The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 21: Joseph and His Brothers
At the very opening of the fruitful years began the preparation
for the approaching famine. Under the direction of
Joseph, immense storehouses were erected in all the principal
places throughout the land of Egypt, and ample arrangements
were made for preserving the surplus of the expected harvest.
The same policy was continued during the seven years of plenty,
until the amount of grain laid in store was beyond computation.
And now the seven years of dearth began to come, according
to Joseph's prediction. "And the dearth was in all lands; but in
all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of
Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and
Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he
saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the
earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the
The famine extended to the land of Canaan and was severely
felt in that part of the country where Jacob dwelt. Hearing of
the abundant provision made by the king of Egypt, ten of Jacob's
sons journeyed thither to purchase grain. On their arrival they
were directed to the king's deputy, and with other applicants
they came to present themselves before the ruler of the land. And
they "bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the
earth." "Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him." His
Hebrew name had been exchanged for the one bestowed upon
him by the king, and there was little resemblance between the
prime minister of Egypt and the stripling whom they had sold
to the Ishmaelites. As Joseph saw his brothers stooping and
making obeisance, his dreams came to his mind, and the scenes of the
past rose vividly before him. His keen eye, surveying the group,
discovered that Benjamin was not among them. Had he also fallen [p. 225] a victim to the treacherous cruelty of those savage men? He
determined to learn the truth. "Ye are spies," he said sternly; "to
see the nakedness of the land ye are come."
They answered, "Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants
come. We are all one man's sons; we are true men; thy
servants are no spies." He wished to learn if they possessed the
same haughty spirit as when he was with them, and also to draw
from them some information in regard to their home; yet he well
knew how deceptive their statements might be. He repeated the
charge, and they replied, "Thy servants are twelve brethren, the
sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest
is this day with our father, and one is not."
Professing to doubt the truthfulness of their story, and to still
look upon them as spies, the governor declared that he would
prove them, by requiring them to remain in Egypt till one of
their number should go and bring their youngest brother down.
If they would not consent to this, they were to be treated as
spies. But to such an arrangement the sons of Jacob could not
agree, since the time required for carrying it out would cause
their families to suffer for food; and who among them would
undertake the journey alone, leaving his brothers in prison? How
could he meet his father under such circumstances? It appeared
probable that they were to be put to death or to be made slaves;
and if Benjamin were brought, it might be only to share their
fate. They decided to remain and suffer together, rather than
bring additional sorrow upon their father by the loss of his only
remaining son. They were accordingly cast into prison, where
they remained three days.
During the years since Joseph had been separated from his
brothers, these sons of Jacob had changed in character. Envious,
turbulent, deceptive, cruel, and revengeful they had been; but
now, when tested by adversity, they were shown to be unselfish,
true to one another, devoted to their father, and, themselves
middle-aged men, subject to his authority.
The three days in the Egyptian prison were days of bitter
sorrow as the brothers reflected upon their past sins. Unless
Benjamin could be produced their conviction as spies appeared
certain, and they had little hope of gaining their father's consent
to Benjamin's absence. On the third day Joseph caused the brothers
to be brought before him. He dared not detain them longer. [p. 226] Already his father and the families with him might be suffering
for food. "This do, and live," he said; "for I fear God; if ye be
true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your
prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: but bring
your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified,
and ye shall not die." This proposition they agreed to accept,
though expressing little hope that their father would let Benjamin
return with them. Joseph had communicated with them
through an interpreter, and having no thought that the governor
understood them, they conversed freely with one another in
his presence. They accused themselves in regard to their treatment
of Joseph: "We are verily guilty concerning our brother,
in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us,
and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon
us." Reuben, who had formed the plan for delivering him at
Dothan, added, "Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin
against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also
his blood is required." Joseph, listening, could not control his
emotions, and he went out and wept. On his return he commanded
that Simeon be bound before them and again committed
to prison. In the cruel treatment of their brother, Simeon had been
the instigator and chief actor, and it was for this reason that the
choice fell upon him.
