Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
Table of Contents




[40] JOSEPH was now thirty years of age. The king, who held him in high honor, gave him to wife a virgin named Asenath, who was the daughter of one of the great men of his court. And two sons were born to Joseph, whose names were Manasseh and Ephraim.

After Egypt had happily passed through seven years of plenty the famine came upon them in the eighth year, as Joseph had foretold. When the people came running to the king's gates, crying for bread, he told them to go to Joseph, who would relieve them. Joseph opened his great storehouses and sold the grain to them. Nor did he open this market for the people of Egypt only, for there was a famine in the surrounding countries, and Joseph gave liberty to strangers to buy also, believing that all men should have assistance from those who lived in happiness.

Now the people in Canaan suffered grievously from the famine. Therefore, when Jacob learned of the great storehouses of grain that were in Egypt, and how strangers were welcomed, he determined to send his sons there to purchase grain. He retained only Benjamin, who was the youngest of all, and the ten others he sent into Egypt.

So the sons of Jacob came to Joseph to buy corn of him. Joseph knew them at once, but they did not know him. For he was only a boy of seventeen when they sold him into slavery, and he was now a man of thirty. They did not even know whether he was still alive, and of course they could [41] know nothing of his wonderful good fortune in a strange land. Joseph's heart warmed to them as soon as he saw them, for his was a kind and loving nature. But he determined before he discovered himself to them to try them, and see whether they were as wicked as ever, or whether they had repented of their cruelty to him. So he put on a very stern expression of face and asked them whence they came and who they were. And when they told him that they came from Canaan and were brothers, he pretended that he did not believe them.

"It is impossible," he said, "that a private man could bring up ten sons to be so strong and vigorous and handsome, such an education of so many children being not easily obtained by kings themselves." And he accused them of being spies, and said that they came from several countries, and joined themselves together, and only pretended to be of kin. Now Joseph said this in order that they might tell all about themselves and give him news of his father and of Benjamin, who, he saw, was not among them. For he feared that they might have done some wicked deed against Benjamin also, and either made away with him or sold him into slavery.

The brethren were much distressed at what Joseph said, and feared that very great danger hung over them. But Reuben, the elder, spoke up and assured Joseph that they were true and faithful men, and not spies, and that they were all children of one father.

"Our father's name," he said, "is Jacob, a Hebrew man, who had twelve of us for his sons, and while we were all alive we were a happy family; but when one of our brethren, whose name was Joseph, died, our affairs changed for the worse, for our father made a long lamentation for him, and we are in affliction, both on account of our brother's death and of the sorrow of our aged father. We are now come to buy corn, having intrusted the care of our father to Benjamin, our youngest brother, and if thou sendest to our house, [42] thou mayest judge if we are guilty of the least falsehood in what we say."

But still Joseph seemed not to believe them. And he put them in prison for three days, so that he might think what to do to them. On the third day he sent for them to be brought before him, and told them that in order to satisfy him of the truth of what they said they must bring their youngest brother with them the next time they came to Egypt. And, as a pledge that they would do this, one of their company was to remain behind until they returned.

When the brethren heard this decision they were greatly troubled. They wept among themselves, and they told one another that God was now punishing them for their wickedness to Joseph. Reuben reminded them that he had sought to dissuade them from their cruel purpose, and he earnestly exhorted them to bear in patience the just punishment of God. They spoke all these things in their own language, not knowing that Joseph understood them. But Joseph, seeing their distress, had to go away from them, that they might not see him, for what they said made him weep. Soon he returned, and took Simeon, one of his brothers, and said that he should remain with him as pledge that the others would return. Then he bade them take that the grain they had bought, and go their way. He also told his steward to put back secretly into their sacks the money that each one had paid.

When they had come into the land of Canaan they told their father what had occurred to them, and he was much grieved. And when they opened their sacks of grain before him, and each man found the sum of money he had paid put back into his sack, they were all surprised and afraid, not knowing how it had happened. For a long time Jacob refused to allow them to return with Benjamin, in spite of all their entreaties. But at last the corn they had brought was exhausted. And when Jacob saw that his children and his [43] grandchildren were starving for want of bread to eat, he was obliged to relent. So he gave Benjamin to the brothers, and bade them go to Egypt to buy more grain. And he lamented sorely at their departure, and they also shed many bitter tears.

As soon as they came into Egypt they were brought down to Joseph's house. Here no small fear disturbed them, lest they should be accused about the price of the corn as if they had cheated Joseph. They made a long apology to Joseph's steward, telling him that when they arrived home they found the money in their sacks, and now they had brought it back with them. He said he did not know what they meant, so they were delivered from that fear.

Then Simeon was released and allowed to join them, and they were all taken into the presence of Joseph. And the brethren offered him presents of fruit and honey and turpentine, which their father had sent. Then he asked how their father was, and they answered he was well. Pointing to Benjamin, he asked if this was the youngest son they had spoken of, and they told him that it was. Joseph laid his hands on Benjamin's head and prayed that God would bless him. But when his affection to him made him weep, Joseph retired, not wishing that his tears should be seen by his brethren. Then Joseph took them to supper, and they were set down in the order in which they used to sit at their father's table. And although Joseph treated them all kindly, yet he sent Benjamin double what the rest of the guests had for their share.

After supper, when they had composed themselves to sleep, Joseph commanded his steward to give them their measures of grain, and to hide its price again in their sacks. He also told him to put his golden cup into Benjamin's sack. This he did in order to make trial of his brethren, whether they would stand by Benjamin when he should be accused of having stolen the cup and should appear to be in danger, [44] or whether they would leave him, and, depending on their own innocence, go to their father without him.

