(NLT Study Bible)

Joseph is known for his dreams and for the beautiful coat his father Jacob gave him. He is an example of faith, prudence, and administrative ability. Despite overwhelming difficulties, Joseph saved Canaan, Egypt, and his own family from starvation during seven years of drought.

Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son, the first child of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. Joseph’s name means “may he add,” expressing Rachel’s desire that God give her another son (30:24). Rachel later died at the birth of Benjamin, Joseph’s only full brother.

Joseph’s brothers resented him because of his dreams. They sold him to a passing caravan and led Jacob to believe an animal had killed him. In Egypt, Joseph quickly became prominent until he was jailed when his master’s wife falsely accused him. Having correctly interpreted dreams for fellow inmates, he was summoned when Pharaoh couldn’t understand his dreams. Joseph said they predicted seven good years followed by seven lean years, and Pharaoh directed him to prepare for famine. When Joseph’s family had to buy grain in Egypt, Joseph eventually disclosed his identity. The family was reconciled and reunited when Jacob came to live in Egypt.

Because Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and took them as his own (48:5- 20), each was considered a separate tribe later in Israel. Ephraim, whom Jacob put first and to whom he gave the birthright (48:17- 20), became one of the strongest tribes of Israel and the leading tribe in the northern kingdom after the division during Rehoboam’s reign (see 1 Kgs 11:26- 12:33). Several of the prophets refer to the northern kingdom under the names Ephraim (e. g., Ezek 37:15- 19; Hos 5:3- 5) and Joseph (e. g., Obad 1:18).

Joseph’s dying wish (which Moses later honored) was that his bones be buried in Canaan (Exod 13:19; Josh 24:32). Joseph’s story dramatizes the life of a man of faith and godly character who fulfilled God’s plan. His name is mentioned frequently in Scripture, showing that he was highly regarded by later Israelites. His story is summarized in the Psalms (Ps 105:16- 22) and in Stephen’s speech just prior to his martyrdom (Acts 7:9- 14).

Joseph’s life confirms God’s control of the long course of history even when bad things happen (50:20). God expresses his sovereign power through his provident, faithful love for his people. Joseph also models for us a firm faith in the sovereign God and personal integrity in the face of adversity.