Joseph (Hebrew Bible)

Joseph (Hebrew Bible)

Overview
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

The Book of Genesis tells how Joseph was the 11th of Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

's 12 sons and Rachel
Rachel
Rachel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a prophet and the favorite wife of Jacob, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife...

's firstborn. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, yet rose to become the most powerful man in Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 next to Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

.
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Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

The Book of Genesis tells how Joseph was the 11th of Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

's 12 sons and Rachel
Rachel
Rachel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a prophet and the favorite wife of Jacob, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife...

's firstborn. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, yet rose to become the most powerful man in Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 next to Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

. When famine struck the land he brought the sons of Israel down to Egypt, where they were settled in the Land of Goshen
Land of Goshen
The Land of Goshen is named in the bible as the place in Egypt given to the Hebrews by the pharaoh of Joseph, and the land from which they later left Egypt at the time of the Exodus...

.

Etymology


The Bible offers two explanations of name Yosef: first it is compared to the word asaf from the root /'sp/, "taken away": "And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach"; Yosef is then identified with the similar root /ysp/, meaning "add":"And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son."

Family


Joseph, son of Israel (Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

) and Rachel
Rachel
Rachel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a prophet and the favorite wife of Jacob, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife...

, lived in the land of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 with eleven brothers and one sister. He was Rachel's firstborn and Israel's eleventh son. Of all the sons, Joseph was loved by his father the most. Israel even arrayed Joseph with a "long coat of many colors
Coat of many colors
In the Hebrew Bible, the coat of many colours is the name for the garment that Joseph owned. It may be a mistranslation, and the actual nature of the garment is subject to dispute...

". Israel's favoritism toward Joseph caused his half brothers to hate him, and when Joseph was seventeen years old he had two dreams that made his brothers plot his demise. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers gathered bundles of grain. Then, all of the grain bundles that had been prepared by the brothers gathered around Joseph's bundle and bowed down to it. In the second dream, the sun (father), the moon (mother) and eleven stars (brothers) bowed down to Joseph himself. When he told these two dreams to his brothers, they despised him for the implications that the family would be bowing down to Joseph. They became jealous that their father would even ponder over Joseph's words concerning these dreams.

Plot against Joseph


Joseph's half-brothers hated him so much, especially for his dreams, that they even called him this dreamer. While in Dothan
Dothan (ancient city)
Dothan was a city located at north of Shechem, and about 100 km north of Hebron. Eusebius places it 12 miles to the north of Sebaste...

, when they were feeding the flocks, the brothers saw Joseph from a distance and so they plotted to kill him. However, the eldest brother Reuben
Reuben (Bible)
According to the Book of Genesis, Reuben or Re'uven was the first and eldest son of Jacob with Leah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Reuben.-Etymology:...

, did not want Joseph to die. He suggested to have Joseph thrown into an empty water hole until they could figure out what to do with him. He was the only one, however, who intended to rescue Joseph and return him to his father. Unaware of their intent, when Joseph approached his brothers, they turned on him and stripped Joseph of the coat his father made for him. Then they threw him into the cistern that Reuben suggested to earlier. As they pondered what to do with Joseph, the brothers saw a camel caravan of Ishmaelites
Ishmaelites
According to the Book of Genesis, Ishmaelites are the descendants of Ishmael, the elder son of Abraham.-Traditional Origins:According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham's first wife was named Sarah and his second wife Hagar. However Sarah was old and barren, and could not conceive...

 coming out of Gilead
Gilead
In the Bible "Gilead" means hill of testimony or mound of witness, , a mountainous region east of the Jordan River, situated in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is also referred to by the Aramaic name Yegar-Sahadutha, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew . From its mountainous character...

, carrying spices and perfumes to Egypt, for trade. Judah, the strongest, thought twice about killing Joseph and proposed that he be sold. Joseph's sale of trade, before making it to Egypt, was twenty pieces of silver. The brothers were responsible for their missing brother, and they had to answer to their father. So they put male goat's blood on Joseph's coat and showed it to Jacob, who deeply mourned for his son, believing him dead.

