Joseph, one of the heroes of the patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis. He is presented as the favored son of Jacob and Rachel, sold as a boy into slavery by his brothers, who were jealous of Joseph's dreams and of his coat of many colors given him by Jacob. In Egypt, Joseph gained a position of authority in the household of his master, Potiphar, and was later imprisoned on the false accusations of Potiphar's wife. He was released after interpreting Pharaoh's dream of the lean and fat cows. Pharaoh renamed him Zaphnath-paaneah and took him into favor. Joseph's recognition of his brothers in the famine years when he was governor over Egypt is a famous scene. His wife was Asenath, an Egyptian, and their sons Manasseh and Ephraim were eponymous ancestors of two of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Joseph saga bridges the era of the patriarchs in Canaan and the Hebrews in Egypt. The mention of Joseph's marriage to Asenath in the Book of Genesis is the subject of Joseph and Asenath, now classified among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The Joseph story is retold in the Qur'an.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.