The group of brothers were aghast: “How can I go back to my father if the lad isn’t with me!” (Gen. 44:34)… “When he sees that the lad is not there he will die!” (verse 31).
What did Joseph have in his mind with this ruse? Even though he had not yet revealed his true identity, we know him to be the son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, imbued with compassion and justice. What game was he playing?
It must have been a test to see whether his brothers were still as hard-hearted as they had been years ago when they callously sold him to Egypt and daubed his coat in blood and took it home with the cruel comment that a wild beast must have caught him and killed him… a vague reminder of the Azaria Chamberlain case in Australia decades ago.
What would the brothers do – once again be nonchalant about the loss of a brother or show human feeling for an aged father? Had time improved their ethics? Did the test work?
Evidently, because when Joseph heard the brothers talking with such feeling and humanity he could not control himself any longer and told them the truth: “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”
No wonder the brothers were stunned and unable to speak (Gen. 45:3).