Genesis 44



1 And he commanded him that was over his house, saying, Fill the men’s bags with food, as much they can bear, and put a man’s silver in his bag’s mouth.

2 And set my goblet, the silver goblet, in the bag’s mouth of the youngest, and the silver of his rations. And he did according·​·to the word of Joseph that he had spoken.

3 The morning gave·​·light, and the men were sent·​·away, they and their donkeys.

4 They were gone·​·out of the city, not yet far·​·away, and Joseph said to him who was over his house, Arise, pursue after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say to them, Why do you repay evil in·​·return·​·for good?

5 Is not this it in which my lord drinks, and in which foretelling he foretells? You have done·​·evil in what you have done.

6 And he overtook them, and he spoke to them these words.

7 And they said to him, Why does my lord speak according·​·to these words? Far·​·be·​·it from thy servants to do according·​·to this word.

8 Behold, the silver which we found in our bag’s mouth we returned to thee out ·of the land of Canaan; and how should we steal out ·of thy lord’s house silver or gold?

9 And with whomever of thy servants it be·​·found, let him die, and we also will be to my lord for servants.

10 And he said, Even now according·​·to your words so shall it be; he with whom it is found shall be to me a servant, and you shall be innocent.

11 And they hastened, and they made each·​·man his bag come·​·down to the earth, and opened each·​·man his bag.

12 And he searched; he began at the eldest, and completed at the youngest; and the goblet was found in the bag of Benjamin.

13 And they rent their raiment, and loaded up each man his donkey, and they returned to the city.

14 And Judah and his brothers came·​·into Joseph’s house, and he was yet there; and they fell before him to the earth.

15 And Joseph said to them, What is this deed that you have done? Knew you not that a man who is such·​·as I, foretelling foretells?

16 And Judah said, What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? And how shall we be justified? God has found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are servants to my lord, both we, and he in whose hand the goblet was found.

17 And he said, Far·​·be·​·it from me to do this; the man in whose hand the goblet was found, he shall be a servant to me; and you, go· ye ·up in peace to your father.

18 And Judah approached him, and said, By·​·me*, my lord, I pray, let thy servant speak a word in the ears of my lord, and let not thine anger be·​·fierce against thy servant; for as Pharaoh, so art thou.

19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have you a father, or a brother?

20 And we said to my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old·​·age, the youngest; and his brother is dead, and he alone remains of his mother, and his father loves him.

21 And thou saidst to thy servants, Make him come·​·down to me, and I will set my eye upon him.

22 And we said to my lord, The lad is· not ·able to leave his father; and should he leave his father, then he will die.

23 And thou saidst to thy servants, If your youngest brother come· not ·down with you, you shall not add to see my faces.

24 And it was, when we came·​·up to thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

25 And our father said, Return ye, purchase a·​·little food for us.

26 And we said, We are· not ·able to go·​·down; if our youngest brother is·​·there with us, then will we go·​·down; for we are· not ·able to see the face of the man, and our youngest brother be not with us.

27 And thy servant my father said to us, You know that my wife gave·​·birth·​·to two sons for me.

28 And the one went·​·out from me, and I said, Surely, being·​·torn he is·​·torn apart; and I have not seen him until now.

29 And you will take this also from my faces, and harm may befall him, and you will make my gray·​·hairs go·​·down in evil to the underworld.

30 And now, as I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us, and his soul is tied into his soul,

31 and it shall be when he sees that the lad is not, that he will·​·die; and thy servants will cause the gray·​·hairs of thy servant our father go·​·down in sorrow to the underworld.

32 For thy servant was·​·surety for the lad from being with my father, saying, If I bring him not back to thee I shall sin to my father all the days.

33 And now, I pray, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a servant to my lord, and let the lad go·​·up with his brothers.

34 For how shall I go·​·up to my father and the lad be not with me? Perhaps I shall see the evil that shall be found upon my father.


Exploring the Meaning of Genesis 44      

Napsal(a) Helen Kennedy

Explaining Genesis 44

In this chapter and those that follow, Joseph represents the innermost part of us, the part closest to where the Lord is flowing in. This love is deep and intense. In Swedenborg’s Writings it is called the inmost celestial, and it is closest to the way the Lord desires for us to be.

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 each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.

