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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Yoseph', יוֹסֵ, containing, according to Genesis 30:23-24, a two-fold significance [the two Heb. roots coinciding in form in Hiphil], remover, from אָסִ, and increaser, from יָסִ, the latter favored by the uncontracted or Chaldaistic form Yehoseph', יְהוֹסֵ, occurring only Psalms 81:6; Sept. and N.T. Ι᾿ωσήφ , i.q. Josephus), the name of several men in the Scriptures and Josephus, all doubtless after the first of the name, whose beautiful history is told at length in the Scriptures with inimitable simplicity. (See JOSEPHUS).
I. The elder son of Jacob and Rachel, born (B.C. 1913; comp. Genesis 41:46) under peculiar circumstances, as may be seen in Genesis 30:22; on which account, and because he was the son of his old age (Genesis 37:3), he was beloved by his father more than were the rest of his children, though Benjamin, as being also a son of Jacob's favorite wife Rachel, was in a peculiar manner dear to the patriarch. The partiality evinced towards Joseph by his father excited jealousy on the part of his brethren, the rather as they were born of different mothers (Genesis 37:2). Jacob at this time had two small pieces of land in Canaan, Abraham's burying place at Hebron in the south, and the "parcel of a field, where he [Jacob] had spread his tent" (Genesis 33:19), at Shechem in the north, the latter being probably, from its price, the lesser of the two. He seems then to have stayed at Hebron with the aged Isaac, while his sons kept his flocks.
1. Joseph had reached his seventeenth year, having hitherto been engaged in boyish sports, or aiding in pastoral duties, when some conduct on the part of "the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives," seems to have been such as, in the opinion of Joseph, to require the special attention of Jacob, to whom accordingly he communicated the facts. This regard to virtue, and this manifestation of filial fidelity, greatly increased his brothers' dislike, who henceforth "hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him" (Genesis 37:4). Their jealousy was aggravated by the fact that Jacob had shown his preference by making him a dress (פִּסַּיםכְּתֹנֶת ), which appears to have been a long tunic with sleeves, worn by youths and maidens of the richer class. (See ATTIRE).
Their aversion, however, was carried to the highest pitch when Joseph acquainted them with the two dreams that he had had, to the effect — the first, that while he and they were binding sheaves, his sheaf arose and stood erect, while theirs stood round and did obeisance to his; the second, that "the sun and the moon and the eleven stars did him homage." These dreams appeared to indicate that Joseph would acquire preeminence in the family, if not sovereignty; and while even his father rebuked him, his brothers were filled with envy (Genesis 37:11). Jacob, however, was not aware of the depth of their ill will; so that, on one occasion, having a desire to hear intelligence of his sons, who were pasturing their flocks at a distance, he did not hesitate to make Joseph his messenger for that purpose. They had gone to Shechem to feed the flock and Joseph was sent thither from the vale of Hebron by his father to bring him word of their welfare and that of the flock. They were not at Shechem, but had gone to Dothan, which appears to have been not very far distant, pasturing their flock like the Arabs of the present day, wherever the wild country (Genesis 37:22) was unowned. His appearing in view of his brothers was the signal for their malice to gain head.
They began to devise means for his immediate destruction, which they would have unhesitatingly effected but for his half brother Reuben, who, as the eldest son might well be the party to interfere on behalf of Joseph. A compromise was entered into, in virtue of which the youth was stripped of the distinguishing vestments which he owed to his father's affection, and cast into a pit. Having performed this evil deed, and while they were taking refreshment, the brothers beheld a caravan of Arabian merchants (Ishmaelites =Midianites), who were bearing the spices and aromatic gums of India down to the well known and much frequented mart, Egypt. Judah on this feels a better emotion arise in his mind, and proposes that instead of allowing Joseph to perish, they should sell him to the merchants, whose trade obviously from this embraced human beings as well as spicery. Accordingly the unhappy young man was sold for a slave (at the price of twenty shekels of silver, a sort of fixed rate: see Leviticus 27:5), to be conveyed by his masters into Egypt. While on his way thither, Reuben returned to the pit, intending to rescue his brother, and convey him safely back to their father. Finding Joseph gone, he returned with expostulations to the wicked young men, who, so far from relenting, now concerted a fresh act of treachery, by which at once to cover their crime and also punish their father for his partiality towards the unoffending sufferer. With this view they dipped Joseph's party colored garment in the blood of a kid and sent it to Jacob in order to make him believe that his favorite child had been torn to pieces by some wild beast. The trick succeeded, and Jacob was grieved beyond measure (Genesis 38:12-30). B.C. 1895.
