(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 24)

forth their hand to the prey, unless they feared the eyes and the 
judgments of men. But inasmuch as Joseph might have sinned without a 
witness of his fault; it follows that the true fear of God flourished in 
his breast. Plausible and well coloured pretexts, in excuse of the 
theft, would doubtless present themselves. "When you are serving a 
tyrant, why may it not be lawful for you to apply some part of the gain 
to your own advantage?" So much the more does it appear that he was 
fortified by downright honesty; since he repelled all temptations, lest 
he should desire fraudulently to enrich himself at the expense of 
  15. "And when money failed." Moses does not mean that all the money in 
Egypt had been brought into the royal treasury; for there were many of 
the nobles of the court free from the effects of the famine; but the 
simple meaning of the expression is that nearly all had been exhausted; 
that now the common people had not money enough to buy corn; and that, 
at length, extreme necessity had driven the Egyptians to the second 
remedy of which he is about to speak. Moreover, although, like persons 
driven to desperation, they might seem arrogantly to rise up against 
Joseph; yet the context shows that nothing was farther from their minds 
than to terrify, by their boldness, the man whose compassion they 
suppliantly implore. Wherefore the question, "Why should we die in thy 
presence?" has no other signification than that they felt themselves 
ruined, unless his clemency should afford them relief. But it may be 
asked how the Canaanites supported their lives. There is indeed no doubt 
that a grievous pestilence, the attendant on famine, would carry off 
many, unless they received assistance from other regions, or were 
miserally fed on herbs and roots. And perhaps the barrenness was not 
there so great, but that they might gather half, or a third part of 
their food, from the fields, 
  16. "Give your cattle." It was a miserable spectacle, and one which 
might have softened hearts of iron, to see rich farmers, who previously 
had kept provision stored in their granaries for others, now begging 
food. Therefore, Joseph might be deemed cruel, because he does not give 
bread gratuitously to those who are poor and exhausted, but robs them of 
all their cattle, sheep, and asses. Seeing, however, that Joseph is 
transacting the business of another, I dare not charge his strictness 
with cruelty. If, during the seven fruitful years, he had extorted corn 
by force from an unwilling people, he would now have acted tyrannically 
in seizing their flocks and herds. But seeing that they had been at 
liberty to lay up, in their private stores, what they had sold to the 
king, they now pay the just penalty of their negligence. Joseph also 
perceived that they were deprived of their possessions by a divine 
interposition, in order that the king alone might be enriched by the 
spoils of all. Besides, since it was lawful for him to offer corn for 
sale, it was also lawful for him to exchange it for cattle. Truly, the 
corn belonged to the king; why then should he not demand a price from 
the purchasers? But they were poor, and therefore it was but just to 
succor them in their want. Were this rule to prevail, the greater part 
of sales would be unlawful. For no one freely parts with what he 
possesses. Wherefore, if his valuation of the cattle was fair, I do not 
see what was deserving of reprehension in the conduct of Joseph; 
especially as he was not dealing with his own property, but had been 
appointed prefect over the corn, with this condition, that he should 
acquire gain, not for himself, but for the king. If any one should 
object that he ought at least to have exhorted the lying to content 
himself with the abundant pecuniary wealth which he had obtained; I 
answer, that Moses relates, by the way, but a few things out of many. 
Any one, therefore, may easily conjecture, that a business of such great 
consequence, was not transacted by Joseph, without the cognizance and 
judgment of the king. But what, if it appeared to the king's counselors, 
an equitable arrangement, that the farmers should receive, in return for 
their cattle, food for the whole year? Lastly, seeing that we stand or 
fall by the judgment of God alone, it is not for us to condemn what his 
law has left undecided. 
