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The Story of Joseph: Rupture and repair


Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman







The story of Joseph

The story of Joseph, recounted in twelve chapters of the book of Genesis (37, 39 – 49), is, on the one hand, the natural continuation of the patriarchal narratives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But on the other hand, post-biblical Jewish tradition does not consider Joseph one of the patriarchs. Joseph is an extraordinary character: He is handsome, wise, successful and beloved…but he is also hated, oppressed, vengeful and narcissistic. His life is a series of descents and ascents. He is not the recipient of divine revelations, unlike his forebears, but instead he has dreams: he is the dreamer par excellence and he is the interpreter of dreams, indeed he is “this master of dreams,” as his brothers call him disparagingly (Genesis 37:19).

Joseph is one of Jacob`s sons, but as opposed to all the others, no tribe bears his name, but rather two tribes are named for his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, while Joseph`s name became an epithet of the Kingdom of Israel. In post-biblical tradition, Joseph is also one of the Ushpezin, the mystical guests in every Sukkah. Thus Joseph is both similar to and different from his predecessors. But the most decisive connection between the story of Joseph and the preceding material in Genesis lies in the motif of sibling rivalry: As in the preceding stories, hostility reigns between brothers and here, too, the favored son becomes estranged from his doting parents.

Why is Joseph Jacob`s favored son? Apparently because of Jacob`s love for the departed and lamented Rachel, Joseph`s mother. So great is Jacob`s love of Joseph that after his disappearance, only his younger brother, Benjamin, is considered by Jacob as his son—see the striking words of Genesis 42:38

My son will not go down [to Egypt] with you,
for his brother is dead and only he remains!

Thus we return here to the biblical staples of preference and jealousy—although this time, finally, there is also reconciliation.

Biblical Joseph became an important character in Judaism`s daughter religions, Christianity and Islam. Christian interpretation compares Joseph to Jesus in several manners, especially as a saintly figure who, although rejected by his contemporaries, transcended his suffering.

As for Islam, an entire chapter of the Quran is dedicated to Joseph; it contains both paraphrases of the biblical account of his life and midrashic materials whose origins are in Judaism and Christianity. During the Middle Ages, the Sufis, Muslim mystics, wrote several works on the love of Joseph and Zuleika, as Potiphar`s wife is named. These works were extremely popular and served as the basis and inspiration for paintings of Joseph by Muslims artists.

These various approaches to the story and character of Joseph express the differences between the three religions, while the very interest in Joseph is an indication of their common denominators. We will now look at examples of the artwork that has been created around Joseph`s fascinating character, with special emphasis on how artists have treated alienation in Jacob`s family and the resolution of this problem.









Joseph in Art

The episodes in the story of Joseph most frequently treated by artists are:

• Joseph`s dreams (Genesis 37)

• His abduction and sale (Genesis 37)
• The announcement of his death to Jacob (Genesis 37)
• The story of Potiphar`s wife (Genesis 39)
• Pharaoh`s dreams and Joseph`s rise to power (Genesis 41)

• Joseph`s meeting with his brothers and their reconciliation (Genesis 42ff.)
• Jacob`s arrival in Egypt and his meeting with Joseph (Genesis 46)
• The blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48)

In the following discussion, we will ask how different artists express their conceptions regarding the story of Joseph by way of their portrayal of :

• Joseph`s character, his manner and his appearance
• Joseph`s and Pharaoh`s dreams
• Joseph`s coat
• The environment (the lands of Canaan and Egypt)
• Potiphar`s wife
• Joseph`s brothers
• Jacob
• And especially the reparation of the rupture in this family









Joseph`s Dreams

Genesis 37 contains two main episodes:  Joseph`s dreams and his sale into slavery.  The first episode is the background of the second: it is the first event in Joseph`s life story recounted and it provides an opportunity to describe concretely and factually the tainted relationship between Joseph and his brothers.  The brothers` hatred of Joseph stems, as is well-known, from their father`s undisguised favoring of Joseph; this hatred is exacerbated by Joseph`s recounting of his dreams and results in his sale into Egyptian bondage.  But already before the dreams, Joseph`s preferential status is stressed by the special coat given him by Jacob.









Joseph`s Coat

Although Joseph`s coat is mentioned only in Genesis 37, it has become his personal icon and appears in various guises in portrayals of other episodes of his life, by artists throughout history and across cultures. As we shall see, this garment and the ways in which artists treated it are expressions of their attitudes toward Joseph himself. What is this special coat?
Outside of its appearance in Genesis 37, such a coat is mentioned only in II Samuel 13:18 as the garb of royal princesses. The word ketonet, meaning simply a tunic, is found in Exodus 28, in the description of the priestly garments. The special character of Joseph`s coat is explained in several ways in Midrash Bereshit Rabba.


And as if this were not enough, the great medieval commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra, in his comment on Genesis 37:3, adds an explanation based, in accordance with his method, on linguistic analysis:

Pasim – an embroidered tunic. Pasim is similar to pas yada (= the wrist, Daniel 5:5) in Aramaic.

Some of these suggestions attempt to explain the unusual word literally, especially using the citation from the book of Daniel. These explanations conclude in general that Joseph`s coat had long sleeves, apparently based on the assumption that such garments were unusual in the Biblical Age. On the same basis, Ibn Ezra concludes that the tunic was embroidered or that it was made of pieces of multi-colored cloth. But none of the older definitions are similar to the usage in modern Hebrew of pasim as stripes!

Finally, in the painting below from an Egyptian tomb of the 14th century BCE, matching Joseph`s cultural background, messengers of Syrian kings are portrayed offering tribute to the king of Egypt; they are dressed in colorful tunics with long sleeves. Such garments accord with some of the explanations given above. While we are left in some doubt regarding this coat, it is undoubtedly a sign of Joseph`s favored position in the family, and therefore makes him a target.


Unknown artist
Tomb of Sebekhotep: Semites presenting offerings

Two groups of Asiatic men offer tribute to the king of Egypt. They are wearing striped, long-sleeved tunics.







Dreaming

While in his drawing below of circa1638, Rembrandt does not pay particular attention to the coat, Joseph is indeed the proud center of attention, lecturing (as if from a podium, set off by a curtain) before and opposite his entire family.

Rembrandt, Joseph telling his Dreams, ca. 1638

Rembrandt, Joseph telling his Dreams, ca. 1638

At the head of the family, sits the concerned Jacob, with little Benjamin standing at his feet, uninterested except in his own childish world. Behind them spreads the large, sketchy patch of Joseph`s brothers, with a dark cloud hovering above them. And indeed, in the Bible itself the gang of brothers is often a collective character. But here, although it is difficult to identify specific figures, we easily perceive individual faces that variously express curiosity, disdain, mockery, perplexity and anger.

