The story of Joseph and his brothers is one of the most well-known in the Bible. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, given a coveted coat of many colors. This stirred up jealousy among his brothers, who eventually sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Joseph had 11 brothers in total according to the Bible.
In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the story of Joseph and his brothers in depth. We will look at how many brothers Joseph had, who they were, and how they treated their younger brother. We will also analyze the significance of this famous Biblical story and what we can learn from it today.
Joseph’s Family Background
Jacob, later named Israel, was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the grandson of Abraham. He had twelve sons who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. His favorite son was Joseph, the firstborn son of his beloved wife Rachel.
Jacob’s other sons were jealous of all the attention and favoritism Joseph received from their father.
Joseph had eleven brothers born to Jacob through four different women (Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah). His full brothers were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. His half-brothers were Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Benjamin.
These brothers initially hated Joseph because Jacob openly favored him. They became so jealous that they plotted to kill Joseph, but eventually decided to sell him into slavery instead. After many years and twists of fate, the brothers were eventually reconciled with Joseph and came to live under his protection in Egypt.
The Coat of Many Colors
Favoritism Towards Joseph
In the biblical account, Joseph was one of twelve sons born to Jacob, who later became known as Israel. As a young boy, Joseph was clearly his father’s favorite son, evidenced by the ornate coat of many colors that Jacob had made for Joseph. This coat symbolized Jacob’s love and esteem for his son.
According to tradition, each color in the coat represented one of the tribes of Israel, over which Jacob foresaw that Joseph would one day rule. This visible sign of favoritism caused Joseph’s brothers to become extremely jealous and resentful.
The Brothers’ Jealousy
Joseph’s brothers hated him and could not speak peaceably to him due to their boiling jealousy. As the second youngest son, Joseph was an unlikely candidate for leadership of the family. Yet Jacob seemed to be grooming Joseph for this role by giving him the coat and sharing prophetic dreams which implied that Joseph would one day reign over his older brothers.
This preferential treatment stirred up murderous anger and resentment within the hearts of the other brothers. They felt that their father loved Joseph more and that they were being passed over unfairly. The coat itself was a glaring reminder that Joseph was the chosen son in their father’s eyes.
The brothers’ jealousy and rage grew like a weed until they could no longer restrain themselves.
Joseph Sold Into Slavery
Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Old Testament. He was born to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel, making him one of the youngest of Jacob’s thirteen children (Genesis 30:22-24). However, Joseph’s story takes a dramatic turn when his jealous older brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37:12-36).
This section will explore the details surrounding Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers.
As a young man, Joseph had two dreams which indicated that he would one day rule over his brothers (Genesis 37:5-11). This greatly angered his brothers, who were already jealous that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son.
Joseph’s dreams revealed that God had chosen him for leadership, but his brothers saw this as a threat to their own status.
The Plot to Kill Joseph
Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him in order to prevent his dreams from coming true (Genesis 37:18-20). However, his brother Reuben convinced them not to directly shed his blood but to instead throw him into a pit. Reuben planned to later rescue Joseph, but did not get the chance.
Joseph Sold to Midianites
While Joseph was trapped in the pit, his brothers noticed a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants passing by on their way to Egypt. Judah got the idea to sell Joseph to the merchants rather than kill him (Genesis 37:26-27).
The other brothers agreed, and when the merchants passed by, they pulled Joseph out and sold him for 20 shekels of silver. The brothers then dipped Joseph’s robe in animal blood to trick their father Jacob into thinking Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Joseph Arrives in Egypt
The Midianite merchants brought Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Genesis 37:36). Though he was a slave, the Lord was with Joseph and blessed him even in captivity (Genesis 39:2-3).
This dramatic story illustrates how jealousy and greed can lead to terrible sin. However, God works through even the worst circumstances to bring about His divine plan.
In Egypt, Joseph would face further trials but eventually rise to become second in command of the whole nation! Despite being sold into slavery, Joseph maintained his faith in God. His story is one of perseverance, forgiveness, and divine providence.
Joseph Rises to Power in Egypt
Interpretation of Pharaoh’s Dreams
The story of Joseph rising to power in Egypt begins when Pharaoh had two dreams that his magicians could not interpret. The dreams involved seven fat cows being eaten by seven thin cows and seven full heads of grain being devoured by seven thin heads of grain.
None of Pharaoh’s wise men could give the meaning of the dreams. At this time, Joseph was in prison on false charges made against him by Potiphar’s wife. Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who had promised to remember Joseph to Pharaoh but forgot, told Pharaoh about Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams.
Joseph gave all credit to God and said the dreams meant there would be seven years of great plenty followed by seven years of famine in Egypt. He advised Pharaoh to appoint a wise man to collect one-fifth of the produce during the seven plentiful years as reserve for the seven lean years.
Joseph Made Second-in-Command
Impressed by the wisdom God gave Joseph, Pharaoh appointed him second-in-command over all Egypt, saying, “You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command them.” (Gen 41:40).
Pharaoh gave Joseph his signet ring, dressed him in fine linen robes, and placed a gold chain around his neck. He gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and arranged for him to marry Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph was only 30 years old at this time.
As Joseph administered the collection of grain during the seven years of abundance, God blessed him with two sons with Asenath – Manasseh and Ephraim. When the prophesied famine came, it affected not only Egypt, but also all surrounding lands including Canaan where Joseph’s family lived.
People everywhere were hungry and came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain. Among those who came were Joseph’s ten older brothers. Joseph gave them grain but pretended not to know them, accused them of being spies, demanded they bring their youngest brother Benjamin to prove they were honest, and then tested them to see if they had changed from the jealous brothers who had sold him into slavery.
Through these events, Joseph was eventually reconciled with his brothers and brought his whole family to live in Egypt under his protection and provision during the famine.
The Brothers Come to Egypt
According to the biblical account in Genesis, a severe famine struck the land of Canaan where Joseph’s brothers lived. The famine was so intense that it was felt across the Middle East (Genesis 41:56). As the food supplies in Canaan ran out, Jacob heard that there was still grain available in Egypt.
He sent 10 of Joseph’s brothers there to buy provisions for the family (Genesis 42:1-3).
This trip to Egypt sets up a gripping story of confrontation and reconciliation between the brothers and Joseph. Years earlier, in a fit of jealousy, the brothers had sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37:12-36).
Unbeknownst to them, Joseph had risen to become second-in-command to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:37-45). The brothers did not recognize the powerful Egyptian official as their brother Joseph from so many years before.
The Brothers Do Not Recognize Joseph
When the 10 brothers arrived in Egypt, they bowed before Joseph to ask for grain. Joseph recognized them instantly but did not reveal his identity. Instead, he accused them of being spies and put them into prison for three days (Genesis 42:6-17).
This began a series of tests that Joseph inflicted on his brothers to see if their hearts had changed from when they sold him into slavery. After keeping one brother (Simeon) hostage, Joseph let the others return to Canaan under one condition: they must bring back their youngest brother Benjamin to prove they were honest men (Genesis 42:18-20).
The famine forced the brothers to make a second journey to Egypt, this time with Benjamin in tow. Again the brothers bowed before the authoritative Egyptian official and presented their gift. Once again, Joseph recognized them immediately but continued to conceal his identity (Genesis 43:15-34).
In summary, according to Genesis in the Bible, Joseph had 11 brothers: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, and Benjamin. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to become a powerful leader in Egypt.
Despite his brothers’ cruel betrayal, Joseph forgave them and saved his family from famine. This story illustrates the harms of favoritism and jealousy, as well as the power of forgiveness. Even in difficult family dynamics, reconciliation is possible when we open our hearts.