Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 28

XXVIII.

JOSEPH.

JOSEPH'S story is too attractive not to have interested intensely the Oriental nations in any way connected with him, and therefore to have become a prey to legend and myth.

Joseph, say the Mussulmans, was from his childhood the best loved son of his father Jacob; but the old man not only loved him, but yearned after the sight of him, for he was deprived of the custody of Joseph from an early age. Joseph had been sent to his aunt, the sister of Isaac, and she loved the child so dearly, that she could not endure the thought of parting with him. Therefore she took the family girdle, which she as the eldest retained as an heirloom, the girdle which Abraham had worn when he prepared to sacrifice his son, and she strapped it round Joseph's waist.

Then she drew him before the judge, and accused him of theft, and claimed that he should be made over to her as a slave to expiate his theft. And it was done so. Thus the child Joseph grew up in her house, and it was not till after her death that he returned to his father Jacob.

One morning Joseph related to his father a dream that he had dreamt; he said that he and his brothers had planted twigs in the earth, but all the twigs of his brothers had withered, whereas his own twig had brought forth leaves, and flourished.

Jacob was so immersed in thought over the dream, that he allowed a poor man who came begging to go away unrelieved, because unnoticed.[1] And this act of forgetfulness brought upon him some trouble, as we shall see.

One morning Joseph related to him another dream; he saw the sun, the moon, and the stars bow down before him. Jacob could no longer doubt the significance of these dreams, which showed him how great Joseph would be, but he cautioned him on no account to let his brothers know about them, lest they should envy him.

He was so beautiful that he was called the Moon of Canaan, and he had on one of his shoulders a luminous point like a star, a token that the spirit of prophecy rested upon him. The brothers of Joseph, however, heard of the dreams, and they were greatly enraged, and they said, "Joseph and Benjamin are more loved of their father than we ten; let us kill Joseph, or drive him out of the country, and when we have done this, we will repent at our leisure, and God will forgive us."[2]

One day the brothers went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, "Do not thy brethren feed in Shechem? I am afraid lest the Hivite come upon them and smite them, and repay on me what Simeon and Levi did to Shechem and Hamor, because of Dinah their sister. I will send thee to them to caution them to go elsewhere."

And he said, "I am ready." So Joseph arose, and went to Shechem; and Gabriel, in the likeness of a man, found him wandering in the field. And he said to him, "Thy brethren have journeyed hence. I heard of them, when I was in the presence of God, behind the veil, and that, from this day, the bondage of Egypt begins."[3]

When Joseph came in sight, the brothers conspired to slay him, but Judah said, "Slay not Joseph, for to slay is a crime; but cast him into a well, on the way that the caravans pass, that he may be found by a caravan, and be drawn out." Joseph was then aged seventeen.

His brethren fell on him and stripped him, and were about to cast him into the well which was by the wayside to Jerusalem, when he said, "O my brothers, wherewith shall I cover my nakedness in this pit?"

They replied, "Bid the sun, the moon, and the stars, which adored thee, bring thee clothes to cover thy nakedness."

Having thus mocked him, they let him down into the well. There was much water in it; and a stone had fallen into it; on this Joseph stood, and was above the surface of the water.[4] Not so, say the Rabbis, it was dry, but it was full of scorpions and adders.[5]

Judah, according to the Mussulman account, had not consented to this, he being absent; and when he had learned what had been done, he took food and let it down into the well, and told Joseph to be of good cheer, his brothers' anger would turn away, and then he would bring him back to them. But the Jews say that Reuben was absent, as he was fasting on a mountain, because he had incurred his father's anger, and was in disgrace, and he hoped, by restoring Joseph to Israel, to recover his father's favour.

The sons of Jacob then slew a lamb and dipped the garment of Joseph in the blood, and brought it to their father, and said, "We left Joseph in charge of our clothes, and a wolf has fallen upon him, and has devoured him."