Potiphar's house


Due to various translations and views regarding , there is some debate as to who sold Joseph into slavery. It is muddled between the brothers, Midianite traders, Ishmaelite traders or these traders as one and the same. See Midianites and Ishmaelites. What is clear is that Joseph was sold to serve Potiphar
Potiphar
Potiphar or Potifar is a person in the Book of Genesis's account of Joseph. Potiphar is said to be the captain of the palace guard and is referred to without name in the Quran. Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, is taken to Egypt where he is sold to Potiphar as a household slave...

, the captain of Pharaoh's guard. While serving in Potiphar's household, Yahweh
Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

 was with Joseph so that he prospered in everything he did. Joseph found favor in the sight of Potiphar and so he became his personal servant. Then Joseph was promoted to oversee Potiphar's entire household as a superintendent. After some time, Potiphar's wife began to desire Joseph and sought to have an affair with him. Despite her persistence, he refused to have sex with her for fear of sinning against God. After some days of begging for him, she grabbed him by his cloak, but he escaped from her leaving his garment behind. Angered by his running away from her, she took his garment and made a false claim against him by charging that he tried to "make sport" or sexually engage her. This resulted in Joseph being thrown into prison.

Joseph in prison


The warden put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners, and soon afterward Pharaoh's chief cup bearer and chief baker, who had offended the Pharaoh, were thrown into the prison. They both had dreams, and they asked Joseph to help interpret them. The chief cup bearer had held a vine in his hand, with three branches that brought forth grapes; he took them to Pharoah and put them in his cup. The chief baker had three baskets of bread on his head, intended for Pharoah, but some birds came along and ate the bread. Joseph told them that within three days the chief cup bearer would be reinstated but the chief baker would be hanged. Joseph requested the cup bearer to mention him to Pharaoh and secure his release from prison, but the cup bearer, reinstalled in office, forgot Joseph. After Joseph was in prison for two more years, Pharaoh had two dreams which disturbed him. He dreamt of seven lean cows which rose out of the river and devoured seven fat cows; and, of seven withered ears of grain which devoured seven fat ears. Pharaoh's wise men were unable to interpret these dreams, but the chief cup bearer remembered Joseph and spoke of his skill to Pharaoh. Joseph was called for, and interpreted the dreams as foretelling that seven years of abundance would be followed by seven years of famine, and advised Pharaoh to store surplus grain during the years of abundance.

Vizier of Egypt


Pharaoh acknowledged that Joseph's proposal to store grain during the abundant period was very wise. So before Joseph was even 30 years old, Pharaoh released him from prison and put him in charge over "all the land of Egypt" as Vizier
Vizier (Ancient Egypt)
The vizier was the highest official in Ancient Egypt to serve the king, or pharaoh during the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. Vizier is the generally accepted rendering of ancient Egyptian tjati, tjaty etc, among Egyptologists...

. The Pharaoh took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph's hand, then clothed him in fine linen and put a gold necklace around his neck. He was then renamed Zaphnath-Paaneah
Zaphnath-Paaneah
Zaphnath-Paaneah is the name stated by the Bible as given by Pharaoh to Joseph. It seems to be an Egyptian name, but its etymology is in doubt.-Etymology:...

  and was given Asenath
Asenath
Asenath or Asenith is a figure in the Book of Genesis , an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph son of Jacob to be his wife...

