From Eternity Past


Chapter 21—Joseph and His Brothers

This chapter is based on Genesis 41:54-56; 42 to 50.

Under the direction of Joseph, immense storehouses were erected throughout the land of Egypt for preserving the surplus of the expected harvest. During the seven years of plenty the amount of grain laid in store was beyond computation. EP 149.1

And now the seven years of dearth began, according to Joseph's prediction. “And the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians.” EP 149.2

The famine was severely felt in the country where Jacob dwelt. Hearing of the abundant provision made by the king of Egypt, ten of Jacob's sons journeyed thither to purchase grain. They were directed to the king's deputy and came to present themselves before the ruler of the land. And they “bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” “Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.” His Hebrew name had been changed, and there was little resemblance between the prime minister of Egypt and the stripling they had sold to the Ishmaelites. As Joseph saw his brothers stooping and making obeisance, his dreams and the scenes of the past rose vividly before him. His keen eye discovered that Benjamin was not among them. Had he also fallen victim to treacherous cruelty? He determined to learn the truth. “Ye are spies,” he said sternly; “to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.” EP 149.3

They answered, “Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come... . We are true men; thy servants are no spies.” He wished to draw from them some information in regard to their home; yet he knew how deceptive their statements might be. He repeated the charge, and they replied, “Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.” EP 150.1

Professing to doubt their story, the governor declared that he would require them to remain in Egypt till one of their number should go and bring their youngest brother. If they would not consent, they were to be treated as spies. But to such an arrangement the sons of Jacob could not agree, since the time required would cause their families to suffer for food; and who among them would undertake the journey alone, leaving his brothers in prison? It appeared probable that they were to be put to death or made slaves; and if Benjamin were brought, it might be only to share their fate. They decided to remain and suffer together rather than bring additional sorrow upon their father by the loss of his only remaining son. They were accordingly cast into prison. EP 150.2