Here is, I. The great respect that Joseph’s brethren paid to him. When they brought him the present, they bowed themselves before him (Gen. 43:26); and again, when they gave him an account of their father’s health, they made obeisance, and called him, Thy servant our father, Gen. 43:28. Thus were Joseph’s dreams fulfilled more and more: and even the father, by the sons, bowed before him, according to the dream, Gen. 37:10. Probably Jacob had directed them, if they had occasion to speak of him to the man, the lord of the land, to call him his servant.
II. The great kindness that Joseph showed to them, while they little thought it was a brotherly kindness. Here is,
1. His kind enquiry concerning Jacob: Isa. he yet alive?--a very fit question to be asked concerning any, especially concerning old people; for we are dying daily: it is strange that we are yet alive. Jacob had said many years before, I will go to the grave to my son; but he is yet alive: we must not die when we will.
2. The kind notice he took of Benjamin, his own brother. (1.) He put up a prayer for him: God be gracious unto thee, my son, Gen. 43:29. Joseph’s favour, though he was the lord of the land, would do him little good, unless God were gracious to him. Many seek the ruler’s favour, but Joseph directs him to seek the favour of the ruler of rulers. (2.) He shed some tears for him, Gen. 43:30. His natural affection to his brother, his joy to see him, his concern at seeing him and the rest of them in distress for bread, and the remembrance of his own griefs since he last saw him, produced a great agitation in him, which perhaps was the more uneasy because he endeavoured to stifle and suppress it; but he was forced to retire into his closet, there to give vent to his feeling by tears. Note, [1.] Tears of tenderness and affection are no disparagement at all, even to great and wise men. [2.] Gracious weepers should not proclaim their tears. My soul shall weep in secret, says the prophet, Jer. 13:17. Peter went out and wept bitterly. See Matt. 26:75.
3. His kind entertainment of them all. When his weeping had subsided so that he could refrain himself, he sat down to dinner with them, treated them nobly, and yet contrived every thing to amuse them.
(1.) He ordered three tables to be spread, one for his brethren, another for the Egyptians that dined with him (for so different were their customs that they did not care to eat together), another for himself, who durst not own himself a Hebrew, and yet would not sit with the Egyptians. See here an instance, [1.] Of hospitality and good house-keeping, which are very commendable, according as the ability is. [2.] Of compliance with people’s humours, even whimsical ones, as bishop Patrick calls this of the Egyptians not eating with the Hebrews. Though Joseph was the lord of the land, and orders were given that all people should obey him, yet he would not force the Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews, against their minds, but let them enjoy their humours. Spirits truly generous hate to impose. [3.] Of the early distance between Jews and Gentiles; one table would not hold them.
(2.) He placed his brethren according to their seniority (Gen. 43:33), as if he could certainly divine. Some think they placed themselves so, according to their custom; but, if so, I see not why such particular notice is taken of it, especially as a thing they marvelled at.
(3.) He gave them a very plentiful entertainment, sent messes to them from his own table, Gen. 43:34. This was the more generous in him, and the more obliging to them, because of the present scarcity of provisions. In a day of famine, it is enough to be fed; but here they were feasted. Perhaps they had not had such a good dinner for many months. It is said, They drank and were merry; their cares and fears were now over, and they ate their bread with joy, concluding they were now upon good terms with the man, the lord of the land. If God accept our works, our present, we have reason to be cheerful. Yet when we sit, as they here did, to eat with a ruler, we should consider what is before us, and not indulge our appetite, nor be desirous of dainties, Prov. 23:1-3. Joseph gave them to understand that Benjamin was his favourite; for his mess was five times as much as any of theirs, not as if he would have him eat so much more than the rest, for then he must eat more than would do him good (and it is no act of friendship, but rather an injury and unkindness, to press any either to eat or drink to excess), but thus he would testify his particular respect for him, that he might try whether his brethren would envy Benjamin his larger messes, as formerly they had envied himself his finer coat. And it must be our rule, in such cases, to be content with what we have, and not to grieve at what others have.