Genesis 44:18
Then Judah came near to him, and said, Oh my lord, let your servant, I pray you, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant: for you are even as Pharaoh.
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Genesis 44:18-34. And Judah said — We have here a most pathetic speech which Judah made to Joseph on Benjamin’s behalf. Either Judah was a better friend to Benjamin than the rest, and more solicitous to bring him off; or he thought himself under greater obligations to endeavour it than they were, because he had passed his word to his father for his safe return. His address, as it is here recorded, is so very natural, and so expressive of his present passion, that we cannot but suppose Moses, who wrote it so long after, to have written it under the special direction of Him that made man’s mouth. Indeed the whole speech is most exquisitely beautiful, and perhaps the most complete piece of genuine and natural eloquence to be found in any language. 1st, He addressed himself to Joseph with a great deal of respect, calls him his lord, himself and his brethren his servants, begs his patient hearing, and passeth a mighty compliment upon him, Thou art even as Pharaoh — A person whose favour we desire, and whose wrath we dread, as we do Pharaoh’s. 2d, He represented Benjamin as one well worthy of his compassionate consideration; he was a little one, compared with the rest; the youngest, not acquainted with the world, nor inured to hardship, having been always brought up tenderly with his father. It made the case the more piteous that he alone was left of his mother, and his brother was dead — Namely, Joseph; little did Judah think what a tender point he touched upon now. Judah knew that Joseph was sold, and therefore had reason enough to think that he was not alive. 3d, He urged it closely that Joseph had himself constrained them to bring Benjamin with them, had expressed a desire to see him, had forbidden them his presence, unless they brought him with them, all which intimated that he designed him some kindness. And must he be brought with so much difficulty to the preferment of a perpetual slavery? Was he not brought to Egypt in obedience, purely in obedience to the command of Joseph, and would not he show him some mercy? 4th, The great argument he insists upon was the insupportable grief it would be to his aged father, if Benjamin should be left behind in servitude. His father loveth him, Genesis 44:20. Thus they had pleaded against Joseph’s insisting on his coming down, Genesis 44:22. If he should leave his father, his father would die — Much more, if he now be left behind, never to return. This the old man of whom they spake had pleaded against his going down: If mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs, that crown of glory, with sorrow to the grave. This therefore Judah pressed with a great deal of earnestness. His life is bound up in the lad’s life — When he sees that the lad is not with us, he will faint away and die immediately, or will abandon himself to such a degree of sorrow, as will, in a few days, make an end of him. And, lastly, Judah pleads, that, for his part, he could not bear to see this: Let me not see the evil that shall come on my father. 5th, Judah, in honour to the justice of Joseph’s sentence, and to show his sincerity in this plea, offers himself to become a bondman instead of Benjamin. Thus the law would be satisfied; Joseph would be no loser, for we may suppose Judah a more able-bodied man than Benjamin; Jacob would better bear that than the loss of Benjamin. Now, so far was he from grieving at his father’s particular fondness for Benjamin, that he is himself willing to be a bondman to indulge it.

