April 10, 2017

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

 

Topic # D: VISITS OF JOSEPH'S BROTHERS. Gen. 42:1-45:28                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

Lesson IV.D.8: Judah's Speech and Proposal.  (Gen. 44:18-34)                                      


 

Genesis 44:18-34 (KJV)

 

18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.

19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?

20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.

21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.

22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

23 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.

24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

25 And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.

26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us.

27 And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:

28 And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:

29 And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life;

31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.

 

“Then Judah came near unto him”

Being the spokesman for his brethren (and the surety for Benjamin to his father), “Judah” gathered his courage, and came a little nearer to the governor, and with much freedom and boldness, and in a very polite manner, presented his humble petition to him. Nothing in all of literature surpasses this appeal of Judah’s in behalf of his brother and his father. It is remarkable that he makes no attempt to deny the charge of taking the cup; he makes no plea of innocence, but assumes that God was in all that was connected with the silver cup, Benjamin, and discovering the iniquity of himself and his brethren.

 

After the terrible sentence which Joseph had passed [“And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father” (Genesis 44:17)], Judah became more immediately interested, and was determined to plead the cause of his brother; and every man, who reads to the close of this chapter, must confess, that Judah acts here the part both of the faithful brother and dutiful son, who, rather than behold his father's misery, should Benjamin be left behind, submits to becoming a bondsman in his place. He knew Jacob would never survive the loss of Benjamin; and if the brothers returned without him, they would see their father die in agony before their eyes.  

 

Stepping forward towards the governor with the courage and modesty of a hero, he delivered that address which is one of the masterpieces of Hebrew composition. And, indeed, there is such an air of frankness and generosity running through the whole strain of his speech; the sentiments are so tender and touching, the expressions are so passionate, and flow so much from a sincere nature, that it is no wonder, if they came home to Joseph's heart, and forced him to throw off the mask, as we find he does in the next chapter.

 

“and said, O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears”

We have here a most pathetic speech which Judah made to Joseph on Benjamin's behalf. Either Judah was a better friend to Benjamin than the rest, and had a greater desire to bring him home to old Jacob; or he thought he was under a greater obligation to attempt to do so, than the rest, because he had given his word to his father that he would bring him home safely. 

 

Judah humbly asks, first, for permission to speak, because his narrative was about to be wordy, and secondly, that he would not be displeased with his boldness, and the freedom he takes, but hear him patiently. And while nobles are offended, and take it angrily if anyone addresses them with too much familiarity, Judah begins by stating that he is not ignorant of the great honor which Joseph had received in Egypt, for he was becoming bold, not through impertinence, but through necessity.

 

“In my lord’s ears,”that is, in thy hearing; for this phrase does not necessarily imply that he whispered in his ears; as appears from Numbers 14:28, Deuteronomy 32:44, Jude 17:2.

 

“for thou art even as Pharaoh”

The phrase, “for thou art even as Pharaoh,” signifies equality to Pharaoh in power and authority; and therefore thy anger is as much to be dreaded, as even that of the king himself― “The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass” (Proverbs 19:12). Like the king, Josephcould exercise justice or show mercy, punish or release from punishment, at his pleasure; he represented his person, so he was invested with his majesty and authority, and therefore thy word is a law―you can do with us what you please, either spare or punish us, and therefore we are fearful of thy anger, and most humbly implore thy favorable audience and princely compassion on us. [He is laying it on pretty thick.]

 

19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?

 

“My lord asked his servants”

Judah reminds him of a conversation they had the first time they came down to Egypt to buy corn.

 

“saying, have ye a father or a brother?”

At that time, the governor questioned them, “saying, have ye a father or a brother?” which was after their saying that they were the sons of one man (Genesis 42:11). Joseph needed to know if his father was still living.

 

20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.

 

“And we said unto my lord, we have a father

He was still alive and living in the land of Canaan.

 

When we read this generous speech, we cannot help but to forgive Judah for all his past bad behavior and we cannot refuse to say, "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise."

 

“an old man

 Seeing that he is currently one hundred and thirty years of age [“And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my father’s" (Genesis 47:9).]

 

“and a child of his old age”

 

The child is Benjamin, who was born when he was near a hundred years of age.

