The Antiquities of the Jews, 2.91–2.167

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 2.60–2.90 | J. AJ 2.91–2.167 | J. AJ 2.168–2.193 | About This Work »

911. Joseph was now grown up to thirty years of age, and enjoyed great honors from the king, who called him Psothom Phanech, out of regard to his prodigious degree of wisdom; for that name denotes the revealer of secrets. He also married a wife of very high quality; for he married the daughter of Petephres, one of the priests of Heliopolis; she was a virgin, and her name was Asenath. 92By her he had children before the scarcity came on; Manasseh, the elder, which signifies forgetful, because his present happiness made him forget his former misfortunes; and Ephraim, the younger, which signifies restored, because he was restored to the freedom of his forefathers. 93Now after Egypt had happily passed over seven years, according to Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams, the famine came upon them in the eighth year; and because this misfortune fell upon them when they had no sense of it beforehand, they were all sorely afflicted by it, and came running to the king’s gates; 94and he called upon Joseph, who sold the corn to them, being become confessedly a savior to the whole multitude of the Egyptians. Nor did he open this market of corn for the people of that country only, but strangers had liberty to buy also; Joseph being willing that all men, who are naturally akin to one another, should have assistance from those that lived in happiness.

952. Now Jacob also, when he understood that foreigners might come, sent all his sons into Egypt to buy corn, for the land of Canaan was grievously afflicted with the famine; and this great misery touched the whole continent. He only retained Benjamin, who was born to him by Rachel, and was of the same mother with Joseph. 96These sons of Jacob then came into Egypt, and applied themselves to Joseph, wanting to buy corn; for nothing of this kind was done without his approbation, since even then only was the honor that was paid the king himself advantageous to the persons that paid it, when they took care to honor Joseph also. 97Now when he well knew his brethren, they thought nothing of him; for he was but a youth when he left them, and was now come to an age so much greater, that the lineaments of his face were changed, and he was not known by them: besides this, the greatness of the dignity wherein he appeared, suffered them not so much as to suspect it was he. He now made trial what sentiments they had about affairs of the greatest consequence; 98for he refused to sell them corn, and said they were come as spies of the king’s affairs; and that they came from several countries, and joined themselves together, and pretended that they were of kin, it not being possible that a private man should breed up so many sons, and those of so great beauty of countenance as they were, such an education of so many children being not easily obtained by kings themselves. 99Now this he did in order to discover what concerned his father, and what happened to him after his own departure from him, and as desiring to know what was become of Benjamin his brother; for he was afraid that they had ventured on the like wicked enterprise against him that they had done to himself, and had taken him off also.

1003. Now these brethren of his were under distraction and terror, and thought that very great danger hung over them; yet not at all reflecting upon their brother Joseph, and standing firm under the accusations laid against them, they made their defense by Reubel, the eldest of them, who now became their spokesman: 101“We come not hither,” said he, “with any unjust design, nor in order to bring any harm to the king’s affairs; we only want to be preserved, as supposing your humanity might be a refuge for us from the miseries which our country labors under, we having heard that you proposed to sell corn, not only to your own countrymen, but to strangers also, and that you determined to allow that corn, in order to preserve all that want it; 102but that we are brethren, and of the same common blood, the peculiar lineaments of our faces, and those not so much different from one another, plainly show. Our father’s name is Jacob, an Hebrew man, who had twelve of us for his sons by four wives; which twelve of us, while we were all alive, were a happy family; 103but when one of our brethren, whose name was Joseph, died, our affairs changed for the worse, for our father could not forbear to make a long lamentation for him; and we are in affliction, both by the calamity of the death of our brother, and the miserable state of our aged father. 104We are now, therefore, come to buy corn, having intrusted the care of our father, and the provision for our family, to Benjamin, our youngest brother; and if thou sendest to our house, thou mayest learn whether we are guilty of the least falsehood in what we say.”

