The Story of Joseph and His Brothers
Now among all the twelve sons of Jacob, there were two whom the old man loved beyond the others, because they were the sons of his late wife, Rachel. Benjamin, the youngest, at whose birth Rachel had died, was still only a child; but Joseph, his elder brother, was a bright young man of seventeen, and Jacob could not help showing that Rachel’s first-born was more to him than any of his other sons. Indeed he showed his preference in an imprudent way, and one that cost them both dearly in the end, for he clothed Joseph in a long, sleeved tunic of rich materials. Now, in the East in those days this was the kind of dress worn by those whose lot it was to do no work, but to have others toil for them; and when his elder brothers saw Joseph going about clad like a young prince, while they wore the short, sleeveless tunics of men who have to work hard for their living, they hated him in their hearts, for he appeared to them as though he was destined to be their lord and master.
Neither did Joseph make it any easier for them to love him, for his mind was so full of his coming greatness that he dreamed about it, and told his dreams to his brothers and to his father. “Be¬hold,” he said once, “in my dream last night, we were binding sheaves in the harvest-field, and my sheaf rose and stood upright, and your sheaves stood roundabout and bowed before my sheaf.” And his brothers saw plainly what the dream meant, and they said in scorn, “So you are to be our master?” and they hated him yet more in their hearts. Then in his boyish pride, he told another dream. “Behold,” he said, “I dreamed once more, and look the sun, and the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down before me.” Now this was yet plainer than the first dream, for the sun ought to be seen as his father, Jacob, and the moon his step-mother, Leah, and the eleven stars his eleven brethren. So even Jacob had to reprove Joseph for his pride; yet in his heart he believed all the same that his son’s dream would come true.
Now as the season drew on, Jacob’s flocks had to change pasturage, and the ten elder brothers went with them, north from Hebron to Shechem, almost fifty miles away. After a time Jacob wished to hear how his sons and their flocks were faring; so he sent Joseph as his messenger, and the boy, proud, no doubt, of his first free journey, trudged the long miles along the mountain ridge to Shechem, only to find that his brothers had gone about fifteen miles farther north to Dothan. So he went on, another day’s march, and found them at last near Dothan.
Now when they saw the slim young figure coming down the hillside towards them, and recognised the long robe, the hated sign of favour, which he wore, all their evil thoughts rose up anew in their hearts, and they said, “Look, here comes this Lord of Dreams. Let us kill him and bury him in a pit; and we can say to his father, ‘A wild beast devoured him,’ and that will be an end of him and his dreams.” Nevertheless, his brethren were not all so cruel-hearted. Reuben, the eldest, would not agree to kill him; yet neither was he bold enough to resist their evil intent altogether. “Let us throw him, “he said, “into this dry cistern here beside us, so that we may not have to shed his blood.” He meant to return and rescue Joseph when the others had gone on, but in this, as you shall hear, he was foiled. So they stripped Joseph of the fine robe that had cost him so dear, for they had a wicked use for it; and these hard men lowered him into the dry cistern, and they sat down beside it and ate their mid-day meal. But Reuben could not eat with his brother’s cries in his ears, so he made an errand to the fold, with the intent to return after the others had gone.
But, before they were ready to move forward with the flocks, they saw in the distance a band of travellers. As they drew near they proved to be Ishmaelites, merchants from Gilead on the eastern side of Jordan, journeying down the trade road to Egypt with sweet-smelling gums and spices. And when Judah saw them another evil thought sprang up in his mind. “Why,” said he, “should we slay our brother and make nothing by it, when we can sell him to these strangers and make money by him?” So they all agreed, and the merchants were ready enough to buy a strong, well-built young man, as a slave. Joseph was drawn up out of the cistern and sold for twenty pieces of silver; and the caravan moved off down the long road to Egypt, mile after mile of the very same road that Joseph had trodden a few days before, until at last they turned westwards to the desert track that leads by the sea-coast, and the poor boy got his last look at the hills of home. Indeed, it seemed as though an end had come to his dreams; but God meant otherwise.
