A lot of time has passed during the course of the previous few chapters in Genesis.
It was noted in chapter 37 that Joseph was 17 years old and as the record of him being betrayed by his brothers and going to Egypt immediately follows this we assume that he must have been still around this age when he went to Egypt.
In chapter 41 v 46 we are told that he was now 30. This means that he has spent up to 12 years or so as a servant and in prison before he is elevated to his position in charge of Egypt.
There then follows the 7 good years of harvest and we get into the years of famine. This means that by the time Joseph’s brothers travel down to Egypt more than 20 years have passed.
We saw in chapter 38 that Judah had left his brothers but in chapter 43 he is back and appears to be very much the leader among them and takes the responsibility for them, yet he is actually the fourth of his brothers.
The order of seniority in their culture would usually expect the firstborn to take charge, so why do we see it being Judah.
Well it seems that the actions of his elder brothers had somehow eliminated them. Reuben we read in chapter 35 slept with one of his father’s other wives and in chapter 34 we read about Simeon and Levi going out to avenge the violation of their sister. Their actions put the family at great risk which seems to be why they were “demoted”. So at some stage over the intervening 20 years Judah had stepped up taken on the responsibility for his family. Perhaps the incident with Tamar in chapter 38 made him realise this need as well as perhaps guilt over Joseph.
It is also worth noting that while Benjamin is referred to as a boy, he must have been in his early 20s by this time.
As always there is so much to think about when reading these passages and a brief look on the net revealed that there are a lot of other stories about Judah in some of the Rabbinical writings, all very fascinating and far too much to cover in one go.
The readings for Tuesday are;
Genesis 45 & 46