, the daughter of Potipherah
Potipherah
Potipherah was a priest of the ancient Egypt town of On, mentioned in the and of the Hebrew Bible.He was the father of Asenath, who was given to Joseph as his wife by Pharaoh, and who bore Joseph two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim....

 who was the priest of On, to be his wife. During those seven years of abundance, Joseph ensured that the storehouses were full and that all produce was measured until there was so much that it became immeasurable. In the final year of abundance, Asenath bore two children to Joseph: Manasseh
Manasseh (tribal patriarch)
Manasseh or Menashe was, according to the Book of Genesis, the first son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Manasseh was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

 and Ephraim
Ephraim
Ephraim ; was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Ephraim was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

. When the famine came, it was so severe that people from surrounding nations "from all over the earth" came to Egypt to buy bread as this nation was the only Kingdom prepared for the seven year drought. The narrative also indicates that they went straight to Joseph or were directed to him, even by Pharaoh himself, so as to buy from him.

The seven year famine became so severe that toward the later period, even Egypt was being strangled. Because the Egyptians had used up all of their money to buy grain in the previous years, there was no more money left. All they had was their livestock and even that dwindled down to nothing. As a last resort, all of the inhabitants of Egypt, less the Egyptian priestly class, sold all of their properties to Joseph for seed. These properties now became the property of the Pharaoh, or in another words, government property. Joseph also set a mandate that because they will be harvesting seed on government property, a fifth of the produce shall go to the Pharaoh. A fifth to the Pharaoh has continued down to at least the days of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

.

Brothers sent to Egypt


In the second year of famine, Joseph's half brothers were sent to Egypt, by their father Israel, to buy goods. When they came to Egypt, they stood before the Vizier but did not recognize him to be their brother Joseph. However, Joseph did recognize them and did not receive them kindly, rather he disguised himself and spoke to them in the Egyptian language
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 using an interpreter. He did not speak at all to them in his native tongue, Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

. After questioning them as to where they come from, he accused them of being spies. They pleaded with him that their only purpose was to buy grain for their family in the land of Canaan. After they mentioned that they had a younger brother whom they left behind at home, the Vizier (Joseph) demanded that he be brought to Egypt before him so as to see if their words held true. This brother was Joseph's blood brother, Benjamin. He placed his brothers in prison for three days. On the third day, he brought them out of prison to reiterate that he wanted their youngest brother to come to Egypt so as to verify their words. The brothers conferred amongst themselves speaking in Hebrew, reflecting on what they had done to Joseph recognizing their guilt. Joseph understood what they were saying and removed himself from their presence because he was caught in emotion. When he returned, the Vizier took Simeon
Simeon (Hebrew Bible)
According to the Book of Genesis, Simeon was, the second son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Simeon. However, some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an etiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

 and bound him as a hostage. Then he had their donkeys prepared with grain and sent the other brothers away back to Canaan. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph had also returned their money to their money sacks.

The silver cup


The remaining brothers returned to their father in Canaan, and told him all of what had transpired in Egypt. They also discovered that all of their money sacks still had money in them, and they were dismayed. Then they informed their father that their word was held by the Vizier, which meant sending Benjamin to Egypt. Israel became greatly distressed feeling that they treated him badly. After they had consumed all of the grain that they brought back from Egypt, Israel told his sons to go back to Egypt for more grain. With Reuben and Judah's persistence, they persuaded their father to bring Benjamin along for fear of Egyptian retribution.
Upon their return to Egypt, the brothers were received by the steward of the house of Joseph. When they were brought to Joseph's house, they became afraid because of the returned money in their money sacks. They thought that the missed transaction would somehow be used against them as way to induct them as slaves and confiscate their possessions. So they immediately informed the steward of what had transpired to get a feel of the situation. On the contrary, the Steward put them at ease telling them not to worry of the money, and then he brought out their brother Simeon. They all went into the house of Joseph and were received with hospitality. When the Vizier (Joseph) appeared, they gave him gifts from their father. Joseph saw and inquired of Benjamin and was overcome by emotion but did not show it. He retreated to his chambers and wept. When he gained control of himself, he returned and brought out the feast. Now as it was at that time, Egyptians did not allow Hebrews to eat with them at the same table, as that was considered loathsome. So when the Vizier (Joseph) brought food over to the table of the sons of Israel, they were astonished.