“Commanding” means there is an inflow from our innermost spirit represented by Joseph toward the natural or outermost, represented by his brothers. Their sacks being filled with food shows this inflow is filled with the good things that truth brings. When we are led by means of truth towards good, the good consists in “putting truth into practice” (Secrets of Heaven 5733), and we only get as much as we can be open to, shown by the brothers getting only “as much as they can carry.” The sack’s mouth represents the natural part of us becoming open, and the money being placed in the mouth represents that truth.

2. “Also, put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.” So he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Since Joseph and Benjamin were born from Rachel, whom Jacob dearly loved, they have a closeness with one another. In this story they correspond to the close relationship of inner things, things the natural part of us is not aware of. Benjamin is the intermediary going from the deepest parts where the Lord flows in (Joseph), to the outermost (the brothers). The silver cup represents this inner truth that goes between the two also.

3. As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys.

Morning dawning means a state of enlightenment flowing outward. The men going with their donkeys shows that, in addition to this new state of enlightenment, factual knowledge (the donkey) is present, too. The latter is the kind of knowledge the natural part of us can handle. The fact that this knowledge is removed, to a certain extent, from the inner realities is shown by the brothers (natural truths) being away from where Joseph (inmost truths) was.

4. And when they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men, say to them, “Why have you repaid evil for good?

Going “out of the city” shows how far removed the natural parts are from inmost things. Joseph speaking to his steward again means new inflow from inner things that want to be linked to the outermost part. Pursuing the men shows how intent the inner realities are to be joined to the natural parts that know nothing about it. Repaying evil for good corresponds to how uninterested in inner things the natural self is “for a person governed by evil spirits spurns good, that is, spiritual good” (Secrets of Heaven 5746).

5. “Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.”

The cup represents spiritual or inner truth being present with the things represented by the brothers. The fact that it was Joseph’s cup shows that this truth came from the most heavenly reaches within. That the cup was used for “divination” shows that truth from these inmost reaches knows things that are concealed, and the deepest of these is closest to where the Divine flows in.

By the men being accused of supposedly taking the cup when it had been planted there comes from its inner meaning. Truth imparted by the Lord is not at first accepted as a gift. Prior to regeneration people suppose that they themselves acquire the truth they know, and as long as they make this supposition a person is guilty of spiritual theft. The guilt comes from attributing truth to their own righteousness, and is taking away from the Lord what is the Lord’s. But this all serves the His purposes, and Swedenborg explains, “Even so, the men were accused of theft so that a joining together might be effected” (Secrets of Heaven 5747).

6. So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words.

“He over took them” means an indirect link was created with the things represented by the brothers. “And he spoke to them these same words,” shows that through this indirect link there was an outflow from deeper things into natural ones.

7. And they said to him, “Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing.

The brothers replying shows a stirring of reflection and discernment in our natural self. “Why” is a word used when asking oneself a question and implies reflection. By the brothers responding with “Far be it from us. . .“ means it was not in their intention to steal. Still they unwittingly did because more things were going on than their natural mind could be conscious of. “A deed is in itself something natural, whereas the will is something spiritual from which the deed springs. (Secrets of Heaven 5755).

8. “Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?

Adding “Canaan” to the fact that they brought the money back implies there is religious belief. It is used to mean the Lord’s kingdom or the “Church,” church meaning the place in a person where the Lord is known. “How then could we steal?” implies “why should we steal?” and it is only through reflection on things of religion that people can come “to believe they should not lay claim to truth and good as their own. (Secrets of Heaven 5757).” 9. “With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die we also will be my lord’s slaves.” Those who attribute themselves the good truth of the {w219} cannot be in heaven but are outside of heave Being outside of heaven is spiritual death, which corresponds it being said about the guilty brother “let him die.” The others, because they were with him, will give up their personal freedom because anything associated with spiritual death also includes lack of freedom being a slave hell (Secrets of Heaven 5759, 5760).

10. And he [the steward] said, “Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless.”

Letting it be according to the brothers’ words means to let it be as justice demands. Then the steward changes it to a less severe sentence because, as a person matures and grows in intelligence and faith, he or she learns that all their effort to do good and speak truth has its origin from the Lord. Before then it is not possible to know the truth of this inner reality. And just knowing it is not enough; acknowledging it in our hearts is what is needed. This is made further confusing and difficult to perceive because each person needs to do what is good and speak what is true as if of their own accord, yet believing in their heart that it comes from the Lord. He has compassion on the difficulty of grasping this, though, which is the reason why a less severe sentence is declared by Joseph’s steward immediately.

