Genesis 44
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This chapter continues the same thread of Joseph's policy, and the same lessons are in it.

I. PRACTICAL WISDOM THE FRUIT OF PIETY. The true man is the strong man. With a deep knowledge of the human heart, Joseph felt quite sure that the only way to move Jacob from Canaan was to detain Benjamin.

II. THE SANCTITY OF THE AFFECTIONS. Real religion their only safeguard in the world's hardening and perverting influences. Joseph did apparent violence to his brethren's and his father's feelings that he might afterwards fill them with joy. There was a great deal of genuine family affection at the bottom of the scheme. He could not bear to part with Benjamin. He at first meant to maintain the dissembling till the old man was brought, but nature burst through the restraint. The whole a testimony to the real purity and simplicity of Joseph's heart, and therefore, in such circumstances of temptation as his, to his real religion.

III. CONTRAST BETWEEN GOD'S IDEAL OF GREATNESS AND THE WORLD'S. Great rulers and statesmen are not wont thus to cultivate the emotions. The tendency of high position is to harden the heart, and to change nature into policy, and the real into the artificial. Yet such instances as Joseph show the possibility of uniting the two spheres - the secular and the spiritual, and being great in both. - R.

Divination by cups was practiced by the ancient Egyptians. But no reason to suppose that Joseph actually used this art. It would have been inconsistent with his habitual faithfulness to God, and with the ascription to him alone of the power to reveal secrets (Genesis 40:7-41:16). He was now acting a part. He spoke in the character of an Egyptian ruler, to whom the nation ascribed supernatural wisdom. We need not now inquire how far he was right in this. But his object was to try his brethren, whether, and how much, they loved their father and their young brother. He contrived that Benjamin should appear to have incurred the penalty of servitude. What would the rest do? Would they, as they had done to him, leave their brother in slavery? Would they go home and deceive their father by a false story of his death? Could they bear to renew his grief? Had they learned that God marked their actions, and ordained the things that happened to them? The cup hidden in Benjamin's sack was indeed that whereby he was divining their secret thoughts. They Stood the test. They acknowledged God's hand, and refused to purchase their own safety at the price of their brother's freedom (contrast Genesis 37:26, 27, with Genesis 44:30, 34). Forthwith the clouds passed away. In him whom they feared they found a brother.

I. GOD BY HIS PROVIDENCE TRIES THE SPIRIT THAT IS IN US. The events of our lives are ordered so as to bring this about (Deuteronomy 8:2). They are to us as Joseph's cup. Daily work, family life, professional duties, the common intercourse of society, raise questions which are answered according as God or self rules the heart and guides the actions. Hence no part of our life is unimportant in a spiritual point of view. Things, in themselves of small account, test the character and motives of the life, as floating straws show the current; and this all the more because their spiritual bearing is not apparent. Kindness, truth, unselfishness, in little matters, reveal the man more truly than on greater and more conspicuous occasions (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3).

II. TRIALS ARE SENT IN LOVE AS INSTRUMENTS OF BLESSING (James 1:12). Through their operation the Christian life is matured (Romans 5:3-5). Every grace must be exercised in order to grow, and trial is the opportunity of exercise. Without trial there could be no real victory over evil, no real submission of the will to God. We pray to be kept from temptation. To run into it is to court a fall. But where God sends trial grace is provided (1 Corinthians 10:13), answering every need; help for the falling or fallen as well as strength for the steadfast.

III. How TO STAND IN THE DAY OF TRIAL. In each of the messages to the Churches (Revelation 2., 3.) trial is implied now of persecution, now of false doctrine, now of indolent spiritual ease. And the blessing is "to him that overcometh." How? "By the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 12:11), i.e. by faith in it. Not merely belief in the doctrine, but realizing what the work of Christ has won for us, and the love of the Father from which it proceeds, and the claim which the mercies of God make upon us (Romans 12:1). The first step is receiving with an undoubting spirit the love of God; not letting in unbelief in the garb of humility. The next is keeping that truth present in the mind in the midst of daily work, that the love of Christ may constrain the direction of our life. - M.


1. The unexpected confession of guilt which he makes. "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants."

2. The sensitive appreciation of the terrible blow which Benjamin's loss would be to Jacob. "When he seeth the lad is not with us he will die."

3. The noble sacrifice he proposes to make for Benjamin. "Let thy servant abide instead of the lad, a bondman to my lord."


