The years of plenty ended and life in Egypt among the general population became subdued, but Joseph was as busy as ever, administrating the rationing of the crops that had been collected. He had conducted a census of the population, projected how much the population would grow until the famine was ended, figured out how much grain would be needed to keep all the Egyptians and their animals, (and his family and servants and animals), supplied for the next seven years, including the first year following the end of the bad seasons when they were waiting for the new crops to come in, and shown Pharaoh that they would still have a great excess to sell to foreigners, at higher prices, of course. Delighted, Pharaoh had seconded the plan, and Joseph eagerly sent the word out to neighbouring countries that there was grain available for sale in Egypt, and there would be only one station, for the sake of the country's security, from whence foreigners could buy grain.
Joseph set himself at that site and waited for his brothers to arrive. He kept a variety of interpreters on hand, though he understood several of the languages. It was useful to him for the foreigners to assume that he did not understand their language, particularly the ones who spoke Hebrew. He appointed his own steward, whom he had taught to speak Hebrew, to be his interpreter against the day that his brothers would arrive.
Several weeks passed after he had opened the storehouses, and still his brothers did not show up. Joseph searched the faces of the foreigners with increasing excitement and impatience. It had been 21 years since he had last set eyes on his father's face, and he longed to see Benjamin, too. A toddler when he saw him last, Benjamin was now a man. He remembered his little brother's large, dark eyes and curly black hair, but that description fit a lot of Shemites, though there were a few red–haired people among his kin, and the gene picked up speed later on in Isaac's descendents.
The long–awaited day finally arrived. Joseph was in his usual place at the station. The Egyptians supposed that the Vizier insisted on overseeing this station personally, as there was nobody in the land wiser than him to discern crafty foreigners who might try to cheat them or to spy out the land for future conquest. So far, hardly nobody had ever been arrested, but they were about to be treated to some excitement on this day.
Joseph sat on his official dais trying to look as dignified as possible, though he felt thirsty and bored. Well, it would not be beneath his dignity to order a drink to be brought to him. The command was relayed to his attendants and his silver chalice presented when a group of men suddenly caught his eye. They were garbed as Canaanites in colourful robes, though dusty and disheveled. They looked cranky as they made their way through the crowds, being unaware that they were already being observed from the platform on which Joseph sat.
He pushed his drink aside, thirst forgotten now, as he stood to his feet for a better look. Yes, there was Reuben leading the way, his body more thickset, as he was a middle–aged man. He picked out each brother, noting the changes that the years had made, his heart pounding as he counted them and searched for Benjamin's face. His heart sank into his sandals when he saw that only ten men had arrived.
Beckoning to his steward, he walked to the edge of the dais and waited for the men to finish making their way to the platform. He schooled his face into a grim mask, fighting with all his might the inclination to fall on their necks and weep. He had forgiven them, but he had to remember that they needed to be tested, so that he could ascertain if they had changed and could now be trusted. If they had not changed, he had some plans at the ready to encourage them.
Joseph mentally reviewed his appearance. He was fairer than the Egyptians, but what of it? He was not the only person of foreign origin in the Egyptian government. He had been a beardless boy when he left, but though he shaved his face, his jaw was firmer, his body more solid and muscled and taller, and for the sake of disguise his red hair was concealed beneath the usual head covering worn by high officials, though normally he wore his short hair combed in a neat cap. He hated wigs; they were too hot in this heat, even when one shaved their head. Besides that, it was bad enough having to shave his face, as wearing a beard would have been offensive to the fastidious Egyptians; he liked being able to keep some of his hair.
The hair on his legs and arms gave it away that he was a red–head, but the heavy paint that adorned his eyes contributed to changing his looks. It was expected of him to wear that muck as it signified that he was of a higher status than the common man. He had gotten so used to it that he did not even think of it any more, though he always dispensed of the paint whenever he could get away with it. Asenath said she did not mind to see him in it, but she preferred to see him without it. Sometimes she seemed more Hebrew to him than Egyptian because she leaned towards his ways. He almost forgot himself and smiled as Asenath crossed his mind.
His brothers were now before him and bowing just as he had dreamed many years ago, prostrating themselves on the ground. Strange emotions coursed through him. How stunning it was to see the dreams beginning to be fulfilled. Many people had bowed to him in the years past, but it had never affected him as it did now. In fact, he had hardly felt anything at all; it was just standard courtesy, but what would these proud men think, if they knew that they were bowing before the younger brother whom they had despised and sworn they would never bow to?
