The sons of Jacob returned to their father with the joyful tidings, “Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” At first the old man was overwhelmed; he could not believe what he heard, yet their words brought a faintness to his heart. But when he saw the carriages and the long line of loaded animals, and when Benjamin was at his side once more, he felt reassured, and, in the fullness of his joy, exclaimed. “It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive. I will go and see him before I die.” The brothers then made their humiliating confession to their father, and entreated his forgiveness, for their wicked treatment of Joseph. Jacob had not suspected them of such cruelty, but he saw that God had overruled it all for good, and he forgave and blessed his erring children.
Jacob and his sons, with their families and numerous attendants, were soon on their way to Egypt. With gladness of heart they pursued their journey, and when they came to Beersheba the aged patriarch offered grateful sacrifices, and entreated the Lord to grant them an assurance that he would go with them. In a vision of the night the divine words came to Jacob: “Fear not to go down into Egypt, for I will there make of thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt, and I will also surely bring thee up again; and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.”
The meeting of Joseph and his father was very affective. Joseph left his chariot, and ran to meet his father on foot, and embraced him, and they wept over each other. “And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.”
Joseph took five of his brethren to present to Pharaoh, and receive from him a grant of land for their future home. He did not wish them to be exposed to the temptations which must surround them if engaged in the king’s special service, amid the corrupting, idolatrous influences at court; therefore he counseled them, when the king should ask them of their occupation, to tell him frankly that they were shepherds. The monarch, on learning this fact, would not seek to exalt them to some honorable position for Joseph’s sake; for the occupation of a shepherd was regarded in Egypt as degrading. When taken before Pharaoh they followed the wise counsel of their God-fearing brother; and the king gave Joseph permission to settle his father and his brethren in the best part of the land of Egypt. He selected Goshen, a well-watered, fertile country, affording good pasture for their flocks. Here, also, they could worship God, undisturbed by the ceremonies attending the idolatrous service of the Egyptians. The country round about Goshen was inhabited by the Israelites, until with power and mighty signs and wonders, God brought his people out of Egypt.
Not long after their arrival in Egypt, Joseph brought his father also to be presented to Pharaoh. The patriarch was unawed by the pomp of royalty, and the magnificence surrounding him. Amid the sublime scenes of nature he had communed with a mightier monarch; and now, in conscious superiority, he raised his hands and blessed Pharaoh. The king struck by his venerable appearance, inquired, “How old art thou?” Jacob answered, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years. Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Jacob had seen much trouble and suffered much perplexity. The jealousy of his wives had brought a long train of evils, and the sinful course of some of his children had made the father’s life very bitter. But his last years were more peaceful. His sons had turned from their evil ways, Joseph had been restored to him, and, surrounded by every comfort which the prime minister of Egypt could bestow, and in the society of his children, he passed down gently and calmly toward the grave.
A short time before his death, his children gathered about him to receive his blessing, and to listen to his last words of counsel. As he addressed them for the last time the Spirit of God rested upon him and he laid open before them their past lives, and also uttered prophecies which reached far into the future. Beginning with the eldest, he mentioned his sons by name, presenting before those who had followed a sinful course the light in which God regarded their deeds of violence, and that he would visit them for their sins. Reuben had taken no part in selling Joseph, but previous to that transaction he had grievously sinned. Concerning him, Jacob uttered the following prophecy: “Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power; unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.
He then prophesied in regard to Simeon and Levi, who had practiced deception to the Shechemites, and then, in a most cruel, revengeful manner, destroyed them. These brothers were also the most guilty in the case of Joseph. “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united! for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
In regard to Judah, the fathers words of inspiration were more joyful. His prophetic eye looked hundreds of years into the future, to the birth of Christ, and he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Jacob predicted a cheerful future for most of his sons. Especially for Joseph he uttered words of eloquence of a happy character: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. (From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.)” “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”
Jacob was an affectionate father. He had no resentful feelings toward his sorrowing children. He had forgiven them. He loved them to the last. But God, by the spirit of prophecy, elevated the mind of Jacob above his natural feelings. In his last hours, angels were all around him, and the power of God rested upon him. His paternal feelings would have led him to utter, in his dying testimony, only expressions of love and tenderness. But under the influence of inspiration he uttered truth, although painful.
After the death of Jacob, Joseph’s brethren were filled with gloom and distress. They thought that Joseph had concealed his resentment, out of respect for their father; and now that he was dead, he would be revenged for the ill treatment he had suffered at their hands. They dared not appear before him, but sent a messenger, “Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil; and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.” This message affected Joseph to tears, and, encouraged by this, his brethren came and fell down before him, with the words, “Behold, we be thy servants.” He met them with the comforting and assuring reply, Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not; I will nourish you, and your little ones. Joseph loved his brethren, and he could not bear the thought that they regarded him as harboring a spirit of revenge toward them.
The life of Joseph illustrates the life of Christ, Joseph’s brethren purposed to kill him, but were finally content to sell him as a slave, to prevent his becoming greater than themselves. They thought they had placed him where they would be no more troubled with his dreams, and where there would not be a possibility of their fulfillment. But the very course which they pursued, God overruled to bring about that which they designed never should take place—that he should have dominion over them.
The chief priests and elders were jealous of Christ, fearing that he would draw the attention of the people away from themselves. They knew that he was doing greater works than they ever had done, or ever could perform; and they knew that if he was suffered to continue his teachings, he would become higher in authority than they, and might become king of the Jews. They agreed together to prevent this by privately taking him, and hiring witnesses to testify falsely against him, that they might condemn him and put him to death. They would not accept him as their king, but cried out, Crucify him! crucify him! But by murdering the Son of God, they were bringing about the very thing they sought to prevent. Joseph, by being sold by his brethren into Egypt, became a saviour to his father’s family. Yet this fact did not lesson the guilt of his brethren. The crucifixion of Christ by his enemies made him the Redeemer of mankind, the Saviour of the fallen race, and ruler over the whole world. But the crime of his enemies was just as heinous as though God’s providential hand had not controlled events for his own glory and the good of man.
Joseph walked with God. And when he was imprisoned, and suffered because of his innocence, he meekly bore it without murmuring. His self-control, his patience in adversity, and his unwavering fidelity, are left on record for the benefit of all who should afterward live on the earth. When Joseph’s brethren acknowledged their sin before him, he freely forgave them, and showed by his acts of benevolence and love that he harbored no resentful feelings for their former cruel conduct toward him.
The life of Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was a pattern of benevolence, goodness, and holiness. Yet he was despised and insulted, mocked and derided, for no other reason than because his righteous life was a constant rebuke to sin. His enemies would not be satisfied until he was given into their hands, that they might put him to a shameful death. He died for the guilty race; and, while suffering the most cruel torture, meekly forgave his murderers. He rose from the dead, ascended up to his Father, and received all power and authority, and returned to the earth again to impart it to his disciples. He gave gifts unto men. And all who have ever come to him repentant, confessing their sins, he has received into his favor, and freely pardoned. And if they remain true to him, he will exalt them to his throne, and make them his heirs to the inheritance which he has purchased with his own blood.