Before permitting his brothers to depart, Joseph gave directions
that they should be supplied with grain, and also that each
man's money should be secretly placed in the mouth of his sack.
Provender for the beasts on the homeward journey was also supplied.
On the way one of the company, opening his sack, was surprised
to find his bag of silver. On his making known the fact to
the others, they were alarmed and perplexed, and said one to another,
"What is this that God hath done unto us?"—should they
regard it as a token of good from the Lord, or had He suffered it
to occur to punish them for their sins and plunge them still
deeper in affliction? They acknowledged that God had seen their
sins, and that He was now punishing them.
Jacob was anxiously awaiting the return of his sons, and on
their arrival the whole encampment gathered eagerly around them
as they related to their father all that had occurred. Alarm and
apprehension filled every heart. The conduct of the Egyptian
governor seemed to imply some evil design, and their fears were
confirmed, when, as they opened their sacks, the owner's money [p. 227] was found in each. In his distress the aged father exclaimed, "Me
have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not,
and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me."
Reuben answered, "Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee:
deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again."
This rash speech did not relieve the mind of Jacob. His answer
was, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead,
and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the
which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow
to the grave."
But the drought continued, and in process of time the supply
of grain that had been brought from Egypt was nearly exhausted.
The sons of Jacob well knew that it would be in vain to return to
Egypt without Benjamin. They had little hope of changing their
father's resolution, and they awaited the issue in silence. Deeper
and deeper grew the shadow of approaching famine; in the anxious
faces of all in the encampment the old man read their need;
at last he said, "Go again, but us a little food."
Judah answered, "The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying,
Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If
thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy
thee food: but if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down:
for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your
brother be with you." Seeing that his father's resolution began to
waver, he added, "Send the lad with me, and we will arise and
go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also
our little ones;" and he offered to be surety for his brother and
to bear the blame forever if he failed to restore Benjamin to his
Jacob could no longer withhold his consent, and he directed
his sons to prepare for the journey. He bade them also take to the
ruler a present of such things as the famine-wasted country
afforded—"a little balm, and a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts
and almonds," also a double quantity of money. "Take also your
brother," he said, "and arise, go again unto the man." As his sons
were about to depart on their doubtful journey the aged father
arose, and raising his hands to heaven, uttered the prayer, "God
Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away
your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children,
I am bereaved."
Again they journeyed to Egypt and presented themselves [p. 228] before Joseph. As his eye fell upon Benjamin, his own mother's
son, he was deeply moved. He concealed his emotion, however,
but ordered that they be taken to his house, and that preparation
be made for them to dine with him. Upon being conducted to
the governor's palace, the brothers were greatly alarmed, fearing
that they were to be called to account for the money found in
their sacks. They thought that it might have been intentionally
placed there, to furnish occasion for making them slaves. In their
distress they consulted with the steward of the house, relating to
him the circumstances of their visit to Egypt; and in proof of
their innocence informed him that they had brought back the
money found in their sacks, also other money to buy food; and
they added, "We cannot tell who put our money in our sacks."
The man replied, "Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the
God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had
your money." Their anxiety was relieved, and when Simeon, who
had been released from prison, joined them, they felt that God
was indeed gracious unto them.
When the governor again met them they presented their gifts
and humbly "bowed themselves to him to the earth." Again his
dreams came to his mind, and after saluting his guests he hastened
to ask, "Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake?
Is he yet alive?" "Thy servant our father is in good health, he
is yet alive," was the answer, as they again made obeisance.
Then his eye rested upon Benjamin, and he said, "Is this your
younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?" "God be gracious
unto thee, my son;" but, overpowered by feelings of tenderness,
he could say no more. "He entered into his chamber, and wept
Having recovered his self-possession, he returned, and all
proceeded to the feast. By the laws of caste the Egyptians were
forbidden to eat with people of any other nation. The sons of Jacob
had therefore a table by themselves, while the governor, on account
of his high rank, ate by himself, and the Egyptians also
had separate tables. When all were seated the brothers were
surprised to see that they were arranged in exact order, according to
their ages. Joseph "sent messes unto them from before him;" but
Benjamin's was five times as much as any of theirs. By this token
of favor to Benjamin he hoped to ascertain if the youngest
brother was regarded with the envy and hatred that had been
manifested toward himself. Still supposing that Joseph did not [p. 229] understand their language, the brothers freely conversed with one
another; thus he had a good opportunity to learn their real feelings.