2. Meanwhile the merchants sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the royal guard, who was a native of the country (Genesis 37:36). It is by no means easy to determine who at this time was the Pharaoh, or ruling monarch, though, what is far more important, the condition of the country, and therein the progress of civilization, are in certain general and important features made clear in the course of the narration. According to Syncellus, however, the general opinion in his day was that the sovereign's name who ruled Egypt at the time of the deportation of Joseph was Aphophis. (See EGYPT).
In Potiphar's house Joseph enjoyed the highest confidence and the largest prosperity. A higher power watched over him; and whatever he undertook succeeded, till at length his master gave everything into his hands. He was placed over all his master's property with perfect trust, and "the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake" (Genesis 37:5). The sculptures and paintings of the ancient Egyptian tombs bring vividly before us the daily life and duties of Joseph. The property of great men is shown to have been managed by scribes, who exercised a most methodical and minute supervision over all the operations of agriculture, gardening, the keeping of livestock, and fishing. Every product was carefully registered to check the dishonesty of the laborers, who in Egypt have always been famous in this respect. Probably in no country was farming ever more systematic. Joseph's previous knowledge of tending flocks, and perhaps of husbandry, and his truthful character, exactly fitted him for the post of overseer.
The Hebrew race have always been remarkable for personal beauty, of which Joseph seems, to have had an unusual share. This fact explains, though, it cannot palliate, the conduct of Potiphar's wife, who, with the well known profligacy of the Egyptian women; tried every means to bring the pure minded youth to fulfill her unchaste desires. Foiled in her evil wishes, she resolved to punish Joseph, who thus a second time innocently brings on himself the vengeance of the ill disposed. Charged with the very crime to which he had in vain been tempted; he is, with a fickleness characteristic of Oriental lords, at once cast into the state prison. (Genesis 39). If the suddenness and magnitude of this and other changes in the lot of Joseph should surprise anyone, the feeling will be mainly owing to his want of acquaintance with the manners and customs of the East, where vicissitudes not less marked and sudden than are those presented in our present history are not uncommon; for those who come into the charmed circle of an Eastern court, especially if they are persons of great energy of character, are subject to the most wonderful alternations of fortune, the slave of today being the vizier of tomorrow, and vice versa.
It must not be supposed, from the lowness of the morals of the Egyptians in practice, that the sin of unfaithfulness in a wife was not ranked among the heaviest vices. The punishment of adulterers was severe, and a moral tale, entitled "The Two Brothers" (contained in a papyrus of the 19th dynasty, found in the British Museum, and translated in the Cambridge Essays for 1858), is founded upon a case nearly resembling that of Joseph. It has, indeed, been imagined that this story was based upon the trial of Joseph, and as it was written for the heir to the throne of Egypt at a later period, there is some reason in the idea that the virtue of one who had held so high a position as Joseph might have been in the mind of the writer, were this part of his history well known to the priests, which, however, is not likely. This incident, moreover, is not so remarkable as to justify great stress being laid upon the similarity to it of the main event of a moral tale. The story of Bellerophon might as reasonably be traced to it, were it Egyptian and not Greek. The Muslims have founded upon the history of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, whom they call Yusuf and Zelikha, a famous religious allegory. This is much to be wondered at, as the Koran relates the tempting of Joseph with no material variation in the main particulars from the authentic narrative. The commentators say that, after the death of Potiphar (Kitfir), Joseph married Zelikha (Sale, chap. 12). This mistake was probably caused by the circumstance that Joseph's father-in-law bore the same name as his master.