  18. "They came to him the second year." Moses does not reckon the 
second year from the date of the famine, but from the time when the 
money had failed. But since they knew, from the oracle, that the 
termination of the dearth was drawing near, they desired not only that 
corn should be given them for food, but also for seed. Whence it appears 
that they had become wise too late, and had neglected the useful 
admonition of God, at the time when they ought to have made provision 
for the future. Moreover, when they declare that their money and cattle 
had failed, they do it, not for the purpose of expostulating with 
Joseph, as if they had been unjustly deprived of these things by him; 
but for the purpose of showing that the only thing remaining for them 
was to purchase food and seed at the price of their lands, and that they 
could not otherwise be preserved, unless Joseph would enter into this 
compact. For it would have been the part of impudence to offer no price 
or compensation. They begin by saying, that they had nothing at hand, 
and that, therefore, their lives would be lost, unless Joseph were 
willing to buy their lands; and in order to excite his compassion, they 
ask again, why he would suffer them to die, and their very land to 
perish? For this is the death of the earth, when the cultivation of it 
is neglected, and when, being reduced to a desert, it can bring forth 
nothing more. 
  20. "And Joseph bought all the land." Any one might suppose it to be 
the height of cruel and inexplicable avarice, that Joseph should take 
away from the miserable husband men, the very fields, by the produce of 
which they nourished the kingdom. But I have before showed, that unless 
every kind of purchase is to be condemned, there is no reason why Joseph 
should be blamed. If any one should say that he abused their penury; 
this alone would suffice for his excuse, that no wiles of his, no 
circumvention, no force, no threats, had reduced the Egyptians to this 
necessity. He transacted the king's business with equal fidelity and 
industry; and fulfilled the duties of his office, without resorting to 
violent edicts. When the famine became urgent, it was lawful to expose 
wheat to sale, as well to the rich as to the poor: afterwards it was not 
less lawful to buy the cattle; and now, at last, why should it not be 
lawful to acquire the land for the king, at a just price? To this may be 
added, that he extorted nothing, but entered into treaty with them, at 
their own request. I confess, indeed, that it is not right to take 
whatever may be offered without discrimination: for if severe necessity 
presses, then he who wishes, by all means, to escape it, will submit to 
hard conditions. Therefore, when any one thus invites us, to defraud 
him, we are not, by his necessities, rendered excusable. But I do not 
defend Joseph, on this sole ground, that the Egyptians voluntarily 
offered him their lands, as men who were ready to purchase life, at any 
price; but I say, this ought also to be considered, that he acted with 
equity, even though he left them nothing. The terms would have been more 
severe, if they themselves had been consigned to perpetual slavery; but 
he now concedes to them personal liberty, and only covenants for their 
fields, which, perhaps, the greater part of the people had bought from 
the poor. If he had stripped of their clothing those whom he was feeding 
with corn, this would have been to put them indirectly and slowly to 
death. For what difference does it make, whether I compel a man to die 
by hunger or by cold? But Joseph so succors the Egyptians, that in 
future they should be free, and should be able to obtain a moderate 
subsistence by their labour. For though they might have to change their 
abode, yet they are all made stewards of the king: and Joseph restores 
to them, not only the lands, but the implements which he had bought. 
Whence it appears that he had used what clemency he was able, in order 
to relieve them. Meanwhile, let those who are too intent on wealth 
beware lest they should falsely employ Joseph's example as a pretext: 
because it is certain that all contracts, which are not formed according 
to the rule of charity, are vicious in the sight of God; and that we 
ought, according to that equity which is inwardly dictated to us by a 
secret instinct of nature, so to act towards others, as we wish to be 
dealt with ourselves. 
  21. "And as for the people, he removed them to cities." This removal 
was, indeed, severe; but if we reflect how much better it was to depart 
to another place; in order that they might be free cultivators of the 
land, than to be attached to the soil, and employed as slaves in servile 
work; no one will deny that this was a tolerable, and even a humane 
exercise of authority. Had each person cultivated his field, as he had 
been accustomed to do, the exaction of tribute would have seemed to be 
grievous. Joseph, therefore, contrived a middle course, which might 
mitigate the new and unwonted burden, by assigning new lands to each, 
with a tribute attached to them. The passage may, however, be 
differently expounded; namely, that Joseph caused all the farmers to go 
to the cities to receive the provisions, and to settle their public 
accounts. If this sense is approved, the fact that Egypt was divided 
into provinces, afterwards called names, "nomoi", may probably hence 
have received its origin. This removing from place to place would, 
however, have been alike injurious to the king and to the people at 
large, because they would not be able to make their skill and practice 
applicable to new situations. Yet, since the matter is not of great 
moment, and the signification of the word is ambiguous, I leave the 
question undecided. 
