting the theft. 
Now, freely to declare that the money had been found in their sacks, and 
that they had brought it from home to repay it immediately was a strong 
mark of their innocence. Moreover, they do this in the very porch of the 
house, because they suspected that, as soon as they entered, the 
question would be put to them. 
  23. "Peace be to you." Because "shalom", among the Hebrews, signifies 
not only peace, but any prosperous and desirable condition, as well as 
any joyful event, this passage may be expounded in two ways: either that 
the ruler of Joseph's house commands them to be of a peaceful and secure 
mind; or that he pronounces it to be well and happy with them. The sum 
of his answer, however, amounts to this, that there was no reason for 
fear, because their affairs were in a prosperous state. And since, after 
the manner of men, it was not possible that they should have paid the 
money for the corn which was found in their sacks, he ascribes this to 
the favour of God. For though true religion was then almost extinct in 
the world, God nevertheless caused some knowledge of his goodness always 
to remain in the hearts of men, which should render them responsible. 
Hence it has happened that, following nature as their guide, unbelievers 
have called every peculiarly excellent gift Divine. Moreover, because 
corruption was so prevalent, that each nation deemed it lawful to 
worship different gods, the ruler of Joseph's house distinguishes the 
God worshipped by the sons of Jacob from Egyptian idols. The conjecture, 
however, is probable, that this man had been imbued with some sense of 
religion. We know how great was the arrogance of that nation, and that 
it supposed the whole world besides, to be deceived in the worship of 
gods. Therefore, unless he had learned something better, he never would 
have assigned so great an honour to any other gods than those of his own 
country. Moreover, he does not ascribe the miracle to the God of the 
land of Canaan, but to the peculiar God of their father. I, therefore, 
do not doubt that Joseph, though not permitted openly to correct 
anything in the received superstitions, endeavored, at least in his own 
house, to establish the true worship of the one God, and always held 
fast the covenant, concerning which, as a boy, he had heard his father 
speak. This is the more to be observed, because the holy man could not 
swerve, even in the least degree, from the common practice, without 
incurring the odium of a nation so proud. Therefore, the excellency of 
Joseph is commended in the person of his steward; because without fear 
of public envy, he gives honour, within his own walls, to the true God. 
If any one should ask, whence he knew that Jacob was a worshipped of the 
true God; the answer is ready; that Joseph, notwithstanding his assumed 
severity, had commanded that Simon should be gently treated in prison. 
Though he had been left as a hostage, yet, if he had been regarded as a 
spy, the keeper of the prison would have dealt more harshly with him. 
There must, therefore, have been some command given respecting the 
humane or moderate treatment of him. Whence the probable conjecture is 
elicited, that Joseph had explained the affair to his steward, who was 
admitted to his secret counsels. 
  25. "Against Joseph came at noon-day." It is doubtful whether this was 
the ordinary hour of dining among the Egyptians, or whether Joseph, on 
that day, sat down earlier than he was accustomed to do, on account of 
his guests. It is, however, most likely that the usual custom of dining 
was observed. Although, among the people of the East, there might be a 
different manner of living, dinners were in use, not only among the 
Egyptians, but also in Judea, and in other neighboring regions. Yet it 
is probable that this was to them, also, in the place of a supper, both 
because they would sit long at table, and our quick method of eating 
would not have been tolerable to people in those heated climes; 
especially when they received guests with greater luxury than usual, as 
it will presently appear, was done at this time. The washing of the 
feet, (as we have seen before,) was a part of hospitality, and intended 
to relieve weariness; because, in those parts, the feet might easily 
become inflamed whenever they journeyed on foot. It was also more 
honorable, according to ancient custom, that a portion of food should be 
sent to each from Joseph, rather than that it should be distributed by 
the cook. But because these things are trivial, and are not conducive to 
piety, I only slightly touch upon them; and would even omit them 
entirely, except that, to remove a scruple from the minds of the 
unskillful, is sometimes useful, if it be but done sparingly and with 
  32. "Because the Egyptians might not eat," &c. Moses says they might 
not eat with the Hebrews, because they abhorred it, as being unlawful. 
