We left off last time with Joseph watching as his brothers started for home. Let’s pop back in on them on their journey. They have AMAZING news for their father and life changing news for the rest of the family.
♥ ♦ ♥
This is a long journey. This is the second time nine of the brothers have made it. Last time this portion of the journey was a LOT different. Simeon had been left in prison in Egypt and they were bringing a message to their father that there would be no more food, after what they carried with them, unless Benjamin accompanied them back to Egypt. They were further stressed when Gad discovered his money still in his sack. They traveled all the way home with a sense of doom hanging over their heads. They all felt as if God Himself was punishing them. They were wearing the stink of guilt on them over the way they had treated their brother Joseph.
This time the atmosphere was MUCH different! There was a feeling of celebration in the air. They were bringing home the BEST news their father could ever hope for. AND they were bringing ALL of them home together. No one had been left in prison. Benjamin hadn’t been captured or killed. They were bringing gifts for their father from his TRUE favored son. And they were bringing hope for the future of the whole family!
But a long journey, even one filled with excitement, can cause friction between the travelers. There are a lot more animals to care for on this trip home. Pharaoh has sent his best carts to carry Jacob, the women, and their children back to Egypt. Those carts have to be pulled by animals and those animals have to be cared for. Also there was an issue with who would be walking and who would be driving carts. The carts would have been much handier if they were empty and the animal’s burdens could have been stored there but they also carried gifts for their father in them. Some of the animal’s loads could be shifted to carts resulting in those animals being led by ropes attached to the carts. But someone had to walk with the animals that still carried burdens.
Benjamin had been sheltered a lot of his life as his father’s favorite. He helped with the flocks but his involvement was limited. He wasn’t the best herder of the bunch. On the way to Egypt all he had to worry about was his own donkey. Now there were nearly four times the number of animals to drive all the way home. The rest of the brothers were used to handling big herds but fully loaded animals and long journey’s tended to get the best of even experienced animal handlers. One good thing about herding loaded animals was that they weren’t able to run away as easily as ones that carried no burdens.
The brothers rotated the burdens on the animals as well as on themselves. Benjamin, being the least experienced herdsman, received the job of driving a cart more often than not. This treatment began to wear on all the brothers. Benjamin felt he was being treated this way out of scorn by his brothers for his ‘lack of ability’. “He’s just a ‘baby’, what can he do?” “Look at those soft hands. He’s never done a day’s work in his life.” These are phrases he remembers from his youth on. They were the result of his father’s favoritism and being kept near him. He didn’t want this special treatment. He wanted to be just like his brothers.
Several of the brothers thought Benjamin should ‘pull his own weight’ on this journey at least. No. He didn’t have to work as hard at home but they were tired of walking too and wanted a break. Because of the added animals and the additional load this trip seemed to be taking forever! “Why can’t he get off his cart and help?” “He isn’t a baby any more. He needs to pull his own weight.” They didn’t resent Benjamin like they had Joseph, they were just weary.
One night as they were preparing for sleep after making camp and eating Reuben’s tasty meal, Benjamin complained about a stiff back from sitting in the driver’s seat for so many hours. Gad, who had been walking with the animals for three days, jerks his head up and looks straight at Benjamin. Gad had been sitting by the fire, exhausted, with his head hanging so low from his shoulders his chin rested on his chest. “Poor baby! I’m SO sorry your back hurts. Maybe you should lay down in the cart tomorrow and rest while we ‘rock you to sleep’ on the way. Should we put up a shade for you too so you don’t get too hot?”
Judah snaps to attention at the Gad’s words too. His eyes are fixed on the two brothers who sit within a meter of each other. Gad’s words slap Benjamin in the face as stinging as any blow could have. Benjamin’s face colors and he jumps up. Gad quickly gets to his feet when he sees Benjamin rise. Judah isn’t certain but it looks like blows are about to be exchanged. “Enough!” Judah shouts. “It’s not right for us to fight amongst ourselves. That kind of behavior never solved anything. If anyone should know that, it’s us! We are brothers! Let’s act that way. And besides, wasn’t it Joseph, who has come back to us from the dead, who told us not to fight? If anyone had reason to be angry and fight it was surely him, yet he forgave. We need to follow his example.”
