Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin — Genesis 44

Judah became surety for Benjamin. Likewise, Jesus became surety for Christians. As our guarantor, Jesus receives the title Lion of Judah.

Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin — Genesis 44
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  • Judah told his father, "I myself will be surety for him."
  • Israel trusted El Shaddai and said, "If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
  • Joseph's brothers were recipients of Joseph's kindness.
  • There has been no restoration, repentance, or forgiveness
  • The brothers' guilt still remains.

The Brother's Test (v.1–5)

  • The following events in Genesis 44 take place in less than one day.
  • With Benjamin in Egypt, Joseph gives his brothers a final test.
  • Early in the morning, Joseph's brothers are sent out.
  • Joseph gives his brothers food, their silver, and his silver cup.
    • Money (v.1 and 2) is same word as silver cup (כֶּסֶף)
  • Joseph sold for 20 pieces of silver.
  • "Why have you repaid evil for good?" (v.4)
    • Exact opposite of Genesis 50:20, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."
  • What makes Joseph's silver cup special? (v.5)
    • Drinking goblet (גָּבִיעַ), but it was used for divination
    • Divination was prohibited in Lev 19:26 and Deut 18:10
    • Hydromancy (water in oil) and oelomancy (oil in water)
    • Interpreting surface patterns to predict the future.
    • Cup for divination could not be easily replaced.

2. The Brothers' Change (v.6-13)

  • Notice Joseph's brother's overconfidence
    • Plead their innocence (v.7-8)
      • "Far be it..." (חָלִיל) - common begins an oath
        • Joshua 24:16 - The people said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake YHWH to serve other gods."
        • Genesis 18:25 - Abraham reminds God, "Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to dead with the wicked." (if 50 righteous men were in Sodom)
        • Joseph uses same word in v.17 (3rd time in Genesis)
      • Brothers make a rash oath to call on a death penalty (v.9)
      • Reminder of Joseph and Rachel in Genesis 31
      • How quickly the brothers forgot money was returned to their sacks during their first trip.
    • So Joseph's steward starts his search with the eldest.
    • "And the cup was found in Benjamin's sack." (v.12)
    • The brothers tore their clothes. (v.13)
      • An action used to show mourning or repentance. [1]
      • Gen 37:29 - Reuben tore his clothes (Joseph not in pit)
      • Gen 37:34 - Jacob tore his clothes learning about Joseph
      • Joshua 7 - Joshua tore his clothes after defeat at Ai
      • 2 Sam 1 - David tore his clothes after King Saul died.
    • Steward take the guilty one as a slave, Benjamin.
    • Without hesitation, all 10 brothers return to Egypt.

3. The Brothers' Guilt (v.14-17)

  • Not much time had elapsed. Joseph was still at home. (v.14a)
  • "They fell before him to the ground." (v.14b)
    • This was not a gesture of reference or worship
    • This was a physical act of desparation.
  • Joseph reverts to his harsh, rough tone in Genesis 42. (v.15)
  • Judah is now the leader, not Reuben.
  • v.16 "What can we say to my lord?
    • imperfect verbal form in the Hebrew refers to potential[2]
  • Judah makes three declarations
  1. They cannot prove their innocence.
    • Circumstantial evidence is too overwhelming.
  2. God has found out their guilt
    • They were not guilty of stealing Joseph's silver goblet.
    • They were guilty of selling Joseph to slavery and covering up their sin.
  3. All the brothers are willing to be slaves with Benjamin.
  • Joseph's response: he only wants Benjamin
    • 10 other brothers may go back to their father in peace.
    • If the brothers returned to their father without Benjamin, it would be impossible to have שָׁלוֹם

