GENESIS 43 and 44
We are in a stand-off situation. Jacob refuses to risk letting Benjamin travel to Egypt and so they cannot obtain food from Egypt to survive a famine in which Benjamin would otherwise certainly die, along with the whole family. Who blinks first? Jacob! Judah takes total responsibility for Benjamin’s safety and, of course, there is no option but for Jacob to place his trust in God’s mercy and agree that Benjamin can accompany his brothers. On arriving, Joseph has them all diverted to his own palace for a private lunch meeting – including the relieved Simeon.
Of course, the two people that most concern Joseph are Benjamin (his true brother) and Jacob, his father. Understandably, seeing the former and having news of the latter have an emotional effect on Joseph, and he races into his bathroom to weep and then freshen up. At lunch, the brothers are gob-smacked to realise that they have been seated in chronological order – a statistical impossibility! – but even then, they don’t guess the reason for it. Benjamin clearly already had a reputation for having a healthy appetite!
At that point, a happy family reconciliation could have occurred if only Joseph had ‘spilled the beans’ about his identity; yet he seemed determined to make his brothers feel what he had felt so many years previously. A simple trick with a valuable goblet provided sufficient pretext to have Benjamin arrested and brought back to face trial – with the rest of the brothers having no choice but to follow.
Judah, in desperation, and conscious of the promise he had made to his father, begs Joseph to take him as a slave instead of Benjamin, on the basis that his father would probably not recover if Benjamin failed to be returned safely. It may have been the mention of Jacob’s potential demise, or it may have been the shock at hearing selfish Judah acting self-sacrificially for perhaps the first time in his life, but Joseph could not hold it in any longer and wept for so long and so loudly that even the neighbours were tempted to complain!