That night, Joseph ordered his steward to load the brother's donkeys with food and all their money. The money they brought was double what they had from the first trip. Deceptively, Joseph also ordered that his silver cup be put in Benjamin's sack. The following morning the brothers began their journey back to Canaan. At Joseph's command, the steward was to apprehend them and interrogate of that silver cup. When the steward caught up with the brothers, he seized them and searched their sacks. The steward found the cup in Benjamin's sack just as he had planted it the night before. This caused a stir amongst the brothers. However, they complied to being escorted back to Egypt. When the Vizier (Joseph) confronted them about the silver cup, he demanded that the one who possessed the cup in his bag be his slave. In response, Judah pleaded with the Vizier that Benjamin be allowed to return to his father, and he himself be kept in Benjamin's place as slave.

Family reunited


Judah appealed to the Vizier begging that Benjamin be released and that he be replaced in his stead, because of the silver cup found in Benjamin’s sack. The Vizier broke down into tears. He could not control himself any longer and so he sent the Egyptian men out of the house. Then he revealed to them that he was in fact their brother, Joseph. He wept so loudly that even the Egyptian household heard it outside. The brothers were frozen and could not utter a word. He brought them closer and relayed to them the events that had happened and told them not to fear, that what they had meant for evil God had meant for good. Then he commanded them to go and bring their father and his entire household into Egypt to live in the province of Goshen
Land of Goshen
The Land of Goshen is named in the bible as the place in Egypt given to the Hebrews by the pharaoh of Joseph, and the land from which they later left Egypt at the time of the Exodus...

, because there were five more years of famine left. So Joseph supplied them Egyptian transport wagons, new garments, silver money, and twenty additional donkeys carrying provisions for the journey.

Thus, Israel and his entire house of seventy, gathered up with all their livestock and began their journey to Egypt. As they approached Egyptian territory, Judah went out to meet Joseph to gather a report as to where the caravans should disembark. They were directed into the province of Goshen and Joseph readied his chariot to meet his father there. It had been twenty-two years that Joseph had not seen his father. When he came out to meet him, they embraced each other and wept together for quite a while. His father then remarked, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, because you are still alive.”

Afterward, Joseph’s family personally met the Pharaoh of Egypt. The Pharaoh honored their stay and even made the notion that if there were any competent men in their house, then they may elect a chief herdsman to oversee Egyptian livestock. Because the Pharaoh had such a high regard for Joseph, practically making him his equal, it had been an honor to meet his father. Thus, Israel was able to bless the Pharaoh.

Father’s blessing and passing


The house of Israel acquired many possessions and multiplied exceedingly during the course of seventeen years, even through the worst of the seven year famine. At this time, Joseph’s father was 147 years old and bedridden. He had fallen ill and lost most of his vision. Joseph was called into his father’s house and Israel pleaded with his son that he not be buried in Egypt. Rather, he requested to be carried to the land of Canaan to be buried with his forefathers. Joseph was sworn to do as his father asked of him.

Later, Joseph came to visit his father having with him his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Israel declared that they would be heirs to the inheritance of the house of Israel, as if they were his own children, just as Reuben and Simeon were. Then Israel laid his left hand on the eldest Mannasseh’s head and his right hand on the youngest Ephraim’s head and blessed Joseph. However, Joseph was displeased that his father’s right hand was not on the head of his firstborn, so he switched his father’s hands. But Israel refused saying, “but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he.” A declaration he made just as Israel himself was to his firstborn brother Esau. To Joseph, he gave a portion more of Canaanite property than he had to his other sons; land that he fought for against the Amorite
Amorite
Amorite refers to an ancient Semitic people who occupied large parts of Mesopotamia from the 21st Century BC...

s.

