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(genesis L. 12, 13.)
About the year B.C. 1864, a grievous famine prevailed, both in Egypt and Syria. Its horrors, however, were averted by Divine Providence. Joseph, the son of good old Israel, was sold into Egypt by his brethren; and Pharaoh, the king of that country, having been favoured with two remarkable dreams, indicating this notable event, the Hebrew captive interpreted them, and he was made governor of Egypt, in which capacity, to use his own language, he " saved much people alive."
Among those whom Joseph saved, were his venerable father and his brethren. Having heard that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob sent his sons thither, and Joseph finally made himself known to them; and, at the desire of Pharaoh, he sent for his father, promising to nourish him and all his household, so long as the famine continued. Gladdened by the intelligence, the aged patriarch resolved to accept the invitation, and to sojourn with Joseph in the land of Egypt.
The meeting of the sorrowing parent and the lost son took place in Goshen, and it was touchingly tender. As they approached each other Joseph fell upon his father's neck and wept, and Jacob said to his son, in the fulness of his heart, "Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive."* Gen. xlvi. 30.
When the emotions of this meeting had subsided, Joseph informed his brethren that he would go and announce their arrival to Pharaoh, after which he would introduce some of them to the royal presence. For this purpose, indeed, he took with him five of the most comely of his brothers, and returned to the capital. Arrived there, Joseph first had an audience of the king, after which his brothers were called into the regal presence.
The occupation of Joseph's brethren was pastoral, and every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians. Knowing this, and foreseeing that Pharaoh would interrogate them as to their occupation, before they were introduced Joseph gave them instructions which had reference to that state of feeling. He directed them to reply, that they were shepherds, as all their fathers had been. And to this effect they did reply to the monarch; adding, that they had come to sojourn in Egypt, for in the land of Canaan the drought had been so severe, that there was no pasture for their flocks, and concluding with a request that they might be allowed to pasture them in Goshen. The reply of Pharaoh to this request of the sons of Jacob showed, at once, his gratitude and his affection for his deliverer. Turning to Joseph, he told him that the whole land was at his disposal, that he might place them in the best part of it, and in Goshen, if he deemed that district the most suitable for them and their flocks.
* For more ample details of these events the reader is referred to the previous articles of " Jacob and his Family journeying to Egypt," and " Joseph supplying Corn from the Egyptian Storehouses."
Having thus succeeded in his plan for the benefit of his family, Joseph introduced his father to Pharaoh. On approaching the monarch, the aged patriarch blessed him, and Pharaoh, struck by his venerable appearance, entered into conversation with him, particularly inquiring his age. Jacob's answer was emphatic, and well calculated to teach his royal hearer the vanity of all sublunary things:—" The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." Gen. xlvii. 9. Having taught this lesson to the monarch, Jacob again blessed Pharaoh, and then withdrew from his presence.
Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years; five in which the dearth prevailed, and twelve succeeding, which were fruitful. During this period Joseph tenderly nourished him and all his family with the good of the land of Egypt. At the end of this time, however, the partial failure of his sight, and the decay of his bodily powers, gave Jacob warning that the day when he should be called upon to end his earthly pilgrimage was approaching. Under this impression, he sent for Joseph, and expressed his desire that his body should be placed with his fathers, in the cave of Machpelah, and engaged him to promise by oath, that he should be buried in Canaan.
Soon after this, intelligence reached Joseph that his father was very ill, and seemed likely to die. Borne on the wings of duty, he hastened to his bedside, taking with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. When he arrived, Jacob exerted his remaining strength, and sat up in the bed, to receive him, and bequeath his parting blessings.
Jacob first dwelt on the glorious promises of God to himself, especially at Bethel; and he then made tender mention of the death of Rachel, for whose dear sake he proposed to give her beloved son, Joseph, a strong mark of his regard, namely, to bestow upon him, through his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, a double portion, in that rich inheritance yet in reserve for his posterity. As Jacob could not see clearly, he had not observed that Manasseh and Ephraim were present, but, at length, he perceived that there were some persons with Joseph, and being told who they were, he desired them to be brought nearer, that he might bless them.
In causing his sons to kneel before their reverend grandfather, Joseph placed the eldest, Manasseh, opposite his right hand, and Ephraim opposite his left. He evidently expected that Manasseh would receive the chief blessing; but Jacob crossed his hands, placing the right upon the head of Ephraim, and when Joseph attempted to rectify what he imagined might be a mistake, his father persisted, assuring him that he acted by the Divine direction; and he then bestowed upon Ephraim, prophetically, the larger blessing, which was enjoyed by his tribe in succeeding ages.
After this, Jacob, feeling that the hour of his death approached, called all his sons together, that he might predict to them, severally, what should befal their families in their latter days. He did this, by Divine inspiration, in a noble poem, the most ancient which has been preserved in any language; and in which he prophetically described the several characters of his sons, and the distinguishing features of their future possessions, in language alternately tender, pathetic, and stern, and replete with beautiful and natural imagery. See Gen. xlix.
Jacob concluded his predictions by repeating the charge which he had already given to Joseph separately, concerning his burial in the family sepulchre. Then, as if the exertion had been too much for his waning strength, he laid himself down on the bed, and softly yielded up the ghost. The affection which Joseph entertained for his venerable father was strikingly displayed at his death. He fell upon his lifeless form, wept over it, kissed it, and commanded Egyptian physicians to embalm the body; and, after a mourning of seventy days, attended by all the state officers and principal nobility of Egypt, he carried his remains into Canaan, and buried them in the cave of Machpelah.
The funeral of Jacob was, in all that concerned the paraphernalia of the occasion, a purely Egyptian ceremony. As related, the body of the venerable patriarch was embalmed by the physicians of Egypt; mourned over by the people for seventy days; and, finally, conveyed to its place of repose with Abraham and Isaac, by a magnificent escort of chariots and horsemen. The artist, catching this idea, has accordingly represented the ceremony as Egyptian. The mourning cavalcade is depicted, as it may be supposed to have been seen, descending one of the precipitous defiles of Northern Arabia. In the front is discerned the funeral car drawn by horses richly caparisoned, and surrounded and followed by the servants of Pharoah, in company with the Hebrew mourners. The authorities from whence the artist has derived his ideas, may be found in the many sculptures, paintings, and drawings on papyri, which exhibit the death, the judgment, the passage of the soul across the great lake, and various Egyptian funeral ceremonies.
The sacred historian, describing the funeral of Jacob, says, that it consisted of a very great company, and that they mourned for the deceased " with a great and very sore lamentation." Doubtless, however, the sons of Jacob did not mourn as those without hope. In the midst of his prophetic address to them the aged saint breathed this aspiration to the Almighty: "I have waited for thy salvation, 0 Lord;" and they could not fail to remember his words, and to derive comfort from them in their sorrows. Header, so live that you may use such language, as well for your own comfort, as the consolation of those who, one day, will mourn over you.