Joseph’s brothers have just finished an amazing meal and been reunited with their brother Simeon. It’s time to head home with the food they have purchased in Egypt. They are thrilled to be getting out of there without incident!
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Joseph is not through with his brothers. He has to KNOW that their hearts have changed. He has seen their devotion to one another during these two visits. He has also seen their willingness to do as he commands. But is their obedience just that; obedience for the sake of their own safety or is it true humbleness? He loves them dearly and wants them to know him but he cannot trust them yet. They will be put to one final test. At the end of that test Joseph will know where their hearts are.
Joseph has acted strange around this group every time he has encountered them. His steward has been the one commanded to act in extraordinary ways towards this group. On their first visit he was told to return their money in full to each man’s sack. Joseph had never before or since ordered a refund of the money paid for Pharaoh’s grain. Next he was told to bring these men to Joseph’s own home for a meal, during which unique instructions were given as to serving them. Then, he was instructed to return the men’s money once more but to also hide his master’s cup within the sack of the youngest. Joseph is as Pharaoh. His steward does NOT question his orders! But he does wonder in his heart what is going on.
As dawn breaks, the brothers rise and make their way out of the city. They are overjoyed that all are returning together to their father. The meal yesterday was amazing but also puzzling. Why were they offered such an opulent meal? The man could have simply released Simeon to them and they would have been satisfied. But this afforded them the opportunity to properly present the man with the gifts they brought. Still, the seating and the portions offered to each of them remains a mystery.
“Let’s just get out of here before anything else happens” prompts Reuben.
“I’m with you brother! I’ve seen enough of Egypt to last me a lifetime!” replies Simeon.
With every step of the donkeys the tension in the group ebbs a little more. Conversation within the group is also stilted in the beginning but grows the further they get from the man’s doorstep. So much has happened since they were first sent to buy food the first time. They are relieved to be a whole group again and to finally be going home.
Several hours have passed since the group’s departure when Joseph calls his steward to him. “Quickly, I want you to follow the men who just left. You are to overtake them and then say this to them: “Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this” (verses 4b-5). Joseph’s steward’s mind is spinning! HE put the cup there on his master’s ORDERS! These men didn’t steal anything. What is his master up to? He must have some reason for acting in this manner. A sly smile begins to form on his master’s face as he recognizes his steward’s confusion. Joseph’s steward nods his head in a knowing response to his master’s changed expression. Now he is eager to see what will happen next.
Within half an hour the fast moving steward and guards overtake the slow moving band of brothers. The steward approaches the group and, without a hint of deception, renders the words his master told him to say.
Reuben, as the eldest, speaks for the group. “We would never do such a thing! Haven’t we proven that we were honest men by returning with the money that was found in our sacks after the last visit? We don’t want any trouble. I guarantee we have not committed this offense. Search us yourselves. If any of us are found with this item he will be guilty of death and the rest of us will submit ourselves to you for life as slaves.” He is that confident of their innocence.
The steward replies; “Search them and their goods. The man found to be in possession of the master’s cup will be his servant. That man will be detained while the others return to the land from which they came.”
The brothers unload their donkeys and line up their bags on the ground. Each stands behind his own bag while the search begins. Reuben’s bag is opened first. In the mouth if it is his money again. He is taken back by this. He knows he didn’t place it there. But the steward didn’t ask about money and he told them himself that he had placed their money back in their sacks the last time. Still an unease begins to grow as the guards continue their search.
As the search nears its end the unease begins to recede after having reached its zenith about midway through. Each man’s money has been found returned again but nothing more. After the last bag is opened the ground seems to drop away from their feet when a meaty hand emerges from Benjamin’s sack holding a silver cup. The same cup they saw at dinner last night!
All eyes turn to Benjamin. What is this! How can this be? There must be some mistake!!!
Benjamin is quickly bound and led away. The brothers are speechless; all except Benjamin. “I didn’t do this! I don’t know how it got there!” The guards and the steward turn a deaf ear to his cries. The steward faces the remaining brothers and calmly tells them they are free to go on their way.
“Not a chance!!!” replies Judah. The brothers quickly reload their donkeys and drive them HARD. They are NOT going to let Benjamin out of their sight!
