Sonia Halliday/Topkapi Museum

Judah pleads before Joseph. In the top panel of this scene from a Byzantine Bible, Joseph, unrecognized by his brothers, threatens to keep Benjamin as a servant while letting the other brothers go free. Judah entreats Joseph to allow him to serve for his youngest brother because when their father, Jacob, “sees that Benjamin is not with us, he will die” (Genesis 44:31). The nine other brothers (Benjamin is not visible) bow before Joseph, who is flanked by two spear-bearing attendants.

The lower panel depicts two events, separated, according to Byzantine artistic convention, by a doorway. To the left of the doorway are three court attendants who have just left the room on Joseph’s orders. The rest of the picture, to the right of the doorway, illustrates the text: “So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers” (Genesis 45:1). Here Joseph’s hand rests on Benjamin’s shoulder, while the other brothers stand with arms crossed, staring at the two sons of Rachel.