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When Joseph was made ruler over the land of Egypt, he did just as he had
always done. It was not Joseph’s way to sit down, to rest and enjoy
himself, and to make others wait on him. He found his work at once and
began to do it faithfully and thoroughly. He went out over all the land
of Egypt, and saw how rich and abundant were the fields of grain, giving
much more than the people could use for their own needs. He told the
people not to waste it, but to save it for the coming time of need.

And he called upon the people to give him for the king one bushel of
grain out of every five, to be stored up. The people brought their
grain, after taking for themselves as much as they needed, and Joseph
stored it up in great storehouses in the cities; so much at last that no
one could keep account of it.

The king of Egypt gave a wife to Joseph from the noble young women of
his kingdom. Her name was Asenath; and to Joseph and his wife God gave
two sons. The oldest son he named Manasseh, a word which means “Making
to Forget.”

“For,” said Joseph, “God has made me to forget all my troubles and my
toil as a slave.”

The second son he named Ephraim, a word that means “Fruitful.”
“Because,” said Joseph, “God has not only made the land fruitful but he
has made me fruitful in the land of my troubles.”

The seven years of plenty soon passed by, and then came the years of
need. In all the lands around people were hungry, and there was no food
for them to eat; but in the land of Egypt everybody had enough. Most of
the people soon used up the grain that they had saved; many had saved
none at all, and they all cried to the king to help them.

“Go to Joseph!” said king Pharaoh, “and do whatever he tells you to do.”

Then the people came to Joseph, and Joseph opened the storehouses and
sold to the people all the grain that they wished to buy. And not only
the people of Egypt came to buy grain, but people of all the lands
around as well, for there was great need and famine everywhere. And the
need was as great in the land of Canaan, where Jacob lived, as in other
lands. Jacob was rich in flocks and cattle, and gold and silver, but his
fields gave no grain, and there was the danger that his family and his
people would starve. And Jacob–who was now called Israel also–heard
that there was food in Egypt and he said to his sons: “Why do you look
at each other, asking what to do to find food? I have been told that
there is grain in Egypt. Go down to that land, and take money with you,
and bring grain, so that we may have bread, and may live.”

Then the ten older brothers of Joseph went down to the land of Egypt.
They rode upon asses, for horses were not much used in those times, and
they brought money with them. But Jacob would not let Benjamin, Joseph’s
younger brother, go with them, for he was all the more dear to his
father, now that Joseph was no longer with him; and Jacob feared that
harm might come to him.

Then Joseph’s brothers came to Joseph to buy food. They did not know
him, grown up to be a man, dressed as a prince, and seated on a throne.
Joseph was now nearly forty years old, and it had been almost
twenty-three years since they had sold him. But Joseph knew them all, as
soon as he saw them. He wished to be sharp and stern with them, not
because he hated them; but because he wished to see what their spirit
was and whether they were as selfish, and cruel, and wicked as they had
been in other days.

They came before him, and bowed, with their faces to the ground. Then,
no doubt, Joseph thought of the dream that had come to him while he was
a boy, of his brothers’ sheaves bending down around his sheaf. He spoke
to them as a stranger, as if he did not understand their language, and
he had their words explained to him in the language of Egypt.

“Who are you? And from what place do you come?” said Joseph, in a harsh,
stern manner.

They answered him very meekly: “We have come from the land of Canaan to
buy food.”

“No,” said Joseph, “I know what you have come for. You have come as
spies, to see how helpless the land is, so that you can bring an army
against us, and make war on us.”

“No, no,” said Joseph’s ten brothers. “We are no spies. We are the sons
of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan; and we have come for food,
because we have none at home.”

“You say that you are the sons of one man, who is your father? Is he
living? Have you any more brothers? Tell me all about yourselves.”

And they said: “Our father is an old man in Canaan. We did have a
younger brother, but he was lost; and we have one brother still, who is
the youngest of all, but his father could not spare him to come with

“No,” said Joseph. “You are not good, honest men. You are spies. I
shall put you all in prison, except one of you; and he shall go and
bring that youngest brother of yours; and when I see him, then I will
believe that you tell the truth.”

So Joseph put all the ten men in prison, and kept them under guard for
three days; then he sent for them again. They did not know that he could
understand their language, and they said to each other, while Joseph
heard, but pretended not to hear: “This has come upon us because of the
wrong that we did to our brother Joseph, more than twenty years ago. We
heard him cry, and plead with us, when we threw him into the pit, and we
would not have mercy on him. God is giving us only what we have

And Reuben, who had tried to save Joseph, said: “Did I not tell you not
to harm the boy? and you would not listen to me. God is bringing our
brother’s blood upon us all.”

