Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Jacob in Egypt

On their way home with the grain they had bought, Joseph’s brothers found out that their money had been put in their sacks with the grain, and they wondered greatly. The food which they brought from Egypt was soon eaten up, for their family was a very large one. As the famine was still raging, they soon saw that they would be obliged to go to Egypt to get some more grain.

They did not dare appear before Joseph without Benjamin, so they begged their old father to let him go with them. Jacob would not let him go at first, but finally he yielded to the brothers' entreaties, and the little caravan again went down into Egypt.

Joseph looked with pleasure upon his little brother, who, of course, did not know him; and then, wishing to find out whether his elder brothers could now be trusted, he made up his mind to try them. By his order the travelers were feasted in his own palace, where he sent all the best dishes to Benjamin, and then the eleven brothers were sent away with full sacks of grain.

They had not gone very far before an Egyptian officer came riding up in haste, and accused them of stealing one of Joseph’s silver cups. Although they indignantly cried that they were not thieves, the officer searched their bags carefully, and found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, where it had been hidden by Joseph’s order.

The officer seized Benjamin to put him in prison, and the elder brothers went back with him to Joseph’s court. There they offered to remain in prison in Benjamin’s stead, if Joseph would only allow him to go back to Jacob, who, they said, would die of grief if his youngest son did not return.

Touched by their affection for their old father and young brother, and sure that they were sorry for the past, Joseph now made himself known to his brothers. He kissed Benjamin, shedding tears of joy, and freely forgave the ten others when they fell at his feet and begged his pardon. Then he let them go home, giving them many messages for Jacob, who was invited to come down into Egypt, with all his family, and stay there as long as the famine lasted.

When Jacob heard that Joseph was not dead, as he supposed, he was very happy indeed. Then, as God told him in a vision to go down into Egypt, and said that his descendants should be brought up again into the promised land, he set out with all his family.

By this time, Jacob had seventy-five sons and grandsons; for his children were all married and so were some of his grandchildren. The caravan soon reached Egypt, where Joseph tenderly welcomed his old father, and even presented him and five of his sons to the Egyptian king.

Pharaoh received the Israelites (as they were called from Jacob’s new name of Israel) very graciously indeed, and gave them the best pasture land in Egypt; and Joseph continued to supply them with all the grain they needed, as long as the famine lasted.

Here in Egypt were spent the last years of Jacob’s pilgrimage; for he, like all the patriarchs, said that he was but a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth. Jacob dwelt with his sons in peace and plenty, and he lived long enough to see his family increase greatly.

Feeling that his end was near, he finally called all his sons, gave them his blessing, and spoke a prophecy about what was to happen to their descendants, who, he said, would form twelve tribes bearing their names. Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, first received a special blessing, and then came the turn of the other sons.

As Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had been deprived of their birthright in punishment for their sins, Judah was selected to receive the chief blessing, and his father told him that the power should remain in the hands of his family until the prophecies came true.

Then, having bidden his sons bury him in the cave of Machpelah, where his ancestors lay, Jacob died when he was one hundred and forty-seven years old. Joseph had his father’s body embalmed, after the Egyptian fashion, and then, having obtained Pharaoh’s permission, he and his brothers carried it to Machpelah.

When they came back to Egypt, the brothers began to fear that Joseph would avenge himself for his injuries, now that his father was dead. Joseph soon perceived this fear; so he "comforted them, and spake kindly unto them," for he did not owe them a grudge for what they had done.

Joseph lived fifty-four years after his father’s death, and saw his children to the fourth generation. Before dying, he gave orders that his body should be embalmed, and carried back to the promised land when the Israelites went back there to live, as God had foretold.