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VER. 1, 2. The relief obtained by the first journey to Egypt is soon exhausted : for the famine was sore in the land, and there. fore nothing of its native productions could be added to the other to make it last the longer. Go, said Jacob to his sons, and buy us a little food. Avarice and distrust would have wished for much, , and have been for hoarding it in such a time as this : but Jacob is contented with a little, desirous that others should have a part as well as himself; and with respect to futurity, he puts his trust in God.
Ver. 3-5. But here the former difficulty recurs : they cannot, must not, will not go without their younger brother. This is trying. Nature struggles with nature; the affection of the father with the calls of hunger : but the former must yield. Jacob does not appear however, at present, to be entirely willing : wherefore Judah, considering it as a fit opportunity, urges the matter, alleging the peremptory language of the man, the lord of the land, on the subject.
Ver. 6,7. This brings forth one more feeble objection, or rather complaint, and which must be the last : Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother ? To which they very properly answer that they could not do otherwise, being so straitly examined : nor was it possible for them to know the use that would be made of it. VOL. V.
Ver. 8–10. While matters were thus hanging in suspense, Judah very seasonably and kindly attempts to smooth the difficulty to his father, by offering in the most solemn manner to be surety for the lad, and to bear the blame for ever if he did not bring him back and set him before him. In addition to this, he alleges that the life of the whole family depended upon his father's acquiescence, and that they had been too long detained already.
Ver. 11–14. And now Jacob must yield, must yield up his beloved Benjamin, though not without a mixture of painful reluctance : but imperious necessity demands it. He who a few weeks before had said, My son shall not go down with you, is now upon the whole constrained to part with him. Thus have we often seen the tender relative, who in the first stages of an affliction thought it impossible to sustain the loss of a beloved object, gradually reconciled ; and at length, witnessing the pangs of wasting disease, almost desirous of the removal. Thus it is that the wisdom and goodness of God are seen in our bereavements : the burden which at first threatens to crush us into the grave, being let down gradually upon our shoulders, becomes not only tolerable, but almost desirable.
But mark the manner in which the patriarch acquiesces : his is not the sullen consent of one who yields to fate, but in his heart rebels against it. No, he yields in a manner worthy of a man of God ; proposing first that every possible mean should be used to
; conciliate the man, the lord of the land, and tben commits the issue of the whole to God. Just thus he had acted when his brother Esau was coming against him with four hundred men. Chap. xxxii. 6-12. Take of the best fruits of the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present-take double
in and the
money that was brought again in the mouth of your sackstake also your brother-and God almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved, I am bereaved! The fruits of Canaan, especially in a time of famine, would be a great token of respect; the double money might be necessary, as the continuance of the famine might enhance the price of corn ; and the restoration of that which was returned would prove their integrity.
But we must not pass over the concluding part without noticing two or three things in particular. (1.) The character under which the Lord is addressed : God almighty, oxGod all-sufficient. This was the name under which Abraham was blessed : I am God almighty; and which was used by Isaac in his blessing Jacob ; God almighty bless thee, and give thee the blessing of Abraham. It is natural to suppose that Jacob, in putting up this prayer, thought of these covenant promises and blessings, and that it was the prayer of faith. (2.) The mistake on which the prayer is founded, which yet was acceptable to God. He prayed for the turning of the man's heart in a way of mercy; but the man's heart did not need turning. Yet Jacob thought it did, and had no means of knowing otherwise. The truth of things may in some cases be concealed from us, to render us more importunate ; and this im, portunity, though it may appear at last to have been unnecessary, yet being right according as circumstances appeared at the time, God will approve of it, and we shall find our account in it. (3.) The resignation with which he concludes : If I be bereaved, I am bereaved! It is God's usual way, in trying those whom he loves, to touch them in the tenderest part.
Herein the trial consists. If there be one object round which the heart has entwined more than all others, that is it which is likely to be God's rival, and of that we must be deprived. Yet if when it goes, we humbly resign it up into God's hands, it is not unusual for him to restore it to us, and that with more than double interest. Thus Abraham, on giving up Isaac, received him again : and David, on giving up himself to God to do with bim as seemed good in his sight, was preserved in the midst of peril.
