Genesis Chapter Forty-Four


Read Genesis 44:1-5 – The Silver Cup


v.1-2And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. 2And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.”


            Joseph prepares to send his brothers on their way, but he also sets them up to be returned to him again.  They are given the grain that they had come to purchase and their money is again returned to them as before by placing it in the mouths or on top of the grain in their sacks.  It would seem that prudent men, since a “mistake” had been made before that returned their money to them,  would have checked to make it didn’t happen again but that was not to be.  In addition a silver cup, Joseph’s personal possession, probably from the very table setting on which he had just been served was placed in Benjamin’s sack.


v.3  As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.”


            Early the next morning, as soon as it was light, they are on their way back to Canaan, thinking that all is well.


v.4-5And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? 5Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.”


            Joseph waits until they have had time to get out of the city but not enough time that they could have gone very far or discovered what had been done.  Then he sends his servant after them, knowing exactly what will be found.

            From all outward appearances it will seem that they, specifically Benjamin, had committed a crime that would not be acceptable even in a pagan society such as Egypt.  They are to be accused of this evil and as a result they would be brought back to Joseph.


Read Genesis 44:6-13 – The Cup is Found


v.6  6And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.”


            Joseph’s steward, being faithful to his master, does precisely as he had been instructed using the very words of Joseph.


v.7-8And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: 8Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold?”


            The brothers of Joseph are surprised, shocked and probably more than just a little disturbed by his accusations.  Their response is that “GOD FORBID” that they would do such a thing.  To not only violate Joseph’s hospitality but to actually steal something from his house where they were guests was unthinkable.  They were men of God and men of God just don’t do such things.  The returning of the money that they think was mistakenly put into their sacks from their first trip is given as proof of their fidelity.  Then they are so sure of themselves they make a foolish commitment that no one would want to keep.


v.9-10With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen. 10And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.”


            They say search and if something is found that someone has indeed stolen from the house of Joseph, then he should be put to death and the rest of them become bondservants of Joseph.  The steward of Joseph modifies their pledge somewhat by saying that the guilty party would only be kept as a bondservant of Joseph, the rest would be considered blameless.  They are so confident that nothing will be found.  But being overconfident in anything is a form of pride and what is it that pride will do to us?


Proverbs 11:2When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”


Proverbs 13:10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”


v.11-12Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. 12And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.”


            To prove their innocence, they take their sacks down from the animals carrying them and systematically start to go through them.  They are so sure that nothing will be found, but it is not to be.  The steward started with the oldest and worked his way down to Benjamin, knowing full well, exactly where the silver cup would be found.


v.13Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.”


            Now they are really in a quandary, they are so distraught that, as was the custom of the day, they rend or tear their clothes as a sign of their sorrow and grief.  However, not having any real choice, they reload their grain on their animals and accompany the steward of Joseph back into the city.  At this point they have no alternative but to throw themselves on the mercy of the man who is second only to Pharaoh in Egypt.


Read Genesis 44:14-17 – The Confrontation with Joseph


v.14And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.”


            It was still early enough in the day that Joseph was still at his house, or perhaps he was delaying beginning his official work day waiting for them.  We again see Judah named specifically of the brethren and in this time of trouble that he has taken the mantle of leadership.  This indicates to some that he, the fourth son of Jacob (Genesis 29:35) will be the one to take the place of Jacob as patriarch of the family.


v.15And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?”


            Joseph confronts them and challenges them with the accusation of their thievery.  It was such an act as would not be accepted in any culture however pagan it might be.  In addition he tells them something that my mother used to tell me from time to time: “Don’t you think I would find you out?”


v.16And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.”


            Judah attempts a defense without making any commitment to Joseph.  He admits he doesn’t understand how this situation has come about.  He doesn’t know what to say, what kind of defense to make.  He wants to clear himself and his brothers but don’t know how to do that.  He claims again that he and his brothers are all servants of the Most High God, including the one in whose possession the cup was found.  He appears to hope that this thing will just go away and they will be able to gloss over it and go on their way but that is not Joseph’s purpose.


v.17And 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.”


