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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