Still he desired to test them further, and before their departure
he ordered that his own drinking cup of silver should be
concealed in the sack of the youngest.
Joyfully they set out on their return. Simeon and Benjamin
were with them, their animals were laden with grain, and all felt
that they had safely escaped the perils that had seemed to surround
them. But they had only reached the outskirts of the city
when they were overtaken by the governor's steward, who uttered
the scathing inquiry, "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?
Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he
divineth? ye have done evil in so doing." This cup was supposed
to possess the power of detecting any poisonous substance placed
therein. At that day cups of this kind were highly valued as a
safeguard against murder by poisoning.
To the steward's accusation the travelers answered, "Wherefore
saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants
should do according to this thing: behold, the money, which we
found in our sack's mouths, we brought again unto thee out of
the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord's
house silver or gold?" With whomsoever of thy servants it be
found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen."
"Now also let it be according unto your words," said the
steward; "he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye
shall be blameless."
The search began immediately. "They speedily took down
every man his sack to the ground," and the steward examined
each, beginning with Reuben's, and taking them in order down
to that of the youngest. In Benjamin's sack the cup was found.
The brothers rent their garments in token of utter wretchedness,
and slowly returned to the city. By their own promise Benjamin
was doomed to a life of slavery. They followed the steward
to the palace, and finding the governor yet there, they prostrated
themselves before him. "What deed is this that ye have done?"
he said. "Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?"
Joseph designed to draw from them an acknowledgment of their
sin. He had never claimed the power of divination, but was willing
to have them believe that he could read the secrets of their
Judah answered, "What shall we say unto my Lord? what [p. 230] shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found
out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord"s servants,
both we, and he also with whom the cup is found."
"God forbid that I should do so," was the reply; "but the man
in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as
for you, get you up in peace unto your father."
In his deep distress Judah now drew near to the ruler and
exclaimed, "O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a
word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy
servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh." In words of touching
eloquence he described his father's grief at the loss of Joseph and
his reluctance to let Benjamin come with them to Egypt, as he
was the only son left of his mother, Rachel, whom Jacob so dearly
loved. "Now therefore," he said, "when I come to thy servant my
father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up
in the lad's life; it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad
is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down
the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying,
If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my
father forever. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide
instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up
with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the
lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall
come on my father."
Joseph was satisfied. He had seen in his brothers the fruits of
true repentance. Upon hearing Judah's noble offer he gave orders
that all but these men should withdraw; then, weeping aloud, he
cried, "I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?"
His brothers stood motionless, dumb with fear and amazement.
The ruler of Egypt their brother Joseph, whom they had envied
and would have murdered, and finally sold as a slave! All their
ill treatment of him passed before them. They remembered how
they had despised his dreams and had labored to prevent their
fulfillment. Yet they had acted their part in fulfilling these
dreams; and now that they were completely in his power he
would, no doubt, avenge the wrong that he had suffered.
Seeing their confusion, he said kindly, "Come near to me, I
pray you;" and as they came near, he continued, "I am Joseph
your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not [p. 231] grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for
God did send me before you to preserve life." Feeling that they
had already suffered enough for their cruelty toward him, he
nobly sought to banish their fears and lessen the bitterness of
"For these two years," he continued, "hath the famine been
in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall
neither be earing not harvest. And God sent me before you to
preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a
great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but
God: and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of
all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Haste
ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son
Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto
me tarry not: and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and
thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy
children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou
hast: and there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years
of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast,
come to poverty. And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my
brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you."
"And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and
Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his
brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with
him." They humbly confessed their sin and entreated his forgiveness.
