After hearing the admission of guilt and remorse, Joseph released all but one of the brothers-Simeon- to return to their homes and families. He set a condition for the release of Simeon, and for the opportunity to buy food in the future. When the brothers gave their father the news, Jacob was not happy.
“‘But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’…And their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.’ Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.’ But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.'” ~ Genesis 42:34, 36-38
Reuben was willing to give up the lives of his sons, Jacob’s grandsons, for surety for Benjamin’s safety. What a sacrifice from a father’s heart! But Jacob still favored Rachel’s son, and he would not hear of Benjamin leaving his presence, even at the cost of another son, Simeon, languishing in an Egyptian prison!
“Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.'” ~ Genesis 43:1-2
Because of Jacob’s stubborn favoritism, Simeon stayed in prison. Wow. The brothers once again reminded their father that they could not return to Egypt unless they brought along Benjamin. This time Judah spoke up for Benjamin’s safety.
“And Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.'” ~ Genesis 43:8-9
There was no food left, and Jacob had no other choice but to let them take Benjamin to Egypt with them.
When Joseph saw Benjamin was with them, he had a feast prepared for the brothers in his own home and released Simeon. He gave instructions to his house steward to give each of them their money back in their bags of grain (this was also done the first time, which greatly added to their trepidation returning to Egypt!) and to place Joseph’s own silver cup into Benjamin’s bag. One last, enormous test was given to the brothers, to see if they were truly changed men.
“‘…he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.’…and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack…. Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh…. Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, it will come about when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father… Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest I see the evil that would overtake my father?'” ~ Genesis 44:10b, 12b, 18, 30-32a, 33-34
Judah, whose line Jesus was descended from, is a type of Christ here, willing to take the place of another and pay the price required. Judah, who had the bright idea of selling Joseph as a slave in the first place, was now willing to give up everything to save Benjamin, the brother who had taken the same hated favored status that had been Joseph’s before. And now Joseph knew that his brothers had truly changed.
Have we allowed Jesus to change us so that we are willing to sacrifice for another? Oh, God, work in me that I might be willing to give up anything and everything, in service to You.