“Is not this [silver cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.” (Genesis 44:5)
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or THAT USETH DIVINATION, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.” (Deuteronomy 18:10, emphasis added)
Bible skeptics have criticized this passage of Genesis because Joseph states that he has been using this silver cup for “divination”; that is, that he employed it as a tool for consulting spirits for the purpose of knowing the future and to learn of hidden knowledge. How is this possible, they ask, since God would condemn such practices later under the Law of Moses?
First, let us consider how Joseph has been getting his “Divine” information up to this point. It is interesting to note that Joseph is the first of the Patriarchs that God does not appear to or speak with personally. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all received first-hand communication directly from the Lord. God spoke to them just as one man would speak to another. We have no record of God doing so with Joseph. But we do have the record of God speaking to Joseph through dreams. Every crucial piece of information that the Lord communicates to Joseph throughout his life comes to him through the use of symbolism and in the form of a dream. In light of the fact that we never see Joseph “out-of-touch” with God, floundering or wondering about what will happen, it seems very unlikely that he would have ever felt the need to consult anything about matters of the future. God was his Source of spiritual information, the Lord was indeed his Source for everything. Would a man who proclaimed to king’s officers that the interpretations of dreams belong to the Lord (Gen. 40:8) and who comforted the Pharaoh of Egypt with the reassurance that it is God Who holds the “answer of peace” (Gen. 41:16) pursue his own solace or seek the solutions to his own quandaries anywhere else?
The context wherein Joseph makes this statement about his silver cup of divination is one of pretense and theatrics. This chalice is merely a prop used to set the trap implicating Benjamin of wrong-doing, having no or very little actual intrinsic value for Joseph (much less for occult purposes), and being no more the source of Joseph’s insights than any other article of furniture within his house. But it was presented as such, that the brothers of Joseph might believe it to be of particular worth to its owner, lending plausability to the occasion of the steward’s hot pursuit. Joseph was in no more need of this specific silver cup than he was the money paid to him by the brothers for their grain. It was necessary, however, that the brothers be under the impression that the cup was a prized possession of its owner not only for its monetary value but its utilitarian.