Joseph Tests His Brothers (v. 1-34)
Joseph once again gives his brothers grain and puts their money in their grain sacks. He also commanded that his chalice be put in Benjamin's bag. He then sends his men to chase down his brothers and accuse them of stealing.
I suppose it would have been prudent of the brothers to double check their bags before they left given the previous mix-up. Not that I would go so far as to say "they should have known" or something, but it would have certainly been prudent. I think I would have probably checked the bags, but the same impulse makes me double check that the oven is off five times before I leave my apartment, all in all, probably more harm than good.
Guzik tackles the question of why Joseph is doing all of this
Some might think he is simply using his position of power to torment his brothers in revenge for their cruelty towards him; but knowing the character of Joseph, this isn’t the case. He is guided by the hand of God, testing the hearts of his brothers, and bringing them to complete repentance.I agree that saying he is simply tormenting his brothers is a simplification. However, I think saying he did it for their own good (to bring them to repentance) is an equally bad simplification, just in the opposite direction.
When the Egyptians caught up to the brothers and accused them of stealing, Judah said it must have been one of their own servants who stole it, and furthermore whoever that turns out to be should be put to death.
That seems like a pretty harsh punishment, death for stealing. I can hear the Christians now "it was a different time". To those people, I would ask what makes the rule different now, and how can we tell which other rules in the old testament are outdated and which ones we should use today. I've heard this question asked to plenty of Christian, and I never have heard a clear answer.
They found the cup in Benjamin's bags and all of the brothers were brought back to Joseph. Joseph said that Benjamin needs to stay with him as he is the guilty party, the rest of them can go home to their father. Judah pleads with Joseph to allow him to take Benjamin's place for their father's sake.
In relation to Judah offering to take Benjamin's place, Guzik says
Judah dramatically offers to lay down his life for the sake of Benjamin. This is a dramatic change from 20 years before when the brothers did not care about Joseph, Benjamin, or even their father Jacob.Really? They hated Joseph, sure. And they didn't care about their father enough to spare Joseph I guess. How does he justify saying that they didn't care about Benjamin? I think Guzik is just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. The situations are totally different. Judah never put his life on the line for Joseph.
For the verses of note post
Genesis 44:8-9 Death penalty for stealing
"...How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house? Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord's servants."