Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:32-34

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Judah has explained how returning home without Benjamin might kill his father for grief, but it is his plea at the end that I find most moving. Judah does not rage against Joseph, he does not stubbornly insist that they’ve got the wrong man, he doesn’t even ask Joseph to let the matter go for pity’s sake.

No, humbly and selflessly, Judah only asks that he be punished in place of the lad. If there is a price that must be paid, let it be taken out on him, and let the boy go free. The symbolism here of the Savior is obvious, and it seems particularly fitting that Jesus would be descended of Judah, who was willing to sacrifice himself that his brother might be restored to his father.

A little while ago we saw a picture of Judah that was far less flattering. He had abandoned his covenant, sullied himself through lust, and was mired in a tawdry family drama. At the end of it came a hint of redemption, though, when he started to acknowledge his folly and accept its consequences. That spark of maturity seems to have continued to grow in him until this time, finally making him ready to fully surrender himself for the good of others.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:30-31

30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life;

31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

Jacob hasn’t been the central focus of the biblical narrative for a while, but I wish we had more insight into his heart at this time. Specifically, I would like to know more of his thoughts around the area of his life that has long been marred by loss.

When Jacob ran away from home to escape the wrath of Esau, he found solace in Rachel, the love of his life, and gradually built up a great family around him. But then tragedy struck as Rachel died in childbirth. Jacob was still left with her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, but, of course, Joseph was taken and sold into Egypt by his half-brothers. And now Judah believes that Jacob is on the cusp of losing his Benjamin as well.

In short, the Rachel-branch of the family has been both the source of Jacob’s greatest joy and greatest sadness in life. Inherent in the having is also the losing. It is the curse of mortal existence. With every joy we possess comes the fear of losing it…and the eventual realization of that fear.

But, as we will see at the end of this story, after the loss of happiness, even by death, there can be restitution.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:24-29

24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

25 And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.

26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man’s face, except our youngest brother be with us.

27 And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:

28 And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:

29 And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

Judah now relates to Joseph the conversations he hasn’t been privy to, the ones that the brothers had back home with their father. He tries to appeal to Joseph’s pathos by describing the horrible grief that might come upon Jacob if Benjamin is harmed. Little does Judah know that this sympathetic plea would have an especially pronounced effect on Joseph, for Judah isn’t describing some strange Hebrew man being brought to death’s door by grief, he is describing the Egyptian prince’s own father!

Judah also references the loss of Joseph in clearer terms, and the fact that Jacob believes the boy was torn apart by animals. Judah does not, however, admit to the fact that they actually sold their brother into Egypt. These men have grown to admit their sins to themselves, and to accept that they deserve to be punished for them, however they aren’t yet willing to be seen by the outer world for what they truly are.

Even so, it seems that their repentance is near enough to complete for Joseph to accept it. Judah is going to make one final plea, and then Joseph will reveal all.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:18-23

18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.

19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?

20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.

21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.

22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

23 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.

Judah draws near to Joseph and asks to speak with him on a more direct, emotional level. But even at this more intimate range, he still isn’t able to recognize his own brother. He continues to only see an Egyptian lord before him.

Joseph allows this more informal approach and Judah launches into a summary of all that they have gone through. He wants to make the whole picture clear to Joseph. He begins in familiar territory, relating experiences that Joseph already witnessed, but soon he will carry into other scenes that Joseph was not present for.

It would seem that Judah’s objective is to become known to Joseph, to let this powerful magnate see him as he really as, and hopefully find something there to take pity on. And so Judah reminds Joseph what a terrible predicament he had put them in, demanding that they bring their youngest brother to him, even though it might kill their father for grief.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:14-17

14 And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

15 And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?

16 And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

17 And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.

The first time visiting Egypt had been a horrible ordeal for the brothers. The second time everything had started off as a delight. Now, though, things are even worse than before! The outcome of their last visit was that one of them had been imprisoned until the others returned, this time one is going to be taken for life!

As I considered Joseph’s behavior, I realize that what I think he is doing is making it as easy as possible for the brothers to abandon Benjamin, just as they had abandoned him. Benjamin has been caught red-handed and his life is forfeit. Twenty years ago, the brothers would have been overjoyed to have just such an opportunity for getting rid of Joseph. Back then they had to dirty their own hands, had to lie to their father, but now it must seem to them that fate is practically begging them to pawn off Benjamin!