But Jacob looked at the garment and said, "I see that it is bloody, but I see no rents; the wolf was merciful to my son Joseph, for he ate him and left his garment whole!"[6]

Then Jacob went to commune with God, and the spirit of prophecy came upon him, and he said, "No wolf, no enemy has slain him, but a bad woman is against him."[7]

Now Joseph was three days and three nights in the pit, but it was not dark, for the angel Gabriel hung in it a precious stone to give him light.[8]

The brethren of Joseph, seeing that their father mistrusted them, said to him, "We will go and catch the wolf that slew Joseph."

He said, "Go, and do so."

So they went and chased and caught a monstrous wolf, and they brought him to their father and said, "This is the beast whereof we spoke to thee, that it had slain Joseph."

But God opened the mouth of the wolf, and he said, "Son of Isaac, believe not the words of thy envious sons. I am a wolf out of a foreign land: I one morning lost my young one when I woke up, and I have been straying in all directions to find it; is it likely that I, mourning over the loss of a wild cub, should attack and kill a young prophet?"

Jacob released the wolf out of the hands of his sons, and he dismissed his sons, for he abhorred the sight of their faces; only Benjamin, the brother of Joseph, and the youngest child of Rachel, did he retain near him.[9]

On the third morning, a party of Arabs passed near the well, and were thirsty. Now the chief of these Arabs was Melek-ben-Dohar; the second, who accompanied Melek, was an Indian, a freed man of Melek, and his name was Buschra.

Melek reached the well carrying a bucket and a rope, and let down the bucket into the well. Then Joseph put his hand on it, and, however much Melek and Buschra pulled, they could not raise the bucket. Then Melek looked down into the pit, and exclaimed: "O Buschra, the bucket was heavy because a young man has hold of it."

Now the face of Joseph illumined the well like a lamp: Buschra and Melek tried to raise Joseph, but they could not.

Then Melek asked, "What is thy name, and whence art thou?"

Joseph answered, "I am a young man of Canaan; my brothers have cast me into this cistern, but I am not guilty."

Melek said to his companions, "If we tell the rest of the caravan that we have drawn this youth out of the well, they will demand a share in the price he will fetch. Now I can sell this youth for a large sum in Egypt. I will therefore tell my comrades that I have bought him from some people who were at the well. Do thou say the same thing, and we will share the money between us."

Next day, being the fourth day, the brethren, finding that their father's face was turned against them, went to the cistern to draw forth Joseph, and when they found him not, they went to the caravan, and they saw Joseph among the Arabs.

Then they asked, "Whose is this lad?"

Melek-ben-Dohar replied, "He is mine."

They answered, "He belongs to us; he ran away from us."

Melek replied, "Well, I will give you money for him."[10]

So he bought him for twenty pieces of silver; thus each of the brothers obtained two drachmæ, and therewith they bought shoes.[11] To this the prophet Amos refers in two places (ii. 6; viii. 6), and in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, which is received as canonical by the Armenian Church, Zebulun relates the same circumstance, that the brethren supplied themselves with sandals from the money which they got by the sale of Joseph.

Joseph went along with the Ishmaelites till they passed his mother's tomb; then his grief overcame him, and he burst forth into bitter tears and cried, "O mother, mother! I am an outcast and a slave, I the child of the wife Jacob loved. When thou wast dying, thou didst show me to my father, and bade him look on me, and be comforted for my loss. O mother, mother! hast thou no thought of thy son? Awake and see the miserable condition of thy child; shake off thy sleep; be my defence against my brethren, and comfort my father. Awake and stand up to judge my quarrel, awake and plead my cause with God! awake and look upon the desolation of the soul of my father who cherished thee, and who for fourteen years served a hard bondage for his beloved Rachel! Console him, I pray thee, and, by the voice that he loves, soothe the grief of his last days."

It was moonlight, and the caravan was resting.