Then Israel called all of his sons in and prophesied their blessings or curses to all twelve of them in order of their ages. To Joseph he declared:
"Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), By the God of your father who will help you, And by the Almighty who will bless you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.” -


After relaying his prophecies, Israel died. The family, including the Egyptians, mourned him seventy days. Joseph had his father embalmed, a process that took forty days. Then he prepared a great ceremonial journey to Canaan leading the servants of the Pharaoh, and the elders of the houses Israel and Egypt beyond the Jordan River. They stopped at Atad
Atad
Atad, an Old Testament Hebrew name meaning buckthorn.It was the place where Joseph and his brothers, when on their way from Egypt to Hebron with the remains of their father Jacob, made for seven days a “great and very sore lamentation.” On this account the Canaanites called it “Abel-mizraim” . It...

 where they observed seven days of mourning. Here, their lamentation was so great that it caught the attention of surrounding Canaanites who remarked “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.” So they named this spot Abel Mizraim. Then Joseph buried Israel in the cave of Machpelah, the property of Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 when he bought it from the Hittites
Biblical Hittites
The Hittites and children of Heth are a people or peoples mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. They are listed in Book of Genesis as second of the twelve Canaanite nations, descended from one Heth...

.

After their father died, the brothers of Joseph feared retribution for being responsible for Joseph’s deliverance into Egypt as a slave. Joseph wept as they spoke and told them that what had happened was God’s purpose to save lives and the lives of his family. He comforted them and their ties were reconciled.

Joseph's burial


Joseph lived to the age of 110, living to see his great-grandchildren. Before he died, he made the children of Israel swear that when they left the land of Egypt they would take his bones with them, and on his death his body was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

The children of Israel remembered their oath, and when they left Egypt during the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

, Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 took Joseph's bones with him. The bones were buried at Shechem
Shechem
Shechem was a Canaanite city mentioned in the Amarna letters, and is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as an Israelite city of the tribe of Manasseh and the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel...

, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor , which has traditionally been identified with site of Joseph's Tomb
Joseph's Tomb
Joseph's Tomb is a funerary monument located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, 325 yards northwest of Jacob's Well, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus, near Tell Balāṭa, the site of biblical Shechem...

, before Jacob and all his family moved to Egypt. Shechem was in the land which was allocated by Joshua
Tribal allotments of Israel
According to the Book of Joshua, Joshua divided the newly conquered land of Canaan into parcels, and assigned them to the Tribes of Israel by lot. The Book of Joshua describes the parcels by giving landmarks along the borders, or in some cases by listing the included cities...

 to the Tribe of Ephraim
Tribe of Ephraim
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Ephraim was one of the Tribes of Israel. The Tribe of Manasseh together with Ephraim also formed the House of Joseph....

, one of the tribes of the House of Joseph, after the conquest of Canaan.

Academic analysis


19th century source criticism
Source criticism
A source criticism is a published source evaluation . An information source may be a document, a person, a speech, a fingerprint, a photo, an observation or anything used in order to obtain knowledge. In relation to a given purpose, a given information source may be more or less valid, reliable or...

 divided the Joseph story between the Jahwist
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

, Elohist
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

 and Priestly source
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

s of the documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

. In the early 20th century Hermann Gunkel
Hermann Gunkel
Hermann Gunkel was a German Protestant Old Testament scholar. He is noted for his contribution to form criticism and the study of oral tradition in biblical texts. He was an outstanding representative of the "History of Religion School."...

 demonstrated that, unlike the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob stories, the Joseph story formed a single unitary story with literary rather than oral origins, while in 1953 Gerhard von Rad
Gerhard von Rad
Gerhard von Rad was a German Lutheran pastor, University professor and an Old Testament scholar.With the experience of two World Wars, the German-speaking world began to turn "anti-Old Testament"...

 made a detailed assessment of its literary artistry and drew attention to its identity as a Wisdom novella, and in 1968 R.N. Whybray argued that unity and artistry implied a single author. All three insights are now widely accepted, and the majority of modern biblical scholars date the Joseph story in its current form to the 5th century BCE Persian era at the earliest. There have been many attempts to trace the story's redaction history including work by Donald Redford. His theory states that a first "Reuben version" of the story originated in the northern kingdom of Israel and was intended to justify the domination of the “house of Joseph” over the other tribes; this was followed by a later “Judah-expansion” (chapters 38 and 49) elevating Judah as the rightful successor to Jacob; and finally various embellishments were added so that the novella would function as the bridge between the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob material in Genesis and the following story of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 and the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

.