He told the interpreter what to say and his servant asked the men in several languages where they were from. Reuben answered in Hebrew that they were from Canaan and had come to buy food. Joseph haughtily answered through his servant that they were spies. Alarmed, they protested that they were honest men, all brothers. He insisted that they had come to spy out Egypt's weaknesses to see if they could take advantage of it. They insisted again that their motives were true. They told him that no, no, no, they were all brothers, originally twelve, but one was dead and the youngest was home with their father, and they just wanted to buy food.
He replied that it was a likely story, insisting that they were spies, but if they would prove that what they were saying was true, they could send one of them to fetch their youngest brother while the rest of them remained in jail. Then he ordered the guards to arrest them and had them herded off to prison where they could think over his offer.
The brothers were terrified. They could not figure out what it was about them that the Grand Vizier had taken a dislike to. His severity seemed unwarranted, but their consciences troubled them and they wondered if the retribution for what they had done to Joseph had finally fallen on them.
The boy was surely dead. It was unthinkable that such a proud, spoiled youngster, as they had deemed him to be, a young princeling with delusions of grandeur who fantasized about his older brothers, and even his parents, bowing to him, would have ever acquiesced easily to being a slave. He had probably encountered whipping after whipping for his insolence to his masters until his body could not take it any more. Or maybe a cruel master had simply killed him on a whim. Whatever the case, his blood was on their hands, and it was undoubtedly crying out from the ground to God, demanding vengeance.
The brothers looked around at their surroundings and privately wondered within themselves if Joseph had ever been in a terrible place like this. It was gloomy, but sweltering, and it stank. Wicked characters heckled them, speaking a language that they did not know precisely what they were saying, but they could guess from their expressions and gestures that they were better off not knowing. In the area where the common prisoners were, conditions were even worse, and though those criminals looked more brutal than the ones in they were with, they sensed that these ones were more cunning and dangerous. Joseph was better off dead than locked up in this place. They wondered if they would ever get out of here.
The Grand Vizier appeared in the prison on the third day. The brothers were herded into the warden's hall and fell on their faces before Joseph when they saw him. His interpreter stood beside his chair and spoke for him. Joseph said that he feared the Creator, so he would give them more of a chance to prove their innocence. He would require only one of them to stay behind and let the rest go to fetch back their brother. Then he dismissed the interpreter from the room so that the brothers could discuss his offer among themselves.
Thinking that nobody was in the room who could understand their speech, the brothers cut loose and wailed about what was on all their minds, that they deserved for this to happen to them because of what they did to their brother, hardening their hearts against his cries of anguish and pleas for mercy. Reuben denied that he shared that responsibility, reminding them that he had tried to rescue the boy. He asserted that not only were they responsible for selling him, but also for his death.
Joseph jumped up from his chair and walked to the back of the room to get control of himself. His brothers' remorse over what they had done softened his heart and it now distressed him to see how terrified they were; he needed to conceal his tears. He was relieved that it did not look like he would have to put them through the full course that he had planned for their rehabilitation, but he had to make sure that they were changed.
Signalling a guard to bring the interpreter back into the room, he returned to where his brothers stood waiting for his next move. They assumed that the Vizier arose from his chair and strode around at the other end of the room because he was impatient for them to make up their minds, so they dared not defer to give him an answer. Surprisingly, though, he had settled down, and now spoke soothingly to them, encouraging them that they would find their hostage brother safe and sound when they returned, and to make all haste in doing so. Then his eyes searched their group and fastened on Simeon. Simeon felt alarm and his heart sank when the man's finger pointed at him. The guards came forward, shackled his feet and hands, and then led him away. The man then dismissed them.
The brothers found themselves being hustled out of the prison, and eventually their donkeys were brought to them, loaded with grain equivalent to the value of the gold that had been among their baggage. They did not know that the gold was now in their sacks, tucked among the grain. Depressed at the way their trip to Egypt had turned out, they headed home for there was nothing else they could do.
In the meantime, Simeon pondered his calamity as he sat in a dark pit, without the companionship of his brothers. He thought on how that man's eyes had pierced into him, as if they could see right into his heart, and knew that it was he who first suggested to his brothers that they kill Joseph.
But no, that man could not know Joseph and what they did to him. The vengeance of God must have directed him. He cursed himself for having such an unruly temper. Even when he and Levi had gone into Shechem and killed all the men as revenge for what was done to Dinah, it was Simeon, the older brother, who had suggested it to Levi. He had never had much remorse about that deed, but now he was starting to rethink that one, too. Jacob had been very distressed about it. Simeon started to ponder why.