A low voice issued from the tomb. "My son! my son Joseph! my child! I have heard the voice of thy crying. I know all thou hast suffered, my son, and my grief is as deep as the sea. But put thy trust in God, who is the help of thy countenance and thy God! Rise, my child, and have patience. If thou knewest the future, thou wouldst be comforted."[12]

One of the chiefs of the caravan, wearied with the cries of Joseph, came to drive him from the tomb, but suddenly a dark and threatening cloud appeared in the sky over his head, and he desisted in fear.

In the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Benjamin says that a man struck Joseph as he lagged on the way, whereupon a lion fell upon the man and slew him.

The sun was about to set, when the caravan entered Heliopolis, the chief city of Egypt, which was then under the government of Rajjan, an Amalekite. Joseph's face shone brighter than the mid-day sun; and as this new light from the east shone in the city, and cast the shadows towards the declining sun, all the women and damsels ran out upon the terraces or to the windows to see.

Next day he was placed for sale before the palace of the king. All the wealthy ladies of Heliopolis sent their husbands or relations to bid for the beautiful youth, but he was purchased by Potiphar, the king's treasurer,[13] who was childless, and designed making Joseph his adopted son and heir.

Zuleika,[14] Potiphar's wife, received him with great friendliness, gave him new clothes and a garden-house in which to live, as he would not sit down to eat with the Egyptians. He was occupied in tending the fruit and the flowers in Potiphar's garden; and from her window Zuleika watched him.

Thus Joseph served as gardener to Potiphar for six years.

A graceful Arab legend of this period of Joseph's life deserves not to be omitted.

One day an Ishmaelite passed the gate of Potiphar's garden, leading a camel. As the beast approached Joseph, who was standing at the door, it bowed, refused to follow its master, and turning to Joseph, fell before him, and shed tears over his feet.

Joseph recognized the camel as having once belonged to his father, and he remembered having often given it bread. He questioned the Ishmaelite, who acknowledged he had purchased the beast from Israel.

Now Joseph loved Zuleika as much as she loved him, but he did not venture to hope that he was precious to his mistress.

One day when a great feast of the gods was observed, all the household had gone to the temple, save Zuleika, who pretended to be ill, and Joseph, who worshipped the One true God. Zuleika prepared a table with wine and fruit and sweet cakes, and invited Joseph to eat with her.

He was rejoiced, and his heart beat with passion; and when he took the goblet of wine she offered him, he looked into her eyes, and saw that she loved him. Then, says the Rabbi Ishmael in the Midrash, the form of his father Jacob appeared in the window or doorway, and thus addressed him: "Joseph! hereafter the names of thy brothers engraven on gems shall adorn the breastplate of the High Priest, and shall thine be absent from among them?" Then Joseph dug his ten fingers into the ground, and so conquered himself.[15]

The Mussulmans say also that Joseph was brought to his senses by seeing the vision of his father in the door biting his finger reproachfully at him.[16]

When Potiphar returned home, Zuleika brought false accusations against Joseph, but a babe who was in its cradle, in the room,—the child was a relation of Zuleika,—lifted up its voice in protest, and said, "Potiphar, if you want to know the truth, examine the torn portion of the garment. If it is from the front of the dress, then know that Zuleika was struggling to thrust Joseph from approaching her; if from the back, know that she was pursuing him."

Potiphar obeyed the voice of the sucking child, and found that his wife had spoken falsely, and that Joseph was innocent.[17]

Now one of the neighbours had seen all that took place, for she was sick, and had not attended the feast, so the whole affair was soon a matter of gossip throughout the town. Then Zuleika invited all the ladies who had blamed her to a great feast in her house; and towards the close of the banquet, when the fruit and wine were brought in, an orange and a knife were placed before each lady; and at the same moment Joseph was brought into the room. The ladies, in their astonishment, cut their fingers in mistake for the oranges, for their eyes were fixed upon him, and they were amazed at his beauty; and the table was deluged with blood.

