If I’m Bereaved, Then I’m Bereaved (Genesis 43:14)

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I’ve often wondered what took Jacob so long to go back to Egypt.

At the end of Genesis 42, Simeon is imprisoned by Joseph while the rest of the brothers are sent home to retrieve their youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph accuses them all of being spies, and the only way to verify their story is by bringing back this “so called” little brother to Egypt.

Except Jacob doesn’t let him leave. It’s a curious choice, especially considering that every moment Jacob waits is another moment that one of his sons rots away in an Egyptian prison. In a bid to preserve one son’s life, he willingly forgets about another’s (or that’s how it seems, at least).

This goes on for a while, too. Judah remarks in Genesis 43:10 that they could’ve gone to Egypt and returned twice by this point. The only reason they haven’t is because Jacob stubbornly refuses to let Benjamin out of his sight.

Eventually, hunger catches up to them. They’ve run out of food, and Jacob is forced to admit that they need to go back to Egypt — and take Benjamin with them to defend their innocence.

And if something happens to Benjamin while they’re in Egypt, then Jacob is resigned to that fate. “If I’m bereaved,” he says, “then I’m bereaved” (Genesis 43:14).

It sounds like a very pessimistic viewpoint by Jacob, but it’s not one without merit. Jacob has encountered a substantial amount of loss in his life. Losing one or all of his sons seems par for the course. 

Not that Jacob isn’t taking all necessary precautions, though. He orders his sons to take double the money (to pay for the food from this trip and the last), and a gift of some of the finest bounties of the land. Most of the items described, such as the pistachio nuts, were uncommon in Egypt and represented both a thoughtful and extravagant gift.

So now, for the second time, Jacob watched his sons walk off towards Egypt in search of food. The last time they went, it resulted in Simeon landing in jail. In order to bail him out, the brothers will need to travel back to Egypt and face the accusations of espionage head on.

This time, Jacob isn’t as confident in their return.