The test. — V.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. The feast which Joseph had arranged may have lasted a large part of the afternoon. At its conclusion the chief steward received orders to have the sacks of the strangers filled, but with very good measure. The return of the money in this case did not belong to the test but inasmuch as it was intended to strengthen the general impression. V.2. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. The placing of this cup in Benjamin’s sack had the object to concentrate the test upon his person, to bring his person into the foreground. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. Everything having been prepared according to Joseph’s plans, the brothers spent the night in the Egyptian city. V.3. As soon as the morning was light, with the earliest dawn, the men were sent away, they and their asses, they were dismissed without any intimation of the surprise in store for them. V.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 (he was to pursue until he did overtake them), say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Having been received and feasted by Joseph in such a royal manner, had they been so mean and treacherous as to become guilty of theft? The haste was necessary lest some one of the brothers open his sack and they all return of their own free will. V.5. Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? in order to play his role as Egyptian ruler to the end, Joseph has the steward represent the matter as though he practiced hydromancy, that is, presumed to predict future events from the appearance of the liquid contents of his cup, also to expose hidden things. Ye have done evil in so doing. They were flatly to be accused of the theft, the subsequent discovery of the cup being intended to confirm the impression of Joseph’s supernatural wisdom. V.6. And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words, in bold accusation and with well-feigned anger. V.7. And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing. In the consciousness of their innocence the brothers repel the charge with horror: Far be it from thy servants, the idea never entered our minds. V.8. Behold, the money which we found in our sacks’ mouths we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan; this surely was proof of their honesty; how, then, should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold? V.9. With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen. That made the denial as vigorous as could be expected from innocent men. V.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. The chief steward accepted their proposal, but with the modification which agreed with Joseph’s object in the trial, namely, to find out how the brothers were disposed toward Benjamin, especially now that he had been honored so signally by Joseph. V.11. Then they speedily, as their outraged feelings of innocence demanded, took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. They were absolutely certain that the cup would not be found. V.12. And he, the chief steward, searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest, partly to hide his own share in the scheme, partly to make the climax all the more effective. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. This was an outcome which not one of them had expected, their feeling of relief having grown as one sack after another had not yielded the cup. V.13. Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. They were overcome with terror, fear, and grief, and it was with a feeling of the greatest dejection that they turned back to the city which they had left with such light hearts a few hours before.
Judah’s heroic behavior. — V.14. And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there, having waited for their return. Judah is now the leader among the brothers, a position which was later confirmed to him. And they fell before him on the ground, in speechless terror and abject surrender. This showed the spirit which now lived in them, as well as the fact that they had not permitted Benjamin to return alone and that they willingly placed themselves under the direction of Judah. V.15. And Joseph said unto them, in apparent indignation, What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? He intimated that a man in his position and of his wisdom was able to discover the most carefully hidden things. Cp. v.5. V.16. And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? He felt that the circumstantial evidence against them was so strong as to oblige the ruler to decide against them. God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; he and his brothers recognized in this strange shaping of events the judgment of God upon their former guilt, and their repentance was certainly genuine. Behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also with whom the cup is found. Thus Judah includes all the brothers with himself as champions of Benjamin, whom they would not permit to enter slavery alone. Judah exhibited a wonderful self-denial, magnanimity, and generosity, even while he was struggling with despair. V.17. And he said, God forbid that I should do so; far be it from me to act upon this suggestion; 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. This is the climax of the test which Joseph had proposed, for now the brothers could show whether they would take this opportunity to get rid of the second son of Rachel, as they had gotten rid of the first: Benjamin would remain in Egypt as Joseph’s slave, while the others would go scot-free. V.18. Then Judah came near unto him and said, stepping forward in his great agitation, O 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. His request was made in the greatest humility, in the full consciousness of his own unworthiness. V.19. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? V.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. With unconscious, artless skill the love of Jacob for the one remaining son of his old age from his beloved Rachel is here pictured, V.21. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me that I may set mine eyes upon him. The pleading here is less formal, and more fervent. V.22. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father; for if he should leave his father, his father would die. From this we may conclude that the refusal of the brothers to bring Benjamin had caused their first imprisonment. It was the prospect of a favorable reception on the part of Joseph that had made the brothers consent. V.23. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more, which was equivalent to telling them that they could purchase no more grain, unless they complied with this condition. V.24. And it came to pass, when we came up unto thy servant, my father, we told him the words of my lord. V.25. And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food. V.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. V.27. And thy servant, my father, said unto us, Ye know that my wife, Rachel, whom only he really considered such in the full name of the word, bare me two sons; v.28. and the one went out from me, he was taken from Jacob in a violent manner, and I said, Surely, he is torn in pieces, that was the only conclusion he could reach from the evidence presented; and I saw him not since; v.29. and if ye take this also from me, and mischief, some harm or danger, befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. It was a masterly presentation of the love and devotion which now characterized the relationship in the family of Jacob. With these words Judah reached the conclusion of his plea, in a remarkably eloquent outburst. V.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, his soul was literally tied to the soul of Benjamin; v.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, to the realm of the dead. V.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 forever. V.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. This entreaty was a wonderful exhibition of love, both for the aged father and for Benjamin, since it involved becoming a slave in Egypt without hope of redemption. V.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 (find or strike) my father. This lofty and impressive, vivid and passionate prayer, culminating in the last touching appeal with its self-sacrificing offer, is one of the sublimest passages in the entire Old Testament, reminding us, incidentally, of the infinitely greater sacrifice which the Champion out of the tribe of Judah, who became surety for His brethren according to the flesh, made by giving His life for theirs.