‘Like a collector and restorer of classic cars, God’s work is not done when he buys a new model.’
Joseph is still at the heart of the narrative, but he is not alone. Another figure takes centre stage beside him. When verse 18 declares tat Judah ‘went up to him’ , it signals an important twist in the story. Joseph is the victim of the cruelty of all his half-brothers. Only Benjamin, his blood brother, is innocent. But it is in the person of Judah that repentance is offered and redemption achieved. This is the story of all the brothers, but is becomes particularly the story of Judah.
Scholars who claim a late date for the authorship or editing of Genesis would argue that his reveals the interests of the authors. By the time the book is finally written down, during the years of exile, the purposes of God have come to rest on the remnant of Israel, essentially represented in the tribe of Judah. It is important that the book tells their story. Even if we believe Genesis was written much earlier, we can imagine the rapt attention member of the tribe of Judah would give to this text.
Joseph had devised a final test, and through it Judah finds the opportunity to act. He takes responsibility, reveals at last that he understands his father’s love for the youngest brothers and offers himself as a slave to buy the life of Benjamin. At last Judah acts redemptively. Joseph has given him the opportunity to be his best self, and he takes it. The picture of grace here displayed is rich and full. Forgiveness alone is not enough. Even reconciliation will not fulfill the dream. Joseph’s joy will be to see his brothers restored, able to be the elder brothers that in his youth they were unable or unwilling to be.
Picture someone who has offended you, or whose treatment of others you are offended by. What would it look like if, beyond forgiveness and reconciliation, they were restored?