Verse 18. And 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 the rest, 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. A great deal of unaffected art, and unstudied rhetoric there is in this speech.
1. 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, whose favour we desire, and whose wrath we dread as we do Pharaoh's.
2. 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, viz. 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.
3. 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 Benjamin 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 shew him some mercy?
4. 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 loves him, ver. 20. Thus they had pleaded against Joseph's insisting on his coming down ver. 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 presseth 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.
5. Judah, in honour to the justice of Joseph's sentence, and to shew his sincerity in this plea, offers himself to become a bond- man 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, than he is himself willing to be a bond-man 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 a-kin 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, (1.) 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 waves that head, and appeals to Joseph's pity. (2.) What good reason dying Jacob had to say, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise, chap. xlix, 8, for he excelled them all in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family. (3.) 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.