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possession of a most fertile district. He therefore presented five of his brothers to the king. • And Pharaoh said to his brothers, What is your occupation ? And they said to Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and our
thers. They said moreover to Pharaoh, To sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is heavy in the land of Canaan : now, therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. Then Pharaoh, true to his open-handed generosity, said to Joseph: “Thy father and thy brothers are come to thee: the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brothers dwell ; in the land of Goshen let them dwell; and if thou knowest any men of ability among them, make them overseers over my cattle.' Then Joseph brought his father to the king, who, moved by the sight of that aged chieftain, who had come to spend his last days in a strange land, asked with surprise and interest, “How many are the years of thy life? And Jacob said to Pharaoh, The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the years of my life been, and have not attained to the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. And Joseph made his father and his brothers dwell, and gave them a possession, in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph supported his father, and his brothers, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.'
25. JOSEPH ACQUIRES FOR THE KING THE
WHOLE SOIL OF EGYPT.
[GENES. XLVII. 15—26.] We would fain end the story of Joseph without alluding to his last acts, which, painful in themselves, stand in harsh contrast to the bonds of kindness that seem hitherto to have united the ruler and the ruled. But we must always remember that the Bible does not demand of us a blind hero-worship: the persons introduced are rather set before us as pictures of human nature, in many cases noble, pure, and faithful, but still not free from weakness, nor guarded against error and sin. Not even the most revered characters are without shadows, from which often spring sorrow and trials followed by bitter penitence, and at last by atonement. If the instruments of God's will were supernaturally perfect beings, our interest and sympathy for them would be less direct and less profound, and the Bible would in some measure cease to be the Book best fitted to guide the erring wanderer struggling towards virtue and truth.
The famine in the land of Egypt was fearful in the extreme; it was probably even more distressing than the people had anticipated. Now the Egyptians had bought corn from Joseph until all their money was spent; but the visitation of the seven unfortunate years was far from concluded. The people came to the granaries clamouring for bread. Their agony was terrible ; but Joseph, acting merely in what he considered Pharaoh's interest, would give no corn to the people except in exchange for their cattle. Their magnificent horses and fleet asses, their herds and flocks, thus became royal property. But at the end of a year, they had exhausted this resource also; and with the grim prospect of starvation staring in their face, they came again to Joseph with their lamentations. This time
their cry was more piteous still; they said: "We will not hide it from my lord; but our money is spent; our herds of cattle ‘also have passed into the hands of my lord; there is nothing left before my lord, except our bodies and our lands : wherefore shall we die before thy eyes, both we and our land ? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be subjected to Pharaoh ; and give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land do not lie waste. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh ; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.'
It is sad indeed to dwell upon this scene of slavery and spoliation—the act of the pious, God-fearing Joseph, of the generous and high-minded king. Not only did the whole land pass into Pharaoh's possession, but the people, in order to be weaned from the soil which they and their ancestors had so long occupied and cherished, were heartlessly transplanted from one boundary of Egypt to the other. The priests alone, forming a free caste, remained in possession of their land. Seed was then given by Joseph to the husbandmen under the exacting condition that the fifth part of the harvests was to be delivered up to Pharaoh. And under the influence of dire want, the people had become so degraded that they exclaimed rejoicingly, "Thou hast saved our lives, let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be servants to Pharaoh.'
Jacob spent seventeen years in Egypt peacefully and happily; then, having attained the age of a hundred and forty-seven years, he felt that his end was approaching. He sent for his son Joseph, and made him promise by a solemn oath, not to bury him in Egypt, but to take his body to Canaan, and to inter it by the side of his ancestors in the cave of Machpelah. Joseph gave the pledge without hesitation.
26. MANASSEH AND EPHRAIM.
Manasseh and Ephraim were the two eldest sons of Joseph, born before the settlement of his father and brothers in Egypt. Jacob loved them, and desired that their descendants should have equal inheritance in the promised land with those of his own children.
He communicated this wish to Joseph, and as he spoke to the son of his beloved Rachel, his thoughts reverted for a moment to her, and he saw again that distant mountain pass of Bethlehem, where Rachel lay buried beneath the purple vine. He paused in his prophecies of the distant future to dwell upon events of the past : As for me, I saw Rachel die in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a distance of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way of Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.' Then turning towards Joseph, he saw through the waning light of his eyes the two youths who were with him, and he said “Who are these ? And Joseph said to his father, They are my sons, whom God has given me here. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, to me, and I will bless them. But the eyes of Israel were dim from old age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near to him, and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, I had not hoped to see thy face; and, behold, God has allowed me to see thy seed also. And Joseph brought them forth from his knees, and he prostrated himself before his face to the ground. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand towards Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand towards Israel's right hand, and brought them near to him. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the
younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, laying on his hands deliberately; for Manasseh was the first-born. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who was my shepherd from my birth to this day, the angel who redeemed me from all evil, will bless the youths ; and let in them my name be called, and the names of
fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them increase into a vast multitude in the midst of the land. And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; and he held up his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father, Not so, my father; for this is the first-born ; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a numerous people. And he blessed them on that day, saying, By thee shall Israel bless, saying, May God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh : and he put Ephraim before Manasseh. And Israel said to Joseph, Behold I die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of
And I give to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I take out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.'
Thus spoke Israel in true prophetic tones; and as had been the case several times before, to the younger
brother was promised the greater inheritance. Joseph himself, who had been the most illustrious and the most honoured child of his house during his lifetime, was not to have the glory of transmitting his name to a tribe.