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Coat Of Many Colors

The Old Testament patriarch Joseph was the 11th-born of Jacob's Children, oldest of the two sons of Jacob with Rachel (Genesis 30:23-24). Joseph was to fill a vital role in the history of ancient Israel.

Camel Caravan At about age 17, Joseph found himself facing the jealousy and hatred of his brothers -

"Now Israel [i.e. Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe [KJV coat of many colors] for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him, and could not speak a kind word to him." (Genesis 37:3-4) The family tension became even worse when Joseph told them of a dream that he had in which he was actually ruling over them, and even his parents (Genesis 37:5-11).

Then one day, when Jacob sent Joseph out to see how things were going with his brothers who were tending the sheep near Shechem, they schemed to get rid of him. Most of the brothers wanted to murder him, but Reuben prevented it. Joseph was instead sold for 20 shekels (about 8 ounces) of silver to a group of Midianite merchants who were passing by. (Genesis 37:12-35). Joseph was then taken away by them in a caravan, perhaps similar to the one in the photo above. The brothers went back to Jacob and told him that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal. As "proof," they had drenched Joseph's coat in animal blood to show to their father Jacob.

The Midianite merchants had been on their way to the Egyptian market, and once there they sold Joseph as a slave to Potiphar, "one of Pharaoh's officials, and the captain of the guard" (Genesis 37:36). The Lord blessed Potiphar's house for Joseph's sake, and realizing the source of his success, Potiphar eventually made Joseph overseer over his house (Genesis 39:2-6). After that, he house prospered even more.

Joseph's situation was soon to take another turn for the worse when he was falsely accused of improper behavior toward his master's wife (Genesis 39:6-19). For this, he was imprisoned (Genesis 39:20). Once again however, even in jail, Joseph found favor with those in charge, and actually took part in running the place. Amazingly, he was at the same time a prisoner, and the warden (Genesis 39:21-23).

Joseph's best break finally came when, with the help of God, he correctly interpreted a number of dreams (Genesis 40:1-23, 41:1-40), which accurately included a warning of a coming famine. For this, he was released from prison and given a very high-ranking position in the Egyptian Kingdom. Joseph actually became the governor of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:41-44). Joseph was given the name of Zaphnath-paaneah. He married Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On, and they had 2 sons - Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph was by then about 30 years old.

The great famine happened just as Joseph said it would, but Egypt was well-prepared for it. They had vast store houses full of grain, more than enough for their own nation. They even had sufficient supply to enable them to sell some to neighboring nations, including Joseph's brothers who came to Egypt to buy food.

Joseph was not immediately recognized by them, but after a bit of psychological revenge upon them, he revealed his identity (Genesis chapters 42-45). Although Joseph had the power to imprison or even execute them, he forgave them for what they had done to him. Joseph recognized that God had been the author of the entire series of events (Genesis 45:7).

Jacob and his entire family then went down to live in Egypt to escape the severe famine in Canaan. They were settled in the land of Goshen, where they would remain, eventually as slaves, for the next 400 years until the Exodus.

Fact Finder: Even though he had died in Egypt nearly 400 years before, did the Israelites take Joseph's bones with them when they left Egypt at the time of the Exodus?
Exodus 13:19


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