11. Then each man speedily let down his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack.

The brothers were eager to prove their innocence, shown by speedily lowering and opening their sacks. The sacks are containers, and containers are on the outside. In people, the natural is a container for inner things to come down to earth, or to come down to the lowest level, the level of the senses and its impressions. Opening the sacks means making the matter clear, and the brothers were eager to do. A person who is sincere in her or his spiritual development would not want to attribute to themselves anything belonging to the Lord and so would quickly want to understand more clearly how inner things work.

12. So he searched, and he began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

When the steward begins with the oldest brother, this corresponds to order, or the need our mind has to understand the order in which things come from the Lord and flow outwards. We can almost hear the brothers groaning when the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack. We ourselves have an inner groaning in trying to comprehend these difficult inner realities but find ourselves guilty at times.

13. Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city.

The brothers’ grief, seen by tearing their clothes, shows how we grieve over truths we thought were ours but which we “can no longer lay claim to” (Secrets of Heaven 5773). It is hard to get to the point of acknowledging that inner things prevail.

As a person develops spiritually, she or he is led by means of truth to good first, but after from good to truth. When this reversal takes place there is suffering and their mistaken thinking that truth originates from themselves is weakened and broken down. After these inner pathways are unblocked, things from the Lord are able to flow outward, bringing goodness (love) and truth into outer things. Then a new will is given, and with it comes a new freedom to understand things in a better way (Ibid).

Returning to the city corresonds to how, during these temptations, we need to work at returning our thinking to the true source of things.

14. So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground.

Judah is spoken of here and not Reuben, the firstborn, because Judah represents good that is with the Church, “Church” being the place in a person where the Lord is known. This takes place in the deepest parts. Communication from there to the medium-deep parts is effected by good and not truth.

The brothers returning to Joseph’s house and “he was still there” corresponds to the foresight inmost things have. They want the natural or sensual parts of us to know about them and arrange for it to happen. The brothers fall on the ground before Joseph in grief. This act expresses the humility needed before the deepest realities (Joseph) can be consciously seen and loved by us in our natural selves.

15. And Joseph said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”

Joseph speaking to the brothers indicates perception that there is something deeper. By him asking, “What deed is this you have done?” it shows that in the inner realm it is evil to lay claim to what does not belong to you, even if you are unaware of it. Becoming prepared for heaven requires knowing and living according to things as yet unknown in our conscious minds. The divination practiced by Joseph corresponds to these things being unveiled. That can only come from the Divine flowing in, hence the divination (Secrets of Heaven 5781).

16. Then Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord's slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.”

Judah speaking indicates there is now perception in our natural selves of these deeper things. “What shall we say? What shall we speak?” shows being unsure and wavering at first. “How shall we clear ourselves?” indicates the first awareness of guilt. By “God has found out the inquity of your servants” the natural confesses the guilt of having separated itself from deeper things.

The natural is the master and not the servant when a person has the pleasure of the body and the senses as the end in view, and not heavenly things. As a result he or she doesn’t believe anything inward exists, which results in not believing we continue to live after death. This is why we need to submit to inner things and obey only them, represented by being a slave. Then our natural freedom (which chooses only evil) can be taken away and a heavenly freedom, or freedom to choose good, is given in its place. (Secrets of Heaven 5786).

17. But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so; but the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

“The man in whose hand the cup was found” indicates not all the things represented by the brothers can be connected to the deepest things, only the things associated with the “cup.” It was in Benjamin’s sack the cup was found, and he corresponds to a special kind of truth that connects the innermost realities (Joseph) with the outer ones (the brothers).

18. Then Judah came near to him and said: “O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh.”

18. Judah approaching the steward represents a communication of the natural with inner things by means of good. Among Joseph’s brothers Judah is the one who represents “the good of love to the Lord,” (Secrets of Heaven 3654:2) which is so necessary in our spiritual life in order to reach the deepest or innermost things. “Hearing” as used here corresponds obedience. Judah’s words show our outer self recognizing the need to obey the deeper truths. “Do not let your anger burn against your servant,” is a plea for leniency. The good in our natural selves fears the outward flow of truths will be shut off, as usually happens when we do something wrong. “For you are even like Pharaoh” shows an understanding that previously-concealed truths and other deeper things need to be in control, not the outer ones.

19. “My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?”

