Joseph was convinced that all the hardship in his life was a part of God’s plan. He was convinced that God had blessed the broken road that led him to a powerful position. Joseph was convinced that he could use his God-given influence to save the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — his family — from the famine.
But he was not convinced that his ten older brothers could be trusted to participate in the plan. He had to know if they were still slaves to greed and hatred.
As he sent them away with sacks of grain, he included a symbol of their former greed. Thirty years before, they had traded Joseph for money, selling him for twenty shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28). So Joseph sent them away with their money and his silver cup.
In a staged pursuit, Joseph’s men overtook the brothers and accused them of stealing the silver cup. The brothers rashly vowed that if any of them had it they would all remain as Joseph’s slaves and the guilty man would die (v.9). As planned, the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack — the baby brother was a dead man for sure!
When they were returned to Joseph, it was Judah who spoke for the group — Judah, who had suggested that they sell Joseph many years before (Genesis 37:26). Judah connected their present predicament to that sin: “God has found out the guilt of your servants.”
Joseph demanded that Benjamin stay in Egypt while his brothers returned home. Judah begged that he be allowed to take Benjamin’s place, appealing to his father’s love for the youngest son. “His life is bound up in the boy’s life,” he said. “If Benjamin does not return with us it will kill my father!” With that, the test was over. The brothers had “passed”.
What was the test? When it was Joseph who was the object of his father’s love and favor, his brothers threw him under the bus. He had to be sure they would not do the same to Benjamin — and they had not.
This time they loved and protected their brother and considered their father’s feelings. They could be trusted after all to lead the families of the nation God was building…the Israelites.