Now, had Joseph been, as Judah supposed, an utter stranger to the family, yet even common humanity could not but be wrought upon by such powerful reasonings as these; for nothing could be said more moving, more tender; it was enough to melt a heart of stone: but to Joseph, who was nearer akin to Benjamin than Judah himself, and who, at this time, felt a greater passion for him and his aged father than Judah did, nothing could be more pleasingly nor more happily said. Neither Jacob nor Benjamin needed an intercessor with Joseph, for he himself loved them. Upon the whole, let us take notice, 1st, How prudently Judah suppressed all mention of the crime that was charged upon Benjamin. Had he said any thing by way of acknowledgment of it, he had reflected on Benjamin’s honesty. Had he said any thing by way of denial of it, he had reflected on Joseph’s justice; therefore he wholly waives that head, and appeals to Joseph’s pity. 2d, What good reason dying Jacob had to say, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; (Genesis 49:8;) for he excelled them all in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family. 3d, Judah’s faithful adherence to Benjamin, now in his distress, was recompensed long after, by the constant adherence of the tribe of Benjamin to the tribe of Judah, when all the other ten tribes deserted it.44:18-34 Had Joseph been, as Judah supposed him, an utter stranger to the family, he could not but be wrought upon by his powerful reasonings. But neither Jacob nor Benjamin need an intercessor with Joseph; for he himself loved them. Judah's faithful cleaving to Benjamin, now, in his distress, was recompensed long afterwards by the tribe of Benjamin keeping with the tribe of Judah, when the other tribes deserted it. The apostle, when discoursing of the mediation of Christ, observes, that our Lord sprang out of Judah, Heb 7:14; and he not only made intercession for the transgressors, but he became a Surety for them, testifying therein tender concern, both for his Father and for his brethren. Jesus, the great antitype of Joseph, humbles and proves his people, even after they have had some tastes of his loving-kindness. He brings their sins to their remembrance, that they may exercise and show repentance, and feel how much they owe to his mercy."They rent their garments;" the natural token of a sorrow that knows no remedy. "And Judah went." He had pledged himself for the safety of Benjamin to his father. And he was yet there; awaiting no doubt the result which he anticipated. "They fell before him on the earth." It is no longer a bending of the head or bowing of the body, but the posture of deepest humiliation. How deeply that early dream penetrated into the stern reality! "Wot ye not that such a man as I doth certainly divine?" Joseph keeps up the show of resentment for a little longer, and brings out from Judah the most pathetic plea of its kind that ever was uttered. "The God," the great and only God, "hath found out the iniquity of thy servants;" in our dark and treacherous dealing with our brother. "Behold, we are servants to my lord." He resigns himself and all to perpetual bondage, as the doom of a just God upon their still-remembered crime. "He shall be my servant; and ye, go up in peace to your father." Now is the test applied with the nicest adjustment. Now is the moment of agony and suspense to Joseph. Will my brothers prove true? says he within himself. Will Judah prove adequate to the occasion? say we. His pleading with his father augured well.

Verse 18-34

"And Judah came near unto him." He is going to surrender himself as a slave for life, that Benjamin may go home with his brothers, who are permitted to depart. "Let thy servant now speak a word in the ears of my lord." There is nothing here but respectful calmness of demeanor. "And let not thine anger burn against thy servant." He intuitively feels that the grand vizier is a man of like feelings with himself. He will surmount the distinction of rank, and stand with him on the ground of a common humanity. "For so art thou as Pharaoh." Thou hast power to grant or withhold my request. This forms, the exordium of the speech. Then follows the plea. This consists in a simple statement of the facts, which Judah expects to have its native effect upon a rightly-constituted heart. We will not touch this statement, except to explain two or three expressions. A young lad - a comparative youth. "Let me set mine eyes upon him" - regard him with favor and kindness. "He shall leave his father and he shall die." If he were to leave his father, his father would die. Such is the natural interpretation of these words, as the paternal affection is generally stronger than the filial. "And now let thy servant now abide instead of the lad a servant to my lord." Such is the humble and earnest petition of Judah. He calmly and firmly sacrifices home, family, and birthright, rather than see an aged father die of a broken heart.

- Joseph Made Himself Known to His Brethren

10. גשׁן gôshen, Goshen, Gesem (Arabias related perhaps to גשׁם geshem "rain, shower"), a region on the borders of Egypt and Arabia, near the gulf of Suez.

The appeal of Judah is to Joseph irresistible. The repentance of his brothers, and their attachment to Benjamin, have been demonstrated in the most satisfactory manner. This is all that Joseph sought. It is evident, throughout the whole narrative, that he never aimed at exercising any supremacy over his brothers. As soon as he has obtained an affecting proof of the right disposition of his brothers, he conceals himself no longer. And the speech of Judah, in which, no doubt, his brothers concurred, does equal credit to his head and heart.

