Containing The Interval Of Two Hundred And Twenty Years.
From The Death Of Isaac To The Exodus Out Of Egypt.
How Joseph When He Was Become Famous In Egypt, Had His Brethren In Subjection.
1. JOSEPH was now grown up to thirty years of age, and enjoyed great honors from the king, who called him Psothom Phanech, out of regard to his prodigious degree of wisdom; for that name denotes the revealer of secrets. He also married a wife of very high quality; for he married the daughter of Petephres, (4) one of the priests of Heliopolis; she was a virgin, and her name was Asenath. By her he had children before the scarcity came on; Manasseh, the elder, which signifies forgetful, because his present happiness made him forget his former misfortunes; and Ephraim, the younger, which signifies restored, because he was restored to the freedom of his forefathers. Now after Egypt had happily passed over seven years, according to Joseph's interpretation of the dreams, the famine came upon them in the eighth year; and because this misfortune fell upon them when they had no sense of it beforehand, (5) they were all sorely afflicted by it, and came running to the king's gates; and he called upon Joseph, who sold the corn to them, being become confessedly a savior to the whole multitude of the Egyptians. Nor did he open this market of corn for the people of that country only, but strangers had liberty to buy also; Joseph being willing that all men, who are naturally akin to one another, should have assistance from those that lived in happiness.
2. Now Jacob also, when he understood that foreigners might come, sent all his sons into Egypt to buy corn, for the land of Canaan was grievously afflicted with the famine; and this great misery touched the whole continent. He only retained Benjamin, who was born to him by Rachel, and was of the same mother with Joseph. These sons of Jacob then came into Egypt, and applied themselves to Joseph, wanting to buy corn; for nothing of this kind was done without his approbation, since even then only was the honor that was paid the king himself advantageous to the persons that paid it, when they took care to honor Joseph also. Now when he well knew his brethren, they thought nothing of him; for he was but a youth when he left them, and was now come to an age so much greater, that the lineaments of his face were changed, and he was not known by them: besides this, the greatness of the dignity wherein he appeared, suffered them not so much as to suspect it was he.
He now made trial what sentiments they had about affairs of the greatest consequence; for he refused to sell them corn, and said they were come as spies of the king's affairs; and that they came from several countries, and joined themselves together, and pretended that they were of kin,it not being possible that a private man should breed up so many sons, and those of so great beauty of countenance as they were, such an education of so many children being not easily obtained by kings themselves. Now this he did in order to discover what concerned his father, and what happened to him after his own departure from him, and as desiring to know what was become of Benjamin his brother; for he was afraid that they had ventured on the like wicked enterprise against him that they had done to himself, and had taken him off also.
3. Now these brethren of his were under distraction and terror, and thought that very great danger hung over them; yet not at all reflecting upon their brother Joseph, and standing firm under the accusations laid against them, they made their defense by Reubel, the eldest of them, who now became their spokesman:
"We come not hither," said he, "with any unjust design, nor in order to bring any harm to the king's affairs; we only want to be preserved,as supposing your humanity might be a refuge for us from the miseries which our country labors under, we having heard that you proposed to sell corn, not only to your own countrymen, but to strangers also, and that you determined to allow that corn, in order to preserve all that want it; but that we are brethren, and of the same common blood, the peculiar lineaments of our faces, and those not so much different from one another, plainly show.
4. And thus did Reubel endeavor to persuade Joseph to have a better opinion of them. But when he had learned from them that Jacob was alive, and that his brother was not destroyed by them, he for the present put them in prison, as intending to examine more into their affairs when he should be at leisure. But on the third day he brought them out, and said to them,
"Since you constantly affirm that you are not come to do any harm to the king's affairs; that you are brethren, and the sons of the father whom you named; you will satisfy me of the truth of what you say, if you leave one of your company with me, who shall suffer no injury here; and if, when ye have carried corn to your father, you will come to me again, and bring your brother, whom you say you left there, along with you, for this shall be by me esteemed an assurance of the truth of what you have told me."
