"What are we going to do?!" Jacob's sons cried to their father.
A great famine had struck the land.
It wasn't great, like in, this is really wonderful! No, it was great, like in, We just looked into our store houses and even the mice are packing their bags and scampering out to find food somewhere else!
There is food in Egypt, Reuben said. A very wise man there has stored up grain these last seven years. He has food enough for everyone in Egypt. If we go there, maybe he will be kind to us as well.
So Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt to see if they could find food there.
They were in for a VERY big surprise.
That wise man in Egypt - was their little brother Joseph!
This didn't look good for Joseph's brothers.
Many years before, they had tried to kill their little brother.
They thought their father liked him best, and they were jealous. So one day, when Joseph came out to the country to look for them, they saw a chance to kill him without anyone knowing. But at the last minute, they sold him to an Egyptian who happened to be passing by. That was the last they thought they would ever see of him.
Now Joseph was the second most powerful man in all of Egypt - he was second in power only to Pharaoh himself. And his brothers were standing before him, begging for food.
Only they didnt recognize their long lost brother!
But Joseph recognized his brothers immediately.
At first, Joseph played a little trick on them.
He pretended he didn't know them, and accused them of being spies. He even hid treasures in their belongings, so when they got back home with the food he gave them, they would be terrified that he would accuse them of stealing from him.
He had great fun!
Which goes to show you, you should always be nice to your little brothers and sisters, because you never know what may happen in the years to come!
But, finally, he couldn't take it anymore. When his brothers came back a second time for more food, he was so overjoyed to see them, and especially his little brother Benjamin (who had stayed home with his father the first trip), that he finally told them who he was.
With tears in his eyes, Joseph hugged them all, and forgave them for the terrible thing they did to him all those years before.
He said to them, What you meant for evil, God has meant for good! He sent me here to save your lives!
Joseph was very wise indeed.
And so Joseph sent his brothers back to their father with the good news.
Joseph is alive! they told their father.
My son is alive?! Jacob said. He could hardly believe his ears. I must see him before I die!
And that is how Jacob and his sons and daughters and all his household came to live in the land of Egypt.
Jacob and his sons and daughters grew old and died.
But their children and grandchildren had children and grandchildren of their own. Jacobs family grew and grew. They became known as the people of Israel (Israel was the name God had given Jacob years before).
At the same time, the Pharaoh who had welcomed Joseph and his family also died.
A new, fearsome Pharaoh took his place. He didnt know Joseph, or his family, or the good things that the people of Israel had done for his father. He just knew that there were many, many Israelites, and one day they might side with one of the Egyptians enemies and take over the land.
So he began to treat the people of Israel cruelly.
He put slave masters over them, and put them to work, building things for the Egyptians. He made them work all day long, in the hot sun, day after day, year after year.
At last, the people of Israel cried out to God.
And so God appeared in a burning bush to a sheep herder named Moses. God said to him, "I have heard my people's cry. I am sending you to Pharaoh to set my people free."
"I don't want to!" Moses said. "I can't talk to the mighty Pharaoh! I wouldn't even know what to say!"
"Don't worry," said God, "I will be with you in all my power."
So, with God at his side, Moses went to the magnificent palace of the mighty Pharaoh.
Let my people go! Moses said to Pharaoh.
No! said Pharaoh.
This wasn't going to be easy!
But God was about to stretch out his mighty arm. He was going to change Pharaohs mind.
God sent ten plagues, ten terrible things, to the people in Egypt. He turned the river into blood. He sent flies and frogs and swarms of gnats. All the animals of the Egyptians got sick and died. The Egyptians broke out in terrible sores. Great chunks of ice fell from the sky. Anything that was left after that, a great cloud of locusts came and ate it all. And finally, a terrible darkness fell over all of Egypt. For three days the sun did not shine at all.
Still, Pharaoh refused to let Gods people go.
At last, Moses said to Pharaoh,
Set my people free, or the first born son of everyone who lives in Egypt will die, even the first born of your pets and cattle will die.
Pharaoh wouldnt budge.
So God said to Moses, "Tell my people to choose a spotless lamb. On the night I tell you, mark your doorposts with its blood. When the time came, everyone who believed in God did just as he said.
That night, God sent the angel of death to Egypt. The first born of every Egyptian died, even the first born of every animal.
What a terrible cry was heard through all of Egypt!
But the angel of death passed over every house that was marked by the blood of a lamb.
At last, Pharaoh learned that he couldnt stand against God.
That very night, Pharaoh called Moses and commanded, Take your people and go!