Before you read: The brothers bring Benjamin back to Egypt, and Joseph shows him favoritism while eating with them all. Then Joseph sets up Benjamin as a thief and threatens to keep him as a slave. All the while, he has not revealed himself to them. He tells them they can go home safely, but must leave Benjamin there.
Read Genesis 44:18-34
Wow. Did you catch that?
“Please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.”
Judah offers himself to slavery, to protect Benjamin and send him home to their father. Is this the same man who, years ago, plotted to kill Benjamin’s brother?
Something has changed.
Listen to him now, “No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
Maybe it was watching his father suffer when Joseph was lost; or maybe he’s already lost his two sons; or maybe he’s simply matured. Whatever the reason, he’s a different guy now. In fact, he’s ready to sacrifice his own life for Benjamin.
Joseph has been trying to find out what the brothers are like now. Are they still hard-hearted enough to sell one of their own? He’s spent time with them: eating, drinking, watching, and learning. He’s set up an elaborate plot to snag Benjamin and finally now he’s giving the brothers a chance to cut and run. Will they do to Benjamin what they did to him?
All together they trudge back to Joseph and beg for Benjamin’s life.
And Judah asks to be taken instead.
Imagine standing there after Judah has spoken. Imagine you are Joseph. Are you mad that Judah would do this for Benjamin but not for you? Or are you just glad his change is so real?
What if you’re Benjamin – how do you feel about Judah right now?
I’d feel humbled.
I’d feel unworthy of such a sacrifice. Even though Benjamin isn’t actually guilty of theft, he’s still the reason they’re all in trouble. It’s his punishment, deserved or not, and there goes Judah offering to take it instead.
How would you feel?