Surat Yusuf/Joseph – 12- Meccan – Ayats – 111 Section Seven – Verses 68-75

And when they entered in the manner their father had enjoined/advised, it did not prophet/avail them in the least [immune them against God’s Plan/Verdict]. It was but a necessity of Jacob’s inner soul/self which he discharged. And verily, he was endowed with knowledge and experience of which We had taught him; but most men do not know. (68) وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُمْ مَا كَانَ يُغْنِي عَنْهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا حَاجَةً فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لِمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (68)
And when they came into Joseph/Yusuf’s presence he received/accommodated –to himself- his brother [Benjamin] and said {to him}: “Behold, I am your brother, so do not grieve from they used to do”. (69) وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَى يُوسُفَ آَوَى إِلَيْهِ أَخَاهُ قَالَ إِنِّي أَنَا أَخُوكَ فَلَا تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (69)
At length when he had furnished them forth with provisions –sufficient for them- he put the drinking [golden bowl] in his brother’s saddle-bag. Then shouted out a Crier: “O’ you in the caravan [camel-rangers]! Behold you are thieves ‘without doubt’!” (70) فَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ جَعَلَ السِّقَايَةَ فِي رَحْلِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ أَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ أَيَّتُهَا الْعِيرُ إِنَّكُمْ لَسَارِقُونَ (70)
They said –turning towards them-: “what is it that you have lost/miss?” (71) قَالُوا وَأَقْبَلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ مَاذَا تَفْقِدُونَ (71)
They said: “We have lost/we miss the great beaker [golden bowl] of the king; for him the one who produces it is a reward of a camel load, and I will be bound by it!” (72) قَالُوا نَفْقِدُ صُوَاعَ الْمَلِكِ وَلِمَنْ جَاءَ بِهِ حِمْلُ بَعِيرٍ وَأَنَا بِهِ زَعِيمٌ (72)
They [the brothers] said: “By God! Indeed you well know that we came not to make mischief in the land, and we are not thieves!” (73) قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمْ مَا جِئْنَا لِنُفْسِدَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا كُنَّا سَارِقِينَ (73)
They [Joseph/Yusuf Egyptian men] said: “What then shall be the penalty of him, if it proved you are liars?” (74) قَالُوا فَمَا جَزَاؤُهُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ كَاذِبِينَ (74)
They [the brothers] said: “The penalty for whom that in his saddle-bag is found; {should be held (as bondman) to atone for the crime}. Thus it is we punish the transgressors /wrong-doers!” (75) قَالُوا جَزَاؤُهُ مَنْ وُجِدَ فِي رَحْلِهِ فَهُوَ جَزَاؤُهُ كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ (75)

