A family divided

I could no longer stay in the room. In the audience chamber, the servants watched me from under their downcast eyes. They knew better than to look at me directly, but they observed keenly all that was happening. I knew this well from my own days as a slave.

I could feel the tears beginning to well in my eyes as I looked down from my throne at the group of men. My brothers, ten of them, kneeling before me. Suppliants, here to buy grain. They did not know me. How could they? Many years had passed since that awful day in Dothan when they conspired to kill me. How would they ever imagine that their hated younger brother could have survived? That the grand Vizier of Egypt was the boy they had despised.

In my mind such a chaotic jumble of emotions. I could not begin to sort them out, but I knew they threatened to overwhelm me, and I could not afford to let that happen before servants who knew me only as their master, a prince of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself. So, I left the room, and went to my retiring chamber. There I wept.

I wept for the boy I had been. I wept for the loss of my homeland and the loss of my father. Not my mother – she was long dead. She, the dearest love of my father’s life, preferred before all his other wives and concubines, had died giving birth to my youngest brother. My father had never recovered.

Was this why he had always preferred me to all my older brothers? He had been kind to their mothers, but all the women knew that Rachel was the one whom Jacob loved best. And this was, they all understood, why I was his favourite son, for I was the child of her body. She had been beautiful as well as beloved, and they told me that I was made in her image, and that I too was comely. It seems to have been true. Women have always favoured me. Just as my father did.

Now that I look back on my childhood, I can understand why they hated me. An arrogant boy, I had always been. Secure in the knowledge that I was the favourite son, how I had preened and showed off. I had flaunted that coat he had given me, with its ornate patterning and bright colours. I had taken pleasure in waving its floating sleeves before them, in the same way I had insisted on telling them my dreams.

Such dreams. Dreams that their bundles of wheat had bowed down to mine. Dreams that the sun, moon and stars had bowed before me … even my father, much as he loved me, had been outraged by that one. “Do you think your mother and I and all your brothers are going to bow down to you?” he upbraided me. It is no wonder they labelled me “The Dreamer” – and hated me!

Yet, how prophetic those dreams were, for now, today all of Egypt bows to me. Even my brothers, though they don’t recognise me, are here today, begging to buy grain from the Egyptian granaries to save themselves from starvation. For famine ravages all lands, and Canaan is desperate. Only Egypt has grain.

That too is the result of dreaming, and of the power God has given me to interpret dreams. Were it not for this gift, I would still be languishing in an Egyptian prison. I look back over my life and can only marvel. I think of the way my brothers planned to kill me, then instead sold me into slavery to passing traders, telling my father I was dead. How convincing, taking him my special coat, his gift, dipped in blood, with the story a wild animal had eaten me.

I muse over all that has happened to me during these years of slavery in Egypt, with God guiding my paths, and raising me to the honour I now have. If I had not been given the power to interpret that dream of Pharaoh’s, we would not now have storehouses of grain while all other lands are in the grip of famine. All must come to us to beg.

So here they are before me, those treacherous brothers, and although I weep bitterly in the next room, I still do not trust them. How can I believe that they are not what they have always been? I hear them talking to each other in their own tongue. They do not know that I understand them, for always their words have come through an interpreter, and they could not imagine that a prince of Egypt would speak Hebrew. But I hear them talk of Joseph, for so I was then called, and their sin that is perhaps still being punished.

Perhaps they mean it. Perhaps they truly repent. I yearn for it to be so, for I long to be reunited with them, to be part of the family once more. To see my father again, and my beloved youngest brother, who is not with them.

But can I trust them?

I must find some way to test them, for only then – if they prove to be true – can we be a family once more.

Read on, in Genesis chapters 42 to 45, to discover the plan Joseph devised, and the ways this story of family treachery was finally resolved, and God’s plans revealed.

About the Author

Valerie Volk

Valerie Volk is an Adelaide writer of poetry, verse novels and prose fiction. With more than a hundred poems published in journals, newspapers, anthologies, and seven books, she at last feels entitled to put the word ‘writer’ as her occupation on official forms.

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