Genesis 44:2. Put my cup. A splendid cup decorated with devices; in these cups the Egyptians fancied they could divine by the various refractions of light on its mouldings. Sometimes they put polished trinkets into the water, still more to vary the light. Joseph’s brethren having hated him because his father had given him the birthright, being the firstborn of Rachel, his beloved wife; and Benjamin having now inherited that blessing, he wished to try whether they secretly hated him from the same cause.
Genesis 44:9. Let him die. Jacob used the same expression when Laban charged him with having stolen his gods. Genesis 31:32. The sentence implies the strongest confidence in their own innocence, and the most pointed abhorrence of theft.
Genesis 44:13. Rent their clothes. A custom prevalent among the oriental nations. Job 1:20. It was one of the most striking expressions of anguish, and sometimes of indignation, which a man could give.
Genesis 44:15. Wot ye not that such a man as I could certainly divine? It was a practice generally prevalent in great men of the patriarchal ages to affect divine intelligence, and superiority over the public mind. Soothsaying, hariolism and divination, were held in reputation among the benighted gentiles.
Genesis 44:16. God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants. Judah believed, no doubt, that Benjamin had stolen the cup. This on the one hand, and the oath on the other, which he had made to his father, operated on his heart, and produced the sublime of eloquence in his narration, and in his offer of servitude for his brother. This most pathetic and successful speech realizes the ancient adage, that a speaker must himself feel first the tender sentiments he would excite in others. Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi. Cicero.
Genesis 44:28. Surely he is torn in pieces. Here Judah, personating his father, speaks the truth; and yet he has a sufficient command of prudence not to confess the family crime to an Egyptian judge. Perhaps Joseph could see in his countenance the sorrows of his heart.
This chapter opens with the great kindness of Joseph to the Hebrew strangers, and they left Memphis with high notions of his rectitude and hospitality. Such were their sentiments, when the pursuing cavalcade arrested them on a charge of the foulest ingratitude. In this way, soon or late, the hand of God will arrest every sinner, and bring him to reflection, and to the bar of justice. Happy if we have then a friend and a brother on the throne.
The speech of Judah discovers all the efforts of a great mind, suddenly overwhelmed with a calamity, by which all the passions are roused to eloquence. A criminal so circumstanced would have been struck dumb and appalled; but a conscious rectitude gave elevation and utterance to his soul. His narration is all simple, the circumstances are all pathetic; his feelings for a long-afflicted father are worthy of a son; his fidelity to the oath discovered the integrity of his heart; and his overture of servitude for Benjamin was so generous and grand, that the judge could no longer resist. The long-lost brother instantly appeared in all his latent characters of forgiveness and love. It was as much as he could do to contain himself, till Judah had closed his speech; and from the manner in which Judah pleaded with the judge, from the tender and irresistible touches of his eloquence, every penitent may learn how to plead with God. Go then poor alarmed and awakened soul, go to thy great High Priest and Prince at the Father’s right hand. Go with a full heart and utter all thy woes. Acknowledge thy transgressions, and plead the atonement of Calvary. Do not fear to mention the garment rolled in blood; though it be a badge of thy guilt, it is nevertheless a pledge of thy pardon. Plead like Judah, till the judge, seeing all thy soul disclosed, shall enter into thy sorrows, and weep in thy tears. Then mercy shall no longer be able to conceal her beams in the clouds of justice. She will open her hands in blessings, and the store shall be so great as to fill the soul with admiring silence, and all the awe of sanctifying love.
We should here remark, that God has various ways of bringing sinners to the knowledge of himself, and that many serious persons have suffered much because they have been led in a way very different from what they were taught to expect. Joseph’s brethren had committed a grievous crime, and they had long persisted in the lies by which it was concealed. Therefore he was instructed of God to speak roughly to them, mixing his treatment with kindness and severity; and not discovering his person till after they had rent their garments, and patiently offered themselves for that servitude to which they had sold their innocent brother. Such are the awful characters of divine justice, and such the rigorous requisitions of the law. Persons of mild dispositions and of religious habits, it is granted, are often drawn by love, and gently allured to Jesus Christ; but sinners like these are seldom converted, without a powerful law-work on the mind. During the course of ignorance and crimes, the sinner has buoyed up his mind with the presumptuous notion, that it is but to repent at last and all will be well; that God being so indulgent and tender, we have only to ask, and we shall instantly receive forgiveness, and a meetness for heaven. But this man, on becoming deeply awakened, finds himself deceived. His mind strives to keep the law, but his heart revolts against it. He endeavours to compose his conscience; and it daily becomes more alarmed by new discoveries of his sin. He groans and struggles for deliverance, but sinks the deeper into the mire. The billows go over his head, the arrows of God wound his soul, and despondency overshadows his hope. Look which way he will for help, he sees no way of escape. The counsel and aid of man utterly fail. Thus it is, that this class of sinners wait and weep; thus they plead and make their supplication till by some ray of brightness, till by some gracious promise or happy thought, he chases away all gloom from the mind, and sheds abroad his love in the heart. And oh the joys, the unutterable joys which then inspire the soul: they are like the overwhelming joys which these brethren felt when the angry ruler, now softened into tears, said—I am Joseph your brother.
In Judah’s solicitude that no fresh trouble should be brought on Jacob, children have a fine model of duty, in their endeavours to make the old age and last years of a parent easy and happy. To accomplish this, he was willing to sacrifice his liberty. What filial affection, what benevolence of heart, what magnanimity and disinterestedness! May his example inspire our children; and may we so conduct ourselves towards them, that the return of kindness shall be their delight.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 44". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany