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might have sinned, to all appearance, with advantage to his worldly interests, and without the knowledge of his father. They sprang from "the fear of the Lord," which is, "to depart from evil;" and "happy is the man that" thus "feareth always."
"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt," Gen. xli, 41.
THE history of Joseph has been popular in all ages; and no wonder. The pen of uninspired man never succeeded in delineating a character of equal excellence. And his is drawn in a manner so touchingly simple; there is such an admirable keeping of character; such a train of wonderful, yet not improbable events, throughout; such variety of beauty to engage each man's peculiar affection, that we find, as might have been expected, youth affected by his virtues and trials; age, with his filial reverence; the man of study, with his fortitude; the worldling, with his sudden elevation; and the pious, by his exemplary self-denial in one instance, and his deep piety through the whole of his public life.
In the prison, where we last left him, Joseph remained for two or three years after the butler's restoration. His last hope of deliverance was, probably, extinguished. During the whole of this period, we learn nothing concerning him; but we may infer, from the whole of his recorded history, that he grew in favour, both with God and man. The sweetness of his disposition was mani
fest in all his conduct; and (what is exceedingly rare) was accompanied with an unusually fervent piety, and an understanding well cultivated and well furnished. With the character of a philosopher, and the spirit of a saint, he would employ his thoughts, not in useless and unavailing regrets, but in planning and executing schemes for his own improvement and the benefit of others. He might have his moments of depression, when saddening recollections stole across his mind; but his remembrance of the past was not imbittered by a consciousness of unrepented iniquity. He could trust in God, and God blessed him. Though plunged into the depths of adversity; though all its waves and billows rolled over him; yet he rose superior to them all.
After a considerable time, the Egyptian king had two remarkable dreams, which made a deep impression on his mind. It was in vain he tried to forget them; and it was equally in vain he sought an explanation of them. He summoned all the magicians of Egypt, men who cultivated astronomy and the sciences, who affected a skill in astrology, and professed to foretel future events from the aspects of the stars; but they failed to divine the matter, and the monarch's anxiety and gloom were apparent to every one. It was now that the chief butler called to mind the happy interpretation of his dream, which he had received from the Hebrew youth. Hoping at once to discharge an obligation to a benefactor, and to confer one on his sovereign, he frankly told the whole of the circumstances which had occurred before his liberation. The case was too much in point to be overlooked. It was the exact moment in which the ear of Pharaoh was open to such a communication. He immediately sent for
Joseph. It has been thought that, but for a suspicion of his innocence, Potiphar would, long before this, have put Joseph to death; and that it was only out of regard to his own and his wife's character that he detained him in the "king's ward." But this critical occasion was too urgent for the operation of minor considerations. The royal command was hastily brought to the prison; and Joseph was hurried from a dungeon to a court. After suitable preparation, he was introduced to Pharaoh; and questioned by him, whether he were not skilled in the interpretation of dreams. "It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace"was his modest and pious reply. Pleased with his answer, the king informed him that he dreamed he was walking on the banks of the Nile; and saw seven fat kine ascend out of the river, and feed in a meadow; that, immediately after them, there came up seven others, but as lean and as sickly as the others had been fat and well-favoured; that his imagination pictured the latter devouring the former, without any increase to their bulk, or any improvement in their appearance. Again he dreamed: the scene was changed; and he saw seven good ears of corn on one stalk; and then "seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them, and devoured them." A ray of heavenly light instantly darted into the mind of Joseph; and discovered the interpretation of the two dreams, which he immediately communicated to the king. "What God is about to do," said he, "he showeth unto Pharaoh. Behold there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; for it
shall be very grievous. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established by God; and God will shortly bring it to pass." He went on to recommend it to Pharaoh as an expedient plan, that overseers should be appointed to treasure up, in storehouses, the fifth part of every abundant year's produce, which might furnish a stock for the anticipated famine.
The mind derives a peculiar delight from the sudden apprehension of a truth of which it had, previously, only a vague and cloudy conception. It exults in the possession of a treasure whose parts and properties it can now define. The feeling of that moment is just as pleasing as that of the one preceding it was disagreeable. Such was Pharaoh's present situation. Egypt is not watered by rain, but by the periodical overflowing of its great river, the Nile. This overflow is supposed to be occasioned by the tropical rains, descending from the Abyssinian mountains, near the source of the Nile. The increased, and increasing body of water, when it enters Egypt, is no longer confined within its banks; and, the ground being previously prepared, and the seed sown, the rich, slimy wave rolls over the wide plains, which remain inundated for some months every year. When it retires, the warmth of the sun rapidly matures the harvest, which, in most cases, is very abundant. The inhabitants, having retired to the high grounds at the approach of the Nile, return to the plains soon after its recession. The river is their pride and their glory, all their abundance depending upon it; since if, in any year, the overflow should not occur, famine and desolation would On hearing Joseph's interpretation, the mind of Pharaoh would instantly recognise the connection
between abundance and the overflowing of the Nile, and the sad reverse. Perceiving also the propriety of Joseph's advice, he immediately called a council of state, to the members of which he proposed, after giving the requisite information, that Joseph should be made a public officer, for the purpose of providing against the coming famine. Joseph was, forthwith, installed into his office. As his worth became more and more apparent, Pharaoh's fondness increased; and he raised him to the first dignity to which a subject could be admitted. Joseph was made prime minister and viceroy. He had all the outward insignia of rank: he was invested with a robe; and adorned with a chain of gold; and was honoured with Pharaoh's own ring. He received a new name, probably to designate his new office; was married to a daughter of one of the Egyptian princes; and was placed by Pharaoh over all the land of Egypt.
It may here be remarked, that there was a peculiar providence in the whole of this affair; and in nothing was it more remarkable than in the selection of the time when Pharaoh was told of Joseph. Had the butler reported the case of Joseph as soon as he himself was restored, the probability is, that he might have been released from prison, but still retained as a slave; and have passed into other hands. Instead of this, he was allowed, by the wise providence of God, to remain in prison till the very time when a path should be opened up to him from a dungeon to a palace. What a shortsighted creature is man! Joseph, doubtless, thought himself forgotten of God and man at the very time that all things were working together for his good. Does not this teach us a lesson which we are bound to improve?