When Joseph heard this, his heart was touched, for he saw that his
brothers were really sorry for the wrong that they had done to him. He
turned away from them so that they could not see his face, and he wept.
Then he turned again to them and spoke roughly as before, and said:

“This I will do, for I serve God. I will let you all go home, except
one man. One of you I will shut up in prison; but the rest of you can go
home and take food for your people. And you must come back and bring
your youngest brother with you, and I shall know then that you have
spoken the truth.”

Then Joseph gave orders, and his servants seized one of his brothers,
whose name was Simeon, and bound him in their sight and took him away to
prison. And he ordered his servants to fill the men’s sacks with grain,
and to put every man’s money back into the sack before it was tied up
so that they would find the money as soon as they opened the sack. Then
the men loaded their asses with the sacks of grain and started to go
home, leaving their brother Simeon a prisoner.

When they stopped on the way to feed their asses, one of the brothers
opened his sack, and there he found his money lying on the top of the
grain. He called out to his brothers: “See, here is my money is given again
to me!” And they were frightened, but they did not dare to go back to
Egypt and meet the stern ruler of the land. They went home and told
their old father all that had happened to them, and how their brother
Simeon was in prison, and must stay there until they should return,
bringing Benjamin with them.

When they opened their sacks of grain, there in the mouth of each sack
was the money that they had given; and they were filled with fear. Then
they spoke of going again to Egypt and taking Benjamin, but Jacob said
to them:

“You are taking my sons away from me. Joseph is gone, and Simeon is
gone, and now you would take Benjamin away. All these things are against
me!” Reuben said: “Here are my own two boys. You may kill them, if you
wish, in case I do not bring Benjamin back to you.” But Jacob said: “My
the youngest son shall not go with you. His brother is dead, and he alone is
left to me. If harm should come to him, it would bring down my gray
hairs with sorrow to the grave.”


The food which Jacob’s sons had brought from Egypt did not last long,
for Jacob’s family was large. Most of his sons were married and had
children of their own; so that the children and grandchildren were
sixty-six, besides the servants who waited on them, and the men who
cared for Jacob’s flocks. So around the tent of Jacob was quite a camp
of other tents and an army of people.

When the food that had come from Egypt was nearly eaten up, Jacob said
to his sons:

“Go down to Egypt again, and buy some food for us.”

And Judah, Jacob’s son, the man who years before had urged his brothers
to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, said to his father: “It is of no use
for us to go to Egypt unless we take Benjamin with us. The man who
rules in that land said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your
the youngest brother is with you’.”

And Israel said, “Why did you tell the man that you had a brother? You
did me great harm when you told him.”

“Why,” said Jacob’s sons, “we could not help telling him. The man asked
us all about our family, ‘Is your father yet living? Have you any more
brothers?’ And we had to tell him, his questions were so close. How
should we know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother here, for me to
see him’?”

And Judah said, “Send Benjamin with me, and I will take care of him. I
promise you that I will bring him safely home. If he does not come back,
let me bear the blame forever. He must go, or we shall die for want of
food; and we might have gone down to Egypt and come home again, if we
had not been kept back.”

And Jacob said, “If he must go, then he must. But take a present to the
man, some of the choicest fruits of the land, some spices, and perfumes,
and nuts, and almonds. And take twice as much money, besides the money
that was in your sacks. Perhaps that was a mistake when the money was
given back to you. And take your brother Benjamin, and may the Lord God
make mankind to you, so that he will set Simeon free, and let you
bring Benjamin back. But if it is God’s will that I lose my children, I
cannot help it.”

So ten brothers of Joseph went down a second time to Egypt, Benjamin
going in place of Simeon. They came to Joseph’s office, the place where
he sold grain to the people; and they stood before their brother, and
bowed as before. Joseph saw that Benjamin was with them, and he said to
his steward, the man who was over his house:

“Make ready a dinner, for all these men shall dine with me today.”

When Joseph’s brothers found that they were taken into Joseph’s house,
they were filled with fear. They said to each other:

“We have been taken here on account of the money in our sacks. They will
say that we have stolen it, and then they will sell us all for slaves.”

But Joseph’s steward, the man who was over his house, treated the men
kindly; and when they spoke of the money in their sacks, he would not
take it again, saying:

“Never fear; your God must have sent you this as a gift. I had your

The stewards received the men into Joseph’s house, and washed their
feet, according to the custom of the land. And at noon, Joseph came in
to meet them. They brought him the present from their father, and again
they bowed before him, with their faces on the ground.

And Joseph asked them if they were well, and said: “Is your father still
living, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he well?”

And they said, “Our father is well and he is living.” And again they
bowed to Joseph.

