The Story of Joseph and His Brethren

Jacob had twelve sons, and he was more fond of Joseph than of all the rest; for he was the child of his old age. And he gave him a fine coat, and made a great pet of him. This did not please the rest of the sons, and they showed their hate of Joseph in all sorts of ways.

One night Joseph had a strange dream, and he told it to Levi, Simeon, and the rest, and it made them hate him all the more.

He said, As we bound sheaves in the field, lo, my sheaf rose and stood up straight. And your sheaves stood round, and bowed to my sheaf.

And those who heard him said, Shalt thou indeed reign o’er us? And his words and his deeds filled them with a fierce hate.

And it was not long ere he told them of a fresh dream he had had, in which he saw the sun and moon and eleven stars bow down to him. And he told it to Jacob, and his eleven sons.

And Jacob took him to task, and said to him, What does this dream mean? Are all of us to bow down to the earth to thee? And he made up his mind to watch these signs, which might be sent of God.

Now Jacob had large flocks of sheep and goats at Shechem, and all of his sons but Joseph had gone there to feed them. And Jacob said to Joseph, Go and see if it be well with thy brethren, and with the flocks, and bring me back word.

And Joseph went out from the vale of Hebron to the land of Shechem.

When he came there he found that his brothers had gone on to Dothan. And Joseph went to Dothan and found them. And as soon as he came in sight they thought of a way in which they might get rid of him.

Come, let us kill him, they said; and throw him into a pit, and say that a wild beast ate him up. Then we shall see what will become of his dreams.

But Reuben heard it, and saved him out of their hands. And he said, Let us not kill the lad. Shed no blood; but cast him into this pit, and lay no hand on him. For he meant to take him out of the pit, and bear him home to his father.

But when Joseph came near these men who should have been kind to him, they took off his coat and threw him into the pit, which was dry, or he would have drowned. These old dry wells were left as traps in which to catch the wild beasts that prowled round in the dead of night, and well these bad men knew what would be Joseph’s fate.

As they sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a lot of men and camels on their way to Egypt, with spices, and balm and myrrh.

And Judah—one of Jacob’s sons—said, Let us not kill the lad, for he is of our own flesh, but let us sell him to these men. And the rest thought it was a good scheme. So they drew Joseph up out of the pit and sold him for a small sum, and those who bought the lad took him down with them to Egypt.

And the bad men took Joseph’s coat and dipped it in the blood of a kid they had slain. And they brought it to Jacob, and said, This have we found. Is it thy son’s coat?

And Jacob knew it at once, and said, It is my son’s coat. Joseph has no doubt been the prey of some wild beast. And his grief was great.

The men who bought Joseph brought him down to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar for a slave.

And the Lord was with Joseph, who served Potiphar so well, that the rich man put him in charge of his home and lands. But Potiphar’s wife told false tales, and Joseph, who had done no wrong, was thrust into jail. Pharaoh was then king of Egypt. And it came to pass that he fell out with his butler and chief cook, and had them shut up in the same place where Joseph was bound.

And the man on guard put them in charge of Joseph, who went in and out of the ward as he chose. And one morn when he came in to them he saw they were sad, and asked them why it was.

And they said, We have dreamed dreams, and there is no one to tell us what they mean.

And Joseph said, Tell me them, I pray you.

And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph first. And he said, In my dream I saw a vine, that put forth three branches and brought forth ripe grapes.

And Joseph said to him, In three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and put thee back in thy place, and thou shalt serve him as of old. But think of me when it shall be well with thee; speak of me to the king, and bring me out of this house.

And the butler said that he would.

Then the chief cook told his dream; and he said, In my dream I had three white baskets on my head. And in the top one were all sorts of bake meats for the king. And the birds did eat out of the basket that I bore on my head.

And Joseph said to him, In three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head and hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat the flesh from thy bones.

The third day was the king’s birthday, and he made a great feast. And he put the chief butler back in his place, and hung the chief cook; just as Joseph had said he would do. But the chief butler gave not a thought to Joseph, nor spoke one good word for him to the king, as he had said he would.

Two years from this time the king had a dream, from which he woke, and then fell asleep and dreamt the selfsame dream. This was such a strange thing that it made the king feel ill at ease. And he sent for all the wise men in the land to tell him what these dreams meant.

Then the chief butler spoke to the king, and said that when he and the cook were in jail, there was a young man there, a Jew, whom the chief of the guard made much use of. And we told him our dreams, and he told us what they meant. And it came out just as he said.

Then the king sent at once for Joseph, and said to him: In my dream I stood on the bank of the Nile. And there came up out of the river seven fat cows, and they fed in a field near by. Then seven lean cows came up that were naught but skin and bone. And the lean cows ate up the fat cows. And yet no one would have known it, for they were just as lean as when I first saw them. Then I woke, but soon fell asleep once more.

Then I dreamt, and in my dream I saw seven ears of corn come up on one stalk, full and good. And lo, seven ears that were thin and dried up with the east wind sprang up after them. And the poor ears ate up the good ones.

Joseph said, For seven years there will be no lack of food in the land, and all will go well; and then there will come a time of great want, and rich and poor will be in need of food, and not a few will starve to death. Let the king choose a wise man to see that corn is laid up in the land when the good years bring the rich growth, so that there will be no lack of food in the years when the crops are small.

