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DISCOURSE XLIX.

THE FIRST INTERVIEW BETWEEN

JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN.

Gen. xlii.

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Things now approach fast to a crisis. We hear but little more of the famine, but as it relates to Jacob's family, on whose account it was sent. It is remarkable, that all the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, experienced a famine while sojourning in the land of promise; a circumstance sufficient to try their faith. Had they been of the disposition of the spies in the times of Moses, they would have concluded it to be a land which ate up the inhabitants, and therefore not worth accepting; but they believed God, and thought well of whatever he did.

Ver. 1, 2. Jacob and his family have well nigh exhausted their provision, and have no prospect of recruiting it. They had money, but corn was not to be had for money in their own country. They could do nothing, therefore, but look one at another, in sad despair. But Jacob, hearing that there was corn in Egypt, rouses them from their torpor. His words resemble those of the four lepers : Why sit we here until we die? It is a dictate of nature not to despair while there is a door of hope ; and the principle will hold good in things of everlasting moment. Why sit we here, poring over our guilt and misery, when we have heard that with the Lord there is mercy, and with him there is plenteons redemption? How long shall we take counsel in our soul, having sorrow in our hearts daily ? Let us trust in his mercy, and our hearts shall rejoice in his salvation.

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Ver. 3, 4. The ten brethren immediately betake themselves to their journey. They are called Joseph's brethren, and not Jacob's sons, because Joseph is at present the principal character in the story. But when Benjamin is called his brother, there is more meant than in the other case. It would seem to be assigned as the reason why Jacob was unwilling to part with him, that he was the only surviving child of Rachel, and brother of bim that was not! As mischief had befallen him, be was afraid the same should befall his brother, and therefore wished the young men to go with. out him. Jacob does not say, “Lest you should do him mischief, as I fear you did his brother:' but I expect there was something of this at the bottom; which, when afterwards urged by a kind of necessity to part with Benjamin, came out: Me ye have bereaved

. Joseph is not! (ver. 36.) At first, he appears to have thought that some evil beast had devoured bim; but upon more mature observation and reflection, he might see reason to suspect at least, whether it was not by some foul dealing on their part that he had come to his end. As nothing, however, could be proved, he at present kept his suspicions to himself; and the matter passed, as it had done from the first, that mischief in some unknown way bad befallen him.

Ver. 5. Nothing is said of their journey, except that a number of their countrymen went with them on the same errand; for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Such a number of applicants might possibly excite fears in their minds, lest there should not be enough for them all. Such fears, however, if they existed in this case, were unnecessary; and must always be unnecessary, where there is enough and to spare.

Ver. 6. Now Joseph being governor of the land, they find him on their arrival fully employed in serving the Egyptians. He had assistants ; but his eye pervaded every thing. As soon as they could get access to the governor, they, according to the eastern custom, bow themselves before him, with their faces to the earth.

Ver. 7. We may wonder that Joseph could live all this time in Egypt, without going to see his father or his brethren. We might indeed allege, that wbile with Potiphar, he had probably neither opportunity nor inclination ; when in prison, he was not allowed

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to go beyond its walls; and when advanced under Pharaoh, his hands were so fully employed that he could not be spared. We know that when his father was to come down to him, he could only send for him; and when he went to bury him, there was great formality required to attend his movements, a number of the Egyptians going with him. But it was doubtless ordered of God that he should not go, but that bis brethren should come to him ; for on this depended the whole issue of the affair. And now comes on the delicate part of the story: Joseph saw his brethren, and knew them. What must have been his feelings! The remem. brance of the manner in wbich he parted from them, two-andtwenty years ago, the events which had since befallen bim, their prostration before him, and the absence of Benjamin, from which he might be apprehensive that they also bad made away with him -altogether, must have been a great shock to his sensibility. Let him beware, or his countenance will betray him. He feels the danger of this, and therefore, immediately puts on a stern look, speaks roughly to them, and affects to take them for spies. By this innocent piece of artifice, he could interrogate them, and get out of them all the particulars that he wished, without betraying himself, which he could not have done by any other means. The manner in which he asked them, Whence come ye? would convey to them an idea of suspicion as to their designs. It was like saying, • Who and what are you? I do not like your looks. Their answer is humble and proper, stating the simple truth . . . . they came from Capaan, and had no other design in view than to buy food.