Early next morning them men started on their journey back to Canaan, greatly rejoicing at their good fortune because they had been so kindly treated and were returning home with both Simeon and Benjamin. But they had not gone far when they were overtaken by a troop of horsemen, who surrounded them. Among the horsemen was the steward who had placed the cup in Benjamin's sack. And when the brethren asked in surprise what was the reason of this sudden attack upon men whom a little while before their lord had thought worthy of an honorable and hospitable reception, the steward replied by calling them wicked wretches, who had forgotten Joseph's kindness and hospitality, and had carried off the cup out of which he had in so friendly a manner drunk to them. Then the brethren protested that they were innocent, and they asked that a search should be made, and that if the cup were found upon any of them, they should all be punished. But the steward answered that he alone who was guilty of the theft should be punished, and the rest should not be blamed. So the brethren opened their sacks one after the other for the steward to make his search, until at last it came to Benjamin's turn, and in his sack the cup was found. Then they lamented, and rent their garments, and wept for the punishment which their brother was to undergo; and they all returned with him into the city.

When they came before Joseph he upbraided them, and said,—

"How came you, vile wretches that you are, to make so evil a return for my kindness to you?"

But when the steward told him it was Benjamin alone that was guilty, Joseph said he would release the others, who might return to their father in safety, and he would make Benjamin his slave. The brothers were filled with sorrow and amazement when they heard this. And Judah spoke up [45] for them, and told Joseph that Benjamin was the best beloved of their father and that none of them would go home without him. He begged, therefore, that Joseph would take him in the place of Benjamin, and punish him instead. All the other brethren also cast themselves up for the preservation of Benjamin.

Then Joseph could contain himself no longer. He sent all the servants out of the room, and when they were gone he made himself known to his brethren. And because after the first moment of surprise they were afraid, thinking of the evil they had done to him, he assured them that he had entirely forgiven them. He told them also that all he had done was to try them and their love to their brother, and he was rejoiced to find them so kind and good and loving.

"So," he continued, "I believe you were not wicked by nature in what you did in my case, but that all has happened according to God's will, and instead of bearing you a grudge I return you my thanks, that you have concurred with the intentions of God to bring things to their present state."

When Joseph had said this he embraced his brethren, who were all in tears. Then he ordered a banquet to be served before them, and there was great feasting and rejoicing. And when Pharaoh heard the story he also was glad at Joseph's good fortune in finding his brethren, and he sent them wagons full of grain and gold and silver as presents for their father. Joseph also gave them many valuable gifts to bear to Jacob. He told them to invite Jacob to come down to Egypt with all his goods and possessions, for he would be made welcome there, and would be given some of the best lands to live on. Then he embraced them again, and bade them adieu.

When Jacob saw his sons returning to him, and Benjamin among them, he was rejoiced. And when they told him their story and he learned that Joseph was not dead, but was living in great splendor in Egypt, it seemed at first too wonderful to be true, and he could hardly believe them. But when at [46] last he was convinced of the truth, he determined to lose no time in setting out to visit his son.

So he departed from the land of Canaan, with his sons and all belonging to them. There were seventy in the family by this time, including the wives and the children of his sons. When they reached Beersheba, where Isaac, his father, had built an altar many years before, Jacob offered sacrifices upon it. But his mind was not at rest, for there were many things that troubled him. He feared lest the happiness there was in Egypt might tempt his children and their descendants to fall in love with it and settle in it, and no more think of returning to the land of Canaan, whose possession God had promised to them; he feared also that if this descent into Egypt were made without the will of God his family might be destroyed there, and he doubted if he was strong enough to bear the journey and if he would live to see Joseph after all.

With these doubts in his mind he fell asleep. But god appeared to him in a dream and assured him that the journey was in accordance with His wishes.

"I come now," said the Lord, "as a guide to thee in this journey, and foretell to thee that thou shalt die in the arms of Joseph, and I inform thee that thy descendants shall be many ages in authority and glory, and that I will settle them in the land which I have promised them."

Jacob, encouraged by this dream, went on more cheerfully towards Egypt. When Joseph understood that his father was approaching, he went out to welcome him, and they met at a place called Heroopolis. Jacob almost fainted away at this unexpected and great joy, and Joseph was much affected. When they had embraced and wept over each other, Joseph advised his father to continue his journey slowly, and he himself hastened before with five of his brethren, to let the king know that Jacob and his family had come. Pharaoh rejoiced to hear this. He asked Joseph what sort [47] of life his brethren loved to lead, that he might give them leave to follow the same, and, being answered that they were shepherds and had followed this calling all their lives, he said they should be employed in this way in Egypt also.

Then Joseph, when Jacob arrived, brought him before the king, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked Jacob how old he was, and marveled greatly when told that he was one hundred and thirty years old. And he gave him leave to live with his children in Heroopolis; for near that city the king's shepherds pastured their flocks.

When Jacob, or Israel, h ad lived seventeen years in Egypt, he fell sick and died. On his death-bed he offered up prayers for his sons, and foretold to them that their descendants would possess the land of Canaan, and he commanded his own sons to admit Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, into their number, so that their descendants also might enjoy the promises of God. When he was dead, Joseph, by the king's permission, carried his father's dead body to Hebron, and there buried it at a great expense. His brethren were at first afraid to return to Egypt, because they feared that since the death of his father, for whose sake he had been so merciful to them, Joseph might be tempted to punish them for their former wickedness. But he persuaded them to fear no harm and to entertain no suspicions. So he brought them back with him, and gave them great possessions, and never left off watching over them and their children. They all dwelt together in peace and unity, and their children grew up and had children of their own, and at last when Joseph was one hundred and ten years of age he died.

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More

 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Joseph is Sold into Bondage  |  Next: The Sufferings of the Children of Israel
Copyright (c) 2000-2018 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.