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The Suffering of Joseph

The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, is told in the book of Genesis from chapters 37 to 50. As a young man, Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because of many reasons. He was born when Joseph was advanced in age and did not expect another child. He was obedient and Jacob had a feeling that he was destined for greatness (Starr, 2018). The father did not hide his immense love for the son and he showered him with many gifts, something that did not please the other brothers. Joseph’s dreams also bothered his siblings much (Genesis 37:2, New International Version). The idea that their second youngest brother, out of the 12 boys, would become their master was something they could not accept. The fact that the first ten brothers did not share the same mother as Joseph and her youngest brother Benjamin only worsened the hatred that the elder brothers felt for him. The worst thing was that Joseph never realized that his brothers hated him. He loved and cared for all of his brothers. His suffering started when his father sent him to the fields to check on his brothers. When the elder brothers saw him, they decided to kill him as a way of ensuring that they do not become his servants. The goal of this research paper is to discuss the sufferings of Joseph, son of Jacob.

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The tribulations that Joseph went through started on the day that his father sent him to his brothers who were in the wilderness, herding their cattle. According to Hillman (2017), when the ten elder brothers saw Joseph coming towards them, they quickly made a plan to kill him and blame wild animals for his death. They were keen on ensuring that his dreams of becoming their master do not come to fruition. Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son, was concerned about the decision that his younger brothers had made of killing Joseph. He knew that their father would hold him personally responsible for the death (Evans, 2017). As such, he came up with a trick that would help to spare the life of his father’s favorite son. He convinced the brothers that instead of staining their hands with their brother’s blood, they should through him into a cistern where he would starve to death or be eaten by wild animals. His in the intended back, rescue his brother Joseph and take him home to their father.

When Joseph reached where his brothers were, he was shocked to learn about the level of animosity that they had towards him. He was astonished when they took off his clothes and threw him to the cistern. He realized that the brothers had every intention of killing him. According to Ray (2016), one always goes through emotional pain when they feel betrayed by people close to them. The emotional torture is often even greater when the betrayal comes at a time when one is trying to help the person who they thought was a friend but turns out to be an enemy. Joseph went through such intense emotional pain as he sat in the cistern, wondering about the next action that the brothers would take. They had not inflicted any physical harm on him, but they had demonstrated that they were capable and willing to kill him.

Judah, one of the ten elder brothers of Joseph, saw a caravan of Ishmaelite from Gilead (Genesis 38:6, New International Version). The brothers made a quick decision to sell their brother to the merchant as a slave instead of killing him. The eldest brother, Reuben was not aware of the decision, and therefore, he could not save his brother from being sold to slavery. He was taken to Egypt, as a servant to Potiphar, who was a captain in the army of Pharaoh (Starr, 2018). As the favorite son of Jacob, Joseph was used to llivingwith affluence. His father was a rich man, and he showered him with many gifts. Most of the hard work would be done by servants and sometimes the elder brothers. However, that changed when he became a slave in Egypt. The emotional torture was now accompanied by physical strain and pain.

His commitment to work, respect, and level of intelligence made Potiphar, his Egyptian master, promote him to the position of house superintendent where he would become the head of all other slaves in that household. The promotion brought hope for Joseph at a time when he was struggling in a foreign land and missed being with his parents and other siblings. However, the happiness and the new position did not last long. Zuleika, the wife of Potiphar, was romantically attracted to him and wanted to be intimate with him (Evans, 2017). However, Joseph considered such an act a betrayal to his master who had trusted him with the management of the house. He turned down her advances, an act that infuriated Zuleika. She accused him of trying to rape her. The husband was furious when he heard about the accusation and sent Joseph to jail.

