Joseph Delivered (Joseph & His Brethren Part III)
JOSEPH DELIVERED, &C.
POOR unhappy Joseph ! we left him in prison, where I think he must have had a very anxious time, for who could tell whether it might not be his own turn next to be taken out and hanged as the chief baker was ! and yet perhaps there might be some ray of hope that he might, like the chief butler, get out and go back to his office. All such hopes, however, soon vanished, for though Pharaoh’s birth-day came, “on which he made a feast to all his servants,” yet it proved no holiday to Joseph; and though “ the chief butler” got settled in his chief butlership again, and was giving the cup every day into king Pharaoh’s hand, “ yet aid not the chief butler remember Jofeph.”
Two whole years passed without any improvement in this poor prisoner’s condition: now, in all this time, it seems very strange that the chief butler should not have contrived to drop a word in his favour: for how wonderfully had Joseph foretold to the chief butler his restoration to office! how affectingly too had he entreated to be remembered by him when the day of his prosperity should come ! I cannot help here repeating the parting words of Joseph, for they are very remarkable. “ But think of me,” said he, “when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me to Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house; for, indeed, I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.ùYet did not the chief butler, remember Joscph.”
Ah ! how just a picture is this of a great part of mankind! We are many of us apt, while we are faring well ourselves, to take no thought about those who are poor, and sick and in prison. It; pleases God now and then to let one or other of us rise up in the world, upon which we go away and forget all our old companions some of whom perhaps, most exceedingly need a helping hand, from us; we are grown gay and merry, or busily, engaged among our new friends, so that we quite, forget our old ones ; and then as to any interest which we have got with the great, we feel so much in awe of those above us, we are so soft and smooth, and civil, when we are in their presence, and so unwilling to say any thing which may possibly give offence, or, which may chance to hurt our own interest, that we dare not speak a word in favour, even of the most injured character, but we dismiss him from our thoughts, just as the chief butler dismissed Joseph from His remembrance.
“ It came to pass, however, at the end of two full years, that king Pharaoh dreamed a dreamù and behold there came up out of the river seven well-favoured kine, and fat fleshed, and they fed in a meadow. And behold seven other kine came up after them ill favoured and lean fleshed, and did eat up the seven well-favoured and fat kine. And Pharaoh dreamed the second time, and behold seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk strong and good. And seven thin ears sprung. Up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven strong and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke and behold it was a dream.’,
And now what is to be done! the king himself is troubled with a dream. “ And it came to pass,” says the Scripture, “ that in the morning the king’s spirit was troubled : and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof, and Pharaoh told them his dreams; but there was none that could interpret them to Pharaoh.” And no wonder, for it was the purpose of God to confound by this dream all the magicians of Egypt, in order that the king might be driven to ask an interpretation of it from Joseph.
“ And then came the chief butler and spake unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day; for Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker: and we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he. And there was there with us a young Hebrew, servant of the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams. And it came to pass as he interpreted so it was : me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.”
What joyful intelligence was this to Pharaoh ! Methinks I see his countenance brighten up at once upon it.
“ Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon. And he shaved himself and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.”
When this great eastern king commands, not a moment is to be lost in obeying him. For two long years had Joseph been made to wait in prison for his deliverance, but Pharaoh would hardly wait two minutes before Joseph, whose appearance had become quite forlorn and wretched, must be brought before him shaved and dressed, and fit for the royal presence.
“ And immediately Pharaoh said unto Joseph,
I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it, and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.”
Pharaoh seems not yet to have understood by whose help it was that Joseph was enabled to interpret dreams. Joseph had no more skill in these matters than any other man, but he was the servant of God, and it pleased God, for his own purposes, to give to Joseph by miracle the power of interpreting the dream of Pharaoh. Accordingly Joseph answers Pharaoh by saying, “it is not in me, God shall give to Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Thus Joseph takes none of the glory to himself as a proud person would have been glad to do, but he gives it all to God, to whom alone it was due. Pharaoh then, in a very exact manner, relates his two dreams to Joseph.
“ And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, the dream is one, that is to say, the two dreams signify one and the same thing, “ and God hath shewed Pharaoh, by means of them, what is about to do.” The seven good kine are seven years, and, so also the seven good ears of corn are seven years, the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are , seven years,’ and the seven empty cars of corn are also seven years, and these last signify seven years of famine. This, therefore, is the thing which God is about to do; behold there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, and there shall arise after them seven years of famine. Now, therefore, continued Joseph, let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wife, and set him over the land of Egypt, and let him appoint officers, and let them gather together the food of the good years, and lay it up in the cities, and it shall all be for store against the seven years of famine, in order that the land may not perish. And the thing which Joseph said seemed good in the eyes of Pharaoh and of his servants, and Pharaoh said unto his servants, can we find any one equal to this Joseph, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, thou Shalt therefore be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled ; only in the throne will I be greater than thou; and Pharaoh took off the ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck, and made him to ride in the second chariot that he had, and they cried before him, bow the knee ! and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without me shall no man lift up his hand or foot in ail the land of Egypt
How wonderful was this exaltation of Joseph! he is now greater than ever he was. He had before been the first man in the house of Pharaoh’s chief captain, but he is now the first man in the house of Pharaoh himself; he is greater than Potiphar, his own former master; he is the first person next to Pharaoh in all the kingdom of Egypt.