Jewish tradition


See also: Torah portions
Parsha
This article is about the divisions of the Torah into weekly readings. For this week's Torah portion, see Torah portionThe weekly Torah portion |Sidra]]) is a section of the Torah read in Jewish services...

 on Joseph: Vayeshev
Vayeshev
Vayeshev, Vayeishev, or Vayesheb is the ninth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading...

, Miketz
Miketz
Miketz or Mikeitz is the tenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis Jews in the Diaspora read it the tenth Sabbath after Simchat Torah. Generally, it is read on the Sabbath of Chanukah...

, Vayigash
Vayigash
Vayigash or Vaigash is the eleventh weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading...

, and Vayechi
Vayechi
Vayechi, Vayehi, or Vayhi is the twelfth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the last in the Book of Genesis...


Selling Joseph


In the midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

, the selling of Joseph was part of God's divine plan for him to save his tribes. The favoritism Israel showed Joseph and the plot against him by his brothers were divine means of getting him into Egypt. Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

 comments that even the villiager in Shechem, whom Joseph inquired about his brother's whereabouts, was a "divine messenger" working behind the scene.

A midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 asked, how many times was Joseph sold? In analyzing , there are five different Hebrew names used to describe five different groups of people involved in the transaction of selling Joseph, according to Rabbi Judah
Judah ben Ilai
Judah bar Ilai, also known as Judah ben Ilai, Rabbi Judah or Judah the Palestinian , was a tanna of the 2nd Century and son of Rabbi Ilai I. Of the many Judahs in the Talmud, he is the one referred to simply as "Rabbi Judah" and is the most frequently mentioned sage in the Mishnah.Judah bar Ilai...

 and Rav Huna
Rav Huna
Rav Huna , a Kohen, was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora of the second generation and head of the Academy of Sura; He was born about 216, died in 296-297 ).-Youth:...

. The first group identified, are Joseph's brothers when Judah brings up the idea of selling Joseph in verses 26 and 27. The first mention of Ishmaelites (Yishma'elîm) is in verse 25. Then the Hebrew phrase ʼnāshîm midyanîm sōĥrîm in verse 28 describes Midianite traders. A fourth group in verse 36 is named in Hebrew as m‘danîm that is properly identified as Medanites
Medan (son of Abraham)
According to the Bible, Medan ; also spelt Madan was the third son of Abraham, the patriarch of the Israelites, and Keturah whom he wed after the death of Sarah...

. The final group where a transaction is made, is amongst the Egyptians in the same verse.

After identifying these Hebrew names, Rabbi Judah claims that Joseph was sold four times: First his brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites (Yishma'elîm), then the Ishmaelites sold him to the Midianite traders (ʼnāshîm midyanîm sōĥrîm), the Midianite traders to the Medanites (m‘danîm), and the Medanites into Egypt. Rav Huna
Rav Huna
Rav Huna , a Kohen, was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora of the second generation and head of the Academy of Sura; He was born about 216, died in 296-297 ).-Youth:...

 adds one more sale by concluding that after the Medanites sold him to the Egyptians, a fifth sale occurred when the Egyptians sold him to Potiphar
Potiphar
Potiphar or Potifar is a person in the Book of Genesis's account of Joseph. Potiphar is said to be the captain of the palace guard and is referred to without name in the Quran. Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, is taken to Egypt where he is sold to Potiphar as a household slave...

