Bible stories : 09 Joseph, part 8.
Part 8 : Surprise, pt 2.
1600 - 1700-ish B.C.
Joseph uses his spy network to learn they’re coming and prepares a giant feast. The brothers are bewildered upon discovering...and rightfully nervous. What in the name of a Nile crocodile is the Vizier inviting them to a big feast for?
Ebo brings out Simeon. In their absence, he has received a promotion and is now both interpreter and steward. Simeon is well and seems relatively healthy from a physical standpoint, although the psychological scars from being thrown into an Egyptian prison do not disappear quickly, from what I understand. There are hugs and backslapping and smiles, although the smiles remain of the nervous variety, as they still have no idea what’s really going on. Then the Vizier steps into the banquet room. He looks around…
...his eyes alight upon Benjamin. The brothers watch curiously as he stares at the boy, and then suddenly ducks his head and walks out of the room. They look at each other, whispering, muttering. Ebo walks over to check on them.
“Don’t worry,” he reassures them. “Vizier is emotional sometimes. He probably left for a few minutes because he is really happy. Or really angry. He sometimes leaves parties when he is overwhelmed with anger or with happiness. It’s definitely one of the two.”
This does a great deal to escalate their anxiety. “Escalate” is a word that means “go up, and their anxiety is higher than a great pyramid of grain. Then Vizier reappears, smiling. “Let’s eat!” he says.
They eat. They eat well, and there is much laughter. Things are great! When the feast is over the Vizier orders Ebo to give everyone all the food they can carry...and to again hide the silver in the bags. Except...in one bag, there is to be placed a secret item…
The next day, the brothers take off. All eleven of them. They are smiling, jocular, incredulous at their good fortune. A big feast, conversation with the Vizier, a bunch of grain...how much better could things get? “Oh look!” says Dan. “It’s Ebo!”
Sure enough, Ebo comes galloping up with a contingent of guards. “Hey Ebo,” Naphtali says. “Did we forget something?”
Ebo glares at him. “Somebody,” he says grimly. “Stole Vizier’s silver goblet.”
“Ebo,” says Naphtali, “how can you think that? There is no way that any of us would do that. I definitely would never ever do that. Simeon or Dan might, but I doubt it, and they probably didn’t. Go ahead and search them though!”
“Yes, search us,” says Reuben. “If you find it, then that person shall die and we would become your slaves! That’s how sure I am we didn’t take it!”
“Yep,” says Naphtali, “they will be your slaves if one of them accidentally took it. So search away.”
“Oh, we will,” growls Ebo.
They do. And they find the goblet.
In Benjamin’s grain pack.
Back to Joseph - whom they know as the Vizier - to face the piper and pay him. “Pay the piper” is an expression that means “it’s time to face the consequences of your actions.” In this case, Joseph is the piper. “What made you think you could get away with stealing from me...again?” he whispers.
“Yes, what made you think you could get away from stealing from us again?!” thunders Ebo.
“I have decided,” says Joseph quietly, “that this boy, Benjamin, shall suffer the punishment. He will be my slave. In my graciousness and goodness, I shall let the rest of you go.”
Ebo translates this at a volume three times louder. Judah steps forward.
“Vizier, please...our father Israel will die if we don’t come back with his second favorite son. Ben is actually probably his favourite now that Joseph has been gone so long. He won’t be able to handle it. Please, I will stay instead as your slave. Please.”
Ebo translates this very loudly to Joseph, who stands there staring at Judah without speaking or blinking.
“Leave.” he whispers. “Everyone leave.”
“Everyone leave!” shouts Ebo. “NOW!”
“Ebo,” says Joseph. “I mean you. I want you and all of my guards to leave.”
“But sir…” says Ebo. “Will you be safe?”
“Yes.“ says Joseph. “I will be safe.
Everyone leaves, and Vizier turns to the eleven men. He looks up, tears coming down his cheeks.
“I am…” he says in their native tongue, weeping. “...Joseph. Your brother.”
He has their total attention. Reuben slowly steps forward. “Joseph?” he whispers, peering into his eyes.
“Yes.” he says.
We’ll skip through a bunch of the reunion stuff. Joseph gives a heartfelt speech about forgiving them, and about how God intended for things to unfold the way they did so Joseph would be in a position to someday help his people, and how everything is all good now, and so on and so forth.
“God wanted to make sure our people would survive,” he says. “He’s used me. So go home now. Get Dad. Tell him I’m super successful and my only boss - besides God - is Pharaoh. Bring him here to Goshen and you all will live here. There’s still five years of famine left, so is this is pretty much the place to be.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic, and even if it didn’t make sense - which it did - they would have been wise to not argue after everything that just transpired. So they head home and tell Israel. Of course he doesn’t believe them at first, but then he sees all the gifts and food Joseph has sent and finally, finally, he buys it and agrees to move. Before he leaves, God tells him in a dream to not be afraid about going to Egypt, and that He is going to make a great nation there and someday they’ll be able to return to Canaan.
The family moves. There is massive crying and tears, and Israel can’t stop hugging Joseph, and Dad can die happy now. But happily he doesn’t, and lives another seventeen years, so they get some good twilight years together, even with Joseph being busy helping save the country and all. All the brothers are together and can begin rebuilding shattered relationships and trust and all that, and some of them do more than others, but they are together and that, in the end, is what counts.
So there they are, in Egypt. They don’t know what the future holds, but - spoiler alert - they will live in Egypt for the next 400 years. Many of those years are going to be good years, and they’ll make good memories and strong babies and vibrant communities and, and…
...and then, things are gonna get bad. They’re gonna get really, really bad.
Sorry to end on a sad note. That story is for another time.
So just remember the happy ending of Joseph reconciling with his family, and do not spend one second thinking of how the move to Egypt will eventually lead to the enslavement of an entire people. Not a single second.
That’s the end of Genesis.