The steward telling Judah the question that Joseph asked shows that the innermost perceives the thoughts and feelings in the natural person, because everything in the natural comes from something deeper within. It is a very difficult thing for the natural or sensual part of us to perceive and accept this. Asking the question shows that things in our deepest selves have greater intelligence. Joseph already knows they have a father and a brother but wants his brothers to acknowledge it. “Father” and “brother,” represent the middle things that connect our natural with our deepest parts (Secrets of Heaven 5801).

20. “And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young: his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’

The brothers represent truths, and by saying they have a father shows that inner or spiritual good (see verse 19) is the source of truths in the natural. Benjamin being a “child of his old age” shows that a new thing has come into existence. The new thing is that a person can now be led by good. In this way he or she sees not only the truths previously known, but also new ones (Secrets of Heaven 5804). But the person’s natural self is not yet aware of the deepest or celestial good (represented by Joseph), shown by Judah saying Benjamin’s brother is dead.

Benjamin is “the only one left of his mother’s children.” “Mother” corresponds to “church” and that word can mean a lot of things. Here it has a very personal meaning. It is the place deep within us where the Lord flows in and where the reality of Him is known. Without the truth that connects us to these deepest things, we cannot know about God. So we can see here why Benjamin is so very special. Inner good (Israel) cannot fail to love the kind of truth (Benjamin) that connects this innermost or deepest part (Joseph) of us with our natural selves (the brothers).

21. “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’

When Judah says to Joseph’s steward “Then you said,” he is reminding the steward of the previous time when they came to buy grain and Joseph insisted that they “Bring him [Benjamin] down to me.” Here, the inner or connecting truths represented by Benjamin need to be in the presence of the inmost or deepest for a joining to take place. “That I may set my eyes on him” means that there will be a flowing in from Joseph to Benjamin, or from the inmost to the inner, and then to the outermost, represented by the brothers. An example of this might be that a person may “know” he or she needs to do good to others but may or may not do anything; “Benjamin” will see it as a truth which needs to be followed; and “Joseph” will flow in with a feeling of love and motivate the person to do it. As a consequence, the person will enjoy doing the kind thing for the other person, not compelling him or herself to do it because it’s the truth, or, even lower, not just knowing it but doing nothing about it.

22. “And we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’

The boy not being able to leave his father shows that when a person is being made spiritual, or being regenerated, the new truth meant by Benjamin (verse 20) can’t be separated from the inner spiritual good meant by Israel. At this point the person receives newness of life through this new truth joined to good (Secrets of Heaven 5812). Good and truth love each other and want to be joined. If not, then it is like the verse says, “if he should leave his father, his father would die.”

23. “But you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’

Without this new truth that connects with good there can be no love, for love is “a spiritual joining together” (Secrets of Heaven 5816). This spiritual joining together occurs from Divine love toward the human race. If there is no connection from the Divine through the deepest parts of us to the outermost or natural, the human race is left in its own misery. An affection (Jacob) for this new truth (Benjamin) directs us to think of innermost realities (Joseph) where the Lord’s good is “and away from matters of a worldly and bodily nature that envelop [us] in darkness” (Secrets of Heaven 5816). The need for this joining to take place shows why, in the inner meaning, Joseph was so demanding that Benjamin be brought to him.

24. “So it was, when we went up to your servant, my father, that we told him the words of my lord.

Going up means a raising up, and following the line of the story, it is a movement from the outermost (Jacob’s sons) towards innermost (Joseph). Human beings are very complex though, and it takes some doing to grasp the various levels within us. In addition to the natural, spiritual, and heavenly (or celestial) levels, each level has an internal and external to it. It is the internal part of our natural level that can be aware of spiritual goods (represented by Israel), while the external part of our natural level knows the truths. (Secrets of Heaven 5817).

25. And our father said, ‘Go back and buy us a little food.’

“Our father said” shows the kind of good meant by Jacob, or Israel, is aware of the need for doing something. “Buying” signifies a person making a truth one’s own, or living according to it. Connecting with our inner nature requires a person to act on, or live according to, the truths he or she knows, the kind of truth meant by the brothers. If a person won’t make a truth their own by living according to it, then they don’t will it or take any delight in it. In the next life what a person doesn’t will fades away and disappears (Secrets of Heaven 5820). In the case of our outer or natural self, it is left with its phantasies, evils and ill will, the things it has been doing all along.

