Summary: This is a propositional/expositional sermon with an aim at practical application of Joseph’s dealings with his brothers--likening it to the way God deals with Christians about their sin and lack of repentance.
The Conviction of Sin
1. Joseph’s brothers had undoubtedly learned the art of subtlety that their father had practiced so well throughout his young adult life.
2. They had deceived their father many times, the worst of which was in the matter of Joseph’s supposed death! Joseph, here, finally puts one over on them as he frames their youngest brother, Benjamin, for a crime he did not commit.
3. Remember, Jacob barely let Benjamin accompany his sons to Egypt for fear that he might lose his only remaining son by the wife of his love (Rachel), as he lost Joseph.
4. Joseph does this to his brother to test their honesty--to see if they had developed any--and to test their humility.
I. JOSEPH’S BRETHREN ARE FRAMED (v. 1-6).
A. Joseph puts the corn in his brothers’ bags (v. 1a).
They had come for corn, so he fills their bags so full that they can barely carry them! It seems from the text that they received a healthier portion than most.
B. Joseph puts the cash in his brothers’ bags (v. 1b).
Joseph had given their cash back the first time to test their honesty—they had returned it with extra gifts besides (43:21-22). This alone had proved their honesty to him, but he had to try them one more time! Remember how they had treated him!
C. Joseph puts his cup in Benjamin’s bag (v. 2).
Joseph does this so that he can have his way over them completely. Until this time, they had done nothing wrong--though he had accused them of being spies. If he could catch them doing something wrong, he would have the right to do anything to them, especially to the guilty culprit!
II. JOSEPH’S BRETHREN ARE FRANTIC (v. 7-13).
Joseph gives his brethren a head start and then sends his steward after them and instructs him to accuse them of thievery! When Joseph’s men catch the brethren, they are frightened by the accusations. They are sure that no one has done anything wrong, until the silver cup is discovered in Benjamin’s bag. They quickly become frantic as they realize that they have been caught, not by man, but really by God--they are finally reaping the consequences of what they have sown (Galatians 6:7-9).
A. Benjamin may have been dishonest (v. 11-12).
They, no doubt, all thought that Benjamin had actually stolen the cup. The probability of this guilt may have been heightened by the circumstance of his having that very cup to drink out of at dinner; for as he had the most honorable mess, so it is likely he had the most honorable cup to drink out of at the entertainment.
B. Benjamin may have to die (v. 9).
They hastily proclaim, :"With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen," because they are assured that it will not be found in their bags. Imagine their horror when the cup is discovered indeed. Further still, think of the sorrow that they must feel when they find out it is in Benjamin’s bag. Their father will die if he hears of Benjamin’s death or even his incarceration!
C. Benjamin will be detained (v. 10).
What a blessing! Joseph will not demand the death penalty for Benjamin’s alleged thievery. Joseph’s brothers must have breathed a sigh of relief indeed. However, one small matter remains--they promised to bring Benjamin back to their father unharmed! Joseph has offered to let all of them go but Benjamin!
III. JOSEPH’S BRETHREN ARE FAITHFUL (v. 14-34)
For the first time in their lives, the patriarchs start showing a little maturity as Judah (actually innocent this time!) offers himself for his guilty brother.
A. They learned faithfulness to their father (v. 14-32)
When they went home with a bloody strip of Joseph’s coat of many colors, they did not even consider their father’s grief at losing his favorite son! All they could think of was that they were finally rid of his annoying presence. This time, it appears as if they love their father and would rather die than to see him grieve as he did over Joseph!
B. They learned faithfulness to their family (v. 33-34)
Oh! how they had hated Joseph, the oldest of two sons by Rachel (their father’s favorite wife). It stands to reason that after the false report of Joseph’s death, Jacob must have devoted his attention to Benjamin. No doubt, this enraged the brothers at first, but eventually they came to love him instead of hating him as they had hated Joseph. It is touching to see Judah offer to give his life for his half-brother. If Joseph would accept his offer, he would be Joseph’s slave for life (Judah was the one who had sold Joseph into slavery in the first place (37:26-27))!