“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.” (Genesis 44:16)
The musical “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”(*) contains a song performed after the silver cup is discovered in Benjamin’s sack called the “Benjamin Calypso.” Some of the lyrics to this Caribbean style number include the phrases:
Oh no – not he
How you can accuse him is a mystery
Save him – take me
Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree
Oh, yes – its true
Benjamin is straighter than the big bamboo
No ifs – No buts
Benjamin is honest as coconuts
The picture is often painted that the brothers, Judah in particular, were astounded by the accusations made against Benjamin and thus offered to give themselves in the place of this innocent man. Yet in Judah’s very moving and emotional plea with Joseph to take him instead of his younger brother, we see no such appeal to Benjamin’s innocence nor any denial of the crime of which he has been accused. Obviously, we know from the text that Benjamin was innocent of stealing the silver cup; but was Judah convinced of this? Judah and the other brothers, I am certain, were keenly aware that the strength of Benjamin’s character far exceeded their own, but did Judah believe that such an act was entirely out of the realm of possibility for Benjamin to have committed? A young man, away from his simple, rural home for the very first time; entertained in the palatial estate of the viceroy of Egypt, surrounded by gold and silver and jewels that must have staggered the imagination of this shepherd boy. Perhaps, Judah may have pondered, this young man got caught up in the splendor of the moment at the meal where they had been guests and, supposing that such a small treasure among so many others would have scarcely been missed, slipped the cup away in his sack as a souvenir from a place to where he would very likely never return.
Whether Judah pondered such ideas in his own mind or not, we do not really know. But I think we miss something very significant when we conclude that it was Judah’s conviction of Benjamin’s innocence that compelled him to make such a noble gesture as giving himself for his younger brother. This scene is infinitely more touching and of much greater significance when we consider that Judah was offering himself, not based on the merits of Benjamin, but out of his love both for his brother and his father. We are reminded here of the Apostle Paul’s summation of the magnitude of what Christ has done for us in that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us “(Rom. 5:8). It was not our own merits that compelled the Lord Jesus Christ to offer Himself up on the Cross, but His love toward us and toward His Father. It was not Jesus’ deference to our own righteousness (indeed, we are without any righteousness of our own!) nor His belief in our own innocence; In fact, He gave Himself because we are not innocent!
Judah explained that it was for the sake of his father Jacob’s great love toward Benjamin that he would willingly give himself in order that the young man would live (Gen. 44:30-31). Jesus gave Himself because of the Father’s love toward us.
(*) Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics used here are under copyright by their respective owner.