New European Commentary

 

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Gen 44:1 He commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in his sack’s mouth- Again, Joseph [like the Lord Jesus] used every opportunity to shower them with grace; simply because he loved them, and yet also with the hope that as Paul puts it, the goodness of God would lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). There was obviously a set price for grain, but he gave them more than what they had paid for, seeking to teach them that his grace was not proportionate to their works or what materially they could give him. They had tried to shrug off Joseph's previous grace to them concerning the money in the sacks' mouths by imagining it was "an oversight". But the fact it happened a second time was meant to underline to them Joseph's grace.

Gen 44:2 Put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, with his grain money. He did according to the word that Joseph had spoken- "Silver" and "money" are the same word in Hebrew. Perhaps Joseph wanted to teach Benjamin and all of them about the fact that silver is so often the path to spiritual ruin. The brothers had sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver, and there was probably far more than twenty pieces of silver in the sacks. I suggested on Gen. 37:26 that the attraction of silver was a significant factor in the decision to sell Joseph into slavery. He was repaying evil with good, in the same terms as it had been paid out to him, as it were. Silver was thus demonstrated by Joseph to be utterly immaterial compared to Divine grace, and the issues of life and death. For without Joseph's wisdom and generosity, silver of itself could not save them from death by starvation.


Gen 44:3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys- The Divine camera enables us to imagine them, leaving with donkeys laden down with a heavier load than intended ["as much as they can carry", :1], made heavier by the silver; we see the men and their donkeys silhouetted against the rising sin.

Gen 44:4 When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, Up, follow after the men. When you overtake them, ask them, ‘Why have you rewarded evil for good?'- See on :6. They would naturally feel 'But we didn't reward this man evil for good'. Indeed they had not, in the immediate context. But they had done evil to Joseph (Gen. 50:15,17,20 "You meant it for evil"). The purpose of false accusations is to provoke self examination and perhaps to reveal to us that in other contexts, those accusations against us are true in their essence. For as soon as they started to protest that they had not done evil to Joseph... they surely would realize deep in their subconscious that indeed they had done so. We can infer that Joseph had only done them "good" before they did him "evil". And the good he had done them was to attempt to be their spiritual leader, although he was only 17.

 

Gen 44:5 Isn’t this that from which my lord drinks, and by which he indeed divines? You have done evil in so doing’- They likely realized that all the myths of divination through cups were bunk; and yet this man with whom they had to do could indeed "divine" them, setting them according to their ages. So they would have realized that somehow their attitude to this cup incident was going to be how Joseph 'divined' them; but it was their response to it which was going to make the answer. Would they rally around their brother Benjamin, and be prepared to suffer for and with him, this son of Rachel [as Joseph was]- or would they seek to justify themselves and leave him to his fate? Would they care about their father's grief, or not? Would the false accusation make them realize that although they had not stolen Joseph's cup whilst enjoying his huge grace to them over the meal table, they had in another context all rewarded evil for good?

And so the incident points forward to the table of the Lord Jesus, the grace of which we too have all in some way abused. Our spirit / attitude is the candle of the Lord, with which He searches us. Our thoughts when confronted by the cross reveal us to Him who died on it. Likewise Joseph (one of the most detailed types of the Lord) knew / discerned his brethren by his cup (Gen. 44:5). 1 Cor. 11:31,32 further suggests that our self-judgment at the breaking of bread is in fact the Lord’s judgment of us; just as Joseph's discernment of them was really their discernment of themselves.

The divining may be a reference to his interpreting the butler's dream involving the cup; see on Gen. 40:11. The Hebrew for “divines" means literally ‘to make trial’; their taking of the cup was their trial / judgment. Thus we drink either blessing or condemnation to ourselves by taking the cup. The word used by the LXX for “divines" in Gen. 44:5 occurs in the NT account of the breaking of bread service: ‘everyone should examine himself, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup’ (1 Cor. 11:28). The Lord examines us, as we examine ourselves. There is a mutuality here- the spirit of man is truly the candle of the Lord (Prov. 20:27). He searches us through our own self-examination. He knows all things, but there may still be methods that He uses to gather than information. Our hearts are revealed to God through our own self-examination. And is it mere co-incidence that the Hebrew words for “divination" and “snake" are virtually identical [nahash]? The snake lifted up on the pole [cp. the crucified Jesus] is the means of trial / divination. Through the cross, the thoughts of many hearts are revealed (Lk. 2:35), just as they will be at the last day. Thus the breaking of bread ceremony is a means towards the sort of realistic self-examination which we find so hard to achieve in normal life.

