Genesis 44 A Time Of Testing When Judah Steps Up.
Joseph, by blessing his brothers with bounty, and without cost, seemed to be saying by his actions what he truly believed theologically. As he will finally reveal later, it was God in his providence that sent him to Egypt in order to save lives, and not them exercising their vengeance (45:5-8). God often puts his people through long and trying situations to fulfill something in us to be sure, but also for a larger purpose. This also coloured why he behaved with secrecy in the early stages of their encounter. He put his brothers to the test for a number of reasons. Firstly, he wanted to know how they thought about what they did to him, and with this, if they were being honest. The insistence of seeing Benjamin, would also test them to see if they would treat Ben as they had treated him. In this context he also wanted to see who if any of them would man up and not only admit to the past, but be willing to lay down their own life for others. In short, he wanted to know if the fruit of a living faith was present, or were they just nominal believers.
They surely must have wondered how he could know the order in which they were born, which no doubt contributed in their thinking that God had indeed found them out, which of course he did, through his providence and the place of Joseph in that providence. Joseph says to them that he practiced divination, not because he actually did, clearly he didn’t need to. It was a ruse he created from what he already knew. However, his brothers surely must have thought that God was using a pagan official to expose their guilt (vv. 1-5). His steward played along with his master, although we aren’t told if he even understood what was going on. Thinking that they would be completely innocent of the charge of stealing the sacred cup, they make a rash oath that if it be found with anyone of them, that that man would die, and the rest would be his master’s slaves (vv. 6-9). The steward’s response to this oath seems to suggest that he did know what was going on, for he lessons the punishment to what is more just.
Nobody was going to die, only the man with whom the cup was found would become the master’s slave, and that man was Benjamin. The steward again knew the order of seniority. However, something amazing happens. The same men who almost killed the former youngest in Joseph, only being prevented by Reuben, now travelled back with the new youngest – Benjamin (vv. 10-13). This act in itself sent a clear message to Joseph that his brothers were on the road to repentance and faith. Then Judah steps up again, and he vows that they will all become the man’s slaves (v. 15), but Joseph insists on only Ben, that the rest were to go free (v. 16). In stepping forward, Judah spoke the truth about what had been discussed with their father, that Jacob considered Rachel uniquely his wife, and so Ben and Joe were his favourites, so much so that Judah said that if Ben did not return that their father would die, so bound up was his life in him (vv. 17-31). Then he says to the master that he, Judah, vowed to be his brothers surety (vv. 32-34).