JOSEPH--THE FAVORITE SON--JOSEPH HATED BY HIS BRETHREN--JOSEPH CAST INTO THE PIT--THE SALE--JOSEPH'S THREE MASTERS--JOSEPH'S COAT BROUGHT TO HIS FATHER--JUDAH AND HIS SONS--THE WIVES OF THE SONS OF JACOB--JOSEPH THE SLAVE OF POTIPHAR--JOSEPH AND ZULEIKA--JOSEPH RESISTS TEMPTATION--JOSEPH IN PRISON--PHARAOH'S DREAMS--JOSEPH BEFORE PHARAOH--THE RULER OF EGYPT--JOSEPH'S BRETHREN IN EGYPT--JOSEPH MEETS HIS BRETHREN--THE SECOND JOURNEY TO EGYPT--JOSEPH AND BENJAMIN--THE THIEF CAUGHT--JUDAH PLEADS AND THREATENS--JOSEPH MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN--JACOB RECEIVES THE GLAD TIDINGS--JACOB ARRIVES IN EGYPT--JOSEPH'S KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY--JACOB'S LAST WISH--THE BLESSING OF EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH--THE BLESSING OF THE TWELVE TRIBES--THE DEATH OF JACOB--THE SONS OF JACOB AT WAR WITH THE SONS OF ESAU--ZEPHO KING OF KITTIM--THE NATIONS AT WAR--JOSEPH'S MAGNANIMITY--ASENATH--THE MARRIAGE OF JOSEPH--KIND AND UNKIND BRETHREN--TREACHERY PUNISHED--THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF JOSEPH
JOSEPH--THE FAVORITE SON
Jacob was not exempt from the lot that falls to the share of all the pious. Whenever they expect to enjoy life in tranquillity, Satan hinders them. He appears before God, and says: "Is it not enough that the future world is set apart for the pious? What right have they to enjoy this world, besides?" After the many hardships and conflicts that had beset the path of Jacob, he thought he would be at rest at last, and then came the loss of Joseph and inflicted the keenest suffering. Verily, few and evil had been the days of the years of Jacob's pilgrimage, for the time spent outside of the Holy Land had seemed joyless to him. Only the portion of his life passed in the land of his fathers, during which he was occupied with making proselytes, in accordance with the example set him by Abraham and Isaac, did he consider worth while having lived, and this happy time was of short duration. When Joseph was snatched away, but eight years had elapsed since his return to his father's house.
And yet it was only for the sake of Joseph that Jacob had been willing to undergo all the troubles and the adversity connected with his sojourn in the house of Laban. Indeed, Jacob's blessing in having his quiver full of children was due to the merits of Joseph, and likewise the dividing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan for the Israelites was the reward for his son's piety. For among the sons of Jacob Joseph was the one that resembled his father most closely in appearance, and, also, he was the one to whom Jacob transmitted the instruction and knowledge he had received from his teachers Shem and Eber. The whole course of the son's life is but a repetition of the father's. As the mother of Jacob remained childless for a long time after her marriage, so also the mother of Joseph. As Rebekah had undergone severe suffering in giving birth to Jacob, so Rachel in giving birth to Joseph. As Jacob's mother bore two sons, so also Joseph's mother. Like Jacob, Joseph was born circumcised. As the father was a shepherd, so the son. As the father served for the sake of a woman, so the son served under a woman. Like the father, the son appropriated his older brother's birthright. The father was hated by his brother, and the son was hated by his brethren. The father was the favorite son as compared with his brother, so was the son as compared with his brethren. Both the father and the son lived in the land of the stranger. The father became a servant to a master, also the son. The master whom the father served was blessed by God, so was the master whom the son served. The father and the son were both accompanied by angels, and both married their wives outside of the Holy Land. The father and the son were both blessed with wealth. Great things were announced to the father in a dream, so also to the son. As the father went to Egypt and put an end to famine, so the son. As the father exacted the promise from his sons to bury him in the Holy Land, so also the son. The father died in Egypt, there died also the son. The body of the father was embalmed, also the body of the son. As the father's remains were carried to the Holy Land for interment, so also the remains of the son. Jacob the father provided for the sustenance of his son Joseph during a period of seventeen years, so Joseph the son provided for his father Jacob during a period of seventeen years.
Until he was seventeen years old, Joseph frequented the Bet ha-Midrash, and he became so learned that he could impart to his brethren the Halakot he had heard from his father, and in this way he may be regarded as their teacher. He did not stop at formal instruction, he also tried to give them good counsel, and he became the favorite of the sons of the handmaids, who would kiss and embrace him.
In spite of his scholarship there was something boyish about Joseph. He painted his eyes, dressed his hair carefully, and walked with a mincing step. These foibles of youth were not so deplorable as his habit of bringing evil reports of his brethren to his father. He accused them of treating the beasts under their care with cruelty--he said that they ate flesh torn from a living animal--and he charged them with casting their eyes upon the daughters of the Canaanites, and giving contemptuous treatment to the sons of the handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah, whom they called slaves.
For these groundless accusations Joseph had to pay dearly. He was himself sold as a slave, because he had charged his brethren with having called the sons of the handmaids slaves, and Potiphar's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, because he threw the suspicion upon his brethren that they had cast their eyes upon the Canaanitish women. And how little it was true that they were guilty of cruelty to animals, appears from the fact that at the very time when they were contemplating their crime against Joseph, they yet observed all the rules and prescriptions of the ritual in slaughtering the kid of the goats with the blood of which they besmeared his coat of many colors.
JOSEPH HATED BY HIS BRETHREN
Joseph's talebearing against his brethren made them hate him. Among all of them Gad was particularly wrathful, and for good reason. Gad was a very brave man, and when a beast of prey attacked the herd, over which he kept guard at night, he would seize it by one of its legs, and whirl it around until it was stunned, and then he would fling it away to a distance of two stadia, and kill it thus. Once Jacob sent Joseph to tend the flock, but he remained away only thirty days, for he was a delicate lad and fell sick with the heat, and he hastened back to his father. On his return he told Jacob that the sons of the handmaids were in the habit of slaughtering the choice cattle of the herd and eating it, without obtaining permission from Judah and Reuben. But his report was not accurate. What he had seen was Gad slaughtering one lamb, which he had snatched from the very jaws of a bear, and he killed it because it could not be kept alive after its fright. Joseph's account sounded as though the sons of the handmaids were habitually inconsiderate and careless in wasting their father's substance.
To the resentment of the brethren was added their envy of Joseph, because their father loved him more than all of them. Joseph's beauty of person was equal to that of his mother Rachel, and Jacob had but to look at him to be consoled for the death of his beloved wife. Reason enough for distinguishing him among his children. As a token of his great love for him, Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors, so light and delicate that it could be crushed and concealed in the closed palm of one hand. The Hebrew name of the garment, Passim, conveys the story of the sale of Joseph. The first letter, Pe, stands for Potiphar, his Egyptian master; Samek stands for Soharim, the merchantmen that bought Joseph from the company of Ishmaelites to whom his brethren had sold him; Yod stands for these same Ishmaelites; and Mem, for the Midianites that obtained him from the merchantmen, and then disposed of him to Potiphar. But Passim. has yet another meaning, "clefts." His brethren knew that the Red Sea would be cleft in twain in days to come for Joseph's sake, and they were jealous of the glory to be conferred upon him. Although they were filled with hatred of him, it must be said in their favor that they were not of a sullen, spiteful nature. They did not hide their feelings, they proclaimed their enmity openly.
Once Joseph dreamed a dream, and he could not refrain from telling it to his brethren. He spoke, and said: "Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed. Behold, you gathered fruit, and so did I. Your fruit rotted, but mine remained sound. Your seed will set up dumb images of idols, but they will vanish at the appearance of my descendant, the Messiah of Joseph. You will keep the truth as to my fate from the knowledge of my father, but I will stand fast as a reward for the self-denial of my mother, and you will prostrate yourselves five times before me."
The brethren refused at first to listen to the dream, but when Joseph urged them again and again, they gave heed to him, and they said, "Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?" God put an interpretation into their mouths that was to be verified in the posterity of Joseph. Jeroboam and Jehu, two kings, and Joshua and Gideon, two judges, have been among his descendants, corresponding to the double and emphatic expressions used by his brethren in interpreting the dream.
Then Joseph dreamed another dream, how the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down before him, and Jacob, to whom he told it first, was rejoiced over it, for he understood its meaning properly. He knew that he himself was designated by the sun, the name by which God had called him when he lodged overnight on the holy site of the Temple. He had heard God say to the angels at that time, "The sun has come." The moon stood for Joseph's mother, and the stars for his brethren, for the righteous are as the stars. Jacob was so convinced of the truth of the dream that he was encouraged to believe that he would live to see the resurrection of the dead, for Rachel was dead, and her return to earth was clearly indicated by the dream. He went astray there, for not Joseph's own mother was referred to, but his foster-mother Bilhah, who had raised him.
Jacob wrote the dream in a book, recording all the circumstances, the day, the hour, and the place, for the holy spirit cautioned him, "Take heed, these things will surely come to pass." But when Joseph repeated his dream to his brethren, in the presence of his father, Jacob rebuked him, saying, "I and thy brethren, that has some sense, but I and thy mother, that is inconceivable, for thy mother is dead." These words of Jacob called forth a reproof from God. He said, "Thus thy descendants will in time to come seek to hinder Jeremiah in delivering his prophecies." Jacob may be excused, he had spoken in this way only in order to avert the envy and hate of his brethren from Joseph, but they envied and hated him because they knew that the interpretation put upon the dream by Jacob would be realized.
JOSEPH CAST INTO THE PIT
Once the brethren of Joseph led their father's flocks to the pastures of Shechem, and they intended to take their ease and pleasure there. They stayed away a long time, and no tidings of them were heard. Jacob began to be anxious about the fate of his sons. He feared that a war had broken out between them and the people of Shechem, and he resolved to send Joseph to them and have him bring word again, whether it was well with his brethren. Jacob desired to know also about the flocks, for it is a duty to concern oneself about the welfare of anything from which one derives profit. Though he knew that the hatred of his brethren might bring on unpleasant adventures, yet Joseph, in filial reverence, declared himself ready to go on his father's errand. Later, whenever Jacob remembered his dear son's willing spirit, the recollection stabbed him to the heart. He would say to himself, "Thou didst know the hatred of thy brethren, and yet thou didst say, Here am I."
Jacob dismissed Joseph, with the injunction that he journey only by daylight, saying furthermore, "Go now, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and send me word"--an unconscious prophecy. He did not say that he expected to see Joseph again, but only to have word from him. Since the covenant of the pieces, God had resolved, on account of Abraham's doubting question, that Jacob and his family should go down into Egypt to dwell there. The preference shown to Joseph by his father, and the envy it aroused, leading finally to the sale of Joseph and his establishment in Egypt, were but disguised means created by God, instead of executing His counsel directly by carrying Jacob down into Egypt as a captive.
Joseph reached Shechem, where he expected to find his brethren. Shechem was always a place of ill omen for Jacob and his seed--there Dinah was dishonored, there the Ten Tribes of Israel rebelled against the house of David while Rehoboam ruled in Jerusalem, and there Jeroboam was installed as king. Not finding his brethren and the herd in Shechem, Joseph continued his journey in the direction of the next pasturing place, not far from Shechem, but he lost his way in the wilderness. Gabriel in human shape appeared before him, and asked him, saying, "What seekest thou?" And he answered, "I seek my brethren." Whereto the angel replied, "Thy brethren have given up the Divine qualities of love and mercy. Through a prophetic revelation they learned that the Hivites were preparing to make war upon them, and therefore they departed hence to go to Dothan. And they had to leave this place for other reasons, too. I heard, while I was still standing behind the curtain that veils the Divine throne, that this day the Egyptian bondage would begin, and thou wouldst be the first to be subjected to it." Then Gabriel led Joseph to Dothan.
When his brethren saw him afar off, they conspired against him, to slay him. Their first plan was to set dogs on him. Simon then spoke to Levi, "Behold, the master of dreams cometh with a new dream, he whose descendant Jeroboam will introduce the worship of Baal. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, that we may see what will become of his dreams." But God spoke: "Ye say, We shall see what will become of his dreams, and I say likewise, We shall see, and the future shall show whose word will stand, yours or Mine."
Simon and Gad set about slaying Joseph, and he fell upon his face, and entreated them: "Have mercy with me, my brethren, have pity on the heart of my father Jacob. Lay not your hands upon me, to spill innocent blood, for I have done no evil unto you. But if I have done evil unto you, then chastise me with a chastisement, but your hands lay not upon me, for the sake of our father Jacob." These words touched Zebulon, and he began to lament and weep, and the wailing of Joseph rose up together with his brother's, and when Simon and Gad raised their hands against him to execute their evil design, Joseph took refuge behind Zebulon, and supplicated his other brethren to have mercy upon him. Then Reuben arose, and he said, "Brethren, let us not slay him, but let us cast him into one of the dry pits, which our fathers dug without finding water." That was due to the providence of God; He had hindered the water from rising in them in order that Joseph's rescue might be accomplished, and the pits remained dry until Joseph was safe in the hands of the Ishmaelites.
Reuben had several reasons for interceding in behalf of Joseph. He knew that he as the oldest of the brethren would be held responsible by their father, if any evil befell him. Besides, Reuben was grateful to Joseph for having reckoned him among the eleven sons of Jacob in narrating his dream of the sun, moon, and stars. Since his disrespectful bearing toward Jacob, he had not thought himself worthy of being considered one of his sons. First Reuben tried to restrain his brethren from their purpose, and he addressed them in words full of love and compassion. But when he saw that neither words nor entreaties would change their intention, he begged them, saying: "My brethren, at least hearken unto me in respect of this, that ye be not so wicked and cruel as to slay him. Lay no hand upon your brother, shed no blood, cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and let him perish thus.
Then Reuben went away from his brethren, and he hid in the mountains, so that he might be able to hasten back in a favorable moment and draw Joseph forth from the pit and restore him to his father. He hoped his reward would be pardon for the transgression he had committed against Jacob. His good intention was frustrated, yet Reuben was rewarded by God, for God gives a recompense not only for good deeds, but for good intentions as well. As he was the first of the brethren of Joseph to make an attempt to save him, so the city of Bezer in the tribe of Reuben was the first of the cities of refuge appointed to safeguard the life of the innocent that seek help. Furthermore God spake to Reuben, saying: "As thou wast the first to endeavor to restore a child unto his father, so Hosea, one of thy descendants, shall be the first to endeavor to lead Israel back to his heavenly Father."
The brethren accepted Reuben's proposition, and Simon seized Joseph, and cast him into a pit swarming with snakes and scorpions, beside which was another unused pit, filled with offal. As though this were not enough torture, Simon bade his brethren fling great stones at Joseph. In his later dealings with this brother Simon, Joseph showed all the forgiving charitableness of his nature. When Simon was held in durance in Egypt as a hostage, Joseph, so far from bearing him a grudge, ordered crammed poultry to be set before him at all his meals.
Not satisfied with exposing Joseph to the snakes and scorpions, his brethren had stripped him bare before they flung him into the pit. They took off his coat of many colors, his upper garment, his breeches, and his shirt. However, the reptiles could do him no harm. God heard his cry of distress, and kept them in hiding in the clefts and the holes, and they could not come near him. From the depths of the pit Joseph appealed to his brethren, saying: "O my brethren, what have I done unto you, and what is my transgression? Why are you not afraid before God on account of your treatment of me? Am I not flesh of your flesh, and bone of your bone? Jacob your father, is he not also my father? Why do you act thus toward me? And how will you be able to lift up your countenance before Jacob? O Judah, Reuben, Simon, Levi, my brethren, deliver me, I pray you, from the dark place into which you have cast me. Though I committed a trespass against you, yet are ye children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were compassionate with the orphan, gave food to the hungry, and clothed the naked. How, then, can ye withhold your pity from your own brother, your own flesh and bone? And though I sinned against you, yet you will hearken unto my petition for the sake of my father. O that my father knew what my brethren are doing unto me, and what they spake unto me!"
To avoid hearing Joseph's weeping and cries of distress, his brethren passed on from the pit, and stood at a bow-shot's distance. The only one among them that manifested pity was Zebulon. For two days and two nights no food passed his lips on account of his grief over the fate of Joseph, who had to spend three days and three nights in the pit before he was sold. During this period Zebulon was charged by his brethren to keep watch at the pit. He was chosen to stand guard because he took no part in the meals. Part of the time Judah also refrained from eating with the rest, and took turns at watching, because he feared Simon and Gad might jump down into the pit and put an end to Joseph's life.
While Joseph was languishing thus, his brethren determined to kill him. They would finish their meal first, they said, and then they would fetch him forth and slay him. When they had done eating, they attempted to say grace, but Judah remonstrated with them: "We are about to take the life of a human being, and yet would bless God? That is not a blessing, that is contemning the Lord. What profit is it if we slay our brother? Rather will the punishment of God descend upon us. I have good counsel to give you. Yonder passeth by a travelling company of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him. The Ishmaelites will take him with them upon their journeyings, and he will be lost among the peoples of the earth. Let us follow the custom of former days, for Canaan, too, the son of Ham, was made a slave for his evil deeds, and so will we do with our brother Joseph."
While the brethren of Joseph were deliberating upon his fate, seven Midianitish merchantmen passed near the pit in which he lay. They noticed that many birds were circling above it, whence they assumed that there must be water therein, and, being thirsty, they made a halt in order to refresh themselves. When they came close, they heard Joseph screaming and wailing, and they looked down into the pit and saw a youth of beautiful figure and comely appearance. They called to him, saying: "Who art thou? Who brought thee hither, and who cast thee into this pit in the wilderness?" They all joined together and dragged him up, and took him along with them when they continued on their journey. They had to pass his brethren, who called out to the Midianites: "Why have you done such a thing, to steal our slave and carry him away with you? We threw the lad into the pit, because he was disobedient. Now, then, return our slave to us." The Midianites replied: "What, this lad, you say, is your slave, your servant? More likely is it that you all are slaves unto him, for in beauty of form, in pleasant looks, and fair appearance, he excelleth you all. Why, then, will you speak lies unto us? We will not give ear unto your words, nor believe you, for we found the lad in the wilderness, in a pit, and we took him out, and we will carry him away with us on our journey." But the sons of Jacob insisted, "Restore our slave to us, lest you meet death at the edge of the sword."
Unaffrighted, the Midianites drew their weapons, and, amid war whoops, they prepared to enter into a combat with the sons of Jacob. Then Simon rose up, and with bared sword he sprang upon the Midianites, at the same time uttering a cry that made the earth reverberate. The Midianites fell down in great consternation, and he said: "I am Simon, the son of the Hebrew Jacob, who destroyed the city of Shechem alone and unaided, and together with my brethren I destroyed the cities of the Amorites. God do so and more also, if it be not true that all the Midianites, your brethren, united with all the Canaanite kings to fight with me, cannot hold out against me. Now restore the boy you took from us, else will I give your flesh unto the fowls of the air and to the beasts of the field."
The Midianites were greatly afraid of Simon, and, terrified and abashed, they spake to the sons of Jacob with little courage: "Said ye not that ye cast this lad into the pit because he was of a rebellious spirit? What, now, will ye do with an insubordinate slave? Rather sell him to us, we are ready to pay any price you desire." This speech was part of the purpose of God. He had put it into the heart of the Midianites to insist upon possessing Joseph, that he might not remain with his brethren, and be slain by them. The brethren assented, and Joseph was sold as a slave while they sat over their meal. God spake, saying: "Over a meal did ye sell your brother, and thus shall Ahasuerus sell your descendants to Haman over a meal, and because ye have sold Joseph to be a slave, therefore shall ye say year after year, Slaves were we unto Pharaoh in Egypt."
The price paid for Joseph by the Midianites was twenty pieces of silver, enough for a pair of shoes for each of his brethren. Thus "they sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes." For so handsome a youth as Joseph the sum paid was too low by far, but his appearance had been greatly changed by the horrible anguish he had endured in the pit with the snakes and the scorpions. He had lost his ruddy complexion, and he looked sallow and sickly, and the Midianites were justified in paying a small sum for him.
The merchantmen had come upon Joseph naked in the pit, for his brethren had stripped him of all his clothes. That he might not appear before men in an unseemly condition, God sent Gabriel down to him, and the angel enlarged the amulet banging from Joseph's neck until it was a garment that covered him entirely. Joseph's brethren were looking after him as he departed with the Midianites, and when they saw him with clothes upon him, they cried after them, "Give us his raiment! We sold him naked, without clothes." His owners refused to yield to their demand, but they agreed to reimburse the brethren with four pairs of shoes, and Joseph kept his garment, the same in which he was arrayed when he arrived in Egypt and was sold to Potiphar, the same in which he was locked up in prison and appeared before Pharaoh, and the same he wore when he was ruler over Egypt.
As an atonement for the twenty pieces of silver taken by his brethren in exchange for Joseph, God commanded that every first-born son shall be redeemed by the priest with an equal amount, and, also, every Israelite must pay annually to the sanctuary as much as fell to each of the brethren as his share of the price.
The brethren of Joseph bought shoes for the money, for they said: "We will not eat it, because it is the price for the blood of our brother, but we will tread upon him, for that he spake, he would have dominion over us, and we will see what will become of his dreams." And for this reason the ordinance has been commanded, that he who refuseth to raise up a name in Israel unto his brother that hath died without having a son, shall have his shoe loosed from off his foot, and his face shall be spat upon. Joseph's brethren refused to do aught to preserve his life, and therefore the Lord loosed their shoes from off their feet, for, when they went down to Egypt, the slaves of Joseph took their shoes off their feet as they entered the gates, and they prostrated themselves before Joseph as before a Pharaoh, and, as they lay prostrate, they were spat upon, and put to shame before the Egyptians.
The Midianites pursued their journey to Gilead, but they soon regretted the purchase they had made. They feared that Joseph had been stolen in the land of the Hebrews, though sold to them as a slave, and if his kinsmen should find him with them, death would be inflicted upon them for the abduction of a free man. The high-handed manner of the sons of Jacob confirmed their suspicion, that they might be capable of man theft. Their wicked deed would explain, too, why they had accepted so small a sum in exchange for Joseph. While discussing these points, they saw, coming their way, the travelling company of Ishmaelites that had been observed earlier by the sons of Jacob, and they determined to dispose of Joseph to them, that they might at least not lose the price they had paid, and might escape the danger at the same time of being made captives for the crime of kidnapping a man. And the Ishmaelites bought Joseph from the Midianites, and they paid the same price as his former owners had given for him.
JOSEPH'S THREE MASTERS
As a rule the only merchandise with which the Ishmaelites loaded their camels was pitch and the skins of beasts. By a providential dispensation they carried bags of perfumery this time, instead of their usual ill-smelling freight, that sweet fragrance might be wafted to Joseph on his journey to Egypt. These aromatic substances were well suited to Joseph, whose body emitted a pleasant smell, so agreeable and pervasive that the road along which he travelled was redolent thereof, and on his arrival in Egypt the perfume from his body spread over the whole land, and the royal princesses, following the sweet scent to trace its source, reached the place in which Joseph was. Even after his death the same fragrance was spread abroad by his bones, enabling Moses to distinguish Joseph's remains from all others, and keep the oath of the children of Israel, to inter them in the Holy Land.
When Joseph learned that the Ishmaelites were carrying him to Egypt, he began to weep bitterly at the thought of being removed so far from Canaan and from his father. One of the Ishmaelites noticed Joseph's weeping and crying, and thinking that he found riding uncomfortable, he lifted him from the back of the camel, and permitted him to walk on foot. But Joseph continued to weep and sob, crying incessantly, "O father, father!" Another one of the caravan, tired of his lamentations, beat him, causing only the more tears and wails, until the youth, exhausted by his grief, was unable to move on. Now all the Ishmaelites in the company dealt out blows to him. They treated him with relentless cruelty, and tried to silence him by threats. God saw Joseph's distress, and He sent darkness and terror upon the Ishmaelites, and their hands grew rigid when they raised them to inflict a blow. Astonished, they asked themselves why God did thus unto them upon the road. They did not know that it was for the sake of Joseph.
The journey was continued until they came to Ephrath, the place of Rachel's sepulchre. Joseph hastened to his mother's grave, and throwing himself across it, he groaned and cried, saying: "O mother, mother, that didst bear me, arise, come forth and see how thy son hath been sold into slavery, with none to take pity upon him. Arise, see thy son, and weep with me over my misfortune, and observe the heartlessness of my brethren. Awake, O mother, rouse thyself from thy sleep, rise up and prepare for the conflict with my brethren, who stripped me even of my shirt, and sold me as a slave to merchantmen, who in turn sold me to others, and without mercy they tore me away from my father. Arise, accuse my brethren before God, and see whom He will justify in the judgment, and whom He will find guilty. Arise, O mother, awake from thy sleep, see how my father is with me in his soul and in his spirit, and comfort him and ease his heavy heart."
Joseph wept and cried upon the grave of his mother, until, weary from grief, he lay immovable as a stone. Then he heard a voice heavy with tears speak to him from the depths, saying: "My son Joseph, my son, I heard thy complaints and thy groans, I saw thy tears, and I knew thy misery, my son. I am grieved for thy sake, and thy affliction is added to the burden of my affliction. But, my son Joseph, put thy trust in God, and wait upon Him. Fear not, for the Lord is with thee, and He will deliver thee from all evil. Go down into Egypt with thy masters, my son; fear naught, for the Lord is with thee, O my son." This and much more like unto it did the voice utter, and then it was silent. Joseph listened in great amazement at first, and then he broke out in renewed tears. Angered thereby, one of the Ishmaelites drove him from his mother's grave with kicks and curses. Then Joseph entreated his masters to take him back to his father, who would give them great riches as a reward. But they said, "Why, thou art a slave! How canst thou know where thy father is? If thou hadst had a free man as father, thou wouldst not have been sold twice for a petty sum." And then their fury against him increased, they beat him and maltreated him, and he wept bitter tears.
Now God looked upon the distress of Joseph, and He sent darkness to enshroud the land once more. A storm raged, the lightning flashed, and from the thunderbolts the whole earth trembled, and the Ishmaelites lost their way in their terror. The beasts and the camels stood still, and, beat them as their drivers would, they refused to budge from the spot, but crouched down upon the ground. Then the Ishmaelites spake to one another, and said: "Why hath God brought this upon us? What are our sins, what our trespasses, that such things befall us?" One of them said to the others: "Peradventure this hath come upon us by reason of the sin which we have committed against this slave. Let us beg him earnestly to grant us forgiveness, and if then God will take pity, and let these storms pass away from us, we shall know that we suffered harm on account of the injury we inflicted upon this slave."
The Ishmaelites did according to these words, and they said unto Joseph: "We have sinned against God and against thee. Pray to thy God, and entreat Him to take this death plague from us, for we acknowledge that we have sinned against Him." Joseph fulfilled their wish, and God hearkened to his petition, and the storm was assuaged. All around became calm, the beasts arose from their recumbent position, and the caravan could proceed upon its way. Now the Ishmaelites saw plainly that all their trouble had come upon them for the sake of Joseph, and they spoke one to another, saying: "We know now that all this evil hath happened to us on account of this poor fellow, and wherefore should we bring death upon ourselves by our own doings? Let us take counsel together, what is to be done with the slave." One of them advised that Joseph's wish be fulfilled, and he be taken back to his father. Then they would be sure of receiving the money they had paid out for him. This plan was rejected, because they had accomplished a great part of their journey, and they were not inclined to retrace their steps. They therefore resolved upon carrying Joseph to Egypt and selling him there. They would rid themselves of him in this way, and also receive a great price for him.
They continued their journey as far as the borders of Egypt, and there they met four men, descendants of Medan, the son of Abraham, and to these they sold Joseph for five shekels. The two companies, the Ishmaelites and the Medanites, arrived in Egypt upon the same day. The latter, hearing that Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, was seeking a good slave, repaired to him at once, to try to dispose of Joseph to him. Potiphar was willing to pay as much as four hundred pieces of silver, for, high as the price was, it did not seem too great for a slave that pleased him as much as Joseph. However, he made a condition. He said to the Medanites: "I will pay you the price demanded, but you must bring me the person that sold the slave to you, that I may be in a position to find out all about him, for the youth seems to me to be neither a slave nor the son of a slave. He appears to be of noble blood. I must convince myself that he was not stolen." The Medanites brought the Ishmaelites to Potiphar, and they testified that Joseph was a slave, that they had owned him, and had sold him to the Medanites. Potiphar rested satisfied with this report, paid the price asked for Joseph, and the Medanites and the Ishmaelites went their way.
JOSEPH'S COAT BROUGHT TO HIS FATHER
No sooner was the sale of Joseph an accomplished fact than the sons of Jacob repented of their deed. They even hastened after the Midianites to ransom Joseph, but their efforts to overtake them were vain, and they had to accept the inevitable. Meantime Reuben had rejoined his brethren. He had been so deeply absorbed in penances, in praying and studying the Torah, in expiation of his sin against his father, that he had not been able to remain with his brethren and tend the flocks, and thus it happened that he was not on the spot when Joseph was sold. His first errand was to go to the pit, in the hope of finding Joseph there. In that case he would have carried him off and restored him to his father clandestinely, without the knowledge of his brethren. He stood at the opening and called again and again, "Joseph, Joseph!" As he received no answer, he concluded that Joseph had perished, either by reason of terror or as the result of a snake bite, and he descended into the pit, only to find that he was not there, either living or dead. He mounted to the top again, and rent his clothes, and cried out, "The lad is not there, and what answer shall I give to my father, if he be dead?" Then Reuben returned unto his brethren, and told them that Joseph had vanished from the pit, whereat he was deeply grieved, because he, being the oldest of the sons, was responsible to their father Jacob. The brethren made a clean breast of what they had done with Joseph, and they related to him how they had tried to make good their evil deed, and how their efforts had been vain.
