Fausset's Bible Dictionary


Jo'seph. (increase).

1. The elder of the two sons of Jacob, by Rachel. He was born in Padan-aram (Mesopotamia), probably about B.C. 1746. He is first mentioned when a youth, seventeen years old. Joseph brought the evil report of his brethren to his father, and they hated him because his father loved him more than he did them, and had shown his preference by making a dress which appears to have been a long tunic with sleeves, worn by youths and maidens of the richer class. Gen 37:2.

He dreamed a dream foreshadowing his future power, which increased the hatred of his brethren. Gen 37:5-7. He was sent by his father to visit his brothers, who were tending flocks in the fields of Dothan. They resolved to kill him, but he was saved by Reuben, who persuaded the brothers to cast Joseph into a dry pit, to the intent that he might restore him to Jacob. The appearance of the Ishmaelites suggested his sale for "twenty pieces (shekels) of silver." Gen 37:28. Sold into Egypt to Potiphar, Joseph prospered and was soon set over Potiphar's house, and "all he had he gave into his hand;" but incurring the anger of Potiphar's wife, Gen 39:7-13, he was falsely accused and thrown into prison, where he remained at least two years, interpreting during this time the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker.

Finally Pharaoh himself dreamed two prophetic dreams. Joseph, being sent for, interpreted them in the name of God, foretelling the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. Pharaoh, at once, appointed Joseph, not merely governor of Egypt, but second only to the sovereign, and also gave him to wife Asenath, daughter of Potipherah priest of On (Hieropolis), and gave him a name or title, Zaphnath-paaneah. (preserver of life). Joseph's first act was to go throughout all the land of Egypt.

During the seven plenteous years, there was a very abundant produce, and he gathered the fifth part and laid it up. When the seven good years had passed, the famine began. Gen 41:54-57. After the famine had lasted for a time, apparently two years, Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they brought, and brought it into Pharaoh's house, Gen 47:13-14, and when the money was exhausted, all the cattle, and finally all the land, except that of the priests, and apparently, as a consequence, the Egyptians themselves. He demanded, however, only a fifth part of the produce as Pharaoh's right.

Now Jacob, who had suffered also from the effects of the famine, sent Joseph's brother to Egypt for corn. The whole story of Joseph's treatment of his brethren is so graphically told in Genesis, Genesis 42-45, and is so familiar, that it is unnecessary here to repeat it. On the death of Jacob in Egypt, Joseph carried him to Canaan, and laid him in the cave of Machpelah, the burying-place of his fathers.

Joseph lived "a hundred and ten years," having been more than ninety in Egypt. Dying, he took an oath of his brethren that they should carry up his bones to the land of promise: thus showing in his latest action, the faith, Heb 11:22, which had guided his whole life. Like his father, he was embalmed, "and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." Gen 50:26. His trust, Moses kept, and laid the bones of Joseph in his inheritance in Shechem, in the territory of Ephraim, his offspring. His tomb is, according to tradition, about a stone's throw from Jacob's well.

2. Father of Igal, who represented the tribe of Issachar among the spies. Num 13:7.

3. A lay Israelite who had married a foreign wife. Ezr 10:42. (B.C. 459).

4. A representative of the priestly family of Shebaniah. Neh 12:14. (B.C. after 536).

5. One of the ancestors of Christ, son of Jonan. Luk 3:30.

6. Another ancestor of Christ, son of Judah. Luk 3:26. (B.C. between 536-410).

7. Another ancestor of Christ, son of Mattathias. Luk 3:24. (B.C. after 400).

8. Son of Heli, and reputed father of Jesus Christ. All that is told us of Joseph in the New Testament may be summed up in a few words. He was a just man, and of the house and lineage of David. He lived at Nazareth in Galilee. He espoused Mary, the daughter and heir of his uncle Jacob, and before he took her home as his wife, received the angelic communication recorded in Mat 1:20.

When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary took him with them to keep the Passover at Jerusalem, and when they returned to Nazareth, he continued to act as a father to the child Jesus, and was reputed to be so indeed. But here, our knowledge of Joseph ends. That he died before our Lord's crucifixion is indeed tolerably certain, by what is related, Joh 19:27, and perhaps ,Mar 6:3, may imply that he was then dead. But where, when or how he died we know not.

9. Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich and pious Israelite, probably a member of the Great Council or Sanhedrin. He is further characterized as "a good man and a just." Luk 23:50. We are expressly told that he did not "consent to the counsel and deed" of his colleagues in conspiring to bring about the death of Jesus; but he seems to have lacked the courage to protest against their judgment.

On the very evening of the crucifixion, when the triumph of the chief priests and rulers seemed complete, Joseph "went in boldly unto Pilate and craved the body of Jesus." Pilate consented. Joseph and Nicodemus then, having enfolded the sacred body in the linen shroud which Joseph had bought, consigned it to a tomb hewn in a rock, in a garden belonging to Joseph, and close to the place of crucifixion. There is a tradition that he was one of the seventy disciples.

10. Joseph, called Barsabas, and surnamed Justus; one of the two person chosen by the assembled church, Act 1:23, as worthy to fill the place in the apostolic company from which Judas had fallen.


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)