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JOSEPH

The second youngest of Jacob's twelve sons [first-born of Jacob's beloved Rachel, ed.]. Because he was Jacob's favorite, his brothers were jealous of him. When his father gave him "a coat of many colors," they resented the preferential treatment. They even considered killing him, but the prudent Reuben dissuaded them (Genesis 37:3-22). Joseph was sold to the Egyptians as a slave (Genesis 37:28), but with Yahweh protecting him he rose rapidly to positions of responsibility (Genesis 39:1-6). During a severe drought that afflicted the entire region he rendered valuable service (Genesis 41:37-49). Unexpectedly he was reunited with his brothers, whom Jacob had sent to Egypt in a desperate search for food. They did not recognize him, but he knew them instantly. After subjecting them to several tests, he disclosed his identity and sent them back to Canaan to get their father. He arranged to have the family settled in Goshen in Egypt, where they would be assured a substantial living as long as they wanted (Genesis 42, 43, 44, 45). Jacob, of course, was delighted to regain his favorite son and, being assured by God that it was a safe move, he intrusted his entire family, seventy strong, to Joseph's protection (Genesis 46). Jacob lived seventeen happy years in Egypt (Genesis 47), but, when he knew that he was dying, asked to be buried in Canaan with Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 49:29-33). His son respected this dying wish. Joseph himself lived to be 110 years old and was buried in Egypt (Genesis 50:26).

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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