Dining With Zaphnath-paaneah
Genesis 43

In the continuing story of Joseph, Chapter 42 of Genesis ended with Jacob’s absolute refusal to send Benjamin down to Egypt. That would soon have to change because the famine was still with them and they had to have grain for their survival as well as that for that of their livelihood, their livestock.

While returning from Egypt the first time, they opened their sacks and found that each man’s money had been returned to them by this man who was lord of all Egypt.

The physical salvation they found through Joseph would be "without money and without price."

It was given to them in grace, unmerited and undeserved, just as our spiritual salvation is a free gift "without money and without price."

Genesis 43:1-34
1: "And the famine was sore in the land. 2: And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. 3: And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. 4: If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: 5: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you."

The statement was absolute. If they wanted grain for bread to sustain their lives, they had to “go to Joseph.” By the same token, if we want the Bread of Life, we have to go to Jesus.

With the famine continuing and no prospect of a harvest, there was only one way they could survive, they had to bring Benjamin with them. Joseph held Simeon captive in Egypt to make sure they would do this.

Of the twelve, Benjamin was Joseph’s only full brother. Their mother was Rachel, the wife Jacob loved most. Rachel had died, Joseph was gone, and Benjamin was Jacob’s only link to his beloved Rachel and that undoubtedly made him more dear to Jacob and he didn’t want to let him out of his sight.

6: "And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?"

Jacob was clutching at straws. He asked why they told the man so much about their family. 7: "And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? 8: And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones."

They would have to go to Joseph on his terms and trust him. No other way was acceptable.

As a sinner, we often want to go to Jesus on our terms but there is only one way, we have to go to Jesus on His terms for the Bread of Life, and His terms are faith in His finished work on the cross for our sins. Judah broke off the argument with verse 8. If they didn’t go, Jacob would loose Benjamin and all the rest through starvation anyway, so there was no alternative.

9: "I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:"

Judah became surety for Benjamin and the believer in Jesus Christ has a Surety today and He came from the tribe of Judah. The Lord Jesus took that place and became my surety. He took my penalty and my place on the cross. I meet God’s requirements only because of that.

10: "For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time."

Meanwhile, Simeon is sitting in prison, wondering what is going on and how much longer he has to stay there before his brothers and father comply and bring Benjamin to Egypt.

11: "And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:"

They lacked grain for bread and that is the staff of life. They had spices and fruit but they needed the staple food, bread.

Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. They lacked grain for bread and the picture here is that we lack the Bread of Life in our natural state. We may have all the other religious foods we can stomach, but without the Bread of Life we’re bound for destruction. We, like they, need the Bread of Life.

12: "And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: 13: Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 14: And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."

Jacob realized he would lose all his family to starvation if he refused to let Benjamin go, so he consented and sent the things that Canaan produced and that were scarce in Egypt. They had honey and spice but they would never make up for the lack of grain for bread.

15: "And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. 16: And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon. 17: And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house. 18: And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses. 19: And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, 20: And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: 21: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. 22: And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks. 23: And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them. 24: And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender."

What a relief this must have been! Their arrival in Egypt was altogether different from what they might have supposed. Instead of being met by police of some sort and thrown in jail, they were met by Joseph's steward. He ushered them into the royal court, into Joseph’s chamber where they met him. If any of those ten brothers had a weak heart they surely would have had a heart attack then. They thought their interview with Joseph would mean accounting for the returned money they found in their sacks. Their actions of many years ago had left them with a guilty conscience and anxious misgivings whenever anything seemed to go wrong.

25: "Then they made the present ready for Joseph's coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there. 26: And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth."

Instead, however, of having judgment pronounced on their heads because of their evil deeds, they found that Egypt's prime minister, Zaphnath-paaneah, whom they did not know to be Joseph himself, made a grand entrance before them.

Notice that they again bowed down to their dreamer-brother. Here was their dreamer-brother wearing a linen robe and the official signet ring of Egypt, and a gold chain around his neck. What a sight of honor and glory he must have presented as he stood there in the trappings of the royal court with his own brethren after the flesh bowing down to him!

The gifts they brought down from Canaan must have looked insignificant beside this display of glory. But they presented the balm, and honey, and spices, myrrh, and almonds to this man, bowing in the very dust before his feet. I wonder if the smell of the spices brought back memories of the caravan of spices when they sold Joseph so long ago.

27: "And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? 28: And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance."

Again they bowed down to him. Verses 26 and 28 show that Joseph’s dreams of many years ago are becoming reality. God promised his whole family would bow down to him and here they are, bowing their heads to him and referring to their father as Joseph’s servant.

29: "And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son."

First he inquired about his father’s welfare and then he looked at his brother Benjamin.