Meanwhile, when Reuben came back and found that his brother was gone, and that his good intentions had been foiled, he was in despair, for he knew not how to face his aged father; but his harder brethren formed a cruel plan. They slaughtered one of their flock. Then they took that unlucky robe of Joseph’s and dipped it in the blood, and when they came home, they showed their father the blood-stained garment, and asked him glibly if this were his son’s coat or not. Poor Jacob knew it only too well, and believed just what his hardhearted sons wished him to believe. “It is my son’s coat,” he said. “A wild beast has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.” Then in sign of mourning he tore his own robes, and clad himself in coarse, dark cloth, and lamented bitterly. When his sons, somewhat hypocritically appeared to comfort him, he always replied with the same answer, “I will go down into the grave mourning for my son.”
But while Jacob wept, and his sons gloated over the success of their plot, Joseph had passed the desert and entered the wonderful land where all his dreams were to come true. The merchants’ caravan came to the great city of Avaris, where the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, held his court, and there in the slave-market Joseph was sold to a great lord of Egypt named Potiphar, captain of the royal body-guard.
It so happened that when Joseph was sold to Potiphar, the King of Egypt and all the chief men of the state and the army were not native Egyptians by blood, but were of the same family of nations to which the Hebrews belonged. Their race had conquered Egypt long before, and they ruled over the land for many years, though now their rule was drawing near its close. It is likely, therefore, that Joseph all the more readily found favour in his master’s sight, because he came of the same stock as himself. But, besides that, the young slave had a way of winning people’s hearts. He was handsome, and clever, and willing; and before long Potiphar made him, young as he was, steward of his household, and he did his work so well that everything prospered with him.
But it transpired that his master’s wife, in the wickedness of her heart, tried to seduce Joseph; and when he refused to listen to her, she slandered him to her husband, and accused him of the very act of disloyalty which he had refused to commit. So once again Joseph’s good fortune seemed to have deserted him, for his master believed the accusation and threw him into prison. Yet even there God took care of him, and his own strength of character helped him keep up his spirit; for the chief gaoler soon found that no one was so useful to him as this young Hebrew prisoner, and before long Joseph was managing the prison, as he had managed Potiphar’s house.
After a time two new prisoners were brought into the prison, and these were prisoners of state. They were the chief butler and baker of the royal court — no common servants, but great barons of the realm, who held two of the most important offices of state; for in their hands every day lay the life of the Pharaoh, since they tasted all food and wine that was set before His Majesty, lest their master should be poisoned by evil men. In some fashion they had displeased their king, and in his anger he had cast them into prison.
It is well documented what importance was attached to dreams in those days. They were believed to be sent by God, that from them the future might be discerned, and so people were very studious to know what each dream might mean. So one morning, when Joseph came in, as was practice, to attend to the two new prisoners, he saw that both looked sad and anxious; and when he asked the reason of their sadness, they answered that they had each dreamed a dream, and each was puzzled as to the meaning of his dream. “Truly,” said Joseph, “only God can tell the meaning of dreams; yet tell me what you have dreamed.”
Then the chief butler spoke. “In my dream,” he said, “I saw a vine with three branches, and, even as I looked on it, behold, it budded and blossomed, and the grapes set, and grew, and ripened. And His Majesty’s cup was in my hand, and I squeezed the grapes into it, and gave the cup of grape juice into His Majesty’s hand.” And Joseph answered: “This is the meaning of your dream: the three branches are three days; and in three days Pharaoh will restore you to your place and your honours, and you shall wait on him and give him the wine cup as you were wont to do before. But when that happens, remember me, my lord, and speak for me to the King, that I may be released from this prison. For indeed, I was stolen away from Palestine, and, though I am here in prison, I have done no wrong.”