Now there remained nothing to do but invent a plausible explanation for their brother's disappearance to give to Jacob. First of all, however, they took an oath not to betray to his father or any human being what they had actually done with Joseph. He who violated the oath would be put to the sword by the rest. Then they took counsel together about what to say to Jacob. It was Issachar's advice to tear Joseph's coat of many colors, and dip it in the blood of a little kid of the goats, to make Jacob believe that his son had been torn by a wild beast. The reason he suggested a kid was because its blood looks like human blood. In expiation of this act of deception, it was ordained that a kid be used as an atonement sacrifice when the Tabernacle was dedicated.
Simon opposed this suggestion. He did not want to relinquish Joseph's coat, and he threatened to hew down any one that should attempt to wrest it from him by force. The reason for his vehemence was that he was very much enraged against his brethren for not having slain Joseph. But they threatened him in turn, saying, "If thou wilt not give up the coat, we shall say that thou didst execute the evil deed thyself." At that Simon surrendered it, and Naphtali brought it to Jacob, handing it to him with the words: "When we were driving our herds homeward, we found this garment covered with blood and dust on the highway, a little beyond Shechem. Know now whether it be thy son's coat or not." Jacob recognized Joseph's coat, and, overwhelmed by grief, he fell prostrate, and long lay on the ground motionless, like a stone. Then he arose, and set up a loud cry, and wept, saying, "It is my son's coat."
In great haste Jacob dispatched a slave to his sons, to bid them come to him, that he might learn more about what had happened. In the evening they all came, their garments rent, and dust strewn upon their heads. When they confirmed all that Naphtali had told him, Jacob broke out in mourning and lamentation: "It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces. I sent him to you to see whether it was well with you, and well with the flock. He went to do my errand, and while I thought him to be with you, the misfortune befell." Thereto the sons of Jacob made reply: "He came to us not at all. Since we left thee, we have not set eyes on him."
After these words, Jacob could doubt no longer that Joseph had been torn by wild beasts, and he mourned for his son, saying: "O my son Joseph, my son, I sent thee to inquire after the welfare of thy brethren, and now thou art torn by wild beasts. It is my fault that this evil chance hath come upon thee. I am distressed for thee, my son, I am sorely distressed. How sweet was thy life to me, and how bitter is thy death! Would God I had died for thee, O Joseph, my son, for now I am distressed on thy account. O my son Joseph, where art thou, and where is thy soul? Arise, arise from thy place, and look upon my grief for thee. Come and count the tears that roll down my cheeks, and bring the tale of them before God, that His wrath be turned away from me. O Joseph, my son, how painful and appalling was thy death! None hath died a death like thine since the world doth stand. I know well that it came to pass by reason of my sins. O that thou wouldst return and see the bitter sorrow thy misfortune hath brought upon me! But it is true, it was not I that created thee, and formed thee. I gave thee neither spirit nor soul, but God created thee. He formed thy bones, covered them with flesh, breathed the breath of life into thy nostrils, and then gave thee unto me. And God who gave thee unto me, He hath taken thee from me, and from Him hath this dispensation come upon me. What the Lord doeth is well done!" In these words and many others like them Jacob mourned and bewailed his son, until he fell to the ground prostrate and immovable.
When the sons of Jacob saw the vehemence of their father's grief, they repented of their deed, and wept bitterly. Especially Judah was grief-stricken. He laid his father's head upon his knees, and wiped his tears away as they flowed from his eyes, while he himself broke out in violent weeping. The sons of Jacob and their wives all sought to comfort their father. They arranged a great memorial service, and they wept and mourned over Joseph's death and over their father's sorrow. But Jacob refused to be comforted.
The tidings of his son's death caused the loss of two members of Jacob's family. Bilhah and Dinah could not survive their grief. Bilhah passed away the very day whereon the report reached Jacob, and Dinah died soon after, and so he had three losses to mourn in one month.
He received the tidings of Joseph's death in the seventh month, Tishri, and on the tenth day of the month, and therefore the children of Israel are bidden to weep and afflict their souls on this day. Furthermore, on this day the sin offering of atonement shall be a kid of the goats, because the sons of Jacob transgressed with a kid, in the blood of which they dipped Joseph's coat, and thus they brought sorrow upon Jacob.
When he had recovered somewhat from the stunning blow which the tidings of his favorite son's death had dealt him, Jacob rose up from the ground and addressed his sons, tears streaming down his cheeks all the while. "Up," he said, "take your swords and your bows, go out in the field, and make search, perhaps you will find the body of my son, and you will bring it to me, so that I may bury it. Keep a lookout, too, for beasts of prey, and catch the first you meet. Seize it and bring it to me. It may be that God will have pity upon my sorrow, and put the beast between your hands that hath torn my child in pieces, and I will take my revenge upon it."
The sons of Jacob set out on the morrow to do the bidding of their father, while he remained at home and wept and lamented for Joseph. In the wilderness they found a wolf, which they caught and brought to Jacob alive, saying: "Here is the first wild beast we encountered, and we have brought it to thee. But of thy son's corpse we saw not a trace." Jacob seized the wolf, and, amid loud weeping, he addressed these words to him: "Why didst thou devour my son Joseph, without any fear of the God of the earth, and without taking any thought of the grief thou wouldst bring down upon me? Thou didst devour my son without reason, he was guilty of no manner of transgression, and thou didst roll the responsibility for his death upon me. But God avengeth him that is persecuted."
To grant consolation to Jacob, God opened the mouth of the beast, and he spake: "As the Lord liveth, who hath created me, and as thy soul liveth, my lord, I have not seen thy son, and I did not rend him in pieces. From a land afar off I came to seek mine own son, who suffered a like fate with thine. He hath disappeared, and I know not whether he be dead or alive, and therefore I came hither ten days ago to find him. This day, while I was searching for him, thy sons met me, and they seized me, and, adding more grief to my grief over my lost son, they brought me hither to thee. This is my story, and now, O son of man, I am in thy hands, thou canst dispose of me this day as seemeth well in thy sight, but I swear unto thee by the God that bath created me, I have not seen thy son, nor have I torn him in pieces, never hath the flesh of man come into my mouth." Astonished at the speech of the wolf, Jacob let him go, unhindered, whithersoever he would, but he mourned his son Joseph as before.
It is a law of nature that however much one may grieve over the death of a dear one, at the end of a year consolation finds its way to the heart of the mourner. But the disappearance of a living man can never be wiped out of one's memory. Therefore the fact that he was inconsolable made Jacob suspect that Joseph was alive, and he did not give entire credence to the report of his sons. His vague suspicion was strengthened by something that happened to him. He went up into the mountains, hewed twelve stones out of the quarry, and wrote the names of his sons thereon, their constellations, and the months corresponding to the constellations, a stone for a son, thus, "Reuben, Ram, Nisan," and so for each of his twelve sons. Then he addressed the stones and bade them bow down before the one marked with Reuben's name, constellation, and month, and they did not move. He gave the same order regarding the stone marked for Simon, and again the stones stood still. And so he did respecting all his sons, until he reached the stone for Joseph. When he spoke concerning this one, "I command you to fall down before Joseph," they all prostrated themselves. He tried the same test with other things, with trees and sheaves, and always the result was the same, and Jacob could not but feel that his suspicion was true, Joseph was alive.
There was a reason why God did not reveal the real fate of Joseph to Jacob. When his brethren sold Joseph, their fear that the report of their iniquity might reach the ears of Jacob led them to pronounce the ban upon any that should betray the truth without the consent of all the others. Judah advanced the objection that a ban is invalid unless it is decreed in the presence of ten persons, and there were but nine of them, for Reuben and Benjamin were not there when the sale of Joseph was concluded. To evade the difficulty, the brothers counted God as the tenth person, and therefore God felt bound to refrain from revealing the true state of things to Jacob. He had regard, as it were, for the ban pronounced by the brethren of Joseph. And as God kept the truth a secret from Jacob, Isaac did not feel justified in acquainting him with his grandson's fate, which was well known to him, for he was a prophet. Whenever he was in the company of Jacob, he mourned with him, but as soon as he quitted him, he left off from manifesting grief, because he knew that Joseph lived.
Jacob was thus the only one among Joseph's closest kinsmen that remained in ignorance of his son's real fortunes, and he was the one of them all that had the greatest reason for regretting his death. He spoke: "The covenant that God made with me regarding the twelve tribes is null and void now. I did strive in vain to establish the twelve tribes, seeing that now the death of Joseph hath destroyed the covenant. All the works of God were made to correspond to the number of the tribes--twelve are the signs of the zodiac, twelve the months, twelve hours hath the day, twelve the night, and twelve stones are set in Aaron's breastplate--and now that Joseph hath departed, the covenant of the tribes is set at naught."
He could not replace the lost son by entering into a new marriage, for he had made the promise to his father-in-law to take none beside his daughters to wife, and this promise, as he interpreted it, held good after the death of Laban's daughters as well as while they were alive.
Beside grief over his loss and regret at the breaking of the covenant of the tribes, Jacob had still another reason for mourning the death of Joseph. God had said to Jacob, "If none of thy sons dies during thy lifetime, thou mayest look upon it as a token that thou wilt not be put in Gehenna after thy death." Thinking Joseph to be dead, Jacob had his own fate to bewail, too, for he now believed that he was doomed to Gehenna. His mourning lasted all of twenty-two years, corresponding to the number of the years he had dwelt apart from his parents, and had not fulfilled the duty of a son toward them.
In his mourning Jacob put sackcloth upon his loins, and therein be became a model for the kings and princes in Israel, for David, Ahab, Joram, and Mordecai did likewise when a great misfortune befell the nation.
JUDAH AND HIS SONS
When the sons of Jacob saw how inconsolable their father was, they went to Judah, and said to him, "This great misfortune is thy fault." Judah replied: "It was I that asked you, What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? and now you say the sin lies at my door." The brethren continued to argue: "But it was thou that didst say, Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and we followed thy advice. Hadst thou said, Let us restore him to his father, we had heeded these words of thine as well."
The brethren hereupon deprived Judah of his dignity, for hitherto he had been their king, and they also excluded him from their fellowship, and he had to seek his fortune alone. Through the mediation of his chief shepherd Hirah, he became acquainted with the Canaanitish king of Adullam, Barsan by name. Though he was well aware of the corruption of the generations of Canaan, he permitted passion to get the better of him, and took a Canaanite to wife. The Adullamite king gave a banquet in his honor, at which his daughter Bath-shua poured the wine, and intoxicated by wine and passion Judah took her and married her. Judah's action may be compared to that of the lion who passes a carrion and eats of it, though a cur preceding him on the way had refused to touch it. Even Esau came in time to acknowledge that the daughters of Canaan were wicked, and the lion Judah must needs take one of them to wife. The holy spirit cried out against Judah when he married the Canaanite woman of Adullam, saying, "The glory of Israel went down in Adullam."
The first-born son of Judah from this marriage was named Er, "the childless," a suitable name for him that died without begetting any issue. At Judah's desire, Er married Tamar, a daughter of Aram, the son of Shem, but because she was not a Canaanitish woman, his mother used artifices against her, and he did not know her, and an angel of the Lord killed him on the third day after his wedding. Then Judah gave Tamar to his second son Onan, the marriage taking place before the week of the wedding festivities for Er had elapsed. A whole year Onan lived with Tamar without knowing her, and when, finally, Judah uttered threats against him on that account, he did, indeed, have intercourse with her, but, giving heed to the injunctions of his mother, he took care not to beget any children with her. He, too, died on account of his iniquity, and his name Onan "mourning," was well chosen, for very soon was his father called upon to mourn for him. Now Judah conceived the plan of marrying Tamar to his youngest son Shelah, but his wife would not permit it. She hated Tamar because she was not of the daughters of Canaan like herself, and while Judah was away from home, Bath-shua chose a wife for her son Shelah from the daughters of Canaan. Judah was very angry at Bath-shua for what she had done, and also God poured out His wrath upon her, for on account of her wickedness she had to die, and her death happened a year after that of her two sons.
Now that Bath-shua was dead, Judah might have carried out his wish and married Tamar to his youngest son. But he waited for Shelah to grow up, because he feared for his life, seeing that Tamar had brought death to two husbands before him. So she remained a widow in her father's house for two years. Endowed with the gift of prophecy, Tamar knew that she was appointed to be the ancestress of David and of the Messiah, and she determined to venture upon an extreme measure in order to make sure of fulfilling her destiny. Accordingly, when the holy spirit revealed to her that Judah was going up to Timnah, she put off from her the garments of her widowhood, and sat in the gate of Abraham's tent, and there she encountered Judah. All the time she lived in the house of her father-in-law, he had never seen her face, for in her virtue and chastity she had always kept it covered, and now when Judah met her, he did not recognize her. It was as a reward for her modesty that God made her to become the mother of the royal line of David, and the ancestress of Isaiah, and his father Amoz as well, both of whom were prophets and of royal blood.
Judah passed Tamar by without paying any attention to her, and she raised her eyes heavenward, and said, "O Lord of the world, shall I go forth empty from the house of this pious man?" Then God sent the angel that is appointed over the passion of love, and he compelled Judah to turn back. With prophetic caution, Tamar demanded that, as a pledge for the reward he promised her, he leave with her his signet, his mantle, and his staff, the symbols of royalty, judgeship, and Messiahship, the three distinctions of the descendants of Tamar from her union with Judah. When Judah sent her the promised reward, a kid of the goats, by the hand of his friend, in order to receive the pledges from her hand, Tamar could not be found, and he feared to make further search for her, lest he be put to shame. But Tamar, who soon discerned that she was with child, felt very happy and proud, for she knew that she would be the mother of kings and redeemers.
When her state became known, she was forcibly dragged before the court, in which Isaac, Jacob, and Judah sat as judges. Judah, being the youngest of the judges and the least considerable in dignity, was the first to give a decision, for thus it is prescribed in criminal cases, that the prominent judges overawe not the lesser and influence their decisions unduly. It was the opinion of Judah that the woman was liable to the penalty of death by burning, for she was the daughter of the high priest Shem, and death by fire is the punishment ordained by the law for a high priest's daughter that leads an unchaste life.
The preparations for her execution were begun. In vain Tamar searched for the three pledges she had received from Judah, she could not find them, and almost she lost hope that she would be able to wring a confession from her father-in-law. She raised her eyes to God, and prayed: "I supplicate Thy grace, O God, Thou who givest ear to the cry of the distressed in the hour of his need, answer me, that I may be spared to bring forth the three holy children, who will be ready to suffer death by fire, for the sake of the glory of Thy Name." And God granted her petition, and sent the angel Michael down to succor her. He put the pledges in a place in which Tamar could not fail to see them, and she took them, and threw them before the feet of the judges, with the words: "By the man whose these are am I with child, but though I perish in the flames, I will not betray him. I hope in the Lord of the world, that He will turn the heart of the man, so that he will make confession thereof." Then Judah rose up, and said: "With your permission, my brethren, and ye men of my father's house, I make it known that with what measure a man metes, it shall be measured unto him, be it for good or for evil, but happy the man that acknowledgeth his sins. Because I took the coat of Joseph, and colored it with the blood of a kid, and then laid it at the feet of my father, saying, Know now whether it be thy son's coat or not, therefore must I now confess, before the court, unto whom belongeth this signet, this mantle, and this staff. But it is better that I be put to shame in this world than I should be put to shame in the other world, before the face of my pious father. It is better that I should perish in a fire that can be extinguished than I should be cast into hell fire, which devoureth other fires. Now, then, I acknowledge that Tamar is innocent. By me is she with child, not because she indulged in illicit passion, but because I held back her marriage with my son Shelah." Then a heavenly voice was heard to say: "Ye are both innocent! It was the will of God that it should happen!"
The open confession of Judah induced his oldest brother Reuben to make public acknowledgment of the sin he had committed against his father, for he had kept it a secret until then.
Tamar gave birth to twin sons, Perez and Zerah, both resembling their father in bravery and piety. She called the first Perez, "mighty," because she said, "Thou didst show thyself of great power, and it is meet and proper that thou shouldst be strong, for thou art destined to possess the kingdom." The second son was called Zerah, because he appeared from out of the womb before his brother, but he was forced back again to make way for Perez. These two, Perez and Zerah. were sent out as spies by Joshua, and the line that Rahab bound in the window of her house as a token to the army of the Israelites, she received from Zerah. It was the scarlet thread that the midwife had bound upon his hand, to mark him as the child that appeared first and withdrew.
THE WIVES OF THE SONS OF JACOB
Judah was the first of the sons of Jacob to enter wedlock. After the sale of Joseph to the Midianites, his brethren had said to Judah, "If conditions were as before, our father would provide wives for us now. As it is, he is entirely absorbed by his grief for Joseph, and we must look about for wives ourselves. Thou art our chief, and thou shouldst marry first."
Judah's marriage with Alit the daughter of the noble merchant Shua, which was consummated at Adullam, the residence of his friend Hirah, or, as he was called later, Hiram, king of Tyre, was not happy. His two oldest sons died, and shortly thereafter his wife also. It was Judah's punishment for having begun a good deed and left it unfinished, for "he who begins a good deed, and does not execute it to the end, brings down misfortune upon his own head." Judah had rescued Joseph from death, but it was his suggestion to sell him into slavery. Had he urged them to restore the lad to his father, his brethren would have obeyed his words. He was lacking in constancy to persist until he had completed the work of Joseph's deliverance, which he had begun.
In the same year, the year of Joseph's misfortune, all his other brethren married, too. Reuben's wife was named Elyoram, the daughter of the Canaanite Uzzi of Timnah. Simon married his sister Dinah first, and then a second wife. When Simon and Levi massacred the men of Shechem, Dinah refused to leave the city and follow her brethren, saying, "Whither shall I carry my shame?" But Simon swore he would marry her, as he did later, and when she died in Egypt, he took her body to the Holy Land and buried it there. Dinah bore her brother a son, and from her union with Shechem, the son of Hamor, sprang a daughter, Asenath by name, afterward the wife of Joseph. When this daughter was born to Dinah, her brethren, the sons of Jacob, wanted to kill her, that the finger of men might not point at the fruit of sin in their father's house. But Jacob took a piece of tin, inscribed the Holy Name upon it, and bound it about the neck of the girl, and he put her under a thornbush, and abandoned her there. An angel carried the babe down to Egypt, where Potiphar adopted her as his child, for his wife was barren. Years thereafter, when Joseph travelled through the land as viceroy, the maidens threw gifts at him, to make him turn his eyes in their direction and give them the opportunity of gazing upon his beauty. Asenath possessed nothing that would do as a present, therefore she took off the amulet suspended from her neck, and gave it to him. Thus Joseph became acquainted with her lineage, and he married her, seeing that she was not an Egyptian, but one connected with the house of Jacob through her mother.
Beside the son of Dinah, Simon had another son, whose name was Saul, by Bunah, the damsel he had taken captive in the campaign against Shechem.
Levi and Issachar married two daughters of Jobab, the grandson of Eber; the wife of the former was named Adinah, the wife of the latter, Aridah. Dan's wife was Elflalet, a daughter of the Moabite Hamudan. For a long time their marriage remained childless, finally they had a son, whom they called Hushim. Gad and Naphtali married women from Haran, two sisters, daughters of Amoram, a grandson of Nahor. Naphtali's wife, Merimit, was the older of the two, and the younger, the wife of Gad, was named Uzit.
Asher's first wife was Adon, the daughter of Ephlal, a grandson of Ishmael. She died childless, and he married a second wife, Hadorah, a daughter of Abimael, the grandson of Shem. She had been married before, her first husband having been Malchiel, also a grandson of Shem, and the issue of this first marriage was a daughter, Serah by name. When Asher brought his wife to Canaan, the three year old orphan Serah came with them. She was raised in the house of Jacob, and she walked in the way of pious children, and God gave her beauty, wisdom, and sagacity.
Zebulon's wife was Maroshah, the daughter of Molad, a grandson of Midian, the son of Abraham by Keturah.
For Benjamin, when he was but ten years old, Jacob took Mahlia to wife, the daughter of Aram, the grandson of Terah, and she bore him five sons. At the age of eighteen he married a second wife, Arbat, the daughter of Zimran, a son of Abraham by Keturah, and by her also he had five sons.
JOSEPH THE SLAVE OF POTIPHAR
When Joseph was sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites, he kept silent out of respect for his brethren, and did not tell his masters that he was a son of Jacob, a great and powerful man. Even when he came to the Midianites with the Ishmaelites, and the former asked after his parentage, he still said he was a slave, only in order not to put his brethren to shame. But the most distinguished of the Midianites rebuked Joseph, saying, "Thou art no slave, thy appearance betrayeth thee," and he threatened him with death unless he acknowledged the truth. Joseph, however, was steadfast, he would not act treacherously toward his brethren.
Arrived in Egypt, the owners of Joseph could come to no agreement regarding him. Each desired to have sole and exclusive possession of him. They therefore decided to leave him with a shopkeeper until they should come back to Egypt again with their merchandise. And God let Joseph find grace in the sight of the shopkeeper. All that he had, his whole house, he put into Joseph's hand, and therefore the Lord blessed him with much silver and gold, and Joseph remained with him for three months and five days.
At that time there came from Memphis the wife of Potiphar, and she cast her eyes upon Joseph, of whose comeliness of person she had heard from the eunuchs. She told her husband how that a certain shopkeeper had grown rich through a young Hebrew, and she added: "But it is said that the youth was stolen away out of the land of Canaan. Go, therefore, and sit in judgment upon his owner, and take the youth unto thy house, that the God of the Hebrews may bless thee, for the grace of heaven rests upon the youth."
Potiphar summoned the shopkeeper, and when he appeared before him, he spoke harshly to him, saying: "What is this I hear? that thou stealest souls from the land of Canaan, and dost carry on traffic with them?" The shop-keeper protested his innocence, and he could not be made to recede from his assertion, that a company of Ishmaelites had left Joseph in his charge temporarily, until they should return. Potiphar had him stripped naked and beaten, but he continued to reiterate the same statement.
Then Potiphar summoned Joseph. The youth prostrated himself before this chief of the eunuchs, for he was third in rank of the officers of Pharaoh. And he addressed Joseph, and said, "Art thou a slave or a free-born man?" and Joseph replied, "A slave." Potiphar continued to question him, "Whose slave art thou?" Joseph: "I belong to the Ishmaelites." Potiphar: "How wast thou made a slave?" Joseph: "They bought me in the land of Canaan."
But Potiphar refused to give credence to what he said, and he had also him stripped and beaten. The wife of Potiphar, standing by the door, saw how Joseph was abused, and she sent word to her husband, "Thy verdict is unjust, for thou punishest the free-born youth that was stolen away from his place as though he were the one that had committed a crime." As Joseph held firmly to what he had said, Potiphar ordered him to prison, until his masters should return. In her sinful longing for him, his wife wanted to have Joseph in her own house, and she remonstrated with her husband in these words: "Wherefore dost thou keep the captive, nobly-born slave a prisoner? Thou shouldst rather set him at liberty and have him serve thee." He answered, "The law of the Egyptians does not permit us to take what belongs to another before all titles are made clear," and Joseph stayed in prison for twenty-four days, until the return of the Ishmaelites to Egypt.
Meanwhile they had heard somewhere that Joseph was the son of Jacob, and they therefore said to him: "Why didst thou pretend that thou wast a slave? See, we have information that thou art the son of a powerful man in Canaan, and thy father mourns for thee in sackcloth." Joseph was on the point of divulging his secret, but he kept a check upon himself for the sake of his brethren, and he repeated that he was a slave.
Nevertheless the Ishmaelites decided to sell him, that he be not found in their hands, for they feared the revenge of Jacob, who, they knew, was in high favor with the Lord and with men. The shopkeeper begged the Ishmaelites to rescue him from the legal prosecution of Potiphar, and clear him of the suspicion of man theft. The Ishmaelites in turn had a conference with Joseph, and bade him testify before Potiphar that they had bought him for money. He did so, and then the chief of the eunuchs liberated him from prison, and dismissed all parties concerned.
With the permission of her husband, Potiphar's wife sent a eunuch to the Ishmaelites, bidding him to buy Joseph, but he returned and reported that they demanded an exorbitant price for the slave. She dispatched a second eunuch, charging him to conclude the bargain, and though they asked one mina of gold, or even two, he was not to be sparing of money, he was to be sure to buy the slave and bring him to her. The eunuch gave the Ishmaelites eighty pieces of gold for Joseph, telling his mistress, however, that he had paid out a hundred pieces. Joseph noticed the deception, but he kept silent, that the eunuch might not be put to shame.
Thus Joseph became the slave of the idolatrous priest Potiphar, or Poti-phera, as he was sometimes called. He had secured possession of the handsome youth for a lewd purpose, but the angel Gabriel mutilated him in such manner that he could not accomplish it. His master soon had occasion to notice that Joseph was as pious as he was beautiful, for whenever he was occupied with his ministrations, he would whisper a prayer: "O Lord of the world, Thou art my trust, Thou art my protection. Let me find grace and favor in Thy sight and in the sight of all that see me, and in the sight of my master Potiphar." When Potiphar noticed the movement of his lips, he said to Joseph, "Dost thou purpose to cast a spell upon me?" "Nay," replied the youth, "I am beseeching God to let me find favor in thine eyes."
His prayer was heard. Potiphar convinced himself that God was with Joseph. Sometimes he would make a test of Joseph's miraculous powers. If he brought him a glass of hippocras, he would say, "I would rather have wine mixed with absinthe," and straightway the spiced wine was changed into bitter wine. Whatever he desired, he could be sure to get from Joseph, and he saw clearly that God fulfilled the wishes of his slave. Therefore he put all the keys of his house into his hand, and he knew not aught that was with him, keeping back nothing from Joseph but his wife. Seeing that the Shekinah rested upon him, Potiphar treated Joseph not as a slave, but as a member of his family, for he said, "This youth is not cut out for a slave's work, he is worthy of a prince's place." Accordingly, he provided instruction for him in the arts, and ordered him to have better fare than the other slaves.
Joseph thanked God for his new and happy state. He prayed, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, that Thou hast caused me to forget my father's house." What made his present fortunes so agreeable was that he was removed from the envy and jealousy of his brethren. He said: "When I was in my father's house, and he gave me something pretty, my brethren begrudged me the present, and now, O Lord, I thank Thee that I live amid plenty." Free from anxieties, he turned his attention to his external appearance. He painted his eyes, dressed his hair, and aimed to be elegant in his walk. But God spake to him, saying, "Thy father is mourning in sackcloth and ashes, while thou dost eat, drink, and dress thy hair. Therefore I will stir up thy mistress against thee, and thou shalt be embarrassed." Thus Joseph's secret wish was fulfilled, that he might be permitted to prove his piety under temptation, as the piety of his fathers had been tested.
JOSEPH AND ZULEIKA
"Throw the stick up in the air, it will always return to its original place." Like Rachel his mother, Joseph was of ravishing beauty, and the wife of his master was filled with invincible passion for him." Her feeling was heightened by the astrologic forecast that she was destined to have descendants through Joseph. This was true, but not in the sense in which she understood the prophecy. Joseph married her daughter Asenath later on, and she bore him children, thus fulfilling what had been read in the stars."
In the beginning she did not confess her love to Joseph. She tried first to seduce him by artifice. On the pretext of visiting him, she would go to him at night, and, as she had no sons, she would pretend a desire to adopt him. Joseph then prayed to God in her behalf, and she bore a son. However, she continued to embrace him as though he were her own child, yet he did not notice her evil designs. Finally, when he recognized her wanton trickery, he mourned many days, and endeavored to turn her away from her sinful passion by the word of God. She, on her side, often threatened him with death, and surrendered him to castigations in order to make him amenable to her will, and when these means had no effect upon Joseph, she sought to seduce him with enticements. She would say, "I promise thee, thou shalt rule over me and all I have, if thou wilt but give thyself up to me. and thou shalt be to me the same as my lawful husband." But Joseph was mindful of the words of his fathers, and he went into his chamber, and fasted, and prayed to God, that He would deliver him from the toils of the Egyptian woman.
In spite of the mortifications he practiced, and though he gave the poor and the sick the food apportioned to him, his master thought he lived a luxurious life, for those that fast for the glory of God are made beautiful of countenance.
The wife of Potiphar would frequently speak to her husband in praise of Joseph's chastity in order that he might conceive no suspicion of the state of her feelings. And, again, she would encourage Joseph secretly, telling him not to fear her husband, that he was convinced of his purity of life, and though one should carry tales to him about Joseph and herself, Potiphar would lend them no credence. And when she saw that all this was ineffectual , she approached him with the request that he teach her the word of God, saying, "If it be thy wish that I forsake idol worship, then fulfil my desire, and I will persuade that Egyptian husband of mine to abjure the idols, and we shall walk in the law of thy God." Joseph replied, "The Lord desireth not that those who fear Him shall walk in impurity, nor hath He pleasure in the adulterer."
Another time she came to him, and said, "If thou wilt not do my desire, I will murder the Egyptian and wed with thee according to the law." Whereat Joseph rent his garment, and he said, "O woman, fear the Lord, and do not execute this evil deed, that thou mayest not bring destruction down upon thyself, for I will proclaim thy impious purposes to all in public."
Again, she sent him a dish prepared with magic spells, by means of which she hoped to get him into her power. But when the eunuch set it before him, he saw the image of a man handing him a sword together with the dish, and, warned by the vision, he took good care not to taste of the food. A few days later his mistress came to him, and asked him why he had not eaten of what she had sent him. He reproached her, saying, "How couldst thou tell me, I do not come nigh unto the idols, but only unto the Lord? The God of my fathers hath revealed thy iniquity to me through an angel, but that thou mayest know that the malice of the wicked has no power over those who fear God in purity, I shall eat thy food before thine eyes, and the God of my fathers and the angel of Abraham will be with me." The wife of Potiphar fell upon her face at the feet of Joseph, and amid tears she promised not to commit this sin again.
