Page images
[ocr errors]

coloured coat in fome kid's blood, they fent it home to their father; who no fooner faw it, than, thinking that his beloved child had been torn in pieces by fome wild beaft, he took his fuppofed lofs fo to heart, that he did not ceafe mourning for him, till he heard the furprising news of his advancement in Egypt; where Jofeph happened to be fold to an officer of the King's guard, named Potiphar. Here Jofeph fhewed fuch diligence and integrity, and proved fo fuccefsful in all he undertook, that his mafter foon committed the care of all his affairs wholly into his hands. He had been ten years in Potiphar's houfe; when his mistress, taken with the extraordinary comlinefs of his perfon, after feveral other unfuccefsful attempts to make him comply with her wanton defires, accofted him, one day when the whole family was abroad, in fo paffionate a manner, that Jofeph, not thinking it fafe to stay and expoftulate with her, as he had frequently done, abruptly withdrew, leaving his upper garment, which she had laid hold of, in her hands. Not able to bruick this affront, fhe vowed the ruin of the innocent youth; and accordingly having brought together, with her outcries, all who were within hearing, fhe charged Jofeph with her own crime; confirming the charge by the dumb witnefs fhe had torn from him. By the time her husband came home, he had dreffed up her story fo well, that fhe was eafily believed. Had Potiphar loved Jofeph lefs than he did, it is probable, he would have facrificed him that moment to his refentment; but he contented himself,


himself, for the prefent, with fending him into the King's prifon.

JOSEPH got into fuch favour with the keeper of the prifon, that he intrufted him with the care of all the prifoners. To two of them, men of some distinction, viz. Pharaoh's chief butler, and baker, Joseph not only interpreted the dreams they had dreamed, but alfo told them the precife time of their fulfillment. Accordingly, three days after, the butler was reftored to his place, and the baker hanged. Jofeph took this opportunity of addreffing himfelf to the former, and to beg his affiftance and intereft to get him out of prifon; telling him, at the fame time, how he had been fold out of his own country, and falfely accused by his mistress, and what elfe he thought proper, to move him to comply with his request.

THE former being fet at liberty, and restored to his place, never remembred his fellow-prifoner, till two years after, when the two famous dreams of Pharaoh forced him, in a manner, to call him to mind, and to recommend him to the King, as one who had a much greater talent at interpreting dreams, than any he had yet confulted. Upon his recommendation, Jofeph was fent for out of prison; and he no fooner appeared, than Pharaoh told him his dreams, and promifed him a confiderable reward, if he could give him an interpretation of them. Pharaoh had dreamed, that he had feen feven lufty fat cows feeding on the banks of the Nile; foon after which feven others, lean and ill-favoured, came and devoured them; and yet looked neither the fatter nor bigger for it. His fecond dream was much of the fame

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

kind, viz. feven full ears of corn devoured by feven blafted ones. Jofeph answered the King, with his ufual modefty, that the feven cows and feven ears fignified the fame thing; that the dream being repeated, was only a fign that the thing was to happen immediately after; that the feven fat cows and full ears fignified seven years of exceffive plenty, which would nevertheless be quite forgotten in the feven fucceeding years of famine, fignified by the feven lean cows and blafted ears. He thereupon advised the King to appoint a wife and expert man over his whole kingdom, who should take care to build granaries, and fend officers into every province, to lay up a fifth part of all the corn of the seven plentiful years, against the fucceeding years of famine.

THE King, and all that heard him, were furprifed at the wifdom of this young ftranger, who was then but thirty years old; and concluded, that he was the fittest perfon to be fet over the kingdom, and to put his own propofal in execution. He was thereupon made mafter and overfeer of Pharaoh's houfe; and or ders were given, that he fhould be obeyed in all things, as if he had been Pharaoh himself. The King took his own fignet off his finger, and gave it to him; caufed him to be clothed in fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; telling him, that he appointed him fuperintendent over the whole kingdom, and the next to himself in authority: moreover, he gave him the name of Zaphnath-paaneach, which fignifies a revealer of fecrets; bestowed on him in marriage, the daughter of Potipherah, priest or prince of On, and made him ride

D 2


[ocr errors]

in his fecond chariot, while the men that ram before it cried, Bow the knee. Jofeph, being raised to this height of power, took a progrefsthrough the whole kingdom; built his gra- | naries; appointed proper officers in every place; and ordered all things with fuch prudence and application, that, before the fevenyears of plenty were over, he found his ftores filled above numbering. During this time, he had two fons, born of his wife Afenath; the firft of whom he called Manaffeh, intimating that God had made him forget all his toils; and the next he called Ephraim, becaufe God had made him fruitful in the land of his affiction.

THESE feven plentiful years were fucceeded immediately by the other feven of famine; nor was the fcarcity confined to the land of Egypt, but was felt all over the land of Canaan, and all the nations round about it. As foon, therefore, as the Egyptians came to be pinched for want of bread, they applied to Pharaoh, who commanded them to repair to Jofeph; upon which he immediately ordered his ftores to be opened, and corn to be fold to the people, who flocked to him, not only from all parts of Egypt, but from all the neighbouring countries.

By this time, Jacob, who was not exempt from the common calamity, hearing that there was corn to be bought in Egypt, fent ten of his fons thither to buy fome, and kept only Benjamin with him. Thefe, upon their arrival in Egypt, were directed to Jofeph, for an order: and, as foon as they faw him, they proftrated themselves before him, and begged


they might be fupplied with fome corn. Joseph knew them immediately, though e was fo altered, that they could not call him to mind: he put on a fevere look, and, in an angry tone, asked them, whence they came? and, upon their anfwering, from the land of Canaan, he charged them with being fpies, who were come to difcover the weakness of the land. Such an unexpected accufation forced them to justify themselves, by affuring him, in the most fubmiffive terms, that they were all one man's fons; that they had left another, a younger brother, with their father, befides another who was now no more. This was what Jofeph wanted; who, in a furly commanding tone, told them, that, unless one of them fetched this youngest fon, whilft the reft were kept in fafe cuftody, he would not be perfuaded, but that they were fpies, and would punish them accordingly. To fhew that he was in earneft, he fent them all to prison, and kept them there three days; at the end of which, he fent for them; and, in a milder tone, faid to them, This do, and live; for I fear God: let one of you remain a prifoner with me, while the reft go home with provifion for your family; and when you bring your youngest brother hither, he hall be delivered up fafe, and you juftified. He then commanded Simeon, who had been perhaps one of his moft zealous enemies, to be bound before their eyes, and fent to pri fon; whilft he had the pleasure to hear them confefs their inhumanity towards their brother, whofe bitter cries had not been able to foften them into pity;. acknowledging that D 3 this

« PreviousContinue »