“Get up in peace to your father,” Joseph tells them. “He shall be my servant.” Go on. Do it. Abandon him.

If there remained even the slightest ounce of resentment towards the sons of favored Rachel, then here is the moment that the brothers will wash their hands and walk away.

But the brothers will not do it.

Judah insists that all of them should be taken as servants, not only Benjamin. Even if he cannot save his brother, he would join him in solidarity. Here, at last, is concrete evidence that these men’s hearts have truly changed.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:11-13

11 Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack.

12 And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

13 Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.

Joseph’s steward seems to have a theatricality. Obviously, he knows exactly which of the brothers has the cup in their sack, he put it there himself, but he goes to the oldest brother first and works his way down in seniority, knowing full well that this means the “stolen” goods will be found in the very last sack he searches.

At last, the incriminating evidence is laid bare, and all the brothers become distraught. They tear their clothing, but there’s nothing for them to do. They have already condemned themselves, insisting that the guilty man be punished if found. Now, by their own insistence, they are return to face the wrath of the Egyptian ruler.

In this I see a representation of the dilemma that all mankind face when considering the judgment of God. Any person who lives long enough will sooner or later have parts of their lives that they cannot excuse. They will commit a crime against their own conscience, and they will know that something is broken inside, that they are unworthy of a happy ending.

But while the brothers may not be able to fathom it, grace is waiting for them, and so, too, it can be waiting for us.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:7-10

7 And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:

8 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold?

9 With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen.

10 And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.

I find it very interesting that Jacob’s sons are so confident in declaring their innocence. Yes, they know that they have done no wrong, but they also didn’t put the money into their sacks the first time they came to Egypt, yet there it was even so. I would think an abundance of caution, and suspicion of treachery would be warranted, but apparently it doesn’t cross their minds that they might be walking into a trap.

For if it did cross their minds, why on earth would they stake their very lives on the matter? Their own suggestion is that if one of them has committed the crime then that brother should be killed, and all the others will be made into slaves!

The steward cools down their fervor somewhat. They won’t all be punished if only one of them has committed the crime, and the thief won’t be killed, but he will have to become Joseph’s slave. Given that they are willing to the higher punishment, the brothers are agreeable to this lesser one as well. And so, they willingly commit themselves to their own ruin.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:3-6

3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.

4 And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?

5 Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.

6 And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.

This time Joseph does not leave his brothers to find the money on their own. Shortly after they leave, he sends his steward to apprehend them. The steward is instructed to overtake them, accuse them, and then reveal the incriminating evidence.

Of course, the steward knows that this accusation is false, as he was the same one Joseph used to plant the evidence to begin with. But evidently the steward is someone that Joseph trusts to obey and be discrete. Whether he understands Joseph’s full plan or not, he will humbly obey.

Also, it may seem harsh how Joseph is treating his brothers, but it is frankly far less brutal than what they deserve, and he is doing it to ultimately bless their lives. The test is a hard one, but a joyful reunion is going to be the end result.

Whether we find ourselves in the position of the steward or the brothers, there is a lesson for us to learn from this story. Like the steward we might at times be directed to do things that don’t make sense, like the brothers we might feel our trials cannot have a happy end. But if we will trust the Master, somehow everything will become what it should be in the end.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:1-2

1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. 

2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Joseph moves directly into the next phase of his plan. First, he continues his gracious streak by instructing the steward to stuff his brothers’ sacks with as much grain as they can possibly carry. But then two barbs are also hidden inside the great bounty.

First, he repeats the trick of putting their money back in the mouth of the sack. Once again, they will likely be afraid to see it there. After Joseph had shown them such graciousness, how would they expect him to react if they once again appeared to be thieves?

Then, he also has his own personal cup hidden in the sack of Benjamin. Here will be the real test. When the men find themselves in trouble, and Benjamin especially so, will they try to shift blame to the youth? Will they say that he must be the one guilty party, the sole thief among them, just to save their skins? They had sold Joseph off once before with far less motivation!