1054. And thus did Reubel endeavor to persuade Joseph to have a better opinion of them. But when he had learned from them that Jacob was alive, and that his brother was not destroyed by them, he for the present put them in prison, as intending to examine more into their affairs when he should be at leisure. But on the third day he brought them out, and said to them, 106“Since you constantly affirm that you are not come to do any harm to the king’s affairs; that you are brethren, and the sons of the father whom you named; you will satisfy me of the truth of what you say, if you leave one of your company with me, who shall suffer no injury here; and if, when ye have carried corn to your father, you will come to me again, and bring your brother, whom you say you left there, along with you, for this shall be by me esteemed an assurance of the truth of what you have told me.” 107Hereupon they were in greater grief than before; they wept, and perpetually deplored one among another the calamity of Joseph; and said, “They were fallen into this misery as a punishment inflicted by God for what evil contrivances they had against him.” And Reubel was large in his reproaches of them for their too late repentance, whence no profit arose to Joseph; and earnestly exhorted them to bear with patience whatever they suffered, since it was done by God in way of punishment, on his account. 108Thus they spake to one another, not imagining that Joseph understood their language. A general sadness also seized on them at Reubel’s words, and a repentance for what they had done; and they condemned the wickedness they had perpetrated, for which they judged they were justly punished by God. 109Now when Joseph saw that they were in this distress, he was so affected at it that he fell into tears, and not being willing that they should take notice of him, he retired; and after a while came to them again, 110and taking Symeon in order to his being a pledge for his brethren’s return, he bid them take the corn they had bought, and go their way. He also commanded his steward privily to put the money which they had brought with them for the purchase of corn into their sacks, and to dismiss them therewith; who did what he was commanded to do.

1115. Now when Jacob’s sons were come into the land of Canaan, they told their father what had happened to them in Egypt, and that they were taken to have come thither as spies upon the king; and how they said they were brethren, and had left their eleventh brother with their father, but were not believed; and how they had left Symeon with the governor, until Benjamin should go thither, and be a testimonial of the truth of what they had said: 112and they begged of their father to fear nothing, but to send the lad along with them. But Jacob was not pleased with any thing his sons had done; and he took the detention of Symeon heinously, and thence thought it a foolish thing to give up Benjamin also. 113Neither did he yield to Reubel’s persuasion, though he begged it of him, and gave leave that the grandfather might, in way of requital, kill his own sons, in case any harm came to Benjamin in the journey. So they were distressed, and knew not what to do; nay, there was another accident that still disturbed them more,—the money that was found hidden in their sacks of corn. 114Yet when the corn they had brought failed them, and when the famine still afflicted them, and necessity forced them, Jacob did [not] still resolve to send Benjamin with his brethren, 115although there was no returning into Egypt unless they came with what they had promised. Now the misery growing every day worse, and his sons begging it of him, he had no other course to take in his present circumstances. 116And Judas, who was of a bold temper on other occasions, spake his mind very freely to him: “That it did not become him to be afraid on account of his son, nor to suspect the worst, as he did; for nothing could be done to his son but by the appointment of God, which must also for certain come to pass, though he were at home with him; 117that he ought not to condemn them to such manifest destruction; nor deprive them of that plenty of food they might have from Pharaoh, by his unreasonable fear about his son Benjamin, but ought to take care of the preservation of Symeon, lest, by attempting to hinder Benjamin’s journey, Symeon should perish. He exhorted him to trust God for him; and said he would either bring his son back to him safe, or, together with his, lose his own life.” 118So that Jacob was at length persuaded, and delivered Benjamin to them, with the price of the corn doubled; he also sent presents to Joseph of the fruits of the land of Canaan, balsam and rosin, as also turpentine and honey. Now their father shed many tears at the departure of his sons, as well as themselves. 119His concern was, that he might receive them back again safe after their journey; and their concern was, that they might find their father well, and no way afflicted with grief for them. And this lamentation lasted a whole day; so that the old man was at last tired with grief, and staid behind; but they went on their way for Egypt, endeavoring to mitigate their grief for their present misfortunes, with the hopes of better success hereafter.

1206. As soon as they came into Egypt, they were brought down to Joseph: but here no small fear disturbed them, lest they should be accused about the price of the corn, as if they had cheated Joseph. They then made a long apology to Joseph’s steward; and told him, that when they came home they found the money in their sacks, and that they had now brought it along with them. 121He said he did not know what they meant: so they were delivered from that fear. And when he had loosed Symeon, and put him into a handsome habit, he suffered him to be with his brethren; at which time Joseph came from his attendance on the king. So they offered him their presents; and upon his putting the question to them about their father, they answered that they found him well. 122He also, upon his discovery that Benjamin was alive, asked whether this was their younger brother; for he had seen him. Whereupon they said he was: he replied, that the God over all was his protector. 123But when his affection to him made him shed tears, he retired, desiring he might not be seen in that plight by his brethren. Then Joseph took them to supper, and they were set down in the same order as they used to sit at their father’s table. And although Joseph treated them all kindly, yet did he send a mess to Benjamin that was double to what the rest of the guests had for their shares.

