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Esau received him. I hope he had forgiven him during his long absence.
MRS. M. Jacob had now been twenty years in exile, and seems to have held no correspondence with his father's house ; for he was ignorant of any change in his brother's disposition towards him, and still dreaded his presence. To appease him, therefore, and to signify his own penitence and submission, he sent messengers before him to Mount Seir, the dwelling of Esau, to apprise him respectfully of his approach; and was greatly distressed when returning, they told him, that his brother was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Uncertain of his fate, yet fearing the worst, even the sacrifice of his wives and his children, he divided his company into two bands; that if one should perish, the other might escape. Then solemnly calling upon the God of his fathers to deliver him from his enemies, he acknowledged his guilt and unworthiness of all the mercies he had received-he, who had gone out with “his staff in his hand,” and was now returning with abundant possessions.
The next morning he took from his flocks a munificent present for Esau, and sent it before him, commanding his servants to deliver his gift in the lowliest language, and to say, thy servant Jacob is behind us." The night following, his Almighty Benefactor again appeared to himagain renewed his promise of protection and gave him a
- new name, that of Israel a word which imports peculiar honour. Still suffering in his reproving conscience the just punishment of his former duplicity, when he came in sight of Esau, he arranged his family in order, to meet the hostile company, as he supposed; placing his beloved Rachel and her only son Joseph behind the rest--and then
advanced bowing himself seven times to the ground. But how great was his joy and surprise to find himself in the arms of a reconciled brother, shedding tears of love and pardon on his neck ! His Leah and his Rachel were' now introduced the little ones were presented--and the gift which Esau had considerately declined, because be already possessed more than enough, was again pressed, and finally accepted. The now happy Jacob, in his turn, declined the offer of his brother's attendance on his journey. His servants were then offered to assist the more delicate of the train, and wait upon the children. But the friendship of his brother was all that Jacob required, and he civilly refused to put him to any further trouble. So they parte in perfect amity. Esau returned to his dwelling at Mount Seir, and Jacob at length arrived in safety in the land of his nativity.
At a place called Shalem, a city of Sichem, Jacob first erected his tents. Some time afterwards he was commanded to remove to Bethel, (the sacred spot where God had appeared to him when he fled from Esau,) to build an altar, and to dwell there, At Ephrath,* on this sorrowful journey, he buried Rachel, (after she had given birth to Benjamin, her second son), and gratified his steady affection by erecting a monument to her memory.
Before he left Shalem, he called on his wives and his servants to deliver up all the household gods they had brought with them from Mesopotamia, and there he buried them; resolving to perform the vow he had made, that the " Lord should be his God.”
CHARLES. What do you mean by household gods?
* Afterwards Bethlehem.
Mes, M. A sort of tutelary idol retained by the heathens in their houses, under the vain imagination, that they derived protection and prosperity from their presence.
Fanny. You tell us, mother, no more of the venerable Isaac, or of Rebekah. Did they not live to receive the fugitive ? MRS. M. Isaac saw him return; his death is recorded
; soon after, (B. C. 1716) at the age of an hundred and fourscore years. Of Rebekah we hear no more, although the death and burial of Deborah, her nurse, one of the females who attended her from her father's house, is mentioned about this time,
Whilst all these things were transacting, the interests of Esau had not been neglected. Promises of temporal blessings had been given to him, and they were liberally verified. Finding his gentile connexions displeasing to his parents, he married a daughter of Ishmael, his kinsman. By these several wives, he had a numerous posterity. They became wealthy and powerful. Mount Seir, on the east and south of the Dead Sea, was at first their habitation. Thence they extended by degrees, through the western parts of Arabia Petrea, quite to the Mediterranean; and there we find them many ages after, under the name of Edomites, or Idumeans.
The Red Sea, or Arabian gulf, is said to take its name from Edom, or Esau, which signifies red-because his decendants inhabited its borders.
We come now to the beautiful story of Joseph, which is familiar to every one. We cannot however omit it, because it is intimately connected with the history of Israel.
CATHERINE. No matter how often it is repeated, mother. I have never read any thing so deeply interesting.
Mrs. M. It is impossible to surpass the divine re lation of the historian, nor could it be abridged without any injury to his unaffected simplicity. I touch it, therefore, with unaffected diffidence, and must be content to relinquish the embellishment of many inimitable strokes of noble eloquence, and continue briefly our narrative through the principal events of that patriarch's life. He was the favourite child of his father, and most probably, because he was the most amiable. For it would seem more likely that Benjamin, the Benoni,* bequeathed with the last breath of his beloved Rachel, should engage the partial fondness of the bereaved husband. But he loved Joseph more than all his other children, and excited their jealousy by imprudently displaying his affection.
Accustomed as they were to consider the elder ás entitled to superior honours, they could not behold Joseph distinguished by a garment of curious texture, the mark of his father's peculiar favour, without envy and disgust. But Joseph was destined to be more nobly distinguished by wisdom and virtue, to fill a station of eminence, and distribute relief to a suffering community.
Intimations of his extraordinary fortune were given to him in two dreams, which in the innocency of his heart, he related to his family. de We were binding sheaves together in the field,” said he, at one time, “and my sheaf arose and stood up, and your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to mine." And at another, “I thought, the sun and the moon, and the eleven stárs, made obeisance to me."
CATHERINE. This designation of their number was
The name given by his
* Benoni, “ the son of my sorrow." mother at the moment of her death.
too plain to be misunderstood, particularly by those, who envying him, night be watching for occasions of complaint.
MRS. M. Even his fond father felt the implication, and rebuked his seeming arrogance. “Shall I,” said he,
“ “ and thy mother, and thy brethren, indeed, come to bow down ourselves to thee?" But the prediction sunk deep in his mind.
Jacob, who had been himself preferred to an elder brother, might very naturally have anticipated something more than the casual play of imagination in the dreams of his younger son; and brothers who might each have been Alattering themselves with the promised blessing, now seemed to behold the object of their previous ill-will invested with their rightful honours. Like Esau, then, they determined to remove him from the possibility of supplanting them, and before he had passed his seventeenth year, an opportunity occurred to execute their atrocious plan.
They were shepherds, and tended their flocks, sometimes in one place, sometimes in another, occasionally changing for the benefit of pasturage. They were now supposed to be at Shechem, considerably distant from the vale of Hebron, the dwelling of the family, and had probably been a good while absent, as their father became anxious to hear from them. Unsuspicious of any danger to Joseph, whom he had kept at home, he sent him to visit his brothers, and bring him intelligence of their wela fare. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, he was informed by a stranger of whom he inquired, that they had removed to Dothan. Thither, therefore, he followed them; and when they saw him approaching, and remembered