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the prayer, we may observe also, was as effectual in behalf of Esau himself, as in behalf of Jacob who made it: if it saved the one from suffering a calamity, it saved the other from committing a crime. Esau returned homeward with pure hands, and a lightened heart, enriched by the free gift of a portion of his brother's possessions, not degraded by the seizure of the whole. Yea, he quitted, of his own accord, that country where Jacob meant to settle, in order to make room for him; and, according to the prophecy of Isaac, that he should live by his sword, having dispossessed by force the Horites of Mount Seir, established himself in their land, thenceforth called Edom. Jacob, in the meanwhile, proceeded on his journey in security and peace: he sojourned for a while at Succoth, probably to refresh his family and cattle after the fatigues of their long journey; and then took up what, from the circumstance of his buying a piece of land, it seems that he intended to be a more permanent residence, in the neighbourhood of Shalem, the city of Shechem and Hamor, the Hivites. And there also, after the example of his grandfather Abraham, he built an altar, and called it El Elohe Israel, meaning, God the God of Israel Israel being the new name which had been given him on that memorable night when he wrestled with the angel, and as a prince had power with God. But in all this, though done no doubt with good intentions, there was a forgetfulness of duty. The attempt to purchase an abiding dwelling-place seems contrary to the declarations of God to the patriarchs, that they were to consider themselves as pilgrims and strangers in the land ; his intention of returning to his father's house seems also to have been strangely forgotten ; and, above all, his solemn vow, to renew in a public
. Deut. ii 12; Gen. xxxvi. 6.
manner the worship of God at Bethel, to have passed away from his mind. Such are but too often the effects of prosperity; it makes men careless and inactive, too much occupied in admiring what they have and what they are, to leave them time to think of what they need, and what they ought to be. And when the servants of God are thus tempted to abuse his gifts, he often in his mercy awakens them, by some touch of distress and calamity, to a sense of what they owe him. This was the case with Jacob : his daughter Dinah, yielding to an idle curiosity to see and consort with the daughters of the land, became the prey of a ravisher in the person of Shechem, the son of Hamor, upon whom, together with his father, her brothers Levi and Simeon soon executed a bloody and deceitful vengeance; a crime which Jacob, though he did not punish it at the time, was compelled, by the spirit of righteous judgment, to curse in the prophecy of his latter days. In that neighbourhood, after so cruel a slaughter of the Shechemites, he could not remain; and then it was that God graciously reminded him of his former vow, and directed his steps to Bethel, where, having first commanded his family to put away the remaining relics of idolatry, he fulfilled it by consecrating a pillar in a more solemn manner than before, and pouring a drink-offering thereon. And there God blessed him, as he will bless all those who carefully perform the promises which they have made to him, and worship him as their Almighty Guardian and Preserver, in spirit and in truth.
JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN.
ALTHOUGH after the departure of Jacob from
Bethel, in the direction of Hebron, where his father dwelt, another son was born to him by his beloved Rachel, at the expense of her own life (for she died in giving birth to Benjamin,) yet Joseph, both as her eldest born, and as an example of virtues befitting the maturest years, was dearer to him than any other of his children. Some of them, Reuben especially, and in a less degree Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, were guilty of offences which came to their father's ears, and doubtless caused him much affliction and sorrow of heart:* and in addition to these, the preference which he showed for Joseph caused them to entertain a malignant hatred against that innocent youth, which they had not long afterwards an opportunity of indulging. This disposition in them was increased also by the circumstances of two dreams, indicating his future superiority over them, with which, in the simplicity and openness of his heart, he had made them acquainted : so that when they saw him, sent by his father from Hebron to join them where they fed their flocks, drawing near unto them, “they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh ; come now therefore, and let us slay him, 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.”+ Two only of the ten appear to have felt some touch of compassion for the unhappy victim. Reuben counselled them not
* Gen. xxxv. 22; xxxvii. 2; xxxviii. 18.
+ Chap. xxxvii. 19, 20.
to kill him, but to cast him into the pit, with the intention of coming back as soon as they were gone, and delivering him from thence: and during his temporary absence, it was by the advice of Judah that they changed their purpose of leaving him to die of starvation in the pit, to that of selling him to a company of Midianite merchants, who chanced to be passing by that way on their journey to Egypt with the productions of Gilead. Reuben, who saw his charitable intentions frustrated, and knew not what had become of Joseph, seems to have thought it best to join with his brethren in the delusion which they practised towards their father : showing him the particoloured coat, (which, in a moment of perhaps too partial affection, he had caused his favourite son to wear,) as having found it stained with blood in the wilderness, a sad proof that its wearer had been devoured by some savage beast; and offering him false and hypocritical consolations in his agony of grief, which they themselves had caused. But God all the while was overruling these their wicked actions to purposes of good: the inducement being removed, envying and hatred troubled no longer the family of Jacob: and he who had been the cause of it, though innocently so, was transferred to a place where his good qualities and religious principles were to endure indeed a formidable trial, but to receive a high reward. In the house of his Egyptian master, the Lord was with Joseph, and the zeal and alacrity, which, through the grace that was granted him, he was enabled to show, in every portion of his service, soon rendered him a most important member of the household, and caused him at last to be entrusted with its chief management. It was then that his mistress endeavoured to seduce him to commit a most grievous breach of trust, and audacious sin against God; and when his chastity was proof against her temptations, she wickedly accused him of attempt. ing the very crime which he had virtuously resisted, and caused him to be cast into prison, where still the Lord was with him. Happy is he who can carry with him into the house of human chastisement and bondage the favour of his God : he need not fear what man can do unto him, he need not trust in any mortal help to bring him out thence with honour; in his Lord's good time his cause shall come to be known, and his innocence be rendered clear as the noon day. It will be so in another life, if not in this : in the case of Joseph ample amends were made him while he lived here, for the period of his tribulation. Raised by his good conduct to an office of trust within the prison, he was enabled by God's Spirit, to interpret the dreams of two of the chief servants of Pharaoh : and though the fulfilment was forgotten for a while by that one of them who was benefited thereby, yet was the circumstance afterwards recalled to his remembrance by a dream of the king himself, which none of his wise men were able to interpret. Then the neglected and forgotten Joseph was sent for from the prison, and having explained to the king his dream, attributing with all due humility his power of doing so to God, and having also pointed out the best course to be pursued in the emergency of seven years of famine, which it predicted—he was rewarded by the grateful monarch with a post of honour and authority next to himself in his kingdom, and with a charge to take all those salutary measures for the public sustenance which he had so wisely recommended. This, during the seven preceding years of plenty, he busied himself in performing : corn was laid up in such abundance, as to form a provision in the ensuing dearth, not only for the Egyptians themselves, but for the inhabitants of many neighbouring countries also, who came down