 

Gen 44:6 He overtook them, and he spoke these words to them- Jacob's sons had been pursued and overtaken once before; the same word is used of Laban doing so to the Jacob family (Gen. 31:25). And Laban had likewise accused them of rewarding him evil for good, and he had made an accusation against them- that they had stolen his idols. That accusation was true, but it was turned into a false accusation by God's grace saving them from being "overtaken" and Rachel hiding the idols and lying to her father. And they would have been intended to make the connection; that they then had been saved by grace, they who were liars. And now they had been "overtaken" again, and a false accusation was made, that they had rewarded good with evil. But their consciences would have been pricked; for they had indeed done evil, and they would only be saved from this 'overtaking' by Divine grace. All these things were carefully planned to elicit their repentance. How many of the prods they felt and responded to, we do not know; but somewhere in their deep subconscious, surely something was stirred.


Gen 44:7 They said to him, Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing!- As I have often mentioned, the Divine purpose of the experience of false accusation is in order to elicit from us the recognition that although we didn't do what we were accused of, we have in essence done the same in other areas. Whilst they had not stolen the cup, it was not so far from them to reward evil for good. But the brothers begin to show signs that they will not abandon Benjamin; for the pronouns vary: "They said... My Lord... your servants... that they...". So they are beginning to have a very different attitude to that which they had toward Joseph years earlier.


Gen 44:8 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again to you out of the land of Canaan. How then should we steal silver or gold out of your lord’s house?- They begin however by parading their own righteousness and integrity. Yet the cup incident made them realize their guilt and made them acceptive of the judgment they deserved. And it made them quit their attempts at parading their own righteousness, no matter how valid it was in the immediate context. The cup made them realize their real status, and not just use empty words. Behold the contradiction in Gen. 44:9: “With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my Lord’s bondmen / servants". The Hebrew words translated “servants" and “bondmen" are the same. Their mere formal recognition that they were Joseph’s servants was to be translated into reality. Thus they say that Joseph had “found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my Lord’s servants". Describing themselves as His servants had been a mere formalism; now they wanted it in a meaningful reality. And the Lord’s cup can do the same to us. The way they were “searched" (Gen. 44:12) from the oldest to the youngest was surely the background for how the guilty men in Jn. 8 pined away in guilt from the Lord Jesus, from the eldest to the youngest. The whole experience would have elicited self-knowledge within them. The same word is found in Zech. 1:12, describing how God Himself would search out the sin of Jerusalem.

Joseph was trying to tell them: ‘What you did to the cup, you did to me. That cup is a symbol of me’. And inevitably the mind flies to how the Lord solemnly took the cup and said that this was Him. Our attitude to those emblems is our attitude to Him. We have perhaps over-reacted against the Roman Catholic view that the wine turns into the very blood of Jesus. It doesn’t, of course, but all the same the Lord did say that the wine is His blood, the bread is His body. Those emblems are effectively Him to us. They are symbols, but not mere symbols. If we take them with indifference, with minds focused on externalities, then this is our essential attitude to Him personally. This is why the memorial meeting ought to have an appropriate intensity about it- for it is a personal meeting with Jesus. “Here O my Lord, I see thee face to face". If it is indeed this, then the cup will be the means of eliciting within us our own realization of sin and subsequently, of our salvation in Jesus.

Gen 44:9 With whoever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondservants- Their emotional words reflect a lack of sensitivity to their father Jacob's feelings. They ought at least to have excluded Benjamin from their promises.

Here, being dead is paralleled with being a slave- that is the force of "die... we also will be bondservants". And there appears a parallel between being a bond slave and dying in :17. Indeed, Romans 6 draws the same parallel- death to sin is part of being a slave of Christ. The very fact we are baptized means we should not continue in sin, seeing we are dead to it (Rom. 6:2). This is one of the most basic implications of a first principle which we live in ignorance of most of our days. Baptism is a change of masters- but we are still bond slaves, not of sin, but of God. The implications of this figure may not be immediately apparent to the modern mind. We are totally committed to the Master- this is who we are, bond slaves.


