Today we begin Genesis Chapter 43.
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“They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians included at the meal by themselves — Egyptians don’t eat with Hebrews, because that is abhorrent to them.“-Genesis 43-32
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this chapter, I want to explore an interesting cultural detail as it serves as the backdrop for this story.
So we are given a pretty detailed account of how the meal with Joseph and his brothers was served.
Joseph ate alone.
The brothers ate together as a group.
Finally, the Egyptian house servants were separated from both Joseph and his brothers.
So we’re talking about three separate dining rooms here.
This matches up perfectly with what we know about how this type of meal would have been served in Egypt.
Egyptian traditional customs dictated that the household head never ate with the servants.
However, it’s interesting that we’re told it was “abhorrent to Egyptians to eat with Hebrews“.
The answer is because the Egyptians viewed shepherds as a despicable lower class of people.
And Hebrews, characteristic of most Semite groups, were shepherds.
A shepherd’s mere presence was an offense.
Under no circumstance would an Egyptian ever break bread with a shepherd.
Egyptians held cattle in high esteem, NOT sheep.
This makes sense because Egypt’s chief deity was Isis who was a bull.
This also explains why later on the Israelites were given the land of Goshen to live in.
Goshen was located far away from the majority Egyptian population.
There they could tend to their flocks out of sight of the locals and thus avoid offending Egyptian sensibilities.