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Joseph (Old Testament)

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Joseph
Chronological
Life-span

unknown, estimated around 5th-8th century B.C

Siblings
Parents
Political
Social class
  • Peasant (formerly)
  • Royalty
Occupation
  • Farmer (early life)
  • Prime Minister of Egypt
Cultural
Nationality
Ethnicity
Religion
Language
Appearance
Race

unknown

Eye color unknown
Height unknown
Weight unknown



Joseph was the first son of Jacob through his second wife Rachel, and the eleventh son Jacob had fathered. He was so named because Rachel had wanted to bear children of her own so long, and she was hoping Yahweh would give her another. Unfortunately her next child Benjamin would be the last child she would have as she died during delivery.

Joseph was a favored child among the sons Jacob had because he fathered him in his old age. He gave Joseph a "coat of many colors", which made his brothers angry and jealous with him. But what really made them angrier was the dreams he started having. The first one he told them was about them binding sheaves in the field, and suddenly their sheaves were bowing down before his sheaf—which they understood as that he may rule over them someday. The next dream he had, he also told his father and mother—he saw the sun, moon, and eleven stars all bowing down before him. This time his father rebuked him for telling the dream, wondering if that means even he and his mother will have to bow before him.

One day Joseph was sent by Jacob to go find where his brothers went off to, and on his way a stranger directed him to go to Dothan, which was where they were headed. As the brothers saw him coming, most of them were plotting to kill him and make it look like a wild beast tore him apart. Reuben, wishing to save Joseph, told them to just put him in a pit and don't lay a hand on him. When Joseph arrived, the brothers stripped him of his "coat of many colors" and dumped him into a pit while they had a meal. When they saw Ishmaelite traders passing by, Judah suggested that they should sell him and have him be taken away. They soon sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver, then after he departed they took his coat and dipped it in fresh goat's blood before showing it to their father. Jacob had a feeling his son was torn up by a wild beast and so mourned for him in sackcloth.

Meanwhile, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard in Egypt, where he worked as a servant. The LORD was with him and blessed him in everything he did, and eventually Potiphar made him the head servant of his whole household. Joseph became handsome and attracted the attention of Potiphar's wife, who wanted him to lie with her. But Joseph refused, saying that his master hasn't kept anything back from him but his wife, and that being with her like that would be sinning against Yahweh. Joseph kept avoiding her advances until one day when he was alone in the house, she grabbed him by the coat, and he ran off, leaving the coat in her hand. She then had Joseph framed in front of her husband for raping her, and that false accusation got him put into prison. Yet the LORD was still with him, and even in there he prospered so that the keeper of the prison committed everything to Joseph's authority.


Then one day the Pharaoh got angry with his butler and his baker and had them thrown into prison, where they both started having dreams. Joseph saw that they were sad, and they said it's because of the dreams they're having. The butler says he saw three branches on a vine that budded three bunches of grapes. Joseph told him that the three bunches were three days, and on the third day he would be released and restored to his old position. But when he does, Joseph pleaded for him to make mention of him to the Pharaoh. The baker then told his dream: there were three baskets on his head, with the topmost one having baked goods, and birds were eating from it. Joseph told him that the three baskets are three days, and on the third day he would be released and be hanged for the birds to eat his body. Sure enough, the third day came, and the Pharaoh released the butler and the baker from prison. He restored the butler to his position, while he hanged the baker for the birds to eat his body, just as the dreams told them. Yet the butler didn't remember Joseph.

A year or so later, the Pharaoh had two dreams: one where seven fat cows were eaten by seven thin cows, and another where seven thick stalks of wheat were devoured by seven thin stalks of wheat. His magicians were unable to explain the meaning of Pharaoh's dreams, but his butler recalled the Hebrew prisoner who explained the dreams he and the baker had that came true. Pharaoh had Joseph brought into his court and explained the dreams to him. Joseph then said that the dreams are Yahweh's message to Pharaoh: the seven fat cows and seven thick stalks of wheat were seven good years of crops, while the seven thin cows and the seven thin stalks of wheat were seven years of famine that would follow after. He advised the Pharaoh to store up grain during the seven good years so that the nation would not perish. Realizing that the Spirit of Yahweh was in Joseph, the Pharaoh made him ruler of Egypt and gave him power and authority as second to himself on the throne. During the seven good years, Joseph went out and had all the grain stored up, which was beyond counting. Joseph was given Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Phera priest of On, as a wife, and she bore him Manasseh and Ephraim. When the seven years of famine started, Joseph began to sell the grain that was stored up to both Egypt and the surrounding nations.

It was then that Joseph saw his brothers again, when they except for Benjamin were sent to Egypt by their father Jacob to buy grain. Joseph recognized them and treated them rather harshly, accusing them of being spies to see where Egypt was not defended. Joseph put them in prison for three days, and then sent them back to their father while keeping Simeon in custody, telling them to bring their youngest brother with them or else they won't see his face again. He also put their money back in the sacks after having them filled. They would return a year or so later with Benjamin under Judah's care, promising his father his safe return. Joseph then released Simeon unto them and had them eat with him in his house, giving Benjamin five times the portion his brothers were given. Before they left, Joseph had his servant put his silver cup into Benjamin's sack and then go after them and accuse them of stealing the cup he "uses" for "divination". When his brothers found the cup in Benjamin's sack, they returned to Joseph and Judah pleaded for him to take him into custody in place of Benjamin for fear that his father would die if Benjamin was not safely returned. It was at that point that Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and told them to bring their father and their house to Egypt, where they will live.

When Joseph's brothers brought back word to Jacob that Joseph was still alive, he couldn't believe the news until they showed what they brought back from Egypt, and soon he and the rest of his house moved to Egypt, where Jacob saw his son Joseph alive again. By the Pharaoh's decree, Joseph had his family settle in the land of Goshen. By this time, the famine got worse and the people were running out of money, so Joseph had them sell off their livestock in exchange for food. A year later, the people had nothing left but their bodies and their land, and so offered themselves and their land in exchange for food. Joseph told the people that when they plant seed and the harvest comes, they were to give one-fifth of the produce to Pharaoh and keep the rest for themselves.

Years later, when Jacob was about to die, he made his son Joseph promise to bury him in the cave at Machpelah, and he also blessed Joseph's two sons, though he gave Ephraim the younger the firstborn son's blessing over Manasseh the firstborn. Jacob spoke over all his sons about their futures in "blessings" before he died. Joseph closed his father's eyes and had him embalmed before he and his family journeyed to Machpelah to bury their father. Afterward Joseph's brothers feared that he would now take revenge against them for what they did to him, and so begged for his forgiveness. Joseph told them not to be afraid, for though they thought to do evil against him, Yahweh had planned it for good so that they could be saved.

Joseph lived to 110 years old (so they say) and dwelt in Egypt, seeing Ephraim's children to the third generation. When he died, he made his brethren swear to bring his bones out of Egypt when Yahweh delivers them out of there. During the time of Moses, Joseph's bones were brought out of Egypt, and after the children of Israel had settled in their land, he was buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, which had become an inheritance of the sons of Joseph.

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