Gad lowers his head in shame. “I’m sorry Benjamin. I’m just tired. I haven’t ridden in several days I guess I was just jealous. . I know your job is tiring too. Please forgive me.”
“I’m sorry too brother. I recognize your job is much harder than the one I have been doing. I was just being… a baby?” Benjamin says with a half-smile. “Tell you what; I’ll trade you places for the next two days. You ride and I’ll herd.”
“No. Better not. We would be chasing down your animals all day instead” Gad says with a twinkle in his eye and a smile. Benjamin takes it for the good natured kidding it is being offered in. All the brothers laugh.
“How about this; I will take the nightly feeding duties the rest of the way home. That is one way I can help out a little more” offers Benjamin in all seriousness.
Judah answers for the group. “That would be awesome brother. Thank you for your kind offer. But if you need help, PLEASE ask and we will be more than happy to pitch in too.”
After that night things seemed to go smoother the rest of the way home. The smiles that had been on the faces of the brothers at the onset of their return trip home reappeared and remained in place for the rest of the journey. Not everything was perfect, but peace had been found between the brothers.
It has been MANY weeks since the group left Egypt, loaded to the gills with good and good news. As they crest the last hill they can see their destination just below them. Home looks so inviting that they want to run to get there but they know better than that. It will be another two day’s journey before they are officially home. They are buoyed by the sight and that feeling makes the rest of the journey manageable.
That night as they make camp, just one day from home, the brothers talk excitedly about their ‘surprise’ for their father. “What do you think father will say when we tell him Joseph is alive?” asks Judah.
“I think we will probably have to pick him up off the ground from shock” offers Levi.
“Shock! I just pray his heart doesn’t stop!” says Reuben.
“Do you think he will believe us?” asks Asher.
Gad waves his hand towards all the animals around them. “How could he not with all we are bringing with us?”
“When in doubt, point it out” offers Benjamin with a raised index finger waving in the air.
Judah gives him a brotherly shove. “Good job there my young poet.”
On the other side of that one day’s journey waits Jacob. He has been wringing his hands since the day Benjamin left camp. He has also been praying like never before. “Please God of my fathers, bring Benjamin back to me. Bring all my sons home. I remember Your promises to me about my descendants being too numerous to count. You have made a great start with all those in my camp right now but we will all be devastated if my sons don’t return. PLEASE bring them home!”
Jacob has been counting the days and estimating travel times from the moment they left. He is beside himself at this point as he is certain they should have returned by now. He spends hours each day watching the horizon with that final hill his sons will have to pass over. He saw a large group pass over it this morning but that group was too big to be his band of brothers. Yes, they are a large group on their own but this one has WAY too many animals to be them. They seem to be heading in his direction though. If they keep on their current path he will ask them tomorrow if they have encountered his band of eleven brothers. Hopefully he can receive some kind of word regarding his sons.
Jacob has sent two on his grandsons from the herds to the road instead. Shelah, Judah’s son, and Sered, Zebulun’s oldest son, have been given the duty of lookout and ambassador to the group approaching. They are to ask them if they need shelter for the night and if they have seen the band of brothers. Jacob feels that by offering shelter he is more apt to get them to share news of their travels.
It is midday when the band of brothers encounter the two scouts. Shelah and Sered recognize Benjamin riding on the leading cart. They look at each other in astonishment. “Is that who I think it is?” asks Sered.
“If you think it is our uncle Benjamin they we are seeing the same thing!”
The two jump up from the tree where they had been resting, waiting on the travelers to approach, and run towards the approaching group. As they get nearer the each spot their fathers among the procession. “Father!” yells Shelah.
Judah looks up at the sound of his son’s voice. “Shelah! So you must be the advance welcoming committee” says Judah as he gives his son a hug.
