Old Testament Story List

Joseph Forgive His Brothers

Meanwhile, in the land of Canaan, Joseph's father and brothers and their families suffered greatly from the famine. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Go down to Egypt and buy grain for us that we may live and not die of hunger." So the ten older brothers went to buy corn in Egypt. Jacob kept Benjamin at home,

for fear something might happen to the boy he loved, even as it had happened to his beloved Joseph.

When the brothers arrived in Egypt and presented themselves to the governor, they bowed down before him, just as it had been foretold in Joseph's dream of the sheaves of what. Joseph recognized his brothers at once, but they did not know him, for he had been only a young boy when they had sold him into slavery. To test them, Joseph accused them of being spies, come to see how bad the famine was in Egypt.

They answered, "No, we are twelve brothers, the sons of Jacob of Canaan. Our youngest brother is at home with his father and the other is dead." But Joseph, still pretending to believe they were spies, refused to let them go unless their youngest brother were brought before him.

"Send one of you to fetch your brother. The rest of you I shall keep here in prison until your words are proved true." Then he had them all put in jail.

At the end of three days, Joseph called them before him and said, "Do this, for I fear God. If you be true men, let one of you stay here while the others carry corn to allay the famine of your families. But make sure you bring back your youngest brother to me to prove your words are not false."

The brothers, fearing that this trouble had come to them as punishment for the way they had treated their younger brother years before, did not dare to disobey. They left Simeon in prison and started on the journey back to Canaan with their sacks full of corn.

They stopped overnight at an inn. Once of them opened a sack fro grain to feed his ass, and found in the op the money he had paid the Egyptian governor. This the brothers could not understand, for they did not yet know that Joseph had ordered their money to be given back in each sack of corn.

Upon their return, they related to their father all that had befallen them. Then as they emptied their sacks, and each found his bundle of money, they were afraid. Then Jacob refused to let them take Benjamin back to Egypt. Joseph, his favorite, had been lost long ago, and now Simeon was in prison. He wanted nothing more to befall his sons.

After a time, when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, and there was still famine in the land, Jacob said to his sons, "Go again, and buy us some food."

But Judah answered, "The governor of Egypt will not even see us unless we bring our brother. Send him with me, that we and our families, and he, too, shall not starve."

Jacob finally agreed and had them take presents to the governor: fruits, balm, honey, spices, nuts, and myrrh. And he had them take double the amount of money that had been returned in their sacks. The, with Benjamin, the brothers set forth for Egypt.

When the steward brought the news that the nine strangers had returned with their younger brother, Joseph ordered them to be brought to his house. The brothers, now more frightened than ever that they should all be taken as slaves, explained to the steward how they had found the money in their sacks and had brought back double the amount to return it and to buy more grain. The steward answered, "Peace! Fear not. It was God's will that I return your money," and he brought Simeon to them. He gave them water to wash their feet before entering Joseph's house, and gave them food for their beasts.

They made themselves ready, and when they came before Joseph, they gave him the presents which Jacob had sent. Then they were seated at a separate table, for the Hebrews and the Egyptians did not eat together, and Joseph sent them food, giving more to Benjamin than to all the others. And they ate and drank and were merry with him. Then Joseph commanded his steward to fill their sacks with grain, as much as the could carry, to return their money as before, and to put into Benjamin's sack Joseph's own silver cup.

The next morning, soon after the brothers had left, Joseph told his steward to follow them. When the steward caught up with them and accused them of stealing his master's cup, they all denied it, and agreed that if it were found, the one in whose sack it was concealed must return as Joseph's servant. When it was found in Benjamin's sack, the brothers were terribly frightened and all returned to Joseph.

They bowed to the ground before him and pleaded with him not to keep Benjamin, for it would break their father's hart. Judah spoke up, "our father is an old man and this is his youngest son. I swore to him that I would bring this boy back safely, that no harm should befall him. Keep me instead to be your servant, and let the boy go with his brothers."

At this point Joseph was overcome with emotion. He sent away all his servants, and weeping, called his brother near to him.

"I am Joseph," he told them, "your brother, whom you sold into Egypt." The brothers were greatly troubled and could not speak a word. Seeing this, Joseph continued, "Do not grieve or be angry with yourselves for having sold me. God sent me here before you to save your lives. For two years there has been famine in Egypt. There are yet five years more. It was not you, but God, that sent me here and made me lord and ruler of the Pharaoh's house and land.

"Hurry - go to my father and tell him that his son, Joseph, bids him come to Egypt. And come you, with your families and herds, so that you may survive the famine." And he kissed his brothers, and forgave them, and sent them home to Jacob, their asses laden with grain, with meat and bread and clothes for the journey.

When Jacob heard the news he could not believe it. But when the brothers told him all that Joseph had said, he spoke, "It is enough. Joseph is yet alive. I will go to see him before I die."

They gathered all their goods, their families and their herds, and they traveled to Egypt. Since the brothers were fine herdsmen, the Pharaoh welcomed them and gave them land in Goshen, nearby, and made them keepers of all his cattle. Thus Jacob lived near Joseph until the end of his days, and from his twelve sons sprang the twelve tribes of Israel.

For several hundreds of years the descendants of Jacob's sons lived in Egypt, and in time there were a large number of them in the land. Now a new king ruled over Egypt, one who did not know of Joseph and the good he had done.


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