Hereupon they were in greater grief than before; they wept, and perpetually deplored one among another the calamity of Joseph; and said,
"They were fallen into this misery as a punishment inflicted by God for what evil contrivances they had against him."
And Reubel was large in his reproaches of them for their too late repentance, whence no profit arose to Joseph; and earnestly exhorted them to bear with patience whatever they suffered, since it was done by God in way of punishment, on his account. Thus they spake to one another, not imagining that Joseph understood their language. A general sadness also seized on them at Reubel's words, and a repentance for what they had done; and they condemned the wickedness they had perpetrated, for which they judged they were justly punished by God. Now when Joseph saw that they were in this distress, he was so affected at it that he fell into tears, and not being willing that they should take notice of him, he retired; and after a while came to them again, and taking Symeon (6) in order to his being a pledge for his brethren's return, he bid them take the corn they had bought, and go their way. He also commanded his steward privily to put the money which they had brought with them for the purchase of corn into their sacks, and to dismiss them therewith; who did what he was commanded to do.
5. Now when Jacob's sons were come into the land of Canaan, they told their father what had happened to them in Egypt, and that they were taken to have come thither as spies upon the king; and how they said they were brethren, and had left their eleventh brother with their father, but were not believed; and how they had left Symeon with the governor, until Benjamin should go thither, and be a testimonial of the truth of what they had said: and they begged of their father to fear nothing, but to send the lad along with them. But Jacob was not pleased with any thing his sons had done; and he took the detention of Symeon heinously, and thence thought it a foolish thing to give up Benjamin also. Neither did he yield to Reubel's persuasion, though he begged it of him, and gave leave that the grandfather might, in way of requital, kill his own sons, in case any harm came to Benjamin in the journey. So they were distressed, and knew not what to do; nay, there was another accident that still disturbed them more, - the money that was found hidden in their sacks of corn.
Yet when the corn they had brought failed them, and when the famine still afflicted them, and necessity forced them, Jacob did (7) [not] still resolve to send Benjamin with his brethren, although there was no returning into Egypt unless they came with what they had promised. Now the misery growing every day worse, and his sons begging it of him, he had no other course to take in his present circumstances. And Judas, who was of a bold temper on other occasions, spake his mind very freely to him:
"That it did not become him to be afraid on account of his son, nor to suspect the worst, as he did; for nothing could be done to his son but by the appointment of God, which must also for certain come to pass, though he were at home with him; that he ought not to condemn them to such manifest destruction; nor deprive them of that plenty of food they might have from Pharaoh, by his unreasonable fear about his son Benjamin, but ought to take care of the preservation of Symeon, lest, by attempting to hinder Benjamin's journey, Symeon should perish. He exhorted him to trust God for him; and said he would either bring his son back to him safe, or, together with his, lose his own life."
So that Jacob was at length persuaded, and delivered Benjamin to them, with the price of the corn doubled; he also sent presents to Joseph of the fruits of the land of Canaan, balsam and rosin, as also turpentine and honey. (8) Now their father shed many tears at the departure of his sons, as well as themselves. His concern was, that he might receive them back again safe after their journey; and their concern was, that they might find their father well, and no way afflicted with grief for them. And this lamentation lasted a whole day; so that the old man was at last tired with grief, and staid behind; but they went on their way for Egypt, endeavoring to mitigate their grief for their present misfortunes, with the hopes of better success hereafter.