The other brothers reached a khan where they could spend the night. Sadly and wearily, they unloaded their donkeys and prepared to feed them before getting their own supper. One of them reached into a sack and was shocked to discover that his bag of money was in it. He cried out and his brothers came running to find out the cause of his distress.
Pretty soon, they were all wailing, asking each other if this was God's judgment on them for their sin. How could they return to Egypt now? The Egyptians would say that they had stolen the money, or that they had stolen the grain. The Grand Vizier had spoken to them so kindly, but someone had set them up. Maybe it was the Vizier who had ordered this to be done. What did he mean by it? Why did he seem determined to destroy them? And why did he not just do it and get it over with, instead of playing cat and mouse with them like this? Gloomier than even before, they continued their homeward journeying, wondering how their father was going to receive their bad news.
Of course, Jacob was extremely distressed when he saw that Simeon was not with them, and heard what they had to say about their adventures. It got worse when they opened their sacks of grain and discovered that none of it had been paid for; all their gold was in the sacks. Jacob adamantly refused to send Benjamin back to Egypt with them. He had lost two sons and was not going to consent to lose a third. He wondered why everything was going against him, consigning him to go to his grave with all his dreams crushed.
Reuben, never the swiftest in the brain department, offered to let his father kill his two sons, if he did not return from Egypt with Benjamin, as if losing two grandsons, in addition to three sons, would be a comfort to the old man. Jacob knew that this was just an extravagant expression of confidence that Reuben had in his own determination and ability to make good on his promise to protect Benjamin and return him, but Jacob had long ago lost his illusions about how reliable Reuben was, or any of the rest, which was why he had chosen Joseph as his heir. He was still heartbroken about losing Joseph, and just hanging onto life to give Benjamin more time, to see if he could be made into a suitable chief to take his place.
Benjamin certainly was good at fathering children. Though he was the youngest of the lot, he already had ten children, more than any of his brothers, but as for other talents, he still did not come up to what Jacob supposed Joseph would have turned out to be, if he had lived. Even so, he was the best candidate so far, though Judah might be a viable alternative. His sense of justice was improved. He had gone astray in his younger days, participating in the looting of Shechem, and then marrying one of those Canaanite women, and later consorting with what he thought was a prostitute, but when he realized that his daughter–in–law tricked him into fathering her children, he saw the validity of her reason for doing so, and he restrained himself from punishing her for putting something over on him, though it was very embarassing to him. Yes, Judah might do, if Benjamin did not work out, but regardless, he was not going to take the risk of losing the last of Rachel's children.
A year later, after the crops had failed again because of drought, Jacob's sons managed to get him to change his mind. Judah's leadership abilities came to the fore among his brothers and he offered to take the blame, if they did not bring Benjamin home safely. Jacob relented this time. Judah had more credibility with him than Reuben, that scoundrel son who had defiled Jacob's bed by having an affair with one of his concubines. The memory of this deed and the suspicion that Reuben still justified it to himself always undermined anything Reuben had to say to him. Yes, Judah was a godlier, more honest man than Reuben, and besides that, if he did not send his sons back to Egypt, they were all going to starve to death. With a heavy heart, Jacob watched his sons depart on their mission.
This time, they took double the money, intending to return the first sacks of gold, as well as money to pay for the second load of grain, and they also took some gifts of high quality produce from Canaan to offer the Vizier. The Grand Vizier's servant, though, turned their offer down when they explained how they had found the money in their sacks of grain and wanted to pay for the first load of grain. He quieted their fears by kindly telling them to keep the gold as a gift from their God. After their certainty that they had been framed so that the Vizier would have an excuse to take them all as slaves, it was almost unbelievable that they were so generously received, but Simeon was brought out to them, and they could see that he was all right.
Simeon was never so glad to see his brothers. He had spent a year that seemed like an eternity, stewing and wondering if they would return for him. He had almost despaired of ever being free again when the guards came and got him, and gave him fresh clothes and water so that he could get cleaned up to meet his brothers. Then he realized that they had really wanted him to get cleaned up because he was going to have dinner in the Grand Vizier's home. Yes, unbelievably, they were all invited to have dinner with Pharaoh's right hand man that day.
