Genesis 44:1-6 – Joseph had his servants load up their bags with as much food as possible and put their money back in their sacks. He also put his own personal drinking cup in the sack of Benjamin. When they had left Joseph sent his servants to detain them and ask them why they treated the kindness that they had received from their master with such contempt. The servant told them that his master knew that they had stolen his special cup that gave him his special powers of knowledge.
Joseph had a reputation for having supernatural wisdom, even the brothers were in awe that Joseph knew their birth order in seating them when they had earlier dined with him. The servant inferred that they had stolen the cup in order to poses the powers of Joseph. It is unlikely that Joseph used divination; rather, this statement (made in order to attach special significance to the cup) was part of the situation Joseph contrived in order to test his brothers.
Would they seize on this opportunity to get rid of Benjamin, or had their hearts indeed been changed so that they would stand with him? They were being accused not only of theft but also in a sense with involvement in a practice clearly condemned by God, divination.
Genesis 44:7-13 – The brothers denied the charge saying that would be the furthest thing from their minds. They were relieved that Simeon was no longer imprisoned why would they provoke the ruler of Egypt? They had proved their honesty by returning the previous silver that had been returned to them. They were so convinced of their innocence that they offered to be Joseph’s slaves should such an accusation be true and that the one whose bag it might be found should be put to death (beware of vows).
The servant knowing what had been planned began the search assuring that only the guilty party would be held responsible. From the oldest to the youngest the sacks were opened and though the money must have been discovered nothing was mentioned about that. With each sack being examined and found empty their confidence must have gradually returned, until disaster struck as the last sack was opened, Benjamin’s, and there was the missing cup.
They didn’t believe for a minute that Benjamin was guilty but there was the cup. Rather than leave Benjamin to the judgment of Egypt and Joseph, they tore their clothes in mourning and returned to the city of Joseph. They were not going to leave Benjamin but would suffer the same fate as him, rather than return without him to their father Jacob.
Genesis 44:14-16 – Joseph waited in his house waiting for his brother’s response. He must have been encouraged to see that the brothers had not abandoned Benjamin. He still needed to hear from their lips what was really in their hearts. Joseph inquired of them why would they steal from him knowing that he was able to Adivine the truth. Although varying kinds of divination and magic are reported to have been practiced widely in ancient Israel and among her neighbors (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; 1 Samuel 6:2; Isaiah 19:3; Ezekiel 21:21; Daniel 2:2), Israel herself was clearly and firmly admonished to have no part in such activities. “You shall not practice divination or sorcery” (Leviticus 19:26).
“Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out to be defiled by them” (Leviticus 19:31). That Joseph could know things without his divining cup might have been an indication to the brothers that he had a connection to the One true God.
When we read the wonderful words from Judah in Genesis 44:16 we can see why the Lord would cause Jacob to utter the word the scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes. He clearly acknowledged that Benjamin was guilty of having the cup and there was no way that his innocence could be proved.
Even though Benjamin was the only one charged Judah speaking for all the brothers confesses that they all are guilty. He confesses that it was God who has revealed to Joseph their sin. It is likely that Judah is alluding to the acknowledgment that these things were happening because of their treatment of Joseph (Genesis 42:21).
They had accepted the guilt of selling their brother into slavery and it was appropriate that they should suffer the same fate. Their yielding to the punishment that they really deserved ultimately brought them grace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Genesis 44:17-34 – The words of Judah were a start but Joseph needed to see and hear more to be convinced that their hearts had changed. Joseph offered them the opportunity to be released leaving only Benjamin behind and they could return to their father. The mention of their father deeply touched their hearts realizing the sorrow of their father should they return without Benjamin.
In their minds slavery was more preferable than facing their father=s sorrow. In one of the most stirring speeches in the Scriptures Judah recounts the chain of events that brought them to the decision that they must remain and not return without their brother. Judah acknowledged to Joseph his authority to do with them or Benjamin as he pleased. His plea was not just for Benjamin but for the life of his father. Judah goes on to describe the sorrow and reservation Jacob had in letting his son go but he was forced to if they were to be able to purchase more food. He shared how his father had only two sons of his beloved wife and one was no longer, if anything happen to Benjamin he would go to his grave in great sorrow.
The shock of returning without Jacob would kill him. The stirring conclusion of Judah=s speech ended with the confession that he had given himself as surety for the boy to his father Jacob, he then pleads that he be taken in the place of Benjamin to be his slave. AI could not bring this sorrow on my father. What a picture of what God did for us in the Messiah.
(1 John 3:16) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Yeshua laid his life down to comfort the Sorrow of His Heavenly Father over the loss of His sons to the just and true accusations of the devil. This may be the most compelling reason why Judah was the one chosen to be the line from whom Messiah would come because he was the most like him in his heart and actions.
Joseph now saw that his brothers were indeed changed men. They had passed the most severe of tests. Through these trials they grew and were strengthened in their love for their father Jacob and for one another. They were aware of their sin and the righteous judgment they deserved for it. Joseph could no longer control his emotions. God had done exceedingly beyond all that he could have thought or asked. Not only did the brother not resent Benjamin, they were willing to suffer for him, and Judah was ready to lay down his life for his brother.