 

Likewise in Shalom of Safed`s portrayal of the same scene, Joseph stands opposite his family, but here, instead of Rembrandt`s highly dramatic depiction, we encounter something like comics.

Shalom of Safed, Joseph recounts his dreams, 1960`s

Shalom of Safed, Joseph recounts his dreams, 1960`s

Rolly polly young Joseph is dressed in a stripped coat and a little yarmulke, while his bearded brothers stand in single file wearing alternating green and red coats and tarbushes. As for Jacob, while he too is dressed in a monochrome garment, his beard is white and his hat that of a dignified elder of the Ottoman period.
In addition to the story`s cast, Shalom depicts the dreams themselves, as well as incorporating quotations from the biblical text. With regard to the second dream, note that the “bubble” of the sun, moon and stars is on the ground before Joseph, as if the heavenly bodies are bowing to him.

 

Despite the labeling of this scene with the notice that Jacob scolded Joseph, the figures themselves display no emotions. Thus, we may conclude that while Rembrandt expresses the interpersonal tension through the physical appearance of the characters, Shalom intended mainly to memorialize this foundational event in Jewish history.









The Sale of Joseph

As mentioned above, Joseph is an important figure in the Quran, and even more so in later Muslim tales, which focus on Joseph`s super-human beauty, reflecting his saintly character, on the great suffering that he had to overcome in the course of his life and on the intense love of Potiphar`s wife for him, to which we will return below. According to the biblical account, some time after Joseph`s dreaming, Jacob sent his older sons to pasture his flocks in the vicinity of Shechem, far from the family`s home in Hebron, where Joseph remained; later, Jacob sent Joseph “to see how [his] brothers` and the sheep were faring”. But in the Quran`s version of this story, it was the brothers who proposed that Joseph join them, planning in advance to do him harm.

Mir Ali, Joseph and his brothers, 16th century

Mir Ali, Joseph and his brothers, 16th century

In a rare depiction of this scene by the Persian artist Mir Ali, Jacob`s sons bid farewell to their father and his sister, who raised Joseph after the death of his mother, and carry off Joseph on their shoulders. According to the version of the story recounted in the Romance of Yusuf and Zuleikha by the 15th century Sufi poet Jami, Jacob`s sons hoodwinked their father into allowing them to abduct Joseph by pretending to be loving and caring brothers—as long as they were in sight.

 

While the fiery halos of Jacob and Joseph identify them as saints, the faces and gestures of the brothers reveal their hypocrisy and their evil intent. Unlike Christian iconography, Joseph wears no special coat, since in Muslim literary and artistic tradition, the tunic was exchanged for a belt. Many renditions of the sale of Joseph into slavery by his brothers have been created by Jewish, Christian and Muslim artists throughout the ages. While Muslim paintings deal mainly with Joseph`s rescue from the pit and his descent to Egypt in the company of the Ishmaelites, Christian artists tend to focus on Joseph`s sale by his brothers, as a prefiguration of Judas` betrayal of Jesus to the Romans for 30 shekels of silver and on Joseph`s ascent from the pit as a prefiguration of Jesus` resurrection. In modern times, this episode has continued to fascinate artists of many sorts—for example, in his trilogy on the life of Joseph, Nobel prize winning author Thomas Mann dedicated over 50 pages to the retelling of the sale into slavery. In the painting below, from a small group of paintings dealing with biblical subjects painted in 1900 by the Hungarian artist Karoly Ferenczy, Joseph stands at the center of a mixed crowd of his brothers and Ishmaelites.

Karoly Ferenczy, Sale of Joseph, 1900

Karoly Ferenczy, Sale of Joseph, 1900

In the background can be seen a desolate vista, offering no shelter; this landscape is an externalization of Joseph`s suffering and the alienation that characterizes the sale of the young man by his own brothers.

 

Joseph appears half-naked, in shock and in pain; around his waist is a colored garment (apparently the remains of his famous coat—but a memory of his former status) and he his being held by two dark, primitive looking figures. His brothers are not portrayed as evil, unlike the pictures of Rembrandt and Mir Ali; but rather they stand awkwardly and confused, as if they want nothing other than to have done with the matter and to go their way. Ferenczy`s personal interpretation of the sale of Joseph focuses, then, on suffering and human indifference to it, while the world of nature reflects and echoes the emotions of the individual. Diego Velasquez` painting of 1630 depicts the moment at which the brothers inform Jacob of Joseph’s “death”, as told in Genesis 37:31-34:

(31) So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood;
(32) and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”
(33) Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!”
(34) So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.

In Velasquez` version, the episode seems to occur within a 17th century Spanish home, with a tiled floor, divided by a carpet into Jacob’s domain and that of his sons.

Diego Velasquez, Joseph`s Bloody Coat brought to Jacob, 1630

Diego Velasquez, Joseph`s Bloody Coat brought to Jacob, 1630

While Jacob is not at the painting’s center, his figure attracts the viewer’s eye because of his striking pose, raising his arms and beginning to rise as he begins to fall on having heard the tragic news. The carpet slipping under his feet and his fallen walking stick symbolize his collapsing world.

 

Here again, as in Rembrandt’s drawing of the dreams, we see a variety of expressions on the faces of Joseph’s brothers—sorrow, confusion, clowning, etc.

 

But exactly in the geometrical center of Velasquez’s painting are two extraordinary details: a barking dog and the fallen walking stick that are pointing at the bloody coat, expressing suspicion and announcing to us the truth that Jacob cannot see.

 

A similar visual/exegetical ploy, perhaps expressing the hand of God, appears in the English painter Ford Maddox Brown’s rendition of the same scene from 1867.

Ford Madox Brown, The Coat of Many Colors, 1867

Ford Madox Brown, The Coat of Many Colors, 1867

The difference between the role of the dog in the two paintings is that while in Brown’s version, the animal quietly sniffs the coat, expressing only for the viewer its instinctive knowledge of the truth, Velasquez’ dog barks in protest against the brothers’ lie and tries unsuccessfully to warn Jacob.









