The story of Joseph who was sold into slavery

The statue of William Wilberforce outside his family home in Hull

The book of Genesis provides an account of a young man who lived in the land of Canaan but was sold into slavery by his treacherous brothers and who rose to become the governor of Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers hated him because of a dream that he had which suggested that he would have power over them. They were also jealous of him because their father, Jacob, made a favourite of him. Jacob gave Joseph a multi-coloured coat. When Jacob sent Joseph to look for his brothers, who were tending the flock of sheep, they first cast him in a pit and then decided to sell him to a company of merchants who were travelling to Egypt to sell spices. The brothers dipped the coat in the blood of an animal and took it back to Jacob so that he would think Joseph had been killed by a savage beast.

In Egypt Joseph was bought as a slave by Potiphar, a captain in Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph rose to be the supervisor of Potiphar’s household but, because of a false accusation that Potiphar’s wife made against him, he was sent to prison.

Whilst in prison Joseph interpreted the dreams of two other men there who had worked as the chief baker and the chief butler for the king of Egypt, Pharaoh. Shortly afterwards, in accordance with the dream, the butler was freed and returned to Pharaoh’s service. When Pharaoh had a puzzling dream, the butler told him of Joseph’s powers. Joseph was sent for and explained that the dream told of a serious famine in the future. Joseph was set free and was able to advise Pharaoh on how to prepare for the coming famine.

Pharaoh made Joseph the governor of Egypt, second in authority only to himself.

In due course the years of famine came, but, thanks to Joseph, Egypt was well prepared. Joseph’s family back in Canaan suffered very badly from the famine. Knowing that Egypt had stocks of grain, Jacob sent all of his sons except Benjamin there to buy some. Joseph recognised his brothers but they had no idea who he was. He kept one of his brothers as hostage but send the others back to Canaan demanding that they return with their youngest brother.

In this way the brothers acknowledged their guilt in selling Joseph into slavery and deceiving their father, and the family was reunited. The full story can be found in Chapter 37 and Chapters 39-45 in the book of Genesis.

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