Gen 44:10 He said, Now also let it be according to your words: he with whom it is found will be my bondservant; and you will be blameless- They should have sensed the grace shown in turning down their offer. Nobody would die, nor would they all become slaves. Yet the steward says that this is "according to your words". But his offer was not according to their words. The grace in it all is that their own self condemnation was turned around to something far more generous, and put back in their own mouths. They were intended to marvel at the grace, and to see that although there was going to be judgment, there was an extraordinary grace with the judge. We note too that this steward appears to have full authority to speak for Joseph, note "my bondservant". They would be blameless if only one of them had done it; the fact they plead a common, joint guilt ["the iniquity of your servants", :16] is therefore to be taken as not simply unity with their brother, but an expression of some other guilt, namely concerning Joseph.


Gen 44:11 Then they hurried, and each man took his sack down to the ground, and each man opened his sack- Their speed was to demonstrate their eagerness to show themselves innocent. As they opened their sacks, they would have again found their money in the sack mouth. So as they prepared to face judgment, they did so knowing that there was an amazing grace in the man with whom they had to do.


Gen 44:12 He searched, beginning with the eldest, and ending at the youngest. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack- As noted on :12, Benjamin would have seen the cup nestled amongst his returned money. It was a powerful visual symbol of how judgment and guilt was to be covered with the message of grace and passionate love toward him, and all of them. Again they would have noticed that Joseph and his steward knew their ages (as when he sat them by birth order at the table); for the search was made from eldest to youngest. We recall how the Lord Jesus likewise convicted the Jews in John 8 from the eldest to the youngest. So the specter of judgment hanging over them was again ameliorated by the awareness that their judge knew them intimately.


Gen 44:13 Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey, and returned to the city- "Each man..." signals that they all felt united with Benjamin; they didn't leave him to his fate. They had indeed moved on a long way from their attitude to Joseph. The repetition of circumstance in our lives is not only to teach us, but to make sure that we learnt the lesson- for what teacher doesn't give pupils exercises to practice the theory they've learnt? It seems that Joseph, acting on God's behalf and as a type of Christ, manipulated circumstances so that his brothers would have deja vu experiences. Thus he sets things up to tempt them with freedom if they again betray their younger brother (Benjamin) and are thoughtless to their father's pain. The united, frank and open response of the brothers (:16,17) showed how they had indeed learnt their lesson.


Gen 44:14 Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there- Judah now takes the lead amongst the brothers. He comes over as responsible and genuine in his care for Benjamin.

They fell on the ground before him- Joseph's dream was having multiple primary fulfilments as they all bow to him. The fact the dreams are not presented as having one clear fulfilment [for they bow before him on several occasions] shows that all the recorded bowing of the brothers was only primary fulfilment; and in any case, Rachel was not present as required.


Gen 44:15 Joseph said to them, What deed is this that you have done?- "What deed is this?" was to elicit their memory of the deed done to Joseph. He addresses them in the plural- trying to elicit from them the recognition that they had all returned evil for good with respect to himself. The Hebrew for "deed" is not the word that would be used if Joseph simply meant 'What have you done?' or 'What thing have you done?'. It's the same word translated "occupation" or 'trade' in Gen. 46:33; 47:3. The idea is of trading, and he is trying to elicit from the memory of their trading of him for 20 pieces of silver.

The whole story of Joseph is one of the clearest types of Jesus in the Old Testament. The way His brethren come before His throne and are graciously accepted is one of the most gripping foretastes we have of the final judgment. The rather strange way Joseph behaves towards them was surely to elicit within them a true repentance. He sought to bring them to self-knowledge through His cup. Joseph stresses to the brethren that it is through his cup that he “divines" to find out their sin. He also emphasizes that by stealing the cup they had “done evil" (Gen. 44:4,5). And yet they didn’t actually steal the cup. The “evil" which they had done was to sell him into Egypt (Gen. 50:20). They had “stolen" him (Gen. 40:15) in the same way they had “stolen" the cup. This is why he says that “you" (you plural, not singular, as it would have been if he was referring merely to Benjamin’s supposed theft) had stolen it (Gen. 44:15). And the brethren in their consciences understood what Joseph was getting at- for instead of insisting that they hadn’t stolen the cup, they admit: “What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" (Gen. 44:16 AV). Clearly their minds were on their treatment of Joseph, the sin which they had thought would not be found out. And this was why they were all willing to bear the punishment of becoming bondmen, rather than reasoning that since Benjamin had apparently committed the crime, well he alone must be punished.