Joseph in the House of Potiphar

Another incident in the story of Joseph that has received much attention from the artists of various cultures is the episode of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39). In the biblical account, after reporting Joseph’s miraculous rise to prominence from his lowly status as a foreign slave, an apparent non sequitur informs us that “Joseph was comely and handsome”, in the very words used earlier to describe his mother, Rachel (Genesis 29:17). Only on further reading do we discover that this physical beauty is what brought Joseph to the attention of his Egyptian master’s wife, who tries to seduce him. This attempt and its rebuff are described in a dialogue in verses 7-9:

7. It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
8. But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.
9. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”

While Potiphar’s wife’s physical appearance is never described, we readily perceive her licentious character and unbridled passions in these first verses, by way of her blunt speech. In the continuation, she also turns out to be a manipulative liar, skilled in rhetoric. Joseph, in contrast, is portrayed as honest and loyal to his master and to his God. Note that despite Joseph’s former way with words, his refusal in the verses cited above are his last ones in this chapter and he does not defend himself against his mistress’s false accusations—a veritable saint:

He was oppressed and he was afflicted, Yet he did not open His mouth
(Isaiah 53:7)

In accordance with this behavior, Christian commentary identified Joseph as a prefiguration of Jesus and Potiphar’s wife as a satanic creature, and therefore compared our episode to the meeting between Jesus and Satan .

Potiphar’s wife was also identified as a symbol of the Jews, who falsely accused Jesus. But the main Christian understanding of the story of Potiphar’s wife stresses Joseph’s refusal of her wanton sexual advances as a model of pious behavior.

An unknown Flemish painter of the 16th century focuses in the painting below on Joseph’s flight from the arms of Potiphar’s wife, illustrating in the background her appeal to her husband and Joseph being led to prison.

Master of the Joseph Legend, Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar, 16th century

Master of the Joseph Legend, Joseph and the Wife of Potiphar, 16th century

In the main vignette, the terrified Joseph is fully and elegantly clothed, while Potiphar’s naked wife tries to envelope him in her arms.

Because of the color of her skin and the shape of her body, she seems to be a kind of succubus or a siren who captures unsuspecting men or even a serpent. Observation of Joseph’s pose reveals that with one hand he tries to free himself from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife, but his other hand rests on her thigh—is this in fact an expression of ambivalence toward her? One can understand Joseph’s pose alternatively as forming the sign of the Cross.

As mentioned above, Muslim tradition gives Potiphar’s wife the name Zuleikha and tells of her tragic love of Joseph, inspired by his beauty and his saintly character. In her despair due to Joseph’s chastity, she invites her friends to her home in order display Joseph’s angelic features:


Riza-i Abbasi, Joseph and the Egyptian Women, 16th century

Riza-i Abbasi, Joseph and the Egyptian Women, 16th century

The Persian style and miniature dimensions of this manuscript painting (in this case, a version of Qisas al Anbiya by the Persian poet Nishaburri), did not allow detailing of facial expressions. Instead, the characters and the background were painted according to stylized artistic conventions meant to express a mixture of calm and passion.

On the left, Joseph, crowned with a halo, enters the banquet room in the classic pose of a servant. Opposite him, seated upon a dais, Zuleikha sits holding fruit and a knife. Her friends, sitting below her, swoon at Joseph’s beauty. In the Quranic interpretative tradition, Potiphar’s wife is neither a demon nor a wanton but rather an especially emotional woman. Therefore, it is not strange that in later Muslim literature, her love of Joseph became a model of platonic-divine love.

Comparison of the Muslim painting to the Christian portrayal shown above reveals another striking difference between them. In the Christian rendition, Joseph’s relationship with Potiphar’s wife is clandestine, allowing the eruption of lust and passion. In the Muslim environment, their meeting is in public, so that such outbursts are avoided.









The Reunion in Egypt and the Conciliation

Joseph’s years in prison and his plan to store up Egypt’s crops during the seven good years brought him to the heights of power, while in far off Canaan his family suffered from the famine of the seven lean years. As a result, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to purchase food (Genesis 42), and found themselves standing before the unknown Egyptian lord:

6. Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
7. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8. But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them….

Several of the phrases in these verses indicate Joseph’s mixed emotions, especially the words “he recognized them but disguised himself (literally, ‘made himself foreign’) to them,” that in Hebrew sound similar, but in fact are virtual antonyms. Some midrashim explain this psychological state as divinely caused:

Because the tribes came down to Egypt and he saw them, he pitied them as it is written, “Joseph recognized…”. And he turned away from them… – at once, an angel descended and appeared to Joseph in the guise of a man and said to him, “You pity these scoundrels? Do you not remember what suffering they caused you?: they cast you into the pit and sold you four times. Thus he began speaking to Joseph and at once, he disguised himself to them. Midrash Aggadat Bereshit 73

While this Midrash presents Joseph’s unsympathetic behavior as the will of God, one might understand it rather as stemming from Joseph`s own ambivalence. In the two paintings below, from 14th century Europe, these mixed emotions are expressed visually through Joseph’s hands and face.

Sarajevo Haggadah, ca. 1350

Sarajevo Haggadah, ca. 1350

Maitre de Fauvel, early 14th century

Maitre de Fauvel, early 14th century

In both the Bible Historiale created in Christian France (on the right) and the Sarajevo Haggadah of Jewish Spain, Joseph gestures upward and downward, as an expression of the tension between the principles of justice and mercy or divine fiat and human behavior, etc. Likewise, Joseph’s face expresses the difficulty inherent in his meeting with his brothers and his emotional turmoil. As for the brothers, in the Sarajevo Haggadah, all kneel, and in a gesture of abject appeal. In contrast, in the Bible Historiale, while the lead brother kneels, the group as a whole stands at the same height as Joseph—may we see in this rendition an expression of a confrontational approach similar to that of the Midrash? Joseph’s emotional turmoil increases after the brothers are released from their three-day arrest. Joseph is hard put to maintain his strict pose when they express their guilt feelings regarding his long ago sale in response to Simeon’s continued incarceration:

18 Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God:
19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households,
20 and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.” And they did so.
21 Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.”
22 Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
23 They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.
24 He turned away from them and wept.

William Blake depicted this dramatic episode in a painting in which Joseph and his brothers experience their anguish separately, but in the space.

William Blake, Joseph ordering Simeon to be bound, 1784-85

William Blake, Joseph ordering Simeon to be bound, 1784-85

In contrast, in the 6th century Vienna Genesis, an illuminated manuscript of the Septuagint, Joseph stands behind a door, in an adjoining room—apparently in a conflation of the accounts in Genesis 42 and 43:

29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.”
30 Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.

