Main point summary
When Joseph maintained that Benjamin would be the only brother punished, Judah, foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ, begged to take his place in bondage so that Jacob would not be grieved to death over the loss of Benjamin.
Why would Judah be the one to volunteer to take Benjamin's place? In Gen. 37:26 Judah told his brothers that while killing Joseph would get rid of him, it would not profit them as much as selling him to the Ishmaelites. Reuben was the one who had planned on rescuing his brother, Joseph, from the pit yet when Benjamin was being sentenced to slavery in Egypt, Judah was the one to step forward. First of all, this is a remarkable growth in character that Judah, who was concerned with twisting an already bad situation so that it would increase his own profit, would then sacrifice himself so that his father would be spared the loss of his youngest son. Secondly, we see a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, who would come from Judah's line. Just as Benjamin stood condemned to slavery so do we stand in slavery to sin. Just as Judah offered himself in Benjamin's place, Jesus not only offered himself but has completely satisfied the wrath of God on our sin so that we might walk in freedom through faith in him. He who knew no sin was made to be sin so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. ( 2 Cor. 5:21 ) In this story, we see a picture of our lostness in Benjamin. When Joseph's judgement of condemnation fell on him, there was no one with any power to save him, except Joseph. It would not have mattered how much Benjamin resisted, protested, or fought, his fate was slavery. In the same way, we are lost and powerless in slavery to sin. We stand condemned before a Holy God and it will not matter how much we resist, protest, or fight, we cannot save ourselves. Our freedom is at the mercy of another. Thanks be to God that he sent his Son to redeem us from slavery.
When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there.
They x fell before him to the ground.
Joseph said to them,
“What deed is this that you have done?
Do you not know that a man like me y can indeed practice divination?”
And Judah said,
“What shall we say to my lord?
What shall we speak?
Or how can we clear ourselves?
God has found out z the guilt of your servants;
behold, we are a my lord’s servants,
both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.”
But he said,
“Far be it from me that I should do so!
Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant.
But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
Then Judah went up to him and said,
b “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears,
and c let not your anger burn against your servant,
for d you are like Pharaoh himself.
My lord asked his servants, saying,
‘Have you a father, or a brother?’
And we said to my lord,
‘We have a father, an old man, e and a young brother, f the child of his old age.
His brother is dead,
and he alone is left of his mother’s children,
and his father loves him.’
Then you said to your servants,
g ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’
We said to my lord,
‘The boy cannot leave his father,
for if he should leave his father,
h his father would die.’
Then you said to your servants,
i ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you,
you shall not see my face again.’
“When we went back to your servant my father,
we told him the words of my lord.
And when j our father said,
‘Go again, buy us a little food,’
‘We cannot go down.
If our youngest brother goes with us,
then we will go down.
For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
Then your servant my father said to us,
‘You know that my wife bore me k two sons.
One left me,
and I said,
l “Surely he has been torn to pieces,”
and I have never seen him since.
If you m take this one also from me,
n and harm happens to him,
you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’
“Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father,
and the boy is not with us,
then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life,
as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us,
he will die,
and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.
For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father,
o ‘If I do not bring him back to you,
then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’
Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord,
and let the boy go back with his brothers.
For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?
I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”