The story that now unfolds is rich in typical teaching. It looks far beyond the actual dealings of Joseph with his brethren and mirrors the coming dealings of Jesus with the Jews. That phase of Joseph's dealings is unfolded in three stages.
The brothers had once conspired in hate against Joseph; now he conspired in love against them. He commenced by dealing with their greed (44:1). "And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, am much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth." They had once sold him for money, so let them have money. Let them have it until they loathe the very sight of it.
Most people like money, but few have been so successful in acquiring it as the Jews. As a race they seem to have an instinctive flair for getting rich. Their great natural talents, wedded to their tireless industry, business acumen and mutual cooperation have made the Jews the financiers of the world. During the Middle Ages they invariably rose swiftly to positions of affluence and power in all the lands into which they were driven by persecution. Kings, emperors, and popes appealed to them once acquired, made them the envy of their neighbours. It became an international game to fleece the Jews. They had used cold cash to buy Judas, money has become their snare. Having dealt with their greed, Joseph dealt next with their grudge (44:2-3). "And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money, " he commanded his steward. He had confronted them with dangerous riches in the first part of the gentle conspiracy; now he confronted them with dreadful responsibility. In Benjamin's sack was set a bomb timed to explode before the brothers left behind the final frontiers of the land. Benjamin was to become a threat to them all just as he, Joseph, had been to them (or so they had imagined) long years ago. What would they do with Benjamin? That was what Joseph wished to know.
As Joseph's brothers were heading toward the sands of Sinai, Joseph's steward and an escort of armed men came up behind. "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?" the steward demanded as he reined in his horse and motioned to the escort to surround the brothers. "Where is my lord's cup, the cup he uses in his divining arts?" In ancient Egypt a goblet was frequently used as a means of communicating with the spirits. In some cases small pieces of gold or silver, together with precious stones, were cast into the goblet over which appropriate incantations were uttered. The cup then acted as a species of Ouija board. Sometimes the goblet would be filled with water and set in the sun so that the deeps and shadows cast in the cup could be read just as some people today read tea leaves in a cup. It is hardly likely that Joseph indulged in such practices, but he certainly must have known about them.
The magicians of Egypt made uses of such methods of divination and were held in great awe by the people in consequence. The brothers, already in awe of Joseph, were not terrified at his supposed ability to see into their very sacks.
To the last man they protested their innocence. So confident were they that none of them had tampered with the cup they swore a great oath. "With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondsmen." The steward smiled grimly and asked them to open their sacks. One by one the brothers passed inspection until the searchers came to Benjamin, then, there it was! The missing cup was in the mouth of Benjamin's sack.
The brothers had come to life's greatest crossroad. What would they do with Benjamin? Would they compound their wickedness and toss him to the wolves as once they had sloughed off Joseph? Or would they take their stand for Benjamin? It did not take long for the interested steward to see the result of the game being played out there on the desert sand. Without a moment's hesitation the stricken men cast in their lot with Benjamin and prepared to share whatever fate was in store for him. Little did they know it, but by that action they had turned the tide. The incident points forward to the day when the Jews, the Lord's kinsmen according to the flesh, will be put into the furnace of affliction, to be purified by the flame and be made ready for the revelation to them of Jesus in His glory, the one who has been active in their affairs all along.
Discernment was dawning, but not yet were Joseph's brethren ready for the moment of the "apocalypse", when Joseph would be unveiled before them. Greatly chastened, they rent their clothes in typical eastern fashion, for they had come to an end of all their cleverness and pride. Greatly changed, they came to Joseph and flung themselves before him.
At once Joseph made them face the fact of his greatness and his power. "What deed is this that ye have done?" he demanded. "Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?" He was forcing them to think of him in even bigger terms than any they had conceded before. Likewise, in a coming day, in the furnace of the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus will force the Jews to think of Him in far greater terms than ever they have been willing to do. Whatever current Jewish thought might be about Jesus, one thing is certain: the Jews, as a people, are not prepared to admit His Deity, that He is their Messiah and the Son of God, and that, as a nation, they committed the crime of crimes in forcing Pilate's hand by insisting of the crucifixion of Christ. "His blood be on us and upon our children," they had cried, crowning their guilt. The Tribulation, however, will smash right through their national and religious pride and will prepare them for the full and final unveiling to them of Jesus Himself.
Now Judah took the stage. First he offered to share the blame and then to shoulder the blame completely himself. "What shall we say unto my lord" he cried. "What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants". In a vague and general way Judah confessed the guilt of the brothers in the rejection and sale of Joseph long years before. It was a great step forward, but it was still not enough. Joseph promptly rejected their offer to share the blame with Benjamin - for Judah evidently thought it possible that Benjamin, despite his cries of innocence, had actually stolen the cup. "Behold we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found."
Joseph rejected the suggestion out of the hand; it was not what he wanted. "God forbid," he said, "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 to your father." He was still forcing the issue - what would they do with Benjamin?
Judah rose to the occasion in one of the great intercessory prayers of the Bible, a prayer that demonstrated Judah's moral greatness and his supremacy over all his brethren. It was for that prayer, possibly, that the Messianic line was finally settled on Judah. As a result of his prayer all the barriers to Joseph's complete revelation of himself were removed. In his prayer Judah took his stand, on behalf of all his brethren, with Benjamin the father's beloved.
He appealed to the stranger-lord's patience (44:18). "Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh." He gave Joseph his proper position and appealed to him on the ground of grace. He appealed to the stranger-lord's purposes (44:19-23), telling Joseph how the famine had affected the family and how Joseph's heart must have warmed as Judah rehearsed all Joseph's dealings with them. He reminded the stranger-lord of his inflexible demand that he be approached only through Benjamin. He appealed to the strangerlord's pity (44:24-31), speaking to him of the father's great sorrow that Benjamin must go. "And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: and the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: and if ye take this also from me ... ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."
How that must have touched Joseph's heart! Here was Judah talking to him about the father's soul at the tidings of Joseph's death. As Judah spoke of the father's broken heart, Joseph's heart overflowed.
What a lesson concerning intercession is embodied here. If we would be intercessors, let us tell our Lord about His sufferings and what those sufferings meant to the Father. Let us talk to Him about Calvary. Let us tell Him how Calvary broke the heart of God. Let us tell Him that Calvary can never be allowed to happen again-once for that kind of sorrow is enough for all eternity. Such pleading cannot go in vain.
In concluding his plea, Judah appealed to the stranger-lord's power (44:32-34). To return to his father without Benjamin was out of the question; it would be the last straw, it would bring down the final curse. Far better to be dead that that. It was a plea that melted Joseph's heart into hot, gushing tears. The mystery phase was over. The majesty phase of Joseph's could begin.