 

Vienna Genesis, Joseph and his brothers, early 6th century

Vienna Genesis, Joseph and his brothers, early 6th century

In this painting, Joseph also orders the imprisonment of Simeon, who is separated from his terrified brothers. On the left, Joseph’s servants are loading the brothers’ packs with grain. Thus, the painting moderates the harshness of Simeon’s arrest by juxtaposing them with acts of Joseph’s kindness. The same aim is achieved in a Midrash that reports that Simeon was only imprisoned by Joseph as a ruse: after the departure of Jacob’s sons, Joseph treated Simeon with great hospitality.

Then he turned away and wept
– R. Haggai in the name of R. Isaac: In their presence he said, Arrest him! But when they left, he provided him with food and drink and gave him a bath and anointed him.(Bereshit Rabba 91:8)

But the brothers have not seen the end of their trials at the hand of their unrecognized brother: In the end, they will have endured hard words, accusations, waiting, Simeon made a hostage, the planting of silver in their packs, a strange banquet and finally Benjamin’s life threatened. One may read Joseph as vengeful, exploiting his position for the purpose of paying his brothers back for the suffering he endured years before. Such appears to be the reading of Salvador Dali, who stresses Joseph`s cruelty toward his brothers and describes him as a despot, inured to their pain.

Salvador Dali, Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, 1964-67

Salvador Dali, Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, 1964-67

 

But one may alternatively see Joseph`s behavior toward his brothers as an attempt to understand the significance of his dreams as a spoiled child and of the will of God. Or perhaps Joseph has consciously created a situation in which his brothers once more have an opportunity to be rid of their father`s favorite (now, Benjamin). But this time, led by Judah, they change their behavior. When Joseph orders Benjamin to be enslaved, Judah delivers an impassioned speech, recounting the family`s gloomy history and offers himself as a hostage instead of Benjamin, in order to prevent further suffering by their father, Jacob. Joseph`s response to Judah`s words is remarkably dramatic:

 

1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
2 He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were shocked by his presence. (Genesis 45: 1 – 3)

The two paintings below describe Joseph`s “revelation” to his brothers. But there are significant differences between their treatments of the scene.

Paris Psalter,1258-70

Paris Psalter,1258-70

Peter Cornelius, 1816-17

Peter Cornelius, 1816-17

 

First of all, the painting on the left, from a Paris Psalter, centers on the moment of the cry: I am Joseph!

 

 

Joseph`s revelation of his identity is expressed visually in the fall of his cape (a reflex of his famous coat) and the raising of his hands upward. This extension portrays Joseph as superior in height (i.e., status) to his brothers, who kneel before him in abject obeisance. But at the same time, Joseph is exposed and his similarity to his brothers is revealed, since Judah, standing at the head of the group, is dressed identically to Joseph. Note also that Judah`s hands break through the boundary between the brothers` and Joseph`s sections of the painting, as if they are “breaking the ice” between them. Peter Cornelius, for his part, relates mainly to verse 14 -15 in his portrayal of the revelation scene:

Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

But he also illustrates verse 3:

But his brothers could not answer him, for they were shocked at his presence.

 

 

Joseph`s brothers are divided into two distinct groups in this picture: those who stand apart from Joseph, not having yet recovered from the shock of Joseph`s revelation; and those who approach him, looking at him with expressions of fear and submission. Likewise, in Midrashim on this episode, there are varying views on the characters and intentions of Joseph and his brothers.

Then Joseph could not control himself
– R. Hama bar Hanina said: Joseph did not act properly, for if one of the brothers had kicked him, he would have died forthwith.
R. Samuel bar Nahmani said: He acted properly. He knew the truly righteous character of his brothers. He thought, God forbid, my brothers are not suspect of intent to murder.(Bereshit Rabba 93:9)

According to this text, opinion is divided regarding the mental state of the brothers: Were they still hostile to Joseph or had they undergone a process of reconciliation?









Jacob and Joseph

Between the verses illustrated in the last two paintings, Joseph explains that his sale into slavery was the will of God, intended to save the entire family and insure their continued existence. Only one thing remains to accomplish God`s will: that his father, Jacob, be brought to Egypt.

And indeed, the brothers return to their home and announce to Jacob that Joseph is alive. On Jacob`s way to meet Joseph in Egypt, God speaks to the patriarch (who, unlike his son, is prone to direct divine revelations) and promises Jacob that he will be buried in the land of Canaan.

The wording of the unexpected reunion of Joseph and Jacob seems to contain hidden significance:

Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”

( Genesis 46:29-30)

Writers of Midrash asked themselves: What is the meaning of the word “appeared,” so fraught with biblical associations? Who fell on the neck of whom and who wept? And why is the word ôd, `more, again` used repeatedly here?

All agree that “appeared” indicates that Jacob did not at first recognize Joseph and that the ambiguous wording of these verses reflects uncertainty about the relative status of Joseph and Jacob. Thomas` Mann`s account of the meeting is a modern Midrash rooted in abundant classical sources and reflecting the story`s tensions:

And although Benjamin and the others at first tried to prevent [Jacob], he rose from the litter with their help in labored stateliness, limping from the hip more than ever, for he purposely exaggerated his lameness. Alone he went up to the other, who hastened his steps to shorten the distance between them. The man`s smiling lips shaped the word “Father” and he held his arms open before him. But Jacob had his own stretched out like a blind man groping; his hands moved as though beckoning, yet partly too as though to protect himself. For as they came close he did not allow Joseph to fall on his neck and hide his face on his shoulder as his son would have done. Instead he peered and searched with his tired old eyes, his head laid back and sideways; peered long and urgently into the Egyptian`s face with love and sorrow painted on his own, and did not recognize his son.

In the mosaic decorating the walls of Florence`s 13th- 14th century Baptistery, there seems to be no indication of theses Midrashic passions.


Meeting of Jacob and Joseph, 13th - 14th century

Meeting of Jacob and Joseph, 13th – 14th century

However, examination of the central place of the horses in this scene (unmentioned in the biblical text) reveals that they are a medium to visual the hidden tension between love and power: Joseph`s horses, their heads hidden, are bowing before Jacob`s horses, whose heads are lifted. It is Joseph who has left his chariot in order to greet his father, who stands in his cart; in other words, the Patriarch Jacob`s status is greater than that of Joseph, the ruler of Egypt. While the family has indeed joined Joseph in Egypt, Joseph has also been reabsorbed into his family and, as portrayed in the mosaic, has resumed his role of son of Jacob. Thus both the Midrash and the artwork read the “happy ending” of the Joseph narrative as still fraught with contention, which cannot be entirely annihilated, but only restrained.



