Joseph was his especial favorite among his sons, and Jacob showed his preference in ways that were perhaps not wise. For one thing, he gave him a very handsome coat which distinguished him from his brothers. Then he did not send him to tend the flocks and herd the cattle, but kept him at home with himself and his little brother Benjamin.
Jacob’s sons were not slow to notice their father’s fondness for Joseph and it made them angry. They were all older than he and had served their father faithfully for many years, while Joseph was only seventeen years old. Another thing made them angry. Joseph used to have dreams and tell them to his brothers in what they thought was a boastful way. Their jealousy and anger grew to hatred and they talked over plans for getting rid of him.
[Illustration: Joseph used to have dreams and tell them to his brothers.]
At this time Jacob’s flocks of sheep were at quite a distance from Hebron, cared for by the ten older sons. Wishing to know how they prospered, Jacob sent Joseph to inquire if all was well with them. So Joseph set out on his errand and found his brothers in the pasture-lands of Dothan.
When his brothers saw him coming they decided to get rid of him in some way. Their hearts were full of hatred and they deliberately planned to kill their brother. One thing after another was suggested until at last they decided to leave him in a deep, dry water-cistern to starve to death.
Reuben, the eldest son, intended to get Joseph out of the cistern later and send him home to his father, but he was unable to do this, for in his absence his brothers sold Joseph to some merchants who came along just then.
[Illustration: His brothers sold Joseph to some merchants.]
These merchants took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, one of the officers of the King’s household. Potiphar was very kind to Joseph, and as he grew up made him his steward or overseer. Joseph had very winning manners and in time rose to be the governor or ruler over all the land of Egypt and in high favor with King Pharaoh.
[Illustration: Ruler over all the land of Egypt.]
Meanwhile Joseph’s brothers had told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, and in proof they showed Jacob his son’s handsome coat, which they had taken from him and dipped in blood for this purpose. Jacob mourned long and bitterly for Joseph, and then he and his sons lived on much as they had been doing until there was a famine in the land and no food was to be had.
Then Jacob sent his ten older sons to Egypt to buy corn, for it was plentiful there. He would not let Benjamin go, however, fearing that some harm might come to him. When Reuben and his brothers reached Egypt they were taken to Joseph, the governor, who recognized them at once, but pretended to think they were spies. They protested in vain that they had been sent by their father to buy food and that this was their only errand.