They had long suffered anxiety and remorse, and now they
rejoiced that he was still alive.
The news of what had taken place was quickly carried to the
king, who, eager to manifest his gratitude to Joseph, confirmed
the governor's invitation to his family, saying, "The good of
all the land of Egypt is yours." The brothers were sent away
abundantly supplied with provision and carriages and everything
necessary for the removal of all their families and attendants to
Egypt. On Benjamin, Joseph bestowed more valuable gifts than
upon the others. Then, fearing that disputes would arise among
them on the homeward journey, he gave them, as they were about
to leave him, the charge, "See that ye fall not out by the way."
The sons of Jacob returned to their father with the joyful
tidings, "Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land
of Egypt." At first the aged man was overwhelmed; he could [p. 232] not believe what he heard; but when he saw the long train of
wagons and loaded animals, and when Benjamin was with him
once more, he was convinced, and in the fullness of his joy
exclaimed, "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and
see him before I die."
Another act of humiliation remained for the ten brothers.
They now confessed to their father the deceit and cruelty that for
so many years had embittered his life and theirs. Jacob had not
suspected them of so base a sin, but he saw that all had been overruled
for good, and he forgave and blessed his erring children.
The father and his sons, with their families, their flocks and
herds, and numerous attendants, were soon on the way to Egypt.
With gladness of heart they pursued their journey, and when
they came to Beersheba the patriarch offered grateful sacrifices
and entreated the Lord to grant them an assurance that He
would go with them. In a vision of the night the divine word
came to him: "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there
make of thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt;
and I will also surely bring thee up again."
The assurance, "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will
there make of thee a great nation," was significant. The promise
had been given to Abraham of a posterity numberless as the stars,
but as yet the chosen people had increased but slowly. And the
land of Canaan now offered no field for the development of
such a nation as had been foretold. It was in the possession of
powerful heathen tribes, that were not to be dispossessed until
"the fourth generation." If the descendants of Israel were here to
become a numerous people, they must either drive out the
inhabitants of the land or disperse themselves among them. The
former, according to the divine arrangement, they could not do;
and should they mingle with the Canaanites, they would be in
danger of being seduced into idolatry. Egypt, however, offered
the conditions necessary to the fulfillment of the divine purpose.
A section of country well-watered and fertile was open to them
there, affording every advantage for their speedy increase. And
the antipathy they must encounter in Egypt on account of their
occupation—for every shepherd was "an abomination unto the
Egyptians"—would enable them to remain a distinct and separate
people and would thus serve to shut them out from participation
in the idolatry of Egypt. [p. 233]
Upon reaching Egypt the company proceeded directly to the
land of Goshen. Thither came Joseph in his chariot of state,
attended by a princely retinue. The splendor of his surroundings
and the dignity of his position were alike forgotten; one
thought alone filled his mind, one longing thrilled his heart. As
he beheld the travelers approaching, the love whose yearnings
had for so many long years been repressed, would no longer
be controlled. He sprang from his chariot and hastened forward
to bid his father welcome. "And he fell on his neck, and wept on
his neck a good while. And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me
die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art ye alive."
Joseph took five of his brothers to present to Pharaoh and
receive from him the grant of land for their future home. Gratitude
to his prime minister would have led the monarch to honor
them with appointments to offices of state; but Joseph, true to
the worship of Jehovah, sought to save his brothers from the
temptations to which they would be exposed at a heathen court;
therefore he counseled them, when questioned by the king, to
tell him frankly their occupation. The sons of Jacob followed
this counsel, being careful also to state that they had come to
sojourn in the land, not to become permanent dwellers there,
thus reserving the right to depart if they chose. The king
assigned them a home, as offered, in "the best of the land," the
country of Goshen.
Not long after their arrival Joseph brought his father also to
be presented to the king. The patriarch was a stranger in royal
courts; but amid the sublime scenes of nature he had communed
with a mightier Monarch; and now, in conscious superiority, he
raised his hands and blessed Pharaoh.