But her unholy passion for Joseph did not depart from her, and her distress over her unfulfilled wish made her look so ill that her husband said to her, "Why is thy countenance fallen?" And she replied, "I have a pain at my heart, and the groanings of my spirit oppress me."
Once when she was alone with Joseph, she rushed toward him, crying, "I will throttle myself, or I will jump into a well or a pit, if thou wilt not yield thyself to me." Noticing her extreme agitation, Joseph endeavored to calm her with these words, "Remember, if thou makest away with thyself, thy husband's concubine, Asteho, thy rival, will maltreat thy children, and extirpate thy memory from the earth." These words, gently spoken, had the opposite effect from that intended. They only inflamed her passion the more by feeding her hopes. She said: "There, seest thou, thou dost love me now! It sufficeth for me that thou takest thought for me and for the safety of my children. I expect now that my desire will be fulfilled." She did not know that Joseph spoke as he did for the sake of God, and not for her sake.
His mistress, or, as she was called, Zuleika, pursued him day after day with her amorous talk and her flattery, saying: "How fair is thy appearance, how comely thy form! Never have I seen so well-favored a slave as thou art." Joseph would reply: "God, who formed me in my mother's womb, hath created all men."
Zuleika: "How beautiful are thine eyes, with which thou hast charmed all Egyptians, both men and women!"
Joseph: "Beautiful as they may be while I am alive, so ghastly they will be to look upon in the grave."
Zuleika: "How lovely and pleasant are thy words! I pray thee, take thy harp, play and also sing, that I may hear thy words."
Joseph: "Lovely and pleasant are my words when I proclaim the praise of my God."
Zuleika: "How beautiful is thy hair! Take my golden comb, and comb it."
Joseph: "How long wilt thou continue to speak thus to me? Leave off! It were better for thee to care for thy household."
Zuleika: "There is nothing in my house that I care for, save thee alone."
But Joseph's virtue was unshaken. While she spoke thus, he did not so much as raise his eyes to look at his mistress. He remained equally steadfast when she lavished gifts upon him, for she provided him with garments of one kind for the morning, another for noon, and a third kind for the evening. Nor could threats move him. She would say, "I will bring false accusations against thee before thy master," and Joseph would reply, "The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed." Or, "I will deprive thee of food;" whereupon Joseph, "The Lord giveth food to the hungry." Or, "I will have thee thrown into prison;" whereupon Joseph, "The Lord looseth the prisoners." Or, "I will put heavy labor upon thee that will bend thee double;" whereupon Joseph, "The Lord raiseth up them that are bowed down." Or, "I will blind thine eyes;" whereupon Joseph, "The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind."
When she began to exercise her blandishments upon him, he rejected them with the words, "I fear my master." But Zuleika would say, "I will kill him." Joseph replied with indignation, "Not enough that thou wouldst make an adulterer of me, thou wouldst have me be a murderer, besides?" And he spoke furthermore, saying, "I fear the Lord my God!"
Zuleika: "Nonsense! He is not here to see thee!
Joseph: "Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable."
Thereupon she took Joseph into her chamber, where an idol hung above the bed. This she covered, that it might not be a witness of what she was about to do. Joseph said: "Though thou coverest up the eyes of the idol, remember, the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth. Yes," continued Joseph, "I have many reasons not to do this thing for the sake of God. Adam was banished from Paradise on account of violating a light command; how much more should I have to fear the punishment of God, were I to commit so grave a sin as adultery! The Lord is in the habit of choosing a favorite member of our family as a sacrifice unto Himself. Perhaps He desireth to make choice of me, but if I do thy will, I make myself unfit to be a sacrifice unto God. Also the Lord is in the habit of appearing suddenly, in visions of the night, unto those that love Him. Thus did He appear unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I fear that He may appear unto me at the very moment while I am defiling myself with thee. And as I fear God, so I fear my father, who withdrew the birthright from his first-born son Reuben, on account of an immoral act, and gave it to me. Were I to fulfil thy desire, I would share the fate of my brother Reuben."
With such words, Joseph endeavored to cure the wife of his master of the wanton passion she had conceived for him, while he took heed to keep far from a heinous sin, not from fear of the punishment that would follow, nor out of consideration for the opinion of men, but because he desired to sanctify the Name of God, blessed be He, before the whole world. It was this feeling of his that Zuleika could not comprehend, and when, finally, carried away by passion, she told him in unmistakable language what she desired, and he recoiled from her, she said to Joseph: "Why dost thou refuse to fulfil my wish? Am I not a married woman? None will find out what thou hast done." Joseph replied: "If the unmarried women of the heathen are prohibited unto us, how much more their married women? As the Lord liveth, I will not commit the crime thou biddest me do." In this Joseph followed the example of many pious men, who utter an oath at the moment when they are in danger of succumbing to temptation, and seek thus to gather moral courage to control their evil instincts."
When Zuleika could not prevail upon him, to persuade him, her desire threw her into a grievous sickness, and all the women of Egypt came to visit her, and they said unto her, "Why art thou so languid and wasted, thou that lackest nothing? Is not thy husband a prince great and esteemed in the sight of the king? Is it possible that thou canst want aught of what thy heart desireth?" Zuleika answered them, saying, "This day shall it be made known unto you whence cometh the state wherein you see me."
She commanded her maid-servants to prepare food for all the women, and she spread a banquet before them in her house. She placed knives upon the table to peel the oranges, and then ordered Joseph to appear, arrayed in costly garments, and wait upon her guests. When Joseph came in, the women could not take their eyes off him, and they all cut their hands with the knives, and the oranges in their hands were covered with blood, but they, not knowing what they were doing, continued to look upon the beauty of Joseph without turning their eyes away from him.
Then Zuleika said unto them: "What have ye done? Behold, I set oranges before you to eat, and you have cut your hands." All the women looked at their hands, and, lo, they were full of blood, and it flowed down and stained their garments. They said to Zuleika, "This slave in thy house did enchant us, and we could not turn our eyes away from him on account of his beauty." She then said: "This happened to you that looked upon him but a moment, and you could not refrain yourselves! How, then, can I control myself in whose house he abideth continually, who see him go in and out day after day? How, then, should I not waste away, or keep from languishing on account of him!" And the women spake, saying: "It is true, who can look upon this beauty in the house, and refrain her feelings? But he is thy slave! Why dost thou not disclose to him that which is in thy heart, rather than suffer thy life to perish through this thing?" Zuleika answered them: "Daily do I endeavor to persuade him, but he will not consent to my wishes. I promised him everything that is fair, yet have I met with no return from him, and therefore I am sick, as you may see."
Her sickness increased upon her. Her husband and her household suspected not the cause of her decline, but all the women that were her friends knew that it was on account of the love she bore Joseph, and they advised her all the time to try to entice the youth. On a certain day, while Joseph was doing his master's work in the house, Zuleika came and fell suddenly upon him, but Joseph was stronger than she, and he pressed her down to the ground. Zuleika wept, and in a voice of supplication, and in bitterness of soul, she said to Joseph: "Hast thou ever known, seen, or heard of a woman my peer in beauty, let alone a woman with beauty exceeding mine? Yet I try daily to persuade thee, I fall into decline through love of thee, I confer all this honor upon thee, and thou wilt not hearken unto my voice! Is it by reason of fear of thy master, that he punish thee? As the king liveth, no harm shall come upon thee from thy master on account of this thing. Now, therefore, I pray thee, listen to me, and consent unto my desire for the sake of the honor that I have conferred upon thee, and take this death away from me. For why should I die on account of thee?" Joseph remained as steadfast under these importunities as before. Zuleika, however, was not discouraged; she continued her solicitations unremittingly, day after day, month after month, for a whole year, but always without the least success, for Joseph in his chastity did not permit himself even to look upon her, wherefore she resorted to constraint. She had an iron shackle placed upon his chin, and he was compelled to keep his head up and look her in the face."
JOSEPH RESISTS TEMPTATION
Seeing that she could not attain her object by entreaties or tears, Zuleika finally used force, when she judged that the favorable chance had come. She did not have long to wait. When the Nile overflowed its banks, and, according to the annual custom of the Egyptians, all repaired to the river, men and women, people and princes, accompanied by music, Zuleika remained at home under pretense of being sick. This was her long-looked-for opportunity, she thought. She rose up and ascended to the hall of state, and arrayed herself in princely garments. She placed precious stones upon her head, onyx stones set in silver and gold, she beautified her face and her body with all sorts of things for the purifying of women, she perfumed the hall and the whole house with cassia and frankincense, spread myrrh and aloes all over, and afterward sat herself down at the entrance to the hall, in the vestibule leading to the house, through which Joseph had to pass to his work.
And, behold, Joseph came from the field, and he was on the point of entering the house to do his master's work, but when he reached the place where Zuleika sat, and saw all she had done, he turned back. His mistress, perceiving it, called out to him, "What aileth thee, Joseph? Go to thy work, I will make room for thee, that thou mayest pass by to thy seat." Joseph did as she bade him, he entered the house, took his seat, and set about his master's work as usual. Then Zuleika stood before him suddenly in all her beauty of person and magnificence of raiment, and repeated the desire of her heart. It was the first and the last time that Joseph's steadfastness deserted him, but only for an instant. When he was on the point of complying with the wish of his mistress, the image of his mother Rachel appeared before him, and that of his aunt Leah, and the image of his father Jacob. The last addressed him thus: "In time to come the names of thy brethren will be graven upon the breastplate of the high priest. Dost thou desire to have thy name appear with theirs? Or wilt thou forfeit this honor through sinful conduct? For know, he that keepeth company with harlots wasteth his substance." This vision of the dead, and especially the image of his father, brought Joseph to his senses, and his illicit passion departed from him.
Astonished at the swift change in his countenance, Zuleika said, "My friend and true-love, why art thou so affrighted that thou art near to swooning?
Joseph: "I see my father!"
Zuleika: "Where is he? Why, there is none in the house."
Joseph: "Thou belongest to a people that is like unto the ass, it perceiveth nothing. But I belong to those who can see things."
Joseph fled forth, away from the house of his mistress, the same house in which aforetime wonders had been done for Sarah kept a captive there by Pharaoh. But hardly was he outside when the sinful passion again overwhelmed him, and he returned to Zuleika's chamber. Then the Lord appeared unto him, holding the Eben Shetiyah in His hand, and said to him: "If thou touchest her, I will cast away this stone upon which the earth is founded, and the world will fall to ruin." Sobered again, Joseph started to escape from his mistress, but Zuleika caught him by his garment, and she said: "As the king liveth, if thou wilt not fulfil my wish, thou must die," and while she spoke thus, she drew a sword with her free hand from under her dress, and, pressing it against Joseph's throat, she said, "Do as I bid thee, or thou diest." Joseph ran out, leaving a piece of his garment in the hands of Zuleika as he wrenched himself loose from the grasp of the woman with a quick, energetic motion.
Zuleika's passion for Joseph was so violent that, in lieu of its owner, whom she could not succeed in subduing to her will, she kissed and caressed the fragment of cloth left in her hand. At the same time she was not slow to perceive the danger into which she had put herself, for, she feared, Joseph might possibly betray her conduct, and she considered ways and means of obviating the consequences of her folly.
Meanwhile her friends returned from the Nile festival, and they came to visit her and inquire after her health. They found her looking wretchedly ill, on account of the excitement she had passed through and the anxiety she was in. She confessed to the women what had happened with Joseph, and they advised her to accuse him of immorality before her husband, and then he would be thrown into prison. Zuleika accepted their advice, and she begged her visitors to support her charges by also lodging complaints against Joseph, that he had been annoying them with improper proposals.
But Zuleika did not depend entirely upon the assistance of her friends. She planned a ruse, besides, to be sure of convincing her husband of Joseph's guilt. She laid aside her rich robes of state, put on her ordinary clothes, and took to her sick-bed, in which she had been lying when the people left to go to the festival. Also she took Joseph's torn garment, and laid it out next to her. Then she sent a little boy to summon some of the men of her house, and to them she told the tale of Joseph's alleged outrage, saying: "See the Hebrew slave, whom your master hath brought in unto my house, and who attempted to do violence to me to-day! You had scarcely gone away to the festival when be entered the house, and making sure that no one was here he tried to force me to yield to his lustful desire. But I grasped his clothes, tore them, and cried with a loud voice. When he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, he was seized with fear, and be fled, and got him out, but he left his garment by me." The men of her house spake not a word, but, in a rage against Joseph, they went to their master, and reported to him what had come to pass. In the meantime the husbands of Zuleika's friends had also spoken to Potiphar, at the instigation of their wives, and complained of his slave, that he molested them.
Potiphar hastened home, and he found his wife in low spirits, and though the cause of her dejection was chagrin at not having succeeded in winning Joseph's love, she pretended that it was anger at the immoral conduct of the slave. She accused him in the following words: "O husband, mayest thou not live a day longer, if thou dost not punish the wicked slave that hath desired to defile thy bed, that hath not kept in mind who he was when he came to our house, to demean himself with modesty, nor hath he been mindful of the favors he hath received from thy bounty. He did lay a privy design to abuse thy wife, and this at the time of observing a festival, when thou wouldst be absent." These words she spoke at the moment of conjugal intimacy with Potiphar, when she was certain of exerting an influence upon her husband.
Potiphar gave credence to her words, and he had Joseph flogged unmercifully. While the cruel blows fell upon him, he cried to God, "O Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent of these things, and why should I die to-day on account of a false accusation by the hands of these uncircumcised, impious men?" God opened the mouth of Zuleika's child, a babe of but eleven months, and he spoke to the men that were beating Joseph, saying: "What is your quarrel with this man? Why do you inflict such evil upon him? Lies my mother doth speak, and deceit is what her mouth uttereth. This is the true tale of that which did happen," and the child proceeded to tell all that had passed--how Zuleika had tried first to persuade Joseph to act wickedly, and then had tried to force him to do her will. The people listened in great amazement. But the report finished, the child spake no word, as before.
Abashed by the speech of his own infant son, Potiphar commanded his bailiffs to leave off from chastising Joseph, and the matter was brought into court, where priests sat as judges. Joseph protested his innocence, and related all that had happened according to the truth, but Potiphar repeated the account his wife had given him. The judges ordered the garment of Joseph to be brought which Zuleika had in her possession, and they examined the tear therein. It turned out to be on the front part of the mantle, and they came to the conclusion that Zuleika had tried to hold him fast, and had been foiled in her attempt by Joseph, against whom she was now lodging a trumped up charge. They decided that Joseph had not incurred the death penalty, but they condemned him to incarceration, because he was the cause of a stain upon Zuleika's fair name."
Potiphar himself was convinced of Joseph's innocence, and when he cast him into prison, he said to him, "I know that thou art not guilty of so vile a crime, but I must put thee in durance, lest a taint cling to my children."
JOSEPH IN PRISON
By way of punishment for having traduced his ten brethren before his father, Joseph had to languish for ten years in the prison to which the wiles of traducers had in turn condemned him. But, on the other hand, as he had sanctified the Name of God before the world by his chastity and his steadfastness, he was rewarded. The letter He, which occurs twice in the Name of God, was added to his name. He had been called Joseph, but now he was called also Jehoseph.
Though he was bound in prison, Joseph was not yet safe from the machinations of his mistress, whose passion for him was in no wise lessened. In truth it was she that had induced her husband to change his intention regarding Joseph; she urged him to imprison the slave rather than kill him, for she hoped that as a prisoner he could be made amenable to her wishes more easily. She spake to her husband, saying: "Do not destroy thy property. Cast the slave in prison and keep him there until thou canst sell him, and receive back the money thou didst pay out for him." Thus she had the opportunity of visiting Joseph in his cell and trying to persuade him to do her will. She would say, "This and that outrage have I executed against thee, but, as thou livest, I will put yet other outrages upon thee if thou dost not obey me." But Joseph replied, "The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed."
Zuleika: "I will push matters so far that all men will hate thee."
Joseph: "The Lord loveth the righteous."
Zuleika: "I will sell thee into a strange land."
Joseph: "The Lord preserveth the strangers."
Then she would resort to enticements in order to obtain her desire. She would promise to release him from prison, if he would but grant her wish. But he would say, "Better it is to remain here than be with thee and commit a trespass against God." These visits to Joseph in prison Zuleika continued for a long time, but when, finally, she saw that all her hopes were vain, she let him alone.
As the mistress persisted in her love for Joseph, so his master, her husband, could not separate himself from his favorite slave. Though a prisoner, Joseph continued to minister to the needs of Potiphar, and he received permission from the keeper of the prison to spend some of his time in his master's house. In many other ways the jailer showed himself kindly disposed toward Joseph. Seeing the youth's zeal and conscientiousness in executing the tasks laid upon him, and under the spell of his enchanting beauty, he made prison life as easy as possible for his charge. He even ordered better dishes for him than the common prison fare, and he found it superfluous caution to keep watch over Joseph, for he could see no wrong in him, and he observed that God was with him, in good days and in bad. He even appointed him to be the overseer of the prison, and as Joseph commanded, so the other prisoners were obliged to do.
For a long time the people talked of nothing but the accusation raised against Joseph by his mistress. In order to divert the attention of the public from him, God ordained that two high officers, the chief butler and the chief baker, should offend their lord, the king of Egypt, and they were put in ward in the house of the captain of the guard. Now the people ceased their talk about Joseph, and spoke only of the scandal at court. The charges laid at the door of the noble prisoners were that they had attempted to do violence to the daughter of Pharaoh, and they had conspired to poison the king himself. Besides, they had shown themselves derelict in their service. In the wine the chief butler had handed to the king to drink, a fly had been discovered, and the bread set upon the royal board by the chief baker contained a little pebble." On account of all these transgressions they were condemned to death by Pharaoh, but for the sake of Joseph it was ordained by Divine providence that the king should first detain them in prison before he ordered their execution. The Lord had enkindled the wrath of the king against his servants only that the wish of Joseph for liberty might be fulfilled, for they were the instruments of his deliverance from prison, and though they were doomed to death, yet in consideration of the exalted office they had held at court, the keeper of the prison accorded them privileges, as, for instance, a man was detailed to wait upon them, and the one appointed thereto was Joseph. 1]
The chief butler and the chief baker had been confined in prison ten years, when they dreamed a dream, both of them, but as for the interpretation, each dreamed only that of the other one's dream. In the morning when Joseph brought them the water for washing, he found them sad, depressed in spirits, and, in the manner of the sages, he asked them why they looked different on that day from other days. They said unto him, "We have dreamed a dream this night, and our two dreams resemble each other in certain particulars, and there is none that can interpret them." And Joseph said unto them: "God granteth understanding to man to interpret dreams. Tell them me, I pray you." It was as a reward for ascribing greatness and credit to Him unto whom it belongeth that Joseph later attained to his lofty position.
The chief butler proceeded to tell his dream: "In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three branches; and it was as though it budded, and its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes; and Pharaoh's cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand." The chief butler was not aware that his dream contained a prophecy regarding the future of Israel, but Joseph discerned the recondite meaning, and he interpreted the dream thus: The three branches are the three Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose descendants in Egypt will be redeemed by three leaders, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; and the cup given into the hand of Pharaoh is the cup of wrath that he will have to drain in the end. This interpretation of the dream Joseph kept for himself, and he told the chief butler nothing thereof, but out of gratitude for the glad tidings of the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, he gave him a favorable interpretation of his dream, and begged him to have him in his remembrance, when it should be well with him, and liberate him from the dungeon in which he was confined.
When the chief baker heard the interpretation of the butler's dream, he knew that Joseph had divined its meaning correctly, for in his own he had seen the interpretation of his friend's dream, and he proceeded to tell Joseph what he had dreamed in the night: "I also was in my dream, and, behold, three baskets of white bread were on my head; and in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bake-meats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head." Also this dream conveyed a prophecy regarding the future of Israel: The three baskets are the three kingdoms to which Israel will be made subject, Babylon, Media, and Greece; and the uppermost basket indicates the wicked rule of Rome, which will extend over all the nations of the world, until the bird shall come, who is the Messiah, and annihilate Rome. Again Joseph kept the prophecy a secret. To the chief baker he gave only the interpretation that had reference to his person, but it was unfavorable to him, because through his dream Joseph had been made acquainted with the suffering Israel would have to undergo.
And all came to pass, as Joseph had said, on the third day. The day whereon he explained the meaning of their dreams to the two distinguished prisoners, a son was born unto Pharaoh and to celebrate the joyous event, the king arranged a feast for his princes and servants that was to last eight days. He invited them and all the people to his table, and he entertained them with royal splendor. The feast had its beginning on the third day after the birth of the child, and on that occasion the chief butler was restored in honor to his butlership, and the chief baker was hanged, for Pharaoh's counsellors had discovered that it was not the butler's fault that the fly had dropped into the king's wine, but the baker had been guilty of carelessness in allowing the pebble to get into the bread. Likewise it appeared that the butler had had no part in the conspiracy to poison the king, while the baker was revealed as one of the plotters, and he had to expiate his crime with his life.
Properly speaking, Joseph should have gone out free from his dungeon on the same day as the butler. He had been there ten years by that time, and had made amends for the slander he had uttered against his ten brethren. However, he remained in prison two years longer. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord," but Joseph had put his confidence in flesh and blood. He had prayed the chief butler to have him in remembrance when it should be well with him, and make mention of him unto Pharaoh, and the butler forgot his promise, and therefore Joseph had to stay in prison two years more than the years originally allotted to him there. The butler had not forgotten him intentionally, but it was ordained of God that his memory should fail him. When he would say to himself, If thus and so happens, I will remember the case of Joseph, the conditions he had imagined were sure to be reversed, or if he made a knot as a reminder, an angel came and undid the knot, and Joseph did not enter his mind.
But "the Lord setteth an end to darkness," and Joseph's liberation was not delayed by a single moment beyond the time decreed for it. God said, "Thou, O butler, thou didst forget Joseph, but I did not," and He caused Pharaoh to dream a dream that was the occasion for Joseph's release.
In his dream Pharaoh saw seven kine, well-favored and fat-fleshed, come up out of the Nile, and they all together grazed peaceably on the brink of the river, In years when the harvest is abundant, friendship reigns among men, and love and brotherly harmony, and these seven fat kine stood for seven such prosperous years. After the fat kine, seven more came up out of the river, ill-favored and lean-fleshed, and each had her back turned to the others, for when distress prevails, one man turns away from the other. For a brief space Pharaoh awoke, and when he went to sleep again, he dreamed a second dream, about seven rank and good ears of corn, and seven ears that were thin and blasted with the east wind, the withered cars swallowing the full ears. He awoke at once, and it was morning, and dreams dreamed in the morning are the ones that come true.
This was not the first time Pharaoh had had these dreams. They had visited him every night during a period of two years, and he had forgotten them invariably in the morning. This was the first time he remembered them, for the day had arrived for Joseph to come forth from his prison house. Pharaoh's heart beat violently when he called his dreams to mind on awaking. Especially the second one, about the ears of corn, disquieted him. He reflected that whatever has a mouth can eat, and therefore the dream of the seven lean kine that ate up the seven fat kine did not appear strange to him. But the ears of corn that swallowed up other ears of corn troubled his spirit. He therefore called for all the wise men of his land, and they endeavored in vain to find a satisfactory interpretation. They explained that the seven fat kine meant seven daughters to be born unto Pharaoh, and the seven lean kine, that he would bury seven daughters; the rank ears of corn meant that Pharaoh would conquer seven countries, and the blasted ears, that seven provinces would rebel against him. About the ears of corn they did not all agree. Some thought the good ears stood for seven cities to be built by Pharaoh, and the seven withered ears indicated that these same cities would be destroyed at the end of his reign.
Sagacious as he was, Pharaoh knew that none of these explanations hit the nail on the head. He issued a decree summoning all interpreters of dreams to appear before him on pain of death, and he held out great rewards and distinctions to the one who should succeed in finding the true meaning of his dreams. In obedience to his summons, all the wise men appeared, the magicians and the sacred scribes that were in Mizraim, the city of Egypt, as well as those from Goshen, Raamses, Zoan, and the whole country of Egypt, and with them came the princes, officers, and servants of the king from all the cities of the land.
To all these the king narrated his dreams, but none could interpret them to his satisfaction. Some said that the seven fat kine were the seven legitimate kings that would rule over Egypt, and the seven lean kine betokened seven princes that would rise up against these seven kings and exterminate them. The seven good ears of corn were the seven superior princes of Egypt that would engage in a war for their overlord, and would be defeated by as many insignificant princes, who were betokened by the seven blasted ears.
Another interpretation was that the seven fat kine were the seven fortified cities of Egypt, at some future time to fall into the hands of seven Canaanitish nations, who were foreshadowed in the seven lean kine. According to this interpretation, the second dream supplemented the first. It meant that the descendants of Pharaoh would regain sovereign authority over Egypt at a subsequent period, and would subdue the seven Canaanitish nations as well.
There was a third interpretation, given by some: The seven fat kine are seven women whom Pharaoh would take to wife, but they would die during his lifetime, their loss being indicated by the seven lean kine. Furthermore, Pharaoh would have fourteen sons, and the seven strong ones would be conquered by the seven weaklings, as the blasted ears of corn in his dream had swallowed up the rank ears of corn.
And a fourth: "Thou wilt have seven sons, O Pharaoh, these are the seven fat kine. These sons of thine will be killed by the seven powerful rebellious princes. But then seven minor princes will come, and they will kill the seven rebels, avenge thy descendants, and restore the dominion to thy family."
The king was as little pleased with these interpretations as with the others, which he had heard before, and in his wrath he ordered the wise men, the magicians and the scribes of Egypt, to be killed, and the hangmen made ready to execute the royal decree.
However, Mirod, Pharaoh's chief butler, took fright, seeing that the king was so vexed at his failure to secure an interpretation of his dreams that he was on the point of giving up the ghost. He was alarmed about the king's death, for it was doubtful whether the successor to the throne would retain him in office. He resolved to do all in his power to keep Pharaoh alive. Therefore he stepped before him, and spake, saying, "I do remember two faults of mine this day, I showed myself ungrateful to Joseph, in that I did not bring his request before thee, and also I saw thee in distress by reason of thy dream, without letting thee know that Joseph can interpret dreams. When it pleased the Lord God to make Pharaoh wroth with his servants, the king put me in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, me and the chief baker. And with us there was a simple young man, one of the despised race of the Hebrews, slave to the captain of the guard, and he interpreted our dreams to us, and it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was. Therefore, O king, stay the hand of the hangmen, let them not execute the Egyptians. The slave I speak of is still in the dungeon, and if the king will consent to summon him hither, he will surely interpret thy dreams."
JOSEPH BEFORE PHARAOH
"Accursed are the wicked that never do a wholly good deed." The chief butler described Joseph contemptuously as a "slave" in order that it might be impossible for him to occupy a distinguished place at court, for it was a law upon the statute books of Egypt that a slave could never sit upon the throne as king, nor even put his foot in the stirrup of a horse.
Pharaoh revoked the edict of death that he had issued against the wise men of Egypt, and he sent and called Joseph. He impressed care upon his messengers, they were not to excite and confuse Joseph, and render him unfit to interpret the king's dream correctly. They brought him hastily out of the dungeon, but first Joseph, out of respect for the king, shaved himself, and put on fresh raiment, which an angel brought him from Paradise, and then he came in unto Pharaoh.
The king was sitting upon the royal throne, arrayed in princely garments, clad with a golden ephod upon his breast, and the fine gold of the ephod sparkled, and the carbuncle, the ruby, and the emerald flamed like a torch, and all the precious stones set upon the king's head flashed like a blazing fire, and Joseph was greatly amazed at the appearance of the king. The throne upon which he sat was covered with gold and silver and with onyx stones, and it had seventy steps. If a prince or other distinguished person came to have an audience with the king, it was the custom for him to advance and mount to the thirty-first step of the throne, and the king would descend thirty-six steps and speak to him. But if one of the people came to have speech with the king, he ascended only to the third step, and the king would come down four steps from his seat, and address him thence. It was also the custom that one who knew all the seventy languages ascended the seventy steps of the throne to the top, but if a man knew only some of the seventy languages, he was permitted to ascend as many steps as he knew languages, whether they were many or, few. And another custom of the Egyptians was that none could reign over them unless he was master of all the seventy languages.
When Joseph came before the king, he bowed down to the ground, and he ascended to the third step, while the king sat upon the fourth from the top, and spake with Joseph, saying: "O young man, my servant beareth witness concerning thee, that thou art the best and most discerning person I can consult with. I pray thee, vouchsafe unto me the same favors which thou didst bestow on this servant of mine, and tell me what events they are which the visions of my dreams foreshow. I desire thee to suppress naught out of fear, nor shalt thou flatter me with lying words, or with words that please me. Tell me the truth, though it be sad and alarming."
Joseph asked the king first whence he knew that the interpretation given by the wise men of his country was not true, and Pharaoh replied, "I saw the dream and its interpretation together, and therefore they cannot make a fool of me." In his modesty Joseph denied that he was an adept at interpreting dreams. He said, "It is not in me; it is in the hand of God, and if it be the wish of God, He will permit me to announce tidings of peace to Pharaoh." And for such modesty he was rewarded by sovereignty over Egypt, for the Lord doth honor them that honor Him. Thus was also Daniel rewarded for his speech to Nebuchadnezzar:
"There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, but as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that thou mayest know the thoughts of thy heart."
Then Pharaoh began to tell his dream, only he omitted some points and narrated others inaccurately in order that he might test the vaunted powers of Joseph. But the youth corrected him, and pieced the dreams together exactly as they had visited Pharaoh in the night, and the king was greatly amazed. Joseph was able to accomplish this feat, because he had dreamed the same dream as Pharaoh, at the same time as he. Thereupon Pharaoh retold his dreams, with all details and circumstances, and precisely as he had seen them in his sleep, except that he left out the word Nile in the description of the seven lean kine, because this river was worshipped by the Egyptians, and he hesitated to say that aught that is evil had come from his god.
