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Seating Arrangements (Genesis 43:31-34)

October 7, 2020 | by: Gregg Hunter | 0 comments

Posted in: The Life of Joseph

You’ll remember that Jacob treated Joseph with more favor than any of his brothers, and this caused his brothers to be so jealous that they eventually sold him into slavery. After Joseph’s death, Benjamin was the only son of Rachel left with Jacob, so he apparently started to treat this son with special favor as well.

In today’s passage, Joseph is going to test his brothers to see if they will be as jealous of Benjamin as they were of him, or if they have matured and had a change of heart.


Please read Genesis 43:31-34.

Ancient Egyptian racial prejudices are well-documented. They absolutely refused to eat with foreigners, especially those from the Middle East, so it was no surprise to the brothers that they were told to sit at a separate table. What did surprise them is that they were seated in the correct birth order. There’s no way that the Egyptians should know who the oldest was and seat him in the place of honor, with the youngest in the place of lowest honor, and everyone else exactly in their correct spot.

They were so surprised by their seating arrangement that they didn’t seem to notice that Joseph was sitting by himself. Had they noticed, they may have realized that the Egyptians’ prejudice extended even to their own governor and they refused to sit with him, despite him being second-in-command over the entire Kingdom!

There’s a long case that could be made against racial prejudice here, but that is not the focus of the passage, so it is not the focus of this blog post. Suffice it to say that, had the brothers been paying closer attention, they would have realized that Joseph knew more than he should have if he were just an Egyptian governor. But again, that's not the focus of this passage.

The focus of these verses is on the portion size of the brothers’ meals. You’ll remember that they are still in the midst of a famine, and likely haven’t eaten well in a long time. Each brother is given much better quality of food than they are used to (that from Joseph’s table), but Benjamin is singled out for special honor: He is brought five times as much food as anyone else.

Here is the test: will Joseph’s brothers show any form of jealousy toward Benjamin because of his special favor, like they did with Joseph? You can be sure that Joseph was watching closely to see any facial expression or hear any grumbling that would give away their jealous hearts. But none came.

Joseph is not done testing his brothers, but for now they seem to have had a change of heart. Perhaps this will make it easier for him to forgive them. Or perhaps they just need another test. We will find out over the next couple of days.

For now, remember that people are always watching. Don't worry so much about yourself. Instead, focus on glorifying God in all that you do.