In his first greeting to Joseph, Jacob had spoken as if, with
this joyful ending to his long anxiety and sorrow, he was ready
to die. But seventeen years were yet to be granted him in the
peaceful retirement of Goshen. These years were in happy
contrast to those that had preceded them. He saw in his sons evidence
of true repentance; he saw his family surrounded by all the
conditions needful for the development of a great nation; and his
faith grasped the sure promise of their future establishment in
Canaan. He himself was surrounded with every token of love
and favor that the prime minister of Egypt could bestow; and
happy in the society of his long-lost son, he passed down gently
and peacefully to the grave. [p. 234]
As he felt death approaching, he sent for Joseph. Still holding
fast the promise of God respecting the possession of Canaan, he
said, "Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: but I will lie with my
fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in
their burying place." Joseph promised to do so, but Jacob was not
satisfied; he exacted a solemn oath to lay him beside his fathers
in the cave of Machpelah.
Another important matter demanded attention; the sons of
Joseph were to be formally instated among the children of Israel.
Joseph, coming for a last interview with his father, brought with
him Ephraim and Manasseh. These youths were connected,
through their mother, with the highest order of the Egyptian
priesthood; and the position of their father opened to them the
avenues to wealth an distinction, should they choose to connect
themselves with the Egyptians. It was Joseph's desire, however,
that they should unite with their own people. He manifested his
faith in the covenant promise, in behalf of his sons renouncing
all the honors that the court of Egypt offered, for a place among
the despised shepherd tribes, to whom had been entrusted the
oracles of God.
Said Jacob, "Thy two sons, Ephraim, and Manasseh, which
were born unto thee in the land of Egypt, before I came unto thee
into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine."
They were to be adopted as his own, and to become the heads
of separate tribes. Thus one of the birthright privileges, which
Reuben had forfeited, was to fall to Joseph—a double portion
Jacob's eyes were dim with age, and he had not been aware of
the presence of the young men; but now, catching the outline of
their forms, he said, "Who are these?" On being told, he added,
"Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them." As
they came nearer, the patriarch embraced and kissed them,
solemnly laying his hands upon their heads in benediction. Then
he uttered the prayer, "God, before whom my fathers Abraham
and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto
this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the
lads." There was no spirit of self-dependence, no reliance upon
human power or cunning now. God had been his preserver and
support. There was no complaint of the evil days in the past. Its
trials and sorrows were no longer regarded as things that were [p. 235] "against" him. Memory recalled only His mercy and loving-kindness
who had been with him throughout his pilgrimage.
The blessing ended, Jacob gave his son the assurance—leaving
for the generations to come, through long years of bondage and
sorrow, this testimony to his faith—"Behold, I die; but God shall
be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers."
At the last all the sons of Jacob were gathered about his dying
bed. And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, "Gather yourselves
together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your
father," "that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the
last days." Often and anxiously he had thought of their future,
and had endeavored to picture to himself the history of the
different tribes. Now as his children waited to receive his last
blessing the Spirit of Inspiration rested upon him, and before him in
prophetic vision the future of his descendants was unfolded. One
after another the names of his sons were mentioned, the character
of each was described, and the future history of the tribes was
"Reuben, thou art my first-born,
My might, and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power."
Thus the father pictured what should have been the position
of Reuben as the first-born son; but his grievous sin at Edar had
made him unworthy of the birthright blessing. Jacob continued—
"Unstable as water,
Thou shalt not excel."
The priesthood was apportioned to Levi, the kingdom and
the Messianic promise to Judah, and the double portion of the
inheritance to Joseph. The tribe of Reuben never rose to any
eminence in Israel; it was not so numerous as Judah, Joseph, or Dan,
and was among the first that were carried into captivity.
Next in age to Reuben were Simeon and Levi. They had
been united in their cruelty toward the Shechemites, and they had
also been the most guilty in the selling of Joseph. Concerning
them it was declared—
"I will divide them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel."