Article Sources:

1 Bereshit Rabba 84:8
And he made him a ketonet pasim - Resh Lakish in the name of R. Eleazar b. Azariah: A person must not make distinction among his children, for on account of the ketonet pasim which our father Jacob made for Joseph, They hated him. pasim - because it went as far as his wrists (pas yad) Another explanation of pasim - it was very thin and light and could be tucked in at the wrists. Pasim - so called because they cast lots (hepisu) for it, to tell who should carry the cloak to their father. The lot fell on Judah. Pasim - its letters are an acronym for the story of Joseph's troubles: Potiphar, traders (sokharim), Ishmaelites, Midianites. Another explanation, Resh Lakish in the name of R. Eleazar b. Azariah: Come and see the words of God. He is terrible in his deeds toward the children of men. He turned the sea into dry land (Ps. 66:5). Why did they hate him? Because he split the sea open for them. The word pasim yields the letters of the phrase pas yam, 'the sea in strips'.


2 Tanhuma Vayeshev 5
Our sages inform us that on one occasion Potiphar's wife assembled a number of Egyptian women so that they might see how very handsome Joseph was. But before she summoned Joseph she gave each of them an ethrog and a knife. Whey they saw Joseph's handsome countenance, they cut their hands. She said to them: If this can happen to you, who see him only once, how much more so does it happen to me, who must look at him constantly. Each day she strove to entice him with words, but he suppressed his evil inclination. Whence do we know this? From what we read in the section: His master's wife cast her eyes upon him.


3 Matthew 4
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’; and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the lord your god to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.


4 Bereshit Rabba 86:6
And Joseph found favor…and having him…. - R. Simeon b. Yohai taught, In every place in which the righteous go, a blessing goes along with them. The blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in house and field - He worked there for twelve months, six in the house and six in the field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge; having him, he had no concern for anything buy the bread which he ate - the bread that he ate is a euphemism [for his wife]. Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking - Said R. Isaac, Throw a stick in the air and it will land on the root [from which it came], as it is written Rachel was of beautiful form (Genesis 29;17). Therefore, Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking.


5 Bereshit Rabba 87:3
His master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph - Therefore hear me, you men of understanding (Job 34:10) - What is the craftsmanship of the Holy One, blessed be He? For the actions of a man He will requite him (ibid., 11). His master's wife cast her eyes on him - What is written just prior to the passage at hand? Now Joseph was handsome and good looking - This is like the case of a man who was sitting in the marketplace and penciling his eyes, fixing his hair, and prancing about. He said, I am such a good looking man. They said to him, If you are a such a good looking man, look there is a she-bear about to fall on you. Get up and drive her off!


6 Midrash Aggadat Bereshit 73
Because the tribes came down to Egypt and he saw them, he pitied them as it is written, “Joseph recognized…”. And he turned away from them… - at once, an angel descended and appeared to Joseph in the guise of a man and said to him, “You pity these scoundrels? Do you not remember what suffering they caused you?: they cast you into the pit and sold you four times. Thus he began speaking to Joseph and at once, he disguised himself to them.


7 Bereshit Rabba 91:8
Then he turned away and wept - R. Haggai in the name of R. Isaac: In their presence he said, Arrest him! But when they left, he provided him with food and drink and gave him a bath and anointed him.


8 Bereshit Rabba 93:9
Then Joseph could not control himself - R. Hama bar Hanina said: Joseph did not act properly, for if one of the brothers had kicked him, he would have died forthwith. R. Samuel bar Nahmani said: He acted properly. He knew the truly righteous character of his brothers. He thought, God forbid, my brothers are not suspect of intent to murder.


9 Genesis 45:4-13
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 “You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. 11 “There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ 12 “Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. 13 “Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.”


10 Genesis 46:3-4
3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.”


11 Targum Yonatan to Genesis 46:3-4
And he said, I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt because of the slavery which I decreed to Abraham; for there I will make of you a great nation. It is I who in my Voice will go down with you to Egypt. I will look upon the misery of your children, but my Voice will exalt you there: I will also bring your children up from there. Besides, Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.


12 Genesis 46:29
29 Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.


13 Targum Yonatan to Genesis 46:29
Joseph had his chariot made ready, and he went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel. But before his father recognized him, he bowed down to hem, and [Joseph] was condemned to have his years shortened. But [Joseph] repented and presented himself to him, and inclined upon the joint of his neck and wept upon his neck very much because (his father) had bowed down to him.


14 Genesis 46: 30
30 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now I can die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”


15 Targum Yonatan to Genesis 46: 30
Israel said to Joseph, If I were to die now, I would be consoled, for I would die the death that the righteous die, having seen your countenance, since you are still alive.


16 Ramban on Genesis 46:29
he appeared to him - Joseph appeared to his father. He wept on his neck a long time - meaning much weeping, but Jacob did not fall on his son Joseph's neck and did not kiss him; and our sages taught that he prayed the Shema - Rashi's words. But I do not understand this explanation of he appeared to him, because clearly they had seen each other when he fell on his neck; and in addition, it would not be appropriate for Joseph to fall on his father's neck, but rather that he bow to him or kiss his hands, as in and Joseph raised them from their knees because they bowed before him (Genesis 48:12) - bowing to him in this circumstance would have been more fitting. Moreover, the word "more" is an addition to the essence of the action, unlike the word "many", as in For He does not need to consider a man further (Job 34:23), that He sentences a man according to his sins without further deliberation. And the correct interpretation in my view is that Israel's eyes were already somewhat dim with age, so that when Joseph approached in the chariot of the viceroy, wearing the crown of the Egyptian kings, he was not recognizable to his father, nor did his brothers recognize him. Therefore the text explains that when he appeared to his father who was gazing at him and he recognized him, his father fell on his neck and wept again, as he had wept for him continually until that day, when he didn't see him. And afterwards he said, Now I can die, since I have seen your face.


