Exodus 1:6
The descent into Egypt was -

1. An ending.

2. A beginning.

It closed one chapter in God's providence, and opened a new one. It terminated the sojourn in Canaan; brought to a harmonious conclusion the complicated series of events which separated Joseph from his father, raised him to power in Egypt, wrought for the purification of his brethren's character, and prepared the way for the ultimate settlement of, the whole family in Goshen. It laid the foundation for new historical developments. There is now to be a pause, a breathing space, while the people are gradually multiplying, and exchanging the habits of nomadic life for those of agriculturists and dwellers in cities. The death of Joseph, and of his brethren, and of all that generation, is the proper close of this earlier period. Their part is played out, and the stage is cleared for new beginnings.

1. They died - so must we all. The common fate, yet infinitely pathetic when reflected on.

2. They died - the end of earthly greatness. Joseph had all he could wish for of earthly power and splendour, and he enjoyed it through a long lifetime. Yet he must part with it. Well for him that he had something better in prospect.

3. They died - the end of earthly disciplines. The lives of the brethren had been singularly eventful. By painful disciplines God had moulded them for good. Life to every one is a divinely ordained discipline. The end is to bring us to repentance, and build us up in faith and holiness. With some, the discipline succeeds; with others it fails. In either case death ends it. "After this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The fact of discipline an argument for immortality. God does not spend a lifetime in perfecting a character, that just when the finishing touches have been put upon it, he may dash it into non-existence. Death ends discipline, but we carry with us the result and the responsibility.

4. They died - Joseph and his brethren - happily in faith. There was a future they did not live to see; but their faith grasped God's promise, and "Joseph, when he died, gave commandment concerning his bones" (Hebrews 11:22). And behind the earthly Canon loomed something better - an inheritance which they and we may share together. - J.O.







Joseph died, and all his brethren.
I. IT WAS A VERY LARGE FAMILY

II. IT WAS A VERY DIVERSIFIED FAMILY.

1. They were diversified in their sympathies.

2. They were diversified in social position.

III. IT WAS A VERY TRIED FAMILY.

IV. IT WAS A VERY INFLUENTIAL FAMILY.

V. IT WAS A VERY RELIGIOUSLY PRIVILEGED FAMILY. Lessons:

1. A rebuke to family pride.

2. A warning against seeking satisfaction in family joys.

3. A lesson as to the right use of family relationships. Live together as those who must die.

4. Some strong reasons for expecting family meetings after death.

(1)Such different characters cannot admit exactly the same fate. Extinction is either too good for the sinner, or else a strange reward for the saint.

(2)Family affection seems too strong to be thus quenched.

(U. R. Thomas.)

The succession of generations among the children of men has been, from Homer downwards, likened to that of the leaves among the trees of the forest. The foliage of one summer, withering gradually away, and strewing the earth with its wrecks, has its place supplied by the exuberance of the following spring. But there is one point in which the analogy does not hold, — there is one difference between the race of leaves and the race of men: between the leaves of successive summers an interval of desolation intervenes, and "the bare and wintry woods" emphatically mark the passage from one season to another. But there is no such pause in the succession of the generations of men. Insensibly they melt and shade into one another: an old man dies, and a child is born; daily and hourly there is a death and a birth; and imperceptibly, by slow degrees, the actors in life's busy scene are changed. Hence the full force of this thought — "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh" — is not ordinarily felt. The first view of this verse that occurs to us is its striking significance and force as a commentary on the history of which it so abruptly and emphatically announces the close. The previous narrative presents to us a busy scene — an animated picture; and here, as if by one single stroke, all is reduced to a blank. It is as if having gazed on ocean when it bears on its broad bosom a gallant and well-manned fleet — bending gracefully to its rising winds, and triumphantly stemming its swelling waves — you looked out again, and at the very next glance beheld the wide waste of waters reposing in dark and horrid peace over the deep-buried wrecks of the recent storm. "And all that generation": How startling a force is there in this awful brevity, this compression and abridgment — the names and histories of millions brought within the compass of so brief a statement of a single fact concerning them — that they all died! Surely it seems as if the Lord intended by this bill of mortality for a whole race, which His own Spirit has framed, to stamp as with a character of utter mockery and insignificance the most momentous distinctions and interests of time; these all being engulfed and swallowed up in the general doom of death, which ushers in the one distinction of eternity.

I. Let us ponder the announcement AS IT RESPECTS THE INDIVIDUAL — "Joseph died." His trials, with their many aggravations — his triumphs, with all their glories — were alike brief and evanescent; and his eventful career ended, as the obscurest and most commonplace lifetime must end — for "Joseph died." Joseph is at home, the idol of a fond parent. Ah I dote not, thou venerable sire, on thy fair and dutiful child. Remember how soon it may be said of him, and how certainly it must be said of him, that "Joseph died." Joseph is in trouble — betrayed, persecuted, distressed, a prisoner, a slave. But let him not be disquieted above measure. It is but a little while, and it shall be said of him that "Joseph died." Joseph is exalted — he is high in wealth, in honour, and in power. But why should all his glory and his joy elate him? It will be nothing to him soon — when it comes to be said of him that "Joseph died." Ah! there is but one of Joseph's many distinctions, whether of character or of fortune, that does not shrivel beside this stern announcement. The simplicity of his trust in God, the steadfastness of his adherence to truth and holiness, the favour of Heaven, his charity out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned — these will stand the shock of collision with this record of his decease.