But let me not forget to admire the good providence of God in all this. It was God that raised him from being a slave to be the chief servant of Potiphar, and it was God that lifted him up from being a prisoner, to be ruler of all Egypt. “ For it is the Lord (as the Psalmiss says) that maketh rich, and maketh poor, that lifteth up, and casteth down. He taketh the simple out of the dust, and lifteth the poor out of the mire, that he may set him with the princes, even with the princes, of the people.” It is true, he sometimes afflicts even his most favoured people: “ He brings down, as it is said, their heart through heaviness, they fall down, and, there is none to help them He also suffers them to be evil entreated through tyrants.” But at length “he brings them out of darkness, and out of the shadow of death, and breaks their bonds in sunder.” “ He leads them by a way which they know not, he makes darkness light before them, and crooked things strait,” and thus, “ though heaviness may endure for a night, yet joy Cometh in the morning.” “ O praise the Lord then ye servants of his!
O praise the name of the Lord! blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth for evermore for he preserveth the way of his saints, and hath been ever mindful of his covenant.” He saved Noah from the waters of the flood, he brought forth righteous Lot out of Sodom, he preserved Shadrach and his companions in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the lion’s den. . He delivered David his servant from the peril of the sword.” “ He shewed also his ways unto Moses, and his works unto the children of Israel.” It was “ He also that caused a dearth in the land of Egypt and destroyed the provision of bread. But he sent a man before, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant, whose feet they hurt in the stocks; the iron entered into his soulùuntil the time came that his cause was heard. Then the king sent and delivered him ; the prince of the people let him go free, he made him lord also of his house, and ruler of all his substance.”
But let not any of my readers suppose, that Joseph is now to be admired merely for his greatness, and that the ring on his finger, and the fine vestment on his back, and the grand chariot in which he rode, were the chief things he was pleased with. Joseph was a great man undoubtedly, but he was as good as he was great, and, indeed, what is all earthly greatness unless goodness is joined with it ? It is a great sin, in my opinion, to wish to be a prime minister or a king, for the mere honour of it, and I would rather be a poor labourer that is of some use in the world, than be the greatest monarch in Europe, unless I could do some special service by my greatness. Joseph proceeds directly to make himself very useful in his new station; “for he immediately went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and travelled throughout the land, and, in the- seven plenteous years, the earth brought forth by handfuls,-and he gathered up a11 the food of the seven years, and the food of the field which was rounds about every city laid he up in the same and he gathered corn as the sand of the sear very much, until he left numbering. And after the seven years of plenteousness were ended, then the seven. years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said. And the people of Egypt cried unto Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh, said unto* them, Go unto Joseph, and Joseph opened the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians.”
I am afraid that my readers have by this time almost forgot old Jacob, the father of Joseph, and his eleven sons, who were living with him in the land of Canaan, at some distance from Egypt. The famine of the last seven years was such as to be severely felt even in their country. “Then, Jacob said unto his sons, whose countenances were all cast down on the occasion,. “ Why do ye look one upon another ? behold I have heard that there is corn in Egypt. Get you down thither, and buy for us from thence, that we may live and not die. And Joseph’s ten Brethren went down accordingly to Egypt-” But Benjamin, being now the father’s favourite,, was not suffered to go with them, for old Jacob said, “Peradventure some mischief will befall him.”
“ And when the sons of Jacob arrived, Joseph was the governor of the land, and he it was that sold to all the people. And Joseph’s Brethren came and bowed themselves down before him with their faces towards the earth.”
Oh ! what a change of scene ! These are the men, who, the last time they saw Joseph, had said of him, “ Behold this dreamer cometh.” They had then put him into the pit, and had sold him for a slave, because he had foretold, that these his brethren, and his parents (who were signified by the sun, moon, and stars) should one day bow down before him. How wonderfully does God accomplish his own purposes ! The very means which we take to defeat them, are sometimes made use of by God, in order to bring them about. Joseph’s Brethren thought, that by selling him for a slave, they should prevent their ever having to bow down before him; and yet by this act of theirs, that very prophecy was brought to pass.
Let no one then presume to think that he can direct events in his own way: or, that he can, either by art or power, prevail against God, for the counsel of the Lord, it shall stand, and he will bring it to pass” “The Lord taketh the wise in his own craftiness;” he ordereth all things in heaven above, and in the earth beneath.” “Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and fell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow ; for that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that,”
Joseph’s Brethren, while they were bowing down, did not know Joseph, for he made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly, saying,ù” Ye are spies ! to see the nakedness of the land you are come.” And they said, “Nay, my lord, but to buy food are we come. We are twelve brethren from the land of Canaan, and behold the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.” And Joseph said again, “ Ye are spies!” and then added he; ” but hereby shall ye be proved, whether there be truth in you. One of you shall go and fetch his brother, while the rest shall be kept in prison.” And he kept them all in ward three days. Joseph, however, after this lets them all depart, one only excepted ; and he gives them corn in their bags to carry home, bidding them all to come again, and redeem the brother they had left behind by bringing the next time, their youngest brother Benjamin. Now all this seems to have been done by Joseph, for the purpose of collecting every one of his brethren round him, before he would discover himself to them; and perhaps he was led to practice rather too much art, by his anxiety to see them gathered together.