            Joseph isn’t accepting Judah’s argument.  First if all he says that “GOD FORBID” that he should have to do what he is about to do but justice must be served.  They had offered to allow the guilty party to die and all become bond servants to Joseph but the steward modified their punishment and Joseph is following his commitment.  He says he’ll just have to keep Benjamin as his servant and allow the rest of the brothers to return to their father in Canaan.


Read Genesis 44:18-34 Judah’s Plea


v.18Then 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.”


            It was Judah who had made the pledge to his father concerning Benjamin’s safety and return.  Now it is Judah who steps forward as the leader of the eleven brothers and seeks to have a private audience with Joseph to plead his case.  He wants to mitigate the supposed anger that he thinks Joseph holds for them and especially for Benjamin.  The attitude of the brothers has changed since Joseph was sold into slavery, they apparently have matured and been drawn closer together as a family.  In addition they seem to have developed a concern and compassion for others, especially for their father and for each other.  Judah recognizes that Joseph is second in Egypt only to Pharaoh and as such can mete out punishment or blessings as he chooses.  There is no appeal to a higher power other than God himself.


v.19-20My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? 20And 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.”


            Judah reminds Joseph that he knows the background of their family.  Joseph had asked about other brothers and their father when they were in Egypt before:


Genesis 43:7And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?”


            Judah continues and reminds him that, yes their father is still living and that Benjamin is the son of his love, and that he is the only son left of his mother.  He further states that Joseph is dead not knowing whether he is or not. Apparently he says this either making an assumption or even believing that after approximately 20 years of no word or knowledge of Joseph that he probably is dead.


v.21-22And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. 22And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.”


            Judah reminds Joseph that is only because of his demand to see Benjamin that he was brought with them at all.  They had protested that demand to Joseph and this was also the reason for their procrastination in returning to Egypt once again to buy food.  If anything happened to the final son of the wife that he loved, their father Jacob would literally die from grief.


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


            Again Judah reminds Joseph that Benjamin come only because of his demand or decree.  Since Joseph had complete control of the distribution and sale of the grain gathered during the years of plenty he was in complete control.  They had to come to him to buy and he had told them that if they didn’t bring Benjamin back with them he would not receive them.


v.24-25And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.”


            The brothers had told Jacob of Joseph’s demand when they returned to Canaan but when the food ran low, Jacob told them to go to Egypt and buy more anyway.


v.26And 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.”


            Judah relates that they reminded Jacob of the demand of Joseph.  They would not be received to buy grain again without their younger brother being with them.


v.27-28And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: 28And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:”


            Judah continues and tells Joseph Jacob’s words.  His wife, the wife that he loves and acknowledges as his wife has only borne him two sons.  The other one “WENT OUT” and Jacob thinks he is dead because of the evidence that he was given by his sons and because he has not seen him since.  This is the first record that we have that Joseph is told that Jacob thinks he’s dead.  He can, no doubt, imagine the pain, sorrow and anguish that his father has endured.


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


            Judah also tells Joseph that Jacob had said that if anything befalls Benjamin or he is taken away from his then the sorrow would put him into his grave.


v.30-31Now 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; 31It 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.”


            So Judah reminds Joseph that surely if they return to Canaan without Benjamin then they will indeed see their father die.  They, Jacob’s sons and would then be the cause of their father’s death.  But that isn’t the end of the story.


v.32For 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.”


            Because of his love for his father and his younger half brother, Judah has pledged himself to protect his brother at all costs.  If he does not return Benjamin to his father then he will bear the burden of blame for the rest of his life.


v.33-34Now 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. 34For 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.”


            Judah simply cannot return to Canaan unless Benjamin is with him.  So he makes the supreme sacrifice for his brother and offers to stay in Egypt as bondservant to Joseph instead of his brother.  This will fulfill Joseph’s demand that someone be punished for the silver cup being in their grain sack and at the same time protect his father from such great sorrow.  He is literally offering himself up, something that Joseph probably did not expect and is totally overwhelmed to see.  His response to Judah’s plea will likewise be nothing like what they might have been expecting or hoping for.