Now when the other great lord, the chief baker, heard how well his comrade had done with the interpretation of his dream, he also plucked up heart, and said: “In my dream, I had three bas¬kets on my head, and the uppermost one was filled with all kinds of dainties for the King’s table. And, behold, the birds came and ate them all out of the basket on my head.” Joseph turned his face away, and spoke slowly and reluctantly. For this was what he had to say: “Again the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh shall cause you to be hanged, and the birds shall eat your flesh from off your bones.”
Just as Joseph had said, so everything occurred. For in three days the King’s birthday came round, and there was a great feast in the palace. Then, as he feasted, the King remembered his two courtiers in the prison. On the chief butler he had compassion, and gave him back his place again, so that he gave the cup into the royal hand as of old. But the chief baker found no mercy; he was hanged, even as Joseph had forewarned him. Nevertheless, in his joy at getting his honours back again, the chief butler forgot all about the young Hebrew who had foretold his good fortune, and Joseph was still left in prison.
For two years more he lay there. Indeed, what between his service in Potiphar’s house and the time of his imprisonment, he had now come to be a man in the prime and strength of life. And then it so happened that one night the King also dreamed a dream. In his dream he stood by the great river Nile, which made Egypt in the beginning, and keeps it ever fruitful. And, as he looked down the bank, seven cattle, sleek and fat, came up out of the stream to graze in a meadow. Then the King looked again, and seven other cattle came up the bank, as the first seven had done; but these were lean and starved. They came beside the others, and even while Pharaoh was looking at them, the seven starved beasts devoured the seven well-fed ones. Yet none could tell that they were fatter for what they had eaten, so lean and hungry they still appeared. So the King awoke, and the dream passed.
Then Pharaoh slept, and dreamed again. This time he stood in a corn-field, and, before his eyes, seven fine, well-filled ears of corn sprang up from one stalk; and while he watched them, seven thin and blasted ears sprang up beside the well-filled ones, and swallowed them up. And once more the King awoke and the dream passed. But these things troubled his mind. He was sure they meant something which he ought to know; but though he called all his prudent counsellors and his wizards, not one of them could tell him what the two dreams might mean.
Now, when the chief butler saw them all befeft of any light on the meaning of the dreams, the thought of Joseph and the prison flashed across his mind. He came and bowed before the King, and told him how two years before, when he and his comrade, the chief baker, lay in prison, a young Hebrew prisoner had interpreted their dreams to them, and how to each man it had happened according to this Hebrew’s reading of the future.
Then the King sent his guards to bring Joseph to him speedily; and when he had been shaved and dressed in appropriate garments (for the Egyptians were scrupulous above all other peoples about cleanliness), he came and bowed himself before the royal throne. Then said the Pharaoh, “I have dreamed a dream, and none can tell me its meaning; but it is told me that you are wise to interpret dreams.” And Joseph answered humbly, “It is not in me that the wisdom lies; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace!”
So the King repeated to Joseph his dreams of the cattle and the ears of corn; and when Joseph had heard them, he answered in this fashion: “His Majesty’s dreams both mean the same thing. God has shown to His Majesty beforehand what he is going to do. The seven fat cattle and the seven full ears of corn mean that God is going to give to this land seven years of plentiful harvests. And the seven lean cattle and the seven blasted ears mean that after the years of plenty there shall come seven years of famine. So great shall be the scarcity that all the stores laid by from the seven plentiful years shall be eaten up, and no one shall remember the time of plenty because of the time of famine. As for the reason why the dream came in two forms, it is because God meant His Majesty to be very sure that all this will come, and that speedily. Now, therefore, let His Majesty choose a wise man to order the affairs of the land, and let him have officers under him who shall collect each year, in the time of plenty, one-fifth part of the harvest and lay it up in store, so that when the years of famine come there shall still be corn to eat, and the land shall not perish.”
