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Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt


When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? 2I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. 5Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.

6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” 14But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! 15Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” 17And he put them all together in prison for three days.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. 21They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” 22Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. 25Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Canaan

26 They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. 27When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. 28He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30“The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land. 31But we said to him, ‘We are honest men, we are not spies. 32We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’ ”

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!” 37Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

9. And Joseph remembered the dreams. When the boy Joseph had spoken of receiving obeisance, the absurdity of the thing impelled his brethren wickedly to devise his death. Now, although they bow down to him without knowing him, there is yet nothing better for them. Indeed, their only means of safety, is to prostrate themselves at his feet, and to be received by him as suppliants. Meanwhile, their conspiracy, by which they attempted to subvert the celestial decree, lest they should have to bear the yoke, was rendered fruitless. So the Lord forcibly restrains the obstinate, just as wild and refractory horses are wont to be more severely treated, the more they kick and are restive. Wherefore, there is nothing better than meekly to compose the mind to gentleness, that each may take his own lot contentedly, though it be not very splendid. It may, however, seem absurd, that Joseph should, at this time, have recalled his dream to mind, as if it had been forgotten through the lapse of years; which, indeed, could not be, unless he had lost sight of the promises of God. I answer, nothing is here recorded but what frequently happens to ourselves: for although the word of God may be dwelling in our hearts, yet it does not continually occur to us, but rather is sometimes so smothered that it may seem to be extinct, especially when faith is oppressed by the darkness of affliction. Besides, it is nothing wonderful, if a long series of evils should have buried, in a kind of oblivion, his dreams which indicated prosperity. God had exalted him, by these dreams, to the hope of great and distinguished authority. He is, however, cast into a well not unlike a grave. He is taken hence to be sold as a slave; he is carried to a distant land; and, as if slavery would not prove sufficiently severe, he is shut up in prison. And though his misery is in some degree mitigated, when he is released from his iron fetters, yet there was little, if any, prospect of deliverance. I do not, however, think that the hope entertained by him was entirely destroyed, but that a cloud passed over it, which deprived him of the light of comfort. A different kind of temptation followed; because nothing is more common than for great and unexpected felicity to intoxicate its possessors. And thus it happened, as we have recently read, that a forgetfulness of his father’s house stole over the mind of the holy man. He was not, therefore, so mindful of his dreams as he ought to have been. Another excuse may probably be alleged; that he, at the moment, compared his dreams with the event. And truly it was no common virtue to apply what was passing, thus immediately for the confirmation of the Divine oracle. For we readily perceive, that those dreams which so quickly recur to the memory, had not been obliterated through length of time. So the disciples remembered the words of the Lord after he had risen from the dead; because, by the sight of the fact predicted, their knowledge became more clear; whereas, before, nothing but transient sparks of it had shined in their hearts.

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