Who is Joseph?
(he will add). 1. The first son of Jacob and Rachel, born in Padan-aram after his mother had been long barren, but "God hearkened to her." Gen 30:24. The name she gave him indicated her confidence that God would give her another son -- a confidence justified by the birth of Benjamin. Ps 35:17. The two sons of Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife, were the patriarch's delight. In the case of Joseph this fondness led to evil consequences, because it excited the envy of his brothers. The story of Joseph's life is told with so much simplicity and graphic power that he is numbered among our acquaintances. We enter with the liveliest sympathy into all his troubles. He is ever the innocent victim of spite and cruelty, and from the time he comes before us in his long coat with sleeves -- not "coat of many colors" -- down to the day the mourning of Egypt bursts forth over his corpse, his life has for us the interest of a romance heightened by the knowledge that it is truth. Instead of repeating the twice-told tale -- every one knows it, and the inspired record cannot be improved -- we present a condensed translation of the article on "Joseph" by Prof. Ebers, the Egyptologist, in Riehm's Handworterbuch Des Biblischen Altertums, (1878), which interprets the Egyptian setting and shows its complete harmony with modern researches. It is worthy of note that the money paid for Joseph by the Midianites corresponds exactly to the extreme price set by Moses upon a slave of his age. Comp. Gen 37:28 with Lev 27:5. The captains of the guard, of whom Potiphar was one, were commanders of regiments of 2000 men, and so long as they were in office as the king's body-guard the commander was the chief inspector of the state-prisoners, and chief executioner of corporal and capital punishment. Potiphar was a "eunuch." The word, however, may express nothing more than an officer. The Egyptian monuments make us acquainted with the daily life of an "overseer," which Joseph led in Potiphar's household. Everything was conducted with the most scrupulous regularity -- at least, in the pictures -- and the position was one of great responsibility. The story of Joseph's trial of virtue is strikingly illustrated by an Egyptian tale of similar contents written for a son of Rameses II. (See Brugsch, Geschichte AEgyptens, p. 249). The belief in dreams, in revelations of the divine will, the office of chief baker and chief butler, the custom of granting pardons and other favors upon Pharaoh's birthday, -- all are confirmed by the monuments. The magicians and wise men consulted by Pharaoh after his two dreams -- which are thoroughly Egyptian: seven was a sacred number -- belonged to the priest caste. That Joseph, before appearing in the presence of Pharaoh, must shave himself, face and head, and change his raiment, brings out the Egyptian passion for cleanliness. The exaltation of Joseph receives explanation from the fact that the priests shared in the government, particularly- in the allotment of the taxes, and for the latter purpose inspected the material condition of the country. Joseph's rank was described by two terms, "father" and "lord of all Egypt." "Father" was the usual term. Every feature of the following scenes in the narrative, all the circumstances of the investiture, are true to the life. The new name, or rather title, which he received -- Zaphnath paaneah -- is interpreted "creator" or "preserver of life." The name of his wife is the genuinely Egyptian, and very common, feminine name of Sant or Snat. It is impossible to say how far Joseph became an Egyptian. He conformed to many of their customs, but ever retained his belief in Israel's God. His position during the famine resembles that of a certain Baba, who in his epitaph tells us: "I gathered grain, a friend of the god of harvest. I was watchful at the seed-time. And during a famine which lasted through many years, I distributed the grain through the town to every hunger-stricken one." Brugsch, indeed (Gench. AEgyptens, p. 246), believed the famine referred to here is that of Genesis. The charge Joseph brings against his brethren was one often made, doubtless, at a time when there was constant dread of the irruption of the wandering tribes to the eastward of Egypt. That the Egyptians would not eat with the Hebrews and that the latter were regarded with aversion are traits in keeping with the monumental records. But these show us that shepherds formed a separate caste and were not shunned, except the swineherds, who could not enter a