The sons of Jacob were not far from the city when they looked back and saw the prime minister’s steward overtaking them. Once he caught up, he accused them of stealing from the Egyptian leader. “How could you do such a deceitful deed, after having been treated so well?”
They did not hesitate to let the steward examine their sacks of food, beginning with Reuben, the oldest. But lo and behold, when the steward got all the way down to the youngest, he found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack!
They had to return to the city with the steward, of course, where they were immediately ushered into the prime minister’s presence. There, Judah did the talking.
This confession from Judah’s mouth was amazing. But this was precisely what Joseph had been waiting for; this was why he had given the final exam. They passed. In fact all the brothers made straight A’s on the first part of the test.
In speaking for his brothers, Judah did not attempt to justify himself or the others, nor does he try to pass the blame off onto Benjamin. Unlike before, they didn’t turn on Benjamin and reject him as they had Joseph so many years ago. Judah says, in no uncertain terms, they were all guilty.
Given their history, this is an amazing admission. A real change had begun in their attitude. Think about the fact that these words were coming from the mouth and heart of Judah!
Joseph wanted to know whether his brothers were able to read the hand of God into daily life, even in things that seemed unfair. Even in misfortune and death. He wanted to see if their vertical scope was clear. And now he heard this confession coming out of Judah’s mouth, who laid the guilt on all their shoulders. “Before God we have been found out. We are guilty! Our iniquity has been discovered.”
I believe that in his confession Judah was actually going back over twenty years earlier and was referring to those days when they not only hated their brother Joseph but turned against him and sold him into slavery. Had it not been for Reuben, they would have murdered him. This now haunted these men. Judah had begun to realize that God did not overlook an unrepented offense.