 

“a little one

Benjamin was little, not in stature, but in age, being the youngest son, and much younger than his brethren; so they resented him on that account, and because he was their father’s favorite, and not trained in business and unaccustomed to hardship, and consequently unfit for travel. Thus, Judah gave this reason to explain why he did not come with them―because he was young and immature, and unfit for such a journey.

 

“and his brother is dead”

They thought his brother Joseph was dead, since they had not heard of him for twenty-two years or more; and they had said he was dead, so often, or suggested it, that they eventually believed he was indeed dead.

 

“and he alone is left of his mother

Since they believed Joseph was dead, they must also believe Benjamin was the only child of his mother Rachel, still living. Rachel had been dead for about twenty-four years.  

 

“and his father loveth him

Benjamin, being Jacob’s youngest son, and the only child remaining of his beloved Rachel, he was therefore very dear unto him.

 

21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.

 

“And thou saidst unto thy servants, bring him down unto me

Judah continues to remind the governor of what he said to them on that first trip to buy corn. Notice, he does not relate the reason for his order, which they thought was to give proof that they were not spies, but was really designed by Joseph to get them to return with Benjamin, which is what they did.

 

“that I may set mine eyes upon him

He wanted to set his “eyes upon him,” not merely for his own pleasure, but for the good of Benjamin; he said that he would treat him well, show him kindness, and take care of him. Joseph's brethren had told him, that Benjamin was at home with their father, who they suggested was afraid to let him go with them, for fear that something evil would happen to him. At this moment, Judah presents an argument to the governor in favor of Benjamin, that since he desired his coming, in order to show him a kindness, he hoped he would not detain him, and make a slave of him.

 

22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

 

“And we said unto my lord, the lad cannot leave his father

That is, his father will not be willing to part with him.

 

“for if he should leave his father, his father would die

His death would result from grief and trouble, caused by the fear that some evil thing happened to him, and so, he would never see him again.

 

23 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.

 

“And thou saidst unto thy servants

In answer to how they represented things regarding their father and their youngest brother, Benjamin, Joseph gave them the following ultimatum.

 

“Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more”

Though He had not expressly related this in the earlier discourse, which passed between Joseph and his brethren, yet it might be justly inferred from what he said; that is, might be expressed in so many words, though not recorded, and as it seems plainly it was, as appears from Genesis 43:3―“But Judah said to him, "The man warned us solemnly, 'You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”

 

There is both a question and an answer in this statement by the governor:

Question:Why would Joseph expose his father to what would be potentially the greatest disappointment of his life, losing another dear child?

Answer: Joseph supposed that their saying that their father would not let Benjamin come because he was afraid of losing him was nothing but pretence, and he thought his brethren had disposed of Benjamin as they did of him, and therefore could not bring him with them. And as for his father, the experience which he had of his continuance in life and health after the supposed untimely death of Joseph, gave him good assurance that his parting with Benjamin for a short period, while he was under the care and charge of his brethren, was not likely to make any dangerous impression upon him.

 

24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

 

“And it came to pass, when we came unto thy servant my father

Upon our return to the land of Canaan, we went directly to “thy servant my father” and we told him the words of my lord. In addressing superiors, the Hebrews were accustomed to calling themselves servants. 

 

“we told him the words of my lord

They told him what he had said to them, particularly with respect to Benjamin.

 

“we told him” (Genesis 42:29-34)

 29When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30“The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country. 31“But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32‘We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’ 33“The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. 34‘But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’”

 

25 And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.

 

“And our father said (Genesis 43:2, 5)

After some time, when the corn they had bought in Egypt was almost depleted.

 

“go again, and buy us a little food

That is, buy enough to last until the famine is over: “Now the famine was still severe in the land” (Genesis 43:1).

 

26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us.

 

“And we said, we cannot go down”

It would not be safe for them to return to Egypt, if Benjamin was not with them; and it would not be worthwhile for their families to go, since the governor would refuse to sell to them.

 

“if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down”

For it to be safe for us to go back to buy more corn, Benjamin must go along with us.

 

“for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us”

This regards the face of the great man, the governor of Egypt; for this phrase, "the man", is not used to describe little things, but is expressive of grandeur, or otherwise it would never have been made use of in his presence, and in such a submissive and polite speech as this one by Judah.