And the king said to Joseph, Since God hath showed thee all this there is none so wise as thou art. So he put him in charge of all the land of Egypt, and he was to rank next to the king. And the king took a ring from his own hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and when he rode out, men bowed the knee, and his word was law in all the land. And Joseph took a wife, and he who was brought to Egypt a slave, was now a rich man.

And there came years when the grain grew rank in the fields, and the crops were large. And Joseph saw that a large part of it was laid up, and that there was no waste of the good food. For the end of those rich years came and then there was a time of dearth in all the lands, when the earth would not yield, and men and beasts were in want of food.

But there was no lack of corn in Egypt. And Joseph sold the corn that he had stored in the barns, and crowds came in to buy it.

When Jacob heard that corn could be bought in Egypt, he told his sons to go down and buy some, that they might not starve to death.

And ten of them went down to buy corn in Egypt. But Jacob kept Benjamin at home, for fear he would be lost to him as Joseph was lost.

When Jacob’s ten sons came to the place where Joseph was, they bowed down to the ground. And Joseph knew them at once, but they did not know him, or give a thought to his dreams.

And Joseph spoke in a rough voice, and said, Whence come ye?

And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

And he said, Ye are spies, and have come to see how poor the land is.

And they said to him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are we come. We are all one man’s sons; and we are true men, and not spies.

But Joseph would have it that they were spies.

And they said, There were twelve of us, sons of one man. Young Benjamin is at home with his father, and one is dead.

And Joseph said, Go prove that ye are not spies; let one of the ten that are here go and fetch the young lad, Benjamin. And he put them in jail for three days. And he said, Let one of you be bound, and kept in the guardhouse, while the rest of you take back the corn that you need. And they said that they would do this.

Then he took Simeon from their midst, and had him bound, and put in the guardhouse.

And he sent word to his men to fill their sacks with corn, and to put back the price in each sack, and to give them food to eat on the way. And thus did Joseph do good to those who did ill to him.

When Jacob’s nine sons went home they told all that had been said and done to them, and that the lord of the land bade them bring Benjamin down to Egypt or he would think they were spies, and their lives would not be safe.

Jacob said, My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is all I have left. If harm should come to him on the way, I should die of grief.

When the corn they had brought from Egypt was all gone, Jacob told his sons to go down and buy more. And Judah spoke up and said, The man swore we should not see his face if Benjamin was not with us. If thou wilt send him with us we will go; but if thou wilt not send him we will not go down.

Then Jacob said, If it must be so, take Benjamin with you, and may God give you grace with this man that he may send my two boys back to me.

So the men took Benjamin and went down to Egypt, and stood face to face with Joseph.

And they gave Joseph the gifts they had brought, and bowed down to the earth. And he asked how they all were, and if their father was well; and when he saw Benjamin he said, Is this the young brother of whom you spoke? And he said to the lad, God be good to thee, my son.

And Joseph’s heart was so full at sight of the boy, and he longed so to throw his arms round him, that he had to make haste and leave the room that his tears might not be seen.

Then he came back and had the feast set out, and all did eat and drink, and were glad at heart. And when the time came for his guests to leave, Joseph told his head man to fill their sacks with corn, to put their gold back in the mouth of the sacks, and to put in the young lad’s sack the cup from which Joseph drank at each meal.

This was done, and when they had gone out of the town Joseph bade his man go and say to them: My lord’s cup is lost, and you must know who stole it.

And when the man came up with Jacob’s sons, he said just what Joseph told him to say. And they were all in a rage, and said: Why does my lord say such things of us? If the cup is found on one of us, kill him; and make the rest of us slaves.

And each one of them cast his sack on the ground, and loosed it at the top. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they rent their clothes, and in great grief went back to Joseph’s house and found him there. And they fell down at his feet.

And Judah said, God has found out our sins. Let us be your slaves; and take him as well in whose sack the cup was found.

Joseph said, No; but the man in whose sack the cup was found shall stay and serve me, and the rest shall go in peace.

Then Judah, who had sworn that he would bring back the boy, said to Joseph: If we go home, and our father sees the lad is not with us, he will die of grief. For his life is bound up in the lad’s life.

Joseph could not keep back his tears, and when he had sent all the men of Egypt out of the room, he said to his brothers, Come near, I pray you.

And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph, whom ye sold into Egypt. But grieve not that ye did this thing, for God did send me here that I might save your lives. Go home and tell my father that God hath made me lord of all Egypt, and bid him come down to me at once. And say that he shall dwell near me, in the land of Goshen, and I will take care of him.

Then he fell on Benjamin’s neck, and they wept; and he kissed his brothers and shed tears, but they were tears of joy.

Jacob took all that he had and went down to Egypt. And threescore and ten souls went with him. And they dwelt in the land of Goshen, and Jacob died there.

Joseph’s brethren thought that he would hate them now that their father was dead. And they fell down at his feet and wept and prayed that he would do them no harm.

Joseph bade them fear not, for he would take care of them and be kind to them. They had meant to do him an ill turn when he was a lad, but God had made it turn out for good, and it was all right. And Joseph lived to a good old age, and had two sons, whose names were Ephraim and Manasseh.