Ver. 15, 16. Jacob's sons now betake themselves to their second journey, and do as their father directed them. On arriving in Egypt, they are introduced to Joseph. Joseph looking upon them, beholds his brother Benjamin. It is likely his eyes would here be in some danger of betraying his heart, and that being conscious of this, he instantly gives orders to his steward to take these men home to his house, and prepare a dinner, for that they must dine with him at noon. By this means he would be able to compose himself, and to form a plan how to conduct and
in what manner to discover himself to them, which it appears by the sequel it was his design at this time to have accomplished. See how fruitful love is sof kind contrivance ; seeking and finding opportunities to gratify itself, by closer and closer interviews. Thus when two of Jobn's disciples were kindly asked, What seek ye; they answered, Master, where DWELLEST thou! As who should say,
• We want to be better acquainted with thee, and to say more than could be said in this public place.' And thus when Jesus bimself would commune with his disciples, he saith unto them, Children, come and dine !
Ver. 17, 18. But to Joseph's brethren, things still wear a mysterious and confounding aspect : that which he meant in love, they construed as a design to ensnare and enslave them. The mind, while in a state of dark suspense, is apt to view every thing through a discouraging medium. It will misconstrue even goodness itself, and find fear where no fear is. Thus it is that souls depressed under God's band, often misinterpret his providences, and draw dismal conclusions from the same things which in another state of mind would afford them relief. When the soul is in such a frame as to refuse to be comforted, it will remember God, and be troubled.*
Ver. 19-23. Being introduced into the house of Joseph however, though it excited their fears, yet it afforded an opportunity, during his absence, of speaking to the steward concerning the money found in their sacks, which was the circumstance that at present most alarmed them. It was wise in them to be first in mentioning this matter, that if any thing was afterwards said by Joseph about it, they might appeal to the steward, and he could declare on their behalf that, without any accusation, they had of their own accord mentioned the whole business to him, and returned the money. But the answer of the steward is surprising. He could scarcely have spoken more suitably, if he had been in the secret. I do not suppose he knew that these were Joseph's · brethren ; but he would know that they were his countrymen, and perceiving the interest which he took in them, and the air of
* Psal. lxxvii. 2, 3.
mystery which attended his conduct towards them, he would be at no loss to conclude that there was noʻill design against them. It is likely he knew of the money being returned by Joseph's order; and he knew his master too well to suppose that whatever might be his design in it, he would hurt the poor men for what had been done by his own order. Moreover, this steward, whoever he was, appears to have learnt something by being with Joseph, concerning the true God, the God of the Hebrews. His answer is kind, and wise, and religious. Peace be unto you, fear not : your God, and the God of your father hath given you treasure in your sacks : I had your money. q. d. • Let your
hearts be at rest : I will be answerable that you paid what was due : inquire no farther about it : Providence brought it, and let that satisfy you.' To render them still more at ease, Simeon is brought out of his confinement, and introduced to them ; which being done by the order of Joseph, was a proof of his being satisfied. The deliverance of the hostage was an evidence that all was well. Thus the bringing again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, was to us a token for good, and therefore is ascribed to God, as the God of peace.*
Ver. 24, 25 While Joseph is busy about his concerns, and thinking how he shall conduct himself towards his brethren, they are busy in washing and dressing themselves to appear before him, and in preparing the present which they had brought for him. What was done required to be done in a handsome manner, and they are disposed to do their best.
Ver. 26, 27. And now, the business of the morning being over, Joseph enters. They immediately request his acceptance of the spices and sweetmeats of Palestine, sent as a present by their father, bowing down their faces to the earth, as they had done before. Thus Joseph's dream, which was repeated to him, is repeated in its fulfilment. There is nothing said of his manner of receiving it ; but doubtless it was kind and affable. And as they would present it in the name of their father, this would furnish a fair opportunity to inquire particularly respecting him; a subject on which his feelings would be all alive. It is charming to
* Heb. xiii. 20.