 

27 And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:

 

“And thy servant my father said unto us

This is what he said when pressed to let Benjamin go with them.

 

“ye know that my wife bare me two sons”

Rachel, whom he calls his wife, was his only lawful wife. She was his by design and choice, and she was first in standing within his family. She gave Jacob his favorite sons, Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 46:19); whereas Leah was forced upon him by fraud (Genesis 29:20), and might have been refused by him, if he had so pleased. His two other wives were concubines (Genesis 30:4), given to him by Rachel and Leah.

 

28 And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:

 

“And the one went out from, me

Jacob sent him to see how his brethren were getting along, who were feeding his flocks at Shechem, and Joseph had never returned to him, since that day.

 

“and I said, surely he is torn in pieces”

 When they showed Jacob his bloody coat, he assumed that some wild beast had torn his son into pieces. Here Joseph learned what happened after they had sold him; and how they had deceived their father―“So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not” (Genesis 37:31-32).

 

“and I saw him not since”

It had been twenty-two years since Jacob had laid eyes upon him, though Joseph and his father was not separated by a great distance, especially if he was at Memphis, as some think. They were not so much separated by distance as they were by circumstances; there was his confinement as a servant in Potiphar's house, and then he was in prison for some years, and now his time was consumed by an assortment of business dealings as governor of Egypt. Since he advanced in Pharaoh's court, he had no leisure and no opportunity to visit his father; and especially because it was ordered by the providence of God that he should not, so that he might be made known at the most proper time for the glory of God, and the good of his family.

 

29 And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

 

“And if ye take this also from me”

He is referring, of course, to his son Benjamin, for he may have suspected they had taken Joseph, and done something horrifying to him, even murder.

 

“and mischief befall him”

Jacob was concerned that something awful would happen to his youngest son, either in Egypt, or on the road, going or returning; perhaps a serious accident, especially death.

 

“ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave”

 If Benjamin were taken or killed on this journey, sorrow would be the cause of his death, and while he lived he would be full of sorrow and grief (Genesis 42:38). “My gray hairs” is a figure of speech meaning “me, in my old age.” “The grave” (Hebrew, Sheol), the place of departed spirits.  The whole phrase is a Euphemism for "ye will kill me."

 

30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life;

 

“Now therefore, when I come to thy servant my father

That is, when he returns to him in the land of Canaan with the rest of his brethren.

 

“and the lad be not with us”

“The lad,” as he is called here, and in the following verses―though he is now thirty years of age and upwards―is his brother Benjamin―“And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones” (Genesis 43:8).

 

“seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life

“The lad” is deeply loved by old Jacob, and is as dear to him as his own soul. He is quite wrapped up in him, and cannot live without him; should he die, he must die too; see 1 Samuel 18:1; so it follows:

 

The word rendered here as “life” means “soul” (Hebrew, nephesh). 

 

God loved his Son Jesus infinitely more than Jacob did Benjamin; He exalts His love far above that of any earthly parent; which is but a spark of His flame, a drop of His ocean. And yet He freely parted with him, and let Him go on to certain and shameful death, for our sakes. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." There is nothing in nature or in any man that resembles it.

 

31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

 

“It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die”

As soon as he sees us, and observes that Benjamin is missing he will conclude at once, without asking any questions that he is dead, which will so seize his spirits, that he will expire immediately; for the love he has for the lad is so great.

 

“and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant, our father, with sorrow to the grave”

He said in Genesis 44:29 that this would be the case―that he would die if he lost Benjamin as he had Joseph―and it will take a terrible toll on his sons, because they would be the cause of it; and neither Jacob nor his sons would be able to think about Benjamin without the utmost uneasiness and distress.

 

His “gray hairs” refers to his person, now that he is advanced in years. With sorrow to the grave means that he will die if he loses Benjamin; he could not go on living!

 

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

 

“For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father”

The brothers are once more before Joseph. He speaks ambiguously, on purpose to test them. But the brethren do not give up, or desert, their young brother Benjamin. Judah makes a speech which is very natural, simple, and pathetic.

 

Judah’s announcement of his own responsibility and of his readiness to be a substitute for his brother is courageous. And all through the speech he exhibits tenderness and sympathy in a very simple but touching manner. How wonderful it is to discover the strong and noble emotions that slumber in the hearts of the most ordinary men! None who were familiar with Judah would have given him credit for this depth of human feeling or genuine eloquence.