  22. "Only the land of the priests." The priests were exempted from the 
common law, because the king granted them a maintenance. It is, indeed, 
doubtful, whether this was a supply for their present necessity, or 
whether he was accustomed to nourish them at his own expense. But seeing 
that Moses makes mention of their lands, I rattler incline to the 
conjecture, that, whereas they had before been rich, and this dearth had 
deprived them of their income, the king conferred this privilege upon 
them; and hence it arose that their lands remained unto them free. The 
ancient historians, however, injudiciously invent many fables concerning 
the state of that land. I know not whether the statement that the 
farmers, content with small wages, sow and reap for the king and the 
priests, is to be traced to this regulation of Joseph or not. But, 
passing by these things, it is more to the purpose to observe, what 
Moses wished distinctly to testify; namely, that a heathen king paid 
particular attention to Divine worship, in supporting the priests 
gratuitously, for the purpose of sparing their lands and their property. 
Truly this is placed before our eyes, as a mirror, in which we may 
discern that a sentiment of piety which they cannot wholly efface, is 
implanted in the minds of men. It was the part of foolish, as well as of 
wicked superstition, that Pharaoh nourished such priests as these, who 
infatuated the people by their impostures: yet this was, in itself, a 
design worthy of commendation, that he did not suffer the worship of God 
to fall into decay; which, in a short time, must have happened, if the 
priests had perished in the famine. Whence we infer how sedulously we 
ought to be on our guard, that we undertake nothing with an indiscreet 
zeal; because nothing is more easy, in so great a corruption of human 
nature, than for religion to degenerate into frivolous trifles. 
Nevertheless, because this inconsiderate devotion (as it may be called) 
flowed from a right principle, what should be the conduct of our 
princes, who desire to be deemed Christians? If Pharaoh was so 
solicitous about his priests, that he nourished them to his own 
destruction, and that of his whole kingdom, in order that he might not 
be guilty of impiety against false gods; what sacrilege is it, in 
Christian princes, that the lawful and sincere ministers of holy things 
should be neglected, whose work they know to be approved by God, and 
salutary to themselves? But it may be asked, whether it was lawful for 
holy Joseph to undertake this office, for by so doing, he employed his 
labour in cherishing impious superstitions? But though I can readily 
grant that in such great, and arduous, and manifold offices of trust, it 
was easy for him to slide into various faults; yet I dare not absolutely 
condemn this act; nor can I, however, deny that he may have erred, in 
not resisting these superstitions with sufficient boldness. But since he 
was required by no law, to destroy the priests by hunger, and was not 
altogether allowed to dispense the king's corn at his own pleasure; if 
the king wished that food should be gratuitously supplied to the 
priests, he was no more at liberty to deny it to them than to the nobles 
at court. Therefore, though he did not willingly take charge of such 
dependents, yet when the king imposed the duty upon him, he could not 
refuse it, though he knew them to be unworthy to be fed on the dirt of 
  23. "Then Joseph said unto the people." Here Moses describes the 
singular humanity of Joseph, which, as it then repressed all complaints, 
so, at this time, it justly dispels and refutes the calumnies with which 
he is assailed. The men, who were entirely destitute, and, in a sense, 
exiles, he reinstates in their possessions, on the most equitable 
condition, that they should pay a fifth part of the produce to the king. 
It is well known that formerly, in various places, kings have demanded 
by law the payment of tenths; but that, in the time of war, they doubled 
this tax. Therefore, what injury, can we say, was done to the Egyptians, 
when Joseph burdened the land, bought for the king, with a fifth part of 
its income; especially seeing that country is so much richer than 
others, that with less labour than elsewhere, it brings forth fruit for 
the maintenance of its cultivators? Should any one object that the king 
would have acted more frankly had he taken the fifth part of the land; 
the answer is obvious, that this was useful not only as an example, but 
also, for the purpose of quieting the people, by shutting the mouths of 
the captious. And certainly this indirect method, by which Joseph 
introduced the tax of a fifth part, had no other object than that of 
inducing the Egyptians to cultivate their lands with more alacrity, when 
they were convinced that, by such a compact, they were treated with 
clemency. And to this effect was their confession, which is recorded by 
Moses, expressed. For, first, they acknowledge that they owe their lives 
to him; secondly, they do not refuse to be the servants of the king. 