The brothers were treated with every courtesy. The steward himself did them the high honour of washing their feet, and then went and took care of their animals, instead of having common slaves do these tasks. They hurriedly prepared the gifts that their father had sent for the Vizier. He arrived soon after at noon and stood before them in his usual splendor. They all prostrated themselves before him and then raised their heads as he began to talk to them.
They were amazed at how friendly he was, so different from his previous demeanor of being very stern. He asked them how they were and how their father was doing. They made their replies and gratefully bowed before him again. Then Joseph looked for Benjamin and caught sight of him, and asked if this was the youngest brother of whom they had spoken. They affirmed it was so. Benjamin felt exceedingly shy, having never seen the man before. Indeed, he had never before met anyone so powerful as this man, nor seen any as splendid. He didn't know what to say when the man called him son and called God's blessing down on him, but he did not have to reply for the Vizier suddenly rushed from the room.
The brothers continued to kneel on the floor as they wondered why the Vizier had left them so suddenly. Meanwhile, Joseph shut himself in his bedchamber and buried his face in his bedding to muffle his crying as he wept with mixed emotions over having seen Benjamin again. He had waited so long for this day, years and years of yearning for his little brother. What joy, but also what sorrow. He had missed those precious years of seeing Benjamin grow, of good times together that they should have shared. Well, he would let bygones be bygones and hold none of this against his brothers, if they proved to be changed men.
He washed his face and then went back out to the dining hall and ordered dinner to be served. The servants then ushered the brothers to their positions at the table that had been set aside for them, and they were all amazed at how the servants seated them according to their age, as if they knew what order they had been born in, though that was impossible, except in Benjamin's case, as some of the younger ones looked older than the older brothers or the same age.
Benjamin was given five times as much food as the older brothers, but the brothers did not take much notice of it. They were used to Benjamin being favoured and had become reconciled to it. Why this official wanted to favour him, as well, and in such an extravagant way, they did not know, but they owned that it was his prerogative to do so. None of them felt indignant that their youngest brother was set this way above them; they had regretted for many years what their jealousy had done to Joseph, and they did not want to go that route again. Instead, they set themselves to enjoy the delicious meal that had been set before them and the friendliness of the Egyptians whom they ate with, though the Vizier and his associates all sat at separate tables because they considered the Hebrews to be unclean, in a religious sense.
The rest of the day was spent in being entertained in the Grand Vizier's house, and they spent the night there, too. The brothers could hardly believe that they were being shown so much hospitality and generosity after the grueling time they went through the first time they came to Egypt. Apparently, the Vizier had had a genuine concern regarding them for the security of his country, and now that his suspicions had been laid to rest, they had nothing to fear. He really was quite a nice guy.
They were sent on their way the next morning with sacks of grain loaded onto their donkeys. The brothers felt happy. Father was going to be so relieved when he saw that all eleven sons had returned to him. They did not get very far out of the city, though, when they heard hoofbeats and saw the Vizier's steward racing towards them on a horse. He was by himself, so they did not get alarmed; he was simply bearing a message, but what had the Vizier to say to them further?
They were shocked when they learned that the Vizier was accusing them of stealing his special cup that he divined with. He wanted to know how they could do such a thing after he had shown them his hospitality. The brothers were stymied at this accusation; after eating a man's bread and salt, to do such a thing was the breaking of a covenant of friendship. If any of them had done this, he deserved to die, and they promised that the rest of them would be the Vizier's slaves, as they were certain that none of them were guilty of such a wicked deed. The servant said that he would only take the guilty person to be his slave, and the rest of them could go.
Search was made and all went well until the steward searched Benjamin's sack, where he had placed the silver cup the night before at Joseph's command. The steward had no idea why Joseph was so bent on giving these men such a hard time, but it was none of his business. He raised the cup aloft and leveled a sarcastic look of condemnation at the men, as he knew he was expected to do.
Their hearts nearly failed them with shock. The older ones could not fathom why Benjamin would put them all at risk for this trinket, for he surely did not really believe that God would allow him, one who was of the tribe that was set apart for God, to prosper by using this thing to foretell the future, or that Father would allow such a thing in their camp, if he learned of it. What was he thinking of? But they would stand by him because he was their brother. Surely, God was against them and was going to see to it that they were punished for what they did to Joseph.
The Vizier had sent only one man after them, though. They could just get on their donkeys and beat it. Not that this would give them much of a headstart. His soldiers would soon catch up with them, but one never knew. Even a little bit of a headstart and a miracle might get them home safely, but there was no sense of hoping for God to do a miracle for them. He had determined that they were to be punished, so they might as well submit to it. There was no denying the justice of it, and besides, they had all sworn that they would be the man's slaves. If a man did not keep his word, then he had no honour, and if he had no honour, he was worthless. What would be the point of living, in that case? Maybe some men could live that way, but their Daddy didn't raise them to be like that.
