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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 45:25–46:34]

WHEN Joseph’s brethren returned to their father, they told him: “Joseph, thy son, is living, and he is ruler in all the land of Egypt.” But Jacob did not believe them, till they showed him the chariots and all the presents that Joseph had sent. Then he awoke, as it were, from a deep sleep; his spirit revived, and he said: “It is enough for me, if Joseph, my son, be yet living. I will go and see him, before I die.”

And he set out for Egypt, with his whole family and all his possessions. When he had reached the confines of Chanaan, he offered a sacrifice to God, who spoke to him in a vision of the night, saying: “Fear not, go down into Egypt, for I will make a great nation of thee there, and will bring thee back again from thence.” Consoled by the vision, Jacob continued his journey, and arrived in Egypt.

Juda went on in advance to apprise Joseph of his father’s approach. Joseph immediately made ready his chariot, and went out to meet his father. As soon as he saw him coming, he descended from his chariot and embraced him, weeping.

And Jacob said to Joseph: “Now I shall die with joy, because I have seen thy face, and leave thee alive.” Joseph presented his father to Pharao, who asked him: “How many are the years of thy life?” Jacob answered: “The days of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years, few and evil, and they are not come up to the days of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob, having blessed the king, retired. And Joseph gave his father and his brothers possessions in the land of Gessen, the most beautiful and fertile part of Egypt.

The love of parents for their children. You can see by the example of Jacob, how very strong is the love which parents have for their children. He had mourned for Joseph for twenty-three long years, and the moment he heard that he was alive, full of fatherly love, he cried out that he asked for nothing more on earth than to see his son Joseph once more. Then, too, how troubled he was about the prisoner Simeon, and how anxious about Benjamin! He proved his love for Joseph by his actions, for out of love for him he left his home, notwithstanding his infirmities, and undertook a long and difficult journey. Parents are only too willing to do all they can for their children.

Love and respect for parents. This story shows us the love and respect which Joseph had for his father. Joseph acted as he did, although his father was a shepherd, and shepherds were despised in Egypt. Moreover, by reason of the famine, Jacob had become poor. Joseph, however, was not ashamed of the humble and poor condition of his father, but showed him every open mark of respect that he could.

Respect for old age. King Pharao paid respect to Jacob, not only because he was Joseph’s father, but because of his old age. We should always respect old age. “Rise up before the hoary head, and honour the person of the aged man” (Lev. 19:32).

Prayer for light. Jacob prayed and offered up a sacrifice, in order to learn God’s will. If we are in doubt, we should seek counsel not only from our parents, confessor &c., but we should pray to the Holy Ghost for light.

Consolation in suffering. Once both Jacob and Joseph wept for sorrow; now they wept for joy. After the rain comes sunshine, and after sorrow comes joy, often in this world, but most certainly in the next, if the sufferings are borne with patience and resignation. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning nor crying” (Apoc. 21:4).

Life is a pilgrimage. God’s servants know that they are stranger, and pilgrims on earth. “The years of my pilgrimage have been few and evil”, said old Jacob. His life had, indeed, been one of unrest, pain, and danger. He had had to leave his home, when he was quite young, and live for many years in exile and servitude. After his return home, there fell on him the heavy blow of Joseph’s loss. Then came the great famine; and now, towards the end of his life, he found himself once more in a strange country, far from the Promised Land. He looked back sadly on his years of pilgrimage, and told the king that they had been evil. But, at the same time, he looked onward to that better and imperishable home, which is the aim and end of our earthly pilgrimage. Comparing his life in this world with that which is eternal, he said that his long years of pilgrimage had been few. “For we have not here a lasting city” (Hebr. 13:14); we are but pilgrims on the road to eternity. Heaven is our home. We should not, therefore, cling to the things of this earth, but should, above all things, seek the kingdom of God. St. Peter writes: “I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires” (1 Pet. 2:11).

God’s Wisdom, shown by His guidance of the Israelites. Why did Almighty God’s wise Providence send Jacob and his family into Egypt? In order that Jacob’s descendants, His chosen people, should not be led into idolatry. The danger of this would have been very great in Chanaan, where they lived surrounded by idolaters. Esau had already made himself one with the children of Heth. Had Jacob’s descendants remained in Chanaan, they would either have got scattered among the heathen, or they would have died out. They could not have developed into an independent nation. In Egypt it was different. The Israelites lived in a district of their own, cut off from and despised by the Egyptians, on account of their being shepherds: thus the danger of falling away from the true God was less. Besides this, God knew that His chosen people would be purified by their long course of servitude and suffering, and would be, as it were, forced by want and persecution, to place all their confidence in God and look to Him as their only Helper and Saviour. Lastly, Jacob’s descendants would learn much that was valuable from the Egyptians, these being far ahead of the Chanaanites in agriculture, the arts, and all social laws and institutions. By this means, the Israelites would be educated for their high vocation.

APPLICATION. Say the first words of the Our Father: “Our Father who art in heaven”, with great devotion. Excite in yourself a longing for heaven, and say: “Thy kingdom come.” To win heaven is the most important business of our lives.








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