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opportunities, as should enable him to do the Divine pleasure. Joseph was, it seems, his father's favourite; for, besides being the "son of his old age," and the child of his favourite wife, Rachel, he was remarkable for his amiable deportment, and early piety. The old man consequently, more naturally, no doubt, than prudently, distinguished him above his brethren by some special indulgences, one of which is particularly noticed, namely, his giving him "a coat of many colours." These things provoked the envy of his brethren, and another cause of offence was added; "He brought unto his father their evil report." "They hated him," therefore, as scorners are wont to do those who, with whatever pious and charitable intentions, bring reproof upon them, and "they could not speak peaceably to him "."
After this, Joseph dreamed two dreams which he told to his brethren; and they, rightly, as it appears, construed the meaning of those dreams to be, that Joseph should one day become their superior so far, that the whole family should be constrained to do him homage. This incensed them still further; and, "shalt thou indeed reign over us?" they said; "or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?" Whilst they were in this temper, it so fell out that Jacob, suspecting no evil, sent Joseph on a message to them, to a place called Shechem; and though they had left the spot where he expected to find them, he met, accidentally, as we speak, with a man who happened to have heard them say, that they were about to remove further off to Dothan; and thither, therefore, Joseph followed them; though afterwards, perhaps, he might have been tempted to say, in his own mind, that it was a pity he had fallen in with this courteous stranger, whose directions seemed to be so useful when he received them. To Dothan he went, however, and there that took place which was purposely intended to prevent any rise of Joseph's fortunes, and which seemed likely to make it impossible that he should ever become useful to his family. His brethren
7 Gen. xxxvii. 2—4.
8 Ver. 8.
saw him coming, and laid a plot to kill him; and then "We shall see," they cried, "what will become of his dreams "."
And so they did indeed in due time, but in a manner far different from what they meant.
Of the Lord God we read: "The wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" and thus on this occasion it befel. As much of their purpose as might not suit his purpose God frustrated, and the rest He suffered to proceed to the furtherance of his own good pleasure; but still, observe, by letting all parties act according to their own desires and dispositions. Reuben, the eldest son of the family, was not so hard-hearted as the rest; nevertheless, he had not principle or manliness enough to do what was right, though he himself desired it. He kept them from putting Joseph to death. "Shed no blood," he said, "but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness;" meaning, "to rid him out of their hands, when he should have opportunity, and to deliver him to his father again." And to Reuben's proposal they agreed; for God meant to save his life. But the opportunity for Reuben's delivering him never came; for God meant not that, and He had his instruments at hand to prevent it. Certain Ishmaelitish merchants, going down to Egypt on their own concerns, happened to pass by; and then Judah, another brother, who had done nothing before for Joseph's preservation, bethought himself that perhaps something might be made of him. Could they get rid of him their purpose would be fully answered; to sell him and send him off to a distance would do for that, it occurred to Judah, quite as well as murdering him. It would spare their consciences moreover a little, and bring them some little gain besides. Accordingly, Reuben, a weak and indolent person, having perhaps lingered longer than he need have done, there was just time to make the bargain before he came back; and they seized the opportunity.
9 Ver. 20.
See Ps. lxxvi. 10.
Gen. xxxvii. 22.
The Ishmaelites contracted with them for twenty pieces of silver, and departed immediately, taking Joseph. Reuben returning, bewailed himself and rent his clothes; but so far was he from making any effort to follow after Joseph and bring him back, as might perhaps have been possible, that he agreed with his brethren to dip Joseph's coat in blood, and produce it to Jacob as a proof that some wild beast had slain him. Any little remorse, therefore, which he might have felt was useless; and as to the rest, the circumstance noted of their sitting quietly down to eat and drink, whilst Joseph lay in the pit to die, shows, in a very striking manner, their utter recklessness and
Joseph, however, in spite of appearances, was on the road to preferment, and eminent usefulness; and his envious brethren were advancing him to it by their own hostile act and deed. They sold him in their own malice; but God in his mercy "sent" him; to the intent, as they learned afterwards, that he might have opportunity to overcome evil with good, and so not only become their superior in station, which was what they were striving to prevent; but prove himself well worthy to be preferred before them, which was the last thing they themselves would have admitted. How this came about follows next. The Ishmaelites sold Joseph probably to the first purchaser who would give them their price; and this, it seems, was Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and captain of his guard. But "the Lord was with Joseph," it follows, "and he was a prosperous man3;" and Potiphar, observing his industry and fidelity, and that a blessing appeared to rest upon him, very naturally came to put great confidence in him; till, at length, he made him overseer of his house, and left all that he had to his care. Now this looked like a hopeful prospect, and, humanly speaking, Joseph's fortunes began to mend; for if a young person has sound principles and good talents,
