Scripture: And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. Genesis 43:8-9 ESV
Observation: Beginning with chapter 42, the author transitions to Joseph’s brothers’ two journeys to Egypt, first to buy grain and then to free Simeon from incarceration. That Joseph (whose identity remains unknown) bound Simeon before his brothers’ eyes likely served to remind them of how they bound Joseph and cast him into a well (chapter 37). And personally, for Simeon, his helpless state would remind him of how he savagely murdered the Hivites in their vulnerable condition (chapter 34).
Then, in chapter 43, Joseph’s nine older brothers return to Canaan to bring Benjamen back to Joseph and prove that they are not spies. As expected, given that Benjamen is Rachel’s youngest and presumed sole surviving child, Jacob initially rebukes his sons and refuses to release Benjamen. Keen to resolve the crisis and establish good standing with the governor (Joseph) to buy desperately needed grain, Judah pledges himself, bearing the blame forever if he fails to return Benjamen safely to his father.
Observation: As the story of Joseph’s interactions with his brothers unfolds, the imagery steadily reverberates 1600 years ahead to the pinnacle of time when our beloved Brother embarked on his mission. Indeed, the Son (a descendant of Judah) pledged himself to the Father to ensure our safe return. And if he failed, he too would bear the blame forever. But unlike Judah, Jesus paid a ransom in sacrificing his very life to ensure that no one could snatch us, his brothers and sisters, from his or his Father’s hands for the remainder of our lives here on earth (John 10:28-29).
This kind of godly, sacrificial love permeates our biblical narrative. It was Judah’s and Jesus’ calling, and it is ours as followers of Christ. That we might pledge our lives to ensure that our loved ones return safely to the Father is not just a mandate but a privilege. For when we give of ourselves to help others securely find their way home, we lighten our burdens of regret and despair to make room in our hearts to reflect the glory of the Father and Son.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who pledged his life to set us free and for your Holy Spirit who is securely guiding us to your heavenly home. Would you please help us do our part as your ambassadors to point captives to your Son and invest in their safe return to you? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling