« PreviousContinue »
helper here. The crisis of his life he knew had come; God would be with him in it. So he was calm.
Pharaoh said, curtly, in words that did not show much confidence in the young man
“I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it; and I have heard say of thee that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.”
The answer was“It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
The monarch narrated both dreams as they had occurred. Joseph replied
“The dream of Pharaoh is one; God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
And the seven thin and ill-favored kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
“ This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh : what God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land. And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
“Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine."
We shall give in the next chapter an account by an eyewitness of a famine in Egypt; but we cannot by reading even it have an idea of the horror which crept through the hearts of all those listeners to Joseph's interpretation, when he came to the prediction of a general famine in that land. If his hearers had not witnessed, they had at least all heard, of extreme cases of this kind occurring now and then by the entire failure in the river floods, if only for a season or two; but here, when the idea broke gradually upon them from his words that the famine would be for seven years and absolute, consuming the land, they stood horror-stricken, as if they could already see all those frightful things with which description had made their ears to tingle, now already come upon them. It was too terrible for belief,—they thought;—and yet even among those who doubted most, and tried hardest to reject belief, there was still a fear creeping through all their being, horrifying and paralyzing them in spite of their determined rejections.
As to Pharaoh, he led the way to a consultation with his lords and counsellors. All had been struck with the modest and respectful yet composed bearing of the young man. He had spoken not presumingly yet confidently; he spoke as if he was really guided by the unerring Power that he said was giving him the utterances; and they had seen in his eyes and heard in the tones of his voice a confidence thrilling them by its terrifying nature, but showing no presumption in him. They felt overwhelmed and crushed by what seemed to be coming. “Seven years ! the land consumed !” No wonder that the council held by the king was an agitated and gloomy one!
And yet, after all, it might not be. Thus many of them tried to satisfy themselves. The king, however, was convinced. His dream had been so vivid and all so life-like, while strange, that he yielded to a belief in the interpretation; all acceded to the soundness of Joseph's advice; the doubters thought that, as the seven years of plenty were to be first, there would be a long time—a safe period in which to make up their minds for what was to come afterward; but the king felt himself called upon, as the father of his people, to act at once.
It would not require much questioning of the captain of the guard and the keeper of the prison to satisfy him that Joseph's administrative qualities were of the highest order; and also that everything under his hand had prospered while he was with them. The monarch " said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the spirit of God is?" and the words of this question will bring to the reader's memory what has just been remarked in this book, namely, that the Egyptians deified the attributes of God, and had a deity which they called “The Spirit of God.” This god was called Kneph or Neph, and was represented by the Uræus (asp), which hence became an emblem of royalty, and may be seen sculptured over the forehead of Tuthmosis III., and still more strikingly in the case of the other Pharaohs given in this book.
Could he find any one-the king thought--so fit to prepare the land for the terrible calamities before it? The office would indeed require the highest rank and authority, but any gift which the royal power could bestow would be wisely and well bestowed if it could save the country from the horrors seemingly so surely to come.
Therefore, before the seven years of plenty had begun, which was not long subsequently to this, Joseph had been made chief ruler under the king, who had taken off the signet ring of highest power and had given it to him; “had arrayed him in vestures of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck; and made him to ride in the second chariot which he had,” while runners before cried to all in the way to "bow the knee.” The monarch said to him, “I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift
his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt;" “only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” This was indeed a case of most extraordinary power given to a subject; but the duty before Joseph, that of taking by compulsion, if this should be necessary, sufficient of the seven years' surplus products to serve all the country during the long scarcity, and to store it
away, would require immense power to be vested in the chief executive officer of the kingdom. Pharaoh also changed the name of Joseph to Zaph-nath-paancah, said by some critics to mean the Revealer of Secrets.? Still more to bind him to the interests of the country, and doubtless also to honor him further, the monarch gave him for wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On.
On, called also by them Ha-ra, “the abode of Ra," or the sun, and by the Greeks Heliopolis," city of the sun,” has already been noticed in this book as pre-eminently the sacred city of Egypt, and was about fifteen miles northeast from Memphis, near the eastern bank of the Nile. It was, in more respects than one, a gem among their cities ; for it was not only highly embellished as their most holy spot, but it became also what may be called the Oxford of Egypt, a place famous for learned men; and was resorted to by distinguished persons from other countries in order to be instructed in the Egyptian learning. Herodotus resorted to it for information ; Strabo came at a later period, and to the latter was pointed out there the house in which Plato, three centuries and a half previously (about 390 B. C.), had spent three years under the instruction of the Egyptian priests ; indeed, these Grecian philosophers imbibed, at On, most of the learning which they afterward disseminated over the world.
1 "A vesture of fine linen was especially the dress of the Egyptian priests as well as of the king himself, whose transparent upper garments of fine linen are known by the monuments. (Compare Herodotus ii. 37.) The elevation of Joseph into the most distinguished class of the priests or princes is shown by this laying on of fine linen garments.” Precious necklaces and chains were bestowed by the Egyptian kings as particular marks of distinction. Several very illustrative representations of this, from Thebes and Tel-el-amarna, will be disclosed in the work of the Prussian Expedition.” “At festive processions, the chariot of the queen used to follow that of the king, and after it the chariot of the princes. Joseph was thus treated like a son of a king."- Ancient Egypt under the Pharaohs, by John Kenrick, M. A.
2 The Septuagint says it was Psouthom Phanech, meaning saviour of the age. 3 The name is said to mean servant of Neith, the Egyptian Minerva.
The city was built on an artificial platform made to secure it fully from high inundations; it was not of very large dimensions, but was richly ornamented with temples and their appurtenances and with dwellings for the priests. Before the great temple stood the obelisk which is still a solitary relic of the past grandeur, presiding over the immense level wastes; formerly, doubtless there was another of the size of this, which is sixty-eight feet above its base, for such embellishments went in pairs; and from them, leading to the great gateway of the city, was an avenue of sphinxes, of which travellers think they can still trace remains. Our word obelisk is said to be from Uben-ra or Uben-la, Sunbeam, or Finger of the Sun. Close by the temple was a large fountain of pure, cool water, an object scarcely to be seen in any other part of Egypt, and still existing, though now choked by weeds; this also was sacred to this god. In the temple was a huge mirror of burnished gold, so contrived as all day to reflect the beams of the sun,
1 It is curious to see how the ancient heathen usages and names have incorporated themselves into languages and usages all over the world. The obelisk, the favorite shape for monuments in Christian cemeteries, is a relic of the sun-worship. It is scarcely necessary to add that the names of all our days in the week, and of most of the months, are from those of heathen deities.