. (Genesis Rabbah 84:22)

Potiphar’s wife


The reasons why Joseph did not have an affair with Potiphar’s wife was because he did not want to abuse his Master’s trust, he believed in the sanctity of marriage, and it went against his ethical, moral and religious principles taught by his father Israel. According to the midrash, Joseph would have been immediately executed by the sexual assault charge against him by Potiphar’s wife. Arbarbanel
Abravanel
The Abravanel family is one of the oldest and most distinguished Jewish families of the Iberian peninsula; they trace their origin from the biblical King David...

 explains that she had accused other servants of the same crime in the past. Potiphar believed that Joseph was incapable of such an act and petitioned Pharaoh to spare his life. However, punishment could not have been avoided because of her class status and limited public knowledge when she screamed.

Silver cup for divination


Jewish tradition holds that Joseph had his steward plant his personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack to test his brothers. He wanted to know if they would be willing to risk danger in order to save their half brother Benjamin. Since Joseph and Benjamin were born from Rachel, this test was necessary to reveal if they would betray Benjamin as they did with Joseph when he was seventeen. Because Joseph the Dreamer predicts the future by analyzing dreams, Jewish tradition attest that he practiced divination using this silver cup as the steward charged and as Joseph himself professed to in .

Raising Joseph


In one Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

ic story, Joseph was buried in the Nile river, as there was some dispute as to which province should be honored by having his tomb within its boundaries. Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, led there by an ancient holy woman named Serach, was able by a miracle to raise the sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 and to take it with him at the time of the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

.

Islamic tradition


Joseph ("Yusuf") is regarded by Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s as a prophet (Qur'an, suras vi. 84, xl. 34), and a whole chapter (sura xii.) is devoted to him. He is told to have been very handsome. Muhammad is believed to have once said, "One half of all the beauty God apportioned for mankind went to Joseph; the other one half went to the rest of mankind." One significant departure in the Qur'an is the use of an unspecified King in place of the Biblical Pharaoh. The story has the same general outlines as the Biblical narrative, but with a wealth of additional detail and incident. In the Qur'an the brothers ask Jacob to let Joseph go with them. The pit into which Joseph is thrown is a well with water in it, and Joseph was taken as a slave by passing-by travelers (Qur'an 12:19).

In the Bible, Joseph discloses himself to his brethren before they return to their father the second time after buying grain. The same is true in the Islamic story but they are compelled to return to Jacob without Benjamin, and the former weeps himself blind. He remains so until the sons have returned from Egypt, bringing with them Joseph's garment which healed the patriarch's eyes as soon as he put it to his face (Qur'an 12:96).

Christian tradition


Joseph is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints
Calendar of Saints (Armenian Apostolic Church)
-January:* 1 Third Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 2 Fourth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 3 Fifth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 4 Sixth Day of the Fast of the Nativity* 5 Eve of the Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 on July 26. In the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite
Byzantine Rite
The Byzantine Rite, sometimes called the Rite of Constantinople or Constantinopolitan Rite is the liturgical rite used currently by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches, by the Greek Catholic Churches , and by the Protestant Ukrainian Lutheran Church...

, he is known as "Joseph the all-comely", a reference not only to his physical appearance, but more importantly to the beauty of his spiritual life. They commemorate him on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (two Sundays before Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

) and on Holy and Great Monday (Monday of Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

). In icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

s, he is sometimes depicted wearing the nemes
Nemes
The nemes was the striped headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt. It covered the whole crown and back of the head and nape of the neck and had two large flaps which hung down behind the ears and in front of both shoulders. It was sometimes combined with the double crown, as it is on the...

 headdress of an Egyptian vizier. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is a traditional, confessional Lutheran denomination in the United States. With 2.3 million members, it is both the eighth largest Protestant denomination and the second-largest Lutheran body in the U.S. after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Synod...

 commemorates him as a patriarch on March 31.