Whence we gather, that the holy man so conducted himself between the two 
parties, as greatly to enrich the king, without oppressing the people by 
tyranny. And I wish that all governors would practice this moderation, 
that they would only so far study the advantage of kings, as could be 
done without injury to the people. There is a celebrated saying of 
Tiberius Caesar, which savored little of tyranny, though he appears to 
have been a sanguinary and insatiable tyrant, that it is the part of a 
shepherd to shear the flock, but not to tear off the skin. At this day, 
however, kings do not believe that they rule freely, unless they not 
only flay their subjects, but entirely devour them. For they do not 
generally invest any with authority, except those who are sworn to the 
practice of slaughter. So much the more does the clemency of Joseph 
deserve praise, who so administered the affairs of Egypt, as to render 
the immense gains of the king compatible with a tolerable condition of 
the people. 
  27. "And Israel dwelt in the land." Moses does not mean that Jacob and 
his sons were proprietors of that land which Pharaoh had granted them as 
a dwelling-place, in the same manner in which the other parts of Egypt 
were given to the inhabitants for a perpetual possession: but that they 
dwelt there commodiously for a time, and thus were in possession by 
favour, provided they continued to be peaceable. Hence the cause that 
they so greatly increased, in a very short space of time. Therefore, 
what is here related by Moses belongs to the history of the following 
period; and he now returns to the proper thread of his narrative, in 
which he purposed to show how God protected his Church from many deaths; 
and not that only, but wonderfully exalted it by his own secret power. 
  28. "And Jacob lived." It was no common source of temptation to the 
holy old man, to be an exile from the land of Canaan, for so many years. 
Be it so, that on account of the famine, he was compelled to go to 
Egypt; why could he not return when the fifth year was passed? For he 
did not stupidly lie there in a state of torpor, but he remained quiet, 
because free egress was not allowed him. Wherefore, also, in this 
respect, God did not lightly exercise his patience. For, however sweet 
might be the delights of Egypt, yet he was more than miserable to be 
deprived of the sight of that land which was the lively figure of his 
celestial country. With the men of this world, indeed, earthly advantage 
would have prevailed: but such was the piety of the holy man, that the 
profit of the flesh weighed nothing against the loss of spiritual good. 
But he was more deeply wounded, when he saw his death approaching: 
because, not only was he himself deprived of the inheritance promised to 
him, but he was leaving his sons, of doubtful, or at least of feeble, 
faith, buried in Egypt as in a sepulchre. Moreover, his example is 
proposed to us, that our minds may not languish or become enfeebled by 
the weariness of a protracted warfare: yea, the more Satan attempts to 
depress it}em to the earth, the more fervently let them look and soar 
towards heaven. 
  29. "And he called his son Joseph." Hence we infer, not only the 
anxiety of Jacob, but his invincible magnanimity. It is a proof of great 
courage, that none of the wealth or the pleasures of Egypt could so 
allure him, as to prevent him from sighing for the land of Canaan, in 
which he had always passed a painful and laborious life. But the 
constancy of his faith appeared still more excellent, when he, 
commanding his dead body to be carried back to Canaan, encouraged his 
sons to hope for deliverance. Thus it happened that he, being dead, 
animated those who were alive and remained, as with the sound of a 
trumpet. For, to what purpose was this great care respecting his 

sepulture, except that the promise of God might be confirmed to his 
posterity? Therefore, though his faith was tossed as upon the waves, yet 
it was so far from suffering shipwreck, that it conducted others into 
the haven. Moreover, he demands an oath from his son Joseph, not so much 
on account of distrust, as to show that a matter of the greatest 
consequence was in hand. Certainly he would not, by lightly swearing, 
profane the name of God: but the more sacred and solemn the promise was, 
the more ought all his sons to remember, that it was of great importance 
that his body should be carried to the sepulchre of his fathers. It is 
also probable that he prudently thought of alleviating any enmity which 
might be excited against his son Joseph. For he knew that this choice of 
his sepulchre would be, by no means, gratifying to the Egyptians; seeing 
it seemed like casting a reproach on their whole kingdom. This stranger, 
forsooth, as if he could find no fit place for his body in this splendid 
and noble country, wishes to be buried in the land of Canaan. Therefore, 
in order that Joseph might more freely dare to ask, and might more 
easily obtain, this favour from the king, Jacob binds him by an oath. 
