30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”
One of the key, running themes in the Bible is substitution. Though the men in the days of Jacob and his 12 sons may not have realized it, God’s plan for humanity’s rescue had always been comprised of a sacrificial substitute. God planned, from before creation, that he would send Jesus to become the sacrificial substitute for the sins of God’s children. Jesus would receive in himself the punishment that others deserved.
That the theme of substitution is central to the Scripture’s tale is evident in what we see Judah do here in Genesis 44. Judah, from whose line the Christ will come, stands before Joseph. Benjamin has been found guilty of a crime before Joseph. Judah, however, pleads with Joseph to allow him to bear the punishment in Benjamin’s stead.
Judah will take Benjamin’s penalty in order to spare Benjamin and Jacob the pain.
I love to read The Jesus Storybook Bible with my children. The subtitle, “Every story whispers his name,” is so fitting and so glorious. Here, in Judah, we again see the name of Jesus whispered. Yes, Judah acted selflessly. Yes, Judah offered to sacrifice himself for the sake of his brother. But even more, Judah points us to the greater sacrifice. Judah reminds us of the ultimate substitute. Judah shows us what it will be like when Jesus walks to the cross and bears God’s wrath for the sins of those who will be saved.