The family finally arrives in Egypt. Joseph directs them to the place they will now live. He also instructs them as to what to say when they are called before Pharaoh.
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The family is still two days journey away from Egypt when Jacob notices all the people. The famine is bringing more and more people in search of food to Joseph’s front door. Jacob does not want to get caught in the middle of all this traffic. He doesn’t want to bring his flocks into town and have to try and find space for them. He decides to send someone ahead of them to get directions to where Joseph wants them to go. Judah volunteers for this task.
Joseph has been watching for his family for some time. He knows their journey will be slow but his excitement and anticipation are beginning to wear on him. His duties keep him busy during the wait. Those same duties are what allowed him to find his brothers in the first place.
Joseph is watching over one of the stations where grain is being sold from the storehouse. He hears his Hebrew name being shouted and looks up in time to see Judah weaving his way through the crowd. It is like a sea of people between Judah and Joseph. Joseph doesn’t see any more of his family members with Judah. This is a little puzzling. Joseph turns to his steward and instructs him to have guards bring Judah to him at his resting place. Joseph watches as the guards make their way towards Judah. Once they near him, Joseph turns and begins his own short journey to his place of rest.
It is at the top of the stairs where he can watch the proceedings without being in the throng of people. It is also equipped with a canopy for shade, water and wine for refreshing and a bit of snacks to keep Joseph fresh throughout the day. Joseph doesn’t spend a lot of time here because he likes to ‘keep his finger on the pulse’ of the activity. He is a hands on overseer.
Judah is ushered to the foot of the stairs by the guards and then released to finish the journey to Joseph. He bows deeply as he approaches. Joseph smiles and welcomes him. Sit my brother. Refresh yourself. Judah gladly accepts Joseph’s offer of a drink of water. He has traveled hard and fast today. He wanted to reach Joseph as quickly as possible so he could return before his family got swept up in the crowds making their way to the city.
Joseph waits patiently while Judah finishes his drink before enquiring about the rest of the family. “Where is my father? Is he here somewhere?”
Joseph’s voice is gentle as he asks. Judah hears the longing in Joseph’s voice. “The family is very near. The crowds were too large to bring them here to you. Father is concerned for the livestock and the little ones. He doesn’t want them to get trampled by all the people. We were hoping for directions to the place where we will finally make camp.
Joseph nods in understanding. “That is a wise decision. Let me draw you a map.” Joseph instructs his steward, who accompanies him wherever he goes, to retrieve a clean scroll and a writing implement. As soon as they are in his hands he begins to draw the route his family should take to reach the land of Goshen. This is where Joseph has chosen for them to dwell. It is a lush and productive valley, at least it is when it is not caught in the hands of this famine. It is also isolated enough that his family shouldn’t have any trouble with the ‘neighbors’.
Judah listens to Joseph’s directions closely and pays particular attention to the terrain and landmarks he needs to attend to in order to reach their destination. Judah is also calculating how long it should take for them to reach this point. It would take a lone person a day or two but his group will probably require four to five days.
Judah secures Joseph’s map under his belt and prepares to leave. “We should arrive no later than five days from now at this valley you have marked. Do you want me to bring father to you after we make camp?”
“No. I will meet you there on the day you arrive. I’m going to send a runner with you. When you are no more than a day’s travel from Goshen, your day’s travel, send him to me and I will come to you to welcome father personally to his new home.”
“That sounds good. I look forward to seeing you reunited with father.” A cloud of guilt washes over Judah’s face. “Joseph…”
“You don’t need to say anything brother. This was God’s doing. His hand working to preserve us all. Let it go.”
Judah nods his head and wipes fresh tears from his eyes. Joseph’s steward had gathered a runner while they were saying their farewells. Judah and the runner make their way out of town and back towards his father’s camp.
When they near the camp Judah is relieved that they didn’t travel any further in his absence. They would have had to backtrack some otherwise. Jacob himself was keeping watch as Judah arrives. “No excitement in you is there father” Judah says with a wink and a smile.
Jacob smiles back. “Just anxious for this journey to finally be over. I’m an old man and I need my sleep! I was kind of hoping that Joseph would return with you.”
“Joseph has provided us with a map to our final destination. He says he will meet us there upon arrival. He cannot get away from his duties so easily. He has also provided this strong young man here as a runner to bring him news when we near our new home so he can set out to greet you personally.”
“Good. That sounds like a good plan. What are we waiting for? Let’s get these people moving!”
Within half an hour camp is repacked and the group begins the last leg of their journey. Jacob questions the runner about the place they are going. He also asks him about Joseph. He longs to hear stories of his son during the years he missed. The runner is ripe with information regarding Goshen but is reluctant to speak at all about Joseph. He doesn’t want to appear disrespectful to his master. Jacob stops pressing after a short time and concentrates on the journey.
Four days of slow travel and lively talk pass before the runner is dispatched to Joseph. The runner was very helpful in navigating the way whenever Joseph’s hastily drawn map left any confusion.
Jacob stands on a rise at the rim of the valley the final morning of their journey. The valley is beautiful, even in the grip of the famine. There is plenty of evidence of what it can yield. Fruit trees, flowing streams and grass for grazing are still in abundance. This is the best place they have seen in all of Egypt so far. There also are few inhabitants of this valley. This puzzles Jacob as one would expect such a valley to be teaming with residents. He will just have to chalk this up as another of God’s preparations.
