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Joseph

Joseph

The story of Joseph and his brothers, recounted in the Book of Genesis, involves a great misdeed committed within a family and the forgiveness that eventually followed. Joseph, one of twelve sons of Jacob, was hated by his brothers due to the preferential treatment he received from his aging father. The brothers sold Joseph into slavery, but he eventually rose to wealth and high appointment in Egypt. In a perfect position to exact revenge on his brothers, Joseph instead chose to forgive them. Joseph's two sons would grow up to lead two of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Early Life

The account of Joseph's life, which takes place in Egypt, is recounted in the Book of Genesis. However dates of his life can only be approximated, as the Book does not mention any particular Pharaoh (ruler of Egypt). In addition, the Egyptian customs and manners which were depicted do not definitively identify any specific period in Egyptian history, although there are strong indications that it took place during the Hyksos era.

Joseph was born in Haran. He was the son of Jacob and Rachel. His name is either a contraction off Jehoseph or an abbreviation of Joseph-El. He was the eleventh son of Jacob and the first born of his mother, who was not able to have any children for a long period of time.

Joseph's brothers were born to Jacob from three other women: Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah. Leah was the first of Jacob's wives (in this period and place, it was not unusual for men to have more than one wife). Bilhah was Rachel's servant, and Zilpah was Leah's servant.

Leah gave birth to Reuben, the first-born son, and then Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Rachel wanted to have children so badly that she offered up her female servant Bilhah to Jacob, to be his wife, but for the sole purpose of bearing him children. Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Napthali. Zilpah gave birth to Gad and Asher. When Rachel was finally able to have children, she gave birth to Joseph. Later, she gave birth to Benjamin.

Jacob is estimated to have been ninety-one years old when Joseph was born. As a young boy, Joseph spent a great deal of time with his father, because his father was so old. As such, a strong love developed between Jacob and Joseph.

The Favorite Son

By the time he was seventeen years old, Joseph worked as a shepherd on his father's land in Canaan. His brothers did the same work, and all of them, including Joseph, worked equally hard. However, the other brothers did not like Joseph, as they could see that he was their father's favored son. The brother's jealousy festered when Jacob presented Joseph with a many-colored cloak. In addition, Joseph often reported to his father about some of the misdeeds his brothers committed.

Fueling his brothers' hatred, Joseph liked to relate his dreams, especially the ones that revealed he would become an important person one day. In one dream, even the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. But the dream even annoyed Jacob, who admonished his son for revealing such a self-important vision. His brothers questioned him sarcastically, asking Joseph if he really believed he would one day rule over them or that one day they would bow before him.

Sold into Slavery

One time, Joseph's brothers went to a place called Shechem to do business for their father. Later, Jacob instructed Joseph to go check on his brothers. When Joseph did not find them in Shechem, he learned they went to Dothan. Joseph followed them, and when they spotted him, they conspired to kill him and toss his body into a pit. However, Reuben, the oldest brother, suggested they only throw Joseph in the pit and leave him there, where he would eventually die. That way, they wouldn't be responsible for his murder. The brothers agreed, but Reuben had only made the suggestion so that he could later return to the still-living Joseph and rescue him from the pit.

When Joseph approached his brothers, they overpowered him, took his coat, and then threw him into the pit. Afterward, they stopped to eat. While dining, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite traders from Gilead. The sight gave Judah and idea: It would be better to sell Joseph into slavery, so that they could profit from their deed.

After selling Joseph for twenty pieces of silver, the brothers took the coat they had taken from him and smeared it with the blood of a slaughtered goat. The idea was to show it Jacob, to convince their father that the missing son had been killed.

When the brothers presented the manufactured evidence to their father, Jacob recognized the coat and surmised that an animal had killed his son. His grief was enormous, and he mourned for a long time.

Became a Favored Slave

In the meantime, Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he was bought by Potiphar, who was an officer and head of the kitchen of Pharaoh. As it turned out, Potiphar took a liking to Joseph, and he made him his personal attendant and placed him in charge of his household.

But Joseph ran into some trouble with Potiphar's wife. As Joseph was young, well-built, and handsome, she often tried to seduce him. However, Joseph consistently spurned her, telling her that he loyal to both Potiphar and to God.

Imprisoned on False Slander

One day, when Joseph was working inside the house, Potiphar's wife grabbed his coat. Frightened, Joseph ran from the house. Later, Potiphar's wife showed her husband the coat and claimed that Joseph had tried to seduce her. The outraged Potiphar sent Joseph to prison.

