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English Bible Dictionary

Joseph, son of Jacob

 

(increase).

The elder of the two sons of Jacob by Rachel. He was born in Padan-aram (Mesopotamia), probably about B.C. 1746. He is first mentioned when a youth, seventeen years old. Joseph brought the evil report of his brethren to his father, and they hated him because his father loved him more than he did them, and had shown his preference by making a dress which appears to have been a long tunic with sleeves, worn by youths and maidens of the richer class. (Genesis 37:2) He dreamed a dream foreshadowing his future power, which increased the hatred of his brethren. (Genesis 37:5-7) He was sent by his father to visit his brothers, who were tending flocks in the fields of Dothan. They resolved to kill him, but he was saved by Reuben, who persuaded the brothers to cast Joseph into a dry pit, to the intent that he might restore him to Jacob. The appearance of the Ishmaelites suggested his sale for "twenty pieces (shekels) of silver." ver. 28. Sold into Egypt to Potiphar, Joseph prospered and was soon set over Potiphar's house, and "all he had he gave into his hand;" but incurring the anger of Potiphar's wife ch. (Genesis 39:7-13) he was falsely accused and thrown into prison, where he remained at least two years, interpreting during this time the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. Finally Pharaoh himself dreamed two prophetic dreams. Joseph, being sent for, interpreted them in the name of God, foretelling the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. Pharaoh at once appointed Joseph not merely governor of Egypt, but second only to the sovereign, and also gave him to wife Asenath, daughter of Potipherah priest of On (Hieropolis), and gave him a name or title, Zaphnath-paaneah (preserver of life). Joseph's first act was to go throughout all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years there was a very abundant produce, and he gathered the fifth part and laid it up. When the seven good years had passed, the famine began, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. (Genesis 41:54-57) After the famine had lasted for a time, apparently two years, Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they brought, and brought it into Pharaoh's house, (Genesis 47:13,14) and when the money was exhausted, all the cattle, and finally all the land except that of the priests, and apparently, as a consequence, the Egyptians themselves. He demanded, however, only a fifth part of the produce as Pharaoh's right. Now Jacob, who had suffered also from the effects of the famine, sent Joseph's brother to Egypt for corn. The whole story of Joseph's treatment of his brethren is so graphically told in Genesis42-45 and is so familiar, that it is unnecessary here to repeat it. On the death of Jacob in Egypt Joseph carried him to Canaan, and laid him in the cave of Machpelah, the burying-place of his fathers. Joseph lived "a hundred and ten years," having been more than ninety in Egypt. Dying, he took an oath of his brethren that they should carry up his bones to the land of promise: thus showing in his latest action the faith, (Hebrews 11:22) which had guided his whole life. Like his father he was embalmed, "and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." (Genesis 50:26) His trust Moses kept, and laid the bones of Joseph in his inheritance in Shechem, in the territory of Ephraim his offspring. His tomb is, according to tradition, about a stone's throw from Jacob's well.

 

* See other occurrences of the same term: Joseph.

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