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Produced by Al Haines










[Frontispiece: Joseph sold by his brethren.]






CHILDREN

OF THE

OLD TESTAMENT





THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, LTD.

London, Edinburgh, and New York

1908




CONTENTS.


JOSEPH THE DREAMER
THE STORY OF BENJAMIN
THE CHILD MOSES
RUTH THE GLEANER
THE CHILD SAMUEL
DAVID THE SHEPHERD YOUTH
KING DAVID'S LITTLE BOY
ELIJAH AND THE WIDOW'S SON
THE SHUNAMMITE'S BOY
A LITTLE JEWISH MAID




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Joseph sold by his brethren . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

The babe among the bulrushes

Ruth and Naomi

The child Samuel

David and Goliath

Naaman at the house of Elisha




CHILDREN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.


JOSEPH THE DREAMER.

Two boys, Joseph and Benjamin, sons of a rich Eastern shepherd, lived
in their father's wide tent in the great valley of Hebron. Joseph was
about seventeen years of age, and tall and strong, so that he could
drive sheep, herd cattle, and work in the harvest field. Benjamin was
a little red-cheeked boy of five, with merry brown eyes, and his
brother Joseph loved him very dearly, for their mother was dead. The
father of the boys, whose name was Jacob, had thousands of sheep and
hundreds of camels, asses, and cattle, so that he was looked upon as a
very rich man; and he had ten grown-up sons, who roamed about the
country feeding the sheep in the green valleys and by the water-brooks.

Joseph was dearly loved by Jacob, because the boy had been born when
his father was an old man; and that was one reason why his older
brothers hated Joseph and did all they could to annoy him. Perhaps
they feared that their father would leave all his wealth to his
favourite son, and you know that this sometimes makes quarrels among
brothers and sisters.

Now Jacob showed his special love for Joseph by making him a coat of
many colours - a long tunic with stripes of red, green, blue, and
yellow, having a coloured fringe at the knee, and a bright shawl to
bind it closely round his waist. Joseph was very proud of this coat,
but the others hated both it and him, believing that he would get the
best of everything from their father - all but Reuben, the eldest, who
loved the lad, and smiled kindly when he saw his gay tunic.

One day at the harvest-time the sons of Jacob were all at home, cutting
down the yellow grain, and taking it away on the backs of asses to the
threshing-place. Joseph, of course, worked with them, but they were
always finding fault with him, and trying to vex him. He knew,
however, that his father loved him, and this made him able to bear
their unkindness with patience. Besides, his mind was filled with
boyish thoughts of how great he would be, and what he would do, when he
grew up to be a man. He was very strong for his years, and joined with
the women in tying the grain into bundles, and loading it on the asses;
and it was very hard work, indeed, out there in the scorching Eastern
sun.

But rest came at night. When Joseph lay down with his little brother
on a heap of straw at the back of the tent, he slept soundly, and
dreamt the golden dreams of youth.

He dreamt one night that they were all binding sheaves once more out in
the sunny field, and his brothers' sheaves rose up and bowed down to
his sheaf. Joseph took it all in earnest, and next day he told the
dream to his brothers, perhaps as they were sitting at their midday
meal in the shade of a spreading tree; but he soon knew from their
angry faces that they saw nothing pleasant in it, and when his story
was told they called out to him, -

"Shalt _thou_, indeed, reign over _us_?"

They were jealous of him, and, of course, this did not make them any
kinder to the young lad. But Joseph remembered what his father had
told him - that dreams were sometimes messages from God; and he believed
that his dream was a message, and that he would one day be greater than
all his brothers. They also believed in dreams, and feared that what
the boy had dreamt might come true, so that they began to hate him all
the more.

In those days people thought that the stars had a great deal to do with
their lives; and certain men said that they could tell what would
happen to a new-born child when he grew up by looking at the stars
which were to be seen in the sky at the time of his birth.

Now Joseph looked often at the stars, and wondered who placed them
there, and what they had to do with him. And one night as he lay
asleep in his father's tent he had another dream, and this time it was
about the stars that could be seen through a slit in the tent, gleaming
and sparkling in the dark blue sky. He dreamt that the sun and the
moon and eleven of the largest of the twinkling stars came and bowed
down to him.

He told this dream also to his angry brothers, as well as to the old
man his father, who gently checked him for his vain thoughts. He had,
however, a soaring mind, and had more dreams still, of which we are not
told, so that his brothers gave him, partly in mockery, the name of
"Joseph the Dreamer."

Now at certain seasons grass was somewhat scarce in the Vale of Hebron,
so at one time Jacob sent his sons away with their sheep and cattle to
seek food in other valleys where the grass was longer green. They went
along the hills to the beautiful Vale of Shechem, fifty miles away; and
after some time had passed the old shepherd began to wonder if they
were all well, for he had not heard from them for some days.

It was his usual custom when his sons were away from home to send a
messenger to them with cheese, butter, and wine, and other nice things
to eat; and this time he asked Joseph to go. Now, a camel ride of
fifty miles was not an easy undertaking, for there were robbers in
these parts, and the old man was much pleased when Joseph said he was
not afraid to set out on the journey.

Mounted on a strong camel, with side baskets filled with cakes of figs,
dried raisins, parched corn, and leather bottles of oil and wine, the
young lad rode away. He was dressed in his favourite coat of many
colours, protected by his long cloak, while a bright kerchief covered
his head, and a spear and club hung at his saddle. And as his father
watched him going along the yellow track and over the hill towards the
Bethlehem road, he sent up a prayer for his safe return.

When Joseph came in due time to the Vale of Shechem, he wandered about
asking the few people he met for his brothers; and at last he was told
by a certain man that he must ride to a place called Dothan, where
there were two wells, for his brothers were there feeding their flocks.
This he did, and in due time came to the spot where his brothers were
resting.

"Who is this coming over the hill from Shechem?" said the brothers to
each other, as they shaded their eyes with their hands to watch Joseph
coming down the track into the plain.

They expected more riders to follow him, but no more came, and they
wondered who the lonely traveller could be. After a time the newcomer
urged his camel into a trot across the plain, and they soon saw that it
was Joseph.

"Behold, this dreamer cometh!" cried one. Now they had their father's
favourite in their power.

"Let us slay him for his dreams, and throw him into some pit," said
another; "and we will say that some wild beast has eaten him up."

But Reuben, one of the ten, would not hear of hurting the lad, though
he agreed to their putting him into a pit; for he had made up his mind
that when the night came he would help the lad out again, and send him
home to his father.

Shouting to his brothers in his joy at finding them, Joseph urged on
his camel; but no answering shout came back again, and his heart sank
within him. His camel knelt on the ground, and leaping off its back,
he turned to his nearest brother for the kiss of welcome; but a strong
arm warded him off.

He turned to another in surprise, only to meet with the same cold
dislike. He told them what his father had sent, and took out the
presents from the camel-bags, giving them the old shepherd's kind
messages. But it was all of no use. He could not make friends of
these dark, bearded men, whose flashing eyes spoke only of their bitter
hatred towards the young lad their brother.

Seizing him roughly, they stripped him of his coat of many colours, and
leading him to a deep hole in the ground called a pit, they pushed him
in. What would become of his dreams now?

"Let him die there of thirst and hunger," they said, as they turned to
feast upon the good things the lad had brought to them with such a
joyful heart.

Meanwhile Reuben had gone away, so as not to see his brother treated
cruelly; and now the men feasted together in sullen silence, for they
were by no means happy.

While they sat eating they watched a string of camels come over the
hills to the north, and draw nearer and nearer across the plain; and
before long they saw that the travellers were a band of merchants
taking slaves and spices to the distant land of Egypt. Slaves! That
was the very thing; and a flush came over the face of Judah as he said
to his brothers, -

"What shall we gain if we kill our brother? Let us sell him to these
men. Let us not harm him, for, after all, he is our brother."

So they helped Joseph out of the pit and showed him to the merchants,
who saw that he was a handsome lad, such as would bring a good price in
the slave-market in Egypt, where red-cheeked boys were of greater value
than black boys of the desert; and they bought him for twenty silver
pieces, which they counted out to Judah upon the ground.