Joseph is watching from his porch as the two groups arrive. His steward, the guards and Benjamin only moments before his brothers. Their donkeys look ready to drop after being driven so hard. Joseph is pleased to see his brothers’ urgency in following Benjamin, but that is not enough to convince him yet.
Joseph’s steward approaches him. “This is the one who was found in possession of your cup my lord.”
“So! You would take advantage of my hospitality? You will pay for your insolence now! You are to become one of my slaves. You will be stripped of your filthy rags of your people and placed in my stables. You will serve me there for the remainder of your life. IF you please me in this role I MAY consider increasing your station from dung shoveler to grainer.”
The brothers arrive in the beginning of Joseph’s pronouncement. They don’t know what to make of the finding of the man’s cup in Benjamin’s sack but they do know that they can’t go home without him. It would KILL their father. Before any of the brothers can speak, Joseph looks at them and tells them they are free to return to their own country.
Summoning all his restraint regarding arguing for Benjamin’s innocence, Judah instead pleads for an exchange instead. “My lord, may I please have a private word with you?”
Joseph nods and the two of them take one step away from the group.
“I cannot argue the fact that the cup was found in the sack belonging to our youngest brother. And I will not contend against your just punishment for such an offense but I am pleading with you to allow me to take his punishment as my own. When we first came to you, you questioned us about our family including our father and any other brothers we had. We told you of our youngest brother and how he had not accompanied us because of our father’s deep love for him. You demanded that we bring him to you if we were ever to come again and seek your presence. Our father was very reluctant to release him in our care. He is afraid of anything happening to him for surely it WILL kill him if he is deprived of this, his only remaining son from his favored wife. I pledged my life for his. I promised my father that I would bear the guilt forever if I did not return with him unharmed. I cannot now go to my father and tell him that I have failed him. It would be as good as my own hand slaying him. Please, for my father’s sake and the boy’s, let me stand in his place. I will serve you faithfully without complaint for the rest of my life”
Tear are streaming down Judah’s face as he makes this plea. The rest of the brothers are clinging to each other on their knees, waiting anxiously to know what will become of Benjamin. The guards are blocking the brothers from touching Benjamin who waits, bound with head bowed in prayer.
(to be continued)
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I notice in Judah’s plea for his brother that his main concern is Jacob. All the brothers recognize that Benjamin is Jacob’s favorite. They are not jealous of that relationship like they were with Joseph’s. They recognize the hurt they caused their father with “the death” of Joseph. They cannot stand to see him hurt like that again. It tore their hearts, but not enough to tell him the truth. I have no doubt that if Jacob had known what had become of Joseph he would have moved heaven and earth to get him back. He would have also severed ties with the brothers responsible for his plight. But that was not God’s plan.
Judah had no idea he was bearing his soul to the very brother he sold into slavery. He was fully prepared to do just as he said; to serve this man for the rest of his life. I wonder if he even thought about someday meeting up with the brother he sold as one slave to another. He was so wrapped up in this moment and his plea for his father’s life that I doubt he even contemplated what he was agreeing to. His heart was breaking for his father AND his father’s favorite son. He would do whatever it took to preserve both of their lives. That was love!
Lord Jesus thank You that YOU loved me that much! Not only did You agree to take my place in exchange for my freedom but You went through with it! There was no reprieve at the end of You plea. Satan agreed to the exchange wholeheartedly, not realizing that he was buying right into God’s plan. I can almost see the smile developing on the Father’s face as Satan signs his name on the final contract. He is thinking, “We got Him now boys!” while He is waiting for the moment the contract melts in Satan’s hands. All except the words “Paid In Full” that is.
I’m SO looking forward to tomorrow’s conclusion of the brother’s plea for Benjamin! I can feel Joseph breath again after holding his breath in anticipation of their reaction. “Will they pass the test? Will they demonstrate changed lives or are they the same ruthless brothers who threw me into a pit and sold me into slavery without even a glance backwards to see if I was alright?” Those questions are finally answered.
THANK YOU for Your stories Father. And thank You for letting me retell them a little deeper. I KNOW there is so much more still there that I haven’t yet been shown but for now, I LOVE what Your Spirit is showing me! Keep me always coming back for more!