For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, If I bring him not to you…
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 -
I. JUDAH'S PLEADING.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.