4. Judah Becomes Surety (v.18-34)

  • The next 17 verses comprise the longest speech in Genesis[3]
  • One pastor calls v.18-34 "the most moving address in all the Word of God."[4]
  1. Judah requests a favorable hearing (v.18)
    • Hear my case. Don't get mad at what I'm about the say.
    • You have the power of Pharoah, and therefore you have the power to severely punish me.
  2. Judah recounts their first visit (v.19-23)
    • Third recount of the same events (recapitulation)
      • Narrator describes the first visit in Genesis 41.
      • Brothers report first visit to Jacob in Genesis 42.
      • Now, Judah recounts their first visit to Egypt a third time.
    • Notice what Judah emphasizes here in Genesis 44.
      • There is a father, an old man.
      • There is a youngest son who is beloved by his father.
      • Youngest son had one brother presumed dead. Therefore he is the one remaining son left of his mother.
      • Prime minister was informed that the youngest son could not leave his father. If he leaves, their father would die.
      • But the prime minister stipulated that unless the youngest son comes to Egypt with them, the brothers could not return to Egypt to see the prime minister's face.
  3. Judah reports his father's distress (v.24-31)
    • The use of recapitulation
      • Narrator first describes Jacob's distress in Genesis 42-43.
    • The father, Jacob, is the main character in Judah's speech.
      • Judah addresses his father 15x in these 17 verses.
      • v.19-20, v.22, v.24-25, v.27, v.30-31
      • There is no reference to the welfare of Benjamin, his other brothers, or himself. Judah is singularly concerned about the welfare of his father alone.
    • "If the boy is not with us, he will die...with sorrow to Sheol." (v.31)
  4. Judah renders himself as surety (v.32-34)
    • Judah restates his pledge of safety, his status as guarantor, his promise as surety. (v.32)
    • Judah offers to be a substitute for Israel's son. (v.33)
      • Judah, in place of Benjamin, fully accepts vicarious punishment.
    • Judah's speech is too much for Joseph to bear. (Gen 45:1)
    • God required Abraham's son Isaac in Genesis 22.
    • God required all of Egypt's firstborn son during the Exodus.
      • Yet a passover lamb substituted for Israel's firstborn sons.
    • Joseph required Benjamin, but Judah offers himself as his brother's substitute.
    • Does Judah remind you of anyone?
      • From the loins of Judah comes our Lord Jesus Christ.
    • "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament" (Hebrews 7:22 KJV)
    • "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered..." (Revelation 5:5)


  • Like Jacob's brothers, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
  • We carry the heavy weight of guilt because of our sin.
  • We are all under God's wrath and condemnation.
  • In Genesis 22, Abraham's son Isaac was spared.
  • Jacob's sons were spared: first Judah, and now Benjamin.
  • In Exodus, all the firstborn sons of Israel were again spared.
  • "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5 @ transfiguration)
  • "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all." (Romans 8:32a)
  • This is what Christmas is all about. God did not spare his only son.
  • Jacob did not die with sorrow to Sheol because our heavenly Father took on sorrow.
  • In the greatest act of love, mercy, and self-sacrifice, God the Father sent his only Son to be our substitute, our guarantor, our surety.
  • Let us worship the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the infant Jesus, our surety, the Lion of Judah.

  1. John D. Barry, David Bomar, et al., eds., “Tearing of Clothes,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). ↩︎

  2. NET Bible Translation Notes ↩︎

  3. Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 561. ↩︎

  4. Barnhouse, Genesis: A Devotional Exposition, vol 2, 200. ↩︎

Bible Studies on the Story of Joseph

  1. Introduction to the Joseph Narrative in Genesis
  2. Joseph the Dreamer (Genesis 37:2–11)
  3. Joseph Sold to Slavery (Genesis 37:12–36)
  4. Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)
  5. Joseph Tempted by Potiphar's Wife (Genesis 39)
  6. God Remembers Joseph in Prison (Genesis 40)
  7. Pharoah's Dreams Interpreted (Genesis 41:1–36)
  8. Joseph Made Prime Minister (Genesis 41:37–57)
  9. Jacob's Sons' First Trip to Egypt (Genesis 42)
  10. Jacob Accepts Judah's Guarantee (Genesis 43:1–14)
  11. Joseph Reunites with Benjamin (Genesis 43:15–34)
  12. Joseph Plants His Silver Cup (Genesis 44:1–17)
  13. Judah's Plea for Benjamin (Genesis 44:18–34)
  14. Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin (Genesis 44)
  15. A Portrait of Forgiveness (Genesis 45:1–8)
  16. It Is Enough (Genesis 45:9–28)
  17. Prepared to Die (Genesis 46)
  18. God Rescues Egypt (Genesis 47:1–26)
  19. "God Will Be With You" (Genesis 47:27–48:22)
  20. Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done (Genesis 49)
  21. God Meant It For Good (Genesis 50)