"This," said Zuleika, "is the youth on whose account you blame me. It is true that I loved him, but his virtue has opposed me; and now love is turned to hate, and I shall cast him into prison."[18]

She was as good as her word, and thus it fell out that Joseph was placed in the king's prison. But God would not suffer the innocent to be punished. He illumined his cell with a celestial light, made a fountain spring up in the midst of it, and a fruit-bearing tree to grow before the door.[19]

Joseph was five years in prison, and then the King of the Greeks, who was warring against Egypt, sent an ambassador to Rajjan desiring peace. But his true purpose was to throw him off his guard, that he might with treachery destroy him. The ambassador sought the advice of an old Greek woman who had long lived in Egypt. She said, "I know of only one way of accomplishing what you desire, and that is to bribe the butler or the baker of the king to poison him; but it would be better to put the drug in the wine than in the bread."

The ambassador then bribed the chief baker with much gold, and he promised to put poison in Pharaoh's meat. After that he told the old woman that one of the two she had named to him had been persuaded to destroy the king.

Then the ambassador returned, and when he was gone, the woman disclosed all to Pharaoh, and she said, "Either the butler or the baker has taken a bribe to poison thee, O king." Thereupon the king cast both into prison, till it should be made manifest which was guilty. Now the name of the baker was Mohlib, and that of the butler was Kamra.

After they had been in prison some time, they had dreams; and they told their dreams to Joseph.

The chief butler said, "I saw in my dream, and, behold, a vine was before me. And in the vine were three branches; and as it sprouted it brought forth buds, and immediately they ripened into clusters, and became grapes. And I saw till they gave the cup of Pharaoh into my hand, and I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand."

And Joseph said to him, "This is the interpretation of the dream. The three branches are the three Fathers of the world, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose children are to be enslaved in Egypt in clay and brickwork, and in all labours of the face of the field; but afterward shall they be delivered by the hand of three shepherds. As for the cup thou didst give into Pharaoh's hand, it is the vial of the wrath of God, which Pharaoh is to drink at the last. But thou, the chief butler, shalt receive a good reward: the three branches to thee are three days until thy liberation."

Joseph, leaving his higher trust in God, now turned and reposed it in man, for he added, "Be thou mindful of me when it shall be well with thee, and obtain my release from this prison-house."

And the chief baker, seeing that Joseph had interpreted well, began to speak with an impatient tongue, and said to Joseph, "I also saw in my dream, and, behold, three baskets of hot loaves were upon my head; and in the upper basket of all, delicious meat for Pharaoh, made by the confectioner; and the birds ate them from the basket upon my head."

Joseph answered, "This is its interpretation. The three baskets are the three enslavements with which the house of Israel are to be enslaved. But thou, the chief baker, shalt receive an evil award. At the end of three days, Pharaoh shall take away thy head from thy body, and will hang thee upon a gibbet, and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee."

And it fell out as Joseph had foretold. But, because Joseph had withdrawn from putting his trust in God, and had laid it on man, therefore he was forgotten by the butler and left in prison for two years more.[20]

Joseph had now been seven years in prison, and this is why he had been so long there. Potiphar's wife persuaded her friends to bring against Joseph the same accusation that she had laid against him, and their husbands complained to Pharaoh; so he was kept in prison that he might not cause strife and evil in the city.[21]

When the seven years were elapsed, one day the butler came to the prison and bade Joseph follow him, as the King had been troubled with a dream, and desired to have it explained. But Joseph refused to leave till his innocence was proclaimed. He named to the butler the ladies who had attended the banquet of Zuleika, and before whom she had confessed that she loved him, and besought that they might be called as witnesses before the king. Pharaoh agreed; the ladies, when interrogated, related all that had been said, and Zuleika herself confessed the truth.

Then Pharaoh sent and fetched Joseph out of prison, and gave him his liberty.

"I dreamed," said the king, when Joseph stood before his throne, "that seven lean cows ate seven fat cows, and that seven empty husks ate seven full ears of corn. What is the interpretation of this dream?"

