As the brothers depart, Joseph covertly orders that their payment silver be placed in their sacks, while also instructing for his special silver cup to be placed in Benjamin’s sack. Subsequently, Joseph sends men to apprehend his brothers, accusing them of stealing the silver cup. The brothers vehemently deny this charge as they were unaware of the cup’s presence. However, when the cup is discovered in Benjamin’s sack, they are compelled to enslave him.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the remaining brothers return to Joseph, offering themselves as slaves in place of Benjamin. Joseph refuses to accept this sacrifice. It is Judah who steps forward and provides Joseph with a comprehensive account from their perspective, emphasizing the devastating impact it would have on their father, Jacob, should they return without Benjamin.
22. We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’
It is difficult to comprehend Joseph’s motives, considering his generally Godly nature, for persisting in punishing his brothers. However, it is the realization that his father’s life may be at stake that eventually prompts Joseph to reveal his true identity in the following chapter.
A compelling contrast can be observed between the pleading and desperate Judah in this chapter and the cruel and cold Judah who once sold his brother into slavery. It appears that the humbling experiences of the situation and the famine have transformed Judah and his brothers, while Joseph has been elevated in his position. Perhaps the pride that has accumulated within Joseph has fueled his desire to continue punishing his brothers.