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JACOB AND HIS FAMILY JOURNEYING TO EGYPT.
(GENESIS XLVI. 1—27.) JACOB, who was the root of the Jewish tribes, and the progenitor of the Messiah, had twelve sons. Among these sons there was one named Joseph, who, being the son of his beloved Rachel, was loved by him more than all his children. This undue partiality excited the envy of his brethren; and this feeling was increased by two dreams which Joseph had, and which he related.
The first of these dreams was, that Joseph and his brethren were binding sheaves in the field, and the sheaves of his brothers made obeisance to his sheaf: the second, that he had seen the sun, and the moon, and the stars doing homage to him. Both Jacob, and his other sons, seem to have considered these dreams as indicative of Joseph's future superiority. Jacob, doubtless, rejoiced in heart at his loved one's future greatness, though he chided him gently for his seeming aspirations. But the feelings of his brethren were different. The fond father's uniform preference for Joseph, combined with these dreams, had the effect of exciting their evil passions, and of causing them to conspire against the life of their brother.
The eldest sons of Jacob fed their flocks near Shechem; and he being desirous of knowing how they fared, sent Joseph thither to inquire after their welfare. No sooner did they see Joseph than they resolved to slay him, and to report to their father that he was killed by an evil beast. They would have committed this atrocious act, had it not been for the interposition of Reuben, who advised them to cast him into a pit near at hand, intending to rescue him privately. This proposal was acceded to; but a company of Ishmeelites coming by soon after, Judah proposed that he should be sold to them; and Joseph was carried by them into Egypt as a slave.
The merciless brothers now consulted together concerning the account they should give of Joseph to their father, and they came to the resolution of telling him, that an evil beast had devoured him. This sad and false report was made; and in confirmation of it they exhibited a parti-coloured coat, which Jacob had recently given to his favourite Joseph, dyed in blood, asking him whether he knew it, and telling him they had found it. Jacob did know the coat, and he cried out in agony of soul: “ It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces," Gen. xxxvii. 33. Then putting on sackcloth, he resolved to mourn for him during the rest of his life.
Thus years rolled on, witnessing the tears of Jacob for the lost son of his beloved Rachel. In the mean time, however, Joseph was undergoing many vicissitudes, in which the hand of an overruling Providence is clearly traced. He became servant to Potiphar, a man of rank, and a captain of Pharaoh's royal guard. Him Joseph served faithfully and acceptably; but through the base conduct of the wife of Potiphar he was unjustly thrown into prison, where the “iron entered into his soul.” While here, he interpreted the dreams of two fellow-prisoners, the butler and the baker of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and according to his interpretation so the events came to pass: the butler was restored to his office, and the baker was hanged. This was the turning point in Joseph's history. Some time after, Pharaoh had a double dream, which none of his wise men could interpret, and the butler reported the wisdom of Joseph to his master. Accordingly, the bonds of his oppression were broken. He was sent for to the palace; and having interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh as portending seven years of great abundance and seven years of famine in succession, he was made governor of all the land of Egypt.
At length the famine came; and so wide-spread were its horrors, that it threatened destruction to the neighbouring countries; and Jacob and his household partook of the general calamity. In this emergency, the aged patriarch heard that there was a store of corn laid up in Egypt, and he sent his ten eldest sons down thither to provide a supply for their subsistence. On their arrival, they were treated as spies; and Joseph required them to bring down Benjamin with them, detaining Simeon as a pledge of their return.
This was a fresh affliction to the aged patriarch. “Me,” he cried, “ 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,” Gen. xlii. 36. It was some time before Jacob would give his consent for Benjamin to travel into Egypt; but the famine increasing, he at length gave permission. He sent his sons away, with a present to the governor, fervently praying that God would
JACOB AND HIS FAMILY JOURNEYING TO EGYPT.
bless them, and restore to him their other brother, Simeon, and Benjamin: he added, “ If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved,” Gen. xliii. 14.
In these expressions of deep emotion, the aged patriarch uttered no wish for the restoration of Joseph to his tents. was fondly cherished; but the stratagem of his undutiful sons had wrought in his mind so firm a conviction that he was numbered with the dead, that he entertained not the remotest idea of ever hearing his voice again. The ways of God, however, are not as the ways of short-sighted man. The sons of Jacob returned, and while his eyes were gladdened with the sight of Simeon and Benjamin, his ears were greeted with the joyful tidings that the governor of Egypt was his long-lost Joseph.
When Jacob first heard this intelligence, his feelings were overpowered, and he could give no credence to the news. Pharaoh had, however, commissioned Joseph to send wagons into Canaan, to carry him and his family down to Egypt; and when he saw these, his spirit revived, and he exclaimed, “ It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die," Gen. xlv. 28. Acting upon this resolve, therefore, Jacob collected all his wealth, and hastened into Egypt, to be re-united to his much-loved Joseph.
The accompanying illustration of this celebrated event in Scripture history has been designed from a painting in the tomb of Osirtasen, at Beni Hassan, and described by antiquaries as, An arrival of foreigners in Egypt. It has, indeed, been conjectured that these “foreigners” are Jacob and his family on their way to the court of Joseph. The grounds on which this supposition rests are, chiefly, that the king in whose tomb the picture was found is believed to be the Pharaoh who protected Joseph, and that the costume and physiognomy of the characters are decidedly Jewish, and accord with the nomadic habits of the sons of Jacob. This view of the engraving renders it doubly interesting as an illustration of the sacred narrative. It opposes the ideas of Le Brun, Gentileschi, Rembrandt, Raphael, and others, who in their pictures of scenes in the life of Joseph have blended Grecian architecture, Turkish costume, French furniture, Italian landscape, etc., as illustrations of the narrative. Indeed, the great error of painters in their pictures illustrative of Scripture history is, in general, the substitution of European ideas for oriental.
The meeting of good old Israel with his much-loved son Joseph
was most tender and affectionate. The sacred historian says that Joseph fell on his father's neck, “and wept on his neck a good while;” and that Israel said unto Joseph, “ Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive,” Gen. xlvi. 29, 30. Although both Jacob and Joseph knew well that in the course of nature they must soon be separated, yet was their cup of joy full, as they beheld each other once more in the land of the living.
Oh, if the happiness of relatives and friends is so great at meeting on earth, after a long separation, how great must their joys be who, washed in the blood of the Lamb, are re-united in the courts of heaven, never again to be separated! The hope of such a meeting is a consolation under bereavement. It enables the mourner to look beyond the grave, and to realize in thought that happiness which his Redeemer has prepared for him. He may be tempted sometimes to exclaim, in the anguish of his soul,
'Tis a long lingering death we mortals die;
Daily our hopes, our friends, our pleasures fade,
Draw the last breath, and lifeless drop the head.
Yet he knows, that if those for whom we mourn have been followers of the Lamb, and we are treading in their steps, they will be given to us again for ever in glory. Christian reader,
Art thou a MOURNER ? Hast thou known
And tranquil nights?
OH LIVE !—and deeply cherish still
For peace at last.