At the numbering of Israel, just before their entrance to
[p. 236] Canaan, Simeon was the smallest tribe. Moses, in his last blessing,
made no reference to Simeon. In the settlement of Canaan
this tribe had only a small portion of Judah's lot, and such
families as afterward became powerful formed different colonies and
settled in territory outside the borders of the Holy Land. Levi
also received no inheritance except forty-eight cities scattered in
different parts of the land. In the case of this tribe, however, their
fidelity of Jehovah when the other tribes apostatized, secured
their appointment to the sacred service of the sanctuary, and thus
the curse was changed into a blessing.
The crowning blessings of the birthright were transferred to
Judah. The significance of the name—which denotes praise,—is
unfolded in the prophetic history of this tribe:
"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise:
Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies;
Thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
Judah is a lion's whelp:
From the prey, my son, thou art gone up:
He stooped down, he couched as a lion,
And as an old lion: who shall rouse him up?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh come;
And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be."
The lion, king of the forest, is a fitting symbol of this tribe,
from which came David, and the Son of David, Shiloh, the true
"Lion of the tribe of Judah," to whom all powers shall finally
bow and all nations render homage.
For most of his children Jacob foretold a prosperous future.
At last the name of Joseph was reached, and the father's heart
overflowed as he invoked blessings upon "the head of him that
was separate from his brethren":
"Joseph is a fruitful bough,
Even a fruitful bough by a well;
Whose branches run over the wall:
The archers have sorely grieved him,
And shot at him, and hated him:
But his bow abode in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the mighty God of Jacob;
(From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel;) [p. 237]
Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee;
And by the Almighty, who shall bless thee
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lieth under,
Blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
The blessings of thy father have prevailed
Above the blessings of my progenitors
Unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills:
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him that was separate from
Jacob had even been a man of deep and ardent affection; his
love for his sons was strong and tender, and his dying testimony
to them was not the utterance of partiality or resentment. He had
forgiven them all, and he loved them to the last. His paternal
tenderness would have found expression only in words of encouragement
and hope; but the power of God rested upon him, and
under the influence of Inspiration he was constrained to declare
the truth, however painful.
The last blessings pronounced, Jacob repeated the charge
concerning his burial place: "I am to be gathered unto my people:
bury me with my fathers . . . in the cave that is in the field of
Machpelah." "There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife;
there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried
Leah." Thus the last act of his life was to manifest his faith in
Jacob's last years brought an evening of tranquillity and
repose after a troubled and weary day. Clouds had gathered dark
above his path, yet his sun set clear, and the radiance of heaven
illumined his parting hours. Says the Scripture, "At evening time
it shall be light." Zechariah 14:7. "Mark the perfect man, and
behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." Psalm 37:37.
Jacob had sinned, and had deeply suffered. Many years of toil,
care, and sorrow had been his since the day when his great sin
caused him to flee from his father's tents. A homeless fugitive,
separated from his mother, whom he never saw again; laboring
seven years for her whom he loved, only to be basely cheated;
toiling twenty years in the service of a covetous and grasping
kinsman; seeing his wealth increasing, and sons rising around
him, but finding little joy in the contentious and divided household;
distressed by his daughter's shame, by her brothers' revenge, [p. 238] by the death of Rachel, by the unnatural crime of Reuben, by
Judah's sin, by the cruel deception and malice practiced toward
Joseph—how long and dark is the catalogue of evils spread out
to view! Again and again he had reaped the fruit of that first
wrong deed. Over and over he saw repeated among his sons
the sins of which he himself had been guilty. But bitter as had
been the discipline, it had accomplished its work. The chastening,
though grievous, had yielded "the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
Inspiration faithfully records the faults of good men, those
who were distinguished by the favor of God; indeed, their faults
are more fully presented than their virtues. This has been a subject
of wonder to many, and has given the infidel occasion to scoff
at the Bible. But it is one of the strongest evidences of the truth
of Scripture, that facts are not glossed over, nor the sins of its
chief characters suppressed. The minds of men are so subject to
prejudice that it is not possible for human histories to be absolutely
impartial. Had the Bible been written by uninspired persons, it
would no doubt have presented the character of its honored men
in a more flattering light. But as it is, we have a correct record
of their experiences.
