And Judah said, What shall we say to my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves?…
I. HE REHEARSES THE PAST (vers. 18-29).
1. The speaker. Judah. Well that it was he. Had it been Reuben the proof of penitence had not been so clear. It had been too much like the old Reuben (comp. Genesis 37:22 with Genesis 42:22). It was Judah, and not like the old Judah (Genesis 37:26, 27). The last time Joseph heard Judah speak of his father's favourite was when he (Joseph) was in the pit, and Judah, on the edge, was proposing to sell him into Bondage. Now he intercedes to save Benjamin from bondage.
2. The subject. He(1) recalls the former visit, and the conversation of that time (vers. 18-20). He then(2) proceeds to remind Joseph of his command (ver. 21), but for which they had not brought their brother. Of their expostulations (ver. 22) and of his firmness of purpose (ver. 23). He then drew the portrait of the old man, described the long time they bore the pangs of hunger before Jacob at last would suffer Benjamin to go; and, having hinted at the loss of one other son, repeated the final words of the old man (ver. 29).
II. HE PICTURES THE FUTURE. This he was the better able to do, from his memory of a former occasion. That picture of sorrow and wail of agony had ever since haunted him. It might be repeated with still more painful consequences. It might hasten the death of his father. He records, without a censure, the endearing union of the old father and his younger brother. There was one life between them. The death or loss of Benjamin might be the death of the father. He relates that he had become a surety for the safe return of the lad. As he thus earnestly and most pathetically pleads for the release of Benjamin, what feelings must have risen in the mind of Joseph. Chiefly of joy that Judah was so changed; but also of attachment to a father who had mourned his own supposed death so long and truly.
III. HE PROPOSES A COMPROMISE.
1. Its nature. If one must be held in bondage for this supposed crime, let it be himself, who is confessedly innocent, in place of Benjamin, whose guilt is assumed. Judah has wife and children at home, yet will leave all rather than abandon his brother. He will be henceforth a slave, if only Benjamin may be free. Was ever love like this? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13; see especially Romans 5:6-8).
2. The motive. To spare his father all needless pain, he would accept the position of being less loved than Benjamin. His father might grieve at his loss, as he had at Simeon's, but the loss of Benjamin would affect him more.
3. The result. The test had proved to Joseph that Judah repented the past. It was a happy discovery. What can give greater joy to a brother than to see a right moral change in a brother? Learn:
1. Fearlessly to take the side of the innocent and the aged.
2. To bring forth fruit meet for repentance.
3. Not to be ashamed of an honourable change of heart and mind.
4. To love and honour Him who became a surety for us.
(J. C. Gray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And 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.
WEB: Judah said, "What will we tell my lord? What will we speak? Or how will we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants. Behold, we are my lord's bondservants, both we, and he also in whose hand the cup is found."