Now when Pharaoh and his wise men heard this, they marvelled at the wisdom of the young Hebrew, and they approved all that he said. Moreover the King looked round upon his counsellors and said, “Where can we find so fit a man as this young man to whom God has given His own spirit of wisdom?” Then he turned to Joseph and said, “Since God has shown you all this and made you so wise, you and none other shall rule my household and all my people; only I myself, when I speak as king, shall greater than you.” “See,” he said, “I have set you over all the land of Egypt,” and, saying this, he took off his royal signet-ring and put it upon Joseph’s hand, that he might seal all orders with the royal authority. Then he caused him to be dressed in robes of fine, white linen, with a golden collar about his neck. The second chariot of state was given him to ride in, and the footmen who ran before the chariot cried, as he came, “Abrech!” —”Great Lord!” ― so that all the people bowed to the ground as he passed.
Then the Pharaoh gave Joseph a new Egyptian name. “Zaphnathpaaneah” he called him, which means “God spake, and he came into life “for he felt that Joseph was God’s gift to Egypt. Moreover, he found him a wife of the greatest in the land, even Asenath, the daughter of the high priest of the sun-god at the great, sacred city of On, which the Greeks call Heliopolis, the City of the Sun.
So Joseph became viceroy of Egypt, and all was done in the land according to his commandment. The seven plentiful years came, and the land brought forth great harvests, and of each year’s harvest one-fifth part was laid up in great store-houses nearby each city and town, so that the whole country was filled with stores against the days of famine.
And in these happy years of plenty, there were born two sons to Joseph and Asenath, his wife. The first he named Manasseh, which means “Forgetting,” for he said, “God has made me forget all my misfortunes and my father’s house;” but in his heart he could not forget them all the same. When the second baby was born, he named him ” Ephraim,” “Fruitful”; because God had so enriched his life in Egypt.
So the dreams of Joseph began to come true, after all, for his sheaf of corn was set upright and his star was high in the heavens. And now the time was coming when the rest of the dreams were to be fulfilled also, when his brethren’s sheaves and his brethren’s stars were to bow before his.
Now when seven years had come and gone, there came first one bad harvest, and then another, till all the people of Egypt saw that the famine which Joseph had foreseen was upon them; nor they only, for in all the lands around the people were starving. But now the great store-houses that Joseph’s foresight had created and filled were opened, and the corn was served out to the hungry people, so that, while all other countries were in sore need, there was still sufficiency in Egypt. Away in Palestine, Jacob and his sons were in dire straits, and at last one day the old man said to them: “What is the use of sitting here looking at one another till we die? People say there is corn in Egypt: go down there, and see if you cannot buy enough to keep us alive.”
So the ten elder brothers travelled with their sacks and their money down the same desert track along which Joseph had gone so many years before, and at last they came to Egypt. Because they were foreigners, they were not served with corn at once, as were the native Egyptians, but were brought before the viceroy, that he might deal with their request. Then they came and bowed to the ground before the great man whom they had last seen as a weeping boy, bound on the pack-saddle of an Ishmaelite camel, but of that they had no thought, nor did they remember a dream of sheaves bowing before another sheaf, or of stars doing homage to another star. But the years had not brought such change to the grown men as to their younger brother, and Joseph knew his brothers at once, and, as they bowed before him, he remembered his boyish dreams and saw them all come true. Nevertheless, there was no malice in his heart towards them, but only kindness; yet he wished to prove them, and to see if they were still the same jealous men whom he had known as a boy.
Therefore, he spoke sharply to them and accused them of being spies; and when they denied it, and said that they were all brothers, and had one brother still left in Canaan, he said: “By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place till I have tested your word. You shall send one of your number to bring your brother from Canaan, and meanwhile the rest of you shall abide here in prison.” For in his heart he longed to see Benjamin once more, and took this plan to bring him down to Egypt. So he shut them up in prison for three days; but on the third day he called them all to him, and said: “I will make it easier for you, because I fear God. You shall go home with the corn you need. Only one of you shall stay here in prison till you come back again with your youngest brother, and so prove your words.”