Wahba Mahmoud Diyab

COMMENTARY:-

(Verse 68) – A/See the notes of last verse 67. Though they scrupulously observed their father’s injunctions to the letter, their hearts were not yet pure, and they got into trouble, as the later story will show. They had the hardihood to cast aspersions on Joseph, not knowing that they were in Joseph’s power. And Joseph took a noble revenge by planning a reunion of the whole family and shaming the ten brothers into repentance. He was the instrument for the fulfillment of God’s Plan. B/It is necessary of a Prophet’s soul that he should speak out and teach all that he knows, to the worthy and unworthy alike. This Jacob did to his unworthy sons, as well as to his worthy sons whom he loved best. It was not for him as a Prophet to guarantee any results. In this case he could not save his sons from getting into trouble merely because they followed the letter of his advice in a small matter. Apply this to the teaching of a greater than Jacob. Men who literally observe some small injunctions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and neglect the greater principles which he taught cannot blame him for their troubles and difficulties. If they examined the matter, they would find that they brought the troubles on themselves. C/The men of God are full of Knowledge –not as men- but as taught by the grace of God;  for men –as such these- are (as Carlyle said) mostly fools, – devoid of knowledge and understanding.
(Verse 61)- The brothers said: “Certainly, we shall try to beg him of our father, and bring him away with us; we shall certainly comply with your desire”. In reality they probably loved Benjamin no more than they loved Joseph. But they must get food when the present supply was exhausted, and they must humour the great Egyptian Wazir. Note that they do not call Jacob “our father” but they must “his father”: how little they loved their aged father, whom they identified with Joseph and Benjamin! Their trial and their instruction in their duties are now being undertaken by Joseph.
(Verse 62)- A/Bidh’at: stock in trade: capital with which business is carried on: money when it is used as capital for trade. It is better here to suppose that they were bartering goods for grain- see verse 19.  B/It was most important for Joseph’s plan that they should come back. If they came back at all, they could not come without Benjamin after what he had told them. As an additional incentive to their coming back, he returns the price of the grain in such a way that they should find it in their saddle-bags when they reach home.
(Verse 63)- On their return they no doubt have told Jacob all that had transpired. But to beg Benjamin of him was no easy matter, as Jacob did not trust them and had no cause to trust them after their treatment of Joseph. So they use the argument of urgent necessity for all it is worth.
(Verse 64)- I construe Jacob’s answer to be a flat refusal to let Benjamin go with them. It would be like the former occasion when he trusted Joseph with them and they lost him. Did they talk of taking care of him? The only protection that is trusted was that of God. He –at least- showed mercy to old and young alike. Did man show such mercy?! Witness his sad old age and his lost little Joseph! Would they bring down ‘his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave?’
(Verse 65)- A/The ten brothers did not take their father’s refusal as final. They opened their saddle-bags and found that the price they had paid for their provisions had been returned to them. They had got the grain free! What more could they desire? The spell which Joseph had woven now worked. If they only went back, this kind Wazir would give more grain if they pleased him. And the only way to please his was to take back their younger brother with them. It would cost them nothing. Judging by past experience they would get a whole camel’s load of grain now. And so they stated their case to the aged father. B/Two meanings are possible,- either or perhaps both: (a)‘What we have brought now is nothing compared to what we shall get if we humour the whim of the Egyptian Wazir’. (b)’ and, moreover, Egypt seems to have plenty of grain stored up. What is a camel-load to her Wazir to give away?’
(Verse 66)- A/The appeal to the family’s needs in the time of famine at length made Jacob relent, but he exacted a solemn promise from the brothers –under the most religious sanctions- that they would bring Benjamin back to him, unless they were themselves prevented, as the Insurance Policies say, ‘by an act of God’; so that they became really powerless. To that promise Jacob called God to witness. B/This is more than a formula. God is invoked as present and witnessing the bargain, and to Him both parties make over the affair to arrange and fulfill.
(Verse 67)- The commentators refer to a Jewish, or Eastern custom or superstition which forbade members of a numerous family to go together in a mass for fear of ‘’the evil eye’’. But apart from East or West, or custom or superstition, it would be ridiculous for any large family of ten or eleven to parade together in a procession among strangers. But there was even better reason in this particular case, which made Jacob’s advice sound, and Jacob was –as stated in the next verse- a man of knowledge and experience. Here were eleven strangers dressed alike, in address not of the country, talking strange language, coming in a time of stress, on an errand for which they had no credentials. Would they not attract undue attention and suspicion in they went together? Would they not be taken for spies? Or for men bent on some mischief, theft, or organized crime? Such a suspicion is referred to in verse 73 below. By entering separately they would attract little attention. Jacob very wisely tells them to take all human precautions. But like a man of God he warns them that human precautions would be of no good if they neglect or run counter to far weightier matters; – God’s Will and Law. Above all, they must try to understand and obey this, and their trust should be on God rather than on human usages, institutions, or precautions, however good and reasonable these might be.