The group begins their descent into the valley and everyone is looking around at their new home. It’s not Canaan but it is still beautiful. Jacob had chosen a spot for their main camp while he looked over the valley that morning. He heads the group in that direction throughout the day. He also keeps looking towards the direction the runner indicated Joseph would enter. He is anxious to see his son again. “Imagine, after ALL these years. I’m FINALLY going to see my son again!”
The sounds of the herds drowned out the sound of approaching chariots until they were nearly upon the group. Jacob looks up as Joseph’s chariot stops within meters of him. Joseph has not come alone. He has brought help for setting up camp for the family. Men step out of their chariots and begin to unload supplies for the family. They have brought canvas for tents, cooking pots, rugs for flooring, and freshly cooked quale and bread for supper. As soon as their chariots are unloaded the drivers return to them and make their way back to Egypt.
Joseph has overseen the unloading of each chariot and the dispatch of them back on their way. He finally turns to the group who has been watching in awe. The weary travelers are very thankful for the generous gifts.
Jacob could hardly contain his pride, or keep his feet from running to Joseph, as he watched his son manage the Egyptian servants so efficiently. Both Jacob and Joseph’s faces are radiant as they approach one another. Nothing restrains them from running now! They fly into each other’s arms and weep tears of joy. They remain locked in this embrace so long that the brothers begin to direct the family to begin setting up camp to give them time alone.
Finally they break their embrace. Jacob takes Joseph’s face in his hands and swipes at tears still running from Joseph’s eyes while ignoring those drying on his own face. “Now I can die in peace. Now that I know you are still alive and seen your face, I am content to leave this world.” Jacob’s smile is wide enough to split his face in two.
“Not for a LONG time yet father, if I have anything to say about it.” Joseph wraps his arm around his father and they move together to join the family who is busy making preparations for their new home. Both men survey the activities for a bit and relish the time together.
Joseph clears his throat and calls to his brothers. “Brothers, I need to speak with you a moment please.”
All eleven brothers join Joseph and Jacob. Joseph can’t help but smile as he counts his family. ALL present and accounted for. “I have to go meet with Pharaoh to let him know that you have arrived. I’m going to tell him that everyone has arrived safely and that you are shepherds. In due time he will call you before himself and inquire of you as to your training. Egypt is famous for making the most of the talents within her borders. When you meet with him you are to tell him that you have been keepers of livestock ALL your years. Let him know that this is a generational skill that you have learned at your father’s knee.”
Heads nod in understanding an acceptance of Joseph’s instructions. But he is not finished yet. He has something important they need to know in order to preserve their distinction from the Egyptians while living in their land.
“I need you to understand why you must tell Pharaoh of your occupation as I have described it to you. Egyptians think of shepherds as an abomination. They will NOT associate with shepherds or even dwell near them. That is why this valley is so sparse. This is a beautiful valley for sheep and the few shepherds that are required for Egypt dwell here. They are not Egyptians but serve Egypt in this capacity. Wool is not highly prized in Egypt so her herds are small. Egypt prefers her cloths made from cottons. God has distinguished our family from all others through His covenant and circumcision. He wants His people to be set apart and holy. Egypt holds to many false gods. By being separated here, by geography and talent, I hope to insulate you from those false gods. Our family has been called to worship the One true God; the God of our fathers. This is the place from which we can do that, until He returns us to the land of promise.”
Jacob is struck silent by the foresight of Joseph. God has truly been working in him to have given him this wisdom. They will do as Joseph says. He does NOT want to have to bury false gods again! He wants his family to remain faithful to the One true God. As long as there is breath in his lungs, he will continue to draw them closer to Him.
Joseph’s brothers all acknowledge his instructions and agree to follow them.
“I will provide for all your needs as long as there is breath in my body. You need not fear for your safety. You will no longer know hunger or thirst. Enjoy the land and raise your families. You are all welcome here by Pharaoh himself.” They are grateful for Joseph’s promises and for his loving heart.
“The next time I return I will have three final surprises to share with you. Until then, enjoy what God has provided.” Joseph departs after one final round of hugs from all of his family members.
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Holy Spirit, thank You for sharing with me today the reason Joseph had his brothers tell Pharaoh of their occupation. Previously when reading this passage and the one where they stand before Pharaoh and answer his question, I was confused as to why they chose the word “shepherd” to describe themselves. A “keeper of livestock” could have been ANY animal from chickens to cows to camels to sheep. Joseph explicitly told them of the position shepherds held in Egyptian society. But they would choose to use that term anyway. I’m convinced what You showed me is why. They were actually following Joseph’s instructions and ensuring their own isolation. And with that isolation, false gods were also kept away from them. They were free to worship the True God instead. VERY clever plan there God!
Just as Jacob’s family was kept separated from false gods, I have to do the same. My life doesn’t allow me geographic separation or even cultural separation any longer. Because of “tolerance” and “political correctness” we are immersed in a sea of other beliefs. We are/I am also very well versed in making gods out of other things in my life. Too often material things have tried to sit on Your throne. Thank You for opening my eyes each time to their presence and leading me to ‘dethrone’ them! They have NO place on Your throne or in my heart. Help me keep the barriers You erected in place to keep my heart secure.
I LOVE seeing father and son reunited. And I LOVE seeing Your fingerprints in the sand directing this whole journey. They just thought they were living out their own designs. In Your time You make ALL things beautiful!