"God will give thee seven fruitful years, and then seven years of famine," answered Joseph. "Therefore must thou gather together all the superfluity in the first seven years to sustain the starving people in the seven years of dearth."[22]

The king was so well pleased with this interpretation, that he made Joseph his chief treasurer in Potiphar's room. Joseph went through all the land, and purchased corn, which, on account of the good harvests, was at a very low price.

One day as he rode out of the town to view his magazines, he observed a beggar-woman whose whole appearance was most woe-begone, but bespoke her having seen better days. Joseph approached her with compassion, and held out to her a handful of gold. She hesitated about taking it, and said, sobbing, "Great prophet of God! I am not worthy to receive this at thy hand, though it was my love for thee which was the first step on the ladder on which thou mountedst to thy present exaltation." And Joseph saw that the poor beggar-woman was Zuleika, wife of Potiphar.

He asked about her husband, and learned that shortly after he had been deposed from office, he had died of distress of mind and body. "Thou hast thought evil of me," she said, "but I have great excuses, thou wast so beautiful; and moreover I was young, and only a wife in name, for I am as I left my mother's womb, a maiden, with the seal of God upon me."

Then Joseph was filled with joy. He extended his hands to her, and he brought her to the king's palace, and she was treated there with care, as a sister, till she recovered her bloom and joy, and then Joseph took her to be his wife.[23] And by her he had two sons before the seven years of dearth began, during which the Egyptians gave first their gold, then their apparel, and all their moveable goods; then their land, then their slaves, and last of all themselves, their wives and children, as bondsmen, that they might have food.

But not only did Egypt suffer, the adjoining lands were also afflicted with scarcity. There was no corn in Canaan, and Jacob sent his ten sons into Egypt to buy corn, retaining Benjamin at home. He cautioned his sons not to create mistrust by their numbers, nor cause the evil eye to light on them, and advised them to enter the city of Pharaoh by different gates, for it had ten.

But Joseph expected that his brothers would be coming to Egypt, and therefore he bade the gatekeepers every day bring him the names of those who had entered the city. One day one porter gave him the name of Reuben, son of Jacob; and so on to the tenth, Asher, son of Jacob. Joseph at once gave orders for every storehouse to be closed with the exception of one, and gave the keepers of the open magazine the names of his brothers, and said to them, "When these people arrive take them prisoners, and bring them before me."

And when they appeared before him, he charged them with being spies: "For," said he, "if ye were true men, ye would have come in together; but ye entered by different gates, and that shows that ye are set upon evil."[24]

When, to excuse themselves, they told their family history, he bade them go and bring Benjamin down to him, and, to secure their return, he kept Simeon in prison as hostage.

When Joseph wanted to imprison Simeon, his brothers desired to assist him by force, but Simeon refused their assistance. Joseph ordered seventy fighting men of Pharaoh's body-guard to cast him down and handcuff him. But when they approached, Simeon gave a scream, and the seventy fell back on the ground, and their teeth went down their throats. "Hah!" said Joseph to his son Manasseh, who stood near him, "throw a chain about his neck."

Manasseh dealt Simeon a blow, and chained him. "Then," said Simeon, "this blow comes from one of the family."[25]

Jacob, reluctant to part with Benjamin, was however obliged to do so, being pressed with famine. Joseph received the brethren, measured out to them the wheat, and, by his orders, his steward secretly put the silver cup of Joseph into the sack of Benjamin. Then at the gate of the city they were charged with theft, and were brought back to the palace of Joseph.

"What is the penalty due to him who has stolen my cup?" asked Joseph.

"Let him be thy slave," answered the brethren, feeling confident in their innocence. But when the sacks were opened, and his cup was found in that of Benjamin, they said to their youngest brother, "Woe to thee! what hast thou done? Wast thou resolved to follow the example of thy lost brother, who stole his grandfather Laban's idol, and his aunt's girdle?"