Don’t you know that such a man as I can indeed divine?- The idea was 'I know that you have committed a great, evil deed'- concerning Joseph. The divining may be a reference to his interpreting the butler's dream involving the cup; see on Gen. 40:11. But "divine" is translated "I have learned by experience" in Gen. 30:27. Joseph is saying that he has seen them, knows them, has experienced them. This is about the clearest statement so far that 'I am Joseph'. They never got to quite the point Joseph wanted, for in the end he has to spell it out for them, although they were surely 'there' in their subconscious.

 

Gen 44:16 Judah said, What will we tell my lord? What will we speak?- This spirit influenced David when he likewise says: "What can I say to you? For you Lord know your servant" (2 Sam. 7:20). "What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves?" strikes a chord with Dan. 10:17, where even righteous Daniel in his figurative judgment finds it hard to speak. Our awareness of our sinfulness will doubtless have a like effect upon us. The moral desperation of the brethren ("how shall we clear ourselves?") will then be seen in us. Speechlessness is a characteristic of the rejected (Mt. 22:12); the brothers slunk away from Joseph's physical presence (45:4), as the rejected will (1 Jn. 2:28 Gk.). This all suggests that those accepted at the judgment seat will go through all the emotions of the rejected; they will realize that rejection is what they deserve. Those who judge (condemn) themselves now in their self-examination will not be condemned then.

Or how will we clear ourselves?- This is the word usually translated "righteous". How can a man be just / right with God? This is the question of all the faithful, from the book of Job to Paul in Romans. Job uses precisely the same Hebrew phrase, translated "How shall a man be just [with God]?" (Job 9:2; 15:14; 25:4). These are the only other occurrences of the phrase, and so clearly Job was influenced by Judah's words. No words, no silver, no works. We each come to this point. We just have to accept that we have sinned and cast ourselves upon the Lord, being willing to die or be His eternal servants. This ideally is the attitude we should have at baptism and then throughout our lives.

God has found out the iniquity of your servants- They had agreed that with whomsoever the cup was "found", he should die (s.w. :9). And it had been "found" with Benjamin. But Judah says that all of them had sinned and their sin had been "found". He therefore has in mind their sin against Joseph. There is a direct parallel with their admission of this sin in Gen. 42:21 "We are verily guilty concerning our brother" Joseph. God and not Joseph nor his steward had found out this singular "iniquity" of them all; so Judah refers to the iniquity with Joseph and not of stealing the cup.

Behold, we are my lord’s bondservants, both we, and he also in whose hand the cup is found- Judah doesn't plead innocent about stealing the cup, but agrees that Joseph has rightly perceived that they have a great hidden sin. Judah speaks of them as "servants" in the plural who have sinned, rather than in the singular, which he would've done if he only had Benjamin's behaviour in view. As noted on :10, the position was that they would all be held "blameless" if only one of them had stolen the cup. This joint plea was therefore a confession of some other joint sin- that concerning Joseph. This is why Judah says that despite the offer of only Benjamin being a slave, they would all accept this judgment.

The cup was “found" and they realized that God had “found out" their joint iniquity (Gen. 44:10,12,16). The cup was perceived by them as their “iniquity" with Joseph. They had used the very same Hebrew words years before, in telling Jacob of Joseph’s garment: “This have we found…" (Gen. 37:32).

Gen 44:17 He said, Far be it from me that I should do so- Joseph alludes to God's words and Abraham's plea regarding Sodom, that the righteous will not be destroyed with the wicked (Gen. 18:25). See on :18. Joseph is saying that they are now righteous. They have just said that there is no way they can be cleared or righteous (see on :16), but through this allusion, Joseph on God's behalf declares them righteous. This is an Old Testament version of Paul's teaching of imputed righteousness, by grace.

The man in whose hand the cup is found, he will be my bondservant; but as for you, go up in peace to your father- "Peace" carries the idea of peace with God. Joseph is saying that they are forgiven. Despite their statement that there is no way they can now be righteous and their confession of collective sin- with the sin against Joseph in their minds. Why then does Joseph want to keep Benjamin? Perhaps because Benjamin was the one who had not sinned against Joseph, and yet needed to be taught the same lessons of imputed righteousness. Or maybe Joseph wanted to see their response; he has said they are forgiven and at peace. Yet will they now abandon their brother? Have they learnt in practice what loyalty to your brother is all about? Will there be works appropriate to their faith in Joseph's forgiveness? And there will be.

