Judah's Passionate Plea
After the meal the brothers' sacks of grain were filled, and Joseph secretly arranged for their money to be returned to them again in their sacks. However, he also gave instructions that his silver cup be placed in the sack of Benjamin. Then, after the brothers left the city, Joseph instructed his servant to overtake them and ask about the cup - "Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing" (Gen. 44:4,5). The servant obeyed and the brothers replied - "Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing. Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord's slaves" (44:7-9). The brothers know they have not stolen anything; they have nothing to hide.

The servant replied - "He with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless" (44:10). The servant does not desire for any to die, but the one who was found in possession of the silver cup would become a slave. All the men lower their sacks to the ground and open them up for inspection. The servant began with the oldest and ended with the youngest. "The cup was found in Benjamin's sack. Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city" (44:12,13). The brothers are overwhelmed with terror and grief. How could this happen to them, particularly to Benjamin? He was the one they had to protect!

Once back in Joseph's presence, the brothers again fall before him on the ground. The childhood dream of his brothers bowing before him had been repeatedly fulfilled now (cf. 42:6; 43:26; 44:14). Joseph speaks to them - "What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?" (44:15). This comment, coupled with the statement from 44:5, is intriguing. Typically, we understand divination to be a heathen practice and forbidden, so why is Joseph involved in such? Was he merely pretending to be involved in such to test their attitude toward God? This seems unlikely. Some have compared it to the Urim and Thummim the high priests would later use for divine communication. There is much we simply do not know about the details of the activity Joseph claimed to be involved in. It seems safe to assume that whatever it was God had approved of it in Joseph's case. It is possible he could have used a cup in some way when he interpreted dreams, per God's instructions.

The brothers then offer themselves all as slaves, but Joseph only wants the one with whom the cup was found. This is certainly a test to measure their concern for both Benjamin and Jacob. Judah will pass the test with flying colors as he drew near to Joseph to deliver a passionate plea. He doesn't make any attempt at defense but narrated for Joseph how they had come to the current situation. He believed God was punishing them for their earlier crime against Joseph! He then explained the intimate connection between Benjamin and his father, and that the other son whom the father had especially loved had been torn to pieces. This information might have solved a potential mystery for Joseph: Why hadn't his father thoroughly searched for him after he was sold? The answer: Jacob thought Joseph was dead!

Judah then quoted his father saying - "But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair to the grave" (44:29). Judah then continued his appeal for mercy:

"Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad's life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.' Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?" (44:29-34).

His plea to Joseph here is unsurpassed in the Old Testament for its emotion. Judah fears for his father's life and is willing to sacrifice himself for Israel. Judah is a great leader here. How will Joseph react?