And certainly Joseph afterwards makes use of this pretext, to avoid 
giving offense. This also was the reason why he required Joseph to do 
for him that last office, which was a duty devolving on the brothers in 
common; for such a favour would scarcely have been granted to the rest; 
and they would not have ventured on the act, unless permission had been 
obtained. But, as strangers and mean men, they had neither favour nor 
authority. Besides, it was especially necessary for Joseph to be on his 
guard, lest becoming ensnared by the allurements of Egypt, he should 
gradually forsake his own kindred. It must, however, be known, that the 
solemnity of an oath was designedly interposed by Jacob, to show that he 
did not, in vain, desire for himself, a sepulchre in the land where he 
had met with an unfavorable reception; where he had endured many 
sufferings; and from which, at length, being expelled by hunger, he had 
become an exile. As to his commanding the hand to be put under his 
thigh, we have explained what this symbol means in chapter 24 ver. 2. 
  30. "But I will lie with my fathers." It appears from this passage, 
that the word "sleep," whenever it is put for "die," does not refer to 
the soul, but to the body. For, what did it concern him, to be buried 
with his fathers in the double cave, unless to testify that he was 
associated with them after death? And by what bond were he and they 
joined together, except this, that not even death itself could 
extinguish the power of their faith; which would seem to utter this 
voice from the same sepulchre, "Now also we have a common inheritance". 
  31. "And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head." By this 
expression, Moses again affirms that Jacob esteemed it a singular 
kindness, that his son should have promised to do what he had required 
respecting his burial. For he exerts his weak body as much as he is 
able, in order to give thanks unto God, as if he had obtained something 
most desirable. He is said to have worshipped towards the head of his 
bed: because, seeing he was quite unable to rise from the bed on which 
he lay, he yet composed himself with a solemn air in the attitude of one 
who was praying. The same is recorded of David (1 Kings 1: 47) when, 
having obtained his last wish, he celebrates the grace of God. The 
Greeks have translated it, "at the top of his staff:" which the Apostle 
has followed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (11: 21.) And though the 
interpreters seem to have been deceived by the similitude of words; 
because, with the Hebrews, "mitah" signifies "bed," "motah", "a staff;" 
yet the Apostle allows himself to cite the passage as it was then 
commonly used, lest he might offend unskillful readers, without 
necessity. Moreover, they who expound the words to mean that Jacob 
worshipped the sceptre of his son, absurdly trifle. The exposition of 
others, that he bowed his head, leaning on the top of his staff, is, to 
say the least, tolerable. But since there is no ambiguity in the words 
of Moses, let it suffice to keep in memory what I have said, that, by 
this ceremony, he openly manifested the greatness of his joy. 
Chapter XLVIII. 
1 And it came to pass after these things, that [one] told Joseph, 
Behold, thy father [is] sick: and he took with him his two sons, 
Manasseh and Ephraim. 
2 And [one] told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto 
thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. 
3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in 
the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 
4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply 
thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this 
land to thy seed after thee [for] an everlasting possession. 
5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee 
in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, [are] mine; as 
Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 
6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, [and] 
shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. 
7 And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land 
of Canaan in the way, when yet [there was] but a little way to come unto 
Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same [is] 
8 And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who [are] these? 
9 And Joseph said unto his father, They [are] my sons, whom God hath 
given me in this [place]. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, 
and I will bless them. 
10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, [so that] he could not see. 
And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced 
11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, 
lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed. 
12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed 
himself with his face to the earth. 
13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's 
left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and 
brought [them] near unto him. 
14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid [it] upon Ephraim's 
head, who [was] the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, 
guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh [was] the firstborn. 
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham 
and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, 
16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my 
name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and 
let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. 
17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head 
of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to 
remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. 
18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this [is] the 
firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 
19 And his father refused, and said, I know [it], my son, I know [it]: 
he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his 
younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a 
multitude of nations. 