Now Joseph proceeded to give the king the true interpretation of the two dreams. They were both a revelation concerning the seven good years impending and the seven years of famine to follow them. In reality, it had been the purpose of God to bring a famine of forty-two years' duration upon Egypt, but only two years of this distressful period were inflicted upon the land, for the sake of the blessing of Jacob when he came to Egypt in the second year of the famine. The other forty years fell upon the land at the time of the prophet Ezekiel.
Joseph did more than merely interpret the dreams. When the king gave voice to doubts concerning the interpretation, he told him signs and tokens. He said: "Let this be a sign to thee that my words are true, and my advice is excellent: Thy wife, who is sitting upon the birthstool at this moment, will bring forth a son, and thou wilt rejoice over him, but in the midst of thy joy the sad tidings will be told thee of the death of thine older son, who was born unto thee but two years ago, and thou must needs find consolation for the loss of the one in the birth of the other."
Scarcely had Joseph withdrawn from the presence of the king, when the report of the birth of a son was brought to Pharaoh, and soon after also the report of the death of his first-born, who had suddenly dropped to the floor and passed away. Thereupon he sent for all the grandees of his realm, and all his servants, and he spake to them, saying: "Ye have heard the words of the Hebrew, and ye have seen that the signs which he foretold were accomplished, and I also know that he hath interpreted the dream truly. Advise me now how the land may be saved from the ravages of the famine. Look hither and thither whether you can find a man of wisdom and understanding, whom I may set over the land, for I am convinced that the land can be saved only if we heed the counsel of the Hebrew." The grandees and the princes admitted that safety could be secured only by adhering to the advice given by Joseph, and they proposed that the king, in his sagacity, choose a man whom he considered equal to the great task. Thereupon Pharaoh said: "If we traversed and searched the earth from end to end, we could find none such as Joseph, a man in whom is the spirit of God. If ye think well thereof, I will set him over the land which he hath saved by his wisdom."
The astrologers, who were his counsellors, demurred, saying, "A slave, one whom his present owner hath acquired for twenty pieces of silver, thou proposest to set over us as master?" But Pharaoh maintained that Joseph was not only a free-born man beyond the peradventure of a doubt, but also the scion of a noble family. However, the princes of Pharaoh were not silenced, they continued to give utterance to their opposition to Joseph, saying: "Dost thou not remember the immutable law of the Egyptians, that none may serve as king or as viceroy unless he speaks all the languages of men? And this Hebrew knows none but his own tongue, and how were it possible that a man should rule over us who cannot even speak the language of our land? Send and have him fetched hither, and examine him in respect to all the things a ruler should know and have, and then decide as seemeth wise in thy sight."
Pharaoh yielded, he promised to do as they wished, and he appointed the following day as the time for examining Joseph, who had returned to his prison in the meantime, for, on account of his wife, his master feared to have him stay in his house. During the night Gabriel appeared unto Joseph, and taught him all the seventy languages, and he acquired them quickly after the angel had changed his name from Joseph to Jehoseph. The next morning, when he came into the presence of Pharaoh and the nobles of the kingdom, inasmuch as he knew every one of the seventy languages, he mounted all the steps of the royal throne, until he reached the seventieth, the highest, upon which sat the king, and Pharaoh and his princes rejoiced that Joseph fulfilled all the requirements needed by one that was to rule over Egypt.
The king said to Joseph: "Thou didst give me the counsel to look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt, that he may in his wisdom save the land from the famine. As God hath showed thee all this, and as thou art master of all the languages of the world, there is none so discreet and wise as thou. Thou shalt therefore be the second in the land after Pharaoh, and according unto thy word shall all my people go in and go out; my princes and my servants shall receive their monthly appanage from thee; before thee the people shall prostrate themselves, only in the throne will I be greater than thou."
THE RULER OF EGYPT
Now Joseph reaped the harvest of his virtues, and according to the measure of his merits God granted him reward. The mouth that refused the kiss of unlawful passion and sin received the kiss of homage from the people; the neck that did not bow itself unto sin was adorned with the gold chain that Pharaoh put upon it; the hands that did not touch sin wore the signet ring that Pharaoh took from his own hand and put upon Joseph's; the body that did not come in contact with sin was arrayed in vestures of byssus; the feet that made no steps in the direction of sin reposed in the royal chariot, and the thoughts that kept themselves undefiled by sin were proclaimed as wisdom.
Joseph was installed in his high position, and invested with the insignia of his office, with solemn ceremony. The king took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in princely apparel, and set a gold crown upon his head, and laid a gold chain about his neck. Then he commanded his servants to make Joseph to ride in his second chariot, which went by the side of the chariot wherein sat the king, and he also made him to ride upon a great and strong horse of the king's horses, and his servants conducted him through the streets of the city of Egypt. Musicians, no less than a thousand striking cymbals and a thousand blowing flutes, and five thousand men with drawn swords gleaming in the air formed the vanguard. Twenty thousand of the king's grandees girt with gold-embroidered leather belts marched at the right of Joseph, and as many at the left of him. The women and the maidens of the nobility looked out of the windows to gaze upon Joseph's beauty, and they poured down chains upon him, and rings and jewels, that he might but direct his eyes toward them. Yet he did not look up, and as a reward God made him proof against the evil eye, nor has it ever had the power of inflicting harm upon any of his descendants. Servants of the king, preceding him and following him, burnt incense upon his path, and cassia, and all manner of sweet spices, and strewed myrrh and aloes wherever he went. Twenty heralds walked before him, and they proclaimed: "This is the man whom the king bath chosen to be the second after him. All the affairs of state will be administered by him, and whoever resisteth his commands, or refuseth to bow down to the ground before him, he will die the death of the rebel against the king and the king's deputy."
Without delay the people prostrated themselves, and they cried, "Long live the king, and long live the deputy of the king!" And Joseph, looking down from his horse upon the people and their exultation, exclaimed, his eyes directed heavenward: "The Lord raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the needy from the dunghill. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee."
After Joseph, accompanied by Pharaoh's officers and princes, had journeyed through the whole city of Egypt, and viewed all there was therein, he returned to the king on the selfsame day, and the king gave him fields and vineyards as a present, and also three thousand talents of silver, and a thousand talents of gold, and onyx stones and bdellium, and many other costly things. The king commanded, moreover, that every Egyptian give Joseph a gift, else he would be put to death. A platform was erected in the open street, and there all deposited their presents, and among the things were many of gold and silver, as well as precious stones, carried thither by the people and also the grandees, for they saw that Joseph enjoyed the favor of the king. Furthermore, Joseph received one hundred slaves from Pharaoh, and they were to do all his bidding, and he himself acquired many more, for he resided in a spacious palace. Three years it took to build it. Special magnificence was lavished upon the hall of state, which was his audience chamber, and upon the throne fashioned of gold and silver and inlaid with precious stones, whereon there was a representation of the whole land of Egypt and of the river Nile. And as Joseph multiplied in riches, so he increased also in wisdom, for God added to his wisdom that all might love and honor him. Pharaoh called him Zaphenath-paneah, he who can reveal secret things with ease, and rejoiceth the heart of man therewith. Each letter of the name Zaphenath-paneah has a meaning, too. The first, Zadde, stands for Zofeh, seer; Pe for Podeh, redeemer; Nun for Nabi, prophet; Taw for Tomek, supporter; Pe for Poter, interpreter of dreams; Ain for Arum, clever; Nun for Nabon, discreet; and Het for Hakam, wise.
The name of Joseph's wife pointed to her history in the same way. Asenath was the daughter of Dinah and Hamor, but she was abandoned at the borders of Egypt, only, that people might know who she was, Jacob engraved the story of her parentage and her birth upon a gold plate fastened around her neck. The day on which Asenath was exposed, Potiphar went walking with his servants near the city wall, and they heard the voice of a child. At the captain's bidding they brought the baby to him, and when he read her history from the gold plate, he determined to adopt her. He took her home with him, and raised her as his daughter. The Alef in Asenath stands for On, where Potiphar was priest; the Samek for Setirah, Hidden, for she was kept concealed on account of her extraordinary beauty; the Nun for Nohemet, for she wept and entreated that she might be delivered from the house of the heathen Potiphar; and the Taw for Tammah, the perfect one, on account of her pious, perfect deeds.
Asenath had saved Joseph's life while she was still an infant in arms. When Joseph was accused of immoral conduct by Potiphar's wife and the other women, and his master was on the point of having him hanged, Asenath approached her foster-father, and she assured him under oath that the charge against Joseph was false. Then spake God, "As thou livest, because thou didst try to defend Joseph, thou shalt be the woman to bear the tribes that he is appointed to beget.
Asenath bore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, during the seven years of plenty, for in the time of famine Joseph refrained from all indulgence in the pleasures of life. They were bred in chastity and fear of God by their father, and they were wise, and well-instructed in all knowledge and in the affairs of state, so that they became the favorites of the court, and were educated with the royal princes.
Before the famine broke over the land, Joseph found an opportunity of rendering the king a great service. He equipped an army of four thousand six hundred men, providing all the soldiers with shields and spears and bucklers and helmets and slings. With this army, and aided by the servants and officers of the king, and by the people of Egypt, he carried on a war with Tarshish in the first year after his appointment as viceroy. The people of Tarshish had invaded the territory of the Ishmaelites, and the latter, few in number at that time, were sore pressed, and applied to the king of Egypt for help against their enemies. At the head of his host of heroes, Joseph marched to the land of Havilah, where he was joined by the Ishmaelites, and with united forces they fought against the people of Tarshish, routed them utterly, settled their land with the Ishmaelites, while the defeated men took refuge with their brethren in Javan. Joseph and his army returned to Egypt, and not a man had they lost.
In a little while Joseph's prophecy was confirmed: that year and the six following years were years of plenty, as he had foretold. The harvest was so ample that a single ear produced two heaps of grain, and Joseph made circumspect arrangements to provide abundantly for the years of famine. He gathered up all the grain, and in the city situated in the middle of each district he laid up the produce from round about, and had ashes and earth strewn on the garnered food from the very soil on which it had been grown; also he preserved the grain in the ear; all these being precautions taken to guard against rot and mildew. The inhabitants of Egypt also tried, on their own account, to put aside a portion of the superabundant harvest of the seven fruitful years against the need of the future, but when the grievous time of dearth came, and they went to their storehouses to bring forth the treasured grain, behold, it had rotted, and become unfit for food. The famine broke in upon the people with such suddenness that the bread gave out unexpectedly as they sat at their tables, they had not even a bite of bran bread.
Thus they were driven to apply to Joseph and beseech his help, and he admonished them, saying, "Give up your allegiance to your deceitful idols, and say, Blessed is He who giveth bread unto all flesh." But they refused to deny their lying gods, and they betook themselves to Pharaoh, only to be told by him, "Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do!" For this Pharaoh was rewarded. God granted him long life and a long reign, until he became arrogant, and well-merited punishment overtook him.
When the Egyptians approached Joseph with the petition for bread, he spoke, saying, "I give no food to the uncircumcised. Go hence, and circumcise yourselves, and then return hither." They entered the presence of Pharaoh, and complained to him regarding Joseph, but he said as before, "Go unto Joseph!" And they replied, "We come from Joseph, and he hath spoken roughly unto us, saying, Go hence and circumcise yourselves! We warned thee in the beginning that he is a Hebrew, and would treat us in such wise." Pharaoh said to them: "O ye fools, did he not prophesy through the holy spirit and proclaim to the whole world, that there would come seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of dearth? Why did you not save the yield of one or two years against the day of your need?"
Weeping, they made reply: "The grain that we put aside during the good years hath rotted."
Pharaoh: "Have ye nothing over of the flour of yesterday?"
The Egyptians: "The very bread in the basket rotted!"
The Egyptians: "Because Joseph willed thus!"
Pharaoh: "O ye fools, if his word hath power over the grain, making it to rot when he desireth it to rot, then also must we die, if so be his wish concerning us. Go, therefore, unto him, and do as he bids you."
JOSEPH'S BRETHREN IN EGYPT
The famine, which inflicted hardships first upon the wealthy among the Egyptians, gradually extended its ravages as far as Phoenicia, Arabia, and Palestine. Though the sons of Jacob, being young men, frequented the streets and the highways, yet they were ignorant of what their old home-keeping father Jacob knew, that corn could be procured in Egypt. Jacob even suspected that Joseph was in Egypt. His prophetic spirit, which forsook him during the time of his grief for his son, yet manifested itself now and again in dim visions, and he was resolved to send his sons down into Egypt. There was another reason. Though he was not yet in want, he nevertheless had them go thither for food, because he was averse from arousing the envy of the sons of Esau and Ishmael by his comfortable state. For the same reason, to avoid friction with the surrounding peoples, he bade his sons not appear in public with bread in their hands, or in the accoutrements of war. And as he knew that they were likely to attract attention, on account of their heroic stature and handsome appearance, he cautioned them against going to the city all together through the same gate, or, indeed, showing themselves all together anywhere in public, that the evil eye be not cast upon them.
The famine in Canaan inspired Joseph with the hope of seeing his brethren. To make sure of their coming, he issued a decree concerning the purchase of corn in Egypt, as follows: "By order of the king and his deputy, and the princes of the realm, be it enacted that he who desireth to buy grain in Egypt may not send his slave hither to do his bidding, but he must charge his own sons therewith. An Egyptian or a Canaanite that hath bought grain and then selleth it again shall be put to death, for none may buy more than he requireth for the needs of his household. Also, who cometh with two or three beasts of burden, and loads them up with grain, shall be put to death."
At the gates of the city of Egypt, Joseph stationed guards, whose office was to inquire and take down the name of all that should come to buy corn, and also the name of their father and their grandfather, and every evening the list of names thus made was handed to Joseph. These precautions were bound to bring Joseph's brethren down to Egypt, and also acquaint him with their coming as soon as they entered the land.
On their journey his brethren thought more of Joseph than of their errand. They said to one another: "We know that Joseph was carried down into Egypt, and we will make search for him there, and if we should find him, we will ransom him from his master, and if his master should refuse to sell him, we will use force, though we perish ourselves."
At the gates of the city of Egypt, the brethren of Joseph were asked what their names were, and the names of their father and grandfather. The guard on duty happened to be Manasseh, the son of Joseph. The brethren submitted to being questioned, saying "Let us go into the town, and we shall see whether this taking down of our names be a matter of taxes. If it be so, we shall not demur; but if it be something else, we shall see to-morrow what can be done in the case."
On the evening of the day they entered Egypt, Joseph discovered their names in the list, which he was in the habit of examining daily, and he commanded that all stations for the sale of corn be closed, except one only. Furthermore, even at this station no sales were to be negotiated unless the name of the would-be purchaser was first obtained. His brethren, with whose names Joseph furnished the overseer of the place, were to be seized and brought to him as soon as they put in appearance.
But the first thought of the brethren was for Joseph, and their first concern, to seek him. For three days they made search for him everywhere, even in the most disreputable quarters of the city. Meantime Joseph was in communication with the overseer of the station kept open for the sale of corn, and, hearing that his brethren had not appeared there, he dispatched some of his servants to look for them, but they found them neither in Mizraim, the city of Egypt, nor in Goshen, nor in Raamses. Thereupon he sent sixteen servants forth to make a house to house search for them in the city, and they discovered the brethren of Joseph in a place of ill-fame and haled them before their master.
JOSEPH MEETS HIS BRETHREN
A large crown of gold on his head, apparelled in byssus and purple, and surrounded by his valiant men, Joseph was seated upon his throne in his palace. His brethren fell down before him in great admiration of his beauty, his stately appearance, and his majesty. They did not know him, for when Joseph was sold into slavery, he was a beardless youth. But he knew his brethren, their appearance had not changed in aught, for they were bearded men when he was separated from them.
He was inclined to make himself known to them as their brother, but an angel appeared unto him, the same that had brought him from Shechem to his brethren at Dothan, and spoke, saying, "These came hither with intent to kill thee." Later, when the brethren returned home, and gave an account of their adventures to Jacob, they told him that a man had accused them falsely before the ruler of Egypt, not knowing that he who incited Joseph against them was an angel. It was in reference to this matter, and meaning their accuser, that Jacob, when he dispatched his sons on their second expedition to Egypt, prayed to God, "God Almighty give you mercy before the man."
Joseph made himself strange unto his brethren, and he took his cup in his hand, knocked against it, and said, "By this magic cup I know that ye are spies." They replied, "Thy servants came from Canaan into Egypt for to buy corn."
Joseph: "If it be true that ye came hither to buy corn, why is it that each one of you entered the city by a separate gate?"
The brethren: "We are ALL the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and he bade us not enter a city together by the same gate, that we attract not the attention of the people of the place." Unconsciously they had spoken as seers, for the word ALL included Joseph as one of their number.
Joseph: "Verily, ye are spies! All the people that come to buy corn return home without delay, but ye have lingered here three days, without making any purchases, and all the time you have been gadding about in the disreputable parts of the city, and only spies are wont to do thus."
The brethren: "We thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of the Hebrew Abraham. The youngest is this day with our father in Canaan, and one hath disappeared. Him did we look for in this land, and we looked for him even in the disreputable houses."
Joseph: "Have ye made search in every other place on earth, and was Egypt the only land left? And if it be true that he is in Egypt, what should a brother of yours be doing in a house of ill-fame, if, indeed, ye are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?"
The brethren: "We did hear that some Ishmaelites stole our brother, and sold him into slavery in Egypt, and as our brother was exceeding fair in form and face, we thought he might have been sold for illicit uses, and therefore we searched even the disreputable houses to find him."
Joseph: "You speak deceitful words, when you call yourselves sons of Abraham. By the life of Pharaoh, ye are spies, and you did go from one disreputable house to another that none might discover you."
The expression "by the life of Pharaoh" might have betrayed Joseph's real feeling to his brethren, had they but known his habit of taking this oath only when he meant to avoid keeping his word later.
Joseph continued to speak to his brethren: "Let us suppose you should discover your brother serving as a slave, and his master should demand a high sum for his ransom, would you pay it?"
The brethren: "Yes!"
Joseph: "But suppose his master should refuse to surrender him for any price in the world, what would you do?"
The brethren: "If he yields not our brother to us, we will kill the master, and carry off our brother."
Joseph: "Now see how true my words were, that ye are spies. By your own admission ye have come to slay the inhabitants of the land. Report hath told us that two of you did massacre the people of Shechem on account of the wrong done to your sister, and now have ye come down into Egypt to kill the Egyptians for the sake of your brother. I shall be convinced of your innocence only if you consent to send one of your number home and fetch your youngest brother hither."
His brethren refused compliance, and Joseph caused them to be put into prison by seventy of his valiant men, and there they remained for three days. God never allows the pious to languish in distress longer than three days, and so it was a Divine dispensation that the brethren of Joseph were released on the third day, and were permitted by Joseph to return home, on condition, however, that one of them remain behind as hostage.
The difference between Joseph and his brethren can be seen here. Though he retained one of them to be bound in the prison house, he still said, "I fear God," and dismissed the others, but when he was in their power, they gave no thought to God. At this time, to be sure, their conduct was such as is becoming to the pious, who accept their fate with calm resignation, and acknowledge the righteousness of God, for He metes out reward and punishment measure for measure. They recognized that their present punishment was in return for the heartless treatment they had dealt out to Joseph, paying no heed to his distress, though he fell at the feet of each of them, weeping, and entreating them not to sell him into slavery. Reuben reminded the others that they had two wrongs to expiate, the wrong against their brother and the wrong against their father, who was so grieved that he exclaimed, "I will go down to the grave to my son mourning."
The brethren of Joseph knew not that the viceroy of Egypt understood Hebrew, and could follow their words, for Manasseh stood and was an interpreter between them and him.
Joseph decided to keep Simon as hostage in Egypt, for he had been one of the two--Levi was the other--to advise that Joseph be put to death, and only the intercession of Reuben and Judah had saved him. He did not detain Levi, too, for he feared, if both remained behind together, Egypt might suffer the same fate at their hands as the city of Shechem. Also, he preferred Simon to Levi, because Simon was not a favorite among the sons of Jacob, and they would not resist his detention in Egypt too violently, while they might annihilate Egypt, as aforetime Shechem, if they were deprived of Levi, their wise man and high priest. Besides, it was Simon that had lowered Joseph into the pit, wherefore he had a particular grudge against him.
When the brethren yielded to Joseph's demand, and consented to leave their brother behind as hostage, Simon said to them, "Ye desire to do with me as ye did with Joseph!" But they replied, in despair: "What can we do? Our households will perish of hunger." Simon made answer, "Do as ye will, but as for me, let me see the man that will venture to cast me into prison." Joseph sent word to Pharaoh to let him have seventy of his valiant men, to aid him in arresting robbers. But when the seventy appeared upon the scene, and were about to lay hands on Simon, he uttered a loud cry, and his assailants fell to the floor and knocked out their teeth. Pharaoh's valiant men, as well as all the people that stood about Joseph, fled affrighted, only Joseph and his son Manasseh remained calm and unmoved. Manasseh rose up, dealt Simon a blow on the back of his neck, put manacles upon his hands and fetters upon his feet, and cast him into prison. Joseph's brethren were greatly amazed at the heroic strength of the youth, and Simon said, "This blow was not dealt by an Egyptian, but by one belonging to our house."
He was bound and taken to prison before the eyes of the other brethren of Joseph, but as soon as they were out of sight, Joseph ordered good fare to be set before him, and he treated him with great kindness.
Joseph permitted his nine other brethren to depart, carrying corn with them in abundance, but he impressed upon them that they must surely return and bring their youngest brother with them. On the way, Levi, who felt lonely without his constant companion Simon, opened his sack, and he espied the money he had paid for the corn. They all trembled, and their hearts failed them, and they said, "Where, then, is the lovingkindness of God toward our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, seeing that He hath delivered us into the hands of the Egyptian king, that he may raise false accusations against us?" And Judah said, "Verily, we are guilty concerning our brother, we have sinned against God, in that we sold our brother, our own flesh, and why do ye ask, Where, then, is the lovingkindness of God toward our fathers?"
Reuben spoke in the same way: "Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? And now the Lord doth demand him of us. How can you say, Where, then, is the lovingkindness of God toward our fathers, though you have sinned against Him?"
They proceeded on their journey home, and their father met them on the way. Jacob was astonished not to see Simon with them, and in reply to his questions, they told him all that had befallen them in Egypt. Then Jacob cried out: "What have ye done? I sent Joseph to you to see whether it be well with you, and ye said, An evil beast hath devoured him. Simon went forth with you for to buy corn, and you say, The king of Egypt hath cast him into prison. And now ye will take Benjamin away and kill him, too. Ye will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."
The words of Jacob, which he uttered, "Me have ye bereaved of my children," were meant to intimate to his sons that he suspected them of the death of Joseph and of Simon's disappearance as well, and their reports concerning both he regarded as inventions. What made him inconsolable was that now, having lost two of his sons, he could not hope to see the Divine promise fulfilled, that he should be the ancestor of twelve tribes. He was quite resolved in his mind, therefore, not to let Benjamin go away with his brethren under any condition whatsoever, and he vouchsafed Reuben no reply when he said, "Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee." He considered it beneath his dignity to give an answer to such balderdash. "My first-born son," he said to himself, "is a fool. What will it profit me, if I slay his two sons? Does he not know that his sons are equally mine?" Judah advised his brethren to desist from urging their father then; he would consent, he thought, to whatever expedients were found necessary, as soon as their bread gave out, and a second journey to Egypt became imperative.
THE SECOND JOURNEY TO EGYPT
When the supplies bought in Egypt were eaten up, and the family of Jacob began to suffer with hunger, the little children came to him, and they said, "Give us bread, that we die not of hunger before thee." The words of the little ones brought scorching tears to the eyes of Jacob, and he summoned his sons and bade them go again down into Egypt and buy food. But Judah spake unto him, "The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying that we should not see his face, except our brother Benjamin be with us, and we cannot appear before him with idle pretexts." And Jacob said, "Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?" It was the first and only time Jacob indulged in empty talk, and God said, "I made it My business to raise his son to the position of ruler of Egypt, and he complains, and says, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with-me?" And Judah protested against the reproach, that he had initiated the Egyptian viceroy in their family relations, with the words: "Why, he knew the very wood of which our baby coaches are made! Father," he continued, "if Benjamin goes with us, he may, indeed, be taken from us, but also he may not. This is a doubtful matter, but it is certain that if he does not go with us, we shall all die of hunger. It is better not to concern thyself about what is doubtful, and guide thy actions by what is certain. The king of Egypt is a strong and mighty king, and if we go to him without our brother, we shall all be put to death. Dost thou not know, and hast thou not heard, that this king is very powerful and wise, and there is none like unto him in all the earth? We have seen all the kings of the earth, but none like unto the king of Egypt. One would surely say that among all the kings of the earth there is none greater than Abimelech king of the Philistines, yet the king of Egypt is greater and mightier than he, and Abimelech can hardly be compared with one of his officers. Father, thou hast not seen his palace and his throne, and all his servants standing before him. Thou hast not seen that king upon his throne, in all his magnificence and with his royal insignia, arrayed in his royal robes, with a large golden crown upon his head. Thou hast not seen the honor and the glory that God hath given unto him, for there is none like unto him in all the earth. Father, thou hast not seen the wisdom, the understanding, and the knowledge that God has given in his heart. We heard his sweet voice when he spake unto us. We know not, father, who acquainted him with our names, and all that befell us. He asked also concerning thee, saying, Is your father still alive, and is it well with him? Thou hast not seen the affairs of the government of Egypt regulated by him, for none asketh his lord Pharaoh about them. Thou hast not seen the awe and the fear that he imposes upon all the Egyptians. Even we went out from his presence threatening to do unto Egypt as unto the cities of the Amorites, and exceedingly wroth by reason of all his words that he spake concerning us as spies, yet when we came again before him, his terror fell upon us all, and none of us was able to speak a word to him, great or small. Now, therefore, father, send the lad with us, and we will arise and go down into Egypt, and buy food to eat, that we die not of hunger."
Judah offered his portion in the world to come as surety for Benjamin, and thus solemnly he promised to bring him back safe and sound, and Jacob granted his request, and permitted Benjamin to go down into Egypt with his other sons. They also carried with them choice presents from their father for the ruler of Egypt, things that arouse wonder outside of Palestine, such as the murex, which is the snail that produces the Tyrian purple, and various kinds of balm, and almond oil, and pistachio oil, and honey as hard as stone. Furthermore, Jacob put double money in their hand to provide against a rise in prices in the meantime. And after all these matters were attended to, he spake to his sons, saying: "Here is money, and here is a present, and also your brother. Is there aught else that you need?" And they replied, Yes, we need this, besides, that thou shouldst intercede for us with God." Then their father prayed: "O Lord, Thou who at the time of creation didst call Enough! to heaven and earth when they stretched themselves out further and further toward infinity, set a limit to my sufferings, too, say unto them, Enough! God Almighty give you mercy before the ruler of Egypt, that he may release unto you Joseph, Simon, and Benjamin."
This prayer was an intercession, not only for the sons of Jacob, but also for their descendants--that God would deliver the Ten Tribes in time to come, as He delivered the two, Judah and Benjamin, and after He permitted the destruction of two Temples, He would grant endless continuance to the third.
Jacob also put a letter addressed to the viceroy of Egypt into the hands of his son. The letter ran thus: "From thy servant Jacob, the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, prince of God, to the mighty and wise king Zaphenathpaneah, the ruler of Egypt, peace! I make known unto my lord the king that the famine is sore with us in the land of Canaan, and I have therefore sent my sons unto thee, to buy us a little food, that we may live, and not die. My children surrounded me, and begged for something to eat, but, alas, I am very old, and I cannot see with mine eyes, for they are heavy with the weight of years, and also on account of my never-ceasing tears for my son Joseph, who hath been taken from me. I charged my sons not to pass through the gate all together at the same time, when they arrived in the city of Egypt, in consideration of the inhabitants of the land, that they might not take undue notice of them. Also I bade them go up and down in the land of Egypt and seek my son Joseph, mayhap they would find him there.
"This did they do, but thou didst therefore account them as spies. We have heard the report of thy wisdom and sagacity. How, then, canst thou look upon their countenances, and yet declare them to be spies? Especially as we have heard thou didst interpret Pharaoh's dream, and didst foretell the coming of the famine, are we amazed that thou, in thy discernment, couldst not distinguish whether they be spies or not.
"And, now, O my lord king, I send unto thee my son Benjamin, as thou didst demand of my other sons. I pray thee, take good care of him until thou sendest him back to me in peace with his brethren. Hast thou not heard, and dost thou not know, what our God did unto Pharaoh when he took our mother Sarah unto himself? Or what happened unto Abimelech on account of her? And what our father Abraham did unto the nine kings of Elam, how he killed them and exterminated their armies, though he had but few men with him? Or hast thou not heard what my two sons Simon and Levi did to the eight cities of the Amorites, which they destroyed on account of their sister Dinah? Benjamin consoled them for the loss of Joseph. What, then, will they do unto him that stretcheth forth the hand of power to snatch him away from them?
"Knowest thou not, O king of Egypt, that the might of our God is with us, and that He always hearkens unto our prayers, and never forsakes us? Had I called upon God to rise up against thee when my sons told me how thou didst act toward them, thou and thy people, ye all would have been annihilated ere Benjamin could come down to thee. But I reflected that Simon my son was abiding in thy house, and perhaps thou wast doing kindnesses unto him, and therefore I invoked not the punishment of God upon thee. Now my son Benjamin goeth down unto thee with my other sons. Take heed unto thyself, keep thy eyes directed upon him, and God will direct His eye upon all thy kingdom.
"I have said all now that is in my heart. My sons take their youngest brother down into Egypt with them, and do thou send them all back to me in peace."