6. As soon as they came into Egypt, they were brought down to Joseph: but here no small fear disturbed them, lest they should be accused about the price of the corn, as if they had cheated Joseph. They then made a long apology to Joseph's steward; and told him, that when they came home they found the money in their sacks, and that they had now brought it along with them. He said he did not know what they meant: so they were delivered from that fear. And when he had loosed Symeon, and put him into a handsome habit, he suffered him to be with his brethren; at which time Joseph came from his attendance on the king. So they offered him their presents; and upon his putting the question to them about their father, they answered that they found him well. He also, upon his discovery that Benjamin was alive, asked whether this was their younger brother; for he had seen him. Whereupon they said he was: he replied, that the God over all was his protector. But when his affection to him made him shed tears, he retired, desiring he might not be seen in that plight by his brethren. Then Joseph took them to supper, and they were set down in the same order as they used to sit at their father's table. And although Joseph treated them all kindly, yet did he send a mess to Benjamin that was double to what the rest of the guests had for their shares.
7. Now when after supper they had composed themselves to sleep, Joseph commanded his steward both to give them their measures of corn, and to hide its price again in their sacks; and that withal they should put into Benjamin's sack the golden cup, out of which he loved himself to drink. - which things he did, in order to make trial of his brethren, whether they would stand by Benjamin when he should be accused of having stolen the cup, and should appear to be in danger; or whether they would leave him, and, depending on their own innocency, go to their father without him. When the servant had done as he was bidden, the sons of Jacob, knowing nothing of all this, went their way, and took Symeon along with them, and had a double cause of joy, both because they had received him again, and because they took back Benjamin to their father, as they had promised. But presently a troop of horsemen encompassed them, and brought with them Joseph's servant, who had put the cup into Benjamin's sack.
Upon which unexpected attack of the horsemen they were much disturbed, and asked what the reason was that they came thus upon men, who a little before had been by their lord thought worthy of an honorable and hospitable reception? They replied, by calling them wicked wretches, who had forgot that very hospitable and kind treatment which Joseph had given them, and did not scruple to be injurious to him, and to carry off that cup out of which he had, in so friendly a manner, drank to them, and not regarding their friendship with Joseph, no more than the danger they should be in if they were taken, in comparison of the unjust gain. Hereupon he threatened that they should be punished; for though they had escaped the knowledge of him who was but a servant, yet had they not escaped the knowledge of God, nor had gone off with what they had stolen; and, after all, asked why we come upon them, as if they knew nothing of the matter: and he told them that they should immediately know it by their punishment.
This, and more of the same nature, did the servant say, in way of reproach to them: but they being wholly ignorant of any thing here that concerned them, laughed at what he said, and wondered at the abusive language which the servant gave them, when he was so hardy as to accuse those who did not before so much as retain the price of their corn, which was found in their sacks, but brought it again, though nobody else knew of any such thing, - so far were they from offering any injury to Joseph voluntarily.
But still, supposing that a search would be a more sure justification of themselves than their own denial of the fact, they bid him search them, and that if any of them had been guilty of the theft, to punish them all; for being no way conscious to themselves of any crime, they spake with assurance, and, as they thought, without any danger to themselves also. The servants desired there might be a search made; but they said the punishment should extend to him alone who should be found guilty of the theft. So they made the search; and, having searched all the rest, they came last of all to Benjamin, as knowing it was Benjamin's sack in which they had hidden the cup, they having indeed searched the rest only for a show of accuracy: so the rest were out of fear for themselves, and were now only concerned about Benjamin, but still were well assured that he would also be found innocent; and they reproached those that came after them for their hindering them, while they might, in the mean while, have gotten a good way on their journey.
But as soon as they had searched Benjamin's sack, they found the cup, and took it from him; and all was changed into mourning and lamentation. They rent their garments, and wept for the punishment which their brother was to undergo for his theft, and for the delusion they had put on their father, when they promised they would bring Benjamin safe to him. What added to their misery was,that this melancholy accident came unfortunately at a time when they thought they had been gotten off clear; but they confessed that this misfortune of their brother, as well as the grief of their father for him, was owing to themselves, since it was they that forced their father to send him with them, when he was averse to it.