temple. But the nomadic shepherds, as the Israelites, were ever looked upon with fear and disgust. Joseph's claim to the gift of divination was just what one would expect. The bubbles and movements of the water of a cup into which one had thrown a coin or a ring, or any other object, were watched, and by certain rules the future read therefrom. The arrangements which Joseph made during the years of plenty and of famine, by which eventually the entire nation became the purchase of Pharaoh, and the land, with the exception of that of the priests, passed to the crown, have been much criticised. But they were not unparalleled in Egypt. Considering the fertility of the land, the fifth part taken up during the plentiful years was not at all excessive, Gen 41:34, Gen 41:47-49; when the famine came it was natural and proper to sell so long as there was any money left to buy therewith. And that it was the case in Egypt that the king and the priests owned all the land is asserted by the monuments and ancient historians. These latter also speak of the priests being free from tax. We see, then, in Gen 47:22, Gen 47:26, the statement of a fact and the explanation of a subsequent phenomenon. The question. Who was the Pharaoh of Joseph? does not admit of a decisive answer. The name "Pharaoh," being a generic title of the sovereigns, does not help us any. The most satisfactory answer is that he belonged to an altogether different dynasty from that of the persecuting Pharaoh of Exodus. This throws the time back to some dynasty of the Shepherd-kings. Of these tradition singles out Apophis, one of the last of them. Manasseh and Ephraim, sons of Joseph by his marriage with Asenath, became the founders of the powerful tribes that bear their name, and Jacob's blessing was fulfilled. Joseph died at the age of 110, but his bones, by express command, were carried with the host, and not buried until the Israelites had conquered Canaan, Gen 50:25, when they were deposited in Shechem. Josh 24:32. His tomb is shown within a stone's throw of Jacob's Well. But the Mohammedans claim that the body of Joseph is in the Machpelah, in Hebron, having been transported thither from Shechem. 1. The father of Igal, who was the spy from Issachar. Num 13:7. 2. One who had married a foreign wife. Ezr 10:42. 3. A priest. Neh 12:14. 5., 6., 7. Three persons in the ancestry of Christ. Luke 3:24, Acts 11:26, 1 Kgs 20:30. 1. The husband of Mary, the mother of Christ, was by occupation a carpenter. Matt 13:55, at which trade our Lord himself labored until he entered upon his public ministry. Mark 6:3. Joseph is called a "just man," "a man of uprightness," Matt 1:19. He was informed by an angel that Mary was to be the mother of the promised Messiah, and accompanied her to Bethlehem to be registered in the tax-books, according to the command of the emperor, when Christ was born. When the babe was 40 days old, Joseph and his wife went with him to Jerusalem, in observance of the Law of Moses; and when about returning again to Bethlehem, he was divinely admonished to go into Egypt, for Herod, the king, was resolved to destroy the infant Redeemer if he could get him into his power. After the death of Herod they set out again for Judaea, but, apprehensive that the king's successor, Archelaus, might be equally cruel, they went into Galilee, and took up their abode at Nazareth, their old home. When Jesus was 12 years of age, Joseph and Mary took him with them on their journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. After that we find nothing more of Joseph in the sacred history. It is generally supposed he died before Christ began his public ministry, as he is not mentioned with Mary, and as Christ commended her to the care of one of the disciples. John 19:25-27. 1. Joseph of Arimathea, Matt 27:57, Ps 57:59, a wealthy citizen, probably residing in the vicinity of Jerusalem, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a man of eminent wisdom and piety. Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51. He was a disciple of Christ, though he did not appear openly as such. John 19:38. It is said that the Jews, as a mark of ignominy, did not allow the bodies of those executed as malefactors to be deposited in the tombs of their fathers except tne flesh had been previously consumed. It may have been to prevent this use of the body of Christ that Joseph so early asked leave to remove it and place it in his own tomb. 1. A disciple called Barsabas, one of the candidates for Judas's place in the college of the apostles. Acts 1:23.