PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS # 19
The Return to Canaan
"Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?"
exclaimed his brothers in envious anger.
he had another dream, of similar import, which he also related: "Behold, the
sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." This dream was
interpreted as readily as the first. The father, who was present, spoke
reprovingly--"What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy
mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the
earth?" Notwithstanding the apparent severity of his words, Jacob believed
that the Lord was revealing the future to Joseph.
the lad stood before his brothers, his beautiful countenance lighted up with
the Spirit of inspiration, they could not withhold their admiration; but they
did not choose to renounce their evil ways, and they hated the purity that
reproved their sins. The same spirit that actuated Cain was kindling in their
hearts. The brothers were obliged to move from place to place to secure
pasturage for their flocks, and frequently they were absent from home for
months together. After the circumstances just related, they went to the place
which their father had bought at Shechem. Some time passed, bringing no
tidings from them, and the father began to fear for their safety, on account
of their former cruelty toward the Shechemites. He therefore sent Joseph to
find them, and bring him words as to their welfare. Had Jacob known the real
feeling of his sons toward Joseph, he would not have trusted him alone with
them; but this they had carefully concealed.
a joyful heart, Joseph parted from his father, neither the aged man nor the
youth dreaming of what would happen before they should meet again. When, after
his long and solitary journey, Joseph arrived at Shechem, his brothers and
their flocks were not to be found. Upon inquiring for them, he was directed to
Dothan. He had already traveled more than fifty miles, and now an additional
distance of fifteen lay before him, but he hastened on, forgetting his
weariness in the thought of relieving the anxiety of his father, and meeting
the brothers, whom, despite their unkindness, he still loved.
brothers saw him approaching; but no thought of the long journey he had made
to meet them, of his weariness and hunger, of his claims upon their
hospitality and brotherly love, softened the bitterness of their hatred. The
sight of the coat, the token of their father's love, filled them with frenzy.
"Behold, this dreamer cometh," they cried in mockery. Envy and revenge, long
secretly cherished, now controlled them. "Let us slay him," they said, "and
cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him;
and we shall see what will become of his dreams." They would have executed
their purpose but for Reuben. He shrank from participating in the murder of
his brother, and proposed that Joseph be cast alive into a pit, and left there
to perish; secretly intending, however, to rescue him and return him to his
father. Having persuaded all to consent to this plan, Reuben left the company,
fearing that he might fail to control his feelings, and that his real
intentions would be discovered.
Joseph came on, unsuspicious of danger, and glad that the object of his long
search was accomplished; but instead of the expected greeting, he was
terrified by the angry and revengeful glances which he met. He was seized and
his coat stripped from him. Taunts and threats revealed a deadly purpose. His
entreaties were unheeded. He was wholly in the power of those maddened men.
Rudely dragging him to a deep pit, they thrust him in, and having made sure
that there was no possibility of his escape, they left him there to perish
from hunger, while they "sat down to eat bread."
some of them were ill at ease; they did not feel the satisfaction they had
anticipated from their revenge. Soon a company of travelers was seen
approaching. It was a caravan of Ishmaelites from beyond Jordan, on their way
to Egypt with spices and other merchandise. Judah now proposed to sell their
brother to these heathen traders instead of leaving him to die. While he would
be effectually put out of their way, they would remain clear of his blood;
"for," he urged, "he is our brother and our flesh." To this proposition all
agreed, and Joseph was quickly drawn out of the pit.
As he saw the merchants the dreadful truth
flashed upon him. To become a slave was a fate more to be feared than death.
In an agony of terror he appealed to one and another of his brothers, but in
vain. Some were moved with pity, but fear of derision kept them silent; all
felt that they had now gone too far to retreat. If Joseph were spared, he
would doubtless report them to the father, who would not overlook their
cruelty toward his favorite son. Steeling their hearts against his entreaties,
they delivered him into the hands of the heathen traders. The caravan moved
on, and was soon lost to view.
Reuben returned to the pit, but Joseph was not there. In alarm and
self-reproach he rent his garments, and sought his brothers, exclaiming, "The
child is not; and I, whither shall I go?" Upon learning the fate of Joseph,
and that it would now be impossible to recover him, Reuben was induced to
unite with the rest in the attempt to conceal their guilt. Having killed a
kid, they dipped Joseph's coat in its blood, and took it to their father,
telling him that they had found it in the fields, and that they feared it was
their brother's. "Know now," they said, "whether it be thy son's coat or no."
They had looked forward to this scene with dread, but they were not prepared
for the heart-rending anguish, the utter abandonment of grief, which they were
compelled to witness. "It is my son's coat," said Jacob; "an evil beast hath
devoured him. Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces."
Vainly his sons and daughters attempted to comfort him. He "rent his clothes,
and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days." Time
seemed to bring no alleviation of his grief. "I will go down into the grave
unto my son mourning," was his despairing cry. The young men, terrified at
what they had done, yet dreading their father's reproaches, still hid in their
own hearts the knowledge of their guilt, which even to themselves seemed very