3 Gen. xxxix. 1, 2.
and business-like habits and industry, in a subordinate station, we are wont to predict the rise of such an one to eminence, as a thing at least not unlikely, if, like Joseph, he has once got a place of trust; and so it falls out frequently, though there may be many obstacles to be first surmounted. Joseph, himself, very possibly, had begun to calculate in this manner. He might think now, and not very unreasonably, that he had but to proceed honestly and he should thrive. But though "a man's heart deviseth his way, it is the Lord who directeth his steps." Joseph's seemingly hopeful progress was stopped; to be quickened finally by less likely means. He was to be helped as none would choose to be helped; but as many nevertheless are helped and formed for greatness, namely, by difficulties and afflictions and ill-usage. Joseph happened to be "a goodly person and well favoured";" and it happened also, that his master Potiphar had taken to wife a profligate, vicious woman. She endeavoured to tempt Joseph to gross sin; and he peremptorily resisting, she accused him of endeavouring to seduce her. Potiphar believed the accusation; Joseph had no means of proving his integrity; he was cast, therefore, into prison, and it appears to have been eight or nine years before he was finally released. A grievous cross, no doubt, to lose liberty for so long a period, and just at the very prime of life, when exertion is most natural, restraint most painful, and hope and desire of advancement most alive. Yet Joseph was not even now standing still. It seemed not so perhaps, neither might his own heart think so, yet his mind and his fortunes were both making good progress. Adversity is a good schoolmaster; and He who gave Joseph grace to resist temptation, would not fail to give him grace also to improve by suffering. He meant him for high honour; but "before honour is humility ;" and "the human heart is seldom sufficiently humbled for suitably filling important stations without a previous course of painful dis
4 Prov. xvi. 9.
5 Gen. xxxix. 6.
6 Prov. xv. 33.
cipline." This, therefore, was given to Joseph, God dealing with him as a son therein; "for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not"?" In this sense, no doubt, "God was with him, and showed him mercy." But, besides this, we are expressly told, "He gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison "," who trusted him, and put him in charge of every thing: and we shall see immediately how this tended not only to his comfort and credit, but, at length, to his deliverance and preferment.
The next chapter introduces us to three new actors in the history; persons who had never heard of Joseph or his family, and who knew nothing of the purposes of God. I mean Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and two of his servants, his butler and his baker. These men had incurred the king's displeasure, and were cast in consequence into prison. It happened to be the very prison where Joseph was confined; and so it came to pass, that Joseph had the care of them. And Potiphar himself, the captain of the guard, whose deputy the keeper of the prison appears to have been, having come, as it should seem, by this time to think better of Joseph, and possibly to suspect the truth, also charged Joseph with them. Accordingly he waited upon them; and appears to have done it with so much kindness, as to have won their confidence and regard. In prison these persons lay till within three days of Pharaoh's birthday, on which occasion it was the king's pleasure to feast his servants. This led him to recollect the butler and the baker; and he resolved that he would now deal with them severally according to the view he took of their case.
Whilst Pharaoh was settling this matter in his own mind and to his own liking, He to whom all hearts are open, caused the two prisoners to dream each of them a remarkable dream. Their minds were troubled at the thought of these dreams, and this appeared in the sadness of their countenances. Joseph, who seems
7 Heb. xii. 7.
8 Gen. xxxix. 21.