 

Joseph’s brethren are now thoroughly humbled. There is no boastfulness, no spite, and no envy in their hearts now. Judah has acted nobly, and they have not deserted either him or Benjamin. Joseph is therefore convinced of their sincerity, and of the softening of their hearts; now he has the clear proof which he had long awaited. He himself feels sorry, but rejoices to perceive that they are very different from what they had been when they sold him as a slave, years before. The whole story teaches us how good a thing it is to be kindly, and sympathetic, and considerate—and how much of a family’s happiness and safety depends upon the mutual affection of its members. And a friend in need is a friend indeed.

 

Likewise, Christ is kindly, and sympathetic, and considerate of our helplessness and pitifulness; and therefore He must acquit us of all our sins, before he could go to His Father. Here lies the strength of that reason, "He shall convince the world of righteousness, because I go to my Father" [John 16:10]. And doesn’t this pleading of Judah for his brethren remind you of Christ’s for us, though there are vast differences? Remember how Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter.” It was in response to the intercessions which the Mediator made for all of us, that the Holy Spirit was shed on the Church.

 

Joseph's behavior must not be viewed from any single point, or in separate parts, but as a whole, for it was the development of a well-thought-out, deeply-laid, closely-connected plan; and though some features of it do certainly exhibit an appearance of harshness, yet the pervading principle of his conduct was real, genuine, brotherly kindness.

 

“saying, if I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame unto my father for ever”

That is, if I do not return him from Egypt, and bring him to Canaan, into his father's house and present him safe and sound, then I shall bear the blame…. for ever.” He means the blame for persuading his father to let him go with him. He said all this, to show that he would take care of him, and that he was confident that no evil would befall him, that he would return safely with them. Joseph provided ground upon which this assurance was given; that they would not die if they brought their brother with them (Genesis 42:20); and perhaps Judah, might be under a special compulsion of divine Providence, which directed him to say these things. And it may be added, that Jacob might also be under a divine impulse, which influenced him to take into account what Judah said, or otherwise his guarantee of wellbeing was a poor security, and amounted to nothing.

 

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

 

“Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad (‘the boy’) a bondman to my lord

Judah and his brethren are aware of Benjamin’s lack of physical and emotional strength. They were rugged men, shepherds, and experienced fighters and I think they were kind of like the American cowboys; whereas, Benjamin was a mama’s boy and did chores at home. Judah was a type of Christ, who sprung from his tribe, who became the surety of God's Benjamins, his children who are beloved by him, and as dear to him as his right hand, and put himself in their legal place, and became sin and a curse for them, so that they might go free, which is what Judah wanted for his brother Benjamin. “Now thereforeI pray thee, let thy servant stay behind as a bondman to my lord; instead of the lad and let the lad go up with his brethren.”

therefore

What must Benjamin have felt when he heard his brother conclude his speech with a proposal which could never have been thought of, if it had not been actually made! He made it partly in compassion for his aged father, and partly for the governor’s benefit; because (so he says) I can be more useful to thee than he can, because of my greater strength and experience.

 

And let the lad go up with his brethren”; from Egypt to the land of Canaan, to the home of their father.

 

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

 

“For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?”

Signifying that he must abide in Egypt, and chose to do it, and could not go up to the land of Canaan any more or see his father's face without Benjamin being with him, for he feared his father would surely drop dead from grief. How eloquent and pathetic was this address! Here love soars, as it should. Judah, a man wise and well spoken, prefers his father’s life to his own liberty. He could not live to see the death of his aged father; he would rather remain as their prisoner, than to return and see his father in sorrow.

 

“lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.”

That is, for fear that he may see him die, or live a life of sorrow worse than death: this he could not bear, and chose rather to be a slave in Egypt, than to be the spectator of such a disturbing scene.

 

By this speech of Judah, Joseph plainly saw the great affection which his brethren, especially Judah, had for his father and his brother Benjamin, as well as the sense they had of their evil in selling him, which lay uppermost on their minds, and which they thought had caused them all this trouble; wherefore he could no longer conceal himself from them, but makes himself known unto them, which is the principal subject of the following chapter.

 

Make a free website with Yola