The *last posting* ended with Joseph welcoming his father and brothers and their families as they entered Goshen where they would settle.
As Prime Minister of Egypt, Joseph felt an obligation to tell the Pharaoh of his family’s arrival in Goshen because his extended family numbered close to one hundred – a not inconsiderable number in those days. Joseph also felt it would be nice if the Pharaoh could meet his father, Jacob, and some of his brothers too. But, which brothers should he select? And how many?
Joseph thought five would be plenty. Who to select was, though, tricky, He could choose the ones most handsome, to show the Pharaoh what fine brothers he had. Or he could choose the meanest looking, to show the Pharaoh his brothers were not to be messed around with. Or he could choose just the five oldest brothers, or just the five youngest. But any of these criteria of selection would likely cause dissension among the brothers.
Joseph then had a bright idea. Choose from among his brothers just the oldest born to each of their respective mothers, so each mother would be recognised This would eliminate accusations of bias. Joseph therefore chose Reuben – the oldest son of Leah; Gad – the oldest son of Zilpah; Dan – the oldest son of Bilhah; and Benjamin – the younger son of Rachel. Benjamin, as a younger son (whose older brother was Joseph) was the anomaly here. But Rachel had to be recognised.
Thus were four brothers chosen, to correspond with the four different mothers. But, how to choose the fifth? Joseph settled on Naphtali, because his mother, Bilhah, had been the servant of Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel (who was Joseph’s mother too).
The Pharaoh’s chief of staff cleared his throat loudly at the entrance of the Royal Residence.
“What is it?”
“The Prime Minister’s here, Your Majesty, with five men who he says are his brothers, and one very old man who he says is his father.”
“Send the brothers in, and the Prime Minister too. I’ll see the father later.”
After the introductions the Pharaoh said, “Well boys, tell me what you do for a living and what your plans are.”
“If I may speak for all of us, Your Majesty” said the oldest brother, Reuben, “we’re all of us shepherds, and always have been, and our old father, Jacob, too, and all of our forefathers were as well. We’re all hard-working boys, dedicated to making Goshen the best it can be.”
“I don’t want any partying or trouble-making” said the Pharaoh.
“I can put these concerns of yours at rest, Your Majesty” said Joseph. “I’ll be watching my brothers with an eagle eye. Any infractions, and I’ll send them back to Canaan where they’ll die quickly because of the famine there.”
“That’s what I like to hear” said the Pharaoh. “I hereby give my approval for you all to live in Goshen. Now you may go. Send your father in.”
“Well well well, we meet at last” said the Pharaoh as Jacob shuffled in to the Royal Presence, “Joseph’s told me so much about you. You’ve led quite a life. I’m dying to hear more about it.”
“In the name of God I bless you” said Jacob.
“I’m not sure you can really do that” said the Pharaoh, “for, as Pharaoh, I’m the embodiment of the sun-god Ra, who’s above all other gods, including yours. However, as a courtesy I’ll not only accept your god’s blessing, but will bless you and your god too.”
“God thanks you and accepts your blessing in the spirit in which He blessed you.”
“Joseph’s told me you’re one-hundred and thirty. I don’t expect to live that long, since I know of no Egyptian who’s lived past one-hundred and twenty.”
“Well, I’m still quite young for a Canaanite Hebrew. Did Joseph tell you my grandfather, Abraham, lived to one-hundred and seventy-five; and my father, Isaac, to one-hundred and eighty?”
“I’d heard. What enables you Canaanite Hebrews to live so long?”
“Who knows. Perhaps our diet – scorpions, bread, olive-oil, that sort of thing. Perhaps our vigorous nomadic outdoor lifestyle, with lots of vitamin D generated in our bodies by plenty of exposure to the desert sun. Also, we’re God’s chosen people, so I’ll guess God arranges that our life-spans are longer than those of other non-chosen peoples. However, I’m only guessing about this last part.”
“I’m glad you had the sensitivity to say that. But, if I may be insensitive for just a moment, you do look terribly old, even for a one-hundred and thirty year-old. I hope you don’t mind my saying this.”
“Not at all Your Majesty. I endured so much manipulation from my mother, Rebecca; and so much terrorism from my ape-like twin-brother, Esau, who our father favoured over me; and so much treachery and unfaithfulness from my wives, with the exception of Rachel who was my true love; and so much mendacity and outright wickedness from my sons, who once threw Joseph down a well and left him for dead and lied to me about it. This has all aged me so terribly, I expect to be dead very soon.”
“Just take it one day at a time” said the Pharaoh.
Source: Genesis 47, 1-12