Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, having a younger brother Benjamin and ten elder half brothers. He was envied by his brethren on account of his father's partiality toward him; and their aversion was increased by two dreams that he told, in which was foreshadowed his preeminence in the family. Conspiring against him, they sold him for a slave to a caravan of Arabian merchants, and he was taken to Egypt. There he rose to the highest power in the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. The wife of Potiphar, stung by his rejection of her licentious advances, caused his imprisonment on a false charge; but his successful interpretation of the king's dreams soon raised him to supreme authority at the court. One of the dreams foretold a famine, against which he made ample provision; and such was his distinction that he married the daughter of the high priest of On or Heliopolis. While the famine prevailed, his brethren came from Canaan to Egypt to purchase corn. He at once recognized them, and after a period of delay in which he became convinced that they had lamented their former cruelty to him and repented of it, he made himself known to them, and appropriated to Jacob and his family the land of Goshen. The Egyptian people were at length obliged to pay with their land for food from the public granaries, so that "Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh," and the whole territory of the country, excepting that of the priests, was let to the population as tenants.
The story of Joseph is one of the most interesting portions of the Mosaic writings. He died at the age of 110 years, and left two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who, being adopted by Jacob, took their place among the heads of the tribes of Israel.
Joseph, the spouse of Mary the mother of Jesus Christ. He was of the tribe of Judah, and a descendant of David. Matthew and Luke give his genealogy, the former making him the son of Jacob and descended from David through Solomon, and the latter calling his father Eli, and tracing his lineage through Nathan. This discrepancy is explained in various ways. Julius Africanus supposes that Jacob and Eli were brothers, and that, Eli dying without children, Jacob married his widow, who bore him Joseph. The child was thus the son of Eli according to the Mosaic law, but of Jacob according to nature. Other commentators assume that the genealogy given by Luke is that of Mary. It is not known where Joseph was born. He was living at Nazareth, where, according to the received tradition, he followed the trade of a carpenter, when he was betrothed to Mary. Finding her pregnant, he was minded to put her away; but being warned by an angel in a dream that she was with child of the Holy Ghost, he took her to himself, but knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, who was called Jesus. Joseph is supposed to have died before the crucifixion of Christ, but there is little mention of him in the Scriptures. He is held in high honor in the Roman Catholic church, and March 19 is assigned as his festival.
In painting he is represented as an aged man, with a lily or flowering branch.