This letter Jacob put into the keeping of Judah, charging him to deliver it to the ruler of Egypt. His last words to his sons were an admonition to take good care of Benjamin and not leave him out of their sight, either on the journey or after their arrival in Egypt. He bade farewell to them, and then turned in prayer to God, saying: "O Lord of heaven and earth! Remember Thy covenant with our father Abraham. Remember also my father Isaac, and grant grace unto my sons, and deliver them not into the hands of the king of Egypt. O my God, do it for the sake of Thy mercy, redeem my sons and save them from the hands of the Egyptians, and restore their two brethren unto them."
Also the women and the children in the house of Jacob prayed to God amid tears, and entreated Him to redeem their husbands and their fathers out of the hands of the king of Egypt.
JOSEPH AND BENJAMIN
Great was the joy of Joseph when his brethren stood before him and Benjamin was with them. In his youngest brother he saw the true counterpart of his father. He ordered his son Manasseh, the steward of his house, to bring the men into the palace, and make ready a meal for them. But he was to take care to prepare the meat dishes in the presence of the guests, so that they might see with their own eyes that the cattle had been slaughtered according to the ritual prescriptions, and the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh had been removed.
The dinner to which Joseph invited his brethren was a Sabbath meal, for he observed the seventh day even before the revelation of the law. The sons of Jacob refused the invitation of the steward, and a scuffle ensued. While he tried to force them into the banqueting hall, they tried to force him out, for they feared it was but a ruse to get possession of them and their asses, on account of the money they had found in their sacks on their return from their first journey to Egypt. In their modesty they put the loss of their beasts upon the same level as the loss of their personal liberty. To the average man property is as precious as life itself.
Standing at the door of Joseph's house, they spake to the steward, and said: "We are in badly reduced circumstances. In our country we supported others, and now we depend upon thee to support us." After these introductory words, they offered him the money they had found in their sacks. The steward reassured them concerning the money, saying, "However it may be, whether for the sake of your own merits, or for the sake of the merits of your fathers, God hath caused you to find a treasure, for the money ye paid for the corn came into my hand." Then he brought Simon out to them. Their brother looked like a leather bottle, so fat and rotund had he grown during his sojourn in Egypt. He told his brethren what kind treatment had been accorded unto him. The very moment they left the city he had been released from prison, and thereafter he had been entertained with splendor in the house of the ruler of Egypt.
When Joseph made his appearance, Judah took Benjamin by the hand, and presented him to the viceroy, and they all bowed down themselves to him to the earth. Joseph asked them concerning the welfare of their father and their grandfather, and they made reply, "Thy servant our father is well; he is yet alive," and Joseph knew from their words that his grandfather Isaac was no more. He had died at the time when Joseph was released from prison, and the joy of God in the liberation of Joseph was overcast by His sorrow for Isaac. Then Judah handed his father's letter to Joseph, who was so moved at seeing the well-known handwriting that he had to retire to his chamber and weep. When he came back, he summoned Benjamin to approach close to him, and he laid his hand upon his youngest brother's head, and blessed him with the words, "God be gracious unto thee, my son." His father had once mentioned "the children which God hath graciously given Thy servant," and as Benjamin was not among the children thus spoken of, for he was born later, Joseph compensated him now by blessing him with the grace of God.
The table was set in three divisions, for Joseph, for his brethren, and for the Egyptians. The sons of Jacob did not venture to eat of the dishes set before them, they were afraid they might not have been prepared according to the ritual prescriptions--a punishment upon Joseph for having slandered his brethren, whom he once charged with not being punctilious in the observance of the dietary laws. The Egyptians, again, could not sit at the same table with the sons of Jacob, because the latter ate the flesh of the animals to which the former paid divine worship.
When all was ready, and the guests were to be seated, Joseph raised his cup, and, pretending to inhale his knowledge from it, he said, "Judah is king, therefore let him sit at the head of the table, and let Reuben the first-born take the second seat," and thus he assigned places to all his brethren corresponding to their dignity and their age. Moreover, he seated the brothers together who were the sons of the same mother, and when he reached Benjamin, he said, "I know that the youngest among you has no brother borne by his own mother, next to whom he might be seated, and also I have none, therefore he may take his place next to me."
The brethren marvelled one with another at all this. During the meal, Joseph took his portion, and gave it to Benjamin, and his wife Asenath followed his example, and also Ephraim and Manasseh, so that Benjamin had four portions in addition to that which he had received like the other sons of Jacob.
Wine was served at the meal, and it was the first time in twenty-two years that Joseph and his brethren tasted of it, for they had led the life of Nazarites, his brethren because they regretted the evil they had done to Joseph, and Joseph because he grieved over the fate of his father.
Joseph entered into conversation with his brother Benjamin. He asked him whether he had a brother borne by his own mother, and Benjamin answered, "I had one, but I do not know what hath become of him." Joseph continued his questions: "Hast thou a wife?"
Benjamin: "Yes, I have a wife and ten sons."
Joseph: "And what are their names? "
Benjamin: "Bela, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard."
Joseph: "Why didst thou give them such peculiar names?"
Benjamin: "In memory of my brother and his sufferings: Bela, because my brother disappeared among the peoples; Becher, he was the first-born son of my mother; Ashbel, he was taken away from my father; Gera, he dwells a stranger in a strange land; Naaman, he was exceedingly lovely; Ehi, he was my only brother by my father and my mother together; Rosh, he was at the head of his brethren; Muppim, he was beautiful in every respect; Huppim, he was slandered; and Ard, because he was as beautiful as a rose."
Joseph ordered his magic astrolabe to be brought to him, whereby he knew all things that happen, and he said unto Benjamin, "I have heard that the Hebrews are acquainted with all wisdom, but dost thou know aught of this?" Benjamin answered, "Thy servant also is skilled in all wisdom, which my father hath taught me." He then looked upon the astrolabe, and to his great astonishment he discovered by the aid of it that he who was sitting upon the throne before him was his brother Joseph. Noticing Benjamin's amazement, Joseph asked him, "What hast thou seen, and why art thou astonished?" Benjamin said, "I can see by this that Joseph my brother sitteth here before me upon the throne." And Joseph said: "I am Joseph thy brother! Reveal not the thing unto our brethren. I will send thee with them when they go away, and I will command them to be brought back again into the city, and I will take thee away from them. If they risk their lives and fight for thee, then shall I know that they have repented of what they did unto me, and I will make myself known unto them. But if they forsake thee, I will keep thee, that thou shouldst remain with me. They shall go away, and I will not make myself known unto them."
Then Joseph inquired of Benjamin what his brethren had told their father after they had sold him into slavery, and he heard the story of the coat dipped in the blood of a kid of the goats. "Yes, brother," spoke Joseph, "when they had stripped me of my coat, they handed me over to the Ishmaelites, who tied an apron around my waist, scourged me, and bade me run off. But a lion attacked the one that beat me, and killed him, and his companions were alarmed, and they sold me to other people."
Dismissed by Joseph with kind words, his brethren started on their homeward journey as soon as the morning was light, for it is a good rule to "leave a city after sunrise, and enter a city before sundown." Besides, Joseph had a specific reason for not letting his brethren depart from the city during the night. He feared an encounter between them and his servants, and that his men might get the worst of it, for the sons of Jacob were like the wild beasts, which have the upper hand at night.
THE THIEF CAUGHT
They were not yet far beyond the city gates, when Joseph dispatched Manasseh, the steward of his house, to follow after them, and look for the silver cup that he had concealed in Benjamin's sack. He knew his brethren well, he did not venture to let them get too far from the city before he should attempt to force their return. He hoped that the nearness of the city would intimidate them and make them heed his commands. Manasseh therefore received the order to bring them to a halt, by mild speech if he could, or by rough speech if he must, and carry them back to the city. He acted according to his instructions. When the brethren heard the accusation of theft , they said: "With whomsoever of thy servants the cup be found, let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen." And Manasseh said, "As you say, so were it proper to do, for if ten persons are charged with theft, and the stolen object is found with one of them, all are held responsible. But I will not be so hard. He with whom the cup is found shall be the bondman, and the rest shall be blameless."
He searched all the sacks, and in order not to excite the suspicion that he knew where the cup was, he began at Reuben, the eldest, and left off at Benjamin, the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. In a rage, his brethren shouted at Benjamin, "O thou thief and son of a thief! Thy mother brought shame upon our father by her thievery, and now thou bringest shame upon us." But he replied, "Is this matter as evil as the matter of the kid of the goats--as the deed of the brethren that sold their own brother into slavery?"
In their fury and vexation, the brethren rent their clothes. God paid them in their own coin. They had caused Jacob to tear his clothes in his grief over Joseph, and now they were made to do the same on account of their own troubles. And as they rent their clothes for the sake of their brother Benjamin, so Mordecai, the descendant of Benjamin, was destined to rend his on account of his brethren, the people of Israel. But because mortification was inflicted upon the brethren through Manasseh, the steward of Joseph, the allotment of territory given to the tribe of Manasseh was "torn" in two, one-half of the tribe had to live on one side of the Jordan, the other half on the other side. And Joseph, who had not shrunk from vexing his brethren so bitterly that they rent their clothes in their abasement, was punished, in that his descendant Joshua was driven to such despair after the defeat of Ai that he, too, rent his clothes.
Convicted of theft beyond the peradventure of a doubt, the brethren of Joseph had no choice but to comply with the steward's command and return to the city. They accompanied him without delay. Each of them loaded his ass himself, raising the burden with one hand from the ground to the back of the beast, and then they retraced their steps cityward, and as they walked, they rapped Benjamin roughly on the shoulder, saying, "O thou thief and son of a thief, thou hast brought the same shame upon us that thy mother brought upon our father." Benjamin bore the blows and the abusive words in patient silence, and he was rewarded for his humility. For submitting to the blows upon his shoulder, God appointed that His Shekinah should "dwell between his shoulders," and He also called him "the beloved of the Lord."
Joseph's brethren returned to the city without fear. Though it was a great metropolis, in their eyes it appeared but as a hamlet of ten persons, which they could wipe out with a turn of the hand. They were led into the presence of Joseph, who, contrary to his usual habit, was not holding a session of the court in the forum on that day. He remained at home, that his brethren might not be exposed to shame in public. They fell to the earth before him, and thus came true his dream of the eleven stars that made obeisance to him. But even while paying homage to Joseph, Judah was boiling inwardly with suppressed rage, and he said to his brethren, "Verily, this man hath forced me to come back hither only that I should destroy the city on this day."
Guarded by his valiant men on the right and on the left, Joseph addressed his brethren, snarling, "What deed is this that ye have done, to steal away my cup? I know well, ye took it in order to discover with its help the whereabouts of your brother that hath disappeared." Judah was spokesman, and he replied: "What shall we say unto my lord concerning the first money that he found in the mouth of our sacks? What shall we speak concerning the second money that also was in our sacks? And how shall we clear ourselves concerning the cup? We cannot acknowledge ourselves guilty, for we know ourselves to be innocent in all these matters. Yet we cannot avow ourselves innocent, because God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants, like a creditor that goes about and tries to collect a debt owing to him. Two brothers take care not to enter a house of mirth and festivity together, that they be not exposed to the evil eye, but we all were caught together in one place, by reason of the sin which we committed in company."
Joseph: "But if your punishment is for selling Joseph, why should this brother of yours suffer, the youngest, he that had no part in your crime.
Judah: "A thief and his companions are taken together."
Joseph: "If you could prevail upon yourselves to report to your father concerning a brother that had not stolen, and had brought no manner of shame upon you, that a wild beast had torn him, you will easily persuade yourselves to say it concerning a brother that hath stolen, and hath brought shame upon you. Go hence, and tell your father, 'The rope follows after the water bucket.' But," continued Joseph, shaking his purple mantle, "God forbid that I should accuse you all of theft. Only the youth that stole the cup in order to divine his brother's whereabouts shall remain with me as my bondman; but as for you, get you up in peace unto your father."
The holy spirit called out, "Great peace have they which love thy law!"
The brethren all consented to yield Benjamin to the ruler of Egypt, only Judah demurred, and he cried out, "Now it is all over with peace!" and he prepared to use force, if need be, to rescue Benjamin from slavery.
JUDAH PLEADS AND THREATENS.
Joseph dismissed his brethren, and carried Benjamin off by main force, and locked him up in a chamber. But Judah broke the door open and stood before Joseph with his brethren. He determined to use in turn the three means of liberating Benjamin at his disposal. He was prepared to convince Joseph by argument, or move him by entreaties, or resort to force, in order to accomplish his end.
He spake: "Thou doest a wrong unto us. Thou who didst say, 'I fear God,' thou showest thyself to be like unto Pharaoh, who hath no fear of God. The judgments which thou dost pronounce are not in accordance with our laws, nor are they in accordance with the laws of the nations. According to our law, a thief must pay double the value of what he hath stolen. Only, if he hath no money, he is sold into slavery, but if he hath the money, he maketh double restitution. And according to the law of the nations, the thief is deprived of all he owns. Do so, but let him go free. If a man buys a slave, and then discovers him to be a thief, the transaction is void. Yet thou desirest to make one a slave whom thou chargest with being a thief. I suspect thee of wanting to keep him in thy power for illicit purposes, and in this lustfulness thou resemblest Pharaoh. Also thou art like Pharaoh in that thou makest a promise and keepest it not. Thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring thy youngest brother down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. Dost thou call this setting thine eyes upon him? If thou didst desire nothing beside a slave, then wouldst thou surely accept our offer to serve thee as bondmen instead of Benjamin. Reuben is older than he, and I exceed him in strength. It cannot but be as I say, thou hast a lustful purpose in mind with our brother.
"Therefore let these words of mine which I am about to speak find entrance into thy heart: For the sake of the grandmother of this lad were Pharaoh and his house stricken with sore plagues, because he detained her in his palace a single night against her will. His mother died a premature death, by reason of a curse which his father uttered in inconsiderate haste. Take heed, then, that this man's curse strike thee not and slay thee. Two of us destroyed the whole of a city on account of one woman, how much more would we do it for the sake of a man, and that man the beloved of the Lord, in whose allotment it is appointed that God shall dwell!
"If I but utter a sound, death-dealing pestilence will stalk through the land as far as No. In this land Pharaoh is the first, and thou art the second after him, but in our land my father is the first, and I am the second. If thou wilt not comply with our demand, I will draw my sword, and hew thee down first, and then Pharaoh."
When Judah gave utterance to this threat, Joseph made a sign, and Manasseh stamped his foot on the ground so that the whole palace shook. Judah said, "Only one belonging to our family can stamp thus!" and intimidated by this display of great strength, he moderated his tone and manner. "From the very beginning," he continued to speak, "thou didst resort to all sorts of pretexts in order to embarrass us. The inhabitants of many countries came down into Egypt to buy corn, but none of them didst thou ask questions about their family relations. In sooth, we did not come hither to seek thy daughter in marriage, or peradventure thou desirest an alliance with our sister? Nevertheless we gave thee an answer unto all thy questions."
Joseph replied: "Verily, thou canst talk glibly! Is there another babbler like thee among thy brethren? Why dost thou speak so much, while thy brethren that are older than thou, Reuben, Simon, and Levi, stand by silent?"
Judah: "None of my brethren has so much at stake as I have, if Benjamin returns not to his father. I was a surety to my father for him, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever, in this world and in the world to come.
The other brethren withheld themselves intentionally from taking part in the dispute between Judah and Joseph, saying, "Kings are carrying on a dispute, and it is not seemly for us to interfere between them." Even the angels descended from heaven to earth to be spectators of the combat between Joseph the bull and Judah the lion, and they said, "It lies in the natural course of things that the bull should fear the lion, but here the two are engaged in equal, furious combat."
In reply to Judah, when he explained that his great interest in Benjamin's safety was due to the pledge he had given to his father, Joseph spoke: "Why wast thou not a surety for thy other brother, when ye sold him for twenty pieces of silver? Then thou didst not regard the sorrow thou wast inflicting upon thy father, but thou didst say, A wild beast hath devoured Joseph. And yet Joseph had done no evil, while this Benjamin has committed theft. Therefore, go up and say unto thy father, The rope hath followed after the water bucket."
These words had such an effect upon Judah that he broke out in sobs, and cried aloud, "How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?" His outcry reached to a distance of four hundred parasangs, and when Hushim the son of Dan heard it in Canaan, he jumped into Egypt with a single leap and joined his voice with Judah's, and the whole land was on the point of collapsing from the great noise they produced. Joseph's valiant men lost their teeth, and the cities of Pithom and Raamses were destroyed, and they remained in ruins until the Israelites built them up again under taskmasters. Also Judah's brethren, who had kept quiet up to that moment, fell into a rage, and stamped on the ground with their feet until it looked as though deep furrows had been torn in it by a ploughshare. And Judah addressed his brethren, "Be brave, demean yourselves as men, and let each one of you show his heroism, for the circumstances demand that we do our best."
Then they resolved to destroy Mizraim, the city of Egypt, and Judah said, "I will raise my voice, and with it destroy Egypt."
Reuben: "I will raise my arm, and crush it out of existence."
Simon: "I will raise my hand, and lay waste its palaces."
Levi: "I will draw my sword, and slay the inhabitants of Egypt."
Issachar: "I will make the land like unto Sodom."
Zebulon: "Like unto Gomorrah will I render it."
Dan: "I will reduce it to a desert."
Then Judah's towering rage began to show signs of breaking out: his right eye shed tears of blood; the hair above his heart grew so stiff that it pierced and rent the five garments in which he was clothed; and he took brass rods, bit them with his teeth, and spat them out as fine powder. When Joseph observed these signs, fear befell him, and in order to show that he, too, was a man of extraordinary strength, he pushed with his foot against the marble pedestal upon which he sat, and it broke into splinters. Judah exclaimed, "This one is a hero equal to myself!" Then he tried to draw his sword from its scabbard in order to slay Joseph, but the weapon could not be made to budge, and Judah was convinced thereby that his adversary was a God-fearing man, and he addressed himself to the task of begging him to let Benjamin go free, but he remained inexorable.
Judah then said: "What shall we say unto our father, when he seeth that our brother is not with us, and he will grieve over him?"
Joseph: "Say that the rope hath followed after the water bucket."
Judah: "Thou art a king, why dost thou speak in this wise, counselling a falsehood? Woe unto the king that is like thee!"
Joseph: "Is there a greater falsehood than that ye spake concerning your brother Joseph, whom you sold to the Midianites for twenty pieces of silver, telling your father, An evil beast bath devoured him?"
Judah: "The fire of Shechem burneth in my heart, now will I burn all thy land with fire."
Joseph: "Surely, the fire kindled to burn Tamar, thy daughter-in-law, who did kill thy sons, will extinguish the fire of Shechem."
Judah: "If I pluck out a single hair from my body, I will fill the whole of Egypt with its blood."
Joseph: "Such is it your custom to do; thus ye did unto your brother whom you sold, and then you dipped his coat in blood, brought it to your father, and said, An evil beast hath devoured him, and here is his blood."
When Judah heard this, he was exceedingly wroth, and he took a stone weighing four hundred shekels that was before him, cast it toward heaven with one hand, caught it with his left hand, then sat upon it, and the stone turned into dust. At the command of Joseph, Manasseh did likewise with another stone, and Joseph said to Judah: "Strength hath not been given to you alone, we also are powerful men. Why, then, will ye all boast before us?" Then Judah sent Naphtali forth, saying, "Go and count all the streets of the city of Egypt and come and tell me the number," but Simon interposed, saying, "Let not this thing trouble you, I will go to the mount, and take up one huge stone from the mount, throw it over the whole of Mizraim, the city of Egypt, and kill all therein."
Hearing all these words, which they spake aloud, because they did not know that he understood Hebrew, Joseph bade his son Manasseh make haste and gather together all the inhabitants of Egypt, and all the valiant men, and let them come to him on horseback and afoot. Meantime Naphtali had gone quickly to execute Judah's bidding, for he was as swift as the nimble hart, he could run across a field of corn without breaking an ear. And he returned and reported that the city of Egypt was divided into twelve quarters. Judah bade his brethren destroy the city; he himself undertook to raze three quarters, and he assigned the nine remaining quarters to the others, one quarter to each.
In the meantime Manasseh had assembled a great army, five hundred mounted men and ten thousand on foot, among them four hundred valiant heroes, who could fight without spear or sword, using only their strong, unarmed hands. To inspire his brethren with more terror, Joseph ordered them to make a loud noise with all sorts of instruments, and their appearance and the hubbub they produced did, indeed, cause fear to fall upon some of the brethren of Joseph. Judah, however, called to them, "Why are you terrified, seeing that God grants us His mercy?" He drew his sword, and uttered a wild cry, which threw all the people into consternation, and in their disordered flight many fell over each other and perished, and Judah and his brethren followed after the fleeing people as far as the house of Pharaoh. Returning to Joseph, Judah again broke out in loud roars, and the reverberations caused by his cries were so mighty that all the city walls in Egypt and in Goshen fell in ruins, the pregnant women brought forth untimely births, and Pharaoh was flung from his throne. Judah's cries were heard at a great distance, as far off as Succoth.
When Pharaoh learnt the reason of the mighty uproar, he sent word to Joseph that he would have to concede the demands of the Hebrews, else the land would suffer destruction. "Thou canst take thy choice," were the words of Pharaoh, "between me and the Hebrews, between Egypt and the land of the Hebrews. If thou wilt not heed my command, then leave me and go with them into their land."
JOSEPH MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN
Seeing that his brethren were, indeed, on the point of destroying Egypt, Joseph resolved to make himself known to them, and he cast around for a proper opening, which would lead naturally to his announcement. At his behest, Manasseh laid his hand upon Judah's shoulder, and his touch allayed Judah's fury, for he noticed that he was in contact with a kinsman of his, because such strength existed in no other family. Then Joseph addressed Judah gently, saying: "I should like to know who advised him to steal the cup. Could it have been one of you?" Benjamin replied: "Neither did they counsel theft, nor did I touch the cup." "Take an oath upon it," demanded Joseph, and Benjamin complied with his brother's request: "I swear that I did not touch the cup! As true as my brother Joseph is separated from me; as true as I had nothing to do with the darts that my brethren threw at him; as true as I was not one of those to take off his coat; as true as I had no part in the transaction by which he was given over to the Ishmaelites; as true as I did not help the others dip his coat in blood; so true is my oath, that they did not counsel theft, and that I did not commit theft."
Joseph: "How can I know that this oath of thine taken upon thy brother's fate is true?"
Benjamin: "From the names of my ten sons, which I gave them in memory of my brother's life and trials, thou canst see how dearly I loved him. I pray thee, therefore, do not bring down my father with sorrow to the grave."
Hearing these words of abiding love, Joseph could refrain himself no longer. He could not but make himself known unto his brethren. He spake these words to them: "Ye said the brother of this lad was dead. Did you yourselves see him dead before you?" They answered, "Yes!"
Joseph: "Did you stand beside his grave?"
The brethren: "Yes!"
Joseph: "Did you throw clods of earth upon his corpse?"
The brethren: "No."
Then Joseph reflected, saying to himself: "My brethren are as pious as aforetime, and they speak no lies. They said I was dead, because when they abandoned me, I was poor, and 'a poor man is like unto a dead man;' they stood beside my grave, that is the pit into which they cast me; but they did not say that they had shovelled earth upon me, for that would have been a falsehood."
Turning to his brethren, he said: "Ye lie when ye say that your brother is dead. He is not dead. You sold him, and I did buy him. I shall call him, and set him before your eyes," and he began to call, "Joseph, son of Jacob, come hither! Joseph, son of Jacob, come hither! Speak to thy brethren who did sell thee." The others turned their eyes hither and thither, to the four corners of the house, until Joseph called to them: "Why look ye here and there? Behold, I am Joseph your brother! "Their souls fled away from them, and they could make no answer, but God permitted a miracle to happen, and their souls came back to them.
Joseph continued, "Ye see it with your own eyes, and also my brother Benjamin seeth it with his eyes, that I speak with you in Hebrew, and I am truly your brother." But they would not believe him. Not only had he been transformed from a smooth-faced youth into a bearded man since they had abandoned him, but also the forsaken youth now stood before them the ruler of Egypt. Therefore Joseph bared his body and showed them that he belonged to the descendants of Abraham.
Abashed they stood there, and in their rage they desired to slay Joseph as the author of their shame and their suffering. But an angel appeared and flung them to the four corners of the house. Judah raised so loud an outcry that the walls of the city of Egypt tumbled down, the women brought forth untimely births, Joseph and Pharaoh both rolled down off their thrones, and Joseph's three hundred heroes lost their teeth, and their heads remained forever immobile, facing backward, as they had turned them to discover the cause of the tumult. Yet the brethren did not venture to approach close to Joseph, they were too greatly ashamed of their behavior toward their brother. He sought to calm them, saying, "Now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life."
Even such kind words of exhortation did not banish their fear, and Joseph continued to speak, "As little as I harbor vengeful thoughts in my heart against Benjamin, so little do I harbor them against you."And still his brethren were ill at case, and Joseph went on, "Think you that it is possible for me to inflict harm upon you? If the smoke of ten candles could not extinguish one, how can one extinguish ten?"
At last the brethren were soothed, and they went up to Joseph, who knew each by name, and, weeping, he embraced and kissed them all in turn. The reason why he wept was that his prophetic spirit showed him the descendants of his brethren enslaved by the nations. Especially did he weep upon Benjamin's neck, because he foresaw the destruction decreed for the two Temples to be situated in the allotment of Benjamin. And Benjamin also wept upon Joseph's neck, for the sanctuary at Shiloh, in the territory of Joseph which was likewise doomed to destruction.
Pharaoh was well pleased with the report of the reconciliation between Joseph and the Hebrews, for he had feared that their dissensions might cause the ruin of Egypt, and he sent his servants to Joseph, that they take part in his joy. Also he sent word to Joseph that it would please him well if his brethren took up their abode in Egypt, and he promised to assign the best parts of the land to them for their dwelling-place.
Not all the servants of Pharaoh were in agreement with their master concerning this invitation to the Hebrews. Many among them were disquieted, saying, "If one of the sons of Jacob came hither, and he was advanced to a high position over our heads, what evil will happen to us when ten more come hither?"
Joseph gave all his brethren two changes of raiment, one for use on the ordinary days of the week and one for use on the Sabbath, for, when the cup was found with Benjamin, they had rent their clothes, and Joseph would not have his brethren go about in torn garments. But to Benjamin he gave five changes of raiment, though not in order to distinguish him above his brethren. Joseph remembered only too well what mischief his father had caused by giving him the coat of many colors, thereby arousing the envy of his brethren. He desired only to intimate that Mordecai, a descendant of Benjamin, would once be arrayed in five royal garments.
Joseph presented his brethren, apparelled in their gold and silver embroidered clothes, before Pharaoh, who was well pleased to become acquainted with them when he saw that they were men of heroic stature and handsome appearance. He gave them wagons, to bring their families down into Egypt, but as they were ornamented with images of idols, Judah burnt them, and Joseph replaced them with eleven other wagons, among them the one he had ridden in at his accession to office, to view the land of Egypt. This was to be used by his father on his journey to Egypt. For each of his brothers' children, he sent raiments, and also one hundred pieces of silver for each, but for each of the children of Benjamin he sent ten changes of raiment. And for the wives of his brethren he gave them rich garments of state, such as were worn by the wives of the Pharaohs, and also ointments and aromatic spices. To his sister Dinah he sent silver and gold embroidered clothes, and myrrh, aloes, and other perfumes, and such presents he gave also to the wife and the daughters-in-law of Benjamin. For themselves and for their wives the brethren received all sorts of precious stones and jewelled ornaments, like those that are worn by the Egyptian nobility.
Joseph accompanied his eleven brethren to the frontier, and there he took leave of them with the wish that they and all their families come down to Egypt, and he enjoined upon them, besides, three maxims to be observed by travellers: Do not take too large steps; do not discuss Halakic subjects, that you lose not your way; and enter the city at the latest with the going down of the sun.
JACOB RECEIVES THE GLAD TIDINGS
In blithe spirits the sons of Jacob journeyed up to the land of Canaan, but when they reached the boundary line, they said to one another, "How shall we do? If we appear before our father and tell him that Joseph is alive, he will be greatly frightened, and he will not be inclined to believe us." Besides, Joseph's last injunction to them had been to take heed and not startle their father with the tidings of joy.
On coming close to their habitation, they caught sight of Serah, the daughter of Asher, a very beautiful maiden, and very wise, who was skilled in playing upon the harp. They summoned her unto them and gave her a harp, and bade her play before Jacob and sing that which they should tell her. She sat down before Jacob, and, with an agreeable melody, she sang the following words, accompanying herself upon the harp: "Joseph, my uncle, liveth, he ruleth over the whole of Egypt, he is not dead!" She repeated these words several times, and Jacob grew more and more pleasurably excited. His joy awakened the holy spirit in him, and he knew that she spoke the truth. The spirit of prophecy never visits a seer when he is in a state of lassitude or in a state of grief; it comes only together with joy. All the years of Joseph's separation from him Jacob had had no prophetic visions, because he was always sad, and only when Serah's words reawakened the feeling of happiness in his heart, the prophetic spirit again took possession of him. Jacob rewarded her therefor with the words, "My daughter, may death never have power over thee, for thou didst revive my spirit." And so it was. Serah did not die, she entered Paradise alive. At his bidding, she repeated the words she had sung again and again, and they gave Jacob great joy and delight, so that the holy spirit waxed stronger and stronger within him.
While he was sitting thus in converse with Serah, his sons appeared arrayed in all their magnificence, and with all the presents that Joseph had given them, and they spake to Jacob, saying: "Glad tidings! Joseph our brother liveth! He is ruler over the whole land of Egypt, and he sends thee a message of joy." At first Jacob would not believe them, but when they opened their packs, and showed him the presents Joseph had sent to all, he could not doubt the truth of their words any longer.
