SEVERAL years later Joseph's brothers arrived safely at their home in Canaan. When Jacob their father saw that eleven of them had returned safely, he was very happy. "I thank God that you are back!" he exclaimed as he hurried to embrace them. "Now if only I could see your brother Joseph again!"
Joseph Is Alive
"You will!" one of the sons shouted excitedly. "Joseph is alive! We found him in Egypt!" This remark startled Jacob, but it also saddened him more because he thought that the speaker was unwisely trying to cheer him up. When the other sons loudly echoed the news, and that Joseph had become the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, Jacob had to believe them. He was so moved that he fainted with relief and joy. Later, when he was shown the gifts and bags of grain from Egypt, and the carriages for his trip there, he was overjoyed at the prospect of going to see Joseph.
Jacob Journeys to Egypt
Before long Jacob, his sons, their families, servants and animals were moving southwestward. The carriages Pharaoh had sent made travel less difficult for small children and the elderly. Being one hundred and thirty years old, Jacob appreciated journeying in such awesome comfort. At the same time he began to be concerned at remembering that God had forbidden his grandfather, Abraham, to go into Egypt. His worries about this ended when God told him in a vision that He meant Jacob to go there, and promised him a return to Canaan. (Gen. 46:1-4.)
As soon as Joseph heard that his father's caravan had reached Egypt, he drove out in his chariot with some of his cavalrymen to meet the visitors. The reunion of a fond father and long-lost son was a joyous one. Joseph felt that his life was so full that he didn't mind if it ended then. Happily, he was to live for several more eventful years.
Joseph Tells Pharaoh
"Pharaoh will want you to appear before him," Joseph told his father and brothers after informing the king that his family had arrived. "When he asks you what you do for a living, truthfully tell him that you tend cattle and sheep, even though most Egyptians regard animals as sacred, and don't like shepherds and drovers because they seldom think of animals as sacred." Pharaoh at first asked five of Joseph's brothers to come before him. As Joseph had predicted, the king inquired about their occupations. When he learned that they dealt in cattle and sheep, he suggested to Joseph that they settle in the Egyptian area of Goshen. Joseph had hoped that Pharaoh would do that. The best nearby pastures were in Goshen. Besides, there were fewer Egyptians there who would trouble outsiders who lacked the belief that animals should be worshiped. Jacob later was brought to Pharaoh, who treated him with honor because of respect for Joseph. The king saw that all of Jacob's family were settled in the rich Nile River delta land, the section of Egypt nearest Canaan. " Weeks passed, during which Joseph had the opportunity to occasionally visit his father and his brothers and their families. Meanwhile, the
famine grew worse. Those who had lived too luxuriously during the seven good years were first to feel the shortage of food. Joseph sent word to all the nation that farm animals would be accepted by Pharaoh as payment for grain. After the animals had been turned in, there was a period of less complaint. Before long, though, people were again begging for grain. The only way they could pay this time was to turn their land over to Pharaoh, who soon became the nation's wealthiest landlord. Most of the land that didn't belong to him was retained by priests of Egyptian pagan religions. The food problem increased with each passing day, but Joseph believed that the end of the famine was near. When seven years of it were almost up, he started moving the people back to the farms they had left. "Pharaoh now owns your land," he told them, "but he will give you seed for starting new crops. In return, you must give him a fifth of your harvest." The people considered this fair, though not many felt certain that the famine was about to end. After the end of the seventh year, when rain returned and crops began to spring up in abundance, the Egyptians had even higher regard for Joseph.
Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt. His children's families increased greatly in numbers. Because God had given Jacob the name of Israel, Jacob's descendants were called Israelites, a nation that developed inside Egypt. Believing that his life was about over, Jacob sent for Joseph and his two young sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Jacob Adopts Joseph's Children As His Own
"God told me years ago that I would be the father of a great nation, and that those who live after me will be given the land of Canaan," Jacob told Joseph. "I want to adopt your sons as mine to make sure they remain part of our family instead of mixing with the Egyptians." Joseph agreed. He brought his sons to where his father, who had become weak and partly blind, rested on his bed. He fondly hugged his grandsons, observing that it was a great blessing from God to live to see them. He sat up to pray for them, placing his left hand on Manasseh's head and his right hand on Ephraim's. Thinking that his father was too blind to see which boy was which, Joseph gently removed Jacob's left hand from Manasseh's head. "It is the custom that the RIGHT hand be on the first-born," Joseph said. "Manasseh is the older." "I realize I put my right hand on the head of the younger one," Jacob explained. "The greatest nation of the earth will come from Manasseh, but a commonwealth of nations will come from Ephraim." Jacob then asked God to cause mighty nations to come from each of the boys. (Gen. 48:19.) Then, knowing that his death was near, he asked to see all his sons.
A Prophecy for Today!
Jacob was inspired by God in what he said, for he told each son a little of what each vast tribe would be like in the far future. He had the most to say about Joseph, whom he said would spread out into the wealthiest nations in the world. Now, thousands of years
later, we learn through the Bible that Joseph was the father of the English-speaking nations. When we read what is foretold to happen to Ephraim, we know that it means Great Britain. And when we read what is to happen to Manasseh, we know it means the United States of America. Only in recent years, just as He said He would do, has God let us understand these things. Jacob died right after speaking to his sons. Joseph ordered Egyptian physicians to prepare his father's body for burial by an Egyptian method known as embalming. This took many days. Then followed a long period of mourning by the Egyptians. At last Joseph and his brothers and their families, except their very young children, along with a great number of Egyptian officials, soldiers and servants, started off with Jacob's body for Canaan. It was a trip of three hundred miles, and therefore this must have been one of the greatest funeral processions in history. (Gen. 50:7-13.) This great ceremony for Jacob wasn't just because the Egyptians held Jacob in such high regard. It was mostly because they thought of his son, Joseph, as a national hero because he had saved their nation from starvation. Jacob lived one hundred and forty-seven years. Some might have thought of him as a very plain, unimportant man. But he had a very necessary part in God's plan to bring into being the great nation of Israel, the nation God chose to help Him in a wonderful plan.