BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed.” Genesis 37:26,27 NLT
When Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, he forfeited his leadership as firstborn among his brothers. The leadership of the 12 brothers was given to Judah. We see this reflected in Judah listed first among the tribes of Israel in the Book of Revelation. We see it as events unfold in the story of Joesph.
There are three specific situations in which Judah is mentioned as exerting his leadership among the brothers. The first was when the brothers plotted to kill Joseph and instead threw him into a pit. Judah was the one who suggested selling Joesph into slavery and avoiding the guilt of him being killed.
Later when Jacob told his sons to return to Egypt to get food, it was Judah who told him that they were instructed not to return without their youngest son. It was at that time that Judah offered to be responsible for the safety of Benjamin.
Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones.” (Genesis 43:8 NLT)
This was a similar offer that Reuben had made when they returned from their first trip to Egypt, but Jacob refused to accept. Now Jacob felt the desperation of their situation and Judah offered to take full responsibility personally. He told his father, “You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.” (Genesis 43:9 NLT)
When they returned to Egypt we see the fulfillment of Joesph’s dream. “When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him.” (Genesis 43:26 NLT)
We don’t see Joesph ever reminding his brothers about his dreams, but when Joesph sets them up to further test them, and attempts to keep Benjamin as his “prisoner” we see Judah stepping up and speaking up,
“Then Judah stepped forward and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant say just one word to you…My lord, I guaranteed 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. “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.” (Genesis 44:18,32-33 NLT)
It was after this self-sacrificial offer that Joesph could not keep his identity hidden from his brothers. He reveals himself to his brothers and tells them to go and bring his father and their families to Egypt to live for the remainder of the famine.
If leadership is influence we see that reflected in Judah. He was willing to “step up and speak up” before his brothers, his father, and Joesph at a critical time. We see leadership recognized by others as they followed his advice and listened to his words.
Leadership is also sacrifice and humility. That is what Joesph recognized in Judah during a pivotal moment in their interactions. Over the years, Joesph had changed and he was able to recognize that his brothers had changed as well. Although he did call out to them as they returned home to get their father and told them, “don’t argue on your way!”