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Sold into slavery

Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
Story also available on our translated websites: Portuguese, Polish, Hindi
A long time ago in the land of Canaan, there lived a great Hebrew chieftain named Jacob who had many sons. Of all his sons, Jacob loved young Joseph the most. As Joseph grew older, his brothers saw how their father loved their younger brother more than he loved them. To make matters worse, Joseph often told his father about his brothers’ bad behaviour. <br/>The firstborn son Reuben behaved so badly that Jacob took away his special blessing called a birthright, and gave it to Joseph. “When I die, Joseph will rule this family,” said Jacob. He gave him a beautiful coat of honour to show everyone how much he loved his younger son. <br/>Joseph was proud of his beautiful coat. He wore it everywhere he went. But when the brothers saw what their father had done, they became more jealous of Joseph and wanted him gone!<br/>Did you know that Yah  is the Hebrew name for God? – Slide 1
One night, while everyone was sleeping, Joseph had a strange dream. When he woke the next morning, he could hardly wait to tell his brothers. “In my dream, our family was tying up grain together, and your bundles of grain all bowed down to mine!” <br/>Joseph’s brothers did not want to hear about their younger brother’s strange dream. “Yes,” they mocked. “You will certainly be our king. You’ll do a great job of bossing us around!” <br/>Before long, Joseph had another dream. “Listen!” he said. “In this dream the sun, the moon, and eleven stars all bowed down to me.” This time he told his father Jacob as well as his brothers. <br/>“What is this strange dream you have had?” said Jacob. “Do you think your family will come and bow down to you?” The brothers agreed. “We will not bow down to our younger brother. He thinks he is better than all of us.” Their hearts grew bitter and they began to hate him even more. – Slide 2
Although Jacob and his family lived in tents, Jacob was a wealthy man. He owned great flocks of sheep and goats, and many camels and donkeys. Every day his family worked hard in the fields and took care of the animals. <br/>One day, the brothers took their father’s sheep to graze in fields far away. After Jacob had not seen them for many days, he said to Joseph, “Go to your brothers and see if they are keeping out of trouble.” Joseph quickly obeyed his father. He threw on his beautiful coat and set out to find his brothers. <br/>When the brothers saw Joseph in the distance, one of them said, “Here comes the dreamer. Let’s kill him and say a wild animal ate him.” The other brothers nodded. “There is no one around. Who will know what we have done?” But Reuben, who secretly hoped to rescue Joseph later, shook his head. “No, don’t kill him. Let’s throw him into a well instead.” – Slide 3
When Joseph reached his brothers, they grabbed him, stripped off his beautiful coat, and tossed him into a dark and empty well. “Don’t leave me here,” Joseph shouted up to his brothers. “What have I done to you?” The brothers peered into the well and laughed. “Let’s see what comes of your dreams now!” <br/>As the sun began to set, the brothers sat down by the well to eat their meal. Soon, a group of traders appeared in the distance, their camels loaded with spices to sell in Egypt. The brothers scrambled to their feet and pointed to the men. “Reuben is not here. Now is our chance! Let’s sell our younger brother to these traders.” <br/>The brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him to the traders for twenty pieces of silver. When Reuben returned it was too late. Joseph had gone. His brothers had carried out their wicked plan and sold him into slavery. – Slide 4
The brothers dipped Joseph’s coat in blood from a goat and took it home to show their father. “Is this Joseph’s coat?” they asked. Jacob grabbed the coat in horror. “My son must have been eaten by wild animals!” He tore his clothes in sadness and wept for many days. <br/>Meanwhile, Joseph and the traders traveled through the desert until they reached the gates of Egypt. Joseph looked up at the buildings in amazement. Enormous stone pharaohs sat on their thrones. Huge shining pyramids rose high in the air. What will happen to me? he wondered. Will I ever see my father again? <br/>The traders sold Joseph to Potifar, an important officer in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Life in Egypt was very different from the land of Canaan. Potifar’s family ate strange food and prayed to false gods, but Joseph stayed true to Yah’s commands. “I will only pray to Yah, the one true Elohim.” <br/>Joseph worked hard for Potifar, who in turn was pleased. “Your god has blessed you. I will put you in charge of my house and all my servants.” From then on, Yah blessed Potifar and everything he owned because of Joseph. – Slide 5
Years passed and all went well with Joseph. But there was just one problem. Potifar’s wife liked Joseph and tried hard to seduce him. While her husband was away from home one day, she asked Joseph to spend time alone with her. “No,” said Joseph. “Your husband asked me to take care of his house. I cannot betray him.” <br/>Potifar’s wife did not give up. Day after day, she begged Joseph to spend time with her. But Joseph feared Yah and did not listen. Finally, she came up with a nasty plan. While Joseph worked in the house one day, she grabbed his robe and pulled him into her room. But he ran away as quickly as he could, leaving his robe in her hands. <br/>Potifar’s wife flew into a terrible rage. “If Joseph does not want me, I will get him into trouble.” That night she told her husband a lie about Joseph. “The Hebrew slave tried to kiss me, but I screamed and he ran away.” Potifar was furious. Thumping his fists on the table, he said, “How dare Joseph betray me! Throw him in prison!” – Slide 6
