Post 336

Family Counselling, Part 12:
Hungry

BLOGGER: It’s nice to see you again.
JACOB: We wanted to say hello. It has been so many years.
BLOGGER: So many.
JACOB: You have not aged.
BLOGGER: Thank you. People tell me that, but I know I have.
JACOB: You live a good life, I think.
BLOGGER: I am very blessed, yes.
JACOB: Your family is well?
BLOGGER: Yes, thank you.
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me — it’s Judah, am I right?
JUDAH: Yes.
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me as you were walking in that you have been to Egypt once already, and that you are going to leave again in a few days?
JACOB: Not me. No, I haven’t been, but they went. And they will soon depart again.
BLOGGER: Egypt.
JACOB: Yes, to buy more food. We are running low again.
BLOGGER: I understand. Provisions are low everywhere.
REUBEN: And also there is the matter of Simeon.
BLOGGER: Simeon?
REUBEN: We left him in Egypt.
BLOGGER: Your brother? You left your brother Simeon in Egypt?
REUBEN: Not because we wanted to.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: The man there — he forced us to leave Simeon.
BLOGGER: What man?
REUBEN: The man in charge of the grain distribution.
BLOGGER: In Egypt?
REUBEN: Yes.
BLOGGER: Who?
REUBEN: The Egyptian man. He didn’t believe us, and he had Simeon taken prisoner.
LEVI: He made us, and we saw Simeon being bound up right before our eyes and carried away.
BLOGGER: Oh no!
REUBEN: He wanted to keep Simeon until we returned with Benjamin.
BLOGGER: Benjamin wasn’t with you?
REUBEN: No, he didn’t accompany us to Egypt. Our father wouldn’t let us take him.
JACOB: He’s the youngest one!
BLOGGER: But he’s not so young now? He’s, what, thirty years old?
BENJAMIN: I am thirty-five.
JACOB: But if anything happens to him, I will have none of my sons from Rachel. His brother has already died. I cannot lose Benjamin too.
BLOGGER: So you stayed behind on the first trip?
BENJAMIN: I remained here in Canaan with my father.
BLOGGER: So why was the man asking for Benjamin? How did he know about Benjamin if Benjamin wasn’t there?
REUBEN: The man asked us to tell him about our family. He asked about our father, and if we had other siblings.
BLOGGER: So you told him that you had a sibling at home, Benjamin.
REUBEN: Yes, of course.
BLOGGER: And what did he say?
REUBEN: Well, he didn’t seem to like us very much from the beginning, even though we were very respectful to him. He spoke very gruffly to us, and the interpreter told us what he was saying. There were many interpreters there, because there were so many people from so many countries coming to buy grains and rice. He said, “Where do you come from?” We said, “We are from the land of Canaan, and we are here to buy food.” He said to us, “You are spies. You have come to discover the weakness of our land.”
BLOGGER: He thought you were spies?
REUBEN: Yes, he didn’t believe we were ordinary men. Perhaps because there were so many of us, and we don’t all look very much alike, but we explained, we said, “We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.”
BLOGGER: You called yourselves “his servants”?
REUBEN: Yes! He was very severe, and we wanted to appease him in any way that we could. We bowed very low, and we spoke with deference.
BLOGGER: What else?
REUBEN: We said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no longer living.”
BLOGGER: “No longer living” — as in, Joseph.
REUBEN: Yes.
BLOGGER: Did he believe you then? I guess he didn’t.
REUBEN: No, he didn’t believe us, and he said, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
BLOGGER: Oh my.
REUBEN: So he made a rule that nine of us would remain in prison, while one of us went back to fetch Benjamin.
BLOGGER: But didn’t you say that —
REUBEN: He changed the rule. After we were in prison for three days, he came to us and said that he would let all of us go, except for one. He said: “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”
BLOGGER: So you chose Simeon to stay in his prison?
REUBEN: We didn’t have a chance for discussion. He ordered his men to take Simeon, and right then and there, Simeon was bound and taken out of our sight.
JUDAH: That’s the last time we saw him.
BLOGGER: The last time you saw Simeon?
JUDAH: Yes.
BLOGGER: So you haven’t been back to Egypt since then?
JUDAH: No.
BLOGGER: How long ago was that?
REUBEN: It was almost eight months ago.
BLOGGER: Simeon has been there, imprisoned, for eight months?
REUBEN: We have been too frightened to return.
BLOGGER: But what about Simeon?
(Silence.)
JACOB: You see? This is how I lose another son!
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: But you are going back?
REUBEN: Yes, we are going back. We have run out of food. Our household is very large now, with wives and children and servants, and so even though the amount of food was large, we need to act soon.
BLOGGER: So you did receive food from Egypt.
REUBEN: Yes, we received a great amount of food.
GAD: And we received it without payment!
BLOGGER: Without payment? How did this happen?
REUBEN: How should we know?
BLOGGER: You don’t know?
JUDAH: Each of us brought our own small bags of money, and we each gave them the money in exchange for the grains, but when we were on our way home, Gad went to feed his donkey, and he found his bag of money at the mouth of the grain sacks!
REUBEN: And for each of us it was likewise: in each of our bags of grain, was our money again, untouched.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: We don’t know.
JACOB: It will be all the worse for us, for the man will accuse them of thievery! I will lose all my sons!
BLOGGER: It is dangerous, then. Did someone make a mistake? I guess things were very busy there, but then I don’t know why the money would be in with the grains, and it was like this for all of you.
REUBEN: We don’t know.
BLOGGER: So what will you do?
JUDAH: We will return. My father has suggested —
JACOB: I said to them, “take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you; carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight.
BLOGGER: You hope to avoid his wrath.
REUBEN: Indeed.
BLOGGER: And you will also bring Benjamin this time?
JUDAH: Yes. This time, we will bring Benjamin.
BLOGGER: And Jacob, you allow them to take Benjamin this time?
REUBEN: We have no choice!
JUDAH: The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’
JACOB: Why you needed to reveal you had a younger brother, I don’t understand.
REUBEN: Father, we already explained! He questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” We were merely answering his questions. How could we have predicted that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?
JACOB: Now I risk losing another one!
REUBEN: We have promised you, Father!
JACOB: You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come upon me.
REUBEN: We have promised you father! We will not lose another one!
JUDAH: I said to my father, “Send Benjamin with me, and we will arise and go. We must have food, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.” I said to him, “Look, I will be surety for Benjamin; of my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame for ever.”
REUBEN: And I too, have said the same. I said to my father: “Slay my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
BLOGGER: Wow.
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: Is this enough for you, Jacob? You will let them take Benjamin to see the man?
REUBEN: We are running out of food!
BLOGGER: Jacob?
JACOB: I said to them, you can go. I said, “Go again to the man. May the Lord grant you mercy before the man, that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
BLOGGER: That’s how you feel?
JACOB: Yes, that’s what I said.
BLOGGER: You are prepared for the worst?
JACOB: Can anyone be prepared for the worst?
(Silence.)