There once was a man named Judah who spent his entire life being disdained by his father. When he was young, he caused his father a lot of pain, but later in life he somehow managed to demonstrate a great amount of love for his father. Judah was the son of a man named Jacob. Jacob had a total of 12 sons, Judah was the fourth. Judah had a younger brother named Joseph. Joseph was the favorite son, and all the other sons knew it.
Gen. 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.
Gen. 37:4 His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.
It says the brothers hated Joseph. Hate is a really strong word. It was wrong for the brothers to hate Joseph, but some of the blame needs to be placed on Jacob since he openly showed favoritism.
It came about when Judah and his brothers were pasturing their father’s flock, that they had a chance to kill Joseph, but Judah persuaded them to sell their brother instead.
Gen. 37:26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?
Gen. 37:27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
So Joseph was sold into Egypt. Judah’s suggestion showed a lack of love for Joseph and his father, but keep in mind that by showing favoritism, his father had not done much to earn any love.
After many years in Egypt, Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh, revealing to Pharaoh that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Gen. 41:39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.
Gen. 41:40 “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.”
So Joseph found himself in charge of all Egypt. When the famine came, Egypt was the only country that had food because Joseph had stored up food during the seven years of plenty.
Gen. 41:57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.
Jacob also sent his ten oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain.
Gen. 42:4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that harm may befall him.”
Notice the word afraid. Ever since he had lost Joseph, Jacob had sheltered Benjamin, lest he lose Benjamin also. When Jacob’s sons returned from Egypt, Simeon did not return, and the brothers informed their father that if they ever wanted to buy grain again, they would need to take Benjamin with them.
Gen. 42:38 But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”
Jacob was basically saying that if he lost Benjamin, the rest of his life would be misery. Keep in mind that Simeon, one of his sons, had not returned from Egypt, but that did not seem to affect Jacob, it was only Benjamin that he was concerned about. Eventually they ran out of food again and Judah convinced his father to send Benjamin with them to Egypt to buy more food.
Gen. 43:8 Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones.
Gen. 43:9 “I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.
Notice that Judah clearly took responsibility for Benjamin’s safety.
So the brothers went to Egypt and bought more food. They were not aware that they were actually buying the food from Joseph. Joseph did not reveal himself; instead, he tested them. The pronoun “he” refers to Joseph.
Gen. 44:1 ¶ Then 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.
Gen. 44:2 “Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.”
The youngest was Benjamin. Shortly after the brothers left Egypt to return home, the house steward caught up with them and accused them of stealing the silver cup. They denied it, so a search began.
Gen. 44:11 Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack.
Gen. 44:12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.
Gen. 44:13 Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.
Gen. 44:14 ¶ When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him.
Judah and his brothers fell to the ground because they knew their only hope was to beg the governor for mercy.
Gen. 44:15 Joseph 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?”
This does not necessarily mean that Joseph actually practiced divination. Joseph was using divination to explain how he knew that they had stolen his cup. The truth was that Joseph knew about the cup because he had told his steward to put it in Benjamin’s sack, not because of divination, but he didn’t want the brothers to know that, at least not yet, so he claimed that he learned it by divination.
Gen. 44:16 So 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.”
Notice that Judah used a plural pronoun when he said “we are slaves”. Judah was acknowledging that they were at Joseph’s mercy.
Gen. 44:17 But 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.”
Joseph, on the other hand, used a singular pronoun and said, “he shall be my slave”. “He” referred to Benjamin. Furthermore, Joseph made it clear that the rest of the brothers were free to leave and go home. Notice that Judah was the one who spoke next.
Gen. 44:18 ¶ Then 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.
Judah asked for permission to speak. And he acknowledged that Joseph was equal to Pharaoh. Judah was about to make a passionate plea for Benjamin’s release. Remember that Judah had taken responsibility for Benjamin’s safety, so Judah was making one last attempt to protect Benjamin. Remember also that Judah was not aware that he was speaking to his brother Joseph. Judah started by recounting events that had occurred the first time Judah and his brothers went to Egypt to buy food. Throughout this dialogue, “My lord” refers to Joseph. And “servants” refers to Judah and his brothers or their father.
Gen. 44:19 “My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’
Gen. 44:20 “We 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.’
Gen. 44:21 “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’
Gen. 44:22 “But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’
Gen. 44:23 “You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’
Gen. 44:24 “Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.
Gen. 44:25 “Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’
Gen. 44:26 “But 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.’
Gen. 44:27 “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons;
Gen. 44:28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since.
Gen. 44:29 ‘If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’
Gen. 44:30 “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,
Gen. 44:31 when 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.
Gen. 44:32 “For 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.’
Gen. 44:33 “Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers.
Gen. 44:34 “For 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?”
Notice that Judah offered to be a slave in Benjamin’s place. Judah offered to be a slave in place of Benjamin because he wanted to spare his father the anguish of losing Benjamin. This was an act of love. Even though Judah knew that his father cared about Benjamin more than him, Judah still loved his father enough that he couldn’t bear the thought of watching his father suffer the loss of Benjamin.
What about us? Are we able to love a parent who openly disdains us?
Are we able to love a sibling who deliberately hurts us?
Are we able to love a child who rejects us?
Judah spent a lifetime being disdained by his father, and yet he had enough love to volunteer to be a slave so that his father would not suffer. Does our love measure up to that?