44 After the meal was over, Joseph commanded the steward of his house.
Joseph: Fill the men’s sacks with food—as much as they can carry. Put each man’s money back into the top of his sack. 2 One more thing: I want you to put my personal cup, my silver cup, into the top of the sack of the youngest, along with his money for the grain.
The steward did everything Joseph told him to do.
3 The next morning, as soon as it was light, the men were sent off with their donkeys toward home. 4 But when they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph spoke to his steward.
Joseph: Go now, and follow them. When you catch up to them, say to them, “Why have you repaid kindness with evil? My master’s silver cup is missing, and you have it. 5 Isn’t this the cup from which he drinks? Doesn’t he use it for divination, to discover secrets hidden from most men? You have committed evil in doing this.”
6 So the steward went after them. And when he caught up to them, he repeated the words Joseph told him to say.
Joseph’s Brothers: 7 Why would my lord accuse us of something like this? We, your servants, would never do such a thing! 8 Remember the money we found at the top of our sacks after our first trip? We brought it back to you from the land of Canaan. Why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house this time? 9 If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man be put to death, and the rest of us will become my lord’s servants.
Steward: 10 Let it be as you say, but I’ll be more lenient: whoever is found to possess the cup will become my servant. The rest of you will be considered innocent and may go free.
11 Then they all moved quickly, retrieved their sacks, lowered them to the ground, and opened them so the steward could see what was inside them. 12 He searched each sack, beginning with the eldest son and ending with the youngest; at last, the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothes in anguish. They knew what had to happen. They had no choice but to load their donkeys and return to the city.
14 Judah and his brothers all came to Joseph’s house while he was still there, and they fell to the ground in front of him.
Joseph: 15 What have you done? Don’t you know that someone in my position practices divination and can discover secrets hidden from most men?
Judah (speaking for the rest): 16 What can we possibly say to you, my lord? How can we explain this? How can we clear ourselves of this mistake? God has found your servants to be guilty. Here we are then, slaves to you, my lord, all of us and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.
Judah speaks the truth. God has uncovered their guilt and exposed it for all to see. Not that someone in their party has stolen Joseph’s cup—that’s not what he means—but years ago they conspired and stole Joseph’s freedom. Ironically they could now lose their freedom to Joseph.
Joseph: 17 Far be it from me that I should do something like that! Only the one in possession of the cup will be my slave. As for the rest of you, go in peace to your father!
18 But then Judah stepped up to Joseph and begged him for mercy.
Judah: O, my lord, let your servant please speak a private word to you. Please don’t be angry with me, for you are just like Pharaoh himself. 19 You asked us once if we had a father or a brother, 20 and we told you, “Yes. We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him dearly.” 21 Then you told us to bring the boy down to you, so that you could see him. 22 At first we said to you, “The boy cannot leave his father because his father would die without him,” 23 but you told us that unless he came with us, you wouldn’t agree to see us again.
24 When we went back to your servant, our father, we told him what you said, my lord. 25 And when our father asked us to go again to buy more food, 26 we told him, “We cannot go without our youngest brother, or we won’t be able to get in to see him.” So our youngest brother came with us. 27 Then your servant, my father, responded, “You know that my wife Rachel bore me two sons: 28 one went off and never came back, and I know he was without a doubt torn to pieces. I haven’t seen him since he left. 29 But now if you take my youngest also from me and any harm should come to him, the sorrow would kill me. I can’t allow you to condemn this old, gray head to the grave.”
30-31 So now if I go back to your servant, my father, without the boy, he will die because his life depends completely on the welfare of his boy. As soon as he sees that Benjamin is not with us, the sorrow will kill him and we, your servants, will condemn the old, gray head of our father, your servant, to the grave. 32 I gave my father my word that I would take care of the boy and return him safely home. I told him, “If I don’t bring him back to you in one piece, then I am perfectly willing to bear the blame forever.” 33 So please let me, your servant, remain as your slave in place of the boy; and let him go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father without the boy? I couldn’t stand to see the terrible suffering this would put him through.
Judah has come a long way. He is no longer the selfish young man who conspired with his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery (37:26–27). Though he knew that decision would have a devastating effect on his father, Judah did not seem to care. Nor is he the lustful man who propositioned the prostitute who happened to be his daughter-in-law (38:1–30). Now he is different. His priorities have changed. He is willing to sacrifice his freedom and future to save his father the grief of losing Benjamin. Judah’s transformation is not immediate; it takes years to accomplish. But his place in the family and his selfless example impact the children of Israel for generations to come.
