30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” (Genesis 44:30–34 (ESV)
As previously noted, 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 when a character’s thoughts are spoken out loud without addressing another individual.
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 revealed 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 third of three extended paragraphs. The first part of Judah’s speech concerned his extended family and the circumstances which brought the eleven sons of Jacob back to Egypt. The second portion of the speech primarily focused upon his father Jacob. The climatic third portion reveals Judah’s willingness to sacrifice his life in order to avoid the devastating impact upon Jacob if his youngest son Benjamin does not return home.
The final portion of Judah’s speech is the most powerful and impactful. Judah spoke in no uncertain terms that if Benjamin did not return home Jacob would die. Imagine what Joseph must have been thinking at this time. However, Joseph was not as concerned about the effect upon Jacob if Benjamin did not return but rather the effect upon the elder brothers, especially Judah.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Imagine how conflicted Joseph must have felt when staring Judah in the eyes. This man convinced Jacob’s other sons to sell Joseph into slavery and all the misery that ensued in the land of the Nile (37:26–28).”
It is at this point that Judah’s speech takes a dramatic climax. His passionate plea to exchange his life for Benjamin’s shows that he has truly changed from the man he used to be.
32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” (Gen. 44:32-34)
Dr. Sproul writes, “Though all of the brothers show repentance for the way they had treated Joseph when they kneel before him (v. 14), it is Judah who stands out as the godliest of them all. Only the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit can explain such a transformation in Judah’s life. It may have taken years to get him to this point, but the Spirit’s sanctifying work, seen in its beginning stages when Tamar convicted Judah of his selfishness (38:1–26), shows its profound results in the face of danger in Egypt. Having been humbled and put in place by Tamar, Judah now willingly puts himself last, revealing a self-sacrificing love that will give up everything so that his father, who might never love him as he does Benjamin, will not grieve.”
Judah is a different man than the one who orchestrated the sale of his brother Joseph into slavery (Gen. 37:26-27). His self-sacrificing love of the will is a picture of the substitutionary atonement Judah’s royal descendant, Jesus Christ, provided on the cross. While Judah’s proposed substitutionary sacrifice in Egypt would heal the breach between Joseph and his brothers, Jesus’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross would heal the breach between the holy God and sinful humans.
Take the time today to thank the LORD as you meditate and survey the wondrous cross. This is the cross upon which the Prince of glory died in the place of sinners in order for sinners to be accepted in the presence of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Soli deo Gloria!