It must have been difficult to speak to Benjamin throuh an interpreter in order not to betray his identity, and Joseph said "God be gracious unto thee my son." We recall that Benjamin had no part in the sale off Joseph to the Midianites.

30: "And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. 31: And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread."

The sight of his brother was such an emotional thing that he broke down before them again.

This is the second time Joseph wept in front of his brothers. Surely they wondered why this very important Egyptian would weep over something they said. But this was all too much for him. Joseph, the exalted lord, the man of dignity and great glory, hurried out of the room and into his own chamber until he could control his emotion at seeing his younger brother alive and well after all these years.

He recovered his composure, washed his face, and came out again to confront them. The occasion called for a great feast, and it was decreed by the man who was lord of all Egypt that he would dine with these shepherds from the land of Canaan.

32: "And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians."

God quite often puts a simple statement in Scripture just to set us to thinking “what is important about this everyday thing?” In chapter 41 it was Joseph’s marriage. In this chapter it’s people eating at three dinner tables.

Three tables were set up. The first was Joseph's table, and no doubt his wife, Asenath, and his two boys Ephraim and Manasseh sat there. Then there was a second table. His brothers, fellow Israelites, sat there according to their birth, from Reuben the eldest at the top, all the way down to Benjamin, but it seemed that Benjamin had the seat of honor. Then there was the third table where the important and honored Egyptians sat.

The Egyptians wouldn’t eat with Hebrews. This seems strange because there were only 70 some Hebrews on earth at this time so they were no physical threat. It may have been because they were shepherds and shepherds were an abomination to Egyptians. Maybe it was the reputation they acquired at the slaughter of the men of Shechem by these same men some years earlier. That was to avenge the rape of their sister, Dinah. Jacob had made the statement that their actions made them stink in the sight of the people of the land.

33: "And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another. 34: And he took and sent food unto them from before him: but Benjamin's food was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him."

Joseph threw them a curve here. It was protocol to seat the guests in importance of rank, or in case of a family, the men were seated according to their ages. His brothers must have thought him psychic to know the exact order to seat them.

Surely they thought “What’s with this guy?” “How does he know our birth order? Why is he seating people at three different tables?” They still thought him to be the Egyptian prime minister, Zaphnath-paaneah.

To find the prophetic meaning of this wonderful scene, we need to look to God's dealings with His people Israel through Christ.

Pictured here, as in many other portions of Scripture, is the three-fold glory of Christ in His exaltation now. Joseph had three tables where his glory was displayed. There was Joseph's glory which he had at the first table in the company of his Gentile bride, Asenath. That is symbolic of Christ and His Gentile bride, the Church today, "That unto Him (our Lord Jesus Christ) will be glory in the Church throughout all ages, world without end." This is the realm in which our Lord has attained His highest honor. Ephesians 1:21-23, tells us Christ has been "set far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come; and that He is given to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."

That’s the picture we have in this first table where Joseph's bride must have had her eyes fixed in worship on her bridegroom, who was not only her lord, but lord to Israel at the second table, and lord to the Egyptians at the third table.

The second table is a picture of the Lord's second realm of glory. There is a day coming when His own people Israel, His brethren after the flesh, will return to Him again. It’s through His earthly people, the Jews, that the earthly administration of Christ's Kingdom will be set forth during the millennium. The Church, the Gentile bride, in that day will be in the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem.

Benjamin's presence is indicative of the glory that will return to Israel after the Great Tribulation. Benjamin is also a figure of Christ and Benjamin's name means "the son of my right hand." Israel, at long last, will discover that their blessing does not come through Abraham, or any other claim they might have according to flesh, but that it will come solely through their Messiah, Jesus Christ, their Lord, "the Son of God's right hand."

Then there is the third table, and that will be a huge one. It pictures the still future time when Christ our Lord is going to be exalted among all the nations of the earth. The knowledge of His glory is going to cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. His Name will be glorified in the remotest corners of the earth. Hebrews 8:11: "They all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest." Philippians 2:9-11. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him until he revealed himself. Christ has revealed Himself to the world on the cross. Have you recognized Jesus Christ, the Son of God’s right hand? Do you know that He is the Savior of sinners like you and me?

God has said that the ten commandments can’t save us, they can only convict us of our sin. Romans 3:20: Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

The righteousness of God is necessary for salvation, and it can only be obtained by faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22-23: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

God has said that we all have sinned, therefore we all need this salvation to “Be justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” [Romans 3:24]

We can bow the knee to Christ now, accept Him as our Savior, and have eternal life today or we can reject Him and face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment and bow the knee to Him there. Every verdict at that trial will be “Guilty as charged” and the sentence will be “eternity in hell.”