But as they had sworn to their father to restore Benjamin to him, they besought Joseph to take one of them in the place of Benjamin. But Joseph persisted that he would keep Benjamin.

Then said Reuben to his brothers, "Go back to our father, and tell him all that has occurred; I, the eldest of you, who undertook on the security of my life to bring Benjamin home, must remain here till he himself calls me back, for he will see that we have stood hostages for a thief."[26]

Now Reuben had a fierce temper, and when he became furious, all the down or hair on his skin bristled and penetrated his clothes like needles; he pulled off his head-gear, and uttered a scream so terrible that all who heard it died of terror. This frenzy of Reuben's could only be abated by one of the family of Jacob placing his hand upon him. Reuben went up to Joseph, and said, "O great one of Egypt, I am in a rage; and if I scream out, all who hear me will die of fright. Restore to me my brother, or I shall scream, and then thou and all the inhabitants of Egypt will perish."

Joseph knowing that Reuben spoke the truth, and seeing his hair bristling through his clothes like needle-points, and knowing also that if any one of the house of Jacob were to lay his hand on the body of Reuben, his force would pass away,—he said to Ephraim, his son, "Go softly, so that Reuben may not observe thee, and lay thine hand upon his shoulder that his anger may abate." Ephraim did as he was bidden, and instantly the hairs of Reuben sank, and his fury passed away, and he felt that the power to scream was gone from him.

Then Joseph said calmly, "I shall retain Benjamin, do what you will."

Reuben made an effort to scream, but it was unavailing. Then astonishment got hold of him, and he said to Joseph, "I think that there must be one of the family of Jacob in this house."[27]

Then Joseph ordered Benjamin to be chained. And when Judah saw this, he roared like a lion, and his voice was so piercing, that Chuschim, the son of Dan, who was in Canaan, heard him, and began to roar also.

And Judah drew his sword, and roared, and pursued the Egyptian soldiers sent to bind Benjamin, and the fear of him fell on them all, and they fell, and he smote them up to the gates of the king's polace; and he roared again, and all the walls of Memphis rocked, and the earth shook, and Pharaoh was shaken off his throne and fell on his face, and the roar of Judah was heard four hundred miles off.

Joseph feared to be killed by Judah. When Judah was angry, blood spirted from his right eye. Judah wore five sets of clothes upon him, one above another; and when he was angry, his heart swelled so as to tear them all. Joseph, fearing him, roared at him, and his voice shivered a pillar of the palace into fine dust, so that Judah thought, "This is a great hero! he can master me."[28]

Then said Judah to Joseph, "Let our brother go, or we will devastate this land."

Then Joseph answered, "Go home, and tell your father that a wild beast has devoured him."

Then Judah beckoned to his brother Naphtali, who was very swift of foot, and said to him, "Run speedily and count all the streets in Egypt, and come swiftly back and tell me."

But Simeon said, "There is no need; I will break a stone out of the mountains and throw it down on the land of Egypt, and will utterly destroy it."[29]

Then Joseph saw that it was not well to press them further; so he took a bowl, and filled it, and looked into it as though he were divining by it, and said suddenly, "Ye are liars! Ye told me that your brother Joseph was dead, and behold he is alive, and I see him in this bowl! Ye sold him."

Then he bade Zuleika bring the deed of sale, and he handed it to Judah. Thereupon the brothers knew him, and fell down before him, and besought him to pardon them.

Then he told them how God had exalted him, and he comforted their hearts, and after that he asked news of his father.

They replied, "He is blind with grief at having to part with Benjamin."

Therefore Joseph said, "Take my shirt and go to my father, and pass my shirt before his face, and he will recover his sight. Then take all that you have, and come down into Egypt."[30]

When the caravan left Memphis, the sons of Jacob carried with them abundance of corn and the shirt of Joseph; and the wind was in their backs, and blew the scent of the shirt from the gate of Memphis into Canaan. And Jacob snuffed the wind, and said, "O women! O children! I can smell Joseph."

