This was Joseph’s second part of the final exam. First came the vertical test. Had his brothers gotten to the place where they read the hand of God into their daily life? Yes. They had demonstrated this in their attitude. Next came the horizontal test. Which would they choose, themselves or Benjamin? Had there been any change in their hearts over the years?
So Joseph said, “I would never punish all of you for one man’s crime. The cup has been found in your youngest brother’s possession, so he is the one I will punish. He will forfeit his freedom and become my slave. The rest of you, go in peace. You can return to your father.”
Following this pronouncement comes a shocking speech: “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. 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?” (Genesis 44:33–34).
Do you realize who is saying this? Again, it is Judah. These “unexcelled” words were coming from the same man who, twenty years earlier along with his brothers, proposed without remorse, “Here comes that dreamer, Joseph. Let’s kill him and say that a ferocious animal devoured him.” Shortly after that cold-blooded proposal, he rationalized, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Let’s sell him to the slave traders instead.”
Yet here he is now, pleading for his youngest brother. Added to that, he is pleading on behalf of his aging father.
A few years earlier, Judah could not have cared less what his father thought, since his father had always shown favoritism to Rachel’s sons. In fact, the violence and cruelty Judah and his brothers perpetrated against Joseph was an indirect act of cruelty committed against their father.
Now, of all things, this same man is exhibiting a sacrificial attitude. “Take me instead. But send Benjamin back home. I cannot bear to imagine such grief that would overtake my father.” No, it’s not the same man; Judah has changed.
No doubt about it. All his brothers were becoming transformed men, and Joseph recognized this. Repentance had done its work.