(Verse 68) – A/See the notes of last verse 67. Though they scrupulously observed their father’s injunctions to the letter, their hearts were not yet pure, and they got into trouble, as the later story will show. They had the hardihood to cast aspersions on Joseph, not knowing that they were in Joseph’s power. And Joseph took a noble revenge by planning a reunion of the whole family and shaming the ten brothers into repentance. He was the instrument for the fulfillment of God’s Plan. B/It is necessary of a Prophet’s soul that he should speak out and teach all that he knows, to the worthy and unworthy alike. This Jacob did to his unworthy sons, as well as to his worthy sons whom he loved best. It was not for him as a Prophet to guarantee any results. In this case he could not save his sons from getting into trouble merely because they followed the letter of his advice in a small matter. Apply this to the teaching of a greater than Jacob. Men who literally observe some small injunctions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and neglect the greater principles which he taught cannot blame him for their troubles and difficulties. If they examined the matter, they would find that they brought the troubles on themselves. C/The men of God are full of Knowledge –not as men- but as taught by the grace of God;  for men –as such these- are (as Carlyle said) mostly fools, – devoid of knowledge and understanding.
(Verses 69-93: When the brothers went back without Benjamin, Jacob was overwhelmed with grief, but he bore his affliction with patience and faith in God. He refused to be comforted and sent his sons back to Egypt. At last Joseph revealed himself, forgave them, and sent his shirt by them to Jacob, to tell him the good news that Joseph lived and did great work in Egypt, and had sent for his whole family to come and rejoice and live in the land of Egypt, and be a blessing to all.)
(Verse 69)- A/The ten brothers –with Benjamin- arrived in Egypt, and waited on for the great Wazir. Joseph again received them hospitably, even more so than before, as they had complied with his request to bring Benjamin. No doubt many shrewd and probing questions were asked by Joseph, and no doubt it was clear that Benjamin was one apart from the other ten. Al-Baidhawi fills up the picture of the great feast for us. The guests were seated two by two. Benjamin was the odd one, and Joseph courteously took him to his own table. B/After the feat the question of lodgings arose, they were to be accommodated two by two. Again Benjamin was the odd one. What more natural than that the Wazir should take him to himself? He thus got a chance of privacy with him. He disclosed his identity to him, charging him to keep it a secret, and to take no notice of any strange doings that might occur. He must have learnt from Benjamin about his father and about the inner doings of the family. He must get them all together into Egypt under his own eye. He had a plan, and he proceeded to put it into execution. C/The past tense of Kanu, combined with the aorist of Ya’malun, signifies that the reference is to their brother’s doings, past, present, and future. Benjamin was not to mind what wrongs they had done in the past, or how they behaved in the present of the immediate future. Joseph had a plan that required Benjamin’s silence in strange circumstances.
(Verses 70-71-72)- Joseph’s plan was to play a practical joke on them, which would achieve two objects. Immediately it would put them into some consternation, but nothing comparable to what he had suffered at their hands. When the plan was unraveled, it would make them thoroughly ashamed of themselves, and dramatically bring home their guilt to them. Secondly, it would give him an excuse to detain Benjamin and bring their aged father into Egypt. He contrived that a valuable drinking cup should be concealed in Benjamin’s saddle-bag. When it was found after an ostentatious search, he would detain the supposed culprit, and attain his object, as the story relates further on.
(Verse 73)- As strangers in a strange land, they were liable to be suspected as spies or men who meditated some unlawful design, or some crime, such as theft, which would be common in a season of scarcity. The brothers protested against the absurdity of such a suspicion after they had been entertained so royally by the Wazir.
(Verse 74)- “That might be all very well”, said the Egyptians, “but what if it is found by a search that you have in fact abused the Wazir’s hospitality by stealing a valuable cup?”
(Verse 75)- A/we must try to picture to ourselves the mentality of the ten. They understood each other perfectly, in their sins as well as in other things. For them, the search held out no fears. Besides they had no opportunity of stealing; but what of that young fellow Benjamin?! They were ready to believe anything against him, the more so as the Wazir’s partiality for him had lent a keen edge to their jealousy. Judging by their own standards, they would not be surprised if he had stolen –seeing that he had had such opportunities- sitting at the High Table and staying with the Wazir. They felt very self-righteous at the same time that they indulged in the luxury of accusing –in their thoughts- the most innocent of men! Supposing he had stolen, here would be a fine opportunity of getting rid of him. What about their solemn oath to their father? Oh! That was covered by the exception. He had done for himself. They had done all they could to protect him, but they were powerless. The old man could come and see for himself. B/This was their family custom. It was of course long anterior to Mosaic Law, which laid down full restitution for theft, and if the culprit had nothing, he was to be sold for his theft (Exod. Xxii. 3). But here the crime was more than theft; it was theft, lying, and grossest abuse of confidence and hospitality. While the ten felt a secret satisfaction in suggesting the penalty, they were unconsciously carrying out Joseph’s plan. Thus the vilest motives often help in carrying out the most beneficent plans.

 

 

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