17 Haemek Davar on Genesis 46:29
Joseph was driven by his dream that the sun (meaning his father) would bow down to him. And he had struggled much to fulfill this prophecy up to now, but without success as explained above. Therefore he decided that he would come toward [Jacob] in royal garments, according to the report that Pharaoh had sent him his crown. Thinking that Jacob would, nonetheless, recognize him, Joseph assumed Jacob would bow to him as appropriate to a king. Or even if he didn't recognize him and thought he was Pharaoh, he would bow. And in this way the dream would be fulfilled. But in fact, Jacob did not recognize him at first and he bowed to him, already knowing that Pharaoh had decreed that they come there in order to enslave them. Afterwards, when Joseph revealed himself to his father, his father was troubled, because although he remembered the dream and was not envious of him, he did not think it fitting for Joseph himself to be the cause of his father abasing himself before him. What did he do to appease himself? He prayed the Shema with fervor and love of God, which gives one the strength to overcome all things of this world…Our words explain well that Jacob, although he felt that this was a lack of respect and reverence toward parents, desired to ignore the deed because of his great love for Joseph. But despite the fact that a parent or a teacher may waive respect, they may not overlook contempt, and it was fitting that he show him a mark of displeasure, as if rebuking him. Therefore Jacob overcame his own desire and that of Joseph in order to comply with the Divine will and to oppose this lack of respect and reverence of parents