Potiphar, although believing Joseph guilty, does not appear to have brought him before a tribunal, where the enormity of his alleged crime, especially after the trust placed in him, and the fact of his being a foreigner, which was made much of by his master's wife (Genesis 39:14; Genesis 39:17), would probably have insured a punishment of the severest kind. He seems to have only cast him into the prison, which appears to have been in his house, or, at least, under his control since afterwards prisoners are related to have been put "in ward. [in] the house of the captain of the executioners, into the prison" (Genesis 40:3), and simply "in ward [in] the captain of the executioners' house" (Genesis 41:10; comp. Genesis 40:7). The prison is described as "a place where the king's prisoners [were] bound" (Genesis 39:20). Here the hardest time of Joseph's period of probation began. He was cast into prison on a false accusation, to remain there for at least two years, and perhaps for a much longer time. At first he was treated with severity; this we learn from Psalms 105, "He sent a mail before them, Joseph [who] was sold for a slave: whose feet they afflicted with the fetter: the iron entered into his soul" (Psalms 105:17-18). There is probably here a connection between "fetter" and "iron" (comp. Genesis 49:8), in which case the signification of the last clause would be "the iron entered into him," meaning that the fetters cut his feet or legs. This is not inconsistent with the statement in Genesis that the keeper of the prison treated Joseph well (Genesis 39:21), for we are not justified in thence inferring that he was kind from the first. In the prison, as in Potiphar's house. Joseph was found worthy of complete trust, and the keeper of the prison placed everything under his control, God's especial blessing attending his honest service. After a while Pharaoh was incensed against two of his officers, "the chief of the cup bearers" (שִׂר הַמִּשְׁקַים ), and "the chief of the bakers" (הָאוֹפַיםשִׂר ), and cast them into the prison where Joseph was. Here the chief of the executioners, doubtless a successor of Potiphar (for, had the latter been convinced of Joseph's innocence, he would not have left him in the prison, and if not so convinced he would not have trusted him), charged Joseph to serve these prisoners. Like Potiphar, they were "officers" of Pharaoh (40:2), and though it may be a mistake to call them grandees, their easy access to the king would give them an importance that explains the care taken of them by the chief of the executioners. Each dreamed a prophetic dream, which Joseph correctly interpreted, disclaiming human skill and acknowledging that interpretations were of God. It is not necessary here to discuss in detail the particulars of this part of Joseph's history, since they do not materially affect the leading events of his life; they are, however, very interesting, from their perfect agreement with the manners of the ancient Egyptians as represented on their monuments. On the authority of Herodotus and others, it was long denied that the vine grew in Egypt; and if so, the imagery of the butler's dream would hardly have been appropriate. Wilkinson, however, has shown beyond a question that vines did grow in Egypt, and thus not only removed a doubt, but given a positive confirmation of the sacred record (Manners of the Anc. Egypt. 2, 152).
The butler, whose fate was auspicious, promised the young Hebrew to employ his influence to procure his restoration to the free air of day; but when again in the enjoyment of his "butlership," "he forgat" Joseph (Genesis 40). B.C. 1885. Pharaoh himself, however, had two dreams, which found in Joseph a successful expounder; for the butler remembered the skill of his prison companion, and advised his royal master to put it to the test in his own case. Pharaoh's dream, as interpreted by. Joseph, foreboded the approach of a seven years' famine; to abate the evils of which Joseph recommended that some "discreet and wise man" should be chosen and set in full power over the land of Egypt. The monarch was alarmed, and called a council of his advisers. The wisdom of Joseph was recognized as of divine origin and supereminent value; and the king and his ministers (whence it appears that the Egyptian monarchy — at Memphis — was not despotic, but constitutional) resolved that Joseph should be made (to borrow a term from Rome) dictator in the approaching time of need. "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled. only in the throne will I be greater than thou. See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee. (See ABRECI).
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah [savior of the world; comp. Jablonsky, Opusc. 1, 207.sq.]; and he gave him to wife Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 41:39 sq.). The monuments show that on the investiture of a high official in Egypt, one of the chief ceremonies was the putting on him a collar of gold (see Ancient Egyptians, pl. 80); the other particulars, the vestures of fine linen and the riding in the second chariot, are equally in accordance with the manners of the country. It has been supposed that Joseph was taken into the priestly order, and thus ennobled. The Biblical narrative does not support this opinion, though it leaves it without a doubt that in reality, if not in form as well, the highest trust and the proudest honors of the state were conferred on one so recently a Hebrew slave. The age of Joseph is stated to have been thirty years at the time of this promotion (41:46). B.C. 1883.
3. Seven years of abundance afforded Joseph opportunity to carry into effect such plans as secured an ample provision against the seven years of need. The famine came, but it found a prepared people. The representations of the monuments, which show that the contents of the granaries were accurately noted by the scribes when they were filled, well illustrate this part of the history. (See GRANARY).
