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Did Joseph Use Divination?

Updated: Feb 18

“And Yosĕph (Joseph) said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that a man like me indeed divines?” (Genesis 44:15)

Did Joseph really practice divination, or is something else going on here? If one was to take this verse in isolation, then it would appear that Joseph admitted to using magic. The Bible, however, teaches that the use of divination is a sin.

“Let no one be found among you who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices divination, or a user of magic, or one who interprets omens or a sorcerer,” (Deuteronomy 18:10)
‘Do not eat meat with the blood. Do not practice divination or magic.” (Leviticus 19:26)

Joseph was a righteous man that Yah blessed, so it would not make sense for him to be committing the sin of divination.

“And it came to be that יהוה was with Yosĕph (Joesph), and he became a prosperous man, and was in the house of his master the Mitsrian (Egyptian).” (Genesis 39:2)
“The prison warden did not look into any point that was under Yosĕph’s (Joseph’s) hand, because יהוה was with him. And whatever he did, יהוה made it prosper.” (Genesis 39:23)

And for those of you familiar with Joseph, know that he was made second in all of Egypt and because of his position he was able to save his family (along with Egypt) from the seven years of famine. While Joseph most certainly endured trials and tribulations, it would be disingenuous to assert that he was not blessed by El Shaddi. This being the case, then what was Joseph saying in Genesis 44:15? We actually have a few different manuscripts that detail what Joseph is doing.

The Context of Genesis 44:15

Joseph, aforementioned, is second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and when his brothers come to Egypt seeking food, it just so happens that Joseph is in charge of the food supply and distribution. His brothers do not recognize him, but Joseph knows exactly who they are. In order to test their hearts, Joseph comes up with several stratagems to put his brothers through. One of them, and this being connected to the verse in question, is to place a sliver cup in the grain sack of Benjamin, to make it appear as though he had stolen it. Ultimately, this ruse shows Joseph that his brothers deeply regret what they did to Joseph as a child and how their actions caused much pain and sorrow for their father Jacob.

The Bible’s Account

“And he commanded the one over his house, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as they are able to bear, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and the silver for his grain. And he did according to the word of Yosĕph which he spoke.” (Genesis 44:1-2)

Jubilees’ Account

“And Joseph devised a plan whereby he might learn their thoughts as to whether thoughts of peace prevailed amongst them, and he said to the steward who was over his house: 'Fill all their sacks with food, and return their money unto them into their vessels, and my cup, the silver cup out of which I drink, put it in the sack of the youngest, and send them away.” (Jubilees 42:25)

Jasher’s Account

“And when Joseph saw his brother, the son of his mother, he again wished to weep, and he entered the chamber, and he wept there, and he washed his face, and went out and refrained from weeping, and he said, Prepare food. And Joseph had a cup from which he drank, and it was of silver beautifully inlaid with onyx stones and bdellium, and Joseph struck the cup in the sight of his brethren whilst they were sitting to eat with him. And Joseph said unto the men, I know by this cup that Reuben the first born, Simeon and Levi and Judah, Issachar and Zebulun are children from one mother, seat yourselves to eat according to your births. And he also placed the others according to their births, and he said, I know that this your youngest brother has no brother, and I, like him, have no brother, he shall therefore sit down to eat with me.” (Jasher 53:10-13)
“At that time Joseph commanded his officer to fill their sacks with food, and to put each man's money into his sack, and to put the cup in the sack of Benjamin, and to give them provision for the road, and they did so unto them.” (Jasher 53:23)

Josephus’ Account

“Now when after supper they had composed themselves to sleep, Joseph commanded his steward both to give them their measures of corn, and to hide its price again in their sacks; and that withal they should put into Benjamin’s sack the golden cup, out of which he loved himself to drink.” (Flavius Josephus Chapter 6 How Joseph, When He Was Become Famous In Egypt, Had His Brothern In Subjection, part 7 number 124)

Concluding the Matter

As we can see from the four witnesses, Joseph was merely playing the part. He purposely had the cup placed in Benjamin’s sack, and thus did not need to use divination to know who stole something. This example does highlight something of great importance, too many, too often, read a verse in isolation and do not investigate the matter. In this case, reading the beginning of the chapter would have clarified the issue. Spending more time researching and studying the scriptures would do us all some good. Not passively skimming through, but truly taking the time and making the effort to learn the Set-apart scriptures. May the Rauch Hakodesh lead you into all truth.


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