1247. Now when after supper they had composed themselves to sleep, Joseph commanded his steward both to give them their measures of corn, and to hide its price again in their sacks; and that withal they should put into Benjamin’s sack the golden cup, out of which he loved himself to drink— 125which things he did, in order to make trial of his brethren, whether they would stand by Benjamin when he should be accused of having stolen the cup, and should appear to be in danger; or whether they would leave him, and, depending on their own innocency, go to their father without him. 126When the servant had done as he was bidden, the sons of Jacob, knowing nothing of all this, went their way, and took Symeon along with them, and had a double cause of joy, both because they had received him again, and because they took back Benjamin to their father, as they had promised. 127But presently a troop of horsemen encompassed them, and brought with them Joseph’s servant, who had put the cup into Benjamin’s sack. Upon which unexpected attack of the horsemen they were much disturbed, and asked what the reason was that they came thus upon men, 128who a little before had been by their lord thought worthy of an honorable and hospitable reception? They replied, by calling them wicked wretches, who had forgot that very hospitable and kind treatment which Joseph had given them, and did not scruple to be injurious to him, and to carry off that cup out of which he had, in so friendly a manner, drank to them, and not regarding their friendship with Joseph, no more than the danger they should be in if they were taken, in comparison of the unjust gain. 129Hereupon he threatened that they should be punished; for though they had escaped the knowledge of him who was but a servant, yet had they not escaped the knowledge of God, nor had gone off with what they had stolen; and, after all, asked why we come upon them, as if they knew nothing of the matter: and he told them that they should immediately know it by their punishment. This, and more of the same nature, did the servant say, in way of reproach to them: 130but they being wholly ignorant of any thing here that concerned them, laughed at what he said, and wondered at the abusive language which the servant gave them, when he was so hardy as to accuse those who did not before so much as retain the price of their corn, which was found in their sacks, but brought it again, though nobody else knew of any such thing,—so far were they from offering any injury to Joseph voluntarily. 131But still, supposing that a search would be a more sure justification of themselves than their own denial of the fact, they bid him search them, and that if any of them had been guilty of the theft, to punish them all; for being no way conscious to themselves of any crime, they spake with assurance, and, as they thought, without any danger to themselves also. The servants desired there might be a search made; but they said the punishment should extend to him alone who should be found guilty of the theft. 132So they made the search; and, having searched all the rest, they came last of all to Benjamin, as knowing it was Benjamin’s sack in which they had hidden the cup, they having indeed searched the rest only for a show of accuracy: 133so the rest were out of fear for themselves, and were now only concerned about Benjamin, but still were well assured that he would also be found innocent; and they reproached those that came after them for their hindering them, while they might, in the mean while, have gotten a good way on their journey. 134But as soon as they had searched Benjamin’s sack, they found the cup, and took it from him; and all was changed into mourning and lamentation. They rent their garments, and wept for the punishment which their brother was to undergo for his theft, and for the delusion they had put on their father, when they promised they would bring Benjamin safe to him. 135What added to their misery was, that this melancholy accident came unfortunately at a time when they thought they had been gotten off clear; but they confessed that this misfortune of their brother, as well as the grief of their father for him, was owing to themselves, since it was they that forced their father to send him with them, when he was averse to it.