The visitation was not merely local, for "the famine was over all the face of the earth;" "and all countries came into Egypt to Joseph to buy corn" (Genesis 40:56, 57). The expressions here used, however, do not require us to suppose that the famine extended beyond the countries around Egypt, such as Palestine, Syria, and Arabia, as well as some part of Africa, although of course it may have been more widely experienced. It may be observed, that although famines in Egypt depend immediately upon the failure of the inundation, and in other countries upon the failure of rain, yet that, as the rise of the Nile is caused by heavy rains in Ethiopia, an extremely dry season there and in Palestine would produce the result described in the sacred narrative. It must also be recollected that Egypt was anciently the granary of neighboring countries and that a famine there would cause first scarcity, and then famine, around. Famines are not very unfrequent in the history of Egypt; but the famous seven years' famine in the reign of the Fatimite Caliph El'Mustansir-billah is the only known parallel to that of Joseph. (See FAMINE).
Early in the time of famine, Joseph's brethren came to buy corn, a part of the history which we mention here only as indicating the liberal policy of the governor of Egypt, by which the storehouses were opened to all buyers, of whatever nation they were.
After the famine had lasted for a time, apparently two years, there was "no bread in all the land; for the famine [was] very sore, so that the land of Egypt and [all] the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house" (Genesis 47:13-14). When all the money of Egypt and Canaan was exhausted, barter became necessary. Joseph then obtained all the cattle of Egypt, and in the next year, all the land, except that of the priests, and apparently, as a consequence, the Egyptians themselves. He demanded, however, only a fifth part of the produce as Pharaoh's right. It has been attempted to trace this enactment of Joseph in the fragments of Egyptian history preserved by profane writers, but the result has not been satisfactory. Even were the latter sources trustworthy as to the early period of Egyptian history, it would be difficult to determine the age referred to, as the actions of at least two kings are ascribed by the Greeks to Sesostris, the king particularized. Herodotus says that, according to the Egyptians, Sesostris "made a division of the soil of Egypt among the inhabitants, assigning square plots of ground of equal size to all, and obtaining his chief revenue from the rent which the holders were required to pay him every year" (2, 109). Elsewhere he speaks of the priests as having no expenses, being supported by the property of the temples (2, 37), but he does not assign to Sesostris, as has been rashly supposed, the exemption from taxation that we may reasonably infer. Diodorus Siculus ascribes the division of Egypt into nomes to Sesostris, whom he calls Sesoosis. Taking into consideration. the general character of the information given by Herodotus respecting the history of Egypt at periods remote from his own time, we are not justified in supposing anything more than that some tradition of an ancient allotment of the soil by the crown among the population was current when he visited the country. The testimony of Diodorus is of far less weight.
There is a notice, in an ancient Egyptian inscription, of a famine which has been supposed to be that of Joseph. The inscription is in a tomb at Beni Hasan, and records of Ameni, a governor of a district of Upper Egypt, that when there were years of famine, his district was supplied with food. This was in the time of Sesertesen 1, of the twelfth dynasty. It has been supposed by Bunsen (Egypt's Place, 3, 334) that this must be Joseph's famine; but not only are the particulars of the record inapplicable to that instance, but the calamity it relates was never unusual in Egypt, as its ancient inscriptions and modern history equally testify.
Joseph's policy towards the subjects of Pharaoh is important in reference to forming an estimate of his character. It displays the resolution and breadth of view that mark his whole career. He perceived a great advantage to be gained, and he lost no part of it. He put all Egypt under Pharaoh. First the money, then the cattle, last of all the land, and the Egyptians themselves, became the property of the sovereign, and that. too, by the voluntary act of the people without any pressure. This being effected, he exercised a great act of generosity, and required only a fifth of the produce as a recognition of the rights of the crown. Of the wisdom of this policy there can be no doubt. Its justice can hardly be questioned when it is borne in mind that the Egyptians were not forcibly deprived of their liberties, and that when these had been given up they were at once restored. We do not know all the circumstances; but if, as we may reasonably suppose, the people were warned of the famine, and yet made no preparation during the years of overflowing abundance, the government had a clear claim upon its subjects for having taken precautions they had neglected. In any case it may have been desirable to make a new allotment of land, and to reduce an unequal system of taxation to a simple claim to a fifth of the produce. We have no evidence whether Joseph were in this matter divinely aided, but we cannot doubt that if not he acted in accord with a judgment of great clearness in distinguishing good and evil.
