Page images


"And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt," Gen. 1, 24, 25, 26.

Ir was with a painful reluctance that Jacob consented to let Benjamin, the son of his right hand, go down into Egypt; for his apprehensions of the consequences were very melancholy. The brethren came again unto Joseph, bringing with them the money which had been returned, (as they thought, by accident,) together with a sum for a farther supply; and a present to the governor of the land. "And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them," he ordered them all to be conducted to his own house; a mark of attention which filled them all with fear, remembering that Simeon was still in bonds. Before Joseph came home, at noon, the brethren presented themselves to the steward, and offered him the "double money" they had brought in their hands. Their language and manner equally indicated their agitation and alarm. But he calmed their fears, "and brought Simeon out unto them." When Joseph came, he made inquiries, with an air of feigned indifference, after "the old man," their "father;" asked if Benjamin were their "younger brother," of whom they had spoken to him; and, finding his feelings becoming too powerful for suppression or concealment, he hastily exclaimed, "God be gracious to thee, my son;"

and then hurried away to his chamber, where he might indulge his emotions unobserved. At dinner he showed every attention, but most particularly to Benjamin.

Once more, however, he resolved to put their patience to the test. He ordered the steward again to return every man's money in his sack; and to put his silver cup also into Benjamin's. This done, they were dismissed. When they had gone but a very little way, they were followed and overtaken by the steward, who charged them with base ingratitude and theft. Conscious of their innocence, they denied the charge; and offered, if any one of them should be found to have been guilty of such a crime, to deliver him up to death. On examination, to the great amazement and horror of all, the cup was found in Benjamin's sack! In the deepest grief and distraction they all returned; and, resigning themselves to their desperate situation, were no sooner introduced into Joseph's presence, than they offered themselves, one and all, to become his bondmen for the punishment of their supposed crime. When he declined to take any of them for bondmen except Benjamin, as being, apparently, the most guilty, the most agonizing apprehensions of the consequences of such a step to their father wrung every heart. His distress compelled Judah to venture to plead with the governor, and made him truly eloquent. His appeal to the heart of the ruler, (see chap. xliv, 18, ad finem,) which he concludes by offering himself as a bondman in lieu of Benjamin, is unrivalled; and the effect on Joseph was irresistible and overpowering. He ordered all the Egyptians present instantly to withdraw. Then "he wept aloud," and "said unto his brethren, I am Joseph!" This avowal brought trouble of another kind upon them; which he soothed with the kindest

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

expressions, assuring them that their conduct had been the indirect course of his present prosperity. "So now," said he, “it was not you that sent me hither, but God." He then delivered to them a most affectionate and respectful message for his father, whose oft-repeated kindnesses he was now, in some measure, able to repay; desiring him to come and dwell in Egypt during the five remaining years of the famine, where it would be equally his happiness and duty to nourish his declining years. With a heart overflowing with tenderness and affection he pressed his beloved Benjamin to his bosom; "kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them." Such a scene as this may be faintly imagined; but who can do justice to it? It is best described, with the greatest pathos and beauty, in the simple style of Scripture.

The report of this wonderful affair soon reached the ears of Pharaoh. That generous monarch desired Joseph to send wagons for his father and the whole family; and directed them not to regard their "stuff,” for the good of all the land of Egypt should be theirs. Joseph did so; and his brethren returned, laden with presents, and filled with astonishment. How different were their feelings now from those they had experienced when returning with the steward! Their sudden transition from despair to rapture, when Joseph, instead of making them his bondmen, acknowledged them as his brethren, could scarcely be exceeded, in the feeling it produced, by that of Jacob, when he heard their strange tidings. Their long delay had, probably, awakened the most awful suspicions in his mind. Perhaps the saddest musings filled his breast when, suddenly, the eleven brethren entered, Simeon and Benjamin among the group, with their abundance of all good things. And when they told him that his long-lost and long

lamented son was governor over all the land of Egypt, his feelings became insupportable, and he fainted away. When he was somewhat revived, "they told him all the words of Joseph, and showed him the wagons.” And Israel said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive, I will go and see him before I die." On his way God appeared to him in a vision of the night; encouraged him to proceed; informed him that great and important ends, in the economy of providence, were to be answered thereby, and assured him that he should die in peace, "and Joseph should put his hand upon his eyes." Accordingly, Jacob and his whole family were brought into Egypt; and no sooner did Joseph understand that they were near at hand than he set out, in his chariot, to meet them. The interview was oppressively tender. The thoughts excited by such a scene cannot be imbodied in words. After this, five of Joseph's brethren first, and then his father, were introduced to Pharaoh : and the land of Goshen was allotted to them for the residence of the whole family.

For some years from this time nothing particular occurred in the patriarch's family, until he himself, like a shock of corn fully ripe, was ready to be gathered into the garner of life. Joseph was sent for, and solemnly engaged, at his father's request, that his body should not be buried in Egypt, but in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah. Soon after this the two sons of Joseph, who had been born to him during the seven years of plenty, were brought to Jacob, who, by divine instruction, admitted them both to the patriarchal character and blessings; "willingly," however, giving the preference to Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the elder. Having then solemnly delivered his last prophetical address to each of his sons, the venerable patriarch died;

and was carried to Canaan and buried, with every circumstance of the most reverent and profound respect, and this was manifested, not only by his own family, but also by the Egyptians themselves. Joseph's brethren, fearing lest resentment, rising in his bosom, should lead him to requite them all the evil they had done unto him, and knowing his veneration for Israel's memory, sent a messenger with what they professed to be their dying father's request, viz., that he would forgive the sins of his brethren against him; to which they added their own. Joseph assured them of his sincere regard for them, and banished their needless fear.

In Joseph's conduct to his brethren, three things have been deemed objectionable. 1. His harshness: but this was only assumed, for a time, to give the greater effect to his kindness. 2. His swearing "by the life of Pharaoh" but they, whose knowledge best enables them to determine on this point, assure us this is a mere misapprehension of his expression. 3. His using divination; of which, however, there is no other proof than his speaking, evidently in pretence of using his cup for this purpose. To his father his conduct was altogether unexceptionable, and even admirable. As prime minister his whole deportment was so noble; so steadily did he pursue the interests of his sovereign and the good of the nation; so humane and beneficent was his character; his pretensions so unassuming; his actions so consistent; that he retained the favour of the king, the court, and the people, to the latest moment of his life.

As it respects his official conduct, much has been objected against him. He continued to sell corn as long as the people had money to buy. He next took their cattle in exchange. Lastly, he appropriated, for the king, the land of all the people, leaving that of the

« PreviousContinue »