15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
The pharaoh died and Egypt found a new king, one who didn’t know Joseph.
The new king set taskmasters over them and made them slaves. Generations before any of this took place, the Lord had told their great-grandfather, Abraham, “Know this. Your offspring will sojourn in a land that is not theirs, and they will be slaves there, afflicted for four hundred years.” (Gen 15:13-14)
But this was not what they were. Late in the evening when the workday was done, the parents settled in around the fire and told their children the old, old stories of the generations before. The kids imagined the red-headed Esau with his beard in a bowl of stew. Or giggled at the thought of Jacob staring, undone by the beauty of Rachel. Or shuddered at the image of Abraham raising his knife over Isaac’s chest. Though they’d heard that story a thousand times, they still prayed that God would spare him, every time.
The children could sense in their parents that these were more than stories from the past. They were somehow still connected to the present and pushing forward to the future.
And all of this, they were told, was because God had promised to take Abraham’s descendants as his people—to love them with an everlasting love and to never, ever leave them.