20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, 
saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim 
before Manasseh. 
21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with 
you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 
22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I 
took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. 
  1. "After these things." Moses now passes to the last act of Jacob's 
life, which, as we shall see, was especially worthy of remembrance. For, 
since he knew that he was invested by God with no common character, in 
being made the father of the fathers of the Church, he fulfilled, in the 
immediate prospect of death, the prophetic office, respecting the future 
state of the Church, which had been enjoined upon him. Private persons 
arrange their domestic affairs by their last wills; but very different 
was the method pursued by this holy man, with whom God had established 
his covenant, with this annexed condition, that the succession of grace 
should flow down to his posterity. But before I enter fully on the 
consideration of this subject, these two things are to be observed, to 
which Moses briefly alludes: first, that Joseph, being informed of his 
father's sickness, immediately went to see him; and, secondly, that 
Jacob, having heard of his arrival, attempted to raise his feeble and 
trembling body, for the sake of doing him honour. Certainly, the reason 
why Joseph was so desirous of seeing his father, and so prompt to 
discharge all the other duties of filial piety, was, that he regarded it 
as a greater privilege to be a son of Jacob, than to preside over a 
hundred kingdoms. For, in bringing his sons with him, he acted as if he 
would emancipate them from the country in which they had been born, and 
restore them to their own stock. For they could not be reckoned among 
the progeny of Abraham, without rendering themselves detested by the 
Egyptians. Nevertheless, Joseph prefers that reproach for them, to every 
kind of wealth and glory, if they may but become one with the sacred 
body of the Church. His father, however, rising before him, pays him 
becoming honour, for the kindness received at his hand. Meanwhile, by so 
doing, he fulfils his part in the prediction, which before had inflamed 
his sons with rage; lest his constituting Ephraim and Manasseh the heads 
of two tribes, should seem grievous and offensive to his sons. 
  3. "And Jacob said unto Joseph." The design of the holy man was to 
withdraw his son from the wealth and honors of Egypt, and to reunite him 
to the holy race, from which he had been, for a little while, separated. 
Moreover, he neither proudly boasts of his own excellence, nor of his 
present riches, nor of his power, for the sake of inducing his son to 
comply with his wishes; but simply sets before him the covenant of God. 
So also it is right, that the grace of adoption, as soon as it is 
offered to us, should, by filling our thoughts, extinguish our desire 
for everything splendid and costly in the world. This passage is, 
doubtless, remarkable. Joseph was possessed of the most exalted dignity; 
he foresees that the most excellent nobility would pass, through the 
memory of his name, to his posterity: he is able to leave them an ample 
patrimony: nor would it be difficult so to advance them in royal favour, 
that they might obtain rank among the nobles of the kingdom. Too many 
examples show how easy it is not only to be caught, but altogether 
fascinated, by such allurements. Yea, the greater part know, by their 
own experience, that, as soon as the least ray of hope beams upon us, 
from the world, we are torn away from the Lord, and alienated from the 
pursuit of the heavenly life. If a very few drops thus inebriate our 
flesh, how dangerous is it to drink from the full bowl? But to all the 
riches and honors of Egypt, Jacob opposes the vision in which God had 
adopted himself and his race, as his own people. Whenever, therefore, 
Satan shall try to entangle us with the allurements of the world, that 
he may draw us away from heaven, let us remember for what end we are 
called; in order that, in comparison with the inestimable treasure of 
eternal life, all that the flesh would otherwise prefer, may become 
loathsome. For, if holy Joseph formerly held an obscure vision in such 
esteem, that, for this sole object, forgetting Egypt, he gladly passed 
over to the despised flock of the Church; how shameful, at this day, is 
our folly, how vile our stupor, how detestable our ingratitude, if, at 
least, we are not equally affected, when our heavenly Father, having 
opened the gate of his kingdom, with unutterable sweetness invites us to 
himself? At the same time, however, we must observe, that holy Jacob 
does not obtrude vain imaginations, for the purpose of alluring his son; 
but places before him the sure promise of God, on which he may safely 
rely. Whence we are taught, that our faith is not rightly founded on 
anything except the sole word of God; and also, that this is a 
sufficiently firm support of faith, to prevent it from ever being shaken 
or overthrown by any devices whatever. Wherefore, whenever Satan 
attempts to draw us hither and thither by his enticements, let us learn 
to turn our minds to the word of God, and so firmly to rely upon its 
hidden blessings, that, with a lofty spirit, we may spurn those things 
which the flesh now sees and touches. Jacob says that God appeared to 
him in the land of Canaan, in order that Joseph, aspiring after that 
land, might become alienated in the affection of his heart from the 
kingdom of Egypt. 
