In chapter 44 Joseph puts his brothers through a final test which confirms the genuineness of their repentance and seals Judah as the man fit by God to carry the burden of the covenant leadership. In terms of the relationship of Joseph with his brothers, his efforts illustrate “the anatomy of reconciliation” (Waltke, 557). The terms “brother” and “father” occur repeatedly as the brothers reveal hearts that have been freed from the prison of envy to the free air of familial love and solidarity.
In this final test, Joseph places his brothers in a circumstance closely reminiscent of that years earlier when they sold their little brother into slavery. Now they will have the opportunity to save their own skin if they only betray their young brother Benjamin. But God has been at work in the hearts of these men and the change is demonstrated in their words and deeds.
Judah’s moving speech (vv. 18-34) forms the centerpiece of the section and one of the most decisive moments in the entire account of Joseph’s life. It is difficult if not impossible to consider the transformation of Judah apart from the New Testament category of regeneration or the new birth. A careful reading of his speech reveals that Judah is a new creation; a man under the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Not only does Judah give voice to his repentance but embraces an entirely new attitude toward his deeply flawed father Jacob. Rather than resenting his father’s favoritism, Judah now feels sympathy for the old man. Indeed, he appeals to his father’s favoritism of Rachel’s sons as a prime motive in his desire to free Benjamin.
Throughout this episode Judah serves as a type of Christ, a living prophecy of the coming Redeemer. What a testimony to God’s redeeming and sanctifying grace! Notice first that Judah has become a leader who serves his people rather than seeking to be served. This quality will be one of the most essential marks of the faithful kings of Israel. Second, rather than hating his father for his sins, Judah now pities the old man and sympathizes with his weaknesses. Finally, Judah offers himself as a sacrifice in Benjamin’s place. In each of these ways God uses Judah to point us to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus who came to serve, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, and who gave himself in our place.