For seeing that their religion forbade it, they were so bound, that they 
could not do what they did not dare to do. This passage teaches us how 
great was the pride of that nation; for, whence did it arise that they 
so utterly detested the Hebrews, unless because they thought themselves 
alone to be pure and holy in the world, and acceptable to God? God, 
indeed, commands his worshipers to abstain from all the pollutions of 
the Gentiles. But it behaves any one who separates himself from others, 
to be himself pure and upright. Therefore superstitious persons vainly 
attempt to claim this privilege for themselves, seeing they carry their 
impurity within, and are destitute of sincerity. Superstition, also, is 
affected with another disease; namely, that it is full of pride, so that 
it despises all men, under the pretext that they are vicious. It is 
asked, however, whether the Egyptians were separated from Joseph, 
because they regarded him as polluted: for this the words of Moses seem 
to intimate. If this interpretation is received, then they esteemed 
their false religion so highly, that they did not scruple to load their 
governor with reproaches. I rather conjecture, that Joseph sat apart 
from them, for the sake of honour; since it would be absurd that they, 
who disdained to sit at the same table with him, should be invited as 
his guests. Therefore it is probable that this distinct order was made 
by Joseph himself, that he might maintain his own dignity; and yet that 
the sons of Jacob were not mixed with the Egyptians, because the former 
were an abomination to the latter. For though the origin of Joseph was 
known, yet he had so passed over to the Egyptians, that he had become as 
one of their body. For which reason, also, the king had given him a 
name, when he adorned him with the insignia of his office as chief 
governor. Now, when we see that the church of God was, at that time, so 
proudly despised by profane men, we need not wonder that we also, at the 
present day, are subjected to similar reproach. Meanwhile, we must 
endeavor to keep ourselves pure from the filth of the world, for the 
Lord's sake; and yet this desire must be so at tempered, that we may be 
alienated from the vices, rather than from the persons of men. For on 
this account does God sanctify his children, that they may beware of the 
vices of the unbelievers among whom they are conversant; and 
nevertheless may allure, as many as are curable, to a participation of 
their piety. Two things are here to be attended to; first, that we may 
be fully persuaded of the genuineness of our faith; secondly, that our 
excessive and fruitless fastidiousness may not entirely alienate many 
from the Lord, who otherwise might have been won. For we are not 
expressly commanded so to abhor the wicked, as not eat with them; but to 
avoid such association as may subject us to the same yoke. Besides, this 
passage confirms what I have before said, that the Hebrews had derived 
their name, not from their passing over the river; (as some falsely 
imagine,) but from their ancestor Heber. Nor was the fame of a single 
small and distantly situated family, sufficiently celebrated in Egypt, 
to become the cause of public dissension. 
  33. "The first-born according to his birthright." Although of the sons 
of Jacob four were born of bond-women; yet, since they were the elder, 
they had precedence of their younger brethren, who had descended from 
free-born mothers; whence it appears that they had been accustomed by 
their father to keep this order. What, then, some one may say, becomes 
of the declaration, "the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with 
the son of the free-woman?" Truly, I think, since Ishmael was rejected, 
by the divine oracle proceeding from the mouth of Sarah, as Esau was 
afterwards, Jacob was fully taught that he had as many heirs as he had 
sons. Hence arose that equality which caused each to keep his place, 
first, middle, or last, according to his age. But the design of Moses 
was to show, that although Benjamin was the youngest, yet he was 
preferred to all the rest in honour; because Joseph could not refrain 
from giving him the principal token of his love. It was, indeed, his 
intention to remain unknown; but affection so far prevails, that, beyond 
the purpose of his mind, he suddenly breaks out into a declaration of 
his affection. From the concluding portion of the chapter we gather, 
what I recently intimated, that the feast was unusually luxurious, and 
that they were received to it, in a liberal and joyful manner, beyond 
the daily custom. For the word "Shakar", they "were merry," signifies, 
either that they were not always accustomed to drink wine, or that there 
was more than ordinary indulgence at the sumptuous tables spread for 
them. Here, however, no intemperance is implied, (so that drunkards may 
not plead the example of the holy fathers as a pretext for their crime,) 
but an honorable and moderate liberality. I acknowledge, indeed, that 
the word has a double meaning, and is often taken in an ill sense; as in 
chap. 9:, ver. 21, and in similar places: but in the present instance 
the design of Moses is clear. Should any one object, that a frugal use 
of food and drink is simply that which suffices for the nourishing of 
the body: I answer, although food is properly for the supply of our 
necessities, yet the legitimate use of it may proceed further. For it is 
not in vain, that our food has savour as well as vital nutriment; but 
thus our heavenly Father sweetly delights us with his delicacies. And 
his benignity is not in vain commended in Psalm 104: 15, where he is 
said to create "wine that maketh glad the heart of man." Nevertheless, 
the more kindly he indulges us, the more solicitously ought we to 
restrict ourselves to a frugal use of his gifts. For we know how 
unbridled are the appetites of the flesh. Whence it happens that, in 
abundance, it is almost always lascivious, and in penury, impatient. We 
must, however, adhere to St. Paul's method, that we know how to abound 
and to suffer need; that is, we must take great care if we have unusual 
plenty, that it does not hurry us into luxury; and, on the other hand, 
we must see to it, that we bear poverty with an equal mind. Some one, 
perhaps, will say, that the flesh is more than sufficiently ingenious in 
giving a specious colour to its excesses; and, therefore, nothing more 
should be allowed to it than necessity demands. And, truly, I confess, 
we must diligently attend to what Paul prescribes, (Rom. 13: 14,) "Make 
not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." But because 
it greatly concerns all pious people to receive their food from the hand 
of God, with quiet consciences, it is necessary for them to know to what 
extent the use of food and wine is lawful. 
Chapter XLIV. 
1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's 
sacks [with] food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money 
in his sack's mouth. 
2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, 
and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had 
3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and 
their asses. 
4 [And] when they were gone out of the city, [and] not [yet] far off, 
Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou 
dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for 
5 [Is] not this [it] in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he 
divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. 
6 And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words. 
7 And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God 
forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: 
8 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought 
again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out 
of thy lord's house silver or gold? 
9 With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we 
also will be my lord's bondmen. 
10 And he said, Now also [let] it [be] according unto your words: he 
with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless. 
11 Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and 
opened every man his sack. 
12 And he searched, [and] began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: 
and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. 
13 Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and 
returned to the city. 
14 And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he [was] yet 
there: and they fell before him on the ground. 
15 And Joseph said unto them, What deed [is] this that ye have done? wot 
ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? 
16 And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? 
or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy 
servants: behold, we [are] my lord's servants, both we, and [he] also 
with whom the cup is found. 
17 And he said, God forbid that I should do so: [but] the man in whose 
hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you 
up in peace unto your father. 
18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, 
I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger 
burn against thy servant: for thou [art] even as Pharaoh. 
19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? 
20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child 
of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is 
left of his mother, and his father loveth him. 
21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may 
set mine eyes upon him. 
22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for [if] 
he should leave his father, [his father] would die. 
23 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come 
down with you, ye shall see my face no more. 
24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we 
told him the words of my lord. 
25 And our father said, Go again, [and] buy us a little food. 
26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, 
then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our 
youngest brother [be] with us. 
27 And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me 
two [sons]: 
28 And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in 
pieces; and I saw him not since: 
29 And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall 
bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. 
30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad [be] 
not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life; 
31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad [is] not [with us], 
that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of 
thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. 
32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If 
I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for 
33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad 
a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. 
34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad [be] not with me? 
lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father. 
  1. "And he commanded the steward of his house." Here Moses relates how 
skillfully Joseph had contrived to try the dispositions of his brethren. 
We have said elsewhere that, whereas God has commanded us to cultivate 
simplicity, we are not to take this, and similar examples, as affording 
license to turn aside to indirect and crafty arts. For it may have been 
that Joseph was impelled by a special influence of the Spirit to this 
course. He had also a reason, of no common kind, for inquiring very 
strictly in what manner his brethren were affected. Charity is not 
suspicious. Why, then, does he so distrust his brethren; and why cannot 
he suppose that they have anything good, unless he shall first have 
subjected them to the most rigid examination? Truly, since he had found 
them to be exceedingly cruel and perfidious, it is but an excusable 
suspicion, if he does not believe them to be changed for the better, 
until he has obtained a thorough perception and conviction of their 
penitence. But since, in this respect, it is a rare and very difficult 
virtue to observe a proper medium, we must beware of imitating the 
example of Joseph, in an austere course of acting, unless we have laid 
all vindictive feelings aside, and are pure and free from all enmity. 