Zebulun and Sered are likewise greeting one another. “What is all this?” asks Sered as he looks around at the additional animals and the carts. He walks over to examine one of Pharaoh’s carts. “Where did you get this?” is his second question in mere moments. Zebulun smiles at his son and gives him a shrug of his shoulders.
The band of brothers stopped for a moment to greet their welcoming committee. “Don’t you two think you should report back to your grandfather and tell him we are on our way” asks Levi from the seat of another cart. His smile can’t be missed. It is the only part of his face not covered in dust. Shelah and Sered hug their fathers one last time then take off running towards home.
“I bet half the camp will be out by the time we get there with the way those two are running” laughs Issachar. Before moving out for the last of the journey the brothers quickly rearrange things in their group. They know their father will want to see Benjamin first and foremost. They are not troubled by this though. But they don’t want him seeing the ‘gifts’ first. After their discussion of how their father would take the news they thought they should ‘soften the blow’ a bit by presenting things in stages.
After all is set for the ‘big surprise’ herders ‘whoops’ are sent up to get the animals moving again. Home is only a few hours away and the thoughts of the brothers are all turned to their father and the surprise he has coming.
The two scouts reached camp significantly ahead of the group. Shouts of “It’s them!” and “They are coming!” are heard as the two young men approach. Their excitement can’t be contained.
Jacob comes out of his tent at the sound of his grandson’s greetings. Jacob waves Sered over to him. “Who is it? Are they willing to share news of their travels? Have they met up with your uncles?”
“It’s them grandfather! They are home. I just spoke with father myself.”
“Was Benjamin with them?” Jacob asks with a tremor of fear in his voice.
“He was in the lead when we met them. They should arrive shortly grandfather. All appears well.”
The dust from the procession is abundant as they near the camp. The land is scorched from the lack of rain and the size of the group is stirring up enough dust to choke a herd of camels! But Jacob is not detoured. He stands at the edge of the camp looking as hard as he can at the approaching group. He is searching out the face of his youngest son. As foretold, Benjamin is in the lead. He is leading two donkeys.
Jacob rushes to him as soon as he identifies his face in the cloud of dust. Jacob embraces him with such force that he nearly knocks both of them off their feet. “Easy father. We don’t want to be trampled by the donkeys. It is GOOD to see you too!” It takes everything within Benjamin to wait for the rest of his brothers to join him by their father before sharing their exciting news.
The band finally comes to a complete halt and many of the family have come out to greet them. Hugs flow all around but are short in duration as the brothers all move towards their father. The ‘children’ have moved off and begin to take notice of all that has accompanied the brothers but the brother’s attention is focused solely on their father. Every one of their faces wears a huge smile.
It was decided that, as the eldest brother, Reuben would be the one to break the news to their father. “Father we have something to tell you. You may want to sit down first through.”
Jacob sees the smiles on their faces and hears the slight warning in Reuben’s words. He braces himself. What could they want to tell me that is both good and jarring? “No. Tell me now. What is it?”
“Joseph is alive! We have seen him. He is the ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Reuben delivers this with a smile and a hand on his father’s shoulder.
“No. What were you really going to tell me? That’s not even funny.”
“It’s true father” says Benjamin. “We would never lie to you about such a thing.”
The brothers separate as a curtain parting and sweep their arms directing his attention to all that they have brought with them. Judah says “These are gifts from your son Joseph. He has provided food in abundance AND Pharaoh’s choicest chariots to bring you and ALL our family back to him in Egypt.”
As Jacob’s eyes begin to move over the animals, their burdens and the beautifully designed loaded carts his heart begins to pound within his chest. “Joseph”, he whispers. As if just now finding his voice for the first time, “Joseph” he says in a shout. “Praise be to my God! Joseph is alive!” His feet nearly dance. He has not felt this alive in years. “This is WONDERFUL news. It is enough that he is alive. I didn’t need all these gifts. His life is gift enough. YES! Let’s go! I have to see him again before I die.”
The next week is spent in a frenzy. There is so much to do to prepare this huge group and all their belongings for this move. The brothers have tried repeatedly to tell their father that they don’t need to bring everything they own as Joseph has promised to have accommodations in place upon their arrival. But Jacob will hear none of it. “We will bring what the Lord has provided for us here. We will not be a burden on Pharaoh’s back.” With this said, everything that the family owns in packed for travel.
