The story of Jacob’s eleventh son is a tale of epic proportion. The firstborn of Rachel, Joseph was his father’s favorite child, and Jacob never hesitated to display his feelings of preference. Joseph is noted as having been an extremely handsome youth who was naive as to how his actions (and the favoritism of Jacob) affected his older brothers. Additionally, Joseph never hesitated to share with them his dreams, which his brothers interpreted as Joseph’s desire to rule over them.

Joseph was so unaware of the impact of his behavior that he was completely surprised when his brothers threw him in a pit and then sold him to passing merchants to be enslaved in Egypt.

In Egypt, Joseph worked hard, and rapidly rose through the ranks of his owner’s (Potipher’s) servants. But his handsome looks caught the attention of Potipher’s amoral wife. When the rest of the household went to celebrate a holiday, she tried to seduce him. Joseph refused to lie with another man’s wife, so she accused him of trying to rape her.

Joseph went to jail, where he correctly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker. Two years later, when Pharaoh had a dreadful nightmare, the butler told Pharaoh about the talented dream interpreter he’d met in prison. Freed from prison, Joseph explained Pharaoh’s dream as a warning of famine and outlined a plan to stave off disaster.

Joseph became the Viceroy (Prime Minister) of Egypt. Anyone wishing to buy grain went to him. Thus, Joseph was able to intercept his brothers when they came to buy food. Hiding his identity, Joseph insisted that his brothers not return to buy food in Egypt again without their youngest brother, Benjamin. When they eventually returned with Benjamin, Joseph had his younger brother framed for theft in order to see the others’ reactions. When they defended Benjamin, Joseph revealed himself, offered his forgiveness and beseeched them to bring Jacob to Egypt.

When Jacob came to Egypt, he met Joseph’s wife, Osnat, and their two sons, Menashe and Ephraim.

Due to the space limitations of Jewish Treats, this is a mere outline of Joseph’s life. Click here to read previous treats related to Joseph’s fascinating life.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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