Gen 44:18 Then Judah came near to him- The same word used of Abraham coming near to God to speak, continuing the allusion noted on :17.

And said, Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and don’t let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even as Pharaoh- Judah's recorded words in this chapter begin as broken sentences, and now become more lengthy an eloquent. This is psychologically as we would expect; we can be sure that we are reading the actual words spoken, thousands of years ago. It's hard to know whether Judah feels Joseph's anger is already burning, or is asking that this not be the case. If the former, then we have the wonderful picture of men thinking that Joseph like God is burning with anger against them, when in fact He is full of passionate, saving love toward us. And many will learn that wonderful lesson at the day of judgment. But if Judah means ' Do not be provoked to anger by what I am going to beg of you', then we have yet another connection with Abraham's words in pleading for Sodom (Gen. 18:30).


Gen 44:19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’- The question "Do you have a brother?" was intended to elicit their memories of what they had done to Joseph. Although Joseph had kindly accepted their confession of sin in :16 as good enough for him to forgive them, it was not really complete. Because they had failed to openly confess their sin with Joseph. And here we have a powerful lesson in not demanding repentance according to our terms before we forgive, nor judging the quality of others' forgiveness. For it seems God's eagerness to forgive and save means that whilst He seeks total repentance, He apparently settles for less, as Joseph did.


Gen 44:20 We said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother; and his father loves him’- Benjamin was in his 20s and had ten sons at this point, and presumably daughters too (Gen. 46:21). Judah cites their previous words to Joseph, with Benjamin standing there- perhaps now he is admitting that they had exaggerated Benjamin's youth. And yet the lie about Joseph, that he had been killed, was so ingrained in Judah that now in this moment of ultimate truth he still repeats it: "He alone is left of his mother". This is the problem with lying- the lie really becomes perceived truth if it is repeated long enough, and takes a lodgment in our entire worldview and self-understanding. Even at this point, Judah could not admit what surely his subconscious was telling him- that Joseph was standing in front of him.


Gen 44:21 You said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him’- This Hebrew phrase to set eyes upon is used in Am. 9:4 ("for evil") and Jer. 24:6 ("for good"). It implies Joseph was going to do something with him, rather than just wanting to literally see him.


Gen 44:22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy can’t leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die’- As noted on :20, Benjamin was a man in his 20s with ten sons. Jacob was clearly psychologically obsessed with Benjamin; his love for Rachel and Joseph was all channeled into this man.


Gen 44:23 You said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will see my face no more’- Joseph could believe the reported obsession of Jacob with Benjamin, and perhaps that was why he wanted Benjamin and Jacob to individuate from each other. For he had suffered the same problem with Jacob, and now realized that in God's plan, he had had to separate from Jacob in order to stand on his own feet before God. Joseph had threatened that if they saw his face again without their brother, then they would die. This is exactly how Pharaoh later threatened Moses (Ex. 10:28). Moses had made this threat "even as Pharaoh" (:18). Moses would have seen the connection, and realized that God's providence would likewise make this threat of no final reality. This is the advantage of familiarity with the text of Scripture; we see that our situations are not unique and have Biblical precedent, which encourages our faith and helps us realize that we are not alone and no situation is unprecedented.


Gen 44:24 It happened when we came up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord- The continual emphasis upon Jacob as Joseph's servant and "lord" was all a primary fulfilment of Joseph's dreams.


Gen 44:25 Our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food’- Judah is careful to report the conversations exactly as they were. Truthfulness was being elicited, but they still had not quite confessed as they needed to their sin with Joseph, the lie of their lives.


Gen 44:26 We said, ‘We can’t go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down: for we may not see the man’s face, unless our youngest brother is with us’- Although as noted on :25 Judah is being strictly accurate in reporting the conversations, he omits the death threat Joseph had twice made to them. He obviously didn't want to remind Joseph of that; he therefore still was not being totally open, and still hoping that by dint  of his own word choice he might secure a slightly better deal for them all.


