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At length the famine came; and it was not only in Egypt, but in all the countries round about, so that the people came from them to buy corn in Egypt; and everybody looked to Joseph to be supplied with what they wanted to save them from perishing for hunger.
Joseph's Brethren in Egypt buying Corn.
GENESIS XLII. 148. The famine had now got into Canaan, which, it seems, was often troubled by it; and, indeed, before men learnt to know how to farm and manage the ground, which was not then studied as it is with us, famines were very common. Canaan was often troubled with them; you remember that Abraham and Isaac both went into Egypt on account of famine in Canaan; and now Jacob sends to Egypt also, having probably seen some of the corn that his neighbours had got from that country.
Jacob having lost his dear son Joseph, was now exceedingly careful of his younger son Benjamin, Joseph's very near brother, both having Rachel for their mother. He, therefore, sent down his other ten sons into Egypt, but kept Benjamin at home.
And Joseph's brethren “came and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” Now, you see that Joseph's dreams have come true. On the wonderful ways of God ! for, if his brethren had not sold him into Egypt, to prevent the dreamer from ever being among them, this had never happened.
Joseph knew his brethren ; for they having been men when he saw them twenty-one years before, had not so altered in their faces as he had, who was then a lad, but had now become a man.
And Joseph remembered his dreams, and saw the wonderful providence of God in sending him into Egypt, where he was to save the lives of his starving family as well as of the Egyptians and other people, and where his brethren's sheaves bowed to his sheaf.
And he treated them very roughly, still better to prevent them from knowing him, who was probably very meek and mild. And he charged them with being spies,—that is, with going to see how weak the people might be from want of food, and so intending to return and kill and plunder them, if all seemed to favour their plan; for the Arabs who live in those parts, even to this day, will spy out a weak town and drive out the people, and take their houses and goods, and live in it themselves.
Jacob's sons then told him who they were, to prove they were not spies; for no man would hazard the lives of ten sons on such a dangerous business, where they would lose their lives if they were found out. But they said the youngest son was left behind.
“That,” said Joseph, “looks more suspicious : why was your father afraid to trust him with you, if you intended to do what was right ?”
Joseph's Brethren sent Home for Benjamin.
GENESIS XLII. 19, 20. Joseph now told them that they must send one to fetch their youngest brother, and he would keep the rest till he returned with him ; and he put them in prison for three days to think about it. But on the third day he let them all go but one, and he kept Simeon while they took home the corn, and till they brought back Benjamin, whom, as his own brother, he secretly wanted much to see.
Now their consciences began to wound them, and they recollected how they had used Joseph; and they talked to one another, and said, “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.” “Ah,” said Reuben, “ did not I say, 'Do not sin against the child ;' and ye would not hear ?."
They, supposing Joseph to be an Egyptian, talked out loud in Hebrew ; for Joseph, to conceal himself, got another to speak for him, who was called on this account an interpreter.
When Joseph heard how their hearts were pained, he turned aside and wept; and then, having recovered his courage, he “took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes."
Thus Providence put it into his power to punish the injustice and cruelty of his brethren ; though you will see that after he had humbled them, he treated them very kindly, and harboured no wicked revenge in his bosom.
Joseph next ordered their money to be put into their sacks; and they went home, leaving Simeon behind.
But one of them opened his sack to feed his ass, and finding his money, he was quite frightened lest he should be sent for back as a thief.
And when they got home, they told Jacob all that had happened ; and as they all emptied their sacks, they all, to their great surprise, found their money there.
And when they told Jacob that Simeon was left behind, and Benjamin must go back, the poor old man's heart was sadly grieved ; and he said, " Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me.” “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befal him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave."
Joseph's Brethren return to Egypt.
GENESIS XLIII. The famine still continued ; and the last supply having been eaten, Jacob wished his sons to get some more corn.
They were ready to go; but then they could not go without Benjamin. This was very hard for poor Jacob; but at last he consented, and his dear Benjamin went also.
Then Jacob sent presents to Joseph,- for that is the way in which the favour of great men in the East is to be gained,—and he sent back the money found in the sacks, for he knew it did not belong to him; and good people are always honest; and he prayed to God to bless them, and sent them away.
When they got to Egypt, Joseph provided a great feast for them, and they were sadly afraid, on going to his house, lest he should do them some harm. Their fears were, however, soon quieted; for the steward spake kindly to them, and Joseph treated them as kindly.
And now he asked after his good old father, for he was a tender-hearted son, and loved him dearly. And when he saw his own brother Benjamin, born of the same mother, his heart was so full that he was obliged to go himself into his chamber and weep.
Having washed his tears away, he returned and ordered three tables to be spread : one for himself, as a great chief above all the rest ; another for his brethren, to eat by themselves; and another for the Egyptians, that they might eat by themselves,—for the Egyptians thought it an abomination, or that it would defile them, to eat bread with the Hebrews, because the Hebrews ate for food some creatures which they were so ignorant as to worship as gods.
Then Joseph having given orders, the eldest was put at the head of the table, and the youngest at the bottom--all in order according to their ages;