Joseph had had a premonition that his father would refuse to give his brethren credence, because they had tried to deceive him before, and "it is the punishment of the liar that his words are not believed even when he speaks the truth." He had therefore said to them, "If my father will not believe your words, tell him that when I took leave of him, to see whether it was well with you, he had been teaching me the law of the heifer whose neck is broken in the valley." When they repeated this, every last vestige of Jacob's doubt disappeared, and he said: "Great is the steadfastness of my son Joseph. In spite of all his sufferings he has remained constant in his piety. Yea, great are the benefits that the Lord hath conferred upon me. He saved me from the hands of Esau, and from the hands of Laban, and from the Canaanites who pursued after me. I have tasted many joys, and I hope to see more, but never did I hope to set eyes upon Joseph again, and now I shall go down to him and behold him before my death."
Then Jacob and the members of his family put on the clothes Joseph had sent, among them a turban for Jacob, and they made all preparations to journey down into Egypt and dwell there with Joseph and his family. Hearing of his good fortune, the kings and the grandees of Canaan came to wait upon Jacob and express sympathy with him in his joy, and he prepared a three days' banquet for them.
Jacob, however, would not go down into Egypt without first inquiring whether it was the will of God that he should leave the Holy Land. He said, "How can I leave the land of my fathers, the land of my birth, the land in which the Shekinah dwells, and go into an unclean land, inhabited by slaves of the sons of Ham, a land wherein there is no fear of God?" Then he brought sacrifices in honor of God, in the expectation that a Divine vision would descend upon him and instruct him whether to go down into Egypt or have Joseph come up to Canaan. He feared the sojourn in Egypt, for he remembered the vision he had had at Beth-el on leaving his father's house, and he said to God: "I resemble my father. As he was greedy in filling his maw, so am I, and therefore I would go down into Egypt in consequence of the famine. As my father preferred one son to the other, so had I a favorite son, and therefore I would go down into Egypt to see Joseph. But in this I do not resemble my father, he had only himself to provide for, and my house consists of seventy souls, and therefore am I compelled to go down into Egypt. The blessing which my father gave me was not fulfilled in me, but in my son Joseph, whom peoples serve, and before whom nations bow down."
Then the Shekinah addressed Jacob, calling his name twice in token of love, and bidding him not to fear the Egyptian slavery foretold for the descendants of Abraham, for God would have pity upon the suffering of his children and deliver them from bondage. God furthermore said, "I will go down into Egypt with thee," and the Shekinah accompanied Jacob thither, bringing the number of the company with which he entered Egypt up to seventy. But as Jacob entertained fears that his descendants would stay there forever, God gave him the assurance that He would lead him forth together with all the pious that were like unto him. And God also told Jacob that Joseph had remained steadfast in his piety even in Egypt, and he might dismiss all doubts from his mind on this score, for it was his anxiety on this account that had induced Jacob to consider going down into Egypt; he wanted only to make sure of Joseph's faithfulness, and then return home, but God commanded him to go thither and remain there.
Before Jacob left Canaan, he went to Beer-sheba, to hew down the cedars that Abraham had planted there, and take them with him to Egypt. For centuries these cedar trees remained in the possession of his descendants; they carried them with them when they left Egypt, and they used them in building the Tabernacle.
Although Joseph had put wagons at the disposal of his brethren for the removal of his family from Canaan to Egypt, they yet carried Jacob upon their arms, for which purpose they divided themselves into three divisions, one division after the other assuming the burden. As a reward for their filial devotion, God redeemed their descendants from Egypt.
Judah was sent on ahead by his father, to erect a dwelling in Goshen, and also a Bet ha-Midrash, that Jacob might set about instructing his sons at once after his arrival. He charged Judah with this honorable task in order to compensate him for a wrong he had done him. All the years of Joseph's absence he had suspected Judah of having made away with Rachel's son. How little the suspicion was justified he realized now when Judah in particular had been assiduous in securing the safety of Benjamin, the other son of Rachel. Jacob therefore said to Judah: "Thou hast done a pious, God-bidden deed, and hast shown thyself to be a man capable of carrying on negotiations with Joseph. Complete the work thou hast begun! Go to Goshen, and together with Joseph prepare all things for our coming. Indeed," continued Jacob, "thou wast the cause of our going down into Egypt, for it was at thy suggestion that Joseph was sold as a slave, and, also, through thy descendants Israel will be led forth out of Egypt."
When Joseph was informed of the approach of his father, he rejoiced exceedingly, chiefly because his coming would stop the talk of the Egyptians, who were constantly referring to him as the slave that had dominion over them. "Now," thought Joseph, "they will see my father and my brethren, and they will be convinced that I am a free-born man, of noble stock."
In his joy in anticipation of seeing his father, Joseph made ready his chariot with his own hands, without waiting for his servants to minister to him, and this loving action redounded later to the benefit of the Israelites, for it rendered of none effect Pharaoh's zeal in making ready his chariot himself, with his own hands, to pursue after the Israelites.
JACOB ARRIVES IN EGYPT
When the Egyptian nobles observed their viceroy completing his preparations to meet his father, they did the same. Indeed, Joseph had issued a proclamation throughout the land, threatening with death all that did not go forth to meet Jacob. The procession that accompanied him was composed of countless men, arrayed in byssus and purple, and marching to the sound of all sorts of musical instruments. Even the women of Egypt had a part in the reception ceremonies. They ascended to the roofs of the houses and the walls of the cities, ready to greet Jacob with the music of cymbals and timbrels.
Joseph wore the royal crown upon his head, Pharaoh had yielded it to him for the occasion. He descended from his chariot when he was at a distance of about fifty ells from his father, and walked the rest of the way on foot, and his example was followed by the princes and nobles of Egypt. When Jacob caught sight of the approaching procession, he was rejoiced, and even before he recognized Joseph, he bowed down before him, but for permitting his father to show him this mark of honor, punishment was visited upon Joseph. He died an untimely death, before the years of life assigned to him had elapsed.
That no harm befall Jacob from a too sudden meeting with him, Joseph sent his oldest son ahead with five horses, the second son following close after him in the same way. As each son approached, Jacob thought he beheld Joseph, and so he was prepared gradually to see him face to face.
Meantime Jacob had espied, from where he was seated, a man in royal robes among the Egyptians, a crown upon his head, and a purple mantle over his shoulders, and he asked Judah who it might be. When he was told that it was Joseph, his joy was great over the high dignity attained by his son.
By this time Joseph had come close to his father, and he bowed himself before him down to the earth, and all the people with him likewise prostrated themselves. Then Joseph fell upon his father's neck, and he wept bitterly. He was particularly grieved that he had permitted his father to bow down before him but a little while before without hindering it. At the very moment when Joseph embraced his father, Jacob was reciting the Shema', and he did not allow himself to be interrupted in his prayer, but then he said, "When they brought me the report of the death of Joseph, I thought I was doomed to double death--that I should lose this world and the world to come as well. The Lord had promised to make me the ancestor of twelve tribes, and as the death of my son rendered it impossible that this promise should be realized, I feared I had incurred the doom by my own sins, and as a sinner I could not but expect to forfeit the future world, too. But now that I have beheld thee alive, I know that my death will be only for the world here below."
Such was the manner of Jacob's arrival in Egypt. He came with his whole family, sixty-nine persons they were in all, but the number was raised to seventy by the birth of Jochebed, afterward the mother of Moses, which took place when the cavalcade had advanced to the space between the one and the other city wall. All the males in his family were married men; even Pallu and Hezron, the latter of whom was but one year old at the time of their migration, and the former but two years, had the wives with them that had been chosen for them by their parents. In general, all the sons and grandsons of Jacob had married young, some of them had been fathers at the age of seven.
Joseph took some from among his brethren, and presented them to Pharaoh. He chose the weakest of them, that the king might not be tempted to retain them in his service as warriors. And as he did not desire his family to live at close quarters with the Egyptians and perhaps amalgamate with them, he introduced them as shepherds. The Egyptians worshipped the constellation of the rain, and paid divine honors to animals, and they kept aloof from shepherds. Pharaoh therefore was inclined to grant Joseph's wish, to give them the pasture land of Goshen for their sojourning place, the land that was theirs by right, for the Pharaoh that took Sarah away from Abraham by force had given it to her as her irrevocable possession.
In their conversation with Pharaoh the brethren of Joseph made it plain to the Egyptian king that it was not their intention to remain in Egypt forever, it was to be only a temporary dwelling-place.
Then Joseph set Jacob his father before Pharaoh, and when the king saw him, he said to Og, who happened to be with him at that moment, "Seest thou! Thou wast wont to call Abraham a sterile mule, and here is his grandson with a family of seventy persons!" Og would not believe his own eyes, he thought Abraham was standing before him, so close was the resemblance between Jacob and his progenitor. Then Pharaoh asked about Jacob's age, to find out whether he actually was Jacob, and not Abraham. And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years," using the word pilgrimage in reference to life on earth, which the pious regard as a temporary sojourn in alien lands. "Few and evil," he continued, "have been the days of the years of my life. In my youth I had to flee to a strange land on account of my brother Esau, and now, in my old age, I must again go to a strange land, and my days have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." These words sufficed to convince Pharaoh and Og that the man standing before them was not Abraham, but his grandson.
When Jacob uttered the words, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage have been few and evil," God said to him: "Jacob, I saved thee out of the hands of Esau and Laban, I restored Joseph unto thee, and made him to be a king and a ruler, and yet thou speakest of few and evil days. Because of thy ingratitude, thou wilt not attain unto the days of the years of the life of thy fathers," and Jacob died at an age thirty-three years less than his father Isaac's.
On going out from the presence of Pharaoh, Jacob blessed the king with the words, "May the years still in store for me be given unto thee, and may the Nile overflow its banks henceforth again and water the land." His words were fulfilled. In order to show that the pious are a blessing for the world, God caused the Nile to rise above its bed and fructify the land of Egypt.
JOSEPH'S KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY
Jacob and his family now settled in the land of Goshen, and Joseph provided them with all things needful, not only with food and drink, but also with clothing, and in his love and kindness he entertained his father and his brethren daily at his own table. He banished the wrong done to him by his brethren from his mind, and he besought his father to pray to God for them, that He should forgive their great transgression. Touched by this noble sign of love, Jacob cried out, "O Joseph, my child, thou hast conquered the heart of thy father Jacob."
Joseph had other virtues, besides. The title "the God-fearing one," borne only by him, Abraham, Job, and Obadiah, he gained by reason of his kindness of heart and his generosity. Whatever he gave his brethren, he gave with a "good eye," a liberal spirit. If it was bread for food, it was sure to be abundant enough, not only to satisfy the hunger of all, but also for the children to crumble, as is their habit.
But Joseph was more than a helper to his family. As a shepherd pastures his flock, so he provided for the whole world during the years of famine. The people cursed Pharaoh, who kept the stores of corn in his treasure chambers for his own use, and they blessed Joseph, who took thought for the famishing, and sold grain to all that came. The wealth which he acquired by these sales was lawful gain, for the prices were raised, not by him, but by the Egyptians themselves. One part of his possessions, consisting of gold and silver and precious stones, Joseph buried in four different places, in the desert near the Red Sea, on the banks of the Euphrates, and in two spots in the desert in the vicinity of Persia and Media. Korah discovered one of the hiding-places, and the Roman emperor Antoninus, the son of Severus, another. The other two will never be found, because God has reserved the riches they hold for the pious, to be enjoyed by them in the latter days, the days of the Messiah. The remainder of Joseph's possessions he gave away, partly to his brethren and their families, and partly to Pharaoh, who put them into his treasury.
The wealth of the whole world flowed into Egypt at that time, and it remained there until the exodus of the Israelites. They took it along, leaving Egypt like a net without fish. The Israelites kept the treasure until the time of Rehoboam, who was deprived of it by the Egyptian king Shishak, and he in turn had to yield it to Zerah, the king of Ethiopia. Once more it came into possession of the Jews when King Asa conquered Zerah, but this time they held it for only a short while, for Asa surrendered it to the Aramean king Ben-hadad, to induce him to break his league with Baasha, the king of the Ten Tribes. The Ammonites, in turn, captured it from Ben-hadad, only to lose it in their war with the Jews under Jehoshaphat. Again it remained with the Jews, until the time of King Ahaz, who sent it to Sennacherib as tribute money. Hezekiah won it back, but Zedekiah, the last king of the Jews, lost it to the Chaldeans, from whom it came to Persia, thence to the Greeks, and finally to the Romans, and with the last it remained for all time.
The people were soon left without means to purchase the corn they needed. In a short time they had to part with their cattle, and when the money thus secured was spent, they sold their land to Joseph, and even their persons. Many of them would cover themselves with clay and appear before Joseph, and say to him, "O lord king, see me and see my possessions!" And so Joseph bought all the land of Egypt, and the inhabitants became his tenants, and they gave a fifth of their ingatherings unto joseph.
The only class of the people permitted to remain in possession of their land were the priests. Joseph owed them gratitude, for they had made it possible for him to become the ruler over Egypt. The Egyptians had hesitated to make him their viceroy, because they shrank from choosing a man accused of adultery for so high an office. It was the priests that made the suggestion to examine Joseph's torn garment, which his mistress had submitted as evidence of his guilt, and see whether the rent was in front or in back. If it was in back, it would show his innocence--he had turned to flee, and his temptress had clutched him so that the garment tore. But if the tear was in front, then it would be a proof of his guilt--he had used violence with the woman, and she had torn the mantle in her efforts to defend her honor. The angel Gabriel came and transferred the rent from the fore part to the back, and the Egyptians were convinced of Joseph's innocence, and their scruples about raising him to the kingship were removed.
As soon as the Egyptians learnt of the advantageous position of the priests, they all tried to prove themselves members of the caste. But Joseph investigated the lists in the archives, and determined the estate of every citizen.
The priests were favored in another way. Beside remaining in possession of their land, they received daily portions from Pharaoh, wherefore God said, "The priests that serve idols receive all they need every day, how much more do the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are My priests, deserve that I should give them what they need every day."
The rest of the inhabitants of Egypt, who had to part with their land, were not permitted to remain in their native provinces. Joseph removed them from their own cities, and settled them in others. His purpose herein was to prevent the Egyptians from speaking of his brethren derogatorily as "exiles the sons of exiles"; he made them all equally aliens. For the same reason, God later, at the time of the going forth of the Israelites from Egypt, caused all nations to change their dwelling-places about, so that the Israelites could not be reproached with having had to leave their home. And, finally, when Sermacherib carried the Jews away from their land into exile, it also happened that this king first mixed up the inhabitants of all the countries of the world.
JACOB'S LAST WISH
In return for the seventeen years that Jacob had devoted to the bringing up of Joseph, he was granted seventeen years of sojourn with his favorite son in peace and happiness. The wicked experience sorrow after joy; the pious must suffer first, and then they are happy, for all's well that ends well, and God permits the pious to spend the last years of their lives in felicity.
When Jacob felt his end approach, he summoned Joseph to his bedside, and he told him all there was in his heart. He called for Joseph rather than one of his other sons, because he was the only one in a position to execute his wishes.
Jacob said to Joseph: "If I have found grace in thy sight, bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. Only for thy sake did I come down into Egypt, and for thy sake I spoke, Now I can die. Do this for me as a true service of love, and not because thou art afraid, or because decency demands it. And when I sleep with my fathers, thou shalt bury me in their burying-place. Carry me out of the land of idolatry, and bury me in the land where God hath caused His Name to dwell, and put me to rest in the place in which four husbands and wives are to be buried, I the last of them."
Jacob desired not to be buried in Egypt for several reasons. He knew that the soil of Egypt would once swarm with vermin, and it revolted him to think of his corpse exposed to such uncleanness. He feared, moreover, that his descendants might say, "Were Egypt not a holy land, our father Jacob had never permitted himself to be buried there," and they might encourage themselves with this argument to make choice of Egypt as a permanent dwelling-place. Also, if his grave were there, the Egyptians might resort to it when the ten plagues came upon them, and if he were induced to pray for them to God, he would be advocating the cause of the Lord's enemies. If, on the other hand, he did not intercede for them, the Name of God would be profaned among the heathen, who would say, "Jacob is a useless saint!" Besides, it was possible that God might consider him, the "scattered sheep" of Israel, as a sacrifice for the Egyptians, and remit their punishment. From his knowledge of the people, another fear was justified, that his grave would become an object of idolatrous veneration, and the same punishment is appointed by God for the idols worshipped as for the idolaters that worship them.
If Jacob had good reasons for not wanting his body to rest in the soil of Egypt, he had equally good reasons for wanting it to rest in the Holy Land. In the Messianic time, when the dead will rise, those buried in Palestine will awaken to new life without delay, while those buried elsewhere will first have to roll from land to land through the earth, hollowed out for the purpose, until they reach the Holy Land, and only then will their resurrection take place. But over and beyond this, Jacob had an especial reason for desiring to have his body interred in Palestine. God had said to him at Beth-el, "The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed," and hence he made every endeavor to "lie" in the Holy Land, to make sure it would belong to him and his descendants. Nevertheless he bade Joseph strew some Egyptian earth over his dead body.
Jacob expressed these his last wishes three times. Such is the requirement of good breeding in preferring a request.
In the last period of Jacob's life, one can see how true it is that "even a king depends upon favors in a strange land." Jacob, the man for the sake of whose merits the whole world was created, for the sake of whom Abraham was delivered from the fiery furnace, had to ask services of others while he was among strangers, and when Joseph promised to do his bidding, he bowed himself before his own son, for it is a true saying, "Bow before the fox in his day," the day of his power.
He was not satisfied with a simple promise from Joseph, that he would do his wish; he insisted upon his taking an oath by the sign of the covenant of Abraham, putting a hand under his thigh in accordance with the ceremony customary among the Patriarchs! But Joseph said: "Thou treatest me like a slave. With me thou hast no need to require an oath. Thy command sufficeth." Jacob, however, urged him, saying: "I fear Pharaoh may command thee to bury me in the sepulchre with the kings of Egypt. I insist that thou takest an oath, and then I will be at peace." Joseph gave in, though he would not submit to the ceremony that Eliezer had used to confirm the oath he took at the request of his master Abraham. The slave acted in accordance with the rules of slavery, the free man acted in accordance with the dictates of freedom. And in a son that thing would have been unseemly which was becoming in a slave.
When Joseph swore to bury his father in Palestine, he added the words, "As thou commandest me to do, so also will I beg my brethren, on my death-bed, to fulfil my last wish and carry my body from Egypt to Palestine."
Jacob, noticing the Shekinah over the bed's head, where she always rests in a sick room, bowed himself upon the bed's head, saying, "I thank thee, O Lord my God, that none who is unfit came forth from my bed, but my bed was perfect." He was particularly grateful for the revelation God had vouchsafed him concerning his first-born son Reuben, that he had repented of his trespass against his father, and atoned for it by penance. He was thus assured that all his sons were men worthy of being the progenitors of the twelve tribes, and he was blessed with happiness such as neither Abraham nor Isaac had known, for both of them had had unworthy as well as worthy sons.
Until the time of Jacob death had always come upon men suddenly, and snatched them away before they were warned of the imminent end by sickness. Once Jacob spoke to God, saying, "O Lord of the world, a man dies suddenly, and he is not laid low first by sickness, and he cannot acquaint his children with his wishes regarding all he leaves behind. But if a man first fell sick, and felt that his end were drawing nigh, he would have time to set his house in order." And God said, "Verily, thy request is sensible, and thou shalt be the first to profit by the new dispensation," and so it happened that Jacob fell sick a little while before his death.
His sickness troubled him grievously, for he had undergone much during his life. He had worked day and night while he was with Laban, and his conflicts with the angel and with Esau, though he came off victor from both, had weakened him, and he was not in a condition to endure the hardships of disease.
THE BLESSING OF EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH
All the years of Jacob's sojourn in Egypt, Asenath, the wife of Joseph, was his constant nurse. When she saw his end drawing nigh, she spoke to Joseph: "I have heard that one who is blessed by a righteous man is as though he had been blessed by the Shekinah. Therefore, bring thy sons hither, that Jacob give them his blessing."
Though Joseph was a devoted and loving son to his father, he was not in constant attendance upon him, because he wanted to avoid giving him the opportunity of inquiring into the circumstances of his coming to Egypt. He was apprehensive that Jacob might curse his sons and bring death upon them, if he discovered the facts connected with their treacherous dealings with Joseph. He took good care therefore never to be alone with his father. But as he desired to be kept informed of his welfare, he arranged a courier service between himself and Jacob.
Now when Joseph received the news of his father's having fallen sick, through his messenger, as well as through Ephraim, whom Jacob was instructing in the Torah, he hastened to the land of Goshen, taking his two sons with him. He desired to have certainty upon five points: Would his father bless his two sons, who were born in Egypt, and, if so, would he appoint them to be heads of tribes? Would he assign the rights of the first-born unto himself, and, if so, would he divest Reuben of such rights altogether? And why had his father buried his mother Rachel by the wayside, and not carried her body to the family tomb at Machpelah?
Jacob had also entertained doubts on five points, when he was about to emigrate from Canaan to Egypt: He did not know whether his descendants would lose themselves among the people of Egypt; whether he would die there and be buried there; and whether he would be permitted to see Joseph and see the sons of Joseph. God gave him the assurance, saying, "I will go down with thee into Egypt, and I will surely bring thee up again after thy death, and thy descendants also, and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes." When the time approached for the fulfilment of the Divine promise, God appeared unto Jacob, and He said, "I promised to fulfil thy wish, and the time of fulfilment hath come."
The holy spirit made known to Jacob that Joseph was coming to him, and he strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed in order to pay due respect to the representative of the government. Though Joseph was his son, he was also viceroy, and entitled to special marks of honor. Besides, Jacob desired to make the impression of being a man in good health. He wanted to avoid the possibility of having his blessing of Joseph and Joseph's sons questioned as the act of an irresponsible person.
He strengthened himself spiritually as well as physically, by prayer to God, in which he besought Him to let the holy spirit descend upon him at the time of his giving the blessing to the sons of Joseph.
When Joseph appeared in the company of his two sons, his father said to him: "In all the seventeen years thou hast been visiting me, thou didst never bring thy sons with thee, but now they have come, and I know the reason. If I bless them, I shall act in opposition to the word of God, who promised to make me the progenitor of twelve tribes, for if I adopt them as my sons, there will be fourteen tribes. But if I do not bless them, it will plunge thee in sorrow. So be it, I will bless them. But think not I do it because thou didst support me all these years. There is quite another reason. When I left my father's house to go to Haran, I offered up a prayer at Beth-el, and I promised to give unto God the tenth of all I owned. So far as my material possessions are concerned, I kept my vow, but I could not give the tithe of my sons, because according to the law I had to withdraw from the reckoning the four sons, Reuben, Joseph, Dan, and Gad, that are the first-born children of their mothers. When I returned, God again appeared unto me in Beth-el, and He said, Be fruitful and multiply. But after this blessing no son was born unto me except Benjamin alone, and it cannot be but that God meant Manasseh and Ephraim when He spoke of 'a nation and a company of nations.' If now I have found favor in thy sight, thy two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simon, shall be mine, and then I shall be able to give a tenth part of my ten sons unto the Lord, and I shall leave this world free from the sin of not keeping my vow to the Lord concerning the tithe-giving."
Joseph consented to do his father's will, and Jacob tithed his sons, consecrating Levi to the Holy One, and appointing him to be the chief of his brethren. He enjoined his sons to have a care that there should never fail them a son of Levi in the priestly succession. And it happened that. of all the tribes Levi was the only one that never proved faithless to the covenant of the fathers.
Thus Jacob adopted Manasseh and Ephraim to be his own sons, even as Reuben and Simon were his sons. They were entitled like the others to a portion in the Holy Land, and like the others they were to bear standards on their journey through the desert.
Satisfied as to Jacob's intentions concerning his sons, Joseph asked his father about his mother's burial-place, and Jacob spoke, saying: "As thou livest, thy wish to see thy mother lying by my side in the grave doth not exceed mine own. I had joy in life only as long as she was alive, and her death was the heaviest blow that ever fell upon me." Joseph questioned him: "Perhaps thou didst have to bury her in the way, because she died during the rainy season, and thou couldst not carry her body through the rain to our family sepulchre?" "No," replied Jacob, "she died in the spring time, when the highways are clean and firm." Joseph: "Grant me permission to take up her body now and place it in our family burial-place." Jacob: "No, my son, that thou mayest not do. I was unwilling to bury her in the way, but the Lord commanded it." The reason of the command was that God knew that the Temple would be destroyed, and Israel would be carried away into banishment, and the exiles would ask the Patriarchs to intercede for them with God, but God would not hearken unto them. On their way to the land of the stranger they would pass the grave of Rachel, and they would throw themselves upon it, and beseech their mother to make intercession for them with God. And Rachel would pray to God in their behalf: "O Lord of the world, look upon my tears, and have compassion upon my children. But if Thou wilt not take pity on them, then indemnify me for the wrong done to me." Unto her prayer God will hearken, and He will have mercy upon Israel. Therefore was Rachel buried in the way.
Now Jacob desired to bless the sons of Joseph, but the holy spirit made him to see Jeroboam, the descendant of Ephraim, and Jehu, the descendant of Manasseh, how they would seduce Israel to idolatry, and the Shekinah forsook him as he was about to lay his hands upon the heads of his grandsons. He said to Joseph, "Is it possible that thou didst not marry the mother of thy children according to the law?" Joseph thereupon brought his wife Asenath to his father, and pointing to her marriage contract, he said, "This one is my wife, whom I married as is proper, with a marriage contract and due ceremony. I pray thee, my father, bless my sons if only for the sake of this pious woman."
Jacob bade his grandsons approach close to him, and he kissed and embraced them, in the hope that his joy in them would lure back the holy spirit, but his hope was vain. Joseph concluded that the time was not favorable for blessing, and he decided to go away until a more propitious opportunity presented itself, first, however, proving to his father that his sons had been initiated in the covenant of Abraham.
Outside of his father's chamber, alone with his sons, he threw himself down before God and besought Him to show him mercy, and he bade his sons do likewise, saying, "Be not content with your high station, for worldly honors are but for a time. Entreat God to be merciful and let the Shekinah descend upon my father, that he bless you both." Then spake God to the holy spirit: "How long yet shall Joseph suffer? Reveal thyself quickly, and enter into Jacob, that he may be able to bestow blessings."
In the words of Jacob, "Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simon, shall be mine," Joseph had noticed his father's preference for his younger son Ephraim. It made him very anxious about his older son's birthright, and he was careful to put the two lads before his father in such wise that Manasseh should stand opposite Jacob's right hand, and Ephraim opposite his left hand. But Ephraim, on account of his modesty, was destined for greater things than his older brother Manasseh, and God bade the holy spirit prompt Jacob to give the birthright to Ephraim. Now when Joseph observed his father put his right hand upon Ephraim's head, he made an attempt to remove it unto Manasseh's head. But Jacob warded him off, saying: "What, thou wouldst displace my hand against my will, the hand that overcame the prince of the angel hosts, who is as large as one-third of the world! I know things not known to thee--I know what Reuben did to Bilhah, and what Judah did to Tamar. How much more do I know things known to thee! Thinkest thou I know not what thy brethren did to thee, because thou wouldst betray nothing whenever I asked thee? I know it, Manasseh also shall become great, the judge Gideon shall descend from him, but his younger brother will be the ancestor of Joshua, who will bring the sun and the moon to a standstill, though they have dominion over the whole earth from end to end." Thus did Jacob set Ephraim the younger above Manasseh the older, and thus did it remain unto all times. In the list of the generations, Manasseh comes after Ephraim, and so it was in the allotment of the portions in the Holy Land, and so it was in the placing of the camps and the standards of the tribes, and in the dedication of the Tabernacle--everywhere Ephraim preceded Manasseh.
The blessing bestowed upon his grandchildren by Jacob was as follows: "O that it be the will of God that ye walk in the ways of the Lord like unto my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may the angel that hath redeemed me from all evil give his aid unto Joshua and Gideon, and reveal himself unto them. May your names be named on Israel, and like unto fishes may you grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth, and as fishes are protected by the water, so may you be protected by the merits of Joseph."
The words "like unto fishes" were used by Jacob for the purpose of intimating the manner of death awaiting the Ephraimites, the descendants of Joseph. As fish are caught by their mouth, so the Ephraimites were in later days to invite their doom by their peculiar lisp. At the same time, Jacob's words contained the prophecy that Joshua the son of the man Nun, the "fish," would lead Israel into the Holy Land. And in his words lay still another prophecy, with reference to the sixty thousand men children begot in the same night as Moses, all cast into the river with him, and saved for the sake of his merits. The number of boys thrown to the fishes in the river that night was equal to the number of men in Israel upon the earth.
Ephraim received a special and separate blessing from his grandfather. Jacob said to him, "Ephraim, my son, thou art the head of the Academy, and in the days to come my most excellent and celebrated descendants will be called Ephrati after thee."
Joseph received two gifts from his father. The first was Shechem, the city that Jacob had defended, with sword and bow, against the depredations of the Amorite kings when they tried to take revenge upon his sons for the outrage committed there. And the second gift was the garments made by God for Adam and passed from hand to hand, until they came into the possession of Jacob. Shechem was his reward, because, with his chastity, he stemmed the tide of immorality that burst loose in Shechem first of all. Besides, he had a prior claim upon the city. Shechem, son of Hamor, the master of the city, had given it to Dinah as a present, and the wife of Joseph, Asenath, being the daughter of Dinah, the city belonged to him by right.
Adam's clothes Jacob had received from Esau. He had not taken them from his brother by force, but God had caused them to be given to him as a reward for his good deeds. They had belonged to Nimrod. Once when the mighty hunter caught Esau in his preserves, and forbade him to go on the chase, they agreed to determine by combat what their privileges were. Esau had taken counsel with Jacob, and he had advised him never to fight with Nimrod while he was clothed in Adam's garments. The two now wrestled with each other, and at the time Nimrod was not dressed in Adam's clothes. The end was that he was slain by Esau. Thus the garments worn by Adam fell into the hands of Esau, from him they passed into Jacob's, and he bequeathed them to Joseph.