  "And blessed me." In this place the word "blessed" does not signify 
the present effect or manifestation of a happy life, in the way in which 
the Lord is sometimes said to bless his people, when he indeed declares, 
by the favour with which he follows them, that he openly makes them 
happy, because they are received under his protection. But Jacob regards 
himself as blessed, because he, having embraced the grace promised to 
him, does not doubt of its effect. And, therefore, I take what 
immediately follows; namely, "I will make thee fruitful", &c., as 
explanatory of what precedes. Now the Lord promised that he would cause 
an assembly of nations to descend from him: because thirteen tribes, of 
which the whole body of the nation consisted, were, in a sense, so many 
nations. But since this was nothing more than a prelude to that 
greatness which should afterwards follow, when God, having scattered 
seed over the whole world, should gather together a church for himself, 
out of all nations; we may, while we recognize the accomplishment of the 
benediction under the old dispensation, yet allow that it refers to 
something greater. When therefore the people increased to so great a 
multitude, and thirteen populous tribes flowed from the twelve 
patriarchs, Jacob began already to grow to an assembly of nations. But 
from the time that the spiritual Israel was diffused through all 
quarters of the world, and various nations were congregated into one 
Church, this multiplication tended towards its completion. Wherefore, it 
is no wonder that holy Jacob should so highly estimate this most 
distinguished mark of divine favour, though, indeed, it was deeply 
hidden from carnal perception. But inasmuch as the Lord had held him 
long in suspense, profane men have said, that the old man was in his 
dotage. Few indeed are to be found, in this age, like Joseph, who 
disregarding the enjoyment of pleasures which are at hand, yield entire 
submission to the plain declaration of God's word. But as Jacob, relying 
in confidence on invisible grace, had overcome every kind of temptation: 
so now his son, and the true heir of his faith, regards with reverence 
the oracles of the Lord; esteeming more highly the promise which he was 
persuaded had come down from heaven, though it was in the form of a 
dream, than all the riches of Egypt which he enjoyed. 
  "For an everlasting possession." We have elsewhere shown the meaning 
of this expression: namely, that the Israelites should be perpetual 
heirs of the land until the coming of Christ, by which the world was 
renewed. The Hebrew word "olam" is by some taken merely for a long time, 
by others for eternity: but seeing that Christ prolongs, to the end of 
time, the grace which was previously shadowed forth to the patriarchs; 
the phrase, in my judgment, refers to eternity. For that portion of land 
was promised to the ancient people of God, until the renovation 
introduced by Christ: and now, ever since the Lord has assigned the 
whole world to his people, a fuller fruition of the inheritance belongs 
to us. 
  5. "And now thy two sons." Jacob confers on his son the special 
privilege, that he, being one, should constitute two chiefs; that is, 
that his two sons should succeed to an equal right with their uncles, as 
if they had been heirs in the first degree. But what is this! that a 
decrepit old man assigns to his grandchildren, as a royal patrimony, a 
sixth part of the land in which he had entered as a stranger, and from 
which now again he is an exile! Who would not have said that he was 
dealing in fables? It is a common proverb, that no one can give what he 
has not. What, therefore, did it profit Joseph to be constituted, by an 
imaginary title, lord of that land, in which the donor of it was 
scarcely permitted to drink the very water he had dug for with great 
labour, and from which, at length, famine expelled him? But it hence 
appears with what firm faith the holy fathers relied upon the word of 
the Lord, seeing they chose rather to depend upon his lips, than to 
possess a fixed habitation in the land. Jacob is dying an exile in 
Egypt; and meanwhile, calls away the governor of Egypt from his dignity 
into exile, that he may be well and happy. Joseph, because he 

(continued in part 25...)

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