Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, was obviously the favorite. Hated by his brothers for this, Joseph was sold to slave traders only to emerge as ruler of all Egypt. The story of Joseph teaches how suffering, no matter how unfair, develops strong character and deep wisdom.
In Joseph’s day, everyone had a robe or cloak. Most robes were knee length, short sleeved and plain. In contrast, Joseph’s robe was probably of the kind worn by royalty which were long sleeved, ankle length, and colorful. The robe became a symbol of Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph, and it aggravated the already strained relations between Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph’s brothers were already angry over the possibility of being ruled by their little brother. Joseph then fueled the fire with his immature attitude and boastful manner. Joseph learned the hard way that no one likes a braggart. His jealous and angry brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery in an effort to get rid of him. Although the brothers did not murder Joseph outright, they did not expect him to live very long in the confines of slavery. They were quite willing to let cruel slave traders do their dirty work for them. Joseph faced a 30-day journey through the desert, probably chained and on foot. He would be treated like baggage, and once in Egypt, would be sold as a piece of merchandise. His brothers were certain they would never see him again.
To cover their evil action, Jacob’s sons deceived their father into thinking Joseph was dead. They got Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. Jacob thought that a ferocious animal had attacked and devoured his son. Jacob himself had deceived others many times. Now, though blessed by God, he still had to face the consequences of his sins. God may not have punished Jacob immediately for his deceit but the consequences came nevertheless and stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Joseph had been taken to Egypt and was sold to an Egyptian named Potiphar who was one of Pharaoh’s officials. Joseph prospered in the house of his Egyptian master. Potiphar saw that Joseph was protected and blessed by God so he made him his personal attendant. He made Joseph in charge of his household and he entrusted to his cared everything he owned. Potiphar’s wife thought Josephs was extremely attractive and asked him to sleep with her every day. Joseph turned her down on a daily basis and she became angry enough at his lack of interest in her that she took his robe and told her husband that Joseph had tried to rape her and when she screamed he ran away leaving his robe behind. For this, Potiphar had Joseph put in prison. Because Joseph loved the Lord, he was shown favor in the eyes of the prison guard and he made Joseph in charge of all of those held in prison and he was made responsible for everything that was done there.
During his years in prison, Joseph was called out by the Pharaoh to interpret dreams for him and to help with planning. Over time Joseph was trusted and was able to save a nation by translating God’s plan or Egypt into practical actions. Joseph gave the king a survival guide for 14 years that would prevent starvation and famine. The Pharaoh recognized that Joseph was a man “in whom is the spirit of God” and he continued to put Joseph in top leadership positions within the palace. When Joseph was 30 years old he was given an Egyptian name and became the governor of Egypt.
It was during this time that Jacob sent ten of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt for grain. Once there they bowed down and worshipped the governor. They did not recognize him but he did recognize them because they were his brothers. At first Joseph was harsh with them and demanded that they hand over their youngest brother to be put in prison or put to death. The brothers pleaded with Joseph to take them instead of their youngest brother and in seeing this Joseph realized that their behavior had changed since they had sold him into slavery and they had learned their lesson and were repentant. Joseph was able to preserve their lives and keep them from famine. In the end he was reunited with his father.