Joseph – Wore a Multicolored Coat
by John C. Westervelt
Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob and the first of the two sons of Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel more than his other wives and Joseph more than his other sons. This older father indulged Joseph with a gift of an elegant, multicolored coat. The brothers, who had never received special gifts, were jealous of the cocky seventeen-year-old.
Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem to check on his brothers and the flocks. From Hebron, Jacob’s home, to Jerusalem is twenty miles, and it’s another thirty miles north to Shechem. In Shechem, Joseph discovered that his brothers had moved the flocks to greener pastures fifteen miles further north near Dothan.
The brothers were standing and talking beside the sheep when they saw a bright spot of color on the horizon. As the object came closer, they could see the sunlit blues, purples, and scarlet of Joseph’s coat.
Some of the brothers began plotting to kill Joseph and throw him into a pit because he had told them about his dream of their bowing down to him. Earlier he had given their father a bad report about them after visiting them as they herded the sheep. The multicolored coat was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Reuben, the eldest son, convinced his brothers to take the coat and put Joseph in the pit, but to shed no blood. Reuben planned to return later and rescue Joseph. His plan was foiled, when in his absence, the brothers sold Joseph to some Arabs, who were a part of a caravan traveling from Gilead to Egypt.
Reuben was heartsick for his father’s sake when he returned to the cistern and found that Joseph was gone. The brothers slaughtered a goat, put blood on the coat, and told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Jacob began to mourn and never fully recovered.
In Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Joseph’s exemplary service soon earned him the position of overseer of Potiphar’s house and all of his assets.
Potiphar’s wife developed romantic feelings for the handsome young Jewish man and asked him to lie with her. Joseph refused her advances, saying, “How could I sin against your husband and my God?” (Joseph became the role model to this day for young men committed to sexual abstinence before marriage.) The rebuffed wife falsely accused Joseph, and he was put in jail with the king’s prisoners.
The king’s cupbearer and baker were among the prisoners. One night each of them had a dream, which Joseph, with God’s help, successfully interpreted. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him and to mention him to Pharaoh as having been wrongly imprisoned, when the cupbearer would be released. Two years later when the Pharaoh had a dream, the cupbearer, who had been restored to his job, finally remembered Joseph and told the Pharaoh to seek an interpretation from him.
Joseph was released from the dungeon, given a change of clothes and a shave, and brought before the Pharaoh. Joseph explained that the dream meant seven years of good crops followed by seven years of famine.
The Pharaoh was so taken by the young Hebrew that he made Joseph governor of all of Egypt. He gave Joseph the authority to follow God’s word by storing one-fifth of the grain each year for seven years so there would be food for the seven years of predicted famine.
As Joseph had interpreted, the famine arrived across all of Egypt and the surrounding nations. When Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt, he sent all of his sons, except Benjamin, on the three hundred mile journey to Egypt to buy grain.
As governor, Joseph was in charge of selling grain. The brothers didn’t recognize him and bowed down before him. Joseph asked questions about their father and any other brothers. They explained, “Our father is living, and he would not let our youngest brother Benjamin come with us.”
Joseph sold them grain and said, “If you want more grain you must bring Benjamin with you.”
At first Jacob refused to send Benjamin, but finally relented to save the children from starvation. When Joseph saw that Benjamin had returned with his brothers, he ordered his steward to bring the men into the house, slay an animal, and arrange a noon meal so his brothers could eat with him.
Over dinner Joseph asked about the health of their father. They replied, “He is well,” and they all bowed down in homage.
“And is this your younger brother Benjamin?” At this point Joseph hurried out of the dining hall, and he wept. He washed his face and came out, and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.” Joseph had no animosity, only love for his brothers, but he was not through testing them.
Joseph told his steward to fill their sacks with as much grain as their donkeys could carry, put their money in the sacks, and put his silver cup in the sack of the youngest. The steward caught up with the brothers outside the city, searched the sacks, and claimed that Benjamin had stolen the cup.
The brothers returned to face Joseph. Judah stepped forward and said, “Our old father had two sons by Benjamin’s mother. He loved the mother and two sons more than the others. Benjamin is all he has left. If Benjamin does not return, I fear our father will die of grief. Please, keep me as your slave and send Benjamin home.”
Joseph wept. Then he said, “I am your brother, Joseph. Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, for God sent me here to preserve life. The famine will last another five years. God sent me here to preserve you as a remnant. Go now to our father; and bring all your people, and you shall live in Goshen. Take Egyptian wagons to carry our father and your children.”
Jacob’s household, numbering seventy plus the wives of the sons, traveled to Goshen on the eastern side of the Nile delta where the soil was rich. Joseph took his chariot to meet the arriving Hebrews. This tough-minded governor of Egypt wept once more as he encircled his old father in his arms.
God’s remnant in Jacob’s family would multiply in Egypt for 430 years, first as free men and later as slaves. At the Exodus, two million Jews would leave on the journey to Canaan. What wonders God wrought when He enlisted in His service a cocky seventeen-year-old wearing a multicolored coat.
Genesis 37-50 Exodus 12:37
Copyright 2002 by John C. Westervelt
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