Tied with a rope like a dog to his master's camel, Joseph was led away
by the dusky merchants on their slow march to Egypt. They did not heed
his cries and tears, for they bought and sold boys and girls, as other
men bought and sold sheep and cattle, almost every day of their lives.

When night drew near, and Reuben came quietly towards the edge of the
pit and called his young brother's name, he got no answer but the
sighing of the wind in the grass. Believing that the lad was dead,
Reuben tore his clothes in his grief, and ran quickly to his brothers'
tents; but they hid the truth from him, and having dipped Joseph's
tunic in the blood of a goat which they had killed, they brought it to
his father.

"This have we found," they said. "Tell us now whether it is your son's
coat or not."

Then the old man knew it at once, and said, "It _is_ my son's coat; an
evil beast has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces."
And in his bitter grief he tore his garments after the manner of his
people, while his sons and daughters tried in vain to comfort him.

"I will go down to the grave," he said, "mourning for my son."




THE STORY OF BENJAMIN.

I.

Joseph was bought from the merchants by an officer who had command over
the soldiers of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt; and after a time of trial
he prospered so well that he became one of the chief officers of the
king, having among other tasks the care of the royal granaries or
storehouses of corn.

Now Joseph, who was very wise and thoughtful, caused great storehouses
of brick to be set up in all the cities, and he told the people to
place in these granaries one-tenth of the yield of each year's harvest.
This he did to guard against any time of famine which might fall upon
the land.

For seven years of plenty this was done, and after that there came upon
the land and upon all the lands round about seven years of famine; and
only in the land of Egypt was there corn for the people. And when the
people cried to Pharaoh for bread he said, "Go unto Joseph; what he
saith to you, do." Then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold
corn to the Egyptians. And from all the countries round about people
came into Egypt to buy corn.

Far away in the Vale of Hebron the famine was sore, and the sons of
Jacob did not know what to do. Then when things were at their worst
news came to Jacob that there was corn in Egypt. So he sent his ten
sons away with their empty sacks and their asses to buy corn for their
families. They wished to take their young brother Benjamin with them,
but their father would not allow them. He had lost Joseph, he said,
and he would not risk Benjamin with them.

Having crossed many a weary mile of yellow sand and barren rock, they
were stopped by a high wall set with forts and gates guarded by
soldiers; and they had to say what they wanted before they were allowed
to pass into Egypt.

For days they walked by the side of the great river Nile, along the
road to Memphis, where the king's stores were, and at length they saw
the city upon an island in the river. Stepping into broad ferry-boats
with their animals, they were taken over, and went up the long road,
lined on each side with the figures of winged lions in stone, towards
the wide market-place of the great city. There they made known what
they wanted, saying that they had come from Hebron to buy corn; and
their names and business were written down on a tablet, which was taken
to the keeper of the granaries.

Word soon came that they must go before the keeper; and they were
warned to be careful what they said, for he was one of the king's chief
officers. Taking off their sandals and cloaks at the steps, the ten
Hebrew shepherds went between the pillars at the door and stood waiting.

Within sat a young Egyptian, dressed in a robe of white linen, and
wearing a great black wig of horsehair with many small plaits. His
scribes sat at tables below him, writing down any orders he might wish
to give.

An Egyptian soldier told the sons of Jacob to go forward. Then the ten
men went in and knelt down humbly before the young Egyptian; nor did
they rise until he gave them leave. He looked at them and frowned, and
they were afraid.

"Where do you come from?" the officer asked sharply.

"From the land of Canaan, to buy corn," was the humble answer.

"You are spies!" he cried in a passion. "You have come to spy out the
weakness of the land. What is your calling? Who are your friends?"

The ten Hebrews could scarcely speak for terror. They had heard
terrible stories of how these fierce Egyptians never allowed spies to
get out of their country alive.

"No, my lord; thy servants have come to buy food," said one. "We are
all one man's sons," cried another. "We are honest men; thy servants
are no spies," pleaded a third.