Gen 44:27 Your servant, my father, said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons- Again, Judah is effectively bowing before Joseph in the name of Jacob, just as Joseph's dreams had required, by talking of "Your servant, my father".


Gen 44:28 And the one went out from me- True enough to any psychological reconstruction, Jacob remembered the last time he had seen Joseph, walking out of the family encampment with Jacob watching his receding figure as he went towards Dothan. The same words are used of how as a younger man, Jacob had gone out from his father Isaac (Gen. 27:30), never to see him for many years, apparently lost in Mesopotamia. The patterns in the life of Jacob are amazing, and they are too in our lives, if we perceive them.

 

And I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I haven’t seen him since- This could be taken as meaning 'This is what I thought at the time, I was sure of it; although it's true that since then, I never saw him again'. As noted on Gen. 37:33, the story of Joseph's death begged many questions and Jacob would never have been satisfied as to what actually happened. At this point in Judah's speech, the brothers would all have internally hung their heads. Judah really ought to have said something like: 'This is what your servant our father thought, but actually it was because we lied to him and deceived him; although we didn't steal your cup, we committed a greater sin that this experience with you has reminded us of- we nearly killed our brother, and then sold him down here into Egypt as a slave. We are therefore sure that God has found out this sin and are willing to take whatever punishment He, through you, thinks appropriate'. But Judah didn't say that. He ought to have done, and he had been set up now to say it- but he doesn't. And still Joseph loves them and accepts them.

Gen 44:29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol’- The brothers taking this one also from Jacob suggests that he suspected they had killed Joseph, or were responsible for his disappearance. Judah faithfully reports Jacob's words; and again, as suggested on :28, he now had the chance to say in so many words what they had done. But he doesn't.


Gen 44:30 Now therefore when I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us; since his life is bound up in the boy’s life- The idea was that if Benjamin did not return, then Jacob would lose his life because he would assume that a son who had not returned, even if he was a slave and alive in Egypt, was effectively dead. This ought to have made the brothers realize that by selling Joseph into Egypt, so that he did not return to Jacob, they had effectively taken Joseph's life from him. They had murdered him, and their careful legalistic plan to not spill his blood themselves was not effective in taking away their guilt for his blood.


Gen 44:31 It will happen, when he sees that the boy is no more, that he will die. Your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant, our father, with sorrow to Sheol- See on :30. For a son to remain alive in Egypt as a slave was still tantamount, in Jacob's perception, to the son dying. The brothers had therefore effectively killed Joseph by selling him as a living slave into Egypt. This therefore was why Joseph raised the whole idea of Benjamin remaining as a slave in Egypt. He wanted the brothers to realize that this was effectively murder, a killing of Benjamin. And that is what they had done to Joseph. It is hard to find any other explanation as to what Joseph's intentions were by telling the brothers that Benjamin must remain as a slave in Egypt, and they were to return to their father. They didn't want that outcome, because, as Judah now explains, it would be effectively the death of Benjamin.


Gen 44:32 For your servant became collateral for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I don’t bring him to you, then I will bear the blame to my father forever’- As explained on :30,31, to be a slave in Egypt was effectively death. Judah was willing to accept this 'death' for the sake of Benjamin his brother; and perhaps he was motivated by the realization that he deserved it anyway for having sold Joseph into this death. This was why all the brothers were willing to be slaves in Egypt.


Gen 44:33 Now therefore, please let your servant stay instead of the boy, a bondservant to my lord; and let the boy go up with his brothers- As noted on Gen. 38:1, Judah was somewhat separated from the other brothers and lived apart from them. But he is willing to accept a living death for the sake of one of his brothers. He was thereby coming closer to the spirit of Joseph, the one separate from his brothers who would sacrifice all to save them. But as when Moses later offered to eternally die instead of Israel, God doesn't accept substitutionary atonement in this sense. And here too, Joseph doesn't accept it.


Gen 44:34 For how will I go up to my father, if the boy isn’t with me? Lest I see the evil that will come on my father- Again we see real spiritual progress from the time when Judah and the others didn't care for the evil that they had brought upon their father. At any time, they could've sat down with him and confessed and put him out of some of his misery. But they hadn't. Perhaps now Judah was vowing that if he ever saw his father again, he would tell him the truth about the Joseph incident. And so at this point, Joseph decides that they had all got as far as they were going to get in terms of confession and repentance, and calls an end to the process.