II. "AND ALL HIS BRETHREN." They too all died, and the vicissitudes of their family history came to an end in the silent tomb. "Joseph died, and all his brethren." Ah! how intimately should this reflection have knit them together in unity of interest, of affection, and of aim! The tie of a common origin is scarcely stronger or closer than the tie of a common doom. The friend, the beloved brother who has gone, has acquired, by his death, new value in your esteem — a new and sacred claim to your regard. Now for the first time you discover how dear he should have been, how dear he was, to your hearts — dearer far than you had ever thought. How fondly do you dwell on all his attractions and excellencies! Hew frivolous are all former causes of misunderstanding, all excuses for indifference, now seen to be I And whither are they gone? And what are their views now, and what their feelings, on the matters which formed the subject of their familiar inter-course here? Are they united in the region of blessedness above? Or is there a fearful separation, and are there some of their number on the other side of the great gulf?

III. "AND ALL THAT GENERATION." The tide of mortality rolls on in a wider stream. It sweeps into the one vast ocean of eternity all the members of a family — all the families of a race. The distinctions alike of individuals and of households are lost. Every landmark is laid low. Some are gone in tender years of childhood, unconscious of life's sins and sufferings — some in grey-headed age, weighed down by many troubles. Some have perished by the hand of violence — some by natural decay. And another generation now fills the stage — a generation that, in all its vast circle of families, can produce not one individual to link it with the buried race on whose ashes it is treading. On a smaller scale, you have experienced something of what we now describe. In the sad season of bereavement, how have you felt your pain embittered by the contrast between death reigning in your heart and home, and bustling life going on all around! In the prospect, too, of your own departure, does not this thought form an element of the dreariness of death, that when you are gone, and laid in the silent tomb, others will arise that knew not you? — your removal will scarce occasion even a momentary interruption in the onward course and incessant hurry of affairs, and your loss will be but as that of a drop of water from the tide that rolls on in its career as mighty and as majestical as ever. But here, it is a whole generation, with all its families, that is engulfed in one unmeasured tomb! And lo! the earth is still all astir with the same activities, all gay with the same pomps and pageantries, all engrossed with the same vanities and follies, and, alas! the same sins also, that have been beguiling and disappointing the successive races of its inhabitants since the world began! And there is another common lot — another general history — another universal characteristic: "After death, the judgment." Joseph rises again, "and all his brethren, and all that generation." And they all stand before the judgment-seat. There is union then. The small and the great are there; the servant and his master — all are brought together. But for what? What a solemn contrast have we here! Death unites after separation: the judgment unites in order to separation. Death, closing the drama of time, lets the ample curtain fall upon its whole scenery and all its actors. The judgment, opening the drama of eternity, discloses scenery and actors once more entire.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

I. DEATH REMOVES THE MOST USEFUL MEN — "Joseph."

1. He had instructed his brethren.

2. He had enriched his father.

3. He had saved his nation.

4. He had taught the world an eternal lesson.

II. DEATH RELIEVES THE LARGEST FAMILIES — "All his brethren."

III. DEATH RELIEVES THE PROUDEST NATIONS.

1. Pitiable.

2. Irremediable.

3. Admonitory.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

— God deprives the Church of her comfort and stay —

1. That she may gain the power of self-reliance.

2. That she may show her ability to be independent of all human instrumentalities.

3. That she may move into the exigencies of the future.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

In one of Nathaniel Hawthorne's note-books there is a remark as to qualifying men by some common quality or circumstance that should bring together people the most unlike in other respects, and make a brotherhood and sisterhood of them. "First by their sorrows; for instance, whenever there are any, whether in fair mansion or hotel, who are mourning the loss of friends. Secondly, all who have the same maladies, whether they lie under damask canopies, or on straw pallets, or in the-wards of hospitals. Then proceed to generalize and classify all the world together, as none can claim other exemption from either sorrow, sin, or disease; and if they could, yet death, like a great parent, comes and sweeps them all through one darksome portal — all his children."

(H. O. Mackey.)

There is a bird peculiar to Ireland, called the cock of the wood, remarkable for the fine flesh and folly thereof. All the difficulty to kill them, is to find them out, otherwise a mean marksman may easily despatch them. They fly in woods in flocks, and if one of them be shot, the rest remove not but to the next bough, or tree at the farthest, and there stand staring at the shooter, till the whole covey be destroyed; yet as foolish as this bird is, it is wise enough to be the emblem of the wisest man in the point of mortality. Death sweeps away one, and one, and one, here one, and there another, and all the rest remain no whir moved, or minding of it, till at last a whole generation is consumed and brought to nothing.

(J. Spencer.)

Death levels the highest mountains with the lowest valleys. He mows down the fairest lilies as well as the foulest thistles. The robes of illustrious princes and the rags of homely peasants are both laid aside in the wardrobe of the grave.

(Archbp. Seeker.)

There was a motto on the walls of the Delphian Temple, ascribed to Chile, one of the seven wise men of Greece — "Consider the end."

As trees growing in the wood are known — some by difference of their trunks, and some by the properties of their branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits; but this knowledge is had of them only whilst they stand, grow, and are not consumed; for if they be committed to the fire, and are turned into ashes, they cannot be known. It is impossible that, when the ashes of divers kinds of trees are mingled together, the tall pine should be discerned from the great oak, or the mighty poplar from a low shrub, or any one tree from another; even so men, whilst they live in the wood of this world, are known — some by the stock of their ancestors, some by the flourishing leaves of their words and eloquence, some in the flowers of beauty, and some in the shrub of honesty, many by their savage ignorance, and some by their kindness; but when death doth bring them into dust, and has mixed all together, then their ashes cannot be known — then there is no difference between the mighty princes of the world and the poor souls that are not accounted of.

(Cawdray.)

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