Judah's Transformation

Genesis 43:8–9 (ESV)

"And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”

This is one of those passages that can get overlooked for its importance as we read and re-read our Bibles. If you look back at Genesis 37:26-27, it was Judah who initiated the idea to sell Joseph into slavery, and now we see Judah taking the positive initiative to be a pledge, or surety, for his brother (Genesis 43:9). I’m certainly not a Hebrew scholar (it’s all in the software), but the Hebrew expression used here (’e‘erennu) is from the same root (’-r-b) used previously by Judah in Genesis 38:17–18 to describe the “surety” or “pledge” (‘erabon) that Tamar took from him and that served as the catalyst for his own spiritual “turning point.” The use of the same root here thus serves as an unmistakable, though subtle, link between the two episodes that underscores Judah’s moral-behavioral shift in the latter of the two. Thus, the contrast with his role in relation to Joseph in Chapter 37 or Tamar in Chapter 38 could hardly be greater.

It’s interesting also to compare the request of Reuben to bring Benjamin just a few verses earlier in Genesis 42:37. Instead of offering himself as surety, Reuben instead offers up his sons to which Jacob rejects his offer. How noble is it to offer the life of someone else should you fail?

In this act of Judah, who is a patriarch in the Messianic line of Christ, we see the prefiguration of the substitutionary work of what Christ did for us on the cross.

Later in the story, after all his angry posturing towards his brothers, Joseph broke down (Genesis 45:1–5). He revealed his identity to them. And he urged them not to be afraid, for they were forgiven, and should forgive themselves (Genesis 44:5). Why did he do this? Likely Joseph saw the change in Judah and his hard heart was broken wide open. Judah (and the other brothers), who had so mistreated him, was now willing to lay down his life for his youngest brother. That kind of love catches people’s attention.

And that is the takeaway from this.

Joseph could clearly see that Judah’s demeanor towards him has drastically changed. His heart was right with God and it showed through his actions.

If people know you as a Christian, they will watch you to see if you act differently than the rest of the world. That is why more often than not, the way we carry ourselves becomes more of our testimony than any conversation we have, simply because we have more opportunities to be a silent witness.

Let your light shine in your actions and give God the glory for the work He has done in changing you.