14 “When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. 15 Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” 16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” 17 But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” (Genesis 44:14–18 (ESV)
The word guilt means to be at fault, to sense blame and to be responsible for a crime. Guilt can also refer to an individual’s remorse, shame and self-reproach for having broken the law and committed a crime.
While it appeared to the brothers that they were presently guilty of a crime against the governor of Egypt, the elder brothers’ real offense was having sinned, twenty two years in the past, against their brother Joseph (Gen. 45:6, 11). The irony about the situation was that the governor of Egypt was also Joseph. The brothers just did not realize it.
It is interesting to note that Moses placed great emphasis upon Judah in this situation and not Reuben, the eldest brother. This showed that Judah would fulfill his pledge to his father Jacob and take the lead in protecting Benjamin (Gen. 43:8-10).
When the brothers returned to Egypt and Joseph’s house, he was waiting for them. Once again, the brothers fulfilled Joseph’s teenage dream by bowing down in homage and fear (Gen. 37:5-11). Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?”
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The brothers returned and bowed again before Joseph (v. 14; cf. 37:7; 43:26, 28). Joseph probably did not actually use divination in discovering their treachery (44:5, 15). He may have simply referred to it to enhance his brothers’ awe of him.”
It was this point that Judah unhesitatingly stepped up as the leader of the eleven brothers. He said, ““What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.”
To what guilt did Judah refer? Was it the guilt of having in their possession the governor’s silver cup? Or could Judah’s statement rather refer to the elder brothers’ guilt of having sinned against their then teenage brother (Gen. 37:18-36; 42:18-25) who was the now the man before whom they bow?
Take notice of the personal pronouns Judah used. He repeatedly said “we.” In speaking for the group, he did not excuse himself from any responsibility for their alleged guilt. Judah spoke as one voice for the entire eleven. Additionally, he observed that the silver cup had been found in Benjamin’s sack, but not that his younger brother had stolen it. Regardless, Judah said that all of the brothers would be the governor’s servants. In other words, the eleven brothers were unified in staying together and not giving up the younger brother in order to save the rest. All for one and one for all.
Joseph then staged one final test. He said, ““Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” The ten elder brothers could leave Egypt and go home to their father Jacob. The only one detained would be Benjamin.
What would the ten brothers do? Would they give up Benjamin to save themselves and return home to Canaan? Would they pass or fail this final test by their brother Joseph on behalf of their brother Benjamin? Were the ten truly changed men?
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “When it comes down to it, there is but one question each person must ask himself: “Will I recognize God’s authority as supreme, or will I try to throw off the Creator’s restraints and lay claim to sovereignty?” In other words, will we bow the knee to the Lord gladly, or will we refuse to submit. Joseph could not see the hearts of his brothers, and he further pressed them, looking for proof of their changed hearts. Since they had been disloyal to God’s people when they betrayed him, Joseph thought he might discern the state of his brothers’ souls by testing their loyalty to Benjamin.”
What about our loyalty to the LORD and his commandments. Are we willing to submit in obedience to the LORD even when we may not feel like it? Our own personal struggle with sin is a battle of doing what we ought to do rather than doing what we would like to do at any given moment.
Have a blessed and obedient day in the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!