Now, when they saw all this trouble come upon them so suddenly, conscience awoke, and they reproached themselves. “This has come to us,” they said, “because we were so cruel to our brother Joseph, and would not listen to his prayer for mercy.” And Reuben said: “Did I not tell you not to sin against the child? Yet you would not listen; so now his blood is required of you.” All this Joseph heard as he stood by; but they did not know that he understood their speech, for he had spoken to them in Egyptian, and his words had been translated by an interpreter. And when he heard it, Joseph’s heart was full of emotion, and he had to leave their presence. He chose his elder brother Simeon to stay in prison, and sent the rest away. Their sacks were filled with corn, and he had secretly given orders that their money should be put back again, along with the corn, into the mouths of the sacks.
So the brothers went on their way; but when they came to their first resting-place, and one of them opened a sack to feed his ass, there was his money at the top of the sack’s mouth. Then they were all perplexed and anxious as to what this might mean. However, they went back to Jacob, and told him all that had happened to them, and how Simeon had been left as a pledge for the coming of Benjamin, and how the money of one of them had been put back into his sack. But when they opened the rest of the sacks, it was the same with them all. Then Jacob was greatly afraid. “This has been an unlucky journey,” he said. ” Joseph is long since dead, and now Simeon is as good as dead, and you want to take Benjamin from me.” And even though Reuben offered to leave his own two sons as a pledge for the return of Benjamin, the old man would not listen to him.
Yet still the famine grew worse, and Jacob had to face the matter once more. For when he asked his sons to go into Egypt again for corn, Judah replied that they dare not go without Benjamin. He himself, he said, would answer for Benjamin’s safety; but without him, he would not go. Only by Jacob’s advice they carried a special present for the viceroy and double money with them, in case the return of the money on their last journey should have been a mistake. And in due time they came to Egypt, and were brought before Joseph.
Now when Joseph saw Benjamin, he knew that his brothers had been true to their word, and he longed to be kind to them. Only in the joy of his heart, he would have it all come about in his own way, and at his own time, and in such fashion as to take them unaware. So he summoned them all to dine with him in his great house; but when these country-bred strangers were brought into such a house, they were terrified, and thought that the viceroy meant to make slaves of them. Therefore they spoke to Joseph’s house-steward, and told him all about the money, and how they had brought double money to pay all the debt. Then he, knowing what was in his master’s mind, spoke comfortably to them, and brought Simeon back to them out of the prison; and at last they came to Joseph’s dining-hall, and gave him, bowing low, the present they had brought.
Then Joseph asked after the welfare of the old man, their father, and seeing Benjamin, he said, “Is this the younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And turning to Benjamin, he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” But he could say no more, and had to take himself to another room to weep in secret. When he had mastered his feelings, he came back, and the brothers all dined before him; but he dined at a separate table, because, being, as they believed, an Egyptian, he could not eat beside a Hebrew without being defiled. Then, as they sat at meat, Joseph, as a special mark of grace, sent food from his own table to them all; but, even so, he could not help but show his greater love to his own full brother, Benjamin, for he sent to him five times as much as to the others. Thus they all feasted and forgot their fears.
Now Joseph had given secret orders to his house-steward that when his brethren were ready to return home, he should, as before, put back their money in their sacks of corn; but in Benjamin’s sack, along with his money, he was to put Joseph’s great drinking cup of silver. So when the dawn came and the new day, they set out on their long march northwards. Then Joseph called his steward. “Up,” he said, “and follow them; and when you have overtaken them, say: ‘Why have you returned evil for good by stealing my lord’s cup, withy which he consults the oracles of God? You have done evil in doing this.”‘ So the steward and his men pursued and overtook them, and spoke roughly to them, even as Joseph had given him command. Then the eleven brethren were filled with amazement; yet they denied the theft, and called the steward to witness how they had brought back again the money that was put into their sacks before. Moreover, they pledged themselves that if one of them should be found to have stolen the cup, he should die, and the rest should be Joseph’s bond-slaves. And to this the steward agreed; but when the sacks were unloaded and opened, there at the top of Benjamin’s sack was found the cup.
