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Nothing remarkable occurred in the procession, till they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which was within the land of Canaan, near to Jericho, and not many miles from the place of interment. Here they stopped, it would seem, for seven days, performing funeral obsequies, or mourning with a great and sore lamentation. Só great was it, that it drew the attention of the Canaanites, who, on seeing and hearing what passed, observed one to another, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians ; (for such they considered them, seeing they came from Egypt;) wherefore the name of the place was afterwards called, Abel-Mizruim~the mourning of the Egyptians.
Ver. 12-21. Joseph and his brethren, having buried their father in the place where he requested to lie, return to Egypt, with the company which went with them. The pomp and hurry of the funeral, while it lasted, would occupy their attention; but this baving subsided, the thoughts of the ten brethren were directed to other things. The death of great characters being often followed by great changes, conscious guilt being always alive to fear, and the chasm which succeeds a funeral inviting a flood of foreboding apprehensions, they find out a new source of trouble : • Peradventure, all the kindness hitherto shown us has been only for our father's sake . . . Peradventure, Joseph, after all, never forgave us in his heart .... and now our father is dead, so as not to be grieved by it, peradventure he will feel that hatred to us which we once felt to him ; and if so, he will certainly requite the evil which we have done unto him.' jealousy! Is it not rightly said of thee, Thou art cruel as the grave ?
But how can they disclose their suspicions ! To have done it personally, would have been too much for either him or them to bear, let him take it as he might. So they sent messengers unto him, to sound him. We know not who they were ; but if Benja
. min were one of them, it was not more than might be expected. Mark the delicacy, and exquisite tenderness of the message. Nothing is said of their suspicions, only that the petition implies thern :
: yet it is expressed in such a manner as cannot offend, but must needs melt the heart of Joseph, even though he had been possessed of less affection than he was. (1.) They introduce
themselves as acting under the direction of a mediator, and this mediator was none other than their deceased father. He commanded us, say they, before he died, that we should say thus and thus. And was it possible for Joseph to be offended with them for obeying his orders? But stop a moment-May not we make a similar use of what our Saviour said to us before he died ? He commanded us to say, Our Father-forgive us our debts. not make the same use of this, as Jacob's sops did of their father's commandment ? (2.) They present the petition as coming from their father, Forgive, I pray thee, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin ; for they did unto thee evil. And was it possible to refuse complying with his father's desire ? The intercessor, it is to be observed, doesnot go about to extenuate the sin of the offenders; but frankly acknowledges it, and that if justice were to take its course, they must be punished. Neither does he plead their subsequent repentance as the ground of pardon ; but requests that it may be done for his sake, or on account of the love which the offended bore to him. (3.) They unite their own confession and petition to that of their father. It was certainly proper that they should do so : for though they no more plead their own repentance as the ground of forgiveness, than the mediator had done, yet it was fit they should repent, and acknowledge their transgressions, ere they obtained mercy. Moreover, though they must make no merit of any thing pertaining to themselves ; yet if there be a character which the offended party is known to esteem above all others, and they be conscious of sustaining that character, it will be no presumption to make mention of it. And this is what they do, and that in a manner which must make a deep impression upon a heart like that of Joseph. And now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father! It were sufficient to have gained their point, even though Joseph had been reluctant, to have pleaded their being children of the same father, and that father making it, as it were, his dying request : but the consideration of their being the servants of his father's God, was overcoming. Were we to look back to some former periods of their history, we could not have considered them as entitled to this character : but since that time God had brought them through
It is no
a series of trials, by means of which he had turned them to himself And though they are far from considering their present state of mind as obliterating the guilt of the former crimes ; yet knowing that Joseph was himself a servant of God, they knew that this consideration would make a deep impression upon him. wonder, that at the close of this part of the story, it should be added, And Joseph wept when they spake unto him !
But this is not all: they go in person, and fall before his face, and offer to be his servants. This extreme abasement on their part seems to have given a kind of gentle indignation to Joseph's feelings. His mind revolted at it. It seemed to him too much. Fear not, saith he : for am I in the place of God? As if he should say,
It may belong to God to take vengeance; but for a sinful worm of the dust, who himself needs forgiveness, to do so, were highly presumptuous : you have therefore nothing to fear from me. What farther forgiveness you need, seek it of him.
Ver. 20, 21. There was a delicacy in the situation of the ten brethren, in respect to this application to Joseph, as it would imply a doubt of his former sincerity. They were aware of this, and therefore in every thing they say, whether by messenger, or in personal interview, are carefnl to avoid touching upon that subject. Nor is there less delicacy in Joseph's answer. He does not complain of this implication, nor so much as mention it: but his answering them in nearly the same words as he had done seventeen years before, 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 ; I say, his answering them in this language was saying in effect, 'Your suspicions are unfounded : what I told you seventeen years ago, I meant ; and the considerations which then induced me to pass over it, induce me still to do the same. Now, therefore, fear ye not: I will nourish you and your
1 will not be your master, but your brother, and as it were, your father.' In this manner did he comfort them, and spake kindly unto them.
Ver. 22, 23. Joseph was about fifty-six years old when his father died : he must therefore have lived fifty-four years afterwards ; during which period he saw Ephraim's children of the
third generation ; and the grandsons of Manasseh were brought up, as it were, upon his knees.
Ver. 24–26. And now the time draws near that Joseph also must die ; and like his worthy ancestors, he dies in faith. (1.) He is persuaded of the truth of God to his covenant promises. I die ; saith he ; and God shall surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (2.) Under the influence of this persuasion he takes an oath of the children of Israel ; that when they should depart from Egypt they would take bis bones with them. Such a de. sire might have arisen merely from a wish to mingle dust with his forefathers : but we are directed to attribute it to a higher motive. It is in reference to this exercise of faith, that his name is enrolled in the catalogue of believing worthies.* Having said all be wished to say, he died, being a hundred and ten years old ; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. As the burial of Jacob in Canaan would attract the minds of Israel to that coun. try ; so the depositing of Joseph in a moveable chest, together with his dying word, would serve as a memento, that Egypt was not their home.
* Heb. xi. 22.
I NAVI endeavoured to intersperse reflections on the various subjects as they have occurred: but there are a few others which arise from a review of the whole, and with these I shall conclude.
First: The truth of revelation and its leading doctrines. That which accounts for things as they are, or as they actually exist in the world, and that in such a manner as nothing else does, carries in it its own evidence. Look at things as they are, and look at this, and you will find that as face answereth to face in water, so doth the one answer to the other.
Look at the material creation around you ; and ask the pbilosophers of all ages, how it came into being ? One ascribes it to a fortuitous assemblage of atoms; another conceives matter to have been eternal ; another imagines God himself a material being. But revelation, like the light shining upon chaos, dissipates in a few words all this darkness, informing us that, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
* Look at buman nature as it now is ; depraved, miserable, and subject to death. Ask philosophy to account for this. The task will be found to surpass its powers. None can deny the fact, that men are what they ought not to be ; but how they came to be 80 cannot be told. To say, as many do, that the stock is good, but that it gets corrupt in rearing, is to reason in a manner that no one would have the face to do in any other case.
If a tree were found, which in every climate, every age, every soil, and under every kind of cultivation, brought forth the fruits of death, nobody would hesitate to pronounce it of a poisonous nature. Such is the account given us by revelation, and this book informs us how it Vol. V.