18 Sefer Hayashar 44:18ff.
18. And Joseph was eighteen years old, a youth with beautiful eyes and of comely appearance, and like unto him was not in the whole land of Egypt. 19. At that time whilst he was in his master's house, going in and out of the house and attending his master, Zelicah, his master's wife, lifted up her eyes toward Joseph and she looked at him, and behold he was a youth comely and well favored. 20. And she coveted his beauty in her heart, and her soul was fixed upon Joseph, and she enticed him day after day, and Zelicah persuaded Joseph daily, but Joseph did not lift up his eyes to behold his master's wife. 21. And Zelicah said unto him, How goodly are thy appearance and form, truly I have looked at all the slaves, and have not seen so beautiful a slave as thou art; and Joseph said unto her, Surely he who created me in my mother's womb created all mankind. 22. And she said unto him, How beautiful are thine eyes, with which thou hast dazzled all the inhabitants of Egypt, men and women; and he said unto her, How beautiful they are whilst we are alive, but shouldst thou behold them in the grave, surely thou wouldst move away from them. 23. And she said unto him, How beautiful and pleasing are all thy words; take now, I pray thee, the harp which is in the house, and play with thy hands and let us hear thy words. 24. And he said unto her, How beautiful and pleasing are my words when I speak the praise of my God and his glory; and she said unto him, How very beautiful is the hair of thy head, behold the golden comb which is in the house, take it I pray thee, and curl the hair of thy head. 25. And he said unto her, How long wilt thou speak these words? cease to utter these words to me, and rise and attend to thy domestic affairs. 26. And she said unto him, There is no one in my house, and there is nothing to attend to but to thy words and to thy wish; yet notwithstanding all this, she could not bring Joseph unto her, neither did he place his eye upon her, but directed his eyes below to the ground. 27. And Zelicah desired Joseph in her heart, that he should lie with her, and at the time that Joseph was sitting in the house doing his work, Zelicah came and sat before him, and she enticed him daily with her discourse to lie with her, or ever to look at her, but Joseph would not hearken to her. 28. And she said unto him, If thou wilt not do according to my words, I will chastise thee with the punishment of death, and put an iron yoke upon thee. 29. And Joseph said unto her, Surely God who created man looseth the fetters of prisoners, and it is he who will deliver me from thy prison and from thy judgment. 30. And when she could not prevail over him, to persuade him, and her soul being still fixed upon him, her desire threw her into a grievous sickness. 31. And all the women of Egypt came to visit her, and they said unto her, Why art thou in this declining state? thou that lackest nothing; surely thy husband is a great and esteemed prince in the sight of the king, shouldst thou lack anything of what thy heart desireth? 32. And Zelicah answered them, saying, This day it shall be made known to you, whence this disorder springs in which you see me, and she commanded her maid servants to prepare food for all the women, and she made a banquet for them, and all the women ate in the house of Zelicah. 33. And she gave them knives to peel the citrons to eat them, and she commanded that they should dress Joseph in costly garments, and that he should appear before them, and Joseph came before their eyes and all the women looked on Joseph, and could not take their eyes from off him, and they all cut their hands with the knives that they had in their hands, and all the citrons that were in their hands were filled with blood. 34. And they knew not what they had done but they continued to look at the beauty of Joseph, and did not turn their eyelids from him. 35. And Zelicah saw what they had done, and she said unto them, What is this work that you have done? behold I gave you citrons to eat and you have all cut your hands. 36. And all the women saw their hands, and behold they were full of blood, and their blood flowed down upon their garments, and they said unto her, this slave in your house has overcome us, and we could not turn our eyelids from him on account of his beauty. 37. And she said unto them, Surely this happened to you in the moment that you looked at him, and you could not contain yourselves from him; how then can I refrain when he is constantly in my house, and I see him day after day going in and out of my house? how then can I keep from declining or even from perishing on account of this? 38. And they said unto her, the words are true, for who can see this beautiful form in the house and refrain from him, and is he not thy slave and attendant in thy house, and why dost thou not tell him that which is in thy heart, and sufferest thy soul to perish through this matter? 39. And she said unto them, I am daily endeavoring to persuade him, and he will not consent to my wishes, and I promised him everything that is good, and yet I could meet with no return from him; I am therefore in a declining state as you see. 40. And Zelicah became very ill on account of her desire toward Joseph, and she was desperately lovesick on account of him, and all the people of the house of Zelicah and her husband knew nothing of this matter, that Zelicah was ill on account of her love to Joseph. 41. And all the people of her house asked her, saying, Why art thou ill and declining, and lackest nothing? and she said unto them, I know not this thing which is daily increasing upon me. 42. And all the women and her friends came daily to see her, and they spoke with her, and she said unto them, This can only be through the love of Joseph; and they said unto her, Entice him and seize him secretly, perhaps he may hearken to thee, and put off this death from thee. 43. And Zelicah became worse from her love to Joseph, and she continued to decline, till she had scarce strength to stand. 44. And on a certain day Joseph was doing his master's work in the house, and Zelicah came secretly and fell suddenly upon him, and Joseph rose up against her, and he was more powerful than she, and he brought her down to the ground. 45. And Zelicah wept on account of the desire of her heart toward him, and she supplicated him with weeping, and her tears flowed down her cheeks, and she spoke unto him in a voice of supplication and in bitterness of soul, saying, 46. Hast thou ever heard, seen or known of so beautiful a woman as I am, or better than myself, who speak daily unto thee, fall into a decline through love for thee, confer all this honor upon thee, and still thou wilt not hearken to my voice? 47. And if it be through fear of thy master lest he punish thee, as the king liveth no harm shall come to thee from thy master through this thing; now, therefore pray listen to me, and consent for the sake of the honor which I have conferred upon thee, and put off this death from me, and why should I die for thy sake? and she ceased to speak. 48. And Joseph answered her, saying, Refrain from me, and leave this matter to my master; behold my master knoweth not what there is with me in the house, for all that belongeth to him he has delivered into my hand, and how shall I do these things in my master's house? 49. For he hath also greatly honored me in his house, and he hath also made me overseer over his house, and he hath exalted me, and there is no one greater in this house than I am, and my master hath refrained nothing from me, excepting thee who art his wife, how then canst thou speak these words unto me, and how can I do this great evil and sin to God and to thy husband? 50. Now therefore refrain from me, and speak no more such words as these, for I will not hearken to thy words. But Zelicah would not hearken to Joseph when he spoke these words unto her, but she daily enticed him to listen to her. 51. And it was after this that the brook of Egypt was filled above all its sides, and all the inhabitants of Egypt went forth, and also the king and princes went forth with timbrels and dances, for it was a great rejoicing in Egypt, and a holiday at the time of the inundation of the sea Sihor, and they went there to rejoice all the day. 52. And when the Egyptians went out to the river to rejoice, as was their custom, all the people of the house of Potiphar went with them, but Zelicah would not go with them, for she said, I am indisposed, and she remained alone in the house, and no other person was with her in the house. 53. And she rose up and ascended to her temple in the house, and dressed herself in princely garments, and she placed upon her head precious stones of onyx stones, inlaid with silver and gold, and she beautified her face and skin with all sorts of women's purifying liquids, and she perfumed the temple and the house with cassia and frankincense, and she spread myrrh and aloes, and she afterward sat in the entrance of the temple, in the passage of the house, through which Joseph passed to do his work, and behold Joseph came from the field, and entered the house to do his master's work. 54. And he came to the place through which he had to pass, and he saw all the work of Zelicah, and he turned back. 55. And Zelicah saw Joseph turning back from her, and she called out to him, saying What aileth thee Joseph? come to thy work, and behold I will make room for thee until thou shalt have passed to thy seat. 56. And Joseph returned and came to the house, and passed from thence to the place of his seat, and he sat down to do his master's work as usual and behold Zelicah came to him and stood before him in princely garments, and the scent from her clothes was spread to a distance. 57. And she hastened and caught hold of Joseph and his garments, and she said unto him, As the king liveth if thou wilt not perform my request thou shalt die this day, and she hastened and stretched forth her other hand and drew a sword from beneath her garments, and she placed it upon Joseph's neck, and she said, Rise and perform my request, and if not thou diest this day. 58. And Joseph was afraid of her at her doing this thing, and he rose up to flee from her, and she seized the front of his garments, and in the terror of his flight the garment which Zelicah seized was torn, and Joseph left the garment in the hand of Zelicah, and he fled and got out, for he was in fear. 59. And when Zelicah saw that Joseph's garment was torn, and that he had left it in her hand, and had fled, she was afraid of her life, lest the report should spread concerning her, and she rose up and acted with cunning, and put off the garments in which she was dressed, and she put on her other garments. 60. And she took Joseph's garment, and she laid it beside her, and she went and seated herself in the place where she had sat in her illness, before the people of her house had gone out to the river, and she called a young lad who was then in the house, and she ordered him to call the people of the house to her. 61. And when she saw them she said unto them with a loud voice and lamentation, See what a Hebrew your master has brought to me in the house, for he came this day to lie with me. 62. For when you had gone out he came to the house, and seeing that there was no person in the house, he came unto me, and caught hold of me, with intent to lie with me. 63. And I seized his garments and tore them and called out against him with a loud voice, and when I had lifted up my voice he was afraid of his life and left his garment before me, and fled. 64. And the people of her house spoke nothing, but their wrath was very much kindled against Joseph, and they went to his master and told him the words of his wile. 65. And Potiphar came home enraged, and his wife cried out to him, saying, What is this thing that thou hast done unto me in bringing a He. brew servant into my house, for he came unto me this day to sport with me; thus did he do unto me this day. 66. And Potiphar heard the words of his wife, and he ordered Joseph to be punished with severe stripes, and they did so to him. 67. And whilst they were smiting him, Joseph called out with a loud voice, and he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and he said, O Lord God, thou knowest that I am innocent of all these things, and why shall I die this day through falsehood, by the hand of these uncircumcised wicked men, whom thou knowest? 68. And whilst Potiphar's men were beating Joseph, he continued to cry out and weep, and there was a child there eleven months old, and the Lord opened the mouth of the child, and he spake these words before Potiphar's men, who were smiting Joseph, saying, 69. What do you want of this man, and why do you do this evil unto him? my mother speaketh falsely and uttereth lies; thus was the transaction. 70. And the child told them accurately all that happened, and all the words of Zelicah to Joseph day after day did he declare unto them. 71. And all the men heard the words of the child and they wondered greatly at the child's words, and the child ceased to speak and became still. 72. And Potiphar was very much ashamed at the words of his son, and he commanded his men not to beat Joseph any more, and the men ceased beating Joseph. 73. And Potiphar took Joseph and ordered him to be brought to justice before the priests, who were judges belonging to the king, in order to judge him concerning this affair. 74. And Potiphar and Joseph came before the priests who were the king's judges, and he said unto them, Decide I pray you, what judgment is due to a servant, for thus has he done. 75. And the priests said unto Joseph, Why didst thou do this thing to thy master? and Joseph answered them, saying, Not so my lords, thus was the matter; and Potiphar said unto Joseph, Surely I entrusted in thy hands all that belonged to me, and I withheld nothing from thee but my wife, and how couldst thou do this evil? 76. And Joseph answered saying, Not so my lord, as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, my lord, the word which thou didst hear from thy wife is untrue, for thus was the affair this day. 77. A year has elapsed to me since I have been in thy house; hast thou seen any iniquity in me, or any thing which might cause thee to demand my life? 78. And the priests said unto Potiphar, Send, we pray thee, and let them bring before us Joseph's torn garment, and let us see the tear in it, and if it shall be that the tear is in front of the garment, then his face must have been opposite to her and she must have caught hold of him, to come to her, and with deceit did thy wife do all that she has spoken. 79. And they brought Joseph's garment before the priests who were judges, and they saw and behold the tear was in front of Joseph, and all the judging priests knew that she had pressed him, and they said, The judgment of death is not due to this slave for he has done nothing, but his judgment is, that he be placed in the prison house on account of the report, which through him has gone forth against thy wife. 80. And Potiphar heard their words, and he placed him in the prison house, the place where the king's prisoners are confined, and Joseph was in the house of confinement twelve years. 81. And notwithstanding this, his master's wife did not turn from him, and she did not cease from speaking to him day after day to hearken to her, and at the end of three months Zelicah continued going to Joseph to the house of confinement day by day, and she enticed him to hearken to her, and Zelicah said unto Joseph, How long wilt thou remain in this house? but hearken now to my voice, and I will bring thee out of this house. 82. And Joseph answered her, saying, It is better for me to remain in this house than to hearken to thy words, to sin against God; and she said unto him, If thou wilt not perform my wish, I will pluck out thine eyes, add fetters to thy feet, and will deliver thee into the hands of them whom thou didst not know before. 83. And Joseph answered her and said, Behold the God of the whole earth is able to deliver me from all that thou canst do unto me, for he openeth the eyes of the blind, and looseth those that are bound, and preserveth all strangers who are unacquainted with the land. 84. And when Zelicah was unable to persuade Joseph to hearken to her, she left off going to entice him; and Joseph was still confined in the house of confinement. And Jacob the father of Joseph, and all his brethren who were in the land of Canaan still mourned and wept in those days on account of Joseph, for Jacob refused to be comforted for his son Joseph, and Jacob cried aloud, and wept and mourned all those days.