But the great Egyptian only listened with a frown to their whining
voices. "No," he replied firmly; "you have come to spy out the
weakness of Egypt. Is your father alive? Have you another brother?"

Why was this man so angry with them? they wondered.

"We belong to one family of twelve brothers," Judah replied. "We have
a father, an old man, and another brother, the child of his old age,
and he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him
much. We are the sons of one man in Canaan, and truly the youngest is
now with our father, and one other is dead."

Was he still angry? They lifted their dark eyes to the stern face of
the young Egyptian.

"I see you are spies," was the harsh reply, but his voice was softer.
"In this way I will prove you. By the king's life, you shall not go
back unless your younger brother is brought here to me. Send one among
you to bring him, and the rest of you shall be kept in prison until he
returns. So shall I prove whether what you say is true. If you will
not do this, then by the king's life you are spies indeed!" He waved
them away with his hand, and the Egyptian soldiers pushed them out at
the door, telling them that they must come away at once to prison.

As they sat on the earthen floor of the prison looking at each other in
silence, they felt amazed and full of sorrow, thinking that they would
never see their tents and their little ones again. For they did not
know that the king's officer was their own brother Joseph, and that
instead of being angry, he was really filled with joy at seeing them
after twenty years of separation. As for his angry words, he was only
trying them, and meant nothing but kindness, as we shall see.


II.

Joseph's brothers were to be kept in prison until they settled who
should ride back in haste to Hebron to bring Benjamin down into Egypt;
but Joseph's heart was tender, and after a while he began to think that
perhaps he had been too harsh with them.

One man, he told himself, could not carry enough corn to feed all the
starving families in Hebron, and it might be dangerous for him to ride
back alone. His old father, too, would be anxious. So he sent word to
the prison that the brothers might all go home but Simeon, who must
stay in prison until the rest came back with their young brother.

He also gave orders that they were to have their corn-sacks filled, and
that each man's money was to be secretly tied up again in the mouth of
his sack.

All the brothers were glad but Simeon, who begged them to come back as
quickly as they could; and riding on their high camels, with their
well-laden asses tied to each other in a long line, they left the
Egyptian city, thankful to get away, and went back to their old father
in Hebron.

Jacob was glad to see them again, but he would not believe their story
about Simeon being left behind; and he refused to let them have
Benjamin, for he said that Joseph was once taken and never came back,
and that the same fate would befall the other son of his old age.

When they said that the Egyptian ruler had ordered them to bring their
young brother down, their old father only asked, with flashing eyes,
why they told the Egyptian that they had another brother. They replied
quite truly that he asked them the question. Jacob did not believe
them, and this made him all the more determined not to trust Benjamin
with them.

But the corn which they had brought was soon finished, and the old man
urged his sons to go back to Egypt for more. They refused to do so
unless they could take Benjamin with them; and after holding out for a
long time, at last their father yielded. He bade them make up a little
present of honey and dates and simple country things for the terrible
Egyptian, hoping that the great man would not be unkind to his youngest
son. Then with hands upraised he asked God's blessing upon his sons,
and with a sorrowful heart saw them ride away.

Mounted on strong camels, and followed by a string of asses with the
empty corn-sacks on their backs, the ten brothers left the Vale of
Hebron, and rode slowly across the hot desert to one of the gates of
the great Egyptian wall. Again they came to the island, and were
ferried over to the city as before.

The camels knelt in the wide marketplace, where Joseph had been sold as
a slave twenty years before, to wait while one of the brothers went to
tell the doorkeeper of Joseph's house that the ten shepherds of Canaan
had returned with their youngest brother. After waiting for a time
they were told that the king's officer would see them.

Joseph was glad when he heard that his brothers had come back again,
and that they had brought his youngest brother with them. Pulling his
black wig down over his brow to hide his pleasure, he ordered them to
be brought in; and when they came and knelt before him, it was not on
Judah or Reuben, but on the young man Benjamin, that he fixed his
searching eyes.

His brother had grown so much that he hardly knew him for the little
boy who used to run about the camp holding his hand as he took him to
see the little lambs and the small black kids at play.

"Take these men to my house, for I shall dine with them to-day," was
all Joseph said. The brothers were amazed when the meaning of the
Egyptian words was made known to them. And when the gates of the
courtyard closed behind them, they thought they were prisoners again,
and sat down on the stone pavement to sigh and mourn.

But at noon there came a loud knocking at the gate, and the red and
green chariot of the great Egyptian drove in, and soon they were
summoned to stand before him. With their simple presents in their
hands, they went through the garden and into his beautiful house, and
kneeling, laid the gifts at his feet.

"Is your father well?" the great man asked in a kindly voice. "The old
man of whom you spoke - is he still alive?"

"Thy servant our father is alive and in good health," they answered
humbly.

"Is this your younger brother, of whom you spoke?" he asked again,
speaking as if he did not know one from another. Benjamin answered
with a low bow; and Joseph said, "May God be gracious to thee, my son!"
Then Benjamin looked up at him, and Joseph felt the tears coming into
his eyes; and rising from his chair, to the surprise of the men, he
left the hall. They did not know why he had done so. But if they had
seen him in his own room weeping like a child for very joy, they would
have been more astonished still.

The meal was served, and the ten brothers were surprised when the
Egyptian ruler set them at a table all in the order of their ages; but
even yet they did not know who he was. Joseph sat at a table by
himself, with a beautiful silver wine-cup before him, and he sent
plates of choice food to each of his brothers; but he sent to Benjamin
five times as much as to any of the rest.

Next morning they were sent home with their asses laden with
well-filled corn-sacks. They were very glad to get away so quickly,
and they wondered as they went why the great Egyptian had been so kind
to them. But even yet the thought that he might be none other than
Joseph had not entered their minds.


III.

Now Joseph had told his overseer that as he filled the brothers'
corn-sacks he was to put their money into them again, and also to take
his own beautiful silver cup and put it into the mouth of Benjamin's
sack. This was done for a purpose, as we shall see.

Next day, when the brothers had set out on their journey, the overseer
was sent for by his young master, who ordered him to put horses into
his chariot, to ride after the ten Hebrews, and to ask them why they
had stolen his master's silver cup.

Cracking his whip as he went, the Egyptian drove along the road, and
soon overtook the returning travellers. Checking his horses, he
stepped out of his red chariot and sternly asked why they had returned
evil for good by stealing his master's precious silver cup; and he
smiled when he saw the fear in the faces of the dusky Hebrews, and
laughed when they all said that they knew nothing of the cup.

He did not believe them, he said, and would search for the cup himself;
and he laughed again when they said he could search at once, and if he
found it with any one of them, he could put that man to death and make
all the rest of them the slaves of his master.

Of course the silver cup was found in Benjamin's sack; and pointing his
finger at him, the Egyptian said that he would take him back to be his
master's slave, but as for the rest of the men, they could go on their
journey to their homes.

The brothers wrung their hands at these words, and their hearts sank
within them. Judah had promised his father that he would bring
Benjamin back again safe and sound, and now the lad was to become the
slave of this terrible young ruler! After all, the man's kindness of
the day before was only intended to make them feel the pain all the
more when he seized their young brother to be his slave. They could
not return to their old father without him. They would go back to the
Egyptian city, they said, and all go to prison together rather than
part with Benjamin.

In those days, when Hebrews were overcome with grief they tore their
clothes, that all might see how sorrowful they were; and Judah was the
first to seize his tunic and tear it down the front from neck to hem,
and the others did the same. In a mournful procession they followed
the Egyptian's chariot back to the city; and the people gazed at them
as they passed, and laughed.

When they reached Joseph's house and entered the courtyard, they sent
in a very humble message, begging that he would see them. And when
they came into his presence they knelt before him with bowed heads,
till their brows touched the coloured pavement.

"What is this that you have done?" he asked. "Do you not know that
such a man as I can find out secret things?"

Joseph wished to frighten them, but in his heart he was glad that his
brothers had not gone away, leaving Benjamin behind in slavery. They
were kinder now than on that day so long ago when they sold him to the


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