The story of Joseph
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all teach that Joseph is one of the 12 sons of Jacob. He is Jacob’s favorite son, which creates jealousy and resentment amongst Joseph’s brothers. Jacob’s attitude toward Joseph is symbolized by his present to Joseph of a beautiful multicolored coat. One day, Joseph’s brothers conspire to throw Joseph in a pit and then sell him to Midianite traders who bring him to Egypt and sell him to the chief steward of the Pharaoh. Joseph’s brothers tell Jacob that a savage beast devoured Joseph. To make their story convincing they soak Joseph’s coat of many colors in sheep’s blood and show it to Jacob.
Once in Egypt, Joseph is well treated and put in charge of the household of Potiphar, the chief steward of the Pharaoh. The Torah, Bible, and Qu’ran all emphasize that the Lord is always with Joseph and everything he does turns out successful. All goes well until Potiphar’s wife, angry of Joseph’s rejection of her attentions, accuses Joseph of trying to seduce her. Joseph is then put in prison. While in prison, Joseph gains a reputation for successfully interpreting dreams. He is eventually released when the Pharaoh is told of Joseph’s skills and wants Joseph to interpret his dreams. Once again, Joseph is successful. He interprets the Pharaoh’s dreams explaining that Egypt will have 7 years of plenty and then 7 years of famine. The Pharaoh is greatly pleased with Joseph and puts him in charge of the pharaoh’s court and all of Egypt. When the famine years hit, Joseph is put in charge of rations.
The famine extended to Canaan so, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to procure rations. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him. In the Torah and Bible, Joseph tests his brothers’ honesty and integrity and demands that Simeon, one of the brother, remain in Egypt as hostage while the others go back to get Benjamin, Jacob’s other favored son. The brothers go back to Canaan and eventually return to Egypt with Benjamin. Joseph greets them warmly and after a lavish dinner, he sends his brothers off once again. This time he plants his favorite silver goblet in Benjamin’s bag and accuses him of stealing it and demands Benjamin remain in Egypt. The brothers insist on their innocence and beg Joseph to allow one of the brothers to stay instead of Benjamin, as losing Benjamin would be more than their father could bear. Joseph finally breaks down in tears and reveals his identity. He sends his brothers to bring Jacob back to Egypt where he promises they will dwell with his protection.
Differences worth Noting
In the Torah and The Bible, Joseph is portrayed as an arrogant and spoiled youth, inspiring his brothers’ hatred of him. In the Qu’ran Joseph is regarded as being of the highest moral character even as a youth. His brothers’ hatred toward him is seen as a result of Jacob’s favored treatment toward Joseph. In the Qu’ran, Potiphar’s wife tries to justify her behavior toward Joseph. She throws a party inviting all of her friends. She places knives in front of them and serves them fruit. When Joseph enters the room, all the women are so captivated by Joseph’s looks, they lose their focus and cut themselves. The Qu’ran also teaches that Joseph refuses to leave prison until Potiphar’s wife admits her guilt and proves Joseph innocent of his crime. In the Qu’ran, Simeon is not held as hostage. The .brothers are told to go back home and return with Ben-Yamin. (Benjamin) which they do a year later. Joseph confides his identity to Ben-Yamin and convinces him to stay. The brothers tell Joseph that their father has gone blind from crying over the loss of Benjamin. Joseph sends them back to their father with one of his shirts. Jacob then returns to Egypt with his sons, where they remain.
Judaism and Christianity teach that Joseph grows from a spoiled child to a man of humility. Islam teaches that Joseph was a man of the highest moral character, even in his youth. After being sold to the Egyptians, he continues to mature. He shows his loyalty to his values when he resists Potiphar’s wife. Judaism teaches that it is at this point that Joseph can be called a tzakik, a righteous person. Judaism and Christianity teach this marks a turning point in his character and in his life. The Torah and Bible tell us over and over again that the “lord favored Joseph, but it is clear that Joseph had to earn his role as God’s chosen servant and guardian of the people of Israel. Islam teaches that Joseph is not only favored by Allah, but is also one of his Prophets. There are differing interpretations as to why Joseph keeps his identity hidden while testing his brothers. Some believe he was acting vengeful. Another possibility is he that he thought keeping Benjamin was the only way to get Jacob to come to Egypt. Many believe he wanted to find out if his brothers had grown and changed, just as he had grown and matured from his early days of youthful arrogance. Once he’s convinced of their remorse for selling him, their devotion to Benjamin and their love for their father, he breaks down and reveals himself.
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