4. We have now to consider the conduct of Joseph at this time towards his brethren and his father. Early in the time of famine, which prevailed equally in Canaan and Egypt, Jacob reproved his helpless sons and sent them to Egypt, where he knew there was corn to be bought. Benjamin alone he kept with him. Joseph was now governor, an Egyptian in habits and speech, for like all men of large mind he had suffered no scruples of prejudice to make him a stranger to the people he ruled. In his exalted station he labored with the zeal that he showed in all his various charges, presiding himself at the sale of corn. They had, of necessity, to appear before Joseph, whose license for the purchase of corn was indispensable. Joseph had probably expected to see them, and he seems to have formed a deliberate plan of action. His conduct has brought on him the always ready charges of those who would rather impeach than study the Bible, and even friends of that sacred book have hardly in this case done Joseph full justice (Niemeyer, Charakt. 2, 366; Heuser, Diss. non inhumaniter sed prudenttissime Josephum cum fratribus fecisse, Hal. 1773). Joseph's main object appears to have been to make his brothers feel and recognize their guilt in their conduct towards him. For this purpose suffering, then as well as now, was indispensable. Accordingly, Joseph feigned not to know his brothers, charged them with being spies, threatened them with imprisonment and allowed them to return home to fetch their younger brother, as a proof of their veracity, only on condition that one of them should remain behind in chains, with a prospect of death before him should not their words be verified. Then it was, and not before, that "they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul and would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben said, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? therefore. behold, also his blood is required" (Genesis 42:21). Upon this after weeping bitterly, he by common agreement bound his brother Simeon, and left him in custody. How deeply concerned Joseph was for his family, how true and affectionate a heart he had, may be learned from the words which escape from the brothers in their entreaty that Jacob would allow Benjamin to go into Egypt, as required by Joseph: "The man asked us straitly of our state and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother?" (Genesis 43:7).
At length Jacob consents to Benjamin's going in company with his brothers: "And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved" (Genesis 43:14). Thus provided, with a present consisting of balm, honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts and almonds, and with double money in their hands (double, in order that they might repay the sum which Joseph had caused to be put into each man's sack at their departure, if, as Jacob supposed, "it was an oversight"), they went again down to Egypt and stood before Joseph (Genesis 43:15); and there, too, stood Benjamin, Joseph's beloved brother. The required pledge of truthfulness was given. If it is asked why such a pledge was demanded, since the giving of it caused pain to Jacob, the answer may be thus: Joseph knew not how to demean himself towards his family until he ascertained its actual condition. That knowledge he could hardly be certain he had gained from the mere words of men who had spared his life only to sell himself into slavery. How had these wicked men behaved towards his venerable father? His beloved brother Benjamin, was he safe? or had he suffered from their jealousy and malice the worse fate with which he himself had been threatened? Nothing but the sight of Benjamin could answer these questions and resolve these details.
Benjamin had come, and immediately a natural change took place in Joseph's conduct: the brother began to claim his rights in Joseph's bosom. Jacob wag safe, and Benjamin was safe. Joseph's heart melted at the sight of Benjamin: "And he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay and make ready, for these men shall dine with me at noon" (Genesis 43:16). But guilt is always the ready parent of fear; accordingly, the brothers expected nothing but being reduced to slavery. When taken to their own brother's house, they imagined they were being entrapped. A colloquy ensued between them and Joseph's steward, whence it appeared that the money put into their sacks, to which they now attributed their peril, was in truth a present from Joseph, designed, after his own brotherly manner, to aid his family in their actual necessities. The steward said," Peace be to you; fear not; your God and the God of your father hath given you the treasure in your sacks. I had your money" (Genesis 43:23).
Noon came, and with it Joseph, whose first question regarded home: "He asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? is he yet alive? And he lifted up his eves and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son!"' "And Joseph made haste, for his bowels did yearn upon his brother, and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there." Does this look like harshness? The connection brings into view an Egyptian custom, which is of more than ordinary importance, in consequence of its being adopted in the Jewish polity: "And they set on (food) for him by himself (Joseph), and for them by themselves (the brethren), and for the Egyptians which did eat with them, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination with the Egyptians" (Genesis 43:32). This passage is also interesting, as proving that Joseph had not, in his princely grandeur, become ashamed of his origin, nor consented to receive adoption into a strange nation: he was still a Hebrew, waiting, like Moses after him, for the proper season to use his power for the good of his own people.
