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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Joseph

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son of Jacob and Rachel, and brother to Benjamin, Genesis 30:22 ; Genesis 30:24 . The history of Joseph is so fully and consecutively given by Moses, that it is not necessary to abridge so familiar an account. In place of this, the following beautiful argument by Mr. Blunt for the veracity of the account drawn from the identity of Joseph's character, will be read with pleasure:—I have already found an argument for the veracity of Moses in the identity of Jacob's character, I now find another in the identity of that of Joseph. There is one quality, as it has been often observed, though with a different view from mine, which runs like a thread through his whole history, his affection for his father. Israel loved him, we read, more than all his children; he was the child of his age; his mother died while he was yet young, and a double care of him consequently devolved upon his surviving parent. He made him a coat of many colours; he kept him at home when his other sons were sent to feed the flocks. When the bloody garment was brought in, Jacob in his affection for him,—that same affection which, on a subsequent occasion, when it was told him that after all Joseph was alive, made him as slow to believe the good tidings as he was now quick to apprehend the sad; in this his affection for him, I say, Jacob at once concluded the worst, and "he rent his clothes and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days, and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning."

Now, what were the feelings in Joseph which responded to these? When the sons of Jacob went down to Egypt, and Joseph knew them, though they knew not him; for they, it may be remarked, were of an age not to be greatly changed by the lapse of years, and were still sustaining the character in which Joseph had always seen them; while he himself had meanwhile grown out of the stripling into the man, and from a shepherd boy was become the ruler of a kingdom; when his brethren thus came before him, his question was, "Is your father yet alive?" Genesis 43:7 .

They went down a second time, and again the question was, "Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake, is he yet alive?" More he could not venture to ask, while he was yet in his disguise. By a stratagem he now detains Benjamin, leaving the others, if they would, to go their way. But Judah came near unto him, and entreated him for his brother, telling him how that he had been surety to his father to bring him back; how that his father was an old man, and that this was the child of his old age, and that he loved him; how it would come to pass that if he should not see the lad with him he would die, and his gray hairs be brought with sorrow to the grave; for "how shall I go to my father, and the lad be not with me, lest, peradventure, I see the evil that shall come on my father?" Here, without knowing it, he had struck the string that was the tenderest of all. Joseph's firmness forsook him at this repeated mention of his father, and in terms so touching: he could not refrain himself any longer; and, causing every man to go out, he made himself known to his brethren. Then, even in the paroxysm which came on him, (for he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard,) still his first words uttered from the fulness of his heart were, "Doth my father yet live?" He now bids them hasten and bring the old man down, bearing to him tokens of his love and tidings of his glory. He goes to meet him; he presents himself unto him, and falls on his neck, and weeps on his neck a good while; he provides for him and his household out of the fat of the land; he sets him before Pharaoh. By and by he hears that he is sick, and hastens to visit him; he receives his blessing; watches his death bed; embalms his body; mourns for him threescore and ten days; and then carries him, as he had desired, into Canaan to bury him, taking with him, as an escort to do him honour, "all the elders of Israel, and all the servants of Pharaoh, and all his house, and the house of his brethren, chariots, and horsemen, a very great company." How natural was it now for his brethren to think that the tie by which alone they could imagine Joseph to be held to them was dissolved, that any respect he might have felt or feigned for them must have been buried in the cave of Machpelah, and that he would now requite to them the evil they had done! "And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil." And then they add of themselves, as if well aware of the surest road to their brother's heart, "Forgive, we pray thee, the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father." In every thing the father's name is still put foremost: it is his memory which they count upon as their shield and buckler.

It is not the singular beauty of these scenes, or the moral lesson they teach, excellent as it is, with which I am now concerned, but simply the perfect artless consistency which prevails through them all. It is not the constancy with which the son's strong affection for his father had lived through an interval of twenty years' absence, and, what is more, through the temptation of sudden promotion to the highest estate;—it is not the noble- minded frankness with which he still acknowledges his kindred, and makes a way for them, "shepherds" as they were, to the throne of Pharaoh himself;—it is not the simplicity and singleness of heart which allow him to give all the first-born of Egypt, men over whom he bore absolute rule, an opportunity of observing his own comparatively humble origin, by leading them in attendance upon his father's corpse to the valleys of Canaan and the modest cradle of his race;—it is not, in a word, the grace, but the identity of Joseph's character, the light in which it is exhibited by himself, and the light in which it is regarded by his brethren, to which I now point as stamping it with marks of reality not to be gainsayed.

Some writers have considered Joseph as a type of Christ; and it requires not much ingenuity to find out some resemblances, as his being hated by his brethren, sold for money, plunged into deep affliction, and then raised to power and honour, &c; but as we have no intimation in any part of Scripture that Joseph was constituted a figure of our Lord, and that this was one design of recording his history at length, all such applications want authority, and cannot safely be indulged. The account seems rather to have been left for its moral uses, and that it should afford, by its inimitable simplicity and truth to nature, a point of irresistible internal evidence of the truth of the Mosaic narrative.

2. JOSEPH, the husband of Mary, and reputed father of Jesus, was the son of Jacob, and grandson of Matthan, Matthew 1:15-16 . The place of his stated residence was Nazareth, particularly after the time of his marriage. We learn from the evangelists that he followed the occupation of a carpenter, Matthew 13:55 ; and that he was a just man, or one of those pious Israelites who looked for the coming of the Messiah, Matthew 1:19 . It is probable that Joseph died before Christ entered upon his public ministry; for upon any other supposition we are at a loss to account for the reason why Mary, the mother of Jesus, is frequently mentioned in the evangelic narrative, while no allusion is made to Joseph; and, above all, why the dying Saviour should recommend his mother to the care of the beloved disciple John, if her husband had been then living, John 19:25-27 .

3. JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, a Jewish senator, and a believer in the divine mission of Jesus Christ, John 19:38 . St. Luke calls him a counsellor, and also informs us that he was a good and just man, who did not give his consent to the crucifixion of Christ, Luke 23:50-51 . And though he was unable to restrain the sanhedrim from their wicked purposes, he went to Pilate by night, and solicited from him the body of Jesus. Having caused it to be taken down from the cross, he wrapped it in linen, and laid it in his own sepulchre, which, being a rich man, he appears to have recently purchased, and then closed the entrance with a stone cut purposely to fit it, Matthew 27:57-60 ; John 19:38-42 .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Joseph'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/j/joseph.html. 1831-2.

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