1368. The horsemen therefore took Benjamin and brought him to Joseph, his brethren also following him; who, when he saw him in custody, and them in the habit of mourners, said, “How came you, vile wretches as you are, to have such a strange notion of my kindness to you, and of God’s providence, as impudently to do thus to your benefactor, who in such an hospitable manner had entertained you?” 137Whereupon they gave up themselves to be punished, in order to save Benjamin; and called to mind what a wicked enterprise they had been guilty of against Joseph. They also pronounced him more happy than themselves, if he were dead, in being freed from the miseries of this life; and if he were alive, that he enjoyed the pleasure of seeing God’s vengeance upon them. They said further; that they were the plague of their father, since they should now add to his former affliction for Joseph, this other affliction for Benjamin. Reubel also was large in cutting them upon this occasion. 138But Joseph dismissed them; for he said they had been guilty of no offense, and that he would content himself with the lad’s punishment; for he said it was not a fit thing to let him go free, for the sake of those who had not offended; nor was it a fit thing to punish them together with him who had been guilty of stealing. And when he promised to give them leave to go away in safety, 139the rest of them were under great consternation, and were able to say nothing on this sad occasion. But Judas, who had persuaded their father to send the lad from him, being otherwise also a very bold and active man, determined to hazard himself for the preservation of his brother. 140“It is true,” said he, “O governor, that we have been very wicked with regard to thee, and on that account deserved punishment; even all of us may justly be punished, although the theft were not committed by all, but only by one of us, and he the youngest also; but yet there remains some hope for us, who otherwise must be under despair on his account, and this from thy goodness, which promises us a deliverance out of our present danger. 141And now I beg thou wilt not look at us, or at that great crime we have been guilty of, but at thy own excellent nature, and take advice of thine own virtue, instead of that wrath thou hast against us; which passion those that otherwise are of lower character indulge, as they do their strength, and that not only on great, but also on very trifling occasions. Overcome, sir, that passion, and be not subdued by it, nor suffer it to slay those that do not otherwise presume upon their own safety, but are desirous to accept of it from thee; 142for this is not the first time that thou wilt bestow it on us, but before, when we came to buy corn, thou affordedst us great plenty of food, and gavest us leave to carry so much home to our family as has preserved them from perishing by famine. 143Nor is there any difference between not overlooking men that were perishing for want of necessaries, and not punishing those that seem to be offenders, and have been so unfortunate as to lose the advantage of that glorious benefaction which they received from thee. This will be an instance of equal favor, though bestowed after a different manner; 144for thou wilt save those this way whom thou didst feed the other; and thou wilt hereby preserve alive, by thy own bounty, those souls which thou didst not suffer to be distressed by famine, it being indeed at once a wonderful and a great thing to sustain our lives by corn, and to bestow on us that pardon, whereby, now we are distressed, we may continue those lives. 145And I am ready to suppose that God is willing to afford thee this opportunity of showing thy virtuous disposition, by bringing us into this calamity, that it may appear thou canst forgive the injuries that are done to thyself, and mayst be esteemed kind to others, besides those who, on other accounts, stand in need of thy assistance; 146since it is indeed a right thing to do well to those who are in distress for want of food, but still a more glorious thing to save those who deserve to be punished, when it is on account of heinous offenses against thyself; for if it be a thing deserving commendation to forgive such as have been guilty of small offenses, that tend to a person’s loss, and this be praiseworthy in him that overlooks such offenses, to restrain a man’s passion as to crimes which are capital to the guilty, is to be like the most excellent nature of God himself. 147And truly, as for myself, had it not been that we had a father, who had discovered, on occasion of the death of Joseph, how miserably he is always afflicted at the loss of his sons, I had not made any words on account of the saving of our own lives; I mean, any further than as that would be an excellent character for thyself, to preserve even those that would have nobody to lament them when they were dead, but we would have yielded ourselves up to suffer whatsoever thou pleasedst; 148but now (for we do not plead for mercy to ourselves, though indeed, if we die, it will be while we are young, and before we have had the enjoyment of life) have regard to our father, and take pity of his old age, on whose account it is that we make these supplications to thee. We beg thou wilt give us those lives which this wickedness of ours has rendered obnoxious to thy punishment; 149and this for his sake who is not himself wicked, nor does his being our father make us wicked. He is a good man, and not worthy to have such trials of his patience; and now, we are absent, he is afflicted with care for us. But if he hear of our deaths, and what was the cause of it, he will on that account die an immature death; 150and the reproachful manner of our ruin will hasten his end, and will directly kill him; nay, will bring him to a miserable death, while he will make haste to rid himself out of the world, and bring himself to a state of insensibility, before the sad story of our end come abroad into the rest of the world. 151Consider these things in this manner, although our wickedness does now provoke thee with a just desire of punishing that wickedness, and forgive it for our father’s sake; and let thy commiseration of him weigh more with thee than our wickedness. Have regard to the old age of our father, who, if we perish, will be very lonely while he lives, and will soon die himself also. Grant this boon to the name of fathers, 152for thereby thou wilt honor him that begat thee, and will grant it to thyself also, who enjoyest already that denomination; thou wilt then, by that denomination, be preserved of God, the Father of all,—by showing a pious regard to which, in the case of our father, thou wilt appear to honor him who is styled by the same name; I mean, if thou wilt have this pity on our father, upon this consideration, how miserable he will be if he be deprived of his sons! 153It is thy part therefore to bestow on us what God has given us, when it is in thy power to take it away, and so to resemble him entirely in charity; for it is good to use that power, which can either give or take away, on the merciful side; and when it is in thy power to destroy, to forget that thou ever hadst that power, and to look on thyself as only allowed power for preservation; and that the more any one extends this power, the greater reputation does he gain to himself. 154Now, by forgiving our brother what he has unhappily committed, thou wilt preserve us all; for we cannot think of living if he be put to death, since we dare not show ourselves alive to our father without our brother, but here must we partake of one and the same catastrophe of his life. 155And so far we beg of thee, O governor, that if thou condemnest our brother to die, thou wilt punish us together with him, as partners of his crime,—for we shall not think it reasonable to be reserved to kill ourselves for grief of our brother’s death, but so to die rather as equally guilty with him of this crime. 156I will only leave with thee this one consideration, and then will say no more, viz. that our brother committed this fault when he was young, and not yet of confirmed wisdom in his conduct; and that men naturally forgive such young persons. I end here, without adding what more I have to say, that in case thou condemnest us, that omission may be supposed to have hurt us, and permitted thee to take the severer side. 157But in case thou settest us free, that this may be ascribed to thy own goodness, of which thou art inwardly conscious, that thou freest us from condemnation; and that not by barely preserving us, but by granting us such a favor as will make us appear more righteous than we really are, and by representing to thyself more motives for our deliverance than we are able to produce ourselves. 158If, therefore, thou resolvest to slay him, I desire thou wilt slay me in his stead, and send him back to his father; or if thou pleasest to retain him with thee as a slave, I am fitter to labor for thy advantage in that capacity, and, as thou seest, am better prepared for either of those sufferings.” 159So Judas, being very willing to undergo any thing whatever for the deliverance of his brother, cast himself down at Joseph’s feet, and earnestly labored to assuage and pacify his anger. All his brethren also fell down before him, weeping and delivering themselves up to destruction for the preservation of the life of Benjamin.