The steward had released them from their vow, but they had made their pledge to their father to bring their brother home safe. If he had to stay, then they would all stay and share his fate. They did not want to repeat their other mistake of abandoning a brother to slavery, or witness their father's anguish again over losing another beloved son.
Joseph was glad to see that his brothers had returned without giving the steward any trouble, though nobody had directly forced them to do so. Neither did they let the steward take Benjamin as a slave while they continued on their journey. Honesty, willingness to take responsibility and suffer the consequences, brotherly loyalty and compassion were what he had hoped of them.
He was further gratified when Judah pledged that they would all be his slaves, though they believed that Benjamin had stolen the silver cup. They had no intention of abandoning him to his punishment, though it would be just. And they were more sensitive to their father's feelings. They cared about the grief he would feel over the loss of this son. Judah had also confessed that the older brothers had done something that made them deserving of slavery. This was going well.
He still played his charade for the sake of seeing if it was safe to do his brothers the good that he was eager to do for them. He did not want them to be confirmed in their sins, to think that they could do as they pleased, be unrepentant, and still be blessed, and he had a responsibilty to the Egyptians to not put their country at risk by letting evil doers enter as immigrants. Joseph magnaminously declared that he would punish only the guilty, that he would keep only the thief as his slave, and let the rest go free.
The brothers still did not accept his offer of liberty. Instead, Judah explained how much their father loved Benjamin, and how he would die of grief, if Benjamin was not returned. He explained how this brother, and another one they'd had, who now was dead, were the beloved children of his favourite wife, and rather than have his father suffer the loss of this child also, which was sure to kill him, he offered himself as a slave in Benjamin's place, so that Benjamin could return to his father.
Joseph could not stand it any more. Here was the brother, whose suggestion it was to sell him as a slave, pleading to be taken into slavery in the place of a brother whom he believed to be a rotten, ungrateful brat, one that had landed them into trouble by stealing Joseph's silver cup. And it was not just any silver cup. It was one that the brothers believed had a curse on it because he had told them that he used it for divination, though he never did such an abominable thing. The thing was cursed because it was stolen, it was cursed because it was stolen from a man who had shown them hospitality, it was cursed because it was stolen from a very important man whose servants would avenge such an insult to their master, and it was cursed because it was used for sorcery, or so the brothers believed. Such an item would bring huge trouble to the whole tribe, even if Benjamin had managed to bring it home undiscovered. Yet, they were willing to go into slavery with him, rather than abandon him, and when let off the hook, Judah insisted that he would exchange places with him. He'd had to make sure that his surmises regarding their motives for returning were what he had thought they were, and they had not disappointed him. It was such a relief!
He quickly ordered all of his servants to leave, and they scurried from the room. He then said to his brothers, "I am Joseph." Then he burst into tears and wailed, releasing the last of his anguish about what they had done to him, and letting it be replaced with relief that they could now be reconciled, and he would be reunited with his beloved father, his younger brother, and other loved ones.
The brothers were stunned. Had they heard him correctly? Had he really spoken to them in their own language and said he was Joseph? It could not register with them at first. How could the Grand Vizier of Egypt be their brother? Their brother was dead! They had believed that for so long that it had become a fact to them.
Of them all, Benjamin was the least able to believe it. His brothers had all told their father that Joseph was dead, and they had shown their father Joseph's torn and bloody coat that proved he had been devoured by a wolf or a bear or a lion. If Joseph was not dead, then why had his brothers said such a thing? Why did they now all look so frightened at hearing that he was alive, rather than elated? The answer was too terrible to contemplate.
Joseph's wails subsided into sobs. He looked at his brothers and realized that his wailing had terrified them. Why else would the Grand Vizier wail, unless they had done him grievous injury? They did not know what was in his heart, that he did not mean to do them harm, and that he had also cried with relief. If they had believed that he was Joseph, they would have thought that he was crying only for anguish, and that retribution was about to follow.
But, as far as they knew, they had never met this man before that first time they came to Egypt, and his actions must seem to them like that of a psychotic lunatic who had some strange idea in his head that they were his enemies, and had been playing games with them before he had them tortured to death. Either way, whether he was a crazed tyrant or Joseph whom they had sold into slavery, his older brothers believed that they were in for it.