For love, when it is pure, and exempt from all turbid influence, will 
best decide how far it is right to proceed. It may, however, be asked, 
"If the sons of Jacob had been easily induced to betray the safety of 
Benjamin, what would Joseph himself have done?" We may readily 
conjecture, that he examined their fidelity, in order that, if he should 
find them dishonest, he might retain Benjamin, and drive them with shame 
from his presence. But, by pursuing this method, his father would have 
been deserted, and the Church of God ruined. And certainly, it is not 
without hazard to himself that he thus terrifies them: because he could 
scarcely have avoided the necessity of denouncing some more grievous and 
severe punishment against them, if they had again relapsed. It was, 
therefore, due to the special favour of God, that they proved themselves 
different from what he had feared. In the meantime, the advantage of his 
examination was twofold; first, because the clearly ascertained 
integrity of his brethren rendered his mind more placable towards them; 
and secondly, because it lightened, at least in some degree, the former 
infamy, which they had contracted by their wickedness. 
  2. "And put my cup, the silver cup." It may seem wonderful that, 
considering his great opulence, Joseph had not rather drunk out of a 
golden cup. Doubtless, either the moderation of that age was still 
greater than has since prevailed, and the splendor of it less sumptuous; 
or else this conduct must be attributed to the moderation of the man, 
who, in the midst of universal license, yet was contented with a plain 
and decent, rather than with a magnificent style of living. Unless, 
perhaps, on account of the excellence of the workmanship, the silver was 
more valuable than gold: as it is manifest from secular history, that 
the workmanship has often been more expensive than the material itself. 
It is, however, probable, that Joseph was sparing in domestic splendor, 
for the sake of avoiding envy. For unless he had been prudently on his 
guard, a contention would have arisen between him and the courtiers, 
resulting from a spirit of emulation. Moreover, he commands the cup to 
be enclosed in Benjamin's sack, in order that he might claim him as his 
own, when convicted of the theft, and might send the rest away: however, 
he accuses all alike, as if he knew not who among them had committed the 
crime. And first, he reproves their ingratitude, because, when they had 
been so kindly received, they made the worst possible return; next, he 
contends that the crime was inexpiable, because they had stolen what was 
most valuable to him; namely, the cup in which he was accustomed both to 
drink and to divine. And he does this through his steward, whom he had 
not trained to acts of tyranny and violence. Whence I infer, that the 
steward was not altogether ignorant of his master's design. 
  5. "Whereby indeed, he divineth." This clause is variously expounded. 
For some take it as if Joseph pretended that he consulted soothsayers in 
order to find out the thief. Others translate it, "by which he has tried 
you, or searched you out;" others, that the stolen cup had given Joseph 
an unfavorable omen. The genuine sense seems to me to be this: that he 
had used the cup for divinations and for magical arts; which, however, 
we have said, he feigned, for the sake of aggravating the charge brought 
against them. But the question arises, how does Joseph allow himself to 
resort to such an expedient? For besides that it was sinful for him to 
profess augury; he vainly and unworthily transfers to imaginary deities 
the honour due only to divine grace. On a former occasion, he had 
declared that he was unable to interpret dreams, except so far as God 
should suggest the truth to him; now he obscures this entire ascription 
of praise to divine grace; and what is worse, by boasting that he is a 
magician rather than proclaiming himself a prophet of God, he impiously 
profanes the gift of the Holy Spirit. Doubtless, in this dissimulation, 
it is not to be denied, that he sinned grievously. Yet I think that, at 
the first, he had endeavored, by all means in his power, to give unto 
God his due honour; and it was not his fault that the whole kingdom of 
Egypt was ignorant of the fact that he excelled in skill, not by magical 

arts, but by a celestial gift. But since the Egyptians were accustomed 
to the illusions of the magicians, this ancient error so prevailed, that 
they believed Joseph to be one of them; and I do not doubt that this 
rumour was spread abroad among the people, although contrary to his 
desire and intention. Now Joseph, in feigning himself to be a stranger 
to his brethren, combines many falsehoods in one, and takes advantage of 
the prevailing vulgar opinion that he used auguries. Whence we gather, 
that when any one swerves from the right line, he is prone to fall into 
various sins. Wherefore, being warned by this example, let us learn to 
allow ourselves in nothing except what we know is approved by God. But 
especial]y must we avoid all dissimulation, which either produces or 
confirms mischievous impostures. Besides, we are warned, that it is not 
sufficient for any one to oppose a prevailing vice for a time; unless he 
add constancy of resistance, even though the evil may become excessive. 
For he discharges his duty very defectively, who, having once testified 
that he is displeased with what is evil, afterwards, by his silence or 
connivance, gives it a kind of assent. 