16010. But Joseph, as overcome now with his affections, and no longer able to personate an angry man, commanded all that were present to depart, that he might make himself known to his brethren when they were alone; and when the rest were gone out, he made himself known to his brethren; and said, 161“I commend you for your virtue, and your kindness to our brother: I find you better men than I could have expected from what you contrived about me. Indeed, I did all this to try your love to your brother; so I believe you were not wicked by nature in what you did in my case, but that all has happened according to God’s will, who has hereby procured our enjoyment of what good things we have; and, if he continue in a favorable disposition, of what we hope for hereafter. 162Since, therefore, I know that our father is safe and well, beyond expectation, and I see you so well disposed to your brother, I will no longer remember what guilt you seem to have had about me, but will leave off to hate you for that your wickedness; and do rather return you my thanks, that you have concurred with the intentions of God to bring things to their present state. 163I would have you also rather to forget the same, since that imprudence of yours is come to such a happy conclusion, than to be uneasy and blush at those your offenses. Do not, therefore, let your evil intentions, when you condemned me, and that bitter remorse which might follow, be a grief to you now, because those intentions were frustrated. 164Go, therefore, your way, rejoicing in what has happened by the Divine Providence, and inform your father of it, lest he should be spent with cares for you, and deprive me of the most agreeable part of my felicity; I mean, lest he should die before he comes into my sight, and enjoys the good things that we now have. 165Bring, therefore, with you our father, and your wives and children, and all your kindred, and remove your habitations hither; for it is not proper that the persons dearest to me should live remote from me, now my affairs are so prosperous, especially when they must endure five more years of famine.” 166When Joseph had said this, he embraced his brethren, who were in tears and sorrow; but the generous kindness of their brother seemed to leave among them no room for fear, lest they should be punished on account of what they had consulted and acted against him; and they were then feasting. 167Now the king, as soon as he heard that Joseph’s brethren were come to him, was exceeding glad of it, as if it had been a part of his own good fortune; and gave them wagons full of corn and gold and silver, to be conveyed to his father. Now when they had received more of their brother part to be carried to their father, and part as free gifts to every one of themselves, Benjamin having still more than the rest, they departed.

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