Genesis 44 – Joseph Tests His Brothers
A. Joseph sends them on their way.
1. (1-5) Joseph puts money in his brothers’ bags again.
And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Also put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.” So he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys. When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.’ “
a. As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away: The brothers left Egypt in high spirits. They were treated well, had their sacks full of grain, and Simeon was out of prison. Their father Jacob’s fear of something horrible happening would not be fulfilled.
b. Also put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money: As before, the grain sacks of the brothers are topped off by the money they paid for the grain, but this time, Joseph has his special silver cup put in the sack of Benjamin.
c. Why have you repaid evil for good? Some wrongly think that Joseph did this simply to use his position of power to torment his brothers in revenge for their cruelty towards him. Yet knowing the character of Joseph, this wasn’t the case. Guided by the hand of God, Joseph tested the hearts of his brothers and brought them to complete repentance.
d. He indeed practices divination: We know from other sources that ancients did use sacred cups as divination devices. It is possible Joseph did also, because there was not yet specific revelation from God that such a practice was forbidden. Yet, it was not Joseph who said he used the cup for divination, but his servant, who may have wrongly assumed Joseph’s spiritual insight and wisdom were more due to this cup than to his relationship with the living God.
2. (6-10) The brothers claim they are innocent of theft.
So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words. And they said to him, “Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing. Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.” And he said, “Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless.”
a. Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing: The brothers confidently stated they did not have the cup. This showed that they had a healthy trust in each other. If they did not trust each other they would have immediately wondered which brother stole the cup.
b. With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves: They were so confident they did not have the cup (and trusted each other so much), they declared the thief should be killed and all the others taken as slaves.
c. Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave: Joseph did not repeat their offer of a death sentence because he wanted no bloodshed. Joseph had a plan for agreeing with the brothers’ suggestion that the guilty parties be taken as slaves.
3. (11-13) The cup is found in Benjamin’s sack.
Then each man speedily let down his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. So he searched. He began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city.
a. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack: The reaction of the brothers showed that for them, this was the worst thing imaginable. Not only was the cup found among them, but that it was in Benjamin’s sack – their father’s favorite son, the one he worried about the most. Now Benjamin was sentenced to a life of slavery in Egypt, if not death.
b. Each man loaded his donkey and returned: When Joseph was taken as a slave the brothers allowed him to go and thought nothing of it. Now they were willing to stand with Benjamin as he faced slavery or death. This demonstrated a significant change in the heart and attitude of Joseph’s brothers.
4. (14-17) Judah commits himself and all the brothers to stick with Benjamin, even as slaves in Egypt.
So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground. And Joseph said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?” Then Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
a. They fell before him on the ground: This demonstrated that the brothers were desperate to gain favor with the Egyptian official to obtain the release of Benjamin. They knew it was a genuine disaster to lose Benjamin and to bereave their father.
b. God has found out the iniquity of you servants: With these words, Judah revealed God’s work among the brothers. In Judah’s mind, the bothers were now destined to live the rest of their lives as slaves in Egypt because they sold Joseph as a slave some 20 years before.
i. The brothers were innocent of the sin of stealing the cup but were guilty of far greater sins. In the same way, we might take pride because we are innocent of some sin or another, yet we are guilty of far greater. You can’t hide from your sin. Time does not erase the guilt of your sin; only the blood of Jesus can.
ii. This resignation to slavery in Egypt was all the more significant considering these were middle-aged men who came from lives of relative privilege, wealth, and status.
c. Here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found: With these words Judah insisted that the brothers would stick by Benjamin, though he was the favored and more greatly blessed son. If they quickly abandoned Benjamin it would show little change of heart from 20 years ago, when they abandoned Joseph.
i. There was a purpose for this even in Benjamin. Benjamin was most innocent of all, yet he still needed to be purged of all self-confidence and brought low.
B. Judah intercedes for Benjamin.
1. (18-32) Judah tells Joseph the whole story from the beginning.
Then Judah came near to him and said: “O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young; his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ And we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ But you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ So it was, when we went up to your servant my father, that we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, ‘Go back and buy us a little food.’ But we said, ‘We cannot go down; if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn to pieces”; and I have not seen him since. But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.’ Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’“
a. Then Judah came near to him and said: Judah’s impassioned appeal to Joseph is a model of a heartfelt, desperate appeal.
i. Of Judah’s speech, F.B. Meyer wrote: “In all literature, there is nothing more pathetic than this appeal.” H.C. Leupold wrote, “This is one of the manliest, most straightforward speeches ever delivered by any man. For depth of feeling and sincerity of purpose it stands unexcelled.” Barnhouse called it “the most moving address in all the Word of God.”
b. Surely he is torn to pieces…I have not seen him since: With these carefully chosen words, Judah did not say that Benjamin’s brother was dead – only that Jacob said, “Surely he is torn to pieces” and that Judah had not seen him since.
c. When he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die: 20 years before, Joseph’s brothers showed a callous disregard of their father when they reported Joseph’s supposed death (Genesis 37:31-33). Judah showed they were now greatly concerned for the feelings and welfare of their father. This was more evidence of a change of heart.
2. (33-34) Judah lays down his life for Benjamin and his father.
“Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?”
a. Please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord: Judah dramatically offered to lay down his life for the sake of Benjamin. This was a dramatic change from 20 years before when the brothers did not care about Joseph, Benjamin, or even their father Jacob.
i. Judah distinguished himself as the one willing to be a substitutionary sacrifice, out of love for his father and for his brethren.
b. How shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me: Judah was the one who suggested selling Joseph 20 years earlier. (Genesis 37:26-27) Here he sensitively offered to lay down his life for the favored brother. This display of sacrificial love was another example of transformation in the brothers.
i. Moses was willing to offer himself for the salvation of Israel (Exodus 32:31-32), and so was Paul (Romans 9:1-4). Sacrificial love is evidence of our transformation (John 13:34).
ii. Through this chapter there is remarkable evidence of the changed hearts of Joseph’s brothers.
· They did not resent it when Benjamin was given the favored portion (Genesis 43:34)
· They trusted each other, not accusing each other of wrong when accused of stealing the cup (Genesis 44:9)
· They stuck together when the silver cup was found. They did not abandon the favored son and allow him to be carried back to Egypt alone (Genesis 44:13)
· They completely humbled themselves for the sake of the favored son (Genesis 44:14)
· They knew their predicament was the result of their sin against Joseph (Genesis 44:16)
· They offered themselves as slaves to Egypt, not abandoning Benjamin, the favored son, their brother (Genesis 44:16)
· They showed due concern for how this might affect their father (Genesis 44:29-31)
· Judah was willing to be a substitutionary sacrifice for his brother out of love for his father and his brethren (Genesis 44:33)
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission