When I sat down to write JOURNEY, I realized that Scripture is fairly silent on Joseph’s latter years. After the famine, after the Lord used him to save the world, Joseph pretty much continued in his role as an advisor to Pharaoh. We are only told of a couple of other situations in his life–his actions at Jacob’s deathbed, and his request that his bones be removed from Egypt when the Hebrews finally left for the promised land.
So I decided to move the action to Joseph’s sons. I continued doing my Egyptian research and kept it in the appropriate timeline, but thought I’d tell the story of Ephraim and Manasseh. And, at the time I was operating under a theological supposition that I completely reject today . . . though it did work pretty well in the story.
The supposition was this: was it God’s will, I reasoned, for the Hebrews to remain in Egypt after the famine had passed? Surely not. While in Egypt, they pretty much forgot about God. Some pagan practices undoubtedly seeped into their lives. I surmised that they remained in Egypt out of ease, at first, and later, of course, they were enslaved and forced to do hard labor.
I read a book that deduced that it’s likely that at one point a few Hebrews did try to reenter the Promised Land, but they were turned back by the hostile people living there. So I supposed that it was God’s perfect will for them to return to Egypt at once; it was his permissive will that allowed them to remain in Egypt.
Now I dismiss all that as poppycock. :-/ I now believe that it was God’s perfect will for them to remain in Egypt . . . even to suffer. And I found biblical support: in Genesis 15, back during the “Abrahamic Call,” The Lord told Abram that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land, that they would be enslaved, but that in the end they would come away with great wealth. Then he added: “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (vs. 16).
Ah! All those who portray God as a genocidal maniac should realize this: He does not destroy without cause. The people living in Canaan were wicked, and they were given four generations to repent, but they did not. So when the Hebrews DID return, they served as the instruments of God’s judgment upon the people of that land.
So, you see, it was God’s perfect and preordained will that the Hebrews remain in Egypt as long as they did–to the day. If you check Exodus 12:40, you’ll find that “The people of Israel had lived in Egypt [and Canaan] for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land.” (See also Galatians 3:16-17: God gave his law to Moses 430 years after the Abrahamic call . . . meaning that the Hebrews were actually in Egypt only 215 years.)
In any case, my change of mind and heart didn’t really affect the story. If anything, it reinforces the idea that one of the brothers was wrong, and one right. Ephraim and Manasseh–two brothers, two rivals, two princes of Egypt.
I hope you enjoy the story.