Genesis 44:14-34: Guilty.
“14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, ‘What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?’ 16 ‘What can we say to my lord?’ Judah replied. ‘What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves – we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.’17 But Joseph said, ‘Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.’18 Then Judah went up to him and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, “Do you have a father or a brother?” 20 And we answered, “We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.”21 ‘Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.” 22 And we said to my lord, “The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.” 23 But you told your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.25 ‘Then our father said, “Go back and buy a little more food.” 26 But we said, “We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.”27 ‘Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One of them went away from me, and I said, ‘He has surely been torn to pieces.’ And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in misery.”30 ‘So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the grey head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!”33 ‘Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.’ NIV
This was now the third time that Joseph’s brothers bowed had before him (see also 42:6; 43:26), so his dreams had been abundantly fulfilled. As we observed yesterday, they were caught in the searchlights.
‘’What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt’’ (16).
The fact that these men were not guilty of what they appeared to be guilty of is immaterial. Judah seems to have this overwhelming sense of: ‘We are guilty; and we know what we’re guilty of, and, furthermore God knows, and He has brought us to this place of exposure. It’s interesting that’s the word ‘’found’’ is repeated eight times in this chapter: verses 8, 9, 10, 12, 16 (twice), 17, 24. The phrase ‘’come upon my father’’ in 24 is literally ‘find my father’ in the Hebrew tongue. These men were also being ‘found out’ (Numbers 32:23).
‘It’s when guilty sinners’ mouths are shut and they stop defending themselves that God can show them mercy (Rom.3:19).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary’ (OT)’, p.130. People can change. We have previously seen a hard-hearted Judah, recommending to his brothers the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites (37:27), and then wanting to have his daughter-in-law, Tamar, burned to death (38:24b), after he had unwittingly committed incest with her. But he had gradually been softened by God’s work in his heart, and he gives here a remarkable speech. It’s the longest by any human recorded in ‘Genesis’, and it is one of the most moving in the whole Bible. He shows a Christ-like sprit in interceding for Benjamin, and in his willingness (his desire even) to substitute himself for his younger brother. The words of Hebrews 7:14 are fascinating in this regard:
‘’For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah…’’
Judah was to be, in the purposes of God, the father of a great royal tribe – the tribe from which Jesus Himself would come (49:8-11). Long before Jesus came, Judah foreshadowed him in these key ways. Who would have imagined that a chapter or two ago?
The speech showed that a new Judah now stood before Joseph. He was a man with a deep concern, both for his father and his young brother. Joseph saw that he could be trusted. It was time to reveal Himself.
PRAYER: Lord, help me never to despair of anyone; but to be confident in your power to transform the worst of sinners into trophies of grace. Thank you for changing me, and I know how rotten to the core I am. You know this even more than I do, but you loved me and gave yourself for me, and I am so grateful. Thank you my Lord.