19 From Joseph and His Brothers, Thomas Mann
Now he saw Judah posting up with his three servants; they nodded and motioned behind them across the land, without saying a word. So he looked where they pointed; and out there afar off something was stirring. There was a glittering and a flashing, a shimmer of color; it rolled on swiftly and turned into chariots with prancing steeds and shining harness, gay with feathers. Runners were in front and rear and at the sides. They all fixed their eyes on the foremost car, above which were poles with fans. On it came, it grew to full size, and they could see distinct figures in it. Jacob gazed too, his old hands shading his eyes. Now he said to one of his sons who stood beside him: "Judah!" "Here am I, Father," he answered. "Who is the fairly thickset man," asked Jacob, "arrayed in all the splendor of this world, just getting down from his car and the gilded basket of his car, and his neck-ornament is like the rainbow and his garment altogether like the brightness of heaven?" "That is your son Joseph, Father," replied Judah. "If it is indeed he," said Jacob, "then I will get up and go to meet him." And although Benjamin and the others at first tried to prevent him, he rose from the litter with their help in labored stateliness, limp¬ing from the hip more than ever, for he purposely exaggerated his lameness. Alone he went up to the other, who hastened his steps to shorten the distance between them. The man's smiling lips shaped the word "Father" and he held his arms open before him. But Jacob had his own stretched out like a blind man groping; his hands moved as though beckoning, yet partly too as though to protect himself. For as they came close he did not allow Joseph to fall on his neck and hide his face on his shoulder as his son would have done. Instead he peered and searched with his tired old eyes, his head laid back and sideways; peered long and urgently into the Egyptian's face with love and sorrow painted on his own, and did not recognize his son. But it came to pass that Joseph's eyes slowly filled with tears under Jacob's gaze. Their blackness swam in moisture, they overflowed; and lo they were Rachel's eyes, Rachel's dewy cheeks where Jacob in life's dreamy long-ago had kissed away the tears. Now he knew his son. He let his head fall on the stranger's shoulder and wept bit¬ter tears. They stood there alone, for the brothers kept back and so did Joseph's train, his marshal, his ecuyer, his runners and fan-bearers. And likewise all the curious from the near-by little city held aloof. "Father, do you forgive me?" asked the son. And in that question he begged forgiveness for much: for playing fast and loose and for deceit; for childish arrogance and incorrigible naughtiness, for self-esteem and blind conceit, for a hundred follies, for which he had atoned with the silence of the dead, living behind the back of the old man who suffered with him. "Father, can you forgive me?" Jacob straightened himself and stood erect, his self-control rt stored. "God has forgiven us," he answered. "You see He has, for He has given you back to me, and Israel can die happy since you have come back."


20 Koran - Yusuf
12.11] They said: O our father! what reason have you that you do not trust in us with respect to Yusuf? And most surely we are his sincere well-wishers: [12.12] Send him with us tomorrow that he may enjoy himself and sport, and surely we will guard him well. [12.13] He said: Surely it grieves me that you should take him off, and I fear lest the wolf devour him while you are heedless of him. [12.14] They said: Surely if the wolf should devour him notwithstanding that we are a (strong) company, we should then certainly be losers. [12.15] So when they had gone off with him and agreed that they should put him down at the bottom of the pit, and We revealed to him: You will most certainly inform them of this their affair while they do not perceive. [12.16] And they came to their father at nightfall, weeping. [12.17] They said: O our father! surely we went off racing and left Yusuf by our goods, so the wolf devoured him, and you will not believe us though we are truthful. [12.18] And they brought his shirt with false blood upon it. He said: Nay, your souls have made the matter light for you, but patience is good and Allah is He Whose help is sought for against what you describe. [12.19] And there came travellers and they sent their water-drawer and he let down his bucket. He said: O good news! this is a youth; and they concealed him as an article of merchandise, and Allah knew what they did. [12.20] And they sold him for a small price, a few pieces of silver, and they showed no desire for him. [12.21] And the Egyptian who bought him said to his wife: Give him an honorable abode, maybe he will be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son. And thus did We establish Yusuf in the land and that We might teach him the interpretation of sayings; and Allah is the master of His affair, but most people do not know. [12.22] And when he had attained his maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge: and thus do We reward those who do good. [12.23] And she in whose house he was sought to make himself yield (to her), and she made fast the doors and said: Come forward. He said: I seek Allah's refuge, surely my Lord made good my abode: Surely the unjust do not prosper. [12.24] And certainly she made for him, and he would have made for her, were it not that he had seen the manifest evidence of his Lord; thus (it was) that We might turn away from him evil and indecency, surely he was one of Our sincere servants. [12.25] And they both hastened to the door, and she rent his shirt from behind and they met her husband at the door. She said: What is the punishment of him who intends evil to your wife except imprisonment or a painful chastisement? [12.26] He said: She sought to make me yield (to her); and a witness of her own family bore witness: If his shirt is rent from front, she speaks the truth and he is one of the liars: [12.27] And if his shirt is rent from behind, she tells a lie and he is one of the truthful. [12.28] So when he saw his shirt rent from behind, he said: Surely it is a guile of you women; surely your guile is great: [12.29] O Yusuf! turn aside from this; and (O my wife)! ask forgiveness for your fault, surely you are one of the wrong-doers. [12.30] And women in the city said: The chiefs wife seeks her slave to yield himself (to her), surely he has affected her deeply with (his) love; most surely we see her in manifest error. [12.31] So when she heard of their sly talk she sent for them and prepared for them a repast, and gave each of them a knife, and said (to Yusuf): Come forth to them. So when they saw him, they deemed him great, and cut their hands (in amazement), and said: Remote is Allah (from imperfection); this is not a mortal; this is but a noble angel.