16-34. Judah said, What shall we say?—This address needs no comment—consisting at first of short, broken sentences, as if, under the overwhelming force of the speaker's emotions, his utterance were choked, it becomes more free and copious by the effort of speaking, as he proceeds. Every word finds its way to the heart; and it may well be imagined that Benjamin, who stood there speechless like a victim about to be laid on the altar, when he heard the magnanimous offer of Judah to submit to slavery for his ransom, would be bound by a lifelong gratitude to his generous brother, a tie that seems to have become hereditary in his tribe. Joseph's behavior must not be viewed from any single point, or in separate parts, but as a whole—a well-thought, deep-laid, closely connected plan; and though some features of it do certainly exhibit an appearance of harshness, yet the pervading principle of his conduct was real, genuine, brotherly kindness. Read in this light, the narrative of the proceedings describes the continuous, though secret, pursuit of one end; and Joseph exhibits, in his management of the scheme, a very high order of intellect, a warm and susceptible heart, united to a judgment that exerted a complete control over his feelings—a happy invention in devising means towards the attainment of his ends and an inflexible adherence to the course, however painful, which prudence required. Judah made a little nearer approach to him, that he might present his humble petition to him.

In my lord’s ears, in thy hearing; for this phrase doth not necessarily imply that he whispered in his ears; as appears from Numbers 14:28 Deu 32:44 Judges 17:2.

Thou art even as Pharaoh; as thou representest his person, so thou art invested with his majesty and authority, and therefore thy word is a law; thou canst do with us what thou pleasest, either spare or punish us, and therefore we do justly deprecate thine anger, and most humbly entreat thy favourable audience and princely compassion to us. Then Judah came near unto him,.... Being the spokesman of his brethren, and the surety of Benjamin: he plucked up a spirit, put on courage, and drew nearer to the governor, and with much freedom and boldness, and in a very polite manner, addressed him:

and said, O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears; not admit him to private audience, or suffer him to whisper something to him, but give him the hearing of a few words he had to say to him:

and let not thine anger burn against thy servant; do not be displeased with his boldness, and the freedom he takes, but hear him patiently:

for thou art even as Pharaoh; next, if not equal in power and authority with him; could exercise justice or show mercy, punish or release from punishment, at his pleasure; and having leave granted him, he began his speech, and made the following narrative.

Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even {e} as Pharaoh.

(e) Equal in authority or, next to the king.

18. Then Judah] The prominence of Judah has been noticeable in Genesis 43:3; Genesis 43:8 and in Genesis 44:14; Genesis 44:16 of this chapter. Benjamin, though present, is silent; Reuben takes no part.

Oh my lord] See Genesis 43:20.

thou art even as Pharaoh] Judah’s opening words are those of graceful deference, referring to Joseph’s enquiry in Genesis 44:15.

