The Story of Joseph

Selling of Joseph

Click for full-size image

Joseph was one of the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob who also was known as Israel. The family lived in the countryside and took care of sheep, goats and cattle.

Joseph's father Israel loved Joseph best of all of his twelve sons. He made for Joseph a beautiful coat that had many colors. This made the other brothers angry and jealous of Joseph because it showed everybody that Joseph was the favorite son.

One day Joseph said to his brothers, "Last night I had a dream. All of us were binding sheaves of grain in the fields. Then my sheaf arose and stood upright while your sheaves bowed down before my sheaf."

The brothers hated him because of the dream and replied, "Do you think that you are going to rule over us?"

Then Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down before him When he told the dream to his family his father Israel chided him, "Do you really think that your mother and father and your brothers will bow down to earth before you?'

A few days later the eleven brothers were taking care of their father's sheep several miles away. Israel said to Joseph, "Go find your brothers and see if they are doing well. Then return and tell me how they are."

Joseph put on his coat of many colors and searched for his brothers. The brothers saw him coming from far away and knew who he was because they recognized his beautiful coat. "Let's kill him," said one of the brothers. "He things he is so important!"

"No, let's not kill him. Let's capture him and sell him for money," replied one of the brothers named Reuben.

So the brothers captured Joseph, took off his coat and threw him into a dry well. Soon they saw a band of men on camels making their way back to Egypt. They sold Joseph to the band of men who carried him with them to Egypt where he was made a slave to serve in the house of a rich man called Potipher.

The brothers killed a goat and smeared its blood over Joseph's coat of many colors. They took the bloody coat back to Israel and said to him. "See, we found this bloody coat of many colors in the wilderness. Some wild animal has killed your son Joseph."

Israel was greatly saddened at the news that his favorite son Joseph had been killed and he wept bitterly.

Joseph was an intelligent, honest and hard-working young man. He worked hard and gained the respect of his master Potipher who put Joseph in charge of his household while he was gone.

Potipher's beautiful wife noticed how handsome and strong Joseph was and kept asking him to sleep with her. Joseph always refused, saying, "Potipher has been kind to me and has left me in charge of his household during his absence. I will not dishonor him by sleeping with his wife. That would be a grievious wrong"

One day when everyone was away from the house Ptotipher's wife took hold of Joseph's garment and demanded again that he sleep with her. Refusing once again Joseph tore himself from her, leaving his garment in her hands.

Angry at Joseph's refusal to betray Potipher, the wife cried out loudly and accused Joseph of trying to force her to sleep with him, and that he had run away when she screamed. Potipher was angry to think that Joseph would dishonor his wife. Potipher had Joseph thrown into prison where he stayed for years.

Also in the prison with Joseph were the butler and chief baker of the king who was called Pharoah. The butler and baker each had dreams that Joseph interpreted to mean that the baker would be killed and the butler returned back into Pharoah's service. Joseph asked the butler to remember him and to speak well of him to Pharoah.

Just as Joseph had predicted, the baker was hanged and the butler was sent back to Pharoah's household. Nevertheless the butler forgot to mention Joseph to Pharoah until Pharoah had two dreams two years later. Pharoah asked people to interpret the dream. At this time the butler remembered Joseph and said, "There is a young man in your prison who can interpret your dream."

Pharoah sent for Joseph who correctly told the meaning of the dreams, "The dreams are alike, meaning the same thing. There will be seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of famine without rain. Pharoah should set a wise man over the land of Egypt to collect and store one-fifth of the grain throughout the land of Egypt during the years of abundant harvest so that there will be food during the years of famine."

Pharoah was so impressed that he set Joseph over the land of Egypt to rule second in command under Pharoah and to collect the grain into graneries for storage until the years of famine. Joseph was now thirty years old and he had great power throughout all the land of Egypt. He collected so much grain for storage that no one could count how much grain was being stored in the storage bins. During that time Joseph got married to one of the Egyptian princesses and they had two sons, Manassas and Ephraim.

Just as Joseph had predicted seven years of abundant harvest were followed by seven years without any rain, and there was great famine throughout all of the land of Egypt and in all of the countries nearby. The land where Israel and Joseph's eleven brothers lived also had no rain and great famine until there was nothing left to eat.

