Joseph: 21. The Crucial Test Applied

Genesis 44:1‑17  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Gen. 44:1-171And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth. 2And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. 3As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. 4And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? 5Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. 6And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words. 7And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: 8Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? 9With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen. 10And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless. 11Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. 12And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. 13Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. 14And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground. 15And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? 16And 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. 17And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father. (Genesis 44:1‑17)
It was needed in the moral government of God that the brethren should be searched still more thoroughly; and Joseph is His instrument in devising a still more trying means, not only to carry out self-judgment to the uttermost but to prove their affections now sound and fervent to their father and their brother, after their deep guilt in both respects of old. Love joined righteousness in thus working for their best good.
“And he commanded [him] that [was] over (or, the steward) of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food as much as they can carry; and put every man's money in the mouth of his sack. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his corn-money. And he did according to the word of Joseph which he had spoken. In the morning when it was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. They were gone out of the city, not far off, when Joseph said to his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou overtakest them, say to them, Why have you rewarded evil for good? [Is] not this [it] in what my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? Ye have done evil [in] what ye have done. And he overtook them, and spoke to them these words. And they said to him, Wherefore speaketh my lord such words as these? Far be it from thy servants to do such a thing Behold, the money which we found in our sacks' mouths we brought again to thee out of the land of Canaan; and how should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? With whomsoever of thy servants it is found, let him die; and we also will be my lord's bondmen. And he said, Now also [be] it according to your words: he with whom it is found shall be my bondman, and ye shall be blameless. And they hasted and laid down every man his sack on the ground, and opened every man his sack. And he searched carefully; he began at the eldest, and left at the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. Then they rent their clothes, and loaded every man his ass, and returned to the city. And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; and he [was] yet there; and they fell before him on the ground. And Joseph said to them, What deed [is] this which ye have done? Know Ye not that such a man as I can indeed divine? And Judah said, What shall we say to 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 bondmen, both we and [he] also in whose hand the cup is found. And he said, Far be it that I should do so! The man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my bondman; but as for you, go up in peace to your father” (vers. 1-17).
Severe as the trial was, love dictated it in the fear of God, though we may feel that the mode adopted was in no way what the N. T. would suggest to the Christian. Unfriendly eyes ignorantly misapply the light of Christ to such as had not that light as we have, to disparage the ancient scriptures, and set the one against the other. Joseph acted according to his measure, impaired no doubt by the Egyptian life which surrounded him; and scripture tells us the facts as they were, without sanction or apology. So it is even in the N. T. when the true light was already shining: the record is not a divine sanction. But the written word is always the truth of things, be it what it may; and this is what God alone gives; and it is what we need and can find nowhere else. And the steward knew well what his master intended.
How blessed for us, and to God's glory that we have the unfailing and ever holy wisdom of God in Christ! Here the unbeliever may spy as he pleases; his carping malevolence may assail or pervert. But the wisdom abides without a flaw. By-and-by He will be reigning in power; but when He too suffered as Joseph never did, His every word and way was God's wisdom for us. And so it is when accepted on high and in the highest glory, though it be not yet His promised glory on His own throne, but exalted exceptionally as Joseph was with Gentiles in immediate view, not Israel under Him as when He reigns according to the prophets. He is God's wisdom alike in heavenly glory as in earthly humiliation, as the later revelation of God abundantly proves to our joy and blessing.
His type Joseph was here to carry out the necessary probe for the clearance of all the past mischief, and the forming of a new heart and a new spirit, in his brethren. It was for God's sake and their sakes, rather than his own, that there might be the reality and the evidence of a divine work in their conscience and heart. This dictated the cup in Benjamin's sack. No doubt the shock of its discovery there acutely troubled to the brothers. But so it must be where sin of the deepest kind lay at the bottom of all; and this was but a, means that it might be duly felt and judged. After all, the pain of the means employed was very brief (not more than a few hours compared with what Joseph drank so deeply for years), and the same day followed with forgiveness and joy and tender love.
To reward the governor's good with such an evil as stealing his cup filled the brethren with all the more anguish that it was found with Benjamin. No wonder that they rent their clothes, and loaded every man his ass, and returned to the city heartbroken. And now more than ever they paid Joseph the fullest obeisance in unconscious accomplishment of his dreams, as they fell before him on the ground. In the latter half of the chapter we shall learn the depth of their renewed feeling for their father and their brother: the very issue which Joseph desired, as he on his part proved the reality and depth of his own love for all. But we need not say more now, as we have a pleading to hear which touched and delighted the heart of Joseph, as it has spoken to innumerable hearts since to our day. And what will it be when the type is fulfilled, and the Lord Himself appears to the Judah of the future day when they look on Him whom they pierced, and mourn as for an only son, every family apart, and the wives apart (Zech. 12)?