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the famine. How differently the people must have felt then! They ploughed and sowed, but little fruit rewarded their labour-the hot sun, or scorching winds, or pestilence, had ruined their crops. They had depended upon the ancient river Nile; and that fine broad old stream had perhaps overflowed its banks very sparingly, yielding them very little water or mud to make their fields fertile. The scarcity was felt in other places. In most of the countries round about, and in Canaan also, where JACOB still lived, there had been little rain, so that their land also was barren.
Then was the time for Joseph to open his granaries; which he accordingly did. The people began to famish, and in their hunger they cried to Pharaoh for bread. The king sent them all to Joseph; and he, on his part, sold them corn from his wonderful stores. When the people had spent all their money, they sold their cattle, and even themselves, and their lands, to Pharaoh. Thus in time nearly the whole length and breadth of the land became Pharaoh's property.
L. What a rich king he must have been, papa! He had to thank Joseph for his riches.
P. Yes; and he gained riches not only from the people of his own kingdom, but from the distressed foreigners who had not heard beforehand of the famine, and had no store of corn. Strange foreigners were seen in the different cities—many, perhaps, from far places;—and, when they came to the officers of the granaries, they were told that if they wanted to buy corn they must first obtain permission from the great officer, the governor of the land, whose name was Zaphnathpaaneah. Accordingly Zaphnath-paaneah also saw many strange faces. One day he was particularly surprised; there were ten men, brethren, who had come from the land of Canaan, bringing with them, as the other foreigners had done, sacks to fill with corn, asses to carry the sacks, and money to pay for all. According to the instructions they received on arrival, they went to the house of the great "Zaphnathpaaneah, the governor of the land," and coming into his presence they bowed themselves down to him, and told him what they had come for. Then, as I told you, was Zaphnath-paaneah (or Joseph, as we call him) surprised; and well he might be, for he perceived at once that the humble strangers bowing before him were his brethren-who were quite ignorant as to whom they were bowing down.
W. And thus they were fulfilling Joseph's dream. I wonder they did not think about that!
P. They would not easily suppose that the great man before whom they stood, was their younger brother. He was now nearly forty years old, for twenty-two years had passed away since they had sold him for a slave. Joseph also took care to hide from them the fact that he knew their language, and he only spoke to them through an interpreter. He noticed that one of them, his own brother Benjamin, was wanting; and perhaps he began to think that they had been jealous toward him also, and had killed him. He therefore determined to find out this point, if he could, without asking them.
L. If he had asked how Benjamin was, they would have seen that he knew them.
P. They might have thought so. And perhaps Joseph thought, "If you have killed my younger brother Benjamin, I will punish you!" Therefore, because he wished to question them, he acted like a stranger, and spake to them roughly-"Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come." Such an accusation was one which would much frighten them, for they might be found guilty whether they were spies or not; then, they would certainly be put to death. They, therefore, exclaimed very loudly that they were indeed innocent. "And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: hereby ye shall be proved: by the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely ye are spies. And he put them all together into ward three days. And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: if ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison; go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: but bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.
"Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way. And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence."
THE SECOND JOURNEY OF JOSEPH'S BRETHREN TO
"And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds.
Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 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.
"And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph."-GEN. xliii. 11, 13-15.
LET us think about Joseph's brethren returning home. They were glad they were going home. How relieved they felt! and they felt more relieved the further they went from Egypt! "We are rather fortunate," they perhaps thought. "That Zaphnath-paaneah was certainly very angry! he might have killed us; but why should he have thought that we were not honest men?" And then, they would remember their brother Simeon; and it would be a rather troublesome thought that they would have to go all the way back again with Benjamin before Simeon could be released. Nevertheless they travelled happily towards home, for they were glad to see the heavy sacks of corn on their asses, and to think, "We shall all have plenty to eat!"
But before they reached Canaan another circumstance occurred to discomfort them. As they stopped at the inn, one of them opened his sack, intending to give his ass some food. He had expected to see only corn, but as he put in his hand he felt something which was much harder. He opened the mouth more widely, and looked. How startled was he to find that there lay before him the very money which he had brought with him! Now, Joseph had, no doubt, caused his money to be returned, from a feeling of kindness to him, for he had thought to himself,
"I will not take the money from my own brethren." If this brother of Joseph had been a kind-hearted man, he would perhaps have seen that the money had been returned for kindness' sake, although he might not know why.
W. I wonder, papa, how he did feel?
P. He felt as men who are not very good do often feel-he felt afraid! He called his brethren to come and see, and they also were afraid. Their hearts failed them, and they said one to another, "What is this that God hath done to us?" Their fears were afterwards much increased; for, when they reached home, and had told the history of their journey to their father, each man went to open his sack, and empty it—and lo! as each looked in, he also was afraid-every man's bundle of money was in his sack! Now they were all frightened!
W. Yes; they would think, What shall we say to the great man when we go again to Egypt? He will say that we have stolen this money.
P. Another difficulty also arose. Jacob refused to part with Benjamin, or to let him go down to Egypt. His answer was, "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me. My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."
Thus matters remained for some time, until all the corn was again consumed. Jacob then found that his sons would not go to Egypt without Benjamin, so that he was obliged to part with him. Judah, to comfort him, engaged to be surety, saying, "If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever."
They then departed. On their arrival in Egypt, they proceeded to the place where the corn was sold, to show their brother Benjamin to Joseph, and thus to prove that they were true men." Joseph soon perceived his favourite brother, and being pleased, he told his steward to slay and make ready, as he intended them to dine with him. This he did, and brought the men to Joseph's house; but they, instead of feeling gratified, were only the more afraid. "O Sir," they said, as they reached the door, "we came, indeed, down, at the first time, to buy food: and it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks. And he said,
Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them. And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender."
This was very polite treatment on the steward's part; and they were no doubt very much surprised. Perhaps they would wonder at the large and beautiful house they were in, and would say to one another, What could make this rich Egyptian take so much notice of us? We are only humble Canaanites!
L. Or they might think that now he was sorry for having called them spies; and was going to be very kind, to make up for it.
P. I dare say that, as they waited for Joseph, they wondered together very much; and their wonder would increase when they heard that they were to eat bread with him! No doubt they felt very grateful; for, when Joseph came home, they offered him presents of honey, spices, myrrh, nuts, and almonds, which they had brought with them, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. Joseph, in his turn, was very gracious to them; and asked particularly concerning their father-"The old man of whom ye spake, is he yet alive?" After they had again bowed their heads, and made obeisance, and answered his question, Joseph took notice of Benjamin. How they must have wondered to see the great man take notice of Benjamin! How affectionately he spoke, saying to him, "God be gracious unto thee, my son!" His voice even trembled, and they noticed that he suddenly left them-he had gone into his chamber to weep.
On the return of Joseph, when they sat down to eat, they were even more surprised than ever. The great Egyptian seemed to know their exact ages, for he had arranged their seats in the proper order, placing the eldest first, the next eldest second, and so on to the youngest. It seemed to them very strange, for some of them were almost of the same age. Who could have told him what their ages were? They again noticed how kind he was to Benjamin, for he had set before him five times the quantity of food which was given to them. With such kindness, they soon felt themselves at home, and they ate, and drank, and made merry. The next day they left their kind guest, and with heavily laden sacks departed homeward once more.
So far, all was good. Oh, now theirs was a pleasant journey home! All were in good spirits, and they went on together cheerfully. They