When his brothers were ready to leave, Joseph gave these instructions to the man in charge of his household: "Fill each of their sacks with as much grain as they can carry, and put each man's money back into his sack.
Then put my personal silver cup at the top of the youngest brother's sack, along with his grain money." So the household manager did as he was told.
The brothers were up at dawn and set out on their journey with their loaded donkeys.
But when they were barely out of the city, Joseph said to his household manager, "Chase after them and stop them. Ask them, 'Why have you repaid an act of kindness with such evil?
What do you mean by stealing my master's personal silver drinking cup, which he uses to predict the future? What a wicked thing you have done!'"
So the man caught up with them and spoke to them in the way he had been instructed.
"What are you talking about?" the brothers responded. "What kind of people do you think we are, that you accuse us of such a terrible thing?
Didn't we bring back the money we found in our sacks? Why would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?
If you find his cup with any one of us, let that one die. And all the rest of us will be your master's slaves forever."
"Fair enough," the man replied, "except that only the one who stole it will be a slave. The rest of you may go free."
They quickly took their sacks from the backs of their donkeys and opened them.
Joseph's servant began searching the oldest brother's sack, going on down the line to the youngest. The cup was found in Benjamin's sack!
At this, they tore their clothing in despair, loaded the donkeys again, and returned to the city.
Joseph was still at home when Judah and his brothers arrived, and they fell to the ground before him.
"What were you trying to do?" Joseph demanded. "Didn't you know that a man such as I would know who stole it?"
And Judah said, "Oh, my lord, what can we say to you? How can we plead? How can we prove our innocence? God is punishing us for our sins. My lord, we have all returned to be your slaves -- we and our brother who had your cup in his sack."
"No," Joseph said. "Only the man who stole the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go home to your father."
Then Judah stepped forward and said, "My lord, let me say just this one word to you. Be patient with me for a moment, for I know you could have me killed in an instant, as though you were Pharaoh himself.
"You asked us, my lord, if we had a father or a brother.
We said, 'Yes, we have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, his youngest son. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him very much.'
And you said to us, 'Bring him here so I can see him.'
But we said to you, 'My lord, the boy cannot leave his father, for his father would die.'
But you told us, 'You may not see me again unless your youngest brother is with you.'
So we returned to our father and told him what you had said.
And when he said, 'Go back again and buy us a little food,'
we replied, 'We can't unless you let our youngest brother go with us. We won't be allowed to see the man in charge of the grain unless our youngest brother is with us.'
Then my father said to us, 'You know that my wife had two sons,
and that one of them went away and never returned -- doubtless torn to pieces by some wild animal. I have never seen him since.
If you take away his brother from me, too, and any harm comes to him, you would bring my gray head down to the grave in deep sorrow.'
"And now, my lord, I cannot go back to my father without the boy. Our father's life is bound up in the boy's life.
When he sees that the boy is not with us, our father will die. We will be responsible for bringing his gray head down to the grave in sorrow.
My lord, I made a pledge to my father that I would take care of the boy. I told him, 'If I don't bring him back to you, I will bear the blame forever.'
Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.
For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I cannot bear to see what this would do to him."
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)