Jacob also taught Joseph three signs whereby to distinguish the true redeemer, who should deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He would proclaim the Ineffable Name, appoint elders, and use the word Pakod in addressing the people.
THE BLESSING OF THE TWELVE TRIBES
When Joseph and his two sons left Jacob, his brethren, envious of the bountiful blessings bestowed upon the three, said, "The whole world loveth a favorite of fortune, and our father hath blessed Joseph thus because he is a ruler of men." Then spoke Jacob: "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. I have blessings enough for all."
Jacob summoned his sons from the land of Egypt, and bade them come to him at Raamses, first, however, commanding them to make themselves clean, that the blessing he was about to bestow might attach itself to them. Another one of his commands was that they were to establish an Academy, by the members of which they were to be governed.
When his sons were brought into his presence by the angels, Jacob spoke, saying, "Take heed that no dissensions spring up among you, for union is the first condition of Israel's redemption," and he was on the point of revealing the great secret to them concerning the end of time, but while they were standing around the golden bed whereon their father lay, the Shekinah visited him for a moment and departed as quickly, and with her departed also all trace of the knowledge of the great mystery from the mind of Jacob. He had the same experience as his own father Isaac, who also had loss of memory inflicted upon him by God, to prevent him from revealing the secret at the end of time to Esau, when he summoned him to receive his blessing.
The accident made Jacob apprehensive that his sons were not pious enough to be considered worthy of the revelation concerning the Messianic era, and he said to them, "Ishmael and the sons of Keturah were the blemished among the issue of my grandfather Abraham; my father Isaac begot a blemished issue in Esau, and I fear now that among you, too, there is one that harbors the intention to serve idols." The twelve men spake, and said: "Hear, O Israel, our father, the Eternal our God is the One Only God. As thy heart is one and united in avouching the Holy One, blessed be He, to be thy God, so also are our hearts one and united in avouching Him." Whereto Jacob responded, "Praised be the Name of the glory of His majesty forever and ever!" And although the whole mystery of the Messianic time was not communicated to the sons of Jacob, yet the blessing of each contained some reference to the events of the future.
These were the words addressed by Jacob to his oldest son: "Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength! Thy portion should have been three crowns. Thou shouldst have had the double heritage of thy primogeniture, and the priestly dignity, and the royal power. But by reason of thy sin, the birthright is conferred upon Joseph, kingship upon Judah, and the priesthood upon Levi. My son, I know no healing remedy for thee, but the man Moses, who will ascend to God, he will make thee whole, and God will forgive thy sin. I bless thee--may thy descendants be heroes in the Torah and heroes in war. Though thou must lose thy birthright, yet wilt thou be the first to enter into possession of thy allotment in the Holy Land, and in thy territory shall be the first of the cities of refuge, and always shall thy name stand first in the list of the families of the tribes. Yea, thou shalt also be the first whose heritage will be seized by the enemy, and the first to be carried away into the lands of exile."
After Reuben had had his "ears pulled" thus, he retired, and Jacob called his sons Simon and Levi to his side, and he addressed them in these words: "Brethren ye were of Dinah, but not of Joseph, whom you sold into slavery. The weapons of violence wherewith ye smote Shechem were stolen weapons, for it was not seemly for you to draw the sword. That was Esau's portion. To him was it said, By thy sword shalt thou live. Into the council of the tribe of Simon my soul will not come when they foregather at Shittim to do vicious deeds, and my glory will not be united unto the assembly of Korah, the descendants of Levi. In their anger Simon and Levi slew the prince of Shechem, and in their self-will they sold Joseph the bull into slavery. Accursed was the city of Shechem when they entered to destroy it. If they remain united, no ruler will be able to stand up before them, no war will prosper against them. Therefore will I divide and scatter their possession among the possessions of the other tribes. The descendants of Simon will many of them be poor men, who will wander from tribe to tribe and beg for bread, and also Levi's tribe will gather its tithes and gifts from all the others."
The words of Jacob, "I will divide them in Jacob," spoken of Simon and Levi, were fulfilled on Simon in particular. When twenty-four thousand of Simon fell at Shittim, the widows they left behind married husbands of all the other tribes. Nevertheless Jacob did not dismiss Simon and Levi without blessing them; the tribe of Simon was to bring forth the teachers and the beadles needed by all Israel, and Levi, the scholars that would expound the Torah and render decisions according to its teachings.
When the remaining sons of Jacob heard the rebukes dealt out by their father to these three, they feared to hear like reproaches, and they tried to slip away from his presence. Especially Judah was alarmed, that his father might taunt him with his trespass touching Tamar. But Jacob spoke thus to him: "Judah, thou dost deserve thy name. Thy mother called thee Jehudah, because she gave praise to God at thy birth, and so shall thy brethren praise thee, and they all will call themselves by thy name. And as thou didst confess thy sin openly, so also thy descendants, Achan, David, and Manasseh, will make public avowal of their sins, and the Lord will hear their prayer. Thy hands will send darts after the fleeing foe, and thy father's sons shall pay thee respect. Thou hast the impudence of a dog and the bravery of a lion. Thou didst save Joseph from death, and Tamar and her two sons from the flames. No people and no kingdom will be able to stand up against thee. Rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor teachers of the law from his posterity, until his descendant Messiah come, and the obedience of all peoples be unto him. How glorious is Messiah of the House of Judah! His loins girded, he will go out to do battle with his enemies. No king and no ruler will prevail against him. The mountains will be dyed red with their blood, and the garments of Messiah will be like the garments of him that presseth wine. The eyes of Messiah will be clearer than pure wine, for they will never behold unchastity and bloodshed; and his teeth will be whiter than milk, for never will they bite aught that is taken by violence."
Though Issachar was the older, Zebulon came next to be blessed, as a reward for the sacrifice he had made for his brother's sake, for when Issachar chose the study of the Torah as his vocation, Zebulon decided to devote himself to business and support his brother with the profits of his trade, that he might give himself up to the law undisturbed. His blessing was that he would conquer the seacoast as far as Zidon.
"Issachar," said Jacob, "will take upon himself the burden of the study of the Torah, and all the other tribes will come to him and ask him to decide their doubts on legal questions, and his descendants will be the members of the Sanhedrin and the scholars that will occupy themselves with fixing the calendar." Jacob blessed Issachar also with the blessing, that the fruits of his land should be exceedingly large, and this brought a heavenly as well as an earthly profit in its train, for when the heathen to whom the fruits were sold marvelled thereat, the Jewish merchants explained that their extraordinary size was due to the merits of the tribe of Issachar, whom God rewarded for their devotion to the Torah, and thus many of the heathen were induced to convert to Judaism.
In blessing Dan, Jacob's thoughts were occupied chiefly with his descendant Samson, who, like unto God, without any manner of assistance, conferred victory upon his people. Jacob even believed the strong, heroic man to be the Messiah, but when Samson's death was revealed to him, he exclaimed, "I wait for Thy salvation, O Lord, for Thy help is unto all eternity, while Samson's help is only for a time. The redemption" continued Jacob, "will not be accomplished by Samson the Danite, but by Elijah the Gadite, who will appear at the end of time."
Asher's blessing was the beauty of his women, who would be sought in marriage by kings and high priests.
In Naphtali's land all fruits would ripen quickly, and they would be brought as presents to kings, and gain royal favor for the givers. This blessing was fulfilled in the plain of Gennesaret. At the same time Naphtali's blessing was a prophecy concerning his descendant Deborah, who was like a hind let loose against Sisera to conquer him, and she gave goodly words in her song of Israel's victory. Naphtali himself deserved the description applied to Deborah, for he was swift as a hart to do the will of God, and he was a fleet messenger unto his father and the tribes. They sent him whithersoever they would, and he executed their errands with dispatch. He served the brethren of Joseph as herald, to announce unto Jacob the glad tidings, "Joseph is yet alive," and when the stricken father saw him approach, he said, "Lo, here cometh Naphtali the lovable, who proclaimeth peace."
Joseph's blessing exceeded the blessing of all his brethren. Jacob spoke: "O son whom I bred up, Joseph, whom I raised, and who wast strong to resist the enticements of sin, thou didst conquer all the magicians and the wise men of Egypt by thy wisdom and thy pious deeds. The daughters of princes cast their jewels before thee, to draw thine eyes upon them when thou didst pass through the land of Egypt, but thou didst not look their way, and therefore wast thou made the father of two tribes. The magicians and the wise men of Egypt sought to defame thee before Pharaoh and slander thee, but thou didst set thy hope in the Almighty. Therefore may He who appeared unto me as El Shaddai bless thee and grant thee fertile soil and much cattle. May the blessing thy father giveth thee now, and the blessing that his fathers Abraham and Isaac gave him, and that called forth the envy of the great of the world, Ishmael, Esau, and the sons of Keturah--may all these blessings be a crown upon the head of Joseph, and a chain upon the neck of him that was the ruler of Egypt, and yet diminished not the honor due to his brethren."
The slander of which Jacob spoke referred to what Potiphar had said of Joseph before Pharaoh. He had complained, saying, "Why didst thou appoint my slave, whom I did buy for twenty pieces of silver, to be ruler over the Egyptians?" Joseph had then taken up his own defense, saying: "When thou didst buy me as a slave, thou didst commit a capital crime. Only a descendant of Canaan may be sold as a slave, and I am a descendant of Shem, and a prince besides. If thou wilt convince thyself of the truth of my words, do but compare me with the likeness of my mother Sarah that Pharaoh had made of her!" They brought Sarah's likeness, and, verily, it appeared that Joseph resembled his ancestress, and all were convinced of his noble lineage.
The blessing that Jacob bestowed upon Benjamin contains the prophecy that his tribe would provide Israel with his first ruler and his last ruler, and so it was, for Saul and Esther both belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. Likewise Benjamin's heritage in the Holy Land harbors two extremes: Jericho ripens its fruits earlier than any other region in Palestine, while Beth-el ripens them latest. In Benjamin's blessing, Jacob referred also to the service in the Temple, because the Holy Place was situated in the territory of Benjamin. And when Jacob called his youngest son a wolf that ravineth, he was thinking of the judge Ehud, the great scholar, a Benjamite, who conquered Eglon king of Moab, and also he had in mind the Benjamites that captured their wives by cunning and force.
Again, if he called Benjamin a wolf, Judah a lion, and Joseph a bull, he wanted to point to the three kingdoms known as wolf, lion, and bull, the doom of which was and will be sealed by the descendants of his three sons: Babylon, the kingdom of the lion, fell through the hands of Daniel of the tribe of Judah; Media, the wolf, found its master in the Benjamite Mordecai; and the bull Joseph will subdue the horned beast, the kingdom of wickedness, before the Messianic time.
THE DEATH OF JACOB
After Jacob had blessed each of his sons separately, he addressed himself to all of them together, saying: "According to my power did I bless you, but in future days a prophet will arise, and this man Moses will bless you, too, and he will continue my blessings where I left off." He added, besides, that the blessing of each tribe should redound to the good of all the other tribes: the tribe of Judah should have a share in the fine wheat of the tribe of Benjamin, and Benjamin should enjoy the goodly barley of Judah. The tribes should be mutually helpful, one to another.
Moreover, he charged them not to be guilty of idolatry in any form or shape and not to let blasphemous speech pass their lips, and he taught them the order of transporting his bier, thus: "Joseph, being king, shall not help to bear it, nor shall Levi, who is destined to carry the Ark of the Shekinah. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon shall grasp its front end, Reuben, Simon, and Gad its right side, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin the hindmost end, and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali its left side." And this was the order in which the tribes, bearing each its standard, were to march through the desert, the Shekinah dwelling in the midst of them.
Jacob then spake to Joseph, saying: "And thou, my son Joseph, forgive thy brethren for their trespass against thee, forsake them not, and grieve them not, for the Lord hath put them into thine hands, that thou shouldst protect them all thy days against the Egyptians."
Also he admonished his sons, saying that the Lord would be with them if they walked in His ways, and He would redeem them from the hands of the Egyptians. "I know," he continued, "great suffering will befall your sons and your grandsons in this land, but if you will obey God, and teach your sons to know Him, then He will send you a redeemer, who will bring you forth out of Egypt and lead you into the land of your fathers."
In resignation to the will of God, Jacob awaited his end, and death enveloped him gently. Not the Angel of Death ended his life, but the Shekinah took his soul with a kiss. Beside the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, only Moses, Aaron, and Miriam breathed their last in this manner, through the kiss of the Shekinah. And these six, together with Benjamin, are the only ones whose corpses are not exposed to the ravages of the worms, and they neither corrupt nor decay.
Thus Jacob departed this world, and entered the world to come, a foretaste of which he had enjoyed here below, like the other two Patriarchs, and none beside among men. In another respect their life in this world resembled their life in the world to come, the evil inclination had no power over them, either here or there, wherein David resembled them.
Joseph ordered his father's body to be placed upon a couch of ivory, covered with gold, studded with gems, and hung with drapery of byssus and purple. Fragrant wine was poured out at its side, and aromatic spices burnt next to it. Heroes of the house of Esau, princes of the family of Ishmael, and the lion Judah, the bravest of his sons, surrounded the sumptuous bier of Jacob. "Come," said Judah to his brethren, "let us plant a high cedar tree at the head of our father's grave, its top shall reach up to the skies, its branches shall shade all the inhabitants of the earth, and its roots shall grow down deep into the earth, unto the abyss. For from him are sprung twelve tribes, and from him will arise kings and rulers, chapters of priests prepared to perform the service of the sacrifices, and companies of Levites ready to sing psalms and play upon sweet instruments."
The sons of Jacob tore their garments and girded their loins with sackcloth, threw themselves upon the ground, and strewed earth upon their heads until the dust rose in a high cloud. And when Asenath, the wife of Joseph, heard the tidings of Jacob's death, she came, and with her came the women of Egypt, to weep and mourn over him. And the men of Egypt that had known Jacob repaired thither, and they mourned day after day, and also many journeyed down into Egypt from Canaan, to take part in the seventy days' mourning made for him.
The Egyptians spake to one another, saying, "Let us lament for the pious man Jacob, because the affliction of the famine was averted from our land on account of his merits," for instead of ravaging the land for forty-two years according to the decree of God, the famine had lasted but two years, and that was due to the virtues of Jacob.
Joseph ordered the physicians to embalm the corpse. This he should have refrained from doing, for it was displeasing to God, who spoke, saying: "Have I not the power to preserve the corpse of this pious man from corruption? Was it not I that spoke the reassuring words, Fear not the worm, O Jacob, thou dead Israel?" Joseph's punishment for this useless precaution was that he was the first of the sons of Jacob to suffer death. The Egyptians, on the other hand, who devoted forty days to embalming the corpse and preparing it for burial, were rewarded for the veneration they showed. Before He destroyed their city, God gave the Ninevites a forty days' respite on account of their king, who was the Pharaoh of Egypt. And for the three score and ten days of mourning that the heathen made for Jacob, they were recompensed at the time of Ahasuerus. During seventy days, from the thirteenth of Nisan, the date of Haman's edict ordering the extermination of the Jews, until the twenty-third of Siwan, when Mordecai recalled it, they were permitted to enjoy absolute power over the Jews.
When all preparations for the burial of Jacob had been completed, Joseph asked permission of Pharaoh to carry the body up into Canaan. But he did not himself go to put his petition before Pharaoh, for he could not well appear before the king in the garb of a mourner, nor was he willing to interrupt his lamentation over his father for even a brief space and stand before Pharaoh and prefer his petition. He requested the family of Pharaoh to intercede for him with the king for the additional reason that he was desirous of enlisting the favor of the king's relations, lest they advise Pharaoh not to fulfil his wish. He acted according to the maxim, "Seek to win over the accuser, that he cause thee no annoyance."
Joseph applied first to the queen's hairdresser, and she influenced the queen to favor him, and then the queen put in a good word for him with the king. At first Pharaoh refused the permission craved by Joseph, who, however, urged him to consider the solemn oath he had given his dying father, to bury him in Canaan. Pharaoh desired him to seek absolution from the oath. But Joseph rejoined, "Then will I apply also for absolution from the oath I gave thee," referring to an incident in his earlier history. The grandees of Egypt had advised Pharaoh against appointing Joseph as viceroy, and they did not recede from this counsel until Joseph, in his conversation with the Egyptian king, proved himself to be master of the seventy languages of the world, the necessary condition to be fulfilled before one could become ruler over Egypt. But the conversation proved something else, that Pharaoh himself was not entitled to Egyptian kingship, because he lacked knowledge of Hebrew. He feared, if the truth became known, Joseph would be raised to his own place, for he knew Hebrew beside all the other tongues. In his anxiety and distress, Pharaoh made Joseph swear an oath never to betray the king's ignorance of Hebrew. Now when Joseph threatened to have himself absolved from this oath as well as the one to his dying father, great terror overwhelmed him, and he speedily granted Joseph permission to go up to Canaan and bury his father there.
Moreover, Pharaoh issued a decree in all parts of the land menacing those with death who would not accompany Joseph and his brethren upon their journey to Canaan with their father's remains, and accordingly the procession that followed the bier of Jacob was made up of the princes and nobles of Egypt as well as the common people. The bier was borne by the sons of Jacob. In obedience to his wish not even their children were allowed to touch it. It was fashioned of pure gold, the border thereof inlaid with onyx stones and bdellium, and the cover was gold woven work joined to the bier with threads that were held together with hooks of onyx stones and bdellium. Joseph placed a large golden crown upon the head of his father, and a golden sceptre he put in his hand, arraying him like a living king.
The funeral cortege was arranged in this order: First came the valiant men of Pharaoh and the valiant men of Joseph, and then the rest of the inhabitants of Egypt. All were girt with swords and clothed in coats of mail, and the trappings of war were upon them. The weepers and mourners walked, crying and lamenting, at some distance from the bier, and the rest of the people went behind it, while Joseph and his household followed together after it, with bare feet and in tears, and Joseph's servants were close to him, each man with his accoutrements and weapons of war. Fifty of Jacob's servants preceded the bier, strewing myrrh upon the road in passing, and all manner of perfumes, so that the sons of Jacob trod upon the aromatic spices as they carried the body forward.
Thus the procession moved on until it reached Canaan. It halted at the threshing-floor of Atad, and there they lamented with a very great and sore lamentation. But the greatest honor conferred upon Jacob was the presence of the Shekinah, who accompanied the cortege.
The Canaanites had no intention at first to take part in the mourning made for Jacob, but when they saw the honors shown him, they joined the procession of the Egyptians, loosing the girdles of their garments as a sign of grief. Also the sons of Esau, Ishmael, and Keturah appeared, though their design in coming was to seize the opportunity and make war upon the sons of Jacob, but when they saw Joseph's crown suspended from the bier, the Edomite and Ishmaelite kings and princes followed his example, and attached theirs to it, too, and it was ornamented with thirty-six crowns.
Nevertheless the conflict was not averted; it broke out in the end between the sons of Jacob and Esau and his followers. When the former were about to lower the body of their father into the Cave of Machpelah, Esau attempted to prevent it, saying that Jacob had used his allotted portion of the tomb for Leah, and the only space left for a grave belonged to himself. For, continued Esau, "though I sold my birthright unto Jacob, I yet have a portion in the tomb as a son of Isaac." The sons of Jacob, however, were well aware of the fact that their father had acquired Esau's share in the Cave, and they even knew that a bill of sale existed, but Esau, assuming properly that the document was left behind in Egypt, denied that any such had ever been made out, and the sons of Jacob sent Naphtali, the fleet runner, back to Egypt to fetch the bill. Meantime, while this altercation was going on between Esau and the others, Hushim the son of Dan arose and inquired in astonishment why they did not proceed with the burial of Jacob, for he was deaf and had not understood the words that had passed between the disputants. When he heard what it was all about, and that the ceremonies were interrupted until Naphtali should return from Egypt with the bill of sale, he exclaimed, with indignation, "My grandfather shall lie here unburied until Naphtali comes back!" and he seized a club and dealt Esau a vigorous blow, so that he died, and his eyes fell out of their sockets and dropped upon Jacob's knees, and Jacob opened his own eyes and smiled. Esau being dead, his brother's burial could proceed without hindrance, and Joseph interred him in the Cave of Machpelah in accordance with his wish.
His other children had left all arrangements connected with the burial of their father's body to their brother Joseph, for they reflected that it was a greater honor for Jacob if a king concerned himself about his remains rather than simple private individuals.
The head of Esau, as he lay slain by the side of Jacob's grave, rolled down into the Cave, and fell into the lap of Isaac, who prayed to God to have mercy upon his son, but his supplications were in vain. God spoke, saying, "As I live, he shall not behold the majesty of the Lord."
THE SONS OF JACOB AT WAR WITH THE SONS OF ESAU
Jacob having been interred with royal pomp, and the seven days' period of mourning over, the conflict between the sons of Jacob and the sons of Esau broke out anew. In the skirmish that had ensued when Esau advanced a claim upon a place in the Cave of Machpelah, while his brother's remains still lay unburied, he lost forty of his men, and after his death fortune favored his sons as little. Eighty of their followers were slain, while of the sons of Jacob not one was lost. Joseph succeeded in capturing Zepho the son of Eliphaz and fifty of his men, and he clapped them in chains and carried them off to Egypt. Thereupon the rest of the attacking army led by Eliphaz fled to Mount Seir, taking with them the headless corpse of Esau, to bury it in his own territory. The sons of Jacob pursued after them, but they slew none, out of respect for the remains of Esau.
On the third day a great army gathered together, consisting of the inhabitants of Seir and the children of the East, and they marched down into Egypt with the purpose of making war upon Joseph and his brethren. In the battle that came off, this army was almost totally destroyed, not less than six hundred thousand men were mowed down by Joseph and his warriors, and the small remnant fled precipitately. Returned to their own country after this fatal campaign, the sons of Esau and the sons of Seir fell to quarrelling among themselves, and the sons of Seir demanded that their former allies leave the place, because it was they that had brought misfortune upon the country.
The sons of Esau thereupon dispatched a messenger in secret to their friend Agnias, king of Africa, begging his aid against the sons of Seir. He granted their request, and sent them troops consisting of foot-soldiers and mounted men. The sons of Seir, on their part, also sought allies, and they secured the help of the children of the East, and of the Midianites, who put warriors at their disposal. In the encounters that ensued between the hostile forces, the sons of Esau were defeated again and again, partly on account of treachery in their own ranks, for their men sometimes deserted to the enemy while the combat was on. At last, however, in the battle that took place in the desert of Paran, the sons of Esau gained a decisive victory. They massacred all the warriors of the sons of Seir, and the Midianites and the children of the East were put to flight.
Thereafter the sons of Esau returned to Seir, and they slew all the inhabitants of the place, men, women, and children, sparing only fifty lads and maidens. The former they used as slaves, and the latter they took to wife. They also enriched themselves with the spoils, seizing all the possessions of the sons of Seir, and the whole land was divided among the five sons of Esau. Now these descendants of Esau determined to put a king over themselves, but in consequence of the treachery committed during the war there prevailed such hatred and bitterness among them that they decided never to appoint a ruler from their own people. Their choice fell upon Bela, the son of Beor, one of the warriors sent to them by King Agnias. His peer could not be found among the allied troops for bravery, wisdom, and handsome appearance. They set the royal crown upon his head, built a palace for him, and gave him gifts of silver, gold, and gems, until he lived in great opulence. He reigned happily for thirty years, and met his death then in a war against Joseph and his brethren.
This war came about because the sons of Esau could not banish from their memory the disgrace of the defeat inflicted upon them by Joseph and his people. Having enlisted the aid of Agnias, and of the Ishmaelites and other nations of the East, they set forth on a second campaign against Egypt, in the hope of delivering Zepho and his followers from the hands of Joseph. In spite of their enormous host--they had no less than eight hundred thousand men of infantry and cavalry--they were defeated at Raamses by Joseph and his brethren and their little company of six hundred men. Beside their king Bela, they left one-fourth of their army upon the field. The loss of their king discouraged them grievously, and they took to flight, hard pressed by Joseph, who cut down many of the fugitives.
When he returned from the battle, Joseph ordered manacles and fetters to be put upon Zepho and his followers, and their captivity was made more bitter unto them than it had been before.
The sons of Esau appointed Jobab of Bozrah to succeed their dead king Bela. His reign lasted ten years, but they desisted from all further attempts at waging war with the sons of Jacob. Their last experience with them had been too painful, but the enmity they cherished against them was all the fiercer, and their hatred never abated.
Their third king was Husham, and he ruled over them for twenty years. During his reign Zepho succeeded in making good his escape from Egypt. He was received kindly by Agnias, king of Africa, and appointed commander-in-chief of his troops. He used every means of persuasion to induce his sovereign lord to enter into a war with Egypt, but in vain, for Agnias was only too well acquainted with the strength and heroism of the sons of Jacob. For many years he resisted Zepho's arguments and blandishments. Indeed, as it was, Agnias had his hands full with other warlike enterprises. It had happened about this time that a man of the land of Kittim, 'Uzi by name, whom his countrymen venerated as a god, died in the city of Pozimana, and he left behind a fair and clever daughter. Agnias heard of Yaniah's beauty and wisdom, and he sued for her hand, and his request was granted him by the people of Kittim.
The messengers of Agnias were hastening away from Kittim, bearing to their master the promise of the inhabitants that Yaniah should become his wife, when Turnus, king of Benevento, arrived on the same errand. His suit was rejected, for the people of Kittim were afraid-to break the promise given to Agnias. In his anger, Turnus went to Sardinia to make war upon King Lucus, a brother of Agnias, intending to deal with the latter as soon as the other was rendered harmless. Hearing of the design hatched by Turnus, Agnias hastened to Sardinia to the assistance of his brother, and a battle took place in the Valley of Campania. Against Turnus were arrayed Agnias, his brother Lucus, and the son of the latter, Niblos, whom his father had appointed commander-in-chief of the Sardinian troops. In the first encounter, Turnus was the victor, and the Sardinians lost their general Niblos. But in the second engagement the army of Turnus was routed completely, and he himself was left dead on the field. His army fled, pursued closely by Agnias as far as the cross-road between Rome and Albano. Niblos' body was put inside of a golden statue, and his father erected a high tower over his grave, and another over the grave of Turnus, and these two buildings, connected by a marble pavement, stand opposite to each other, on the cross-road at which Agnias left off from following after the fugitive army.
The king of Africa went on to the city of Benevento, but he took no harsh measures against it and its inhabitants, because it belonged to the land of Kittim at that time. Thenceforth, however, bands of soldiers from Africa made incursions, now and again, into the land of Kittim, under the lead of Zepho, the captain of the African army. Agnias meantime went to Pozimana, to solemnize his marriage with Yaniah, and he returned with her to his capital in Africa.
ZEPHO KING OF KITTIM
All this time Zepho did not leave off urging Agnias to invade Egypt, and he succeeded finally in persuading the king to consider his wish, and a great army was equipped against Egypt and the sons of Jacob. Among the shield-bearers was Balaam, the fifteen year old son of Beor, a wise youth and an adept in magic, and the king bade him acquaint him with the issue of the war upon which they were entering. Balaam took wax and moulded the figures of men, to represent the army of Agnias and the army of the Egyptians, and he plunged them into magic water and let them swim, and it appeared that the African army was subdued by the Egyptians. Agnias accordingly gave up the campaign, and Zepho, seeing that his sovereign could not be persuaded into war with the sons of Jacob, fled the country and betook himself to Kittim.
The people of Kittim received him with great honors, and they offered him much money to stay with them and conduct their wars. It happened once while Zepho was in the mountains of Koptiziah, where the inhabitants of Kittim had taken refuge before the troops of the African king, that he had to go on a search for an ox that had strayed away, and he discovered a cave the opening of which was barred by a great stone. He shivered the stone in pieces, and entering the cave he saw an animal formed like a man above and a he-goat below, and he killed the strange beast, which was in the very act of devouring his lost ox. There was great rejoicing among the people of Kittim, for the monster had long been doing havoc among their cattle, and in gratitude they set aside one day of the year, which they called by Zepho's name, in honor of their liberator, and all the people brought him presents and offered sacrifices to him.
At this time it came to pass that Yaniah, the wife of King Agnias, fell into a grievous sickness, and the physicians ascribed her illness to the climate, and to the water of Africa, to which she, a native of the land of Kittim, could not get accustomed, because she had been in the habit of using the water of the river Forma, which her forefathers had drawn to her house through a conduit. Agnias sent to the land of Kittim and had some of the water of the Forma brought to Africa. Finding it much lighter than the water of his own country, he built a huge canal from the land of Kittim. to Africa, and the queen henceforth had all the Forma water she needed. Besides, he took earth and stone from Kittim, and built a palace for Yaniah, and she recovered from her illness.
Meantime Zepho had won a decisive victory over the African troops that had made an incursion into the land of Kittim, and the people chose him as king. His first undertaking was a campaign against the sons of Tubal and the Islands of the Sea, and again he was successful, he subdued them completely. On his return, the people built a great palace for Zepho, and they renewed his kingship, and he continued until his death to reign as king of Kittim and of Italy.
During the first thirteen years of his reign, the Africans made no attempt to disturb the peace of Kittim, but then they invaded the land, only to be severely repulsed by Zepho, who pursued the troops up to the very borders of Africa, and Agnias the king was in such consternation that he did not venture to make reprisals for some time. When he finally made a second attempt, his troops were annihilated by Zepho down to the very last man. Now Agnias, in despair, assembled all the inhabitants of Africa, as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore, and he united his great host with the army of his brother Lucus, and thus he made his third attempt upon Zepho and the people of the land of Kittim.
