18 Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ (Genesis 44:18–23 (ESV)
A soliloquy is an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. It is a monologue addressed to oneself. It is when a character’s thoughts are spoken out loud without addressing another individual.
One of the most, if arguably not the most, famous soliloquies in literature is found in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It is in Act 3, Scene 1. It is where Hamlet, contemplating death and suicide and bemoaning the pain and unfairness of life but acknowledging that the alternative might be worse, utters the memorable line “To be or not to be, that is the question.” This opening statement is one of the most widely known and quoted words in modern English.
Judah’s speech to the governor of Egypt, who was really his brother Joseph, was also heard by his other brothers. Therefore, it is technically not a soliloquy. This is because Judah was speaking to Joseph and not just to himself. However, the speech does reveal Judah’s inner most thoughts regarding himself, his father and his family. It is also, like a soliloquy, an extended monologue. Judah’s speech comprises the rest of Genesis 44.
Today’s text is the first of three extended paragraphs. The first part of Judah’s speech is a monologue concerning his extended family and the circumstances which brought the eleven sons of Jacob back to Egypt. Judah described the unique positon the youngest son, Benjamin, had in the family. Regarding Benjamin, Judah said, “We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.”
When once Judah, and the remaining nine elder brothers, felt jealousy because of Jacob’s love for their brother Joseph (Gen. 37), there is no hint of jealousy or envy in Judah’s words twenty two years later concerning their brother Benjamin. Rather, the tone of Judah’s speech is one of heartfelt concern. It is ironic that Judah’s brother Joseph, who he said was dead, is really the man to whom he speaks.
The first portion of Judah’s speech concludes with the details why Judah, and all of his brothers came back to Egypt. He said, “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.” Judah reminded the governor that the only reason why Benjamin came on the journey was because the Egyptian leader make it a condition for the brothers to return and buy more grain. It was also a condition for Simeon’s release.
Judah then recalled, “We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ ”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Joseph said he was willing to take only Benjamin and let the rest go free (v. 17), thereby putting the brothers in a situation similar to the one they were in years before. They profited from the sale of Joseph, the favored son, into slavery, and with Benjamin they were offered the chance to win their freedom at his expense. Whether or not they chose to profit themselves in the pharaoh’s court would show the true state of their souls. Having served as the brothers’ spokesman once before (44:14–17), Judah again stepped forward to reply to Joseph’s offer, as we read in today’s passage.”
The second part of Judah’s speech contains revelation of what will happen to Jacob, his father, if Benjamin does not return with the other brothers back to Canaan. This portion of Judah’ monologue will be examined next time.
All of us have experienced feelings of rejection and exclusion, especially in our families. This can fester into a bitter anger and lifelong resentment. May each of us confess any resentment we may hold against God or others and know that the Lord loves us.
Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!