Other customs appear in this interesting narrative: "And they (the brothers) sat before him (Joseph), the first born according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth." "And he sent messes (delicacies) unto them from before him; but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs" (Genesis 43:32-33). Fear had now given place to wonder, and wonder at length issued in joy and mirth (comp. Genesis 43:18; Genesis 43:33-34). The scenes of the Egyptian tombs show us that it was the custom for each person to eat singly, particularly among the great; that guests were placed according to their right of precedence, and that it was usual to drink freely, men and even women being represented as overpowered with wine, probably as an evidence of the liberality of the entertainer. (See BANQUET).
Joseph, apparently with a view to ascertain how far his brethren were faithful to their father, hit upon a plan which would in its issue serve to show whether they would make any, and what sacrifice, in order to fulfill their solemn promise of restoring Benjamin in safety to Jacob. Accordingly, he orders not only that every man's money (as before) should be put in his sack's mouth, but also that his "silver cup, in which my lord drinketh, and whereby he divineth," should be put in the sack's mouth of the youngest. The brethren leave, but are soon overtaken by Joseph's steward, who charges them with having surreptitiously carried off this costly and highly- valued vessel. They, on their part, vehemently repel the accusation, adding, "with whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen." A search is made, and the cup is found in Benjamin's sack. Accordingly they return to the city. And now comes the hour of trial: Would they purchase their own liberation by surrendering Benjamin? After a most touching interview, in which they prove themselves worthy and faithful, Joseph declares himself unable any longer to withstand the appeal of natural affection. On this occasion Judah, who is the spokesman, shows the deepest regard to his aged father's feelings, and entreats for the liberation of Benjamin even at the price of his own liberty. In the whole of literature we know of nothing more simple, natural, true, and impressive; nor, while passages of this kind stand in the Pentateuch, can we even understand what is meant by terming that collection of writings "the Hebrew national epic," or regarding it as an aggregation of historical legends. If here we have not history, we can in no case be sure that history is before us (Genesis 44).
Most natural and impressive is the scene also which ensues, in which Joseph, after informing his brethren who he was, and inquiring, first of all, "Is my father alive?" expresses feelings free from the slightest taint of revenge, and even shows how, under divine Providence the conduct of his brothers had issued in good — "God sent me before you to preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Five years had yet to ensue in which "there would be neither earning nor harvest," and therefore the brethren were directed to return home and bring Jacob down to Egypt with all speed. "And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover, he kissed all his brethren and wept upon them; and after that his brethren talked with him" (Genesis 45:14-15).
The news of these striking events was carried to Pharaoh, who, being pleased at Joseph's conduct, gave directions that Jacob and his family should come forthwith into Egypt: "I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land; regard not your stuff, for the good of all the land is yours." The brethren departed, being well provided for: "And to his father Joseph sent ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn, and bread, and meat for his father by the way." The intelligence which they bore to their father was of such a nature that "Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not." When, however, he had recovered from the thus naturally told effects of his surprise, the venerable patriarch said, "Enough; Joseph, my son, is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die" (Genesis 45:26; Genesis 45:28). Accordingly Jacob and his family, to the number of threescore and ten souls, go down to Egypt, and by the express efforts of Joseph, are allowed to settle in the district of Goshen, where Joseph met his father: "And he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while." There Joseph "nourished his father and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families" (Genesis 47:12). B.C. 1874.
5. Joseph had now to pass through the mournful scenes which attend on the death and burial of a father (Genesis 1:1-21). B.C. 1856. Having had Jacob embalmed, and seen the rites of mourning fully observed, the faithful and affectionate son — leave being obtained of the monarch — proceeded into the land of Canaan, in order, agreeably to a promise which the patriarch had exacted (Genesis 47:29-31), to lay the old man's bones with those of his fathers, in "the field of Ephron the Hittite." Having performed with long and bitter mourning Jacob's funeral rites, Joseph returned into Egypt. The last recorded act of his life forms a most becoming close. After the death of their father, his brethren, unable, like all guilty people, to forget their criminality, and characteristically finding it difficult to think that Joseph had really forgiven them, grew afraid, now they were in his power, that he would take an opportunity of inflicting some punishment on them. They accordingly go into his presence, and in imploring terms and an abject manner entreat his forgiveness. "Fear not" this is his noble reply — "I will nourish you and your little ones."
6. By his Egyptian wife Asenath, daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis, Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 42:50 sq.), whom Jacob adopted (Genesis 48:5), and who accordingly took their place among the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Joseph'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/joseph.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.