Alarmed, Zepho wrote to his brethren in Seir, and entreated their king Hadad to send him aid. But the people of Seir had concluded an alliance with Agnias as far back as under their first king Bela, and they refused Zepho's request, and the king of Kittim had to face the host of eight hundred thousand men mustered by Agnias with his little band of three thousand. Then the people of Kittim spake to their king Zepho, saying: "Pray for us unto the God of thy ancestors. Peradventure He may deliver us from the hand of Agnias and his army, for we have heard that He is a great God, and He delivers all that trust in Him." Zepho prayed unto the Lord, saying: "O Lord, God of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers, this day may it be made known that Thou art a true God, and all the gods of the nations are vain and useless. Remember now this day unto me Thy covenant with Abraham our father, which our ancestors related unto us, and do graciously with me this day for the sake of Abraham and Isaac, our fathers, and save me and the sons of Kittim from the hand of the king of Africa, who hath come against us for battle."
God gave ear unto Zepho's prayer, and in the first day's battle one-half of the African army fell. Agnias forthwith dispatched a decree to his country, ordering, on penalty of death and confiscation of property, that all the males of the land, including boys that had passed their tenth year, were to join the army and fight against the people of Kittim. In spite of these new accessions, three hundred thousand strong, Agnias was beaten again by Zepho in the second battle. The African general Sosipater having fallen slain, the troops broke into flight, at their head Agnias with Lucus the brother and Asdrubal the son of Agnias. After this dire defeat the Africans made no further attempt to disturb the peace of Kittim, and their incursions ceased forever.
In spite of the great victory that Zepho had won with the help of God, the king of Kittim walked in the idolatrous ways of the people whom he ruled, and in the ways of the sons of Esau, for, as saith the proverb of the ancients, "Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness," and Zepho was not other than the rest of the sons of Esau.
The severe defeat inflicted upon Agnias drove Balaam from Africa to Kittim, and he was received with great honors by Zepho, who welcomed him on account of his deep wisdom.
Now Zepho thought the time had arrived for him to carry out his plan of vengeance against the posterity of Jacob, all the more as in the meantime Joseph had died, and also his brethren and the valiant men of Pharaoh had passed away. He was joined in the enterprise by Hadad, the king of Edom, and by the nations of the East and the Ishmaelites. The allied army was so vast that the space it covered as it stood in rank and file was equal to a three days' journey. It formed in battle array in the Valley of Pathros, and it was met by three hundred thousand Egyptians and one hundred and fifty Israelites from Goshen. But the Egyptians did not trust the Israelites, they feared their defection to the sons of Esau and Ishmael. They therefore made an agreement with them that the Israelites were not to come to the help of the Egyptians until it appeared that the enemy were getting the upper hand.
Zepho, who had a high opinion of Balaam's ability, desired him to use his magic arts and find out what would be the outcome of the war, but Balaam's knowledge failed him, he could not satisfy the king's wish. The Egyptians got the worst of the first encounter between the two hostile armies, but the aspect of things changed as soon as they summoned the Israelites to aid them. The Israelites prayed to God to support them with His help, and the Lord heard their prayer. Then they threw themselves upon Zepho and his allies, and after they had cut down several thousand men, such dismay and confusion took hold of the enemy that they fled hastily, pursued by the Israelites as far as the boundary of the country. The Egyptians, instead of coming to the assistance of the Israelites, had taken to flight, leaving the small band of their allies to dispose of the huge host of their adversaries. Embittered by such treatment, the Israelites slew as many as two hundred Egyptians, under the pretext that they thought they belonged to the enemy.
THE NATIONS AT WAR
Hadad, the king of Edom, who had failed to gain fame and honor in the Egyptian campaign, was favored by fortune in another war, a war against Moab. The Moabites shrank from meeting Hadad alone, and they made an alliance with the Midianites. In the thick of the fight the Moabites fled from the field of battle, leaving the Midianites to their fate, and these deserted allies of theirs were cut down to a man by Hadad and his Edomites. The Moabites saved their skins, and suffered only the inconvenience of having to pay tribute. To avenge the faithlessness practiced against them, the Midianites, supported by their kinsmen, the sons of Keturah, gathered a mighty army, and attacked the Moabites the following year. But Hadad came to their assistance, and again he inflicted a severe defeat upon the Midianites, who had to give up their plan of revenge against Moab. This is the beginning of the inveterate enmity between the Moabites and the Midianites. If a single Moabite is caught in the land of Midian, he is killed without mercy, and a Midianite in Moab fares no better.
After the death of Hadad, the Edomites installed Samlah of Masrekah as their king, and he reigned eighteen years. It was his desire to take up the cause of Agnias, the old ally of the Edomites, and chastise Zepho for having gone to war with him, but his people, the Edomites, would not permit him to undertake aught that was inimical to their kinsman, and Samlah had to abandon the plan. In the fourteenth year of Samlah's reign, Zepho died, having been king of Kittim for fifty years. His successor was Janus, one of the people of Kittim, who enjoyed an equally long reign.
Balaam had made his escape to Egypt after the death of Zepho, and he was received there with great demonstrations of honor by the king and all the nobles, and Pharaoh appointed him to be royal counsellor, for he had heard much about his exceeding great wisdom.
In the Edomite kingdom, Samlah was succeeded by Saul of Pethor, a youth of surpassing beauty, whose reign lasted forty years. His successor upon the throne was Baal Hamon, king for thirty-eight years, during which period the Moabites rose up against the Edomites, to whom they had been paying tribute since the time of Hadad, and they succeeded in throwing off the yoke of the stranger.
The times were troubled everywhere. Agnias, the king of Africa, died, and also the death of Janus occurred, the king of Kittim. The successors to these two rulers, Asdrubal, the son of Agnias, and Latinus, the king of Kittim, then entered upon a long drawn out war of many years. At first the fortune of war favored Latinus. He sailed to Africa in ships, and inflicted one defeat after another upon Asdrubal, and finally this king of Africa lost his life upon the battlefield. After destroying the canal from Kittim to Africa built many years before by Agnias, Latinus returned to his own country, taking with him as his wife Ushpiziwnah, the daughter of Asdrubal, who was so wondrously beautiful that her countrymen wore her likeness upon their garments.
Latinus did not enjoy the fruits of his victory long. Anibal, the younger brother of Asdrubal and his successor in the royal power, went to Kittim in ships and carried on a series of wars lasting eighteen years, in the course of which he killed off eighty thousand of the people of Kittim, not sparing the princes and the nobles. At the end of this protracted period he went back to Africa, and reigned over his people in quiet and peace.
The Edomites, during the forty-eight years of the reign of Hadad, the successor of Baal Hamon, fared no better than the people of Kittim. Hadad's first undertaking was to reduce the Moabites again under the sovereignty of Edom, but he had to desist, because he could not offer successful resistance to a newly chosen king of theirs, one of their own people, who enlisted the aid of their kinsmen the Ammonites. The allies commanded a great host, and Hadad was overwhelmed. These wars were followed by others between Hadad of Edom. and Abimenos of Kittim. The latter was the attacking party, and he invaded Seir with a mighty army. The sons of Seir were defeated abjectly, their king Hadad was taken captive, and then executed by Abimenos, and Seir was made a province subject to Kittim and ruled by a governor.
Thus ended the independence of the sons of Esau. Henceforth they had to pay tribute to Kittim, over which Abimenos ruled until his death, in the thirty-eighth year of his reign.
As Joseph was returning from the burial of his father in the Cave of Machpelah, he passed the pit into which his brethren had once cast him, and he looked into it, and said, "Blessed be God who permitted a miracle to come to pass for me here!" The brethren inferred from these words of gratitude, which Joseph but uttered in compliance with the injunctions of the law, that he cherished the recollection of the evil they had done him, and they feared, that now their father was dead, their brother would requite them in accordance with their deeds. They observed, moreover, that since their father was no more, Joseph had given up the habit of entertaining them at his table, and they interpreted this as a sign of his hatred of them. In reality, it was due to Joseph's respect and esteem for his brethren. "So long as my father was alive," Joseph said to himself, "he bade me sit at the head of the table, though Judah is king, and Reuben is the first-born. It was my father's wish, and I complied with it. But now it is not seemly that I should have the first seat in their presence, and yet, being ruler of Egypt, I cannot yield my place to any other." He thought it best therefore not to have the company of his brethren at his meals.
But they, not fathoming his motives, sent Bilhah to him with the dying message of their father, that he was to forgive the transgression and the sin of his brethren. For the sake of the ways of peace they had invented the message; Jacob had said nothing like it. Joseph, on his part, realized that his brethren spoke thus only because they feared he might do harm unto them, and he wept that they should put so little trust in his affection. When they appeared, and fell down before his face, and said, "Thou didst desire to make one of us a slave unto thyself. Behold, we all are ready to be thy servants," he spoke to them gently, and tried to convince them that he harbored no evil design against them. He said: "Be not afraid, I will do you no harm, for I fear God, and if ye think I failed to have you sit at my table because of enmity toward you, God knows the intentions of my heart, He knows that I acted thus out of consideration for the respect I owe to you."
Furthermore he said: "Ye are like unto the dust of the earth, the sand on the sea-shore, and the stars in the heavens. Can I do aught to put these out of the world? Ten stars could effect nothing against one star, how much less can one star effect anything against ten? Do you believe that I have the power of acting contrary to the laws of nature? Twelve hours hath the day, twelve hours the night, twelve months the year, twelve constellations are in the heavens, and also there are twelve tribes! You are the trunk and I am the head--of what use the head without the trunk? It is to my own good that I should treat you with fraternal affection. Before your advent, I was looked upon as a slave in this country--you proved me a man of noble birth. Now, if I should kill you, my claims upon an aristocratic lineage would be shown to be a lie. The Egyptians would say, He was not their brother, they were strangers to him, he but called them his brethren to serve his purpose, and now he hath found a pretext to put them out of the way. Or they would hold me to be a man of no probity. Who plays false with his own kith and kin, how can he keep faith with others? And, in sooth, how can I venture to lay hand upon those whom God and my father both have blessed?"
As Joseph's dealings were kind and gentle with his brethren, so he was the helper and counsellor of the Egyptians, and when Pharaoh departed this life, Joseph being then a man of seventy-one years of age, the king's last wish was that he might be a father unto his son and successor Magron, and administer the affairs of state for him. Some of the Egyptians desired to make Joseph king after the death of Pharaoh, but this plan met with opposition on the part of others. They objected to an alien on the throne, and so the royal title was left to Magron, called Pharaoh, according to the established custom the name given to all the Egyptian kings. But Joseph was made the actual ruler of the land, and though he was only viceroy in Egypt, he reigned as king over the lands outside of Egypt as far as the Euphrates, parts of which Joseph had acquired by conquest. The inhabitants of these countries brought their yearly tribute to him and other presents besides, and thus did Joseph rule for forty years, beloved of all, and respected by the Egyptians and the other nations, and during all that time his brethren dwelt in Goshen, happy and blithe in the service of God. And in his own family circle Joseph was happy also; he lived to act as godfather at the circumcision of the sons of his grandson Machir.
His end was premature as compared with that of his brethren; at his death he was younger than any of them at their death. It is true, "Dominion buries him that exercises it." He died ten years before his allotted time, because, without taking umbrage, he had permitted his brethren to call his father his "servant" in his presence.
God gives every man the wife he deserves, and so Asenath was worthy of being the helpmeet of Joseph the pious. Her father was Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's magnates, ranking among the most distinguished of them by reason of wisdom, wealth, and station. His daughter was slender like unto Sarah, beautiful like Rebekah, and radiant in appearance like Rachel. Noblemen and princes sued for her hand when she was eighteen years of age. Even Pharaoh's appointed successor, his first-born son, demanded her in marriage, but his father refused to comply with his wish, because he did not consider her a proper wife for one destined to sit upon the throne. The daughter of the Moabite king, he insisted, was a more suitable match for him. But Asenath rejected every proposal of marriage, and avoided all intercourse with men. With seven maidens born the same day as herself, she lived in retirement in a magnificent palace adjoining that of her parents.
It happened in the first of the seven years of plenty that Joseph planned to visit the place in which Potiphar resided, and he sent word to him that he would put up with him, at his house. Potiphar was enchanted with the honor in prospect for him, and also with the opportunity it would afford him of bringing about a marriage between Asenath and Joseph. But when he disclosed his plan to his daughter, she rejected it with indignation. "Why shouldst thou desire to see me united with a vagabond, a slave," she cried out, "one that does not even belong to our nation, but is the son of a Canaanitish herdsman, a fellow that attempted to violate the honor of his mistress, and in punishment for this misdemeanor was thrown into prison, to be liberated thence by Pharaoh for interpreting his dream? Nay, father, never will I become his wife. I am willing to marry the son of Pharaoh, the future ruler and king of Egypt."
Potiphar promised his daughter not to speak of the plan again. At that moment Joseph's arrival was announced, and Asenath left the presence of her parents and withdrew to her own apartments. Standing by the window, she saw Joseph pass, and she was so transported with his divine beauty and his indescribably noble carriage that she burst into tears, and said: "Poor, foolish me, what shall I do? I permitted myself to be misled by friends, who told me that Joseph was the son of a Canaanitish shepherd. Now I behold the splendor that emanates from him like unto the splendor of the sun, illuminating our house with his rays. In my audacity and folly I had looked down upon him, and had spoken absurd nonsense against him. I knew not that he was a son of God, as he must be, for among men such beauty as his does not exist. I pray Thee, O God of Joseph, grant me pardon! It was my ignorance that made me speak like a fool. If my father will give me in marriage to Joseph, I will be his forever."
Meantime Joseph had taken his seat at Potiphar's table, and he observed a maiden looking at him from one of the palace windows. He commanded that she be ordered away, for he never permitted women to gaze at him or come near to him. His supernatural beauty always fascinated the noble Egyptian ladies, and they were untiring in the efforts they made to approach him. But their attempts were vain. He cherished the words of his father Jacob, who had admonished his son to keep aloof from the women of the Gentiles.
Potiphar explained to Joseph that the maiden at the window was his virgin daughter, who never permitted men to abide near her; he was the first man she had ever looked upon. The father continued and made the request of Joseph, to allow his daughter to pay him her respects. Joseph granted the favor he desired, and Asenath appeared and greeted him with the words, "Peace be with thee, thou blessed of God Most High," whereunto Joseph returned the salutation, "Be thou blessed of the Lord, from whom flow all blessings."
Asenath desired also to kiss Joseph, but he warded off the intimate greeting with the words: "It is not meet that a God-fearing man, who blesses the living God, and eats the blessed bread of life, who drinks of the blessed cup of immortality and incorruptibility, and anoints himself with the fragrant oil of holiness, should kiss a woman of a strange people, who blesses dead and unprofitable idols, and eats the putrid bread of idolatry, which chokes the soul of man, who drinks the libations of deceit, and anoints herself with the oil of destruction."
These words uttered by Joseph touched Asenath unto tears. Out of compassion with her, he bestowed his blessing upon her, calling upon God to pour out His spirit over her and make her to become a member of His people and His inheritance, and grant her a portion in the life eternal.
THE MARRIAGE OF JOSEPH
The appearance and the speech of Joseph made so deep an impression upon Asenath that no sooner had she reached her apartment than she divested herself of her robes of state and took off her jewels, and put on sackcloth instead, strewed ashes upon her head, and supplicated God amid tears to grant her pardon for her sins. In this manner she spent seven days and seven nights in her chamber. Not even her seven attendants were permitted to enter her presence during the time of her penance. The morning of the eighth day an angel appeared unto her, and bade her put away her sackcloth and ashes and array herself in state, for this day she had been born anew, he said, to eat the blessed bread of life, to drink of the cup of life immortal, and anoint herself with the oil of life eternal. Asenath was about to set food and drink before her guest, when she perceived a honeycomb of wondrous form and fragrance. The angel explained to her that it had been produced by the bees of Paradise, to serve as food for the angels and the elect of God. He took a small portion of it for himself, and the rest he put into Asenath's mouth, saying: "From this day forth thy body shall bloom like the eternal flowers in Paradise, thy bones shall wax fat like the cedars thereof, strength inexhaustible shall be thine, thy youth shall never fade, and thy beauty never perish, and thou shalt be like unto a metropolis surrounded by a wall." At the request of Asenath, the angel blessed also her seven attendants, with the words, "May the Lord bless you and make you to be seven pillars in the City of Refuge."
Thereupon the angel left her, and she saw him ascend heavenward in a chariot of fire drawn by four steeds of fire. Now she knew that she had not been entertaining a human being, but an angel.
The celestial messenger had scarcely departed, when a visit from Joseph was announced, and she hastened to array and adorn herself for his reception. When she washed her face, she caught sight of it in the water, and saw it to be of such beauty as never before, so great had been the transformation wrought by the angel. When Joseph came, he did not recognize her. He asked her who she was, whereto she replied, "I am thy maid-servant Asenath! I have cast away my idols, and this day a visitant came to me from heaven. He gave me to eat of the bread of life and to drink of the blessed cup, and he spake these words unto me, 'I give thee unto Joseph as his affianced wife, that he may be thy affianced husband forever.' And furthermore he said, 'Thy name shall not any more be called Asenath, but thy name shall be City of Refuge, whither the nations shall flee for safety.' And he added, 'I go to Joseph, to tell him all these things that have reference to thee.' Now, my lord, thou knowest whether the man was with thee and spoke to thee in my behalf."
Joseph confirmed all she had said, and they embraced and kissed each other in token of their betrothal, which they celebrated by a banquet with Potiphar and his wife. The wedding took place later in the presence of Pharaoh, who set a golden crown upon the head of the bridegroom and the bride, gave them his blessing, and made a seven days' feast in their honor, to which he invited the magnates and princes of Egypt and of other countries. And during the seven days of the wedding festivities the people were prohibited, under penalty of death, from doing any manner of work; they all were to join in the celebration of Joseph's marriage.
KIND AND UNKIND BRETHREN
On the twenty-first day of the second month in the second of the seven years of famine, Jacob came down to Egypt, and his daughter-in-law Asenath visited him. She marvelled not a little at his beauty and strength. His shoulders and his arms were like an angel's, and his loins like a giant's. Jacob gave her his blessing, and with her husband she returned home, accompanied by the sons of Leah, while the sons of the handmaids, remembering the evil they had once done unto Joseph, kept aloof. Levi in particular had conceived a fondness for Asenath. He was especially close to the Living God, for he was a prophet and a sage, his eyes were open, and he knew how to read the celestial books written by the finger of God. He revealed to Asenath that he had seen her future resting-place in heaven, and it was built upon a rock and encompassed by a diamond wall.
On their journey they met the son of Pharaoh, his successor to the throne, and he was so transported with Asenath's beauty, that he made the plan of murdering Joseph in order to secure possession of his wife. He summoned Simon and Levi, and by blandishments and promises sought to induce them to put Joseph out of the way. Simon was so enraged that he would have felled him at once, had not his brother Levi, who was endowed with the gift of prophecy, divined his purpose, and frustrated it by stepping upon his foot, while whispering: "Why art thou so angry, and so wroth with the man? We that fear God may not repay evil with evil." Turning to the son of Pharaoh, he told him that nothing would induce them to execute the wickedness he had proposed; rather he advised him not to undertake aught against Joseph, else he would kill him with the sword that had served him in his slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem. The culprit was seized with frantic alarm, and fell down before Simon and Levi to entreat their mercy. Levi raised him tip, saying, "Fear not, but abandon thy wicked plan, and harbor no evil design against Joseph."
Nevertheless the son of Pharaoh did not give up his criminal purpose. He approached the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, and sought to accomplish through them what had failed with Simon and Levi. He called them into his presence, and told them of a conversation between Joseph and Pharaoh that he had overheard. The former had said that he waited but to learn of the death of his father Jacob in order to do away with the sons of the handmaids, because they had been the ones to sell him into slavery. Their wrath excited against Joseph by these words, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah assented to the proposition of the son of Pharaoh. It was arranged that the latter should kill Pharaoh, the friend of Joseph, while they would fall upon their brother, and put him out of the way. They were furnished with six hundred able warriors and fifty spearmen for the purpose. The first part of the plan, the murder of Pharaoh, failed. The palace guard would not allow even the successor to the throne to enter his father's bedchamber, and he had to depart without having effected his object.
Now Dan and Gad gave him the advice to take up his station with fifty archers in a secret place that Asenath had to pass on her homeward journey. Thence he could make a successful attack upon her suite, and gain possession of her. Naphtali and Asher did not care to have anything to do with this hostile enterprise against Joseph, but Dan and Gad forced them into it, insisting that all the sons of the handmaids must stand together as men and repel the danger that threatened them.
From their ambush the forces of the son of Pharaoh fell upon Asenath and her six hundred attendants. They succeeded in hewing down the vanguard, and Asenath had to take to flight. To her alarm she encountered the son of Pharaoh with fifty mounted men. Benjamin, seated in the same chariot with her, came to her rescue, for in spite of his youth he was exceedingly courageous. He descended from the chariot, gathered pebbles, and, throwing them at the son of Pharaoh, struck him on his forehead and inflicted a severe wound. The charioteer aided him by keeping him supplied with pebbles, which he cast at the fifty riders with such expert skill that he slew forty-eight of them with as many missiles. Meantime the sons of Leah arrived on the spot and came to Asenath's aid, for Levi, with his prophetic spirit, had seen what was happening, and summoning his five brothers he had hastened thither. These six attacked the troops in ambush and cut them down. But the danger to Asenath was by no means removed. At this moment the sons of the handmaids threw themselves upon her and Benjamin with drawn swords. It was their intention to kill them both, and flee to cover in the depths of the woods. But as soon as Asenath supplicated God for aid, the swords dropped from the hands of her assailants, and they saw that the Lord was on the side of Asenath. They fell at her feet and entreated her grace. She allayed their anxiety with the words: "Be courageous and have no fear of your brethren, the sons of Leah. They are God-fearing men. Do but keep yourselves in hiding until their wrath is appeased."
When the sons of Leah appeared, Asenath fell down before them, and amid tears she adjured them to spare the sons of the handmaids and not repay with evil the evil they had meditated. Simon would not hear of making concessions. He insisted that the measure of their sins was full, and they must pay for them with their lives, for they had been the ones that had sold Joseph into slavery, and brought down untold misfortune upon Jacob and his sons. But Asenath did not leave off, and her urgent petitions won the day. She succeeded in calming the anger of Simon, and in Levi she had a secret ally, for this prophet knew the hiding-place of the sons of the handmaids, and he did not betray it to Simon, lest his wrath be increased at the sight of them. It was also Levi that restrained Benjamin from giving the death blow to the heavily wounded son of Pharaoh. So far from permitting harm to be done to him, he washed his wounds, put him into a chariot, and took him to Pharaoh, who thanked Levi from his heart for his services of loving-kindness. Levi's efforts were vain, three days later the son of Pharaoh died of the wounds inflicted by Benjamin, and from grief over the loss of his first-born Pharaoh followed him soon after, departing this life at the age of one hundred and seventy-seven years. His crown he left to Joseph, who ruled over Egypt for forty-eight years thereafter. He in turn handed the crown on to the grandchild of Pharaoh, an infant in arms at the time of his grandfather's death, toward whom Joseph had acted in a father's stead all his life.
THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF JOSEPH
On his death-bed Joseph took an oath of his brethren, and he bade them on their death-bed likewise take an oath of their sons, to carry his bones to Palestine, when God should visit them and bring them up out of the land of Egypt. He said: "I that am a ruler could take my father's body up to the Holy Land while it was still intact. Of you I do but make the request that ye carry my bones from hence, and you may inter them in any spot in Palestine, for I know that the burial-place of the fathers was appointed to be the tomb only of the three Patriarchs and their three wives."
Joseph took the oath, to carry his remains along with them when they left Egypt, from his brethren, and not from his sons, to bury him at once in Palestine, for he feared the Egyptians would not give the latter permission to transport his bones even if they recalled what Joseph had been allowed to do with his father's body. They would object that Joseph had been the viceroy, and a wish preferred by one of so high an estate could not be denied. Furthermore, he adjured his brethren not to leave Egypt until a redeemer should appear and announce his message with the words, "Pakod--I have surely visited you"--a tradition which Joseph had received from his father, who had it from Isaac, and Isaac in turn had beard it from Abraham. And he told them that God would redeem Israel through Moses as through the Messiah, in this world as in the world to come, and the Egyptian redemption would begin in Tishri, when Israel would be freed from slave labor, and would be completed in the following Nisan, when they would leave Egypt.
Joseph also admonished his brethren to walk in the ways of the Lord, so that they might become worthy of His grace and help. Especially he impressed upon his brethren and his sons the virtue of chastity and a steadfast moral life. He told them all that had happened to him, the hatred of his brethren, the persecutions of the wife of Potiphar, the slander, envy, and malice of the Egyptians, to show how that those who fear the Lord are not forsaken by Him in darkness, or bondage, or tribulation, or distress. "I was sold into slavery," he said, "but the Lord delivered me; I was thrown into prison, but His strong hand helped me. I was tortured by hunger, but the Lord Himself gave me sustenance. I was alone, and God comforted me. And as for you, if ye will walk in the ways of chastity and purity in patience and humility of heart, the Lord will dwell among you, for He loveth a chaste life, and if you, my children, will observe the commandments of the Lord, He will raise you up here, in this world, and bless you there, in the world to come. If men seek to do evil unto you, pray for them, and you will be delivered from all evil by the Lord. On account of my forbearing patience I received the daughter of my master to wife, and her dowry was a hundred talents of gold, and God gave me also beauty like the beauty of a flower, more than all the children of Jacob, and He preserved me unto mine old age in vigor and beauty, for in all things did I resemble Jacob."
Joseph continued and told them the visions he had had, in which the future of Israel was revealed to him, and then he closed with the words: "I know that the Egyptians will oppress you after my death, but God will execute vengeance for your sakes, and He will lead you to the land of promise of your fathers. But ye shall surely carry my bones with you from hence, for if my remains are taken to Canaan, the Lord will be with you in the light, and Behar will be with the Egyptians in the darkness. Also take with you the bones of your mother Zilpah, and bury them near the sepulchre of Bilhah and Rachel."
These words ended, he stretched out his feet, and slept his last eternal sleep, and the whole of Israel mourned him, and the whole of Egypt was in great grief, for he had been a compassionate friend to the Egyptians, too, and he had done good unto them, and given them wise counsel and assistance in all their undertakings.
Joseph's wish, that his bones should rest in the Holy Land, was fulfilled when the Israelites went forth from Egypt, and no less a personage than Moses applied himself to its execution. Such was Joseph's reward for the devotion he had displayed in the interment of his father's body, for he had done all things needful himself, leaving naught to others. Therefore so great a man as Moses busied himself with the realization of Joseph's wish.
For three days and three nights preceding the exodus Moses hunted up and down through the land of Egypt for Joseph's coffin, because he knew that Israel could not leave Egypt without heeding the oath given to Joseph. But his trouble was in vain; the coffin was nowhere to be found. Serah, the daughter of Asher, met Moses, tired and exhausted, and in answer to her question about the cause of his weariness, he told her of his fruitless search. Serah took him to the Nile river, and told him that the leaden coffin made for Joseph by the Egyptians had been sunk there after having been scaled up on all sides. The Egyptians had done this at the instigation and with the help of the magicians, who, knowing that Israel could not leave the country without the coffin, had used their arts to put it in a place whence it could not be removed.
Moses now took Joseph's cup, and he cut four flat pieces from it, and engraved a lion on one of them, an eagle on the second, a bull on the third, and a human figure on the fourth. He threw the first, with the lion, into the river, saying at the same time, "Joseph, Joseph, the hour for the redemption of Israel hath arrived, the Shekinah lingers here only for thy sake, the clouds of glory await thy coming. If thou wilt show thyself, well and good; if not, then we are clear from our oath." But the coffin did not appear.
Then Moses threw the second plate into the water, that with the figure of the eagle, repeating the same words, but again the coffin did not rise from the bed of the Nile, and there it remained, too, when he threw in the third plate bearing the figure of the bull, and called upon Joseph a third time to come forth. But the fourth plate with the human figure and the fourth invocation to Joseph brought the coffin to the surface of the water. Moses seized it, and in joy he bore it off. While Israel had been busy gathering gold and silver from the Egyptians, Moses had been thinking of nothing but Joseph's coffin, and his happiness was great that he had been permitted to fulfil the wish of Joseph.
During the forty years of wandering through the desert, the coffin was in the midst of Israel, as a reward for Joseph's promise to his brethren, "I will nourish you and take care of you." God had said, "As thou livest, for forty years they will take care of thy bones."
All this time in the desert Israel carried two shrines with them, the one the coffin containing the bones of the dead man Joseph, the other the Ark containing the covenant of the Living God. The wayfarers who saw the two receptacles wondered, and they would ask, "How doth the ark of the dead come next to the ark of the Ever-living?" The answer was, "The dead man enshrined in the one fulfilled the commandments enshrined in the other. In the latter it is written, I am the Lord thy God, and he said, Am I in the place of God? Here it is written, Thou shalt have no other gods before My face, and he said, I fear God. Here it is written, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and therefore he did not swear by God, but said, By the life of Pharaoh. Here it is written, Remember the Sabbath day, and he said to the overseer of his palace on Friday, Slay and make ready, meaning for the Sabbath. Here it is written, Honor thy father and thy mother, and he said, when his father desired to send him to his brethren, Here am I, although he knew it was perilous for him to go. Here it is written, Thou shalt not kill, and he refrained from murdering Potiphar when Potiphar's wife urged him to do it. Here it is written, Thou shalt not commit adultery, and he scorned the adulterous proposals of Potiphar's wife. Here it is written, Thou shalt not steal, and he stole nothing from Pharaoh, but gathered up all the money and brought it unto Pharaoh's house. Here it is written, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, and he told his father nothing of what his brethren had done to him, though what he might have told was the truth. Here it is written, Thou shalt not covet, and he did not covet Potiphar's wife."
On their arrival in the Holy Land, the Israelites buried the bones of Joseph in Shechem, for God spake to the tribes, saying, "From Shechem did ye steal him, and unto Shechem, shall ye return him."
God, who is so solicitous about the dead bodies of the pious, is even more solicitous about their souls, which stand before Him like angels, and do their service ministering unto Him.
Next: Chapter II: The Sons of Jacob