Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Test. - After the dinner Joseph had his brothers' sacks filled by his steward with corn, as much as they could hold, and every one's money placed inside; and in addition to that, had his own silver goblet put into Benjamin's sack.
Then as soon as it was light (אור, 3rd pers. perf. in o: Ges. 72, 1), they were sent away with their asses. But they were hardly outside the town, "not far off," when he directed his steward to follow the men, and as soon as he overtook them, to say, "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is it not this from which my lord drinketh, and he is accustomed to prophesy from it? Ye have done an evil deed!" By these words they were accused of theft; the thing was taken for granted as well known to them all, and the goblet purloined was simply described as a very valuable possession of Joseph's. נחשׁ: lit., to whisper, to mumble out formularies, incantations, then to prophesy, divinare. According to this, the Egyptians at that time practised λεκανοσκοπίη or λεκανομαντεία and ὑδρομαντεία, the plate and water incantations, of which Jamblichus speaks (de myst. iii. 14), and which consisted in pouring clean water into a goblet, and then looking into the water for representations of future events; or in pouring water into a goblet or dish, dropping in pieces of gold and silver, also precious stones, and then observing and interpreting the appearances in the water (cf. Varro apud August. civ. Dei 7, 35; Plin. h. n. 37, 73; Strabo, xvi. p. 762). Traces of this have been continued even to our own day (see Norden's Journey through Egypt and Nubia). But we cannot infer with certainty from this, that Joseph actually adopted this superstitious practice. The intention of the statement may simply have been to represent the goblet as a sacred vessel, and Joseph as acquainted with the most secret things (Gen 44:15).
In the consciousness of their innocence the brethren repelled this charge with indignation, and appealed to the fact that they brought back the gold which was found in their sacks, and therefore could not possibly have stolen gold or silver; and declared that whoever should be found in possession of the goblet, should be put to death, and the rest become slaves.
The man replied, "Now let it be even (גּם placed first for the sake of emphasis) according to your words: with whom it is found, he shall be my slave, and ye (the rest) shall remain blameless." Thus he modified the sentence, to assume the appearance of justice.
They then took down their sacks as quickly as possible; and he examined them, beginning with the eldest and finishing with the youngest; and the goblet was found in Benjamin's sack. With anguish and alarm at this new calamity they rent their clothes (vid., Gen 37:34), loaded their asses again, and returned to the city. It would now be seen how they felt in their inmost hearts towards their father's favourite, who had been so distinguished by the great man of Egypt: whether now as formerly they were capable of giving up their brother, and bringing their aged father with sorrow to the grave; or whether they were ready, with unenvying, self-sacrificing love, to give up their own liberty and lives for him. And they stood this test.
Result of the Test. - Gen 44:14-17. With Judah leading the way, they came into the house to Joseph, and fell down before him begging for mercy. Joseph spoke to them harshly: "What kind of deed is this that ye have done? Did ye not know that such a man as I (a man initiated into the most secret things) would certainly divine this?" נחשׁ augurari. Judah made no attempt at a defence. "What shall we say to my lord? how speak, how clear ourselves? God (Ha-Elohim, the personal God) has found out the wickedness of thy servants (i.e., He is now punishing the crime committed against our brother, cf. Gen 42:21). Behold, we are my lord's slaves, both we, and he in whose hand the cup was found." But Joseph would punish mildly and justly. The guilty one alone should be his slave; the others might go in peace, i.e., uninjured, to their father.
But that the brothers could not do. Judah, who had pledged himself to his father for Benjamin, ventured in the anguish of his heart to approach Joseph, and implore him to liberate his brother. "I would give very much," says Luther, "to be able to pray to our Lord God as well as Judah prays to Joseph here; for it is a perfect specimen of prayer, the true feeling that there ought to be in prayer." Beginning with the request for a gracious hearing, as he was speaking to the ears of one who was equal to Pharaoh (who could condemn or pardon like the king), Judah depicted in natural, affecting, powerful, and irresistible words the love of their aged father to this son of his old age, and his grief when they told him that they were not to come into the presence of the lord of Egypt again without Benjamin; the intense anxiety with which, after a severe struggle, their father had allowed him to come, after he (Judah) had offered to be answerable for his life; and the grievous fact, that if they returned without the youth, they must bring down the grey hairs of their father with sorrow to the grave.
To "set eyes upon him" signifies, with a gracious intention, to show him good-will (as in Jer 39:12; Jer 40:4).
"That my wife bore to me two (sons):" Jacob regards Rachel alone as his actual wife (cf. Gen 46:19).
ואמר, preceded by a preterite, is to be rendered "and I was obliged to say, Only (nothing but) torn in pieces has he become."
"His soul is bound to his soul:" equivalent to, "he clings to him with all his soul."
Judah closed his appeal with the entreaty, "Now let thy servant (me) remain instead of the lad as slave to my lord, but let the lad go up with his brethren; for how could I go to my father without the lad being with me! (I cannot,) that I may not see the calamity which will befall my father!"