Life of Joseph

Joseph the firstborn son of Rachel is the major character presented in the remainder of Genesis, chapters 37-50.

The following summarises the main events detailed of Joseph’s life, other details of his brothers and father are included for completeness:-

Genesis 37:1-2, Joseph aged 17 brings evil report to his father of his co-shepherd half-brothers.

Genesis 37:3-4, Jacob’s preferential affection for Joseph, demonstrated in a gift of a brightly coloured or ornamented tunic, led to jealousy and hatred on the part of his half-brothers.

Genesis 37:5-11, Joseph had 2 dreams which led to envy on the part of his brethren.
* He and his brethren binding sheaves and their sheaves bowed to his sheaf
* 11 stars and the sun and moon made obeisance to him, which is interpreted by Jacob as he, Joseph’s mother and his 11 brethren bowing to him.

Genesis 37:12-36, Joseph, being sent by his father to bring report of how his brothers were faring in their shepherding, finds them at Dotham where they take him prisoner and sell him to Midianite traders. Joseph is sold on into Egypt to Potiphar an officer of Pharaoh. Joseph’s coat dipped in goat’s blood, is returned to Jacob who assumes his son is dead.

Genesis 39, details Joseph’s progress as Potiphar’s slave where he was elevated to overseer. Potiphar’s wife being rejected by Joseph when seeking his favours, claimed he raped her, leading to Potiphar committing Joseph to prison.

Genesis 40, Joseph being given responsibilities for other prisoners’ care came into contact with Pharaoh’s chief baker and butler who had incurred Pharaoh’s wrath. Their respective dreams were interpreted by Joseph as indicating restitution of the butler to office and execution of the baker, which was fulfilled within 3 days.

Genesis 41, two dreams of Pharaoh are presented: 7 fat kine followed by 7 thin kine and 7 fat ears followed by 7 thin ears of corn. In both cases the 7 thin kine and 7 thin ears devoured the fat. The butler remembering Joseph’s interpretation of his dream 2 years earlier suggests he is called to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph translation is of 7 good years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph is elevated to a high administrative position by Pharaoh and tasked to collect stores by a 20% taxation during the good years. These stores are then used to preserve life during the famine.

Genesis 41:45-46, 51, Joseph is aged 30 when he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. He is given Asenath as a wife by Pharaoh and he has two sons Manasseh and Ephraim.

Genesis 42, Jacob suffering from the effects of the famine, sends 10 of his sons into Egypt to buy food. Benjamin is held back by Jacob as he continues to fear for his safety after his loss of Joseph. Joseph accuses his brethren, who do not recognise him of being spies. They make obeisance to him as had been prophesied in Joseph’s dreams and plead their innocence. Joseph demands details of their family and hears of his father’s continued welfare and his brother Benjamin. Joseph retains his stance that they are spies and sending them back with corn and their money returned in their sacks mouth’s holds Simeon prisoner in Egypt with the demand that they return with Benjamin as evidence of their innocence.

Genesis 43, the famine continues, and Jacob is forced to send his sons again to Egypt with a present for the governor (i.e. Joseph) and, with great reluctance and fear for his safety, allows Benjamin to accompany them. Joseph releases Simeon and gives his brethren a meal, where he sets them out in order of birth.

Genesis 44, Joseph’s 11 brethren set out to return to Canaan. Joseph sends after them claiming they had stolen a cup. The cup is found in Benjamin’s corn sack and Joseph’s servant states that Benjamin has to return but the others can go their way. The other 10 brethren refuse to allow Benjamin to return alone and go with him. Judah pleads their case to Joseph detailing their father’s loss of his son (i.e. Joseph) and his great reluctance in allowing Benjamin to come with them.

Genesis 45, Joseph, having seen the response of his brethren with respect to Benjamin and their concern for their father, made his identity known to them. Arrangements are made for their return to Canaan with wagons for them to bring to Egypt all of Jacob’s household. Jacob agrees to go into Egypt to see his son.

Genesis 46, Jacob with a total household of 66, including his son’s families with grandchildren, takes the journey into Egypt being met by Joseph.

Genesis 47, Jacob at 130 years old is brought to stand before Pharaoh and as advised by Joseph, claims they are shepherds and cattlemen. Egyptians did not mix with members of these occupations and thus Jacob’s household was able to dwell separately in Goshen, an ideal cattle feeding area, whilst protected from famine by provisions from Joseph.

Genesis 48, Jacob blessed Joseph’s 2 sons giving Ephraim the firstborn’s blessing although he was younger than his brother Manasseh.

Genesis 49, details are given of Jacob’s prophetic blessings of his 12 sons. Joseph is recognised as the one who has brought salvation to the family and thus receives the double blessing of the firstborn, his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim later being counted among the 12 tribes when they inherit Canaan. Reuben is not blessed as the firstborn due to his incest with father’s concubine. Simeon and Levi’s actions over Dinah and Shechem’s liaison are noted and thus they are denied their own inheritance. Levi would act as a tribe of priests and have scattered cites allotted to them whilst Simeon’s allotted inheritance was within that of Judah’s when Israel inherited Canaan. The blessings infer that the royal line of Israel’s kings would come from Judah Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come

Genesis 50, describes, Jacob’s death aged 147, his embalming and burial in the cave of Machpelah, Abraham’s tomb. Joseph died aged 110 and commands that his embalmed body should be carried out of Egypt for burial in Canaan, when Israel as a nation depart in accordance with God’s promise to Abraham.

These events are remembered by the Psalmist:- Psalms 105:17-23 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom. Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.

Stephen in his defence summarises Joseph’s life:- Acts 7:9-16 the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

Joseph’s trust in the Abramic promises is commended by the Apostle to the Hebrews :- Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

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