Then Judah came near unto him
Being the spokesman of his brethren, and the surety of Benjamin: he plucked up a spirit, put on courage, and drew nearer to the governor, and with much freedom and boldness, and in a very polite manner, addressed him: and said, O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my
not admit him to private audience, or suffer him to whisper something to him, but give him the hearing of a few words he had to say to him: and let not thine anger burn against thy servant;
do not be displeased with his boldness, and the freedom he takes, but hear him patiently: for thou [art] even as Pharaoh;
next, if not equal in power and authority with him; could exercise justice or show mercy, punish or release from punishment, at his pleasure; and having leave granted him, he began his speech, and made the following narrative.
nd Judah said — We have here a most pathetic speech which Judah made to Joseph on Benjamin’s behalf. Either Judah was a better friend to Benjamin than the rest, and more solicitous to bring him off; or he thought himself under greater obligations to endeavour it than they were, because he had passed his word to his father for his safe return. His address, as it is here recorded, is so very natural, and so expressive of his present passion, that we cannot but suppose Moses, who wrote it so long after, to have written it under the special direction of Him that made man’s mouth. Indeed the whole speech is most exquisitely beautiful, and perhaps the most complete piece of genuine and natural eloquence to be found in any language. 1st, He addressed himself to Joseph with a great deal of respect, calls him his lord, himself and his brethren his servants, begs his patient hearing, and passeth a mighty compliment upon him, Thou art even as Pharaoh — A person whose favour we desire, and whose wrath we dread, as we do Pharaoh’s. 2d, He represented Benjamin as one well worthy of his compassionate consideration; he was a little one, compared with the rest; the youngest, not acquainted with the world, nor inured to hardship, having been always brought up tenderly with his father. It made the case the more piteous that he alone was left of his mother, and his brother was dead — Namely, Joseph; little did Judah think what a tender point he touched upon now. Judah knew that Joseph was sold, and therefore had reason enough to think that he was not alive. 3d, He urged it closely that Joseph had himself constrained them to bring Benjamin with them, had expressed a desire to see him, had forbidden them his presence, unless they brought him with them, all which intimated that he designed him some kindness. And must he be brought with so much difficulty to the preferment of a perpetual slavery? Was he not brought to Egypt in obedience, purely in obedience to the command of Joseph, and would not he show him some mercy? 4th, The great argument he insists upon was the insupportable grief it would be to his aged father, if Benjamin should be left behind in servitude. His father loveth him, Genesis 44:20. Thus they had pleaded against Joseph’s insisting on his coming down, Genesis 44:22. If he should leave his father, his father would die — Much more, if he now be left behind, never to return. This the old man of whom they spake had pleaded against his going down: If mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs, that crown of glory, with sorrow to the grave. This therefore Judah pressed with a great deal of earnestness. His life is bound up in the lad’s life — When he sees that the lad is not with us, he will faint away and die immediately, or will abandon himself to such a degree of sorrow, as will, in a few days, make an end of him. And, lastly, Judah pleads, that, for his part, he could not bear to see this: Let me not see the evil that shall come on my father. 5th, Judah, in honour to the justice of Joseph’s sentence, and to show his sincerity in this plea, offers himself to become a bondman instead of Benjamin. Thus the law would be satisfied; Joseph would be no loser, for we may suppose Judah a more able-bodied man than Benjamin; Jacob would better bear that than the loss of Benjamin. Now, so far was he from grieving at his father’s particular fondness for Benjamin, that he is himself willing to be a bondman to indulge it.
Now, had Joseph been, as Judah supposed, an utter stranger to the family, yet even common humanity could not but be wrought upon by such powerful reasonings as these; for nothing could be said more moving, more tender; it was enough to melt a heart of stone: but to Joseph, who was nearer akin to Benjamin than Judah himself, and who, at this time, felt a greater passion for him and his aged father than Judah did, nothing could be more pleasingly nor more happily said. Neither Jacob nor Benjamin needed an intercessor with Joseph, for he himself loved them. Upon the whole, let us take notice, 1st, How prudently Judah suppressed all mention of the crime that was charged upon Benjamin. Had he said any thing by way of acknowledgment of it, he had reflected on Benjamin’s honesty. Had he said any thing by way of denial of it, he had reflected on Joseph’s justice; therefore he wholly waives that head, and appeals to Joseph’s pity. 2d, What good reason dying Jacob had to say, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; (Genesis 49:8😉 for he excelled them all in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family. 3d, Judah’s faithful adherence to Benjamin, now in his distress, was recompensed long after, by the constant adherence of the tribe of Benjamin to the tribe of Judah, when all the other ten tribes deserted it.