And Joseph looked at his younger brother Benjamin, the child of his own
mother Rachel, and said:

“Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious
unto you, my son.”

And Joseph’s heart was so full that he could not keep back the tears. He
went in haste to his own room, and wept there. Then he washed his face,
and came out again, and ordered the table to be set for dinner. They set
Joseph’s table for himself, as the ruler, and another table for his
Egyptian officers, and another for the eleven men from Canaan; for
Joseph had brought Simeon out of the prison and had given him a place
with his brothers.

Joseph himself arranged the order of the seats for his brothers, the
oldest at the head, and all in order of age down to the youngest. The
men wondered at this, and could not see how the ruler of Egypt could
know the order of their ages. And Joseph sent dishes from his table to
his brothers, and he gave to Benjamin five times as much as to the
others. Perhaps he wished to see whether they were as jealous of
Benjamin as in other days they had been toward him.

After dinner, Joseph said to his steward: “Fill the men’s sacks with
grain, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in his sack.
And put my silver cup in the sack of the youngest, with his money.”

The steward did as Joseph had said; and early in the morning, the
brothers started to go home. A little while afterward, Joseph said to
his steward:

“Hasten, follow after the men from Canaan, and say, ‘Why have you
wronged me, after I had treated you kindly? You have stolen my master’s
silver cup, out of which he drinks’.”

The steward followed the men, and overtook them, and charged them with
stealing. And they said to him:

“Why should you talk to us in this manner? We have stolen nothing. Why
we brought back to you the money that we found in our sacks; and is it
likely that we would steal from your lord his silver or gold? You may
search for us, and if you find your master’s cup on any of us, let him die,
and the rest of us may be sold as slaves.”

Then they took down the sacks from the asses, and opened them; and in
each man’s sack was his money, for the second time. And when they came
to Benjamin’s sack, there was the ruler’s silver cup! Then, in the
greatest sorrow, they tied up their bags again, and laid them on the
asses, and came back to Joseph’s palace.

And Joseph said to them:

“What wicked thing is this that you have done? Did you not know that I
would surely find out your deeds?”

Then Judah said, “O, my lord, what can we say? God has punished us for
our sins; and now we must all be slaves, both we that are older, and the
younger in whose sack the cup was found.”

[Illustration: _”What wicked thing is this that you have done?”_]

“No,” said Joseph. “Only one of you is guilty; the one who has taken
away my cup. I will hold him as a slave, and the rest of you can go home
to your father.”

Joseph wished to see whether his brothers were still selfish and were
willing to let Benjamin suffer if they could escape.

Then Judah, the very man who had urged his brothers to sell Joseph as a
slave, came forward, and fell at Joseph’s feet, and pleaded with him to
let Benjamin go. He told again the whole story, how Benjamin was the one
whom his father loved the most of all his children, now that his brother
was lost. He said:

“I promised to bear the blame if this boy was not brought home in
safety. If he does not go back it will kill my poor old father, who has
seen much trouble. Now let my youngest brother go home to his father,
and I will stay here as a slave in his place!”

Joseph knew now, what he had longed to know, that his brothers were no
longer cruel nor selfish, but one of them was willing to suffer so that
his brother might be spared. And Joseph could not any longer keep his
secret, for his heart longed after his brothers; and he was ready to
weep again, with tears of love and joy. He sent all of his Egyptian
servants out of the room so that he might be alone with his brothers,
and then he said:

“Come near to me; I wish to speak with you.” And they came near,
wondering. Then Joseph said:

“I am Joseph; is my father really alive?”

How frightened his brothers were, as they heard these words spoken in
their own language by the ruler of Egypt and for the first time knew
that this stern man, who had their lives in his hand, was their own
brother whom they had wronged! Then Joseph said again:

“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But do not feel
troubled because of what you did. God sent me before you to save
your lives. There have been already two years of need and famine, and
there are to be five years more when there shall neither be plowing of
the fields nor harvest. It was not you who sent me here, but God; and he
sent me to save your lives. God has made me like a father to Pharaoh and
ruler over all the land of Egypt. Now I wish you to go home, and to
bring down to me my father and all his family.”

Then Joseph placed his arms around Benjamin’s neck, and kissed him, and
wept upon him. And Benjamin wept on his neck. And Joseph kissed all his
brothers, to show them that he had fully forgiven them; and after that
his brothers began to lose their fear of Joseph and talked with him more

Afterward, Joseph sent his brother home with good news, and rich gifts,
and abundant food. He sent also wagons in which Jacob and his sons’
wives and the little ones of their families might ride from Canaan down
to Egypt. And Joseph’s brothers went home happier than they had been for
many years.

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