The Heart of Judah

When Jacob and his family finish off their grain supply, Jacob agrees to let Ben go with his other sons for more food because Judah agrees to take the blame if anything happens. When they arrive, Joseph sees Ben(jamin) and orders them to his home. He’s planning a feast, but they think they’re in trouble. In their panic, they try to explain things to his servant, but he already knows because he is in on it. In front of all eleven brothers, Joseph offers Ben a special blessing, then seats them in precise birth order. There are eleven brothers, many very close in age, so what are the chances that some guy from Egypt could accurately seat them oldest to youngest? They look at each other in shock, eyes wide. Then Joseph shows Ben more favor, giving him five times the portions. Maybe he wants to bless Ben, his only full brother, or maybe he’s testing the brothers. Will they still be jealous when the youngest gets honored? Or have they learned from their sins?

They head back to Canaan, and Joseph repeats the money-in-the-bag trick, with the added bonus of putting his silver cup in Ben’s bag. But this time they don’t discover it on their own—Joseph sends his squad to accuse them of theft. The squad opens the bags one by one, oldest to youngest, to heighten the suspense, and finds the cup in Ben’s bag. Will they turn on their brother like they did before? Judah knows he’ll have to take the fall for this, which means he’ll either die or become an Egyptian slave for life. They all head back into the city again to face the music, and Joseph confronts them.

Joseph briefly mentions he can practice divination. This could be an empty threat to throw them off, or it could mean he does practice divination, since that’s a common practice in Egypt (though that doesn’t mean God approves of it), or it could refer to his ability to discern truth through divine intervention and discernment, like with dream interpretations. Divination hasn’t been forbidden by God yet, but it’s still disrespectful at best and wicked at worst to seek answers and guidance from spirits instead of God. Many scholars think Joseph was bluffing, like interrogators do when they’re trying to get a suspect to confess.

But they can’t confess, because they’re innocent—at least of cup stealing. Judah says they do have guilt. For ten of them, it’s the guilt of Joseph’s presumed death. As for Ben, it’s possible Judah thinks he did steal the cup. Judah gives a beautiful speech that shows how God has humbled him and brought repentance—from his part in selling Joseph, to losing his wife and two of his sons, to having his own hypocrisy revealed when he slept with Tamar. This is the guy who originally suggested they kill Joseph, and now he’s offering himself in Ben’s place! This is a picture of Christ, and it’s fitting, because Christ, the older brother, offers Himself for the guilt of us, the younger brother.

At the end of Judah’s speech, Joseph can’t fake it anymore and tells them he’s their brother. He speaks in Hebrew, without an interpreter. He tries to calm their fears, but he can’t calm their shock. It’s like they’re seeing a ghost. He tells them to move to Egypt so they can escape the famine. Pharaoh offers to provide everything for them—the best of the land. Jacob is dumbfounded when his sons bring this news, but when the caravan arrives, it confirms what they’ve said.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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