  7. "And they said unto him." The sons of Jacob boldly excuse 
themselves, because a good conscience gives them confidence. They also 
argue from the greater to the less: for they contend, that their having 
voluntarily brought back the money, which they might with impunity have 
applied to their own use, was such a proof of their honesty, as to make 
it incredible that they should have been so blinded by a little gain, as 
to bring upon themselves the greatest disgrace, together with immediate 
danger of their lives. They, therefore, declared themselves ready to 
submit to any punishment, if they were found guilty of the theft. When 
the cup was discovered in Benjamin's sack, Moses does not relate any of 
their complaints; but only declares, that they testified the most bitter 
grief by rending their garments. I do not doubt that they were struck 
dumb by the unexpected result; for they were confounded, not only by the 
magnitude of their grief, but by perceiving themselves to be obnoxious 
to punishment, for that of which their conscience did not accuse them. 
Therefore, when they come into the presence of Joseph, they confess the 
injury, not because they acknowledge that the crime has been committed 
by them, but because excuse would be of no avail; as if they would say, 
"It is of no use to deny a thing which is manifest in itself." In this 
sense, they say that their iniquity has been found out by God; because, 
although they had some secret suspicion of fraud, thinking that this had 
been a contrivance for the purpose of bringing an unjust charge against 
them, they choose rather to trace the cause of their punishment to the 
secret judgment of God. Some interpreters believe that they here 
confessed their crime committed against Joseph; but that opinion is 
easily refuted, because they constantly affirm that he had been torn by 
a wild beast, or had perished by some accident. Therefore, the more 
simple meaning is that which I have adduced; that although the truth of 
the fact is not apparent, yet they are punished by God as guilty 
persons. They do not, however, speak hypocritically; but being troubled 
and astonished in their perplexed affairs, there is nothing left for 
them but the consciousness that this punishment is inflicted by the 
secret judgment of God. And I wish that they who, when smitten by the 
rod of God, do not immediately perceive the cause, would adopt the same 
course; and when they find that men are unjustly incensed against them, 
would recall to mind the secret judgments of God, by which it becomes us 
to be humbled. Moreover, whereas Judah speaks in the name of them all, 
we may hence infer, that he had already obtained precedence among his 
brethren. And Moses exhibits him as their head and chief, when he 
expressly states that he and the rest came. For though the dignity of 
primogeniture had not yet been conferred upon him, by the solemn 
judgment of his father, yet it was intended for him. Certainly, in 
taking the post of speaker for the rest, his authority appears in his 
language. Again, it is necessary to recall to memory, in reference to 
the language of Joseph, what I have before said, that although at first 
he had endeavored to ascribe the glory to God, he now sins in pretending 
that he is a soothsayer or diviner. Some, to extenuate the fault, say 
that the allusion is, not to the art of augury, but to his skill in 
judging; there is, however, no need to resort to forced expositions for 
the sake of excusing the man; for he speaks according to the common 
understanding of the multitude, and thus foolishly countenances the 
received opinion. 
  16. "Behold, we are my lord's servants." They had before called 
themselves servants through modesty; now they consign themselves over to 
him as slaves. But in the case of Benjamin they plead for a mitigation 
of the severity of the punishment; and this is a kind of entreaty, that 
he might not be capitally punished, as they had agreed to, at the first. 
  17. "God forbid that I should do so." If Joseph intended to retain 
Benjamin alone, and to dismiss the others, he would have done his 
utmost, to rend the Church of God by the worst possible dissension. But 
I have previously shown (what may also be elicited from the context) 
that his design was nothing else than to pierce their hearts more 
deeply. He must have anticipated great mischief, if he had perceived 
that they did not care for their brother: but the Lord provided against 
this danger, by causing the earnest apology of Judah not only to soften 
his mind, but even to draw forth tears and weeping in profusion. 
  18. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word." Judah suppliantly 
asks that leave may be given him to speak, because his narrative was 
about to be prolix. And whereas nobles are offended, and take it 
angrily, if any address them with too great familiarity, Judas begins by 
declaring that he is not ignorant of the great honour which Joseph had 
received in Egypt, for the purpose of showing that he was becoming bold, 
not through impertinence, but through necessity. Afterwards he recites 
in what manner he and his brethren had departed from their father. There 
are two principal heads of his discourse; first, that they should be the 

(continued in part 22...)

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