Literature and culture

  • Thomas Mann
    Thomas Mann
    Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

     retells the Genesis stories surrounding Joseph in his four novel omnibus, Joseph and His Brothers
    Joseph and His Brothers
    Joseph and His Brothers is a four-part novel by Thomas Mann, written over the course of 16 years. Mann retells the familiar stories of Genesis, from Jacob to Joseph , setting it in the historical context of the Amarna Period...

    , identifying Joseph with the figure of Osarseph
    Osarseph
    Osarseph is a legendary figure of Ancient Egypt who has been equated with Moses. His story was recounted by the Ptolemaic Egyptian historian Manetho in his Aigyptiaca ; Manetho's work is lost, but the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus quotes extensively from it.The story depicts Osarseph as...

     known from Josephus
    Josephus
    Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

    , and the pharaoh with Akhenaten
    Akhenaten
    Akhenaten also spelled Echnaton,Ikhnaton,and Khuenaten;meaning "living spirit of Aten") known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV , was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC...

    .

  • The long-running musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story is based on the "coat of many colors" story of Joseph from the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis. This was the first Lloyd Webber and Rice musical to be performed publicly...

    by Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber is an English composer of musical theatre.Lloyd Webber has achieved great popular success in musical theatre. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of...

     and Tim Rice
    Tim Rice
    Sir Timothy Miles Bindon "Tim" Rice is an British lyricist and author.An Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Tony Award and Grammy Award-winning lyricist, Rice is best known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, with whom he wrote Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus...

     is one of the few major British musical theatre shows with hardly any spoken dialogue, being almost completely sung.

  • In 1995, Turner Network Television
    Turner Network Television
    Turner Network Television is an American cable television channel created by media mogul Ted Turner and currently owned by the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner...

     released the made-for-television movie Joseph
    Joseph (film)
    The Bible: Joseph is a German/Italian/American television movie from 1995, which tells the story of Joseph from the Old Testament.- Plot :Joseph, a Canaanite Hebrew, is an Egyptian slave to Potiphar, chief of Pharoah's palace guard. When Joseph is placed under the charge of Ednan, Potiphar's...

    starring Ben Kingsley
    Ben Kingsley
    Sir Ben Kingsley, CBE is a British actor. He has won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in his career. He is known for starring as Mohandas Gandhi in the film Gandhi in 1982, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor...

     as Potiphar, Lesley Ann Warren
    Lesley Ann Warren
    Lesley Ann Warren is an American actress and singer. She has been nominated once for an Academy Award and Emmy Awards and five times for Golden Globe, winning one....

     as Potiphar's wife, Paul Mercurio
    Paul Mercurio
    Paul Joseph Mercurio is an Australian actor, dancer and TV presenter. Mercurio is well-known for his lead role in Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom . His father was the character actor Gus Mercurio.- Biography :...

     as Joseph and Martin Landau
    Martin Landau
    Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

     as Jacob.

  • In 2000, DreamWorks Animation
    DreamWorks Animation
    DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. is an American animation studio based in Glendale, California that creates animated feature films, television program and online virtual worlds...

    released a direct-to-video animated musical film based on the life of Joseph, titled Joseph: King of Dreams
    Joseph: King of Dreams
    Joseph: King of Dreams is a 2000 American animated musical film and the first direct-to-video release from DreamWorks Animation. The film is an adaptation of the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis in the Bible and also serves as a prequel to the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt.- Plot :Joseph is...

    .

  • Yousuf e Payambar (film)
    Yousuf e Payambar (film)
    Yousuf-e- Payambar or Joseph, the Prophet is an Iranian television movie from 2008, directed by Farajullah Salahshur, which tells the story of Prophet Joseph from the Quran and Islamic traditions...

     or Joseph, the Prophet is an Iranian television series from 2008, directed by Farajullah Salahshur, which tells the story of Prophet Joseph from the Quran and Islamic traditions.

  • Aramis is described as "a Joseph" in Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers.

External links


Leaders of Israel

Preceded by : Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...



Succeeded by: Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...