After Jacob returns to the land of Canaan and has his name changed to Israel by a messenger of the Lord **(Jacob becomes Israel), he and his family settle with their wealth in the land promised to Abraham by God. Israel’s 12 sons grow up and are in charge of the flocks of their father. Joseph was his father’s favorite because he was from Israel’s favorite wife Rachel. To show his pleasure, he gifted his son a robe with sleeves. As a result, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. In addition, Joseph had reported poorly to their father of their shepherding which caused them to resent him further. Finally, Joseph has a dream that reveals that his brothers and even his father would bow to him one day.
It was not long before his brothers desired to kill Joseph. Once when Joseph was going to check on them once again in their shepherding, his brother’s voice their desires to kill Joseph. Rueben (the oldest brother) persuades them not to shed their brother’s blood, but let nature do it for them. So they threw Joseph into a pit to die there, but Reuben planned to rescue Joseph to get back into his father’s good graces. While Reuben was away, Judah proposed that they sell Joseph into slavery so they could at least make some money. The brothers agreed, and Joseph was off to Egypt to be sold to the highest bidder. When Rueben returns, he is dismayed. When Jacob is told the lie that Joseph is dead, he is distraught.
Joseph makes it to Egypt and is sold to the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, Potiphar. He excels as his slave to the point of being made head of Potiphar’s house. Yet, Potiphar’s wife desires to sleep with Joseph who refuses out of respect for God and his master. Angered, Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of the very thing she desired, and he is thrown into prison unjustly.
In prison, Joseph again excels and eventually meets Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer. They both have dreams that Joseph interpreted correctly. The cupbearer is restored to his position in three days while the baker is executed. Yet, in leaving prison, the cupbearer fails to advocate for Joseph. It isn’t until Pharoah has a dream that no one could interpret that the cup bearer mentions Joseph.
In front of Pharaoh and his court, Joseph explains that Pharaoh’s dream means there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. It would be prudent for Pharaoh to appoint a wise man to store extra food during the years of plenty for the years of famine. Joseph is appointed because of his Godly wisdom and becomes second in command in all of Egypt.
During the famine, Joseph’s brothers come from the north in search of food. Joseph recognizes them even though they do not recognize him. He learns that his father Israel and true brother Benjamin are alive. He then decides to test them to see if they regret their actions. He accuses them of being spies and tells them the only way they can prove their innocence is by bringing Benjamin with them. He keeps Simeon (2nd oldest) in prison until their return.
When Jacob hears of the demands, he initially refuses to let Benjamin go, but when the food runs out, Jacob reluctantly agrees. When the brothers arrive back in Egypt, Joseph is emotional, releases Simeon, throws a banquet for them, and seats them in their birth order. However, he hides his silver cup in Benjamin’s luggage as a final test. As the brothers are leaving to return to their father, Egyptian guards stop and search them. They find the cup and, pretending to be angry, Joseph says that Benjamin must stay in Egypt forever as his slave. It is at this point that Judah (the one who had proposed selling Joseph) offers his life instead of Benjamins. Convinced of their repentance, Joseph reveals who he is. At first the brothers are apprehensive, but eventually joy comes with forgiveness and they bring their father from the land of Canaan to live in Egypt with Joseph.
This incredible story has a multitude of typographical content within it. Joseph is a type of Jesus. Though innocent, Joseph bears the sins of his brothers, suffers through them, and ultimately becomes their salvation. He also trusts and relies on God’s wisdom at all phases of life even in persecution. Finally, Joseph provides the food of salvation for all of those in famine. In the Eucharist, Jesus provides the food of salvation for sinners. While there are plenty of moral lessons to be gained like trust in God through persecution, we must remember that this story gives us clues to the identity of Jesus, because He is the reason for our hope and salvation.