The family breaks camp as soon as it is light the first day of the week following the brother’s return. This trip is going to be even slower than the brother’s return but what awaits is enough to keep the whole family motivated.
There is much to do on this journey as so great a company and possessions need constant tending. But the most important agenda item on this journey to Jacob is giving thanks to God. Each night the family gathers to praise God for the day’s successes and pray for the road ahead. Jacob has instilled this practice in his family since they buried the false idols years ago. True, many in the household had strayed away from this practice but he is determined to reinstate it on this journey.
Beersheba is a special place to Jacob. This is where both his grandfather and father made treaties with Abimelech and the last place he had stopped before having his amazing dream about the stairway to heaven. Jacob feels this place is deserving of special recognition on their way out of the land of promise. Jacob doesn’t know how long it will be before he returns here but he wants to reaffirm his commitment to God and His promises at this historic family spot. Jacob chooses to use the same altar his father and grandfather used for his sacrifice.
The lamb, which had been prepared by Jacob’s own hand, is carefully laid on the altar his sons cleaned for him. He also had the oldest sons of each of his sons prepare the wood for the fire. His great grandsons gather to hold the torch for the fire. Jacob wants his entire family involved in this sacrificial offering. He is committing ALL of his descendants to God in this action.
“Lord God of my father’s, Abraham and Isaac, You promised this land we are walking in as an everlasting inheritance to Abraham for his descendants. We recognize You as the One who is in control of ALL things. As we leave this land, I pray we are following Your path. The fact that You spared my son Joseph and set him over all of Egypt, where we have turned for food to sustain us, speaks of Your desire for us to follow this path. We commit the remainder of this journey into Your hands. If this is the wrong course of action for us to follow, please make that abundantly clear and we will turn as one to the direction You indicate. Let us return again to this land to receive Your promise in Your time.”
That night God answers Jacob’s prayer. He visits him in his dreams. This is no ordinary dream. Jacob knows the voice of God in his dreams, so he listens closely this night to what God has to tell him. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (verses 3-4).
Every reservation Jacob had been holding in his heart melted away in that moment. God had addressed ALL of his fears. God had also promised him something that He had promised to him much earlier. God promised to go with him personally to the place he was journeying. God had made that same promise to him when he was traveling to Laban. And God had proved Himself faithful in that journey. Jacob knew he could trust in Him for this one too. Jacob an ALL his household would go to Joseph as one. They would begin the nation God had just promised him under Joseph’s watchful eye and God’s protection. His ‘small band’ of seventy were in for a new chapter in their lives. One that God Himself was going to write. Jacob’s eyes sparkled a little brighter that morning and his step was a little lighter as they headed out for their new promise.
♥ ♦ ♥
Father God, I wish I could have been as certain as Jacob was when I made several of the moves that have occurred over my lifetime. Only You know how many more moves are left for me. But You have spoken to my heart about other things in my life. Not usually as clearly as You spoke to Jacob but just as faith building.
I LOVE how You answered EACH of Jacob’s fears in Your response. I find it interesting though how Jacob didn’t ask for Your guidance before leaving home. If You would have said “No” at Beersheba would he have turned back? He had his heart set on seeing Joseph at least one more time. Was his delayed commitment a sign of rushing and excitement or of being afraid of receiving a negative answer? I’ve heard it said by many, including Christians, that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. That is often because we KNOW what we are doing is outside of Your will.
You know I’m struggling with something along those lines too. I’ve attested to something that is not ‘technically’ true. It is a partial truth. I asked forgiveness for the issue but I have also asked You to bless the result of it. Am I being shrewd or am I in sin? I REALLY would like a clear answer like Jacob received on this issue. I entered into that decision based on sound advice, but it was worldly advice. Lead me where YOU would have me go Father.
Thank You Holy Spirit for bring Joseph’s story to life for me. I LOVE seeing where You will take it each day. I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey with him too.