The situation was getting worse for Joseph in Egypt. He was no longer a slave in the foreign land, but a prisoner who had to spend time with criminals. According to Hillman (2017), when one is jailed for crimes they committed, there is always a feeling that they somehow deserve the punishment because of their actions. However, when one is falsely accused of something they did not do, it becomes an emotional torture. Joseph decided to be respectful of his master and avoided fornicating with his wife. However, just like the respect and love that he had for his brothers, which landed him into slavery, the respect he had for the master landed him in jail. His attempt to explain to the master what had happened was fruitless because Potiphar believed his wife. Even in prison, he remained respectful and industrious. He was promoted to be in charge of other prisoners. He concealed his pain and remained friendly with all the other prisoners in the jail.

Joseph found favor in most of the people he interacted with. About 2 years later, he gained the favor of Pharaoh, after interpreting a dream that the Egyptian ruler had had. He was promoted to the highest rank in Pharaoh’s cabinet and assigned the role of overseeing mass production and storage of grains in anticipation of drought and famine. He was also given a wife to ensure that he would lead a normal life in this foreign land. However, Joseph still longed to be with his family back in Canaan. He wanted to know about his father, who he loved so much. The bible records that Joseph wept when he saw his brothers. Joseph was able to overcome his suffering, and his dream about his entire family bowing at him became true when Jacob moved to Egypt with his entire family (Genesis 46:4, New International Version). After many years of physical and emotional pain, joy came at last when he was reunited with every member of the family.

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The Character Analysis of Joseph

The suffering and success of Joseph demonstrated unique traits, some of which led to his misery while others enabled him to gain favor before his superiors. One of the traits was honesty. Joseph was an honest man and he felt that it would be fine to share with his family the dreams he had. The honesty earned him love and admiration from the father, but his brothers hated him (Starr, 2018). The story also demonstrates that Joseph was a loyal and obedient person. When his father sent him to his brothers, he did not question him. He did as he was told because he was a loyal son. The story shows that Joseph was too trusting (Hillman, 2017). He never suspected that his brothers would plan anything against him and that is why he went to the wilderness to check on them as was directed by the father.

Joseph was a loyal man, especially to his father and his Egyptian masters. When he was promoted to the position of house superintendent at Potiphar’s house, he demonstrated his loyalty to the master when he rejected the advances of his wife. He believed that doing so would be a sign of betrayal to a master who had favored him with that position. His action also showed that he was not an adulterous man. He respected the master and his wife and would not do anything to harm them (Evans, 2017). He went to prison because of that virtue. The story also demonstrates that Joseph was an industrious person who knew how to coordinate activities. His promotion at Potiphar’s house, in prison, and by Pharaoh demonstrates his dedication and leadership skills.

Joseph is portrayed as a person who is always willing to forgive others who wronged him. He was sad when his brothers tried to kill him. Their decision to sell him into slavery was just as bad as their plot to kill him. However, he did not hold the grudge against any of them. When they went to Egypt to buy grains, he had a perfect opportunity to take revenge, but he did not do it (Genesis 41:3, New International Version). Instead, he embraced them, provided for them, and allowed them to settle in Egypt to share in his glory as a ruler of the land. Scott (2017) believes that such virtues are critical in enabling one to achieve career success.


The story of Joseph demonstrates the significance of being a morally upright person despite the challenges that one may face. Sometimes it may be easy and tempting to take the easiest but unethical route when solving a problem. Joseph could have given in to the demands of Zuleika and her husband, Joseph’s master, would not have known. He would not have gone through the pain of going to prison as he did. After all, the punishment would have been the same because he went to prison anyway, and for a worse crime of rape. However, he was a righteous man and remained ethical at all times. His righteous, committed, forgiving, and dedicated nature saw him become the second-highest ruler of Egypt.


  1. Evans, T. (2017). Detours: The unpredictable path to your destiny. B & H Publishing Group.
  2. Hillman, O. (2017). The Joseph calling: 6 stages to understand, navigat, and fulfill your purpose. Broad Street Publishing Group LLC.
  3. Ray, M. A. (2016). Transcultural caring dynamics in nursing and health care. F.A. Davis Company.
  4. Scott, P. A. (Ed.). (2017). Key concepts and issues in nursing ethics. Springer.
  5. Starr, B. (2018). Venerations and navigations of Eliza Allen Starr. Lulu Com.

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