Bible Readings for February 11th
By Genesis 44, Joseph has spent considerable time with his brothers. He has interrogated them, imprisoned them, and feasted with them. It does not seem as though anything Joseph has done—even at the points when he treated them roughly—has happened out of malice but rather out of a sincere desire to reconcile with his brothers. But to reconcile well, Joseph needs to discover whether his brothers have changed at all since they sold him into slavery.
So, Joseph organizes a test. Like before, he puts all the money back into the grain sacks of his brothers as they begin their journey home. This time, however, Joseph also places his silver cup in the sack of Benjamin, Jacob’s beloved son.
When confronted with the accusation of having stolen Joseph’s silver cup, the brothers flatly deny that any of them had done such an outrageous thing, even saying that “Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants” (Gen. 44:9). When the cup is discovered in Benjamin’s sack, they are devastated.
So it is no small surprise to see Judah step forward to fulfill the promise he had made to his father in Genesis 43 to protect Benjamin, even at the cost of his own life. Clearly, something significant has changed in Judah, since his willingness to sacrifice himself in place of his brother stands in marked contrast to his earlier suggestion to sell Joseph into slavery (Gen. 37:26–27) and his hiring his daughter-in-law Tamar as a prostitute (Gen. 38). Doing everything in his power, Judah pleads that Joseph would detain him, letting Benjamin return to their father, Jacob.
D. A. Carson writes this about Judah’s transformation:
This is the high point in what we know of Judah’s pilgrimage. He offers his life in substitution for another. Perhaps in part he was motivated by conscience; if so, the genuine heroism grew out of genuine shame. He could not know that in less than two millennia, his most illustrious descendent, in no way prompted by shame but only by obedience to his heavenly Father and by love for guilty rebels, would offer himself as a substitute for them (Mark 14).1
All of a sudden in the narrative of Joseph, the typology has changed. In Genesis 44, we do not see Joseph demonstrating what Jesus would be centuries later. Here, Joseph plays the role of God the Father, demanding justice.
Instead, it is Judah who foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is fitting that he would do so. While Joseph is a righteous man, it is not for Joseph to become the human ancestor of Jesus Christ—that honor belongs to Judah, so it is necessary that at some point Judah begins to play the part.
And that’s exactly what we see happening in Genesis 44.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.