Then in sorrow and fear they rent their clothes and went back with the steward to Avaris, and fell on the ground before their brother, And Joseph said unto them: “What is this that you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I could know your crime by art magic?” Then Judah answered: “We have no defence. This is the finger of God. We are all thy slaves.” But Joseph said, “Not so—only the thief shall be my servant, and the rest of you can go in peace to your father.” Then Judah pleaded with him. “O my lord,” he said, “be not angry with me, lest we be consumed; for you are in the King’s place. You know how all this has come about—how you asked if we had another brother, and we told you of this Benjamin and you said that he must come with us or we should not see your face again. Then, when we told our father, he would scarce be persuaded to let Benjamin come with us, lest he should perish as Joseph, his brother, perished; for surely his death would break our father’s heart. O my lord, how can I go back and tell my father that the boy is not with us? It will kill him with sorrow! And I pledged myself to my father to bring his son back to him! Let me stay as a slave with you, my lord, and let the boy go; for I cannot bear to return without him, and see the breaking of my father’s heart!”
Now, when Joseph heard that pleading, which showed so plainly the better frame of mind that had finally come to his brothers, he could command himself no longer. “Out from me, every man!” he called to his guards and attendants. Then with loud weeping, so that even the servants in the house could hear his sobs, he said: “I am Joseph. Does my father yet live?” But, between astonishment and fear, his brothers could not answer him; so he said yet again, “Come near to me, please.” And when they came near, trembling, he said: “I am Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But do not be grieved about what you did, for it was God’s will that sent me here before you to preserve life. For we have had two years of famine already, and still there are five more years to come; so it was undoubtedly God who sent me here to save you, and has given me favour in the sight of Pharaoh, and made me ruler of the land. Hasten, therefore, back to Canaan, and tell my father all that you have seen and all my glory here; and say to him that I wish him to come down to Egypt with all that he has, and I will provide for him, and for you, and for all your households.”
When he had said all this, he fell upon Benjamin’s neck and kissed him, and then he embraced all his brethren; and they all wept together, for such gladness of heart. In truth, so great was their joy that the fame of it came to the ears of the great King himself, even Pharaoh, and he and all his court were filled with joy because of the joy of Joseph. So the King commanded Joseph to give orders to his brethren to return at once to Canaan and to bring back their father, and all their families to Egypt that he himself might provide for their well-being in his land. Wagons were given to them to bring back their households, and provisions also for the journey. Moreover Joseph gave to each of his brethren new clothing; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing. And to his father he sent as a gift ten asses laden with all the dainties that Egypt could produce, and ten she-asses laden with corn and bread and food for the journey.
So at last they were all ready, and passed the desert once more, and came to Jacob with the wonderful news—” Joseph is still alive, and is governor over all the land of Egypt!” But the old man, little wonder, would not believe them. Yet, in the end, when they had given him all Joseph’s loving messages, and he had gone out and seen the long train of Egyptian wagons waiting to carry him and his down to Egypt, the truth began to dawn upon him, and he plucked up heart and said: “It is enough. Joseph, my son, is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” In due time, there¬fore, Jacob and his sons and all that they had made their journey into Egypt. Joseph was very excited when he heard that they were drawing near. He mounted his chariot and drove in haste to the eastern frontier to meet them, and when the aged father and the son whom he had deemed dead for so long met at last, they fell in one another’s arms and wept for a time without speaking a word. Then Jacob drew back, and looked upon his son, and said only this, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, because you are alive still.”
So Joseph drove on before the slow-moving wagons to tell Pharaoh of the coming of his father and his brethren; and because they were shepherds, he arranged that they should dwell near the eastern border of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, lest the native Egyptians should trouble them. For the desert chiefs who had conquered Egypt and who now ruled over it were, at the first, shepherd chiefs even as Jacob himself was, and, therefore, the Egyptians of native blood hated the very name of shepherd. But for that same reason, Jacob and his sons were all the more pleasing in the eyes of Pharaoh, since they were of the same stock and calling as his own ancestors.