18–34. Judah’s Intercession

This is one of the most beautiful and pathetic passages in Hebrew narrative. Judah’s speech falls into two unequal divisions: (1) Genesis 44:18-31 a simple recapitulation of the story, (2) Genesis 44:31-34 his self-sacrificing offer of himself as a substitute for Benjamin. The points emphasized are (a) Joseph’s previous demand to see Benjamin, (b) the aged father’s unwillingness to let him go, (c) the certainty that the loss of Benjamin would be Jacob’s death, (d) the offer to stay in Benjamin’s place.Verses 18-34. - Then Judah came near to him, and said, - the speech of Judah in behalf of his young brother Benjamin has been fittingly characterized as "one of the master. pieces of Hebrew composition" (Kalisch), "one of the grandest and fairest to be found in the Old Testament" (Lange), "a more moving oration than ever orator pronounced" (Lawson), "one of the finest specimens of natural eloquence in the world" (Inglis). Without being distinguished by either brilliant imagination or highly poetic diction, "its inimitable charm and excellence consist in the power of psychological truth, easy simplicity, and affecting pathos" (Kalisch) - Oh my lord (the interjection Oh is the same as that used by Judah in Genesis 43:20; q.v.), let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears (probably pressing towards him in his eagerness), and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh (i.e. one invested with the authority of Pharaoh, and therefore able, like Pharaoh, either to pardon or condemn). My lord asked his servants, saying, Have yea father, or a brother! And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age (vide Genesis 37:3), a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. Substantially this is the account which the brethren gave of themselves from the first (Genesis 42:13); only Judah now with exquisite tact as well as resistless pathos dwells on the threefold circumstance that the little one whose life was at stake was inexpressibly dear to his father for his dead brother's sake as well as for his departed mother's and his own. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. This last clause is also a rhetorical enlargement of Joseph's words, ἐπιμελοῦμαι αὐτοῦ (LXX.); the phrase, to set one's eyes on any one, being commonly used in a good sense, signifying to regard any one with kindness, to look to his good (cf. Ezra 5:5; Job 24:23; Jeremiah 39:12; Jeremiah 40:4). And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die. Judah in this no doubt correctly reports the original conversation, although the remark is not recorded in the first account. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more (cf. Genesis 43:3-5). And it came to pass (literally, it was) when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. The effect upon Jacob of their sad communication Judah does not recite (Genesis 42:36), but passes on to the period of the commencement of the second journey. And our father laid (i.e. after the consumption of the corn supply), Go again, and buy us a little food (vide Genesis 43:2). And we laid, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us. And thy servant my father said unto us (at this point Judah with increased tenderness alludes to the touching lamentation of the stricken patriarch as he first listens to the unwelcome proposition to take Benjamin from his side), Ye know that my wife - Rachel was all through her life the wife of his affections (cf. Genesis 46:19) - bare me two sons: - Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 30:22, 24; Genesis 35:18) - and the one (Joseph) went out from me (and returned not, thus indirectly alluding to his death), and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since. Jacob means that had Joseph been alive, he would certainly have returned; but that as since that fatal day of his departure from Hebron he had never beheld him, he could only conclude that his inference was correct, and that Joseph was devoured by some beast of prey. And if ye take this also from me (in the sense which the next clause explains), and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave - Sheol (vide Genesis 37:35). Now therefore (literally, and now) when I come (or go) to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life (or soul) is bound up in the lad's life (or soul); it shall come to pass, when he sooth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the grey hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever (vide Genesis 43:9). Now therefore (literally, and now), I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman (or servant) to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. "There was no duty that imperiously prohibited Judah from taking the place of his unfortunate brother. His children, and even his wife, if he had been in the married state, might have been sent to Egypt. He was so far master of his own liberty that he could warrantably put himself in Benjamin's room, if the governor gave his consent" (Lawson). For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on (literally, shall find) my father. The sublime heroism of this noble act of self-sacrifice on the part of Judah it is impossible to over-estimate. In behalf of one whom he knew was preferred to a higher place in his father's affection than himself, he was willing to renounce his liberty rather than see his aged parent die of a broken heart. The self-forgetful magnanimity of such an action has never been eclipsed, and seldom rivaled. After words so exquisitely beautiful and profoundly pathetic it was impossible for Joseph to doubt that a complete change had passed upon his brethren, and in particular upon Judah, since the day when he had eloquently urged, and they had wickedly consented, to sell their brother Joseph into Egypt. Everything was now ready for the denouement in this domestic drama. The story of Joseph's discovery of himself to his astonished brethren is related in the ensuing chapter.

They then took down their sacks as quickly as possible; and he examined them, beginning with the eldest and finishing with the youngest; and the goblet was found in Benjamin's sack. With anguish and alarm at this new calamity they rent their clothes (vid., Genesis 37:34), loaded their asses again, and returned to the city. It would now be seen how they felt in their inmost hearts towards their father's favourite, who had been so distinguished by the great man of Egypt: whether now as formerly they were capable of giving up their brother, and bringing their aged father with sorrow to the grave; or whether they were ready, with unenvying, self-sacrificing love, to give up their own liberty and lives for him. And they stood this test.
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