Last time we met, Jacob had finally agreed to allow Benjamin to travel to Egypt with his other sons. Upon seeing Benjamin, Joseph became extremely emotional and had to leave their presence for a few moments to weep. A feast was prepared for all of them and they dined with Joseph before they were sent on their way.
This week the story continues as they travel back to the land of Canaan.
Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.
As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’ “
When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”
Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.
Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 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?”
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.”
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.”
Then Judah went up to him and said: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 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.’
“Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’ And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’ But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.
Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’ 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.’
“Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife born me two sons. One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’
“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, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 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!’
“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. 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 upon my father.” Genesis 44
Can you imagine being accused once again of stealing something when you know you were innocent? It must not only have been devastating to them when they saw the silver in their sacks and the cup in Benjamin’s sack but bewildering. It looked as though they were guilty of the accusations. How could they prove their innocence?
Have you ever been in a situation when you were innocent of an accusation, but you could not prove your innocence? It is very frustrating!
It seems as though Joseph’s testing was a bit harsh, but let’s remember what he had gone through. He needed to find out if his brothers’ hearts had changed. I believe he got his answer.
Judah, the brother who talked the others into sparing Joseph’s life and selling him to the Ishmaelites, pleaded with Joseph to take him as his slave and let Benjamin return to his father. Judah took a great risk approaching Joseph in the manner that he did. Joseph could have had him put to death. But Judah could not bear the thought of what it would do to his father if Benjamin was taken from him also. He selflessly asked that he serve the sentence for the accused crime in place of his brother Benjamin.
Practicing divination was a sin; therefore, it is unlikely that Joseph used his silver cup for that purpose. But his statement showed the importance of his silver cup. Keep in mind that this scene took place in the pagan land of Egypt. Joseph did not have to rely on his silver cup for answers, he relied on God for guidance.
What is Joseph going to do? Is he going to insist that Benjamin remain in Egypt and demand that his half-brothers return to their father? Maybe he will punish Judah by making him his slave and send the rest of his brothers home.
We will find out next week what is to become of Benjamin, Judah, and the other men. Don’t miss it.