8. The horsemen therefore took Benjamin and brought him to Joseph, his brethren also following him; who, when he saw him in custody, and them in the habit of mourners, said,
"Howcame you, vile wretches as you are, to have such a strange notion of my kindness to you, and of God's providence, as impudently to do thus to your benefactor, who in such an hospitable manner had entertained you ?"
Whereupon they gave up themselves to be punished, in order to save Benjamin; and called to mind what a wicked enterprise they had been guilty of against Joseph. They also pronounced him more happy than themselves, if he were dead, in being freed from the miseries of this life; and if he were alive, that he enjoyed the pleasure of seeing God's vengeance upon them. They said further; that they were the plague of their father, since they should now add to his former affliction for Joseph, this other affliction for Benjamin. Reubel also was large in cutting them upon this occasion. But Joseph dismissed them; for he said they had been guilty of no offense, and that he would content himself with the lad's punishment; for he said it was not a fit thing to let him go free, for the sake of those who had not offended; nor was it a fit thing to punish them together with him who had been guilty of stealing. And when he promised to give them leave to go away in safety, the rest of them were under great consternation, and were able to say nothing on this sad occasion. But Judas, who had persuaded their father to send the lad from him, being otherwise also a very bold and active man, determined to hazard himself for the preservation of his brother.
So Judas, being very willing to undergo any thing whatever for the deliverance of his brother, cast himself down at Joseph's feet, and earnestly labored to assuage and pacify his anger. All his brethren also fell down before him, weeping and delivering themselves up to destruction for the preservation of the life of Benjamin.
10. But Joseph, as overcome now with his affections, and no longer able to personate an angry man, commanded all that were present to depart, that he might make himself known to his brethren when they were alone; and when the rest were gone out, he made himself known to his brethren; and said,
When Joseph had said this, he embraced his brethren, who were in tears and sorrow; but the generous kindness of their brother seemed to leave among them no room for fear, lest they should be punished on account of what they had consulted and acted against him; and they were then feasting. Now the king, as soon as he heard that Joseph's brethren were come to him, was exceeding glad of it, as if it had been a part of his own good fortune; and gave them wagons full of corn and gold and silver, to be conveyed to his father. Now when they had received more of their brother part to be carried to their father, and part as free gifts to every one of themselves, Benjamin having still more than the rest, they departed.
(4) This Potiphar, or, as Josephus, Petephres, who was now a priest of On, or Heliopolis, is the same name in Josephus, and perhaps in Moses also, with him who is before called head cook or captain of the guard, and to whom Joseph was sold. See Genesis 37:36; 39:1, with 41:50. They are also affirmed to be one and the same person in the Testament of Joseph, Sect. 18, for he is there said to have married the daughter of his master and mistress. Nor is this a notion peculiar to that Testament, but, as Dr. Bernard confesses, note on Antiq. B. II. Ch. 4. Sect. 1, common to Josephus, to the Septuagint interpreters, and to other learned Jews of old time.
(5) This entire ignorance of the Egyptians of these years of famine before they came, told us before, as well as here, Ch. 5. Sect. 7, by Josephus, seems to me almost incredible. It is in no other copy that I know of.
(6) The reason why Symeon might be selected out of the rest for Joseph's prisoner, is plain in the Testament of Symeon, namely that he was one of the bitterest of all Joseph's brethren against him, Sect. 2; which appears also in part by the Testament of Zabulon, Sect. 3.
(7) The coherence seems to me to show that the negative particle is here wanting, which I have supplied in brackets, and I wonder none have hitherto suspected that it ought to be supplied.
(9) This oration seems to me too large, and too unusual a digression, to have been composed by Judas on this occasion. It seems to me a speech or declamation composed formerly, in the person of Judas, and in the way of oratory, that lay by him and which he thought fit to insert on this occasion. See two more such speeches or declamations, Antiq. B. VI. Ch. 14. Sect. 4
(10) In all this speech of Judas we may observe, that Josephus still supposed that death was the punishment of theft in Egypt, in the days of Joseph, though it never was so among the Jews, by the law of Moses.