They all thought, "He is deranged," but they said, "It is forty years since Joseph died, and thou canst think of nothing else; thou art always insisting that he is alive."

When the caravan was near the dwelling of Jacob, Judah brought the shirt of Joseph in, and said, "On the day upon which I bore the bloody coat of Joseph, I said a wolf had devoured him. Now I bring thee good news." And he cast the shirt upon the face of his father, and Jacob recovered his sight.[31]

The story in the Sepher Hadjaschar, or Book of Jasher, is more poetical. As the sons were approaching the home of their father, Sarah, the adopted daughter of Asher, came to meet them. She was very beautiful and graceful and modest, and could play sweetly on the harp. They gave her the kiss of peace, and told her the tidings. Then she went singing home, accompanying her words upon the harp, "Joseph is not dead, God has been his protector, and he lives, and is governor in Egypt; rejoice and be glad of heart!" Then Jacob was filled with hope and consolation, and he said, "Because thou hast revived my spirit, my daughter, death shall never seize on thee."[32]

After that, Jacob went down into Egypt, that he might see his son Joseph before he died. And when they met, they fell on one another's neck and wept, and kissed; and Jacob said to his son, "Tell me, I pray thee, what evil thy brothers did to thee." But Joseph answered, "Nay, my father, I will tell thee only how great good the Lord did to me."

We have heard how that Joseph married Zuleika, the wife of Potiphar, but this is not a universal tradition. It is said in Genesis that he had to wife Asenath, daughter of Potipherah, priest of On. Many suppose that this Asenath was the daughter of Potiphar, the old master of Joseph, and that her mother was Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and the following story is related of Asenath:—

She was a maid of wondrous beauty, of which she was very proud, and she greatly despised all men, though she had never seen any, saving her father. She dwelt in a tower next to her father's house, ten stories high, which contained everything that the eye could desire, and also idols in gold and silver, which she daily worshipped. Asenath was as tall as Sarah, as comely as Rebekah, and as beautiful as Rachel.

Now Joseph, being on his way through Egypt, sent down to the priest Potipherah, to command him to bring his daughter before him. Thereupon Potipherah was glad, and told his daughter that Joseph, the Strength of God, was coming, and that she should become his wife. At this Asenath was very indignant, and spoke angry words of Joseph, declaring that she would be wife to no man, saving to a king's son. Now, while she thus spake, Joseph came, seated in the chariot of Pharaoh, which was all of gold, drawn by four horses white as snow, with gilt reins. And Joseph was dressed in a radiant tunic, with gold embroidery, and a robe of crimson woven with gold hung from his shoulders, and a fillet of gold was about his temples, and in his hand was an olive branch, full of fruit.

Then Potipherah came with his wife, and did him homage. Joseph entered the hall, and the doors were shut, and Asenath beheld him, and she was troubled at what she had said of him, and thought, "This is the sun come from heaven; I knew not before that Joseph was divine. What father hath begotten so much beauty, or what mother borne so much light?"

Then Joseph said, "Who was that woman that was here, but hath gone?" for Asenath had hastened to her chamber.

And Potipherah said, "My lord, my daughter is a maiden, and very modest; she hath, till this day, seen no man save myself. If it please thee, she shall come and salute thee."

Then Joseph said, "If thy daughter be a maiden, I will treat her as a sister."

They brought her into his presence, and Potipherah said to her, "Salute thy brother, who hateth women as thou hatest men."

And Asenath said, "Hail, blessed of God, who giveth life to all!"

Then Potipherah bade his daughter kiss Joseph, but when she approached him, he thrust forth his hand and said, "It becomes not the man worshipping the living God to kiss an outlandish woman whose lips kiss dumb idols."

Asenath, hearing these words, fell into great grief and wept. Joseph had compassion on her, and laid his hand on her head and blessed her, and Asenath was glad because of his benediction. But she went to her couch in the tower, and was ill with fear and pain, and she turned with penitence from her idols, and renounced them, and cast them out of her window.