Men whom God favored, and to whom He entrusted great
responsibilities, were sometimes overcome by temptation and
committed sin, even as we at the present day strive, waver, and
frequently fall into error. Their lives, with all their faults and
follies, are open before us, both for our encouragement and warning.
If they had been represented as without fault, we, with our sinful
nature, might despair at our own mistakes and failures. But
seeing where others struggled through discouragements like our
own, where they fell under temptations as we have done, and yet
took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we
are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As they,
though sometimes beaten back, recovered their ground, and were
blessed of God, so we too may be overcomers in the strength of
Jesus. On the other hand, the record of their lives may serve as
a warning to us. It shows that God will by no means clear the
guilty. He sees sin in His most favored ones, and He deals with
it in them even more strictly than in those who have less light
and responsibility. [p. 239]
After the burial of Jacob fear again filled the hearts of Joseph's
brothers. Notwithstanding his kindness toward them, conscious
guilt made them distrustful and suspicious. It might be that
he had but delayed his revenge, out of regard to their father, and
that he would now visit upon them the long-deferred punishment
for their crime. They dared not appear before him in
person, but sent a message: "Thy father did command before he
died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now,
the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee
evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants
of the God of thy father." This message affected Joseph to tears,
and, encouraged by this, his brothers came and fell down before
him, with the words, "Behold, we be thy servants." Joseph's love
for his brothers was deep and unselfish, and he was pained at the
thought that they could regard him as cherishing a spirit of
revenge toward them. "Fear not," he said; "for am I in the place of
God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant
it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people
alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your
The life of Joseph illustrates the life of Christ. It was envy
that moved the brothers of Joseph to sell him as a slave; they
hoped to prevent him from becoming greater than themselves.
And when he was carried to Egypt, they flattered themselves that
they were to be no more troubled with his dreams, that they had
removed all possibility of their fulfillment. But their own course
was overruled by God to bring about the very event that they
designed to hinder. So the Jewish priests and elders were jealous of
Christ, fearing that He would attract the attention of the people
from them. They put Him to death, to prevent Him from
becoming king, but they were thus bringing about this very result.
Joseph, through his bondage in Egypt, became a savior to his
father's family; yet this fact did not lessen the guilt of his brothers.
So the crucifixion of Christ by His enemies made Him the
Redeemer of mankind, the Saviour of the fallen race, and Ruler
over the whole world; but the crime of His murderers was just as
heinous as though God's providential hand had not controlled
events for His own glory and the good of man.
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As Joseph was sold to the heathen by his own brothers, so [p. 240] Christ was sold to His bitterest enemies by one of His disciples.
Joseph was falsely accused and thrust into prison because of his
virtue; so Christ was despised and rejected because His righteous,
self-denying life was a rebuke to sin; and though guilty of no
wrong, He was condemned upon the testimony of false witnesses.
And Joseph's patience and meekness under injustice and
oppression, his ready forgiveness and noble benevolence toward his
unnatural brothers, represent the Saviour's uncomplaining endurance
of the malice and abuse of wicked men, and His forgiveness,
not only of His murderers, but of all who have come to Him
confessing their sins and seeking pardon.
Joseph outlived his father fifty-four years. He lived to see
"Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of
Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's
knees." He witnessed the increase and prosperity of his people,
and through all the years his faith in God's restoration of Israel
to the Land of Promise was unshaken.
When he saw that his end was near, he summoned his kinsmen
about him. Honored as he had been in the land of the Pharaohs,
Egypt was to him but the place of his exile; his last act was to
signify that his lot was cast with Israel. His last words were,
"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 he took a solemn oath of the children of Israel that they
would carry up his bones with them to the land of Canaan. "So
Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they
embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." And through
the centuries of toil which followed, the coffin, a reminder of
the dying words of Joseph, testified to Israel that they were only
sojourners in Egypt, and bade them keep their hopes fixed upon
the Land of Promise, for the time of deliverance would surely
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