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   Joseph | Biography
Here are Joseph's greatest moments, told in the Bible's own words...

That coat
Joseph goes to Egypt
The master's wife
The king's dreams
2-Minute biog

Joseph was the son of Jacob, who was the grandson of Abraham, and was the second-youngest of Jacob's 12 sons. And he was daddy's favourite. Unsurprisingly, Joseph was resented by his brothers, and he didn't help the relationship by telling the whole family about his dreams in which his 11 brothers bowed down before him.

The brothers chose the right moment and then sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. They told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by an animal.

Meanwhile, Joseph rose to great responsibility as chief servant in the household of the royal official Potiphar, but when he spurned the advances of Potiphar's wife, she accused him of sexual assault, and he landed in prison – a very light punishment.

In prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker. The butler was released and reinstated – as Joseph predicted. So when Pharaoh had spooky dreams about cows eating each other, the butler mentioned Joseph's amazing ability to interpret dreams, and he was called before Pharaoh to explain them.

He foretold seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine, recommending that "someone" be put in charge of setting aside the early surplus for the hard times to come. Thus he became prime minister of the most powerful country in the world, and used his position to reduce the entire land to slavery to Pharaoh.

When eventually his hungry brothers came to buy grain and did not recognise him, he gave them the run around for a bit, and then they were finally reconciled.


Joseph was the only one of the 12 sons of Jacob not to have a tribe of Israel named after him, because his was divided between his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim.

Joseph's "coat of many colours" could alternatively be translated "highly ornate coat" or "long robe with sleeves". "Technicolor dreamcoat" is quite a loose translation.

Joseph's story is usually dated in the Hyksos dynasty of Egypt (about 1750-1550 BC), because there was a house of immigrant Semitic pharaohs who appointed fellow Semites – such as Joseph – to high office.

According to the book of Genesis, Joseph lived to the age of 110.

According to the Jewish holy book, the Talmud, the final Messiah, the descendant of David, will come only after a first Messiah, descended from Joseph, who will die in battle.


"Greatest man since Noah
Only goes to show (ah)
Anyone from anywhere can make it
If they get a lucky break."
Tim Rice, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

"Joseph, who was sold to be a bond-servant;
Whose feet they hurt in the stocks: the iron entered his soul."
The Book of Common Prayer: Psalm 107
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