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ness of heart and in great darkness, are feeling around for him. He comes in our need. The afflictions he sends are remedies to the diseases of our souls, and Joseph probably needed such a remedy ; for the great exaltations were well adapted to make him proud and self-confident, and consequently forgetful of God. He was now brought low; and here, in this seemingly desperate condition, this school of severest trial, God was preparing for him, so purified, far greater blessing than he had yet received. Days passed by, and time lengthened on; the peculiar humble quiet and gentleness of the young man were after a while noticed by the keeper of the prison, and they won their way by degrees even in the heart of this man, who had so often to deal with crime and to steel himself against all humanity. He watched this prisoner attentively; and impressions of his innocence, and then of his entire truthfulness, at first very faint and probably repelled, began to take strength, and at last settled more and more into convictions. He trusted him slightly at first, and with keen observation of the results; and then more and more fully; and at last with entire confidence, both as respected the guardianship of the other prisoners and the general matters of the prison. Hope had become bright again in the prisoner's heart. His heart, purified by suffering and divested of over-confidence in himself and in earthly help, and more entirely confident in God, felt that this new hope was more vivifying and blessing, because it was what may be called a humble hope.
These previous events of his gradual rise in Potiphar's house, and continued stewardship there, and the wide prosperity to his master in consequence, and afterward of the imprisonment, and the new slowly increasing confidence in him at the prison, and the trust confided, all required more time than perhaps is perceived in the brief narrative of this book; for Joseph had now been eleven years in Egypt, and had got to be twenty-eight years of age. At this period occurred an event which formed the turning-point in his life.
The chief butler and chief baker of the king had given him such offence, that by his order they were cast into prison; and, as it turned out, they came under Joseph's especial charge. They had not been long in confinement, when, one morning, noticing a peculiar sadness in both, he inquired its cause; and each narrated a dream which had come to him during the previous night, and which seemed to have a peculiar, perhaps portentous, meaning. That to the chief baker was portentous indeed, as explained to him by Joseph at his request; for it signified that, in three days, he should be hanged by the royal order; the chief butler's, on the other hand, was interpreted to signify that at the end of the same period he should be restored to his former office. Both results occurred on the third day, as had been predicted. Joseph had charged the butler, as a requital for relieving his mind by this cheerful prediction, to bring his case before the sovereign on his restoration, and so effect his own release. But the chief butler, as is often done by men when in prosperity, neglected the friend of his adverse days, and Joseph's request was unheeded, and, indeed, forgot.
But, two years after this, Pharaoh himself had, in one night, two dreams apparently so similar in their meaning as to be significant of some very important event about to come to pass. In the first of these, seven “ well-favored kine and fat-fleshed” rose from the river and fed on its banks. Immediately afterward also came up seven others, but poor and lean, which presently fell on the first and devoured them. He awaked; but sleeping again he saw seven ears of corn,“ rank and good,” come on a single stalk ;immediately after them, seven ears, “thin and blasted with the east wind,” came out also, and these devoured the former.
1 Diodorus Siculus informs us that all the officers of the Egyptian kings were from the most illustrious families of the priesthood; no common person being ever permitted to serve in the presence of the monarch.
2 Wheat now raised in Egypt has this peculiarity.
Now the king, as the reader will remember, was considered as a representative of the Deity; was named after Phrah, the god of the sun or light, and was supposed to receive especial enlightenment; and, as Diodorus informs us, dreams were regarded in that country with religious reverence. In this case there were two dreams having such resemblance as seemed to give them particular significance, while the connection of one of them with the river, if they meant anything at all, evidently associated that stream with its meaning. Every one knows that the very existence of the Egyptians depends upon the Nile; and that, if their river fails to attain the needed height in its annual flood, a famine ensues; and therefore how keenly and anxiously the rising of the water inch by inch must be watched and heralded over the country. Pharaoh's dreams were consequently adapted to create a strong curiosity if not nervous anxiety; and in the morning he had his “ wise men” and magicians summoned before him; and having informed them of the occurrences in the night, demanded an explanation. They dared not venture upon any. It would have been easy to give a fanciful exposition; but the monarch was evidently in a nervous earnestness, and their vague guesses might very readily cost them their lives. They hesitated, could not agree, doubted, and drew back in fear. Their eyes fell before the scowling, angry glances of the absolute king. The whole subject was now every moment taking additional importance in the agitated household in consequence of the general dilemma; for, on the refusal of the wise men and magicians, the pertinacity and earnestness of the monarch increased ; and with these the dream was increasing in its importance in his eyes.
His chief butler came forward now, greatly to the relief of all. The occurrences in his prison life had just flashed on his mind, with a pang too, perhaps, at his forgetfulness of his promise to Joseph. He presented himself before Pharaoh, and narrated the incidents connected with his own dream and the baker's ;—the “young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard,” might perhaps solve the mystery of these dreams.
Joseph was hastily sent for, but the summons found him not in a condition to appear before the king. Although trusted by the jailer, he was still a prisoner, and the false charges made by Potiphar and his wife were still resting upon his name. He had consequently in this long time of his grief and disgrace allowed his hair to grow; and the court etiquette would not permit even the monarch's curiosity to be gratified until the young man was put in proper condition to appear before him. Joseph was shaved' and becomingly clothed, and was then led through the halls of the grand palace and into the presence of Pharaoh.
It was a very striking scene; the architectural magnificence all around, where centuries of human skill and labor had combined to deify the monarch himself in men's eyes ; the king, feeling himself still mortal in his perplexity and troubled by a dream, now eyeing the young Hebrew with keen and scrutinizing looks; the magicians and wise men standing by, relieved from the fury of the monarch's wrath, and so far thankful to Joseph, yet, with all this, keenly jealous of him, and hoping that he would somehow make a failure; the courtiers, admiring the young man's good looks and his composed though not presumptuous bearing in the presence of the king, and with their admiration and hopes mingling also many fears for him in the coming trial of his skill; the butler, now almost as nervous as the monarch ; Joseph, the centre of all eyes, feeling that God had surely and clearly come to his aid, and would be his
1 Gen. xli. 14.