Joseph saw that he needed to calm their terror, as well as convince them that he was Joseph and meant them no harm. He gently coaxed them to come closer and then he lifted his kilt to show them that he was circumcised. He did not have to say a word to explain why he was doing such a thing. Other nations circumcised their men, but his brothers knew that by showing them that he was circumcised, he understood the vital significance it had for them because of Abraham's covenant with God. Also, for the Grand Vizier to show them such an intimate part of his body, they understood that he truly was their own flesh and blood, for it would be beneath his dignity to do this to strangers. They were convinced, but still horrified that they were standing before the brother they had wronged so terribly, and that he had the power to do any number of terrible things to them to pay them back.
Joseph put his kilt back in place and patiently explained that it had turned out to be a good thing that they had sold him into Egypt to be a slave. Benjamin was shocked. His brothers had sold Joseph as a slave? Long forgotten memories flooded back into Benjamin's mind and started to make sense; shared looks of guilt among his brothers, furious whispering that ceased when he came near, brothers staring into the flames of their campfires at night, gloomy, moody, and tactiturn. He had thought their melancholy was a family trait that he had mercifully escaped, being of a rather sunny nature himself. Now he realized that all these things pointed to guilty consciences.
For a moment, he felt a rising rage that his brothers had robbed him of Joseph. He had grown up with his own mother's son being only a faint memory. He had been told that Joseph had loved him very much and had helped him a lot. His childhood was happy; he really could not complain about that. His brothers had never given him a hard time and they had even been helpful to him, but he could not help but think what he had missed out on by not having Joseph around. The joy of discovering that his brother was alive, though, overwhelmed the negative feelings that troubled him. This was a time to rejoice and he would sort those other feelings out later.
Benjamin was the first to venture closer and Joseph continued to talk, explaining that there were going to be five more years of famine, and he wanted his brothers to bring their father and their families to Egypt, so that he could provide for them. He told them to go home and tell their father about how wealthy and powerful he was to reassure Jacob that God had been with him. He then reached for Benjamin and fell upon his neck, weeping.
Benjamin clung to Joseph. He could not believe it. He was getting hugged and sobbed on by the Grand Vizier of Egypt, and this man was his big brother! Benjamin wept too, for several things in concert with his brother: the joy of reunion, mutual grief over the loss of their mother, grief for what their father had suffered when he thought Joseph was dead, grief for how their brothers' guilt had tainted the happiness of their family all those years, grief that Joseph had to inflict his charade on them and cause them such bouts of alarm and remorse and depression to find out what was in their brothers' hearts, and relief that it was all over.
The celebrating and largesse began in earnest. Joseph called for another feast and the Egyptians were jollier than ever before because they now understood that these men were Joseph's brothers and he was happy to be reunited with them again. They did not really understand what his charades had been all about, though his closest servants made some astute surmises from bits and pieces that they were privy to. But they all took their cues from him and entered with him into his joy that his brothers who had been lost were now found, and dead but were now alive again.
Jospeh gave each of the brothers a change of gorgeous clothing, but to Benjamin, he gave five changes and a big pile of silver. The other brothers didn't mind. They were grateful for the one change of clothing, knowing it was far better than what they rightly deserved. And that business about the silver chalice was cleared up, so they now knew that Benjamin had not stolen it.
Pharaoh and his house were happy to learn that Joseph was reunited with his brothers. No doubt, Joseph had invited them to come live in Egypt, but Pharaoh pretended that he did not know this and reissued the invitation to make it look like it was his idea. As he always did when Pharaoh took credit for his ideas, Joseph diplomatically played along with it. Pharaoh further gave orders to send wagons and provisions to make Jacob's journey easier, correctly guessing that Joseph had already prepared those things and was awaiting his release to send them.
Joseph, being an astute observer of human nature, cautioned his brothers to not get into any disputes on the way home. He knew that they had not yet forgiven themselves for what they had done, and they would feel so unworthy of his generosity that they would try to muffle their guilt by pointing fingers at each other. Simeon was likely to get it the worst, as it had been his suggestion in the first place to kill Joseph. He was likely to lash back and say that he had paid for their sin more than the rest, having spent a year in prison. Benjamin was likely to pipe up that he had paid for their sin more than any of them, as he had grown up without knowing his brother. There were a hundred different ways it could turn ugly, and all eleven of them might not make it home without injuries. They were sorry for what they did to him, but Joseph was not convinced that they had conquered their quick tempers completely.