26. “But we said, ‘We cannot go down;’ if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’

As said before, Benjamin represents an intermediary, and when spoken of with his father, he represents new truth, and when with Joseph, the new truth connecting with innermost good. Swedenborg says, “A person has an internal and an external that are distinct from one another” and they need to be connected. “This is an arcanum [secret] for which no clearer explanation is possible, nor can it be understood except by those who are aware” (Secrets of Heaven 5822). The awareness comes as we become open to spiritual things, for then heavenly light flows into our minds, and this light allows us to see the connection that Benjamin represents.

27. “Then your servant, my father, said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons;

The words “my wife” means having an affection for truth. This is because the person now intends to live according to the truth he or she knows. The will or intention is the most important thing, and intending good allows heaven to be present with us. It doesn’t serve any purpose to know the Ten Commandments and not live according to them. That makes them solely on the outside, and not an inner part of us (Secrets of Heaven 5826).

28. ‘And the one went out from me, and I said, ‘”Surely he is torn to pieces;” and I have not seen him since.

The departure of Joseph from his father was only an apparent one, since Joseph is still alive. In our minds, truth is plainly visible because it exists in the light of the world, but the innermost good represented by Joseph exists only in the light of heaven, far from ideas of the bodily senses. This deepest good, though, is constantly present with a person, bringing truths to life. The more spiritual we become, the more good reveals itself, doing so by giving us loves. Examples are learning to love others as much as ourselves, or maybe even more, and loving the God who makes us all.

As soon as the constantly inflowing love from the Lord coming by way of our innermost self (Joseph), flows into our natural or sensual self it encounters evils and false thinking which—acting like wild animals—tears the good apart and annihilates it. As a result, the deepest part of our mind is closed off and not seen, in a way similar to Joseph not being seen by his father, even though he was alive.

An example of this occurs earlier in Genesis when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. It was closed off to them and a cheribum was placed at the entrance. Since the Bible says the cheribum was guarding it, it means the Garden of Eden still existed but neither Adam nor Eve could see it.

29. But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.’

The brothers taking “this one also from me, and calamity befalls him,” shows the fear the inner good (Israel) has that the new truths represented by Benjamin would perish. Good must have its own truth and truth must have its own good. If they are separated, and the new truth is torn to pieces by evils of life and falsities of thought, they die. Again we see why Israel loves Benjamin so much and would die without him.

30. “Now, therefore, when I come to your servant, my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life.

The lives of the father (spiritual good) and the lad (new truths) being bound together has significance like this. People can see in their understanding that all the Ten Commandments are truths, yet still not intend to live according to them. This is because a person’s two mental powers (understanding and will) are set apart from one another. The consequence of this is that when the person enters the next life, the truth in the understanding will draw him or her up towards heaven while the evil intentions in their will draws them downward toward hell “leaving them suspended between the two” (Secrets of Heaven 5835). These two mental powers are joined to the Lord through regeneration, or becoming open to spiritual things. In this way a new understanding and a new will can be given, uniting the person’s mind.

31. “It will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, then he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

Again the spiritual good meant by Israel, or Jacob, will die if not joined with the new truths that make regeneration possible.

32. “For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’

Judah's becoming a servant to Joseph corresponds to a willingness in the natural to live the kind of life necessary to ensure an actual joining together can take place. Then there can be an outflow of deeper goods and truths into the natural. When this outflow occurs, we become consciously aware of the Lord’s presence in them. To “bear the blame before my father forever” shows the heavy consequence of Benjamin not being returned.

33. “Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers.

This verse shows willing submission on Judah’s part, corresponding to an eagerness in the good part of our natural selves to live according to whatever way is needed for the interior joining to take place. When charitable thinking and doing spring from the will, it springs from the affections, which constitute the inmost parts of us. If not, it stays in our outer self only, and has no depth or real quality to it. Then it can be easily ignored or brushed aside like beginning plants on parched land that whither and die.

34. “For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?”

Judah's perception that his father would die aggrieves him so much that he is willing to become a slave to Joseph. The kind of subservience a slave must give corresponds to the kind of continual subservience and obedience our natural self must give to our inner spirit. Otherwise any opportunity for real good and truth to be part of our lives is lost. The “evil that would come upon my father” signifies how we are then left with a dry and parched life, one lived mainly to satisfy worldly loves and pleasures only, with no real inner spirit guiding and leading us to love others, and not always be centered on ourselves.

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.