44 After the meal was over, Joseph commanded the steward of his house.
Joseph: Fill the men’s sacks with food—as much as they can carry. Put each man’s money back into the top of his sack. 2 One more thing: I want you to put my personal cup, my silver cup, into the top of the sack of the youngest, along with his money for the grain.
The steward did everything Joseph told him to do.
3 The next morning, as soon as it was light, the men were sent off with their donkeys toward home. 4 But when they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph spoke to his steward.
Joseph: Go now, and follow them. When you catch up to them, say to them, “Why have you repaid kindness with evil? My master’s silver cup is missing, and you have it. 5 Isn’t this the cup from which he drinks? Doesn’t he use it for divination, to discover secrets hidden from most men? You have committed evil in doing this.”
6 So the steward went after them. And when he caught up to them, he repeated the words Joseph told him to say.
Joseph’s Brothers: 7 Why would my lord accuse us of something like this? We, your servants, would never do such a thing! 8 Remember the money we found at the top of our sacks after our first trip? We brought it back to you from the land of Canaan. Why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house this time? 9 If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man be put to death, and the rest of us will become my lord’s servants.
Steward: 10 Let it be as you say, but I’ll be more lenient: whoever is found to possess the cup will become my servant. The rest of you will be considered innocent and may go free.
11 Then they all moved quickly, retrieved their sacks, lowered them to the ground, and opened them so the steward could see what was inside them. 12 He searched each sack, beginning with the eldest son and ending with the youngest; at last, the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothes in anguish. They knew what had to happen. They had no choice but to load their donkeys and return to the city.
14 Judah and his brothers all came to Joseph’s house while he was still there, and they fell to the ground in front of him.
Joseph: 15 What have you done? Don’t you know that someone in my position practices divination and can discover secrets hidden from most men?
Judah (speaking for the rest): 16 What can we possibly say to you, my lord? How can we explain this? How can we clear ourselves of this mistake? God has found your servants to be guilty. Here we are then, slaves to you, my lord, all of us and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.
Judah speaks the truth. God has uncovered their guilt and exposed it for all to see. Not that someone in their party has stolen Joseph’s cup—that’s not what he means—but years ago they conspired and stole Joseph’s freedom. Ironically they could now lose their freedom to Joseph.
Joseph: 17 Far be it from me that I should do something like that! Only the one in possession of the cup will be my slave. As for the rest of you, go in peace to your father!
18 But then Judah stepped up to Joseph and begged him for mercy.
Judah: O, my lord, let your servant please speak a private word to you. Please don’t be angry with me, for you are just like Pharaoh himself. 19 You asked us once if we had a father or a brother, 20 and we told you, “Yes. We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him dearly.” 21 Then you told us to bring the boy down to you, so that you could see him. 22 At first we said to you, “The boy cannot leave his father because his father would die without him,” 23 but you told us that unless he came with us, you wouldn’t agree to see us again.
24 When we went back to your servant, our father, we told him what you said, my lord. 25 And when our father asked us to go again to buy more food, 26 we told him, “We cannot go without our youngest brother, or we won’t be able to get in to see him.” So our youngest brother came with us. 27 Then your servant, my father, responded, “You know that my wife Rachel bore me two sons: 28 one went off and never came back, and I know he was without a doubt torn to pieces. I haven’t seen him since he left. 29 But now if you take my youngest also from me and any harm should come to him, the sorrow would kill me. I can’t allow you to condemn this old, gray head to the grave.”
30-31 So now if I go back to your servant, my father, without the boy, he will die because his life depends completely on the welfare of his boy. As soon as he sees that Benjamin is not with us, the sorrow will kill him and we, your servants, will condemn the old, gray head of our father, your servant, to the grave. 32 I gave my father my word that I would take care of the boy and return him safely home. I told him, “If I don’t bring him back to you in one piece, then I am perfectly willing to bear the blame forever.” 33 So please let me, your servant, remain as your slave in place of the boy; and let him go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father without the boy? I couldn’t stand to see the terrible suffering this would put him through.