45 Then Joseph could no longer keep his composure. The room was crowded with people so he ordered his attendants:
Joseph: Send everyone out of the room!
Joseph didn’t want anyone else in the room when he finally told his brothers his true identity. 2 But he began to cry so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the Pharaoh’s household heard it too! Joseph turned and addressed his brothers:
Joseph: 3 I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?
But his brothers were too shocked to speak. They couldn’t answer, for they were so overwhelmed that they were standing in Joseph’s presence.
Joseph (to his brothers): 4 Come closer to me.
His brothers approached him cautiously.
Joseph: I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Don’t be upset or angry with yourselves any longer because of what you did. You see God sent me here ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For famine struck this land two years ago, and there are five more years in which there will be no plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you and your families survive this terrible ordeal and have a remnant left on earth. 8 So it wasn’t really you who sent me here, but God; the same God who made me an advisor to Pharaoh, master of his household, and ruler over everyone in the land of Egypt.
9 Hurry now, go to my father, and relay this message: “Here is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master over all Egypt. Come to me and don’t delay. 10 I’ll arrange for all of you to settle in the land of Goshen where you can be near me—you and all of your children and grandchildren, as well as your flocks and herds and everything you have. 11 I will provide for you there. Since five more years of famine are still to come, I will make sure your household and everything you have will not descend into poverty.’”
12 Now you see with your own eyes, and even my brother Benjamin sees, that it is really I who speak to you even without an interpreter. 13 You must tell my father how honored I am here in Egypt. Tell him everything you’ve seen here. Hurry. Bring my father here.
14 With that he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck. They embraced, and both wept. 15 Then he kissed all of his brothers one by one, cried on their shoulders as well, and after that they talked for a time together.
16 The news spread to Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come. When Pharaoh and his other advisors heard, they were pleased.
Pharaoh (to Joseph): 17 Tell your brothers, “Do this: Load your animals, and go back to the land called Canaan. 18 Get your father and your families; come here to me, and I will give you the prime properties of Egypt. You will enjoy the very best Egypt has to offer.” 19 Now, Joseph, I command you to tell them also, “Do this: Take wagons from the land of Egypt so that your little children, your wives, and your father can make the journey. Come quickly. 20 Don’t worry about bringing all your things, for once you get here, the best of Egypt will be spread out at your feet.”
21-22 The sons of Israel did exactly as Pharaoh ordered. Joseph followed Pharaoh’s directive and made sure they had enough wagons. He gave them food and other supplies for their journey including an extra change of clothes. But to Benjamin he gave about seven and a half pounds of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 To his father, he sent even more: 10 donkeys loaded with the best Egyptian gifts and 10 female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provisions for his father for the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers on their way. As they were leaving, he gave them one last piece of advice.
Joseph: Don’t argue along the way!
Once again Joseph and his brothers are parting company. But this time is much different: they know where he is and who he has become. Although Joseph has been separated from his brothers for many years, he remembers how they were; and he is counting on the fact that they are a quarrelsome bunch. He has intentionally given Benjamin more money and clothes than the others. That in itself is enough to cause bickering and squabbling among the crew. In addition, he knows they are worried. They have just received quite a shock. To learn after all these years that the brother they sold into slavery has become one of the most powerful men in the world takes time to process. The famine, the journey from Canaan, and the shock of seeing him again have taken a toll on them. Now they have to go back, get their families, and return. The road home leaves plenty of time to worry about what might become of them, plenty of time for nerves to fray and anger to stir. Joseph knows they have a hard journey ahead, and they need to pull together and not apart.
25 The brothers traveled east out of Egypt and eventually turned north to return to their father, Jacob, in the land of Canaan. 26 They couldn’t wait to tell him the good news.
Joseph’s Brothers: Father, Joseph is still alive! But more than that, he is ruler over all of the land of Egypt.
Their father was stunned; he couldn’t believe his ears. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him to Egypt, his spirits soared, and he resolved to make the trip.
Israel: 28 I have seen enough. My son Joseph is alive! I must go and see him before I die.