Joseph Tests His Brothers

Joseph still wanted to see how much they were willing to sacrifice for one an other. After the meal, he told his supervisor to fill the sacks of his brothers with provisions, and again to put their money on top. His own “magic” cup, however, he ordered to be put in Benjamin’s sack. The man carried out Joseph’s orders, and the next morning, unaware of the plot, Joseph’s brothers set out for Canaan, happy that everything had gone so well.

Hardly had they left the city, when the supervisor came riding after them and reprimanded them for stealing his master’s “divining cup.” What ingratitude for the kindness with which he had treated them! In vain did they protest, reminding him that they had even returned the money they had found in their sacks the last time. Why should they now steal what belonged to his master? They agreed to have their belongings searched, and said that if one of them had stolen the cup, he would die, and that the others would serve as slaves.

The supervisor, however, said that the thief alone would be held responsible and taken into bondage, and that the rest could go home free.

Convinced of their innocence, the brothers unloaded their packs. The search began with the oldest and went down to the youngest. When Benjamin’s sack was opened, the brothers were shocked. There the cup lay, mute evidence of a crime they knew Benjamin could not have committed. Tearing their clothes in great despair, the brothers decided they would stick together, one for all and all for one. How different they were now from what they had been many years earlier, when they had turned deaf ears to Joseph’s plight!

All the brothers now returned to Egypt to try to save the innocent Benjamin.

Judah Pleads For Benjamin

When the brothers returned to Joseph, they fell down before him and proclaimed their innocence. They could not understand how such a thing had happened, they said, and expressed the belief that the discovery of the cup in Benjamin’s sack was some kind of punishment for their sins; they added that they were ready to take the consequence-they would all be Joseph’s slaves!

But Joseph refused their offer and said that only the one in whose possession the cup had been found was to remain as slave; the others could return to their father in Canaan.

Then Judah stepped forward and began to plead for Benjamin. Judah began by accusing the harsh govenor of a plot to enslave them from the start. He warned him of the unusual strength of the sons of Jacob. Cleverly, Joseph replied that his divining cup had already told him that two of them had destroyed a whole city, but that he was not impressed.

Then Judah changed his tactics and appealed to Joseph’s heart. He recounted the whole story of Jacob and his two beloved sons, whom his favorite wife, Rachel, had borne him in his old age. Judah told of his father’s grief when one of them had disappeared from home. He revealed that should they come home without the other one, their aged father would never survive the calamity. Finally, Judah offered himself in the boy’s place, pointing out that he would be of so much more value than Benjamin as a slave.

Joseph Reveals Himself

Judah’s moving appeal and spirit of self-sacrifice in behalf of his brother well being tore Joseph’s affectionate heart apart. He knew that his brothers had changed completely, and that they would rather die than give Benjamin away as a slave. Joseph could now forgive them for all they had done to him, which, after all, he knew was for the best. Joseph felt that he could no longer play the hateful role he had assumed in order to test his brothers. His tears were bursting forth, and he longed to embrace his beloved brothers. Sending all the Egyptian associates and attendants out of the room, Joseph, with tears in his eyes, exclaimed in Hebrew, in a voice shaking with emotion (Genesis 45:3): “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”

So stunned were his brothers that they could not answer him. Joseph realized their embarrassment and possible fear of him, and he continued to talk to them with brotherly affection which soon put them at ease. He told them not to worry about having sold him as a slave, for it had been G‑d’s will to send him to Egypt to save their lives from hunger. Then he asked them to hurry back to Jacob and tell him that they had found his lost son, Joseph. He asked them to tell their father that despite the many years of absence from home, in an environment of idolatry and immorality, he had remained the same Joseph his father had known and loved. Joseph thereupon begged his father to come to Egypt with his whole household, where Joseph would take care of them. In Goshen, a province of Egypt, they could settle and live in peace and plenty, for the years of famine were not yet over. There he would take care of them as best he could.

Joseph embraced his brother Benjamin and kissed him, and then he embraced all his other brothers. All eyes were full of tears, tears of happiness and of gratitude to G‑d for His boundless mercy.