C O U R S E L E C T U R E
Judah as Most Important Son of Jacob
Notes taken on May 4, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
Benjamin was caught with stolen goods in his possession
Judah adopts the only position possible in the situation
he tries to create an affection for the father
yet Joseph's affection for his father needs no such encouragement
at the end of this speech, Joseph is emotional
Genesis 45:1-3: "Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, 'Make every one go out from me.' So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph, is my father still alive?"
the first few sentences of Judah's own speech tells us what we need to know about what had happened:
Genesis 44:20: "We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age, and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him."
but compare with this text, which the Biblical author apparently wants us to compare with it:
Genesis 37:3-4: "Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him."
Joseph was the son of his father's old age (born when Jacob was old)
therefore Jacob favored him
this provides the background for why the brothers hate Joseph
and these very characteristics are those that are used in Jacob's argument to release Benjamin
Judah is not only constructing an argument, he's also putting his life on the line
Genesis 44:33-34: "Now therefore, let your servant, I pray you, remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go back with this brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the lad is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would come upon my father."
this shows a deference to his father's special affections, something that was lacking in Genesis 37
"If the challenge of the chosen is to bear their exalted status with humility and altruism, the challenge of the unchosen--and chosenness is meaningless unless some are not chosen--is to play their subordinate role with grace and with due regard for the common good."
in deference to his father, Judah not only accepts the special position of Rachael's children in Jacob's eyes, but Judah is also willing to give his life up so that Jacob's beloved son Benjamin can return to his father
the ancient reader knew that Judah was elevated to represented his brothers before Joseph for a reason
Judah was destined to be the most important of all the siblings
it is from the tribe of Judah that all the Davidic kings would eventually emerge
Judah with this speech establishes his claim to be the king of all of Israel
by showing he is willing to serve those individuals that he was destined to rule