Genesis  ◦   Chapter 44

1Joseph gave specific instructions to the servant in charge of his house: “Fill each man’s bags with as much grain as they can carry. Then put each man’s silver on top of the grain in their bag. 2Then put my silver cup in the bag of the youngest one, on the top, along with his silver.” And he did just as Joseph said.

3At dawn, the brothers got up, loaded their donkeys, and were sent on their way home. 4They were not far from the city when Joseph instructed his servant, “Go now, and chase those men down. When you catch them, say this to them: ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? 5Why did you act so selfishly and steal my master’s silver cup – the cup he drinks from and uses to discern secrets? What you have done is wicked!’”

6When the servant caught up to the brothers, he repeated these exact words to them. 7Horrified at the accusation, they pleaded their case: “Absolutely not, my lord! Your humble servants would never do any such thing. 8We are honest men. We even brought back the silver we found in our bags from the last time we were here. So why would we steal silver or gold or anything from your master’s house? 9We have nothing to hide. Search our possessions, and if you find the cup, then whoever has it will die, and the rest of us will become your slaves.”

10“Alright,” he said, “We will search your possessions as you have said, but only the one who has the cup will become my slave; the rest of you will not be held responsible and will be free to return to your home.”

11Eager to show their innocence, they each quickly pulled their bags down and opened them. 12The servant searched each bag, starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And he found the cup in Benjamin’s bag. 13Upon seeing this, all the brothers tore their clothes in despair. Refusing to go home without Benjamin, they loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.

14Joseph was waiting in his house when Judah and his brothers came in and threw themselves on the ground before him. 15Joseph confronted them, “Why would you do this? Don’t you know I am a man who can discover secrets?”

16Judah answered, “There is nothing we can say, my lord. We have no explanation. There is nothing we can do to prove we are innocent of this crime. God has exposed our longstanding guilt. We deserve to be your slaves, my lord – all of us but the youngest one, in whose bag the cup was found. Please let him return home.”

17But Joseph said, “I would never be so unjust as to make an innocent man a slave! Only the man in whose bag my cup was found will become my slave. The rest of you may go back to your father in peace.”

18Desperate to save Benjamin, Judah approached Joseph and said, “Please, my lord, allow me, your humble servant, to explain why it is right to make any of us, other than him, your slave. Do not be angry with me, your humble servant, for I know you wield the power of Pharaoh. 19You, my lord, asked us: ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20and we said, ‘Yes, our father is very old, and there is a young son born to him when he was old. The boy’s full brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s children still living, and his father loves him very much.’

21“Then you told your humble servants, ‘Bring him here to Egypt so that I can see him for myself.’ 22And we explained to you, ‘The boy cannot be taken away from his father; his father would die if the boy were taken away.’ 23But you told us, your humble servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother returns to Egypt with you, you will not enter my presence.’ 24When we returned home to your humble servant my father, we told him what you had said.

25“When our father said, ‘Go back to Egypt and buy more food,’ 26we reminded him, ‘We cannot go back without our youngest brother. If our youngest brother is not with us, we will not be permitted into the governor’s presence.’

27“Your humble servant my father then said to us, ‘You know that my wife Rachel gave me two sons. 28The oldest of the two left home and never came back, and I just knew he had surely been killed – torn to pieces by wild animals. 29If you take this son from me too, and he doesn’t come home, the sorrow of losing him, on top of the grief of losing his brother, will kill this old man.’

30“So please understand, this boy is all that has kept your humble servant my father going after the loss of his brother; and if the boy doesn’t return home with us when I go back to your humble servant my father, 31he will die. We, your humble servants, will add such sorrow to his already grieving heart that it will kill him. 32I, your humble servant, guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I pledged, ‘If I do not bring him back here safely to you, then I will carry the guilt for it forever.’

33“So please, I beg you, let your humble servant remain here as your slave in place of the boy, and let the boy go home with his brothers. 34How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? Please don’t make me do it; I cannot bear the thought of seeing the pain it would cause my father.”