"Now the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass when they had eaten up all the grain which they had bought from Egypt, that their father said to them, 'Go back, buy us a little food.' But Judah spoke to him, saying, 'The man solemnly warned us, saying, "You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you." If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food'" (Gen. 43:1-4).
With their food diminished once again, there is a need to return to Egypt since the famine was still severe. Israel suggests they go as they had before, but Judah explains that such simply will not work without Benjamin. Jacob is bitter about the whole situation, asking them why they had even told the Egyptian man about their younger brother. They replied by explaining that the man had asked pointed questions and that they had no idea he would ask them to bring Benjamin next time.
"Then Judah said to Israel his father, 'Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; from 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 forever. For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time'" (Gen. 43:8-10). Although Jacob doesn't want to send Benjamin for fear of losing him, they would all die eventually if they didn't go and buy food. Judah shows leadership here by taking responsibility for his youngest brother. Judah does his best to instill confidence in his father. Israel finally relents and instructs them to take a present for the man, double money, and his youngest son. "And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!" (Gen. 43:14).
The ten brothers leave for Egypt. When Joseph spots them, he can see that they did bring Benjamin, as he had requested. He instructs a servant of his to take them to his home for the noon meal. Being brought to Joseph's home made the brothers fearful. They expected the worst and proactively explained about the money they found in their sacks on the way home the first time. The servant replied to them - "'Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.' Then he brought Simeon out to them" (Gen. 43:23). This would have been encouraging to the brothers. They then prepared themselves for Joseph's arrival.
"And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, 'Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?' And they answered, 'Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.' And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, 'Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?' And he said, 'God be gracious to you, my son.' Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there" (Gen. 43:26-30).
Joseph inquires and receives good news about his father, and he is very touched to see his little brother (the only one not responsible for selling him as a slave). His emotions overwhelm him and he must quickly find a place to cry. Some may wonder why Joseph did not reveal his identity at this time. Although we cannot know for certain, it seems that he wanted to further observe how the brothers may have changed over the years. Specifically, he may be curious as to how they treated Benjamin. He has a couple ideas regarding how to test their feelings toward Benjamin which he will employ shortly.
"Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, 'Serve the bread.' So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians" (Gen. 43:31,32). The cultural considerations made it easier for Joseph to keep his identity a secret a little longer, since he ate separately from his brothers. They were foreigners so they ate by themselves, and the Egyptian servants did not eat with Joseph since he was a higher caste than them. Joseph did mystify his brothers, however, when he sat them around the table in chronological order (since they had not told him their ages). Furthermore, he served Benjamin five times as much as the others, which would certainly not go unnoticed and would be an occasion to watch how the brothers relate to Benjamin. Would they envy him as they had once envied Joseph for receiving special treatment? It appears that they passed this test.