1. The memory of his old sin, which appears to have haunted his conscience.

2. The arrestment of Divine Providence, which in his Egyptian experience he suffered.

3. The inward operation of God's grace upon his heart. Learn -

1. That no living sinner is beyond the reach of conversion.

2. That for the most part the work of conversion is gradually consummated; and -

3. That when once it is completed it appears in a change of character and life. - W.

For thy servant became surety for the lad unto his father. The brethren of Joseph had been surprised on their second visit to Egypt at the cordiality of their reception. They started homewards with well-laden sacks and trembling gladness. They had not gone far when they were overtaken, their sacks searched, and the cup found. With depressed spirits and dreary forebodings they were brought back to the city, and into the presence of Joseph. Joseph had several motives in his strange treatment of his brethren. He may have desired in some way to punish them for their sin against himself by letting them taste some of the bitterness he had experienced when, ruthlessly torn from his home, he was sent a shrinking slave into a distant land. Human nature was strong in Joseph as in others. His brethren had to learn the nature of their own sin by suffering. They have also to learn that their lives were forfeited by sin to justice. He wished also to bring them to a state of humility, so that they should afterwards behave rightly to each other. He may have had doubts as to the safety of his own brother Benjamin with them. He tests thus their interest in their half-brother, for they could have left with some sort of excuse Benjamin as a slave in Egypt. He tests also their regard for their father, and finds out also how they would look upon himself when he should reveal himself to them. Judah is the spokesman for the rest in the painful circumstances in which they are all placed. Joseph proposes to keep only Benjamin as a slave, but Judah draws near, and with deepest humility and heartfelt earnestness pleads with Joseph. Consider -


1. Judah pleads as surety for Benjamin, and as a brother. We find that it is Judah and not Reuben who pleads now for the life of a brother. Age has mellowed the fierce Judah. We cannot always tell from what a man is in his early years what he will be later on.

(1) Judah admits the wrong, attempts no excuse or extenuation. All evidence was against Benjamin. Judah and the rest cannot tell what to think of the act. He admitted it. We must admit our sin.

(2) Confessed that it was right that Benjamin and they should suffer. Some blame others for their circumstances and sins. To all appearance here Benjamin was alone to blame.

(3) He throws himself on the righteousness and compassion of Joseph. This is all we can do before God. He pleads the pain which it will cause to his father. His appeal is most pathetic. Read it, and the fount of tears must be touched. In all the volumes of fiction ever written there is nothing to surpass the tenderness and pathos of this pleading of Judah.

2. We learn from this position and pleading of Judah as to how we should approach God. We have sinned and can only throw ourselves on his mercy. We see also how Christ pleads for us. His pleading is real and earnest. He prayed on earth for his disciples. The present is a dispensation of mediation. Hence Christ still pleads as our surety in heaven.

II. JUDAH'S OFFER. He is ready to be bound for Benjamin. It is one thing to talk, another to act. He had promised his father to bring Benjamin again (Genesis 43:9), and he wishes to keep his word. He became surety, a guarantee, as one who is bound by signing a paper. He was answerable to his father. He is ready to give his service for Benjamin, his life for his brother. His faithfulness was thus proved. Christ is our surety. He makes himself one with us (Hebrews 2:11). He sprang from Judah (Hebrews 7:14). He became one with us in nature and in temptation, and was accepted as our substitute, was bound, abused, and crucified. He bore the curse for us (Galatians 3:13). He sacrificed himself for us. Christ died for us who were below him. We may see in the success of Judah's pleading an indication of the success of Jesus' work. Joseph needed no entreaty to be merciful to Benjamin. He was nearer of kin to Benjamin than Judah was. So God is our Father. Joseph only wished to see the brethren in a fit state to be forgiven. They were entirely forgiven (vers. 5-15). He forgave freely, and wished them to forgive themselves. He knew very well that if they began to blame themselves too much, or to upbraid each other, they would never be happy. Forgiveness should produce peace.

1. Let us see ourselves in those suppliant brothers of Joseph.

2. Let us see in Judah how Christ pleads for us, and with what power. Certainly he excelled in his appeal, in wisdom, boldness, eloquence, tenderness, and self-sacrifice. How much more should we not praise Jesus for his power, his life, his love, sufferings, death, and present intercession.

3. Let us then trust him. What would have been thought of the others if they should have said to Judah, "You are not equal to being surety for him," or" You are not of sufficient standing, not above us, so as to speak in the name of the rest"? And is not Christ equal to the work of securing our salvation? If he can do it, shall we attempt to mar by our meddling? Full atonement is made, as well as powerful intercession offered. What we have to do is to trust Christ's work. Let us give up hope of preparing ourselves. He is not like some who are sureties, and are unwilling to pay. He has paid. The law and justice have nothing to demand. Should either present a claim, point to the cross, for that answers all demands. Oh the mystery of redeeming love! Oh the simplicity and yet the depth of meaning contained in that work of Christ! It is a stumbling-block to the high-minded, but a salvation to the humble. - H.

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