They obeyed him and Jacob had the joy of counting eleven, vigorous figures coming towards his camp when they arrived home. It looked like the trip to Egypt had turned out well. Exceedingly well. How had his sons managed to acquire those big wagons?
The answer was a shock. Joseph was alive? How could Joseph be alive when his sons had told him 22 years ago that Joseph was dead? He nearly had a heart attack when they said that to him. It was too good to be true, and such a cruel thing to say to him when they knew how much he had loved Joseph, and how long it had taken him to reconcile himself to his death.
His sons, however, kept insisting that he was alive, but it was Benjamin who convinced him of it the most, for his face was shining with joy. The others all looked cautious while they assessed his reaction. They told him that Joseph was the Grand Vizier of Egypt. But wait, wasn't that the man who had given them a hard time about them having a younger brother and had put Simeon in prison as a hostage until they returned with Benjamin? Why had he behaved like that?
Benjamin kept nodding as the older brothers told Jacob what Joseph had said, inviting them to come live with him in Egypt. They waved their hands towards the wagons that he had sent to convey him and their little ones there. Well, that explained where they got those fancy wagons. His heart revived at the thought of seeing Joseph again, and he felt great relief that he would have a comfortable wagon to travel in, as he was no longer as vigorous as he used to be.
Only the joy of being reunited with Joseph and the knowledge that God had greatly prospered him helped Jacob deal with the otherwise devastating blow that ten of his sons had practiced a deception on him for 22 years. So much for being the honoured patriarch of his tribe. It was stunning to recall that scene of when they had told him that Joseph was dead, showing him Joseph's torn, bloody coat, and realize that it had been a lie. How could his sons hate him so much, and be so disrespectful, as to tell him such a cruel thing, and hate their brother so much as to sell him as a slave? And why had yet another cruel deception been visited on him? Had he still had some of that old, selfish dishonesty lingering in his heart, that he'd had to undergo more chastening?
As Jacob sorted out whether there had been any justice in him again being put through the wringer of an awful deception, he realized it had nothing to do with dishonesty, and everything to do with not loving his children equally, and how it had hurt them that he had favoured Joseph over the rest. He resolved that he would pay closer attention to them as individuals, fairly assess their character, and give them credit where credit was due. He still knew that Joseph was the best of the lot, though, and he was glad that he no longer had to worry about who would lead his tribe when he was gone.
But Jacob was afraid, at first, to go to Egypt. What if his children and grandchildren and greatgrandchildren became idolators? What if his progeny never wanted to leave? What then would become of God's promise to Abraham that his seed would inherit this land? If they stayed in Egypt, they would be assimilated into the population, their genes contaminated, and then there would be no Messiah born of his lineage to take away the sins of the world. He was convinced that his sons did not realize how vital the mission was that had been assigned to his tribe.
God spoke to him in a dream and reassured Jacob that it was all right to go down into Egypt this time. It was part of His plan for preserving the tribe. He promised that he really would see Joseph again, and die in his arms, and that his body would be returned to this sacred land to rest until its resurrection.
Jacob found the journey somewhat unreal. He almost could not believe that he was really going to see Joseph again because it was too wonderful, but he had God's word that it was true. Never before had he found a journey so tedious. He wanted to be there right now, to be holding Joseph in his arms.
Benjamin filled his ears with descriptions of Joseph's house and how he had so many servants, and how he was treated with great respect. It comforted Jacob's heart to hear that Joseph had done so well. Who would have thought that his boy would go to Egypt as a slave and end up ruling the whole country? Well, God had thought so and told them years ago!
Benjamin had greeted his brood of ten little tykes after returning from Egypt, full of excitement over the news that their Uncle Joseph was alive and they were going to meet him. The wife and kids were awed by Daddy's new clothes and the money his brother had given him. He could now afford to buy all of them a new set of beautiful clothes. His wife thought of some cloth she'd had an eye that would make a lovely dress for herself, and envisioned the outfits she wanted for their children. They would arrive in Egypt in style!
Of all the Israelites, Benjamin's brood were by far the most excited, with the exception of Grandpa and Auntie Dinah. Not that Auntie Dinah actually looked excited, but she was more animated than what the younger ones had ever seen her, so they knew she was excited. She was furious at her older brothers, though, because of what they had done to Joseph, so she travelled with Benjamin's family and helped look after his little ones.