Joseph ate and drank, and went his way, promising to return in eight days. Then Asenath put on a black robe, and closed her door and prayed, and cast her food to the dogs, and laid her head on the pavement, and wept seven days.

Then an angel visited her, and gave her honey gathered from the roses of Paradise; and the honey was so sweet, that when she had tasted it she could not doubt whence it had come, and she felt herself enlightened by the true God; and the angel signed the honey with the cross, and the trace of his finger was blood. Along with faith and hope, charity enlightened her heart, and she besought of the angel to give of this honey to the seven maidens who attended on her; and when they had obtained this favour, they all became like their mistress, servants of the Most High. Then the angel bade her lay aside her tears and black garment, and rejoice, for her prayer was heard.

At that moment one of the servants of Potipherah entered, saying, "Behold, Joseph, the Strength of God, approaches; go ye out to meet him."

Now when Joseph had alighted down from his chariot, he came into the hall; and when he knew that Asenath had cast away her idols, he rejoiced greatly, and he sought her in marriage of Potipherah, and the Priest of On made a great supper, and gave his daughter to Joseph, and he called Joseph the lord of lords, and Asenath he called the daughter of the Most High.[33]

  1. This was Sammael, and he complained to God that Jacob had neglected the duty of hospitality, therefore he was suffered to afflict him for a season.
  2. Tabari, i. p. 210.
  3. Targums, i. p. 287.
  4. Tabari, i. p. 211.
  5. Targums, i. p. 288. The account of the sale in Yaschar is very long, and full of details too numerous for insertion here (pp. 1185-8.)
  6. Tabari, i. p. 212.
  7. Targums, i. 289.
  8. Weil, p. 102.
  9. Yaschar, tr. Drachs, p. 1192.
  10. Tabari, i. pp. 213, 214.
  11. Targums, i. 288.
  12. Yaschar, pp. 1188-9; Parrascha Wajescheb. This touching incident is common to Rabbinic and Mussulman traditions. It has been gracefully versified by Dr. Le Heris, "Sagen aus der Orient;" Mannheim, 1852.
  13. His name in Arabic is Aziz.
  14. Zuleika is the name in Yaschar; it is that also given her by the Arabs.
  15. Tract. Sota., fol. 36, col. 2. The original account of this final detail is too absurd and monstrous to be narrated more particularly.
  16. Tabari, i. p. 217.
  17. Yaschar, p. 1197. Nearly all these incidents in the life of Joseph are common to Jewish and Mussulman traditions.
  18. Tabari, p. 220; Weil, p. 112; both taken from the Rabbinic story in Yaschar, p. 1195.
  19. Weil, p. 113.
  20. Targums, i. pp. 296-9; Midrash, fol. 45; Yaschar, p. 1200.
  21. Midrash, fol. 45.
  22. Weil, p. 116; Tabari, i. c. 44; Gen. xli.; Yaschar, pp. 1202-8.
  23. This conclusion of the loves of Zuleika and Joseph completes the romance, and makes it a most popular subject for poets in the East. Both Jewish and Mussulman traditions give Zuleika a very different character from that which Holy Scripture leads one to attribute to her.
  24. Midrash, Jalkut, fol. 46.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Weil, p. 122.
  27. Tabari, i. p. 247; taken from the Rabbinic Yaschar (Sepher Hajaschar), p. 1226.
  28. Midrash, Jalkut, fol. 47; Yaschar, p. 1225; Berescheth Rabba, fol. 84, col. 4.
  29. Yaschar, p. 1226.
  30. This was the shirt given Abraham by Gabriel, to preserve him from the fire into which Nimrod cast him; it was fragrant with the odours of Paradise.
  31. Koran, Sura xii. ; Tabari, i. pp. 250, 251.
  32. Yaschar, p. 1227.
  33. Vita Asseneth, filiæ Potipharis; a Greek apocryphal book, in Fabricius, iii. p. 85.