While in prison, the apparently likeable Joseph gained the friendship of the chief jailor, who placed Joseph in charge of all of the other prisoners. Two of the other prisoners included the Pharoah's butler and baker. One night, both of these men had strange, disturbing dreams, so they went to Joseph, who seemed to possess the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph told the butler that his dream meant that he would soon be released from prison and return to his previous position. Only three days later, the interpretation came true. As the butler was leaving, Joseph asked him to put in a good word for him to the Pharoah. The butler agreed, but later forgot about Joseph.

Attained High Position in Egypt

However, two years later, the Pharoah experienced troubling dreams that his magicians could not interpret. The butler remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. Pharaoh sent for Joseph.

By now, Joseph was thirty years old. He listened to the Pharoah's dream and told the ruler that the dream predicted seven years of feast that would be followed by seven years of famine. In addition to the interpretation, he offered advice. He suggested that the Pharoah place a wise man in charge of all of the land who would organize the gathering and storage of food in preparation for the upcoming years of famine. The Pharoah was so impressed with Joseph's advice that he elevated the former prisoner to his second-in-command. Essentially, Joseph became that "wise man" who would plan for the famine. He was in placed in charge of gathering and storing grain for the upcoming famine, and his duties took him to cities all throughout Egypt. For his new position, Joseph received a ring, a gold necklace and fine clothes. Also, the Pharaoh gave him the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah and gave him a wife, Asenath, who was the daughter of the priest Potiphera. During these years, Asenath and Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

Joseph Encountered Brothers in Egypt

When the famine struck, it was widespread, and Egypt was the only country that had food. Joseph rationed grain to Egyptians and to outsiders who came seeking help.

Canaan was one of many places affected by the famine, so Jacob sent his ten sons to Egypt to buy food. After Joseph's disappearance, Rachel and Jacob had one more son, Benjamin, but he remained behind, as Joseph was concerned about his safety.

When the brothers reached Egypt, they bowed down to Joseph, unaware of who he was. Joseph recognized his brothers but pretended he did not. Joseph interrogated them and accused them of being spies. To try and prove their innocence, the brothers revealed they had a younger brother back home, and that they were concerned for his safety. Joseph imprisoned the brothers for three days then demanded that they go home and bring back their youngest brother, to prove they were telling the truth. The brothers consulted among themselves and said that they knew they were finally being punished for what they had done to their brother Joseph. Joseph overheard them and wept, but he continued his deception. He gave the brothers provisions for their journey and grain for their homeland, but he kept Simeon in jail, to ensure his brothers' return. He also returned to them the money they had paid, but he did it without their knowledge, slipping the money into one of the brother's bags.

Back home, the brothers told Jacob what happened in Egypt and asked that Benjamin be allowed to accompany them. Jacob refused. He had already lost Joseph, and now it looked as if he lost Simeon as well. He did not want to lose another son. Reuben promised that Jacob could kill his own sons if he did not return safely with Benjamin. Still, Jacob refused.

Famine Forced Brothers Back to Egypt

Eventually, the rations ran out, and the brothers had no choice but to return to Egypt for more supplies. Jacob sent the brothers back to Egypt with Benjamin, along with a gift for Joseph and twice the amount of money needed to repay Joseph for the money he returned to them during the first trip.

When the brothers reached Egypt, Joseph took them to the entrance of his house and instructed his servant to prepare a meal. The brothers were frightened. They feared that Joseph believed they had stolen the money that they had found in their bag at the end of the first trip. But Joseph only told them that God must have put it there because he received their payment.

The brothers then went inside and waited to eat. When Joseph returned, they gave him the gifts and bowed to him. He asked about their father. Bowing again, they said he was well. Soon, Joseph became overwhelmed with emotion, and he left the room. Then he came back and they all dined. He then instructed his servant to fill the brothers' bags with food, return each one's money a second time, and put his own silver goblet in Benjamin's bag.

Joseph's True Identity Revealed

When the brothers left Egypt, Joseph's servant chased after them and accused them of stealing Joseph's goblet. He said that whoever had the goblet in his possession would be kept as a slave, while the others would go free. He found the goblet in Benjamin's bag. The brothers returned to Egypt and threw themselves at Joseph's feet, begging on Benjamin's behalf. But Joseph insisted that only Benjamin would become a slave. Judah pleaded passionately with Joseph, revealing Jacob's reluctance to send Benjamin and of his own responsibility in the matter. He told of the sorrow that Benjamin's loss would bring to Jacob. Finally, Joseph could not continue with the deception. He revealed his true identity. Then, Joseph again asked about his father. The brothers were too stunned to reply. Joseph explained that he was not angry with them.

He sent them home with instructions to tell Jacob what really had become of his beloved son Joseph. In addition, he wanted them to bring Jacob and his household to the nearby town of Goshen, where Joseph could care for all of them during the remainder of the famine. All of the brothers then wept and kissed.