Ver. 8. Joseph knew his brethren, and felt for them, notwithstanding his apparent severity ; but they knew not him! It was

; wisely ordered that it should be so, and is easily accounted for. When they last saw each other, they were grown to man's estate, but he was a lad ; they were probably in much the same dress, but he was clothed in vestures of fine linen, with a golden chain about his neck; and they had only one face to judge by, whereas

< he had ten, the knowledge of any one of which would lead to the knowledge of all. Now Joseph sees, without being seen; and now he remembers his dreams of the sheaves, and of the stars. Vol. V.

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Ver. 9-14. Determined to continue at present unknown, and yet wishing to know more of them, and of matters in Canaan, Joseph still speaks under an assumed character, and affects to be dissatistied with their answer. Ye are spies, saith he, to see the nakedness of the land are ye come. They modestly and respectfully disown the charge, and repeat the true and only object of their coming ; adding, what is very much in point, We are all one man's sons. This was saying, “Ours is not a political, but a domestic errand : we are not sent hither by a king, but by a father, and merely to supply the wants of the family.' Still he affects to disbelieve them ; for he does not know enough yet. He therefore repeats bis suspicions, in order to provoke them to be more particular : as if he should say, 'I will know all about you before I sell you corn, or send you away.' This bad the desired effect. Thy servants, say they, are, or were, twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan ; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. This is deeply interesting, and exquisitely affecting to Joseph. By this he learns that his father was yet alive, and his brother too.

Q these are joyful tidings ! This was the drift of his questions, as they afterwards tell their father Jacob: The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? Have ye another brother? And we told him according to the tenor of these words. (Chap. xliii. 7.) But what must have been his sensations at the mention of the last words, One is not !...... Well, he conceals. his feelings, and affects to turn their account of matters against them. They had not told all the truth at first. It seems at first there were only ten of them, and now there were eleven : That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies.

Ver. 15, 16. He now proposes to prove them. By the life of Pharaoh, saith be, you shall not go hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you and fetch him, that your

words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you; or else by the life of Pharaoh, surely ye are spies. Some suppose that Joseph had learned the manner of the Egyptians by living among them, or that he would not thus have sworn by the life of Pharaoh : but I see no ground for any such thing. We might as well say, that he

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had learned to speak untruth, because he really had no such suspicions as he feigned ; or that he had learned magic, seeing he afterwards talked of divining; or that our Saviour had learned the proud and haughty spirit of the Jews, who treated the Gentiles as dogs, because, for the sake of trying the woman of Canaan, he made use of that kind of language. The truth is, Joseph acted under an assumed character. He wished to be taken for an Egyptian pobleman, with whom it was as common to swear by the life of Pharaoh, as it was afterwards for a Roman to swear by the fortune of Cæsar.

But wherefore does Joseph thus keep up the deception ? and why propose such methods of proving his brethren? I suppose at present his wish is to detain them. Yes, they must not leave Egypt thus : bad they done this, he might have seen them no more; yet he had no other cause to assign but this, without betraying the truth, which it was not a fit time to do at present.

Ver. 17, 18. “Take these men up,' said Joseph to his officers, and put them into a place of safe custody : it is not proper they should be at large.' Here they lie three days; a period which afforded him time to think what to do, and them to reflect on what they bad done. On the third day he paid them a visit, and that in a temper of more apparent mildness. He assures them that he bas no designs upon their life, nor any wish to hurt their family ; and ventures to give a reason for it which to the must appear no less surprising than satisfying : I fear God. What, an Egyptian nobleman know and fear the true God! If so, they have no injustice to fear at his hands ; nor can he withhold food from a starving family. The fear of God will ever be connected with justice and humanity to man. But how mysterious an affair! If he be a good man, how is it that he should treat us so roughly? How is it that God should suffer him to mistake our designs ? Severity from the hand of goodness is doubly severe. Their hearts must surely by this time have been full. Such were the methods which tbis wise man made use of to agitate their minds, and to touch every spring of sensibility within them; and such were the means which God by him made use of to bring them to repentance. This indeed is his ordinary method of dealing with sinners: now

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