Then Joseph brought five of his brethren, and gave them audience of his royal master, and it pleased Pharaoh to be gracious to them, and to confirm to them grant of the land of Goshen. Last of all, in the joy of his heart, Joseph brought his aged father before the King. When Jacob came into the royal presence-chamber, the old man lifted his wrinkled hands and blessed the King; and Pharaoh was well pleased, for in those days even royalty reverenced old age, and thought it no shame to be blessed by an old man, however humble he might be. So Pharaoh asked Jacob his age; and the old man answered, “My age is one hundred and thirty years. Few and hard have been those years of my life, and they do not compare with the years that my ancestors lived as wayfarers. Then once more Jacob blessed His Majesty, and went forth from the royal presence.
So Joseph gave to his father and his brothers of the best of the land of Egypt in Goshen, even as the King commanded, and they and all that they had settled down in their new home in peace and quietness, under the shield of their brother’s strong arm. The five remaining years of famine passed slowly and wearily away; and though the people of Egypt were in sore straits before the drought ended, yet Joseph’s foresight prevailed, and at last the good years came back again. For twelve years more Jacob lived with his sons in Goshen, and saw and heard the wonder of Joseph’s power and wisdom.
Then came the time when the old man knew that his days were numbered. A hundred and forty-seven years he had lived; and now he must face a longer journey than any that he had made. He called the son of his pride to him, and Joseph came. “Swear to me,” the old man said, that you will not bury me here in this strange land. Carry me up out of Egypt; and lay me beside my own at Hebron.” And Joseph swore to fulfill his father’s wish. After this he brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, that they might get a blessing from the aged saint. When the boys were led in, the old man gathered his last strength and raised his weary frame in the bed. Quietly he talked for a while of the days and the loves of the past. Then he looked at his grandsons with his dim old eyes (did he remember another day when two sons craved a blessing from their blind father?) and said, “Praise to God, my son; I never thought to see your face again; but the Lord has shown me also your children.” So he blessed them, and the wondering boys were led out again#
# Manasseh and Ephraim, but not quite in the way Joseph had expected. Instead of placing his right-hand on the head of Manasseh, the older son, Jacob crossed his arms in a prophetic gesture to give the greater blessing to the younger son, Ephraim.
After them came all his sons, and them, too, he blessed, foretelling to each, with wondrous insight, the lot that should lie before him. One more charge he laid upon them all—to bury him, as Joseph had sworn already, in the cave at Machpelah, where his kindred lay. And so he died.
A mighty mourning was made in Egypt for the ancient chief—even as though he had been a prince of the land. For seventy days they mourned him as he lay embalmed in his painted coffin. Then Joseph and his brethren craved leave of Pharaoh; and together they took their way with the funeral train across the desert and up through the southland, until they came to Mamre. There in the cave of Machpelah they laid him with his own; and they themselves came back to Egypt.
Now when their father was gone, fear fell on the brethren once more, lest Joseph should even yet take vengeance upon them for the past. Together they came and bowed themselves before him, pleading for forgiveness in the name of their dead father. It was a new wound to Joseph that they had so little understanding of his heart, and so little trust in his love; but he comforted and reassured them, and assured them they need fear no evil.
Many years longer Joseph dwelt in Egypt in peace and honour, even till he had reached the number of years that the Egyptians counted the years of a perfect life, and was a hundred and ten years old. Before he died, his great-grandchildren had sat upon his knees and played around his feet. In his old age he called his kindred to him, as Jacob had called him. “I am dying,” he said to them, “but remember, God will visit you and bring you out of this land to the land which He promised to our fathers. Swear to me that when that time comes, you, or your children after you, will carry up my bones from here and lay them by the bones of our forebears.”
So Joseph died, a hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt—to wait the time.