What does Genesis 44:31 mean?
ESV: as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.
NIV: sees that the boy isn't there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow.
NASB: when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die. So your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant, our father, down to Sheol in sorrow.
CSB: when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die. Then your servants will have brought the gray hairs of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow.
NLT: If he sees that the boy is not with us, our father will die. We, your servants, will indeed be responsible for sending that grieving, white-haired man to his grave.
KJV: It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
NKJV: it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
Verse Commentary:
Judah has done his best to describe the consequences if he does not deliver his youngest brother, Benjamin, safely back to their father (Genesis 44:18–30). Jacob himself has said plainly that it will kill him to lose another son of Rachel (Genesis 42:38). Now Judah emphasizes that his father Jacob will hold his other sons responsible. When they arrive and Benjamin is not with them, their father will die of grief. And he will do so blaming Judah and his other sons for what has happened.

The first son of Rachel whom Jacob lost was Joseph (Genesis 35:24), believed to be dead (Genesis 37:31–33), but actually sold into slavery by Judah and the rest of the older brothers (Genesis 37:24–28). That very Joseph—unrecognized by his brothers—is the Egyptian ruler who now listens to Judah's desperate plea (Genesis 42:7–8). He has been testing his estranged brothers. What Judah says next will convince him that they truly have changed (Genesis 44:32–34).
Verse Context:
Genesis 44:14–34 explains how Joseph's brothers reacted to another test of character. The youngest, Benjamin, was discovered to have Joseph's own silver cup in his bags. This was secretly put there on Joseph's orders—and the brothers still do not know his identity. Joseph's intent seems to be a test of his brothers' growth: are they still as cruel and selfish as when they sold Joseph, himself, into Egyptian slavery? Benjamin's sentence is to become Joseph's slave while the rest are free to go. Instead, Judah offers to take Benjamin's place in order save his youngest brother and their old father, who will surely die of grief if Benjamin is lost.
Chapter Summary:
Eleven of Jacob's sons enjoyed a meal as honored guests of an Egyptian governor. They are sent off the next morning with full sacks of grain. All seems well until the governor's house steward overtakes them on the road and accuses them of stealing the ruler's personal and valuable silver cup. The brothers don't know this governor is Joseph, their long-lost brother. Nor do they know he ordered the steward to place the cup in Benjamin's sack. This is part of Joseph's final test of his brothers and their moral growth. Seeking to rescue Benjamin from slavery, Judah makes a powerful speech to Joseph, offering to take Benjamin's place as a slave to save the boy and avoid grieving their father, Jacob.
Chapter Context:
Joseph maintained his hidden identity when his estranged brothers first arrived in Egypt (Genesis 42). When they returned a second time, he continued to test them and treated them to a fine meal (Genesis 43). Genesis 44 describes Joseph's final scheme to test the character of his brothers. Will they once again abandon a sibling into slavery? After a successful scheme by Joseph, Benjamin seems doomed to become a slave in Egypt. Judah boldly begs Joseph to keep him, instead. He offers himself in Benjamin's place. This finally overwhelms Joseph, who will break down and reveal himself in the next chapter.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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