● Gen 44:14-17 . .When Judah and his brothers re-entered the house of Joseph, who was still there, they threw themselves on the ground before him. Joseph said to them: What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me practices divination?
. . . Judah replied: What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found. But he replied: Far be it from me to act thus! Only he in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave; the rest of you go back in peace to your father.
Surely Jacob wouldn't blame the older boys for the loss, since he was fully aware of the risks involved when he sent his sons back to Egypt for food; and the evidence against Benjamin made it appear he had no one to blame but himself for getting into trouble. And this time, the men wouldn't have to fake a death like they did Joseph's. It was a perfect situation; and I really think Joseph fully expected them to take advantage of Benjamin's plight and go back home without Joseph's brother; clapping themselves on the back for their good fortune at ridding themselves of yet one more "favorite" sibling.
I can only imagine Joseph's surprise to see them all, to a man, including the Terrible Trio-- Rueben, Simeon, and Levi --following his steward home with their clothing ripped, and their heads hung low with fear and anxiety.
Then, as if that wasn't surprise enough; Judah steps forward and pins the blame, not on Benjamin, but on all eleven of their own selves; thus demonstrating a degree of solidarity that I have no doubt Joseph had never before seen among his prone-to-rivalry elder brothers. Instead of asking how can Benjamin prove "his" innocence, Judah asks how can "we" prove "our" innocence. So then, Benjamin's alleged guilt is the whole family's guilt, rather than an individual matter; and in point of fact, it is a national matter too because those twelve men (counting Joseph) as a unit, represented the blossoming nation of Israel.
● Gen 44:18 . .Then Judah went up to him and said: Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharaoh.
Joseph didn't dispute Judah on the matter of being the equal of Pharaoh. Not that he was a pharaoh; but that to Egypt's people, Joseph was as close to being the actual pharaoh as anybody under a pharaoh could possibly get. Compare Dan 7:13-13 where a human being is honored with the powers of God; so that God's subjects have to bend the knee to that highly exalted man just as if he were God in person. (cf. Ps 110:1 and Php 2:9-11)
● Gen 44:19-34 . . My lord asked his servants: Have you a father or another brother? We told my lord: We have an old father, and there is a child of his old age, the youngest; his full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother, and his father dotes on him. Then you said to your servants: Bring him down to me, that I may set eyes on him. We said to my lord: The boy cannot leave his father; if he were to leave him, his father would die. But you said to your servants: Unless your youngest brother comes down, you will not see my face.
. . .When we came back to your servant my father, we reported my lord's words to him. Later our father said: Go back and procure some food for us. We answered: We cannot go down; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go down, for we may not see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.
. . .Your servant my father said to us: As you know, my wife bore me two sons. But one is gone from me, and I said: Alas, he was torn by a beast! And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to death in sorrow.
. . . Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us-- since his own life is so bound up with his --when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will send the white head of your servant our father down to death in grief. Now your servant has pledged himself for the boy to my father, saying: If I do not bring him back to you, I shall stand guilty before my father forever.
. . .Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me? Let me not be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!
Judah's impassioned plea isn't for Benjamin's sake, but for the sake of his father. That is an incredible turn-around since nobody seemed to care much about Jacob's feelings back in chapter 37 when they all to a man manipulated their dad into concluding Joseph was mauled to death by a wild animal.
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