When the brothers revealed the news to their father, Jacob initially did not believe them. But after he saw the wagons and provisions Joseph had provided, he knew it was all true.

Then Jacob, at age 130, set out for Goshen with the 70 members of his household. The brothers were placed in charge of the Pharoah's livestock. They now lived in Ramses, the richest part of Egypt, and Joseph provided them with food.

Eventually as the famine continued, and the Egyptian economy became endangered, Joseph established a just arrangement with the people, where they were supplied with seed and would return one-fifth of their crops to the Pharoah. All farmland became nationalized, and the people became serfs.

Jacob Died in Egypt

After Jacob had lived in Egypt for 17 more years, he asked Joseph to bury him not in Egypt but in the burial place of his fathers, in the cave of Machpelah. For Jacob knew that he was sick and dying. Before he passed away, he gave an extra portion of his inheritance to Joseph, a custom usually reserved for the first born. Jacob then blessed Joseph's sons and all of his own sons, saving the longest blessing for Joseph.

After Jacob passed away, the Egyptians mourned for seventy days, and Joseph returned to Canaan to bury his father.

Upon Jacob's death, the brothers feared that Joseph would finally take his revenge on them. They tried to convince Joseph that, before he died, Jacob had told them to tell Joseph that he wanted him to forgive them. They even offered to be his slaves. But the ruse and the offer were both unnecessary. Joseph told them that God had always intended that he go to Egypt, to save many people. Therefore, he intended to take care of his brothers, their children, and his father's household.

Lived for more than a Century

Joseph reportedly lived to be one-hundred-and-ten years old. He resided in Egypt with his brothers and their families until he died. He had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren from his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

Before Joseph died, he told his brothers that God would raise them up from Egypt—meaning the Jewish people—and take them to the "promised land." When Joseph died, his body was embalmed according the Egyptian custom and placed in a coffin in Egypt. According to accounts, when the Jews finally left Egypt, about one hundred years later, Moses carried out Joseph's bones. Eventually, Joseph was buried in Shechem, on a piece of land that Jacob had once owned.

Joseph's two sons became the ancestors of two large and important tribes in Israel. The northern Israelite kingdom is often times called the "House of Joseph."

Today, among scholars, the story of Joseph is considered historical fact and not allegorical historical fiction. The recorded story reveals numerous verifiable details about Egypt, particularly the Hyksos period, when the Pharaohs tended to be Semitic foreigners. That would explain how a Semite such as Joseph would attain such a high position in Egypt.

In addition, historical records reveal a significant economic change taking place during the Hyksos period. This change can easily be accounted for by details from the story of Joseph. Further, Egyptian monuments illustrate many details of the story of Joseph.

Online

"Joseph," Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08506a.htm (January 9, 2005).

"Joseph," Christian Resource Center, http://www.nisbett.com/people/bp-joseph.htm (January 8, 2004).

"Joseph," Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Joseph.html (January 9, 2005).

"Joseph: Son of Jacob (Part 1), Christian Churches of God, http://www.logon.org/english/c/cb014.html (January 9, 2005).

"Joseph: Son of Jacob (Part 2), Christian Churches of God, http://www.logon.org/english/c/cb015.html (January 9, 2005).

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Joseph

Joseph

The American Indian Joseph (ca. 1840-1904), a Nez Percé chief, fought to preserve his homeland and did much to awaken the conscience of America to the plight of Native Americans.

Joseph was born in the Wallowa Valley of northeastern Oregon. In 1871, upon the death of his father, he assumed leadership of the nontreaty Nez Percé. White settlers coveted the traditional homeland of these Native Americans, and Joseph, seeking confirmation of Nez Percé territorial rights, met with Federal commissioners to discuss a spurious treaty in which the Indians had supposedly ceded their land to the U.S. government. The commissioners were disconcerted by Joseph, who stood 6 feet tall, was amicable but firm, and spoke with amazing eloquence.

Despite the obvious fraudulence of the old treaty, President Ulysses S. Grant opened the Nez Percé lands to settlement and ordered the Native Americans onto reservations. White settlers moved onto the land and committed atrocities against the Indians. Against his will, Joseph was forced by his tribesmen to fight. Pressed hard by Gen. Oliver Otis Howard's forces, Joseph was convinced that he could not win and began a lengthy withdrawal toward Canada. Pursued by Howard and harassed by many small detachments, Joseph fled toward Canada and thrilled the nation, whose sympathies were with the Native Americans.

