1 Now the famine was severe in the land.
2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.”
3 But Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’
4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food.
5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ ”
6 And Israel said, “Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?”
7 But they said, “The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
8 Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.
9 I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.
10 For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.”
11 And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.
12 Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight.
13 Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man.
14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”
It is at this point (v.3) that Judah’s role begins to expand and theologically overshadow that of Joseph, for to ensure the safety of Benjamin he takes the positive initiative (just as he took the negative initiative to sell off Joseph) and declares to his father that he will be surety for his brother. The expression used here is significant, for it is from the same root used previously—and certainly not coincidentally!—by Judah in 38:17-18 to describe the “surety” or “pledge” that Tamar takes from him and which serves as the catalyst for his own spiritual “turning point.” The use of the same root here thus serves as an unmistakable—even if literarily subtle—link between the two episodes that serves to underscore that thematic relevance of the former as well as the moral-behavioral shift of Judah in this latter. — Wechsler, page 257.
It is interesting that, at this point in the narrative (v.6), the name Israel begins to be used instead of Jacob. This name had not been used since Genesis 37:13. It seems that, as long as Jacob seemed completely broken and defeated by virtue of Joseph’s apparent death, his old name, Jacob is used. Now, for the first time, he begins to consider the possibility of allowing Benjamin to go. His faith is in process of revival, and so he is called Israel again. …
Judah spoke up again, promising the he himself would be surety for Benjamin. He put the matter kindly, but bluntly. This was really their only possible course of action. If they didn’t follow through on it, not only would Benjamin die, but all of them, including Jacob’s grandchildren. Death by starvation was becoming a very real possibility, so severe was the food shortage. … He concluded by reminding Jacob that, if they had not procrastinated so long, they could already have made the trip to Egypt and back twice over. — Morris, page 605.
[The Hebrews] kept putting off a second trip (v.10) [probably] because of their certainty that it would prove disastrous unless Benjamin were with them and because of Jacob’s adamant refusal to let him go. — Morris, page 603.