Joseph sold grain to the people of Egypt until they had no more money to buy grain. Then the people sold through Joseph to Pharoah all of their lands so that they could have grain to eat. Then the people sold themselves and their children as slaves to Pharoah so that they could eat. Finally Pharoah owned all of the money, land and people in Egypt except for the money and lands of the Egyptian priests who always received free food from Pharoah according to their previous agreement.

Israel and his sons were about to starve, so Israel said to his sons, "I have heard that there is plenty of grain in Egypt. Take money and buy grain to bring back so that our families may not die."

When ten of the brothers arrived in Egypt to buy grain Joseph heard about them. He ordered that they should receive sacks of grain before all of the other people who are standing in line for their turn to buy. Joseph ordered the brothers to come before him. The brothers did not recognize Joseph in his fine clothers and expensive jewelry. "Where is your home?" Joseph inquired.

"We live with our father and our families north of here in the land of Canaan," one brother answered.

"How many brothers are there in your family?" Joseph asked.

"We used to be twelve brothers, but one has died. The youngest, Benjamin, remains with our father in Canaan."

"So that I may know that you are not spies sent down to Egypt to see if you can overtake us, leave one of you here in my prison while the rest of you return with grain to your father," Joseph said.

The brothers did not want to leave one of them in prison, but Simeon finally volunteered to remain so that their families would not die of starvation.

"When you return for Simeon you must bring your youngest brother with you or else I will not sell you more grain " Joseph ordered..

The brother named Simeon remained in prison while the others loaded their donkeys with sacks of grain and returned to Canaan. On their way home they opened the sacks and found on top of the grain the money they had paid for the wheat. This made them greatly disturbed. "The Eqyptians will say that we have stolen the money," they exclaimed in fear.

Returning home they ate the wheat until it was gone. Then Israel said, "Take the money that was in the mouth of the sacks along with more money and return to Egypt, paying double for the grain. We do not want the Egyptians to think that we are thieves. As much as I would be grief-stricken if Benjamin does not return, we must have more wheat or else we all shall die."

The ten brothers returned to Egypt for more sacks of grain. When they got there Joseph ordered them to eat lunch in his house. When he saw Benjamin he was so taken with emotion that he had to leave the dining room because he started to cry. Still the brothers did not guess who Joseph was.

After the brothers loaded sacks of grain onto their donkeys they left Egypt for Canaan. Shortly after leaving, soldiers from Egypt chased after them saying, "One of you has taken Joseph's favorite silver cup with you. How could you repay his generosity with thievery?"

"We have not taken the silver cup. We are honest people," protested the brothers. "Search our bags, and in whomever's bag you find that silver cup, let that one die."

The soldiers found the silver cup in Banjamin's bag. They forced all the brothers with their grain to return to Joseph's house. Joseph was still there.

"How could you repay my generosity with this crime?" demanded Joseph.

"If you take our brother Benjamin our father Israel will die of grief," replied Judah. "Please take my life instead of the lad Benjamin and let him return to our father lest he die."

Joseph could no longer restrain himself and replied, "I am Joseph, your brother. Do not be angry with yourselves because of what you did to me. God has used all of these circumstances so that all of us and our families may be preserved. The famine has only lasted two years so far. There are five more years of famine to come. Go home to our father and bring him and all of your families back with you to Egypt. You can live here with plenty of food throughout the famine. I am a Lord of Egypt, and I will see to it that you and your families all prosper here."

The brothers were overcome with repentence for what they had done, but they also were joyous that their families would be preserved during the great famine that still had many years to run. They went back to Canaan, packed up their families, their flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle. They brought them all back to Egypt where they settled in the land of Goshen. Pharoah was pleased to have them live in Egypt and gave them all responsible jobs. They prospered there for many years in the land of Goshen which is a rich and productive part of Egypt.

Key Concepts

1. Jealousy is an evil emotion that can lead to terrible consequences.

2. When God wishes to prosper someone, nothing can stop this blessing as long as that person remains true to the teachings of God, no matter what seems to be happening.

3. Brothers and sisters should love each other and do only good things to each other.

4. When we do something wrong we should be sorry, confess our wrongs and ask for forgiveness.

5. When others who have wronged us repent and ask for forgiveness we should forgive them quickly and show them love and kindness.