During the fall of 1877 Joseph led his 500 followers into Montana. In the fighting he showed rare military genius and great humanity; he refused to make war on women and children, bought his supplies when possible, and allowed no mutilation of bodies. On October 1, as the Nez Percé paused to rest at the Bear Paw Mountains just 30 miles from Canada, they were surprised by Col. N. A. Miles with approximately 600 soldiers. With only 87 warriors, Joseph chose to fight. He would not abandon the children, the women, and the aged. After a 5-day siege, however, he said to Miles and his followers: "It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death… . Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

The 431 remaining Nez Percé were taken to Kansas and subsequently to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). There so many of them sickened and died that an aroused American public demanded action. Chief Joseph was moved to Colville Reservation in Washington, along with 150 of his followers; the others were returned to Oregon. Joseph made many pleas to be returned to his tribal homeland, but he died on Sept. 21, 1904, and was buried on the Colville Reservation.

Further Reading

The best of the many biographies of Joseph is Merrill D. Beal, I Will Fight No More Forever: Chief Joseph and the Nez Percé War (1963). Other interesting works include Helen Howard and Dan McGrath, War Chief Joseph (1941; published in 1965 as Saga of Chief Joseph), and Lucullus McWhorter, Hear Me, My Chiefs, edited by Ruth Bordin (1952). □

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Joseph

Joseph male forename. In the Bible, Joseph is the name of a Hebrew patriarch, son of Jacob. He was given a coat of many colours by his father, whose favourite he was, and he exacerbated his brothers' jealousy by dreams which predicted his dominance over them, as by their sheaves in the harvest field bowing down to the sheaf of Joseph.

Sold by them into captivity in Egypt and at risk from the machinations of Potiphar's wife, he attained high office in Egypt, finding favour with Pharaoh by his interpretation of the dream of seven fat and seven lean cattle, and seven full and seven thin ears of corn, as a warning against a coming famine.

The story is ultimately one of reconciliation, when his brothers come to Egypt to buy corn and are in Joseph's power; in the end the whole family of Jacob settles in Egypt.
St Joseph husband of the Virgin Mary. A carpenter of Nazareth, and by later tradition already elderly, he was betrothed to Mary at the time of the Annunciation. In Christian art, representations of the Nativity often show St Joseph a little apart from the main group, with his chin on his hand. His feast day is 19 March.
Joseph of Arimathea a member of the council at Jerusalem who, after the Crucifixion, asked Pilate for Christ's body, which he buried in his own tomb. He is also known from the medieval story that he came to England with the Holy Grail and built the first church at Glastonbury.

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"Joseph." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Joseph (in the Bible)

Joseph, one of the heroes of the patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis. He is presented as the favored son of Jacob and Rachel, sold as a boy into slavery by his brothers, who were jealous of Joseph's dreams and of his coat of many colors given him by Jacob. In Egypt, Joseph gained a position of authority in the household of his master, Potiphar, and was later imprisoned on the false accusations of Potiphar's wife. He was released after interpreting Pharaoh's dream of the lean and fat cows. Pharaoh renamed him Zaphnath-paaneah and took him into favor. Joseph's recognition of his brothers in the famine years when he was governor over Egypt is a famous scene. His wife was Asenath, an Egyptian, and their sons Manasseh and Ephraim were eponymous ancestors of two of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Joseph saga bridges the era of the patriarchs in Canaan and the Hebrews in Egypt. The mention of Joseph's marriage to Asenath in the Book of Genesis is the subject of Joseph and Asenath, now classified among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The Joseph story is retold in the Qur'an.

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Joseph (king of Portugal)

Joseph, 1714–77, king of Portugal (1750–77), son and successor of John V. Little inclined to rule, his reign was dominated by his minister, the marquês de Pombal. After Lisbon was partially destroyed (1755) by an earthquake and a tsunami, Pombal gained emergency powers and quickly rose in importance. He was supported by Joseph, who allowed Pombal to rule the country in fact if not in title. Joseph was succeeded at his death by his daughter, Maria I, and Peter III.

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Joseph

Joseph In the Old Testament book of Genesis, 11th of the 12 sons of Jacob. Given a richly woven, multi-coloured coat by his father, Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous elder brothers. He was taken to Egypt, where he gained the Pharaoh's favour by predicting the seven-year famine, thus allowing stores to be laid by from the previous seven good years. He was later reconciled with his brothers.

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Joseph

Joseph.
1. Oratorio by Handel (Joseph and His Brethren) perf. London 1744, New Orleans 1812.

2. 3-act opera by Méhul, to lib. by Duval. Prod. Paris 1807, Philadelphia 1828, London (concert) 1841, CG (rev. Weingartner) 1914.

3. Oratorio by Macfarren, 1877 Leeds Fest.

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"Joseph." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Joseph

Joseph. The favourite son of the patriarch Jacob, borne by his wife Rachel. His story is told in Genesis 37–47.

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"Joseph." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Joseph

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