Introduction 1-13 The Cup in Benjamin’s Sack 14-17 Confession for Joseph 18-34 Judah Pleads for His Father

This chapter contains the full confession of guilt of the brothers, pronounced by Judah. God brings the brothers, through the wisdom given to Joseph, as it were back to the field of Dothan, where they threw Joseph into the pit and sold him (Gen 37:17-2417Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard [them] say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.18When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer!20Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”21But Reuben heard [this] and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.”22Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.23So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;24and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.). At the time, Joseph’s cries of fear did not work out anything (cf. Gen 42:2121Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.”). What will they do with Benjamin, who is loved by his father (verse 2020We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of [his] old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’)? Will they sacrifice him too?

The Cup in Benjamin’s Sack

1Then he commanded his house steward, 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. 2Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph had told [him]. 3As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. 4They had [just] gone out of the city, [and] were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, “Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’” 6So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. 7They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. 8Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.” 10So he said, “Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and [the rest of] you shall be innocent.” 11Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.

Again, the brothers receive an overflowing size of grain, while they also receive the money back with them. Throughout their trial the LORD remains the Same in showing His grace.

The cup must be put into Benjamin’s bag. He is the only one of the brothers who is innocent of Joseph’s rejection, but all the guilt was imputed to him. This is also what happened to the Lord Jesus. The Just has suffered for the unjust (1Pet 3:1818For Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;). The brothers (and we) must learn that.

We can see the house steward as a picture of the Holy Spirit. He does everything Joseph says. He follows the brothers and ‘discovers’ the cup in Benjamin’s sack. Because of this, the brothers come into great dismay. They have no more excuses. To this end, the Holy Spirit always wants to bring a soul to an acknowledgement without excuse.

As for the cup, they are indeed innocent. For their consciences however, this has no meaning. Judah does not even mention it. Once conscience is awakened and convinced of sin, it only deals with the real question of guilt. They tear their clothes, as Jacob once did when they brought him the hypocritical news of Joseph’s death (Gen 37:32-3432and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine [it] to [see] whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”33Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!”34So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.).

Confession for Joseph

14When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. 15Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?” 16So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” 17But he said, “Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

When they come back to Joseph, this time they don’t only bow, but they throw themselves down before him. The brothers acknowledge the righteousness of God. They say that He brought their guilt to light, by which they perhaps mean the evil they did to Joseph. They experience what happens to them now, as the righteous reckoning of God. There will be no more comebacks over their lips. All they can do is offer themselves as slaves, together with Benjamin. The brothers show solidarity with Benjamin.

But Joseph continues to test their mind. He leads them further and further towards the goal, which is a complete confession and restoration of communion with him. Joseph knows they are innocent as far as the cup is concerned, but have they also confessed the past? Therefore, he has put them in a situation similar to that of the past. What will they do now? Will they leave their brother in slavery, knowing he is innocent? Will they deceive their father Jacob again with an invented story, now with regard to Benjamin? Then it turns out that grace has done its work in their hearts.

Judah Pleads for His Father

18Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. 19My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of [his] old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’ 21Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ 26But we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. 29If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30Now, 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, 31when he sees that the lad is not [with us], he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him [back] to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”

In this section we listen to a heart-moving plea of Judah. Joseph has achieved the goal. He notices how Judah has changed. There is nothing left of insensitivity towards his father, as in the announcement of Joseph’s rejection. His plea also expresses his love for Benjamin, the son of the old age of Jacob. He has learned to empathize with the feelings of his father and his youngest brother.

This is also important in the relationships between believers. It is especially important with regard to the relationship between the Father and the Son, that we get a sense of what the Father felt when His Son was suffering, both from the human side and from the side of God. Are we not often insensitive to this?

This change in the heart of Judah has only been able to bring about God. Judah does not plead to be released, but to get Benjamin back with his father. There is also no strong defense to prove Benjamin’s innocence. He does not seek words of justification, but appeals to Joseph’s compassion. Judah does not argue to exonerate Benjamin, but asks for mercy (Job 9:1515“For though I were right, I could not answer;
I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.

There is nothing left in Judah’s feelings about his father that indicates that he wants to cheat on his father, as was the case with Joseph in the past. Judah has been the driving force behind the rejection of Joseph. His personal life is also reprehensible (Gen 38:1-261And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.2Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her.3So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er.4Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan.5She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him.6Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name [was] Tamar.7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life.8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”9Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.10But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”; for he thought, “[I am afraid] that he too may die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.12Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.13It was told to Tamar, “Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”14So she removed her widow’s garments and covered [herself] with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife.15When Judah saw her, he thought she [was] a harlot, for she had covered her face.16So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, “Here now, let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”17He said, therefore, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” She said, moreover, “Will you give a pledge until you send [it]?”18He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” And she said, “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave [them] to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.19Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow’s garments.20When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her.21He asked the men of her place, saying, “Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?” But they said, “There has been no temple prostitute here.”22So he returned to Judah, and said, “I did not find her; and furthermore, the men of the place said, ‘There has been no temple prostitute here.’”23Then Judah said, “Let her keep them, otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her.”24Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.” Then Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”25It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?”26Judah recognized [them], and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again.). Here we hear the confession that God has brought their crime to light (verse 1616So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.”).

He describes in an impressive way Jacob’s love for Benjamin and how hard it was to get Benjamin along. He expresses the grief that Jacob will have when Benjamin does not return – fourteen times he calls the name ‘father’; twelve times he speaks about his ‘brother’. Finally, he offers himself to be a slave instead of Benjamin.

Here Judah represents the whole people. As a tribe Judah is most responsible for the rejection of the Messiah. They are, like the returnees from Babylon, at the time of the public service of Lord Jesus in the land.

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