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sometimes started respecting the great increase of the Israelites in Egypt.
Driving the cattle and flocks before them, and with the aged chief and the women and children in the numerous wheel conveyances, the whole company moved on toward Egypt in highest gladness, with songs and instrumental music and shouts such as only such general joy could inspire. They took, however, not the most direct route by the coast, but by Beersheba, to which Jacob could scarcely expect ever to have another opportunity of making a visit. We know that his affections were peculiarly strong; and they are the great redeeming quality amid the subtleties and deceptions in his earlier life. For these deceptions he had paid dearly ; and the recent disclosures of his sons' wickedness toward himself brought up before him his own misdeeds toward his father at Beersheba with self-convicting and humbling effect. There, too, he had felt that all-absorbing love of his mother never once forgotten, and which had made his own heart so rich in the affections toward all human beings and especially toward Jehovah. So now he took his way by Beersheba; and there “he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” And here in a vision the divine word came to him, bidding him not fear to go into Egypt, for God would go with him and make of him there a great nation; adding also that his going there would not be a forfeiting of the right obtained by the promise to give this land of Canaan to his descendants.
Thence he hurried onward toward Egypt; and when approaching it he sent Judah before him to announce to Joseph his coming, and to have preparations made for this large company, according to promise, in the land of Goshen. This region is at the north-eastern extremity of Egypt, and at a part where the waters of the Nile spread out in great arms in their approach toward the sea, and make vast deltas or inland islands, all having the exuberant fertility of the rest
of Egypt. The ground being generally low and moist, was better adapted then, as it still is, for grass than for grain, and not only was the region thus a choice one for grazing, but it was also more distinct and separated from the great body of the country. We must not imagine it, however, to be a solitary region, for it was far different, as across it were the great thoroughfares to Canaan and Arabia, and there also, probably at its northern edge near the sea, was a vast fortress of defence, Avaris, erected against hostile incursions from those countries.
Joseph came to meet his father. His road led him by On, and along the great high way by which he had been brought down into Egypt; and thoughts of that sad journey, and of his young resolves on the way, and of his looking to God for help when God was all that was left to him, all now crowded on his recollection. Then his thoughts turned to the coming interview; and the old love, so long kept down, sprung up again more sober now, but beginning to be even stronger than in those early days. How would that father look now ? he thought; and memory pictured him as in former times, a grand-looking man, though already gray-haired and with face marked with care and with troubles caused by his oldest sons, but yet with eyes always beaming toward himself, in the true and warm affection filling his heart. They were to meet ;—and the heart of the great Governor of Egypt grew childlike at the thought.
Jacob came on, indeed an old man now and tottering and weak, but in one thing young and firm and strong,—the love for his favorite boy. How slowly to him the vehicle that bore him moved on! How long was the road! New and inviting objects everywhere met his eyes, and crowds of faces on the great highway, and varied costumes, but he saw them not. The loud sounds of his cattle-drivers, the music of instruments piping joyfully on this happy journey,
the voices of his children and grandchildren were in his ears, but he heard them not; memory was stirred up, and his mind's eye was now only upon that stripling who had climbed his knee in the old times and had fondled upon him ; and his mental ear heard only the lively prattle and the witty sallies of the boy who had been so long the charm in all his tent-life;—the son so strangely lost and now so strangely found, and whom he was about to see once more!
The road seemed interminable, but the long distances were finally left behind them, and the old man at last knew that a larger crowd than usual was coming toward him: then there were runners ahead in gayest liveries clearing the way : then there were loud voices, proclaiming, “ Bow the knee,” and the Egyptian throngs at the wayside were kneeling in humility : then a high chariot, gorgeous in silver and gold and canopied over with gay silks, appeared. But Jacob saw in all this grandeur but one object—his son! Joseph, too, had no need of any one to inform him which was his father, for his heart's instincts alone would have told him ; " he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou are yet alive."
There was, afterward, a large gathering of the curious, halfeager, half-shrinking, confident yet timid, company around the Prime Minister to receive his salutations and to offer theirs ; many wonderings by the little folks at the gorgeous chariot and gay sights; and many speculations by the elders as to their future in this strange country; and Benjamin made conspicuous among all the brethren by Joseph's marked and earnest attentions to him; and then finally, after a period of rest and of enjoyment among all in this most happy meeting, Joseph returned to Memphis, taking with him five of his brothers to present them to Pharaoh, and to receive from the monarch a grant of land for their residence. He instructed them on the road what to say to Pharaoh in answer to his inquiries, so that they might be assigned to this distinct and separate place of Goshen, where they would not come into collision with the prejudices of the Egyptians against men in their employment; "For every shepherd,” he said to them, “is an abomination unto the Egyptians.” Accordingly, when taken before the sovereign, in answer to his question, “What is your occupation ?” they replied, “Thy servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers," and they tendered their request for Goshen ; to which he answered to Joseph, “Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee; the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell ; in the land of Goshen let them dwell; and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.”
Not long afterward, the Prime Minister brought up his father himself to be presented to Pharaoh. The old man was an entire stranger to all the magnificence and grandeur, and to the pomps of royalty, among which he was now introduced; yet the venerable sheikh bore himself with dignity and ease. Indeed, the immense city, with all its architectural splendor, and the gorgeousness of the monarch's palace itself, were not adapted to overawe a man brought up in the wild freedom of mountains and valleys outlined by God's hand, and where he saw God everywhere, while heaven's dome was the fitting vault to this palace of the Almighty, not made with hands : and these crowded streets, where men seemed to be stifled for want of air, and to be in a prison-house, could not but compare unfavorably with the wide, open views and the freedom in the shepherd-life. The old man could stand proudly before the king in the consciousness that this son by his side was far greater in true worth than the Pharaoh ; and had indeed, through the Al
mighty hand, saved the king and his whole nation from destruction.
So the venerable sheikh raised his hands, as he might well do, and blessed Pharaoh. The latter, struck by the snowwhite locks and the white, long beard of the patriarch, such unusual sights in Egypt, inquired,
“How old art thou ?" Jacob answered,
“The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”
After bestowing another blessing he withdrew from the presence of the monarch, who must have been greatly impressed with the appearance and bearing of the old man. If Jacob was proud of his son, the son also had good reason to be proud of his father.
The land of Goshen was allotted to the tribe, where they spread about, getting such pasturage for their flocks as the herbage, scant even in that usually moist region, could afford. The country bordered closely upon On; and it was easy for Joseph personally to see to their wants; he took care that they should all be well supplied during the whole continuance of this dreadful famine.
The famine was indeed eating up all resources, and threatening the entire vitality of the land. Five years of it still remained ; and as it went on, month after month in dreary succession, the sufferings of the inhabitants became more and more intensified, until they felt that life itself was scarcely endurable. The Scriptures express the condition rightly : “The land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine."
The Governor still continued his system of selling grain instead of pauperizing the feelings of the people by a free gift; but eventually the money of the inhabitants had all