About us
home page forums

Joseph and the Silver Cup

One of the most fascinating stories in all the Bible is the story of Joseph. It spans a full 12 chapters in the Book of Genesis and is worth reading and studying every bit of it. It is organized into one large chiastic structure as shown here: Genesis 39 to 50. Central to the story is Joseph's reconciliation with his brothers, many years after they had sold him into slavery. This "chapter" in the life of Joseph is told to us in Genesis 44 and 45, and is rich in typology.


At its core is the plea of Judah for the life of Benjamin. This section (Genesis 44:14b-34) is also told to us in chiastic form as follows:

Genesis 44:14b-34 (click for the full Bible text)

44:14-15 Brothers fall to the ground before Joseph; Ge 44:14-15
practice "divination" (i.e. by way of the silver cup)

44:16 Judah acknowledges the brothers' guilt
Ge 44:16
44:17 Joseph's judgment: Benjamin shall remain Ge 44:17
44:18 Judah's request for Joseph's judgment reversal; Ge 44:18
"let not your anger burn against your servant"
        44:19-20 Two brothers; one is deadGe 44:19-20
        44:21-22 "Bring him down to me"Ge 44:21-22
44:23-24 Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, Ge 44:23-24
you shall not see my face again.
        44:25-26 "We cannot go down"Ge 44:25-26
      44:27-28 Two brothers; "one left me"Ge 44:27-28
44:29 If harm happens to him, I will die with sorrowGe 44:29
44:30-31 The consequences if Benjamin does not returnGe 44:30-31
44:32 Judah's basis for Joseph's reversalGe 44:32
44:33-34 Judah will substitute himself for Benjamin (fig. drinks the silver cup)Ge 44:33-34

The Plan of Salvation in "Type"

  • The silver cup a type of Christ's baptism. This silver cup was used for divination ("Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination?" Genesis 44:5). The silver cup would likely contain wine when used.
    • Jesus used the "drinking of the cup" as a type of his death on the cross (Matthew 20:22; 26:39; Luke 22:20, etc).
    • The silver cup was found in Benjamin's sack, so he was to receive the punishment for his (presumed) theft before Joseph.
    • But Judah chose to figuratively "drink the cup."
    • Silver was also used for money and is a type for redemption in the Bible (e.g. Jesus betrayed for 30 pieces of silver).
  • Jacob a type of the Father. Jacob has two favorite sons, Joseph and Benjamin. "One left me" (v.28) and one I'm afraid to lose (v.29). The oldest is the one who left him and is presumed dead, and the remaining one is the youngest of all his sons.
  • Judah a type of Christ. Judah offers to take the place of Benjamin (v.33-34). "Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers" Genesis 44:33.
  • Joseph a type of the Accuser. The "dead" son (Joseph) becomes "the accuser" of the living son (Benjamin) by having the silver cup placed in Benjamin's sack (v.2). The name given to Joseph by Pharaoh means "the revealer of secrets [tr. from Josephus]" (Genesis 41:45). See on Zaphenath-paneah.
  • Benjamin a type of Adam. Judah says of Benjamin, "His father loves him (v.20). Benjamin is "the boy (v.22)," "the youngest brother (v.23)." When Benjamin was born, his dying mother, Rachel, called him Benoni or "son of my sorrow" since he was born in her death. But Jacob said he will be called Benjamin, "son of my right hand," instead. Benjamin may have been left-handed and, therefore, holds the father's right hand (Judges 20:15-17).
  • Going "down" to Egypt. Going down to Egypt led the brothers first to judgment (revealing of hidden sins), then to deliverance (forgiveness from Joseph).

Additional thoughts

  • Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The first king of Israel, Saul, would come from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1-2). But Saul's kingship would be replaced by David, from the tribe of Judah. Only the tribe of Benjamin remained loyal to the tribe of Judah when the 10 tribes broke away. The apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, came from the tribe of Benjamin.
  • Could Joseph and Imhotep have been the same person? Long article detailing archaelogical evidence for Joseph being the Egyptian Imhotep. Large and extensive grain silos around the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser are discussed. "The identity Joseph in Egyptian history is debated, but some scholars identify him with Imhotep, who was the vizier during the Third Dynasty under Pharaoh Netjerikhet (also called Djoser / Zoser)."