Story Seventeen

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 4
WHEN Jṓ s̝eph was made ruler over the land of Ḗ ġy̆pt, he did just as he had always done. It was not Jṓ s̝eph's way to sit down and rest, and enjoy himself, and make others wait on him. He found his work at once, and began to do it faithfully and thoroughly. He went out over all the land of Ḗġy̆pt, and saw how rich and abundant were the fields of grain, giving much more than the people could use for their own needs. He told the people not to waste it, but to save it for the coming time of need.
And he called upon the people to give him for the king, one bushel of grain out of every five, to be stored up. The people brought their grain, after taking for themselves as much as they needed; and Jṓ s̝eph stored it up in great store-houses in the cities; so much at last that no one could keep account of it.
The king of Ḗ ġy̆pt gave a wife to Jṓ s̝eph from the noble young women of his kingdom. Her name was Āś e-năth; and to Jṓ s̝eph and his wife God gave two sons. The oldest son he named Mā̇˗năś seh, a word which means "making to forget”
"For," said Jṓ s̞eph, "God has made me forget all my troubles, and my toil as a slave.”
The second son he named Ḗ phră-ĭm, a word that means "fruitful.”
"Because," said Jṓ s̝eph, "God has not only mane the land fruitful, but he has made me fruitful in the land of my troubles.”
The seven years of plenty soon passed by, and then came the years of need. In all the lands around people were hungry, and there was no food for them to eat; but in the land of Ḗ ġy̆pt everybody had enough. Most of the people soon used up the grain that they had saved: many had saved none at all, and they all cried to the king to help them.
"Go to Jṓ s̝eph," said King Phā́ raōh, "and do whatever he tells you to do.” Then the people came to Jṓ s̞eph, and Jṓ s̝eph opened the store-houses, and sold to the people all the grain that they wished to buy. And not only the people of Ḗ ġy̆pt came to buy grain, but, people of all the lands around as well, for there was great need and famine everywhere.
And the need was as great in the land of Cā́ năan, where Jā́ cob lived, as in other lands. Jā́ cob was rich in flocks and cattle, and gold and silver; but his fields gave no grain, and there was danger that his family and his people would starve. And Jā́ cob,—who was now called Ĭś̝ ra-el also,—heard that there was food in Ḗ ġy̆pt, and he said to his sons:
"Why do you look at each other, asking what to do to find rood? I have been told that there is grain in Ḗ ġy̆pt. Go down to that land, and take money with you, and buy grain, so that we may have bread, and may live.”
Then the ten older brothers of Jṓ s̝eph went down to the land of É̄ ġy̆pt. They rode upon asses, for horses were not much used in those times, and they brought money with them. But Jā́ cob would not let Bĕń ja-mĭn, Jṓ s̝eph's younger brother, go with them, for he was all the more dear to his father, now that Jṓ s̝eph was no longer with him; and Jā́ cob feared that harm might come to him.
Then Jṓ s̝eph's brothers came to Jṓ s̝eph to buy food. They did not know him, grown up to be a man, dressed as a prince, and seated on a throne. Jṓ s̝eph was now nearly forty years old, and it had been almost twenty-three years since they had sold him. But Jṓ s̝eph knew them all, as soon as he saw them. He resolved to be sharp and stern with them, not because he hated them, but because he wished to see what their spirit was, and whether they were as selfish, and cruel, and wicked as they had been in other days.
They came before him, and bowed, with their faces to the ground. Then, no doubt, Jṓ s̝eph thought of the dream that had come to him while he was a boy, of his brothers' sheaves bending down around his sheaf. He spoke to them as a stranger, as if he did not understand their language, and he had their words explained to him in the language of Ḗ ġy̆pt.
"Who are you.? And from what place do you come?" said Jṓ s̝eph, in a harsh, stern manner.
They answered him, very meekly, "We have come from the land of Cā́ năan to buy food.”
"No," said Jṓ s̝eph, "I know what you have come for. You have come as spies, to see how helpless the land is, so that you can bring an army against us, and make war on us.”
"No, no," said Jṓ s̝eph's ten brothers, "we are no spies, we man, who lives in the land of Cā́ năan; are the sons of one man who lives in the land of Cā́ năan; and we have come for food, because we have none at home.”
"You say you are the sons of one man, who is your father? Is he living? Have you any more brothers? Tell me all about yourselves.”
And they said, "Our father is an old man in Cā́ năan. We did have a younger brother, but he was lost; and we have one brother still, who is the youngest of all, but his father could not spare him to come with us.”
"No," said Jṓ s̝eph, "you are not good, honest men. You are spies. I shall put you all in prison, except one of you; and he shall go and bring that youngest brother of yours; and when I see him, then I will believe that you tell the truth.”
So Jṓ s̞eph put all the ten men in prison, and kept them under guard for three days; then he sent for them again. They did not know that he could understand their language, and they said to each other, while Jṓ s̝eph heard, but pretended not to hear: "This has come upon us because of the wrong that we did to our brother Jṓ s̝eph, more than twenty years ago. We heard him cry, and plead with us when we threw him into the pit, and we would not have mercy on him. God is giving us only what we have deserved.”
And Reṳ́ ben, who had tried to save Jṓ s̝eph, said, "Did I not tell you not to harm the boy? and you would not listen to me. God is bringing our brother's blood upon us all.”
When Jṓ s̝eph heard this, his heart was touched, for he saw that his brothers were really sorry for the wrong that they had done him. He turned away from them, so that they could not see his face, and he wept. Then he turned again to them, and spoke roughly as before, and said:
"This I will do, for I serve God, I will let you all go home, except one man. One of you I will shut up in prison; but the rest of you can go home, and take food for your people. And you must come back, and bring your youngest brother with you, and I shall know then that you have spoken the truth.”
Then Jṓ s̝eph gave orders, and his servants seized one of his brothers, whose name was Sĭḿ e-on, and bound him in their sight, and took him away to prison. And he ordered his servants to fill the men's sacks with grain, and to put every man's money back into the sack before it was tied up, so that they would find the money as soon as they opened the sack. Then the men loaded their asses with the sacks of grain, and started to go home, leaving their brother Sĭḿ e-on a prisoner.
When they stopped on the way to feed their asses, one of the brothers opened his sack, and there he found his money lying on the top of the grain. He called out to his brothers, "See, here is my money given again to me!" And they were frightened; but they did not dare to go back to Ḗ ġy̆pt, and meet the stern ruler of the land. They went home, and told their old father all that had happened to them; and how their brother Sĭḿ e-on was in prison, and must stay there until they should return, bringing Bĕń ja-mĭn with them.
When they opened their sacks of grain, there,' in the mouth of each sack, was the money that they had given; and they were filled with fear. Then they spoke of going again to Ḗ ġy̆pt, and taking Bĕń ja-mĭn, but Jā́ cob said to them:
"You are taking my sons away from me. Jṓ s̞eph is gone, and Sĭḿ e-on is gone, and now you would take Bĕń ja-mĭn away. All these things are against me!”
Reṳ́ ben said, "Here are my own two boys. You may kill them, if you wish, in case I do not bring Bĕń ja-mĭn back to you.”
But Jā́ cob said, "My youngest son shall not go with you. His brother is dead, and he alone is left to me. If harm should come to him, it would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”