Then said Joseph’s Brethren one to another, “ 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, behold also, his blood is required of us.”
Oh! how dreadful is a guilty conscience ! It will cause our sins to haunt us, years after they have been committed. Now, have none of my readers ever felt the like kind of terror, in consequence of their having done something amiss? After the commission of a crime, did you never fancy, that every one you met, observed you; and that every, common accident was a judgment of God upon you ; and if any trouble happened to befall you a long time afterwards, have you not been apt immediately to imagine, that it had some connexion with your former guilt? Sin does not always leave this sting behind it, for some people are quite hardened by their crimes, nevertheless, it often does. If the sin be great and dreadful, if it be something particular and extraordinary, like the felling of a brother, or the thought of putting him to death, then, though years should pass away quietly, yet it is probable that conscience will awake and cry out against us at last. In the present case, it appears to me, that Joseph’s Brethren had no clear ground to suppose that the trouble they dreaded, was caused by their having formerly sold their brother Joseph. They seem not to have argued very correctly on the occasion “ We saw, said they, the anguish of his soul, and we would not hear, and therefore now is his blood about to be required of us.”ùBut this was not a very sound way of reasoning, for it was not clear that his blood was now going to be required of them at all. It was not clear that any trouble whatever, was about to happen to them; and, even if some trouble should happen to them, their having once sold their brother, might not be the cause; but guilt is fearful. A man that has some undiscovered crime within him, is apt to feel unreason able frights and fears; his imagination becomes disturbed; he grows auspicious beyond all reason; he sees an enemy, perhaps, as Joseph’s Brethren did, in his best friend, and the very things that are for him, if they happen to go awkwardly for a day or two, are thought to be most dreadfully against him. In short, a person, whose conscience has become burdened with some great sin, has often no comfort in his life, until he has fairly confessed it, and repented of it.
No sooner had Joseph’s Brethren expressed their fright, than Reuben lifts up his voice, and observes to them, how he had intreated them not to hurt their brother, and they would not hear. Therefore, also, says he, is his blood required of us.” Here again we may discern a picture of what often happens among those who have been partners in iniquity. When the time of trouble comes, then those who have had less hand in the guilt, begin to reproach the others for having been principals in the business. Like Reuben, they begin to justify themselves, and say: “ Did I not tell you at the time, to take care what you did, but you would not mind me, and therefore now you have brought down all this trouble on yourselves, and not on yourselves only but on me also.” Nothing is more common than for those who are all, more or less joined in the same crime, to fall out and reproach one another for it afterwards.
Joseph overheard all this conversation among his brethren, and he turned himself about from them, and wept, and returned to them again, and communed, (or had conversation, by means of an interpreter) with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes. Joseph then commanded that their sacks should be laden with corn, and that every man’s money should be restored into his sack, which being done, they departed : and as one of them opened his sack to give his ass food at the inn, he espied his money, for behold it was in his sack’s mouth. And when he told it his brethren, all their hearts failed them; and they said one to another, “ What is this that God hath done unto us!” Here again, their disposition to take fright seems to have shewn itself. I suppose they now thought that some judgment of God would fall upon them in their way home, on account of the fame sin of selling Joseph.
And they came unto Jacob their father, and told him all that had befallen them, saying: “ The man who is lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies: and we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies; we be twelve brethren.” Methinks it would be some relief to Joseph’s brethren, to tell their father how harshly they had been spoken to, and how unjustly they had been suspected when they were in Egypt; for whenever a man has some great and real sin on his mind, he is glad to turn to any thing right, or innocent in misconduct, in which, nevertheless, he has been accused of sinning. Jacob’s sons had used their father ill in selling Joseph, but they themselves had been used ill on the old man’s account, when they went to buy corn for him in Egypt. It would be a comfort, therefore, to talk to him of what they had suffered for his sake, since it would seem to make amends in some measure for the ill which they were conscious of having done him.
Let us beware, however, of disguising our guilt, by dwelling on some smaller point, in which it may be true that we are innocent. To do so is one of the common shifts of wicked men, and there are none so wicked, as not to have some part of their conduct on which they can dwell with pleasure and self-complacency.
But when Joseph’s Brethren proceeded to explain to their father, how the lord of the country had commanded them to bring to him their brother Benjamin, and how he had detained Simeon as a pledge or hostage on his account; then Jacob, in the bitterness of his heart, 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.” But Reuben now came up, and declared, that if Benjamin might but go with them, he would pledge the lives of his own two infant children, that Benjamin should be brought back in safety. And Jacob said, my son shall not go down with you, for his brother Joseph is already dead; and if mischief befall Benjamin also by the way, then shall ye bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.”
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