44 Then he commanded his house steward, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. 2 Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph had told him. 3 As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. 4 They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, “Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’”
6 So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. 7 They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. 8 Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.” 10 So he said, “Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.” 11 Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.
14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?” 16 So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” 17 But he said, “Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
18 Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20 We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24 Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 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, 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32 For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33 Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
Here was the first phase of the final test of Joseph’s brothers. While they had initially insisted that the thief die and the others remain as slaves, the steward set the penalty as slavery only for the culprit. The others could go on their way. And yet, all of the brothers tore their clothes as a sign of grief and mourning, and all of them returned to Joseph’s house. Had they acted only in self-interest, they would have renounced Benjamin as a thief, deserted him, and fled from Egypt as quickly as possible. But something different was taking place. These were not the same men that had determined to do away with Joseph at Dothan.
More than twenty years had passed since they had sold Joseph into slavery, and yet it was as though they were reliving the event in the person of Benjamin. Benjamin, Jacob’s beloved, was in their care, far from Jacob’s protection. He was accused of a terrible crime for which there was no opportunity to establish his innocence. They, without any real guilt, such as they deserved before, could merely choose to walk away and enjoy their liberty at Benjamin’s expense. They could return to their father just as they had done so long ago and break his heart with the news that his other son was “no more.” More than twenty years later, the same temptation faces these men. Will they evidence a change of heart, or will they act in self-interest? That is what Joseph must know. The moment of truth has arrived.
A casual consideration of this passage might lead us to conclude that Judah had been successful in tugging at Joseph’s heart strings. Joseph disclosed himself because he could stand it no longer. This explanation is not sufficient, and it does not fit the facts. On previous occasions Joseph had also been emotionally touched (42:24; 43:30), but he had always been able to restrain these emotions. It was not that now his emotions finally controlled Joseph, but that Joseph’s purposes had been realized. Judah’s appeal did not change Joseph’s heart so much as it revealed that Judah’s heart had undergone a significant change since the day many years before when he had been instrumental in selling Joseph into slavery. In short, Joseph was now able to reveal his identity because genuine repentance had been evidenced.
Up until this moment there was insufficient evidence of repentance. Previous chapters have indicated that Joseph’s brothers recognized their suffering as the result of their sin, but at best they felt only regret. They wished, I believe, that they had not sold Joseph into slavery. Perhaps they were sorry that their father had to suffer as he did. And they regretted that they had to endure the consequences of their sins. This was a good beginning, but it was not enough. Regret is no more than what we would expect from anyone who is faced with the unpleasant consequences of sin. Every prisoner regrets their crime, or at least the fact that they were caught. But repentance is more than regret.
Repentance is the recognition of our sins which results in the kind of sorrow that brings about a change in our intellect, emotions, and will. In other words, repentance recognizes sin and is genuinely sorry for it, so much so that this sin will be shunned and a new course of action will be sought.
The principle which underlies the protracted dealings of Joseph in the lives of his brothers is this: there can be no reconciliation without genuine repentance. That is what caused Joseph to delay so long in revealing his identity to his brothers. If there were to be true unity in his family, there must first be true reconciliation. And that reconciliation would not come before his brothers experienced and evidenced biblical repentance.
Usually people can tell if you mean it when you apologize. Kids often just say "sorry" because it's expected of them, but really feel that whatever they've done was justified, so the apology is often insincere and this comes through in the tone of voice. It's only when someone recognizes that what they did really was wrong and are truly sorry for it that a relationship between two people can be restored. The same goes for our relationship with God. True repentance means turning away from our sin. Not just confessing, but truly repenting and seeking "a new course of action".
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 45