When they started getting close to Goshen, the area where Joseph had told them to go, Jacob sent Judah on ahead to warn him that they were coming and to get directions to where they were supposed to settle. Joseph had the spot already picked out, and had hillocks built to raise it above the moist land of the delta. It was not as soggy as in other years, because of the drought, which facilitated the engineering required, but it was the best grazing land to be found in the drought. Upon one of the hillocks, he had even finished building a mansion after the Syrian style that Jacob was familiar with, to house his father in comfort as soon as he arrived.
Later after his father died, Joseph had the mansion torn down and a small palace erected in its place where he lived with his wife and sons. The front of the house was divided in two, providing large living areas for each son and their families. Then in the backyard, he built tombs for himself and his brothers, to keep their bodies conveniently together against the day that the Israelites left Egypt, for they would take the bodies with them to the land of Canaan. His father's body, though, was to be returned to Canaan long before then, and Joseph would see to it himself, under heavy Egyptian escort.
Joseph thought he would die from excitement when Judah was ushered into his presence and told him that their father had arrived. He rushed to his chariot and sped on his way to meet Jacob. Jacob was never so glad that he still had his eyesight when he heard his family yelling, "There's Joseph! There's Joseph!" and saw him alighting from his chariot. They ran to each other and hugged and kissed, weeping with joy. After a good, long while of this, Jacob said, "Now I can die happy!"
Joseph coached his father and brothers what to say to Pharaoh when he summoned them, and then left to inform Pharaoh that his family had arrived. He presented five of his most impressive brothers before him, and Pharaoh asked them about their livelihood. They told him they were shepherds and asked to settle in Goshen. Pharaoh gave his permission, knowing full well that it was only a formality. He realized that Joseph had been preparing for their immigration for years, and accordingly instructed him to put the most skilled and industrious of his brothers over the royal cattle. It wouldn't surprise him if they had already built a village there, but Joseph was an excellent Vizier who was saving his dynasty and the lives of the whole nation, so he had no problem with that.
Joseph then brought in his father, who was an old, old man. Pharaoh looked at him curiously. So this was the venerable prophet he had heard of from his Vizier. He asked him his age and spoke with him a while, and then happily consented to having Jacob pray to his God for a blessing upon him, bowing his head and letting the old man lay his hands upon his shoulders. Joseph stood by and felt very proud to see his father treated with so much respect.
Jacob then left and returned to Rowarty, as the Egyptians called the village that his sons had made. Joseph gave his family grain all through the lean years that followed and the Israelites thrived. The Egyptians, however, with the exception of the priests and Pharaoh, became impoverished. Joseph gathered up all the money they had and put it into the king's treasury, as payment for grain. The following year, they offered their cattle, and so Pharaoh's herds were enlarged.
After that, they had nothing else to offer in exchange for food but their land and their servitude. Joseph took all the land for Pharaoh, except for what belonged to the priests, for they received grain allotments from Pharaoh. The people were removed to the cities because the land was not fit just then to be farmed. He found things there for them to do in the service of Pharaoh, and when the drought was lifted, they went back to farming, surrendering to the state 20% of what they produced.
Pharaoh and his family were very pleased and grateful for what Joseph did for them. Instead of the famine being a huge disaster to the crown, its power and property was increased. As long as that dynasty continued, the Israelites were treated well, out of gratitude to the Grand Vizier who had saved Egypt and enriched the dynasty, not only by how he handled the famine, but also with engineering projects and other improvements.
Jacob lived another seventeen years, happily enjoying Joseph's company and that of Joseph's wife and sons. Potiphera spent some time with him, too, and they had some interesting discussions about the Creator. Jacob was well aware of how the Mysteries originated with the evil Cush and Nimrod and Shinar (Semiramis) in their goal of bringing the world under satan's dominion, having heard it from his grandfather Abraham, so he realized the challenges that Potipher faced in coming to grips with his fears and ambitions. He could only pray for him that, before it was too late, Potiphera would choose righteousness and turn to the one true God.
Jacob adopted Joseph's sons and made them his heirs, which ensured that Joseph would get the double portion. Surprisingly, though, it was Judah whom the Lord revealed to him who would be the progenitor of the Messiah, rather than Joseph. He shook his head in wonder that it would be through one of the twins, whom Judah's daughter–in–law had borne him, that the Messiah would come. But that was just like God. Just as He demonstrated through Joseph's life, He can take the biggest mess, straighten it up, and make something wonderful come out of it.
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The Majesty of God, Chapter 20
Copyright © 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on January 26, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.