Joseph was thrown into prison for many years. Yah was with him, and he was soon put in charge of all the prisoners. During this time, Pharaoh became angry with his butler and baker and threw them into the same prison as Joseph, who took care of them. <br/>One night while they were sleeping, the butler and baker each had a strange dream. The next morning, they said to Joseph, “We both had a dream we do not understand.” Joseph answered, “Yah helps men understand dreams. Tell me about your dreams.” <br/>First the butler told Joseph, “I saw a vine with three branches and many ripe grapes. I squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to him to drink.” Joseph said to him, “In three days Pharaoh will give you your job back.” <br/>The baker was excited to hear about the butler’s dream. He grabbed Joseph’s arm. “In my dream there were three baskets full of bread on my head. But the birds ate all the bread so there was none left.” Joseph looked at the baker sadly. “Within three days Pharaoh will order you to die.” – Slide 7
Three days later Pharaoh held a magnificent birthday party at his palace. During the party, Pharaoh summoned the butler and baker. The butler got back his old job and the baker was hanged, just as Joseph had warned. <br/>Two years passed and Joseph was still in prison. One night, Pharaoh had two dreams that he could not understand. In one dream seven fat cows came to the River Nile to feed. Then seven thin cows came out of the river and ate the fat cows. Pharaoh woke up then fell back asleep and dreamed he saw seven fat ears of grain growing. Then seven thin ears of grain appeared. The thin ears ate the fat ears. <br/>When he woke the next morning, he summoned his magicians to the palace. “Tell me what these dreams mean!” he shouted. But no matter how hard they tried, the magicians could not explain the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams. Suddenly, the butler remembered Joseph in prison. “There is a Hebrew prisoner who understands dreams,” he said. “Perhaps he can explain your dreams.” Pharaoh’s face lit up. “My useless magicians don’t know anything. Fetch me this Hebrew who understands dreams.” – Slide 8
Pharaoh sat on the edge of his golden throne and looked hopefully at Joseph. “My useless magicians cannot explain my dreams. But my servant told me you can.” Joseph answered, “Yah understands dreams, not me. He will help me know the meaning of your dreams.” He listened carefully while Pharaoh explained his strange dreams. <br/>“Your dreams are warnings from Yah,” said Joseph. “Egypt will have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. No grain will grow anywhere. You should gather food now and save it for later.” <br/>Pharaoh had never met anyone as wise as Joseph. Taking a ring from his own finger, he placed it on Joseph’s hand. He hung a shiny gold chain around his neck and gave him fine linen clothes to wear. “You shall now rule all of Egypt,” said Pharaoh. “Everyone must do what you say.” Joseph was thirty years old when he became the governor of Egypt. Only Pharaoh was more important among the people than Joseph. – Slide 9
To help Joseph rule Egypt, Pharaoh gave him a magnificent golden chariot to ride in. Wherever Joseph went, Pharaoh’s servants walked in front of the chariot, shouting, “Bow your knee to the governor of Egypt!” <br/>Because Yah showed Joseph there would be a famine, he understood what to do next. During the next seven years, he built long canals to store water and huge storehouses to store food. Joseph collected so much grain that he couldn’t count it all! When the seven years of plenty were over, the seven years of famine began. The sun blazed down and the ground turned to dust. The Egyptians became so hungry that their stomachs grumbled. “We are starving. Please give us food to eat!” they cried to Pharaoh. <br/>Pharaoh knew that Joseph had planned for this famine. He said to the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” So Joseph opened all his storehouses. He sold grain to the Egyptians, and everyone had enough to eat. – Slide 10
The famine spread throughout the land of Canaan where Joseph’s family lived. When his father Jacob learned there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Go to Egypt and buy food so we won’t die.” But Jacob kept Benjamin home with him. He did not want to lose another son like he had lost Joseph. <br/>Jacob’s sons saddled their donkeys and set out for Egypt. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that the powerful Egyptian governor was their brother, Joseph. When the brothers reached Egypt, they bowed down before him, and said, “There is no grain left in the land of Canaan. We have come to buy food for our families.” None of them recognized Joseph in his fine Egyptian clothes. <br/>Joseph recognized his brothers at once. Judah, Simeon, Reuben, Zebulon… all his brothers except for Benjamin had come and bowed before him. The dreams that Yah had given him all those years ago were finally coming true! – Slide 11
Joseph came up with a cunning plan. He decided to keep it a secret that he was their brother. Using a Hebrew man to speak to them, he said, “You are spies! You have come to spy on Egypt.” Joseph’s brothers shook their heads. “No, we are not spies. We are from the land of Canaan and have come to buy food.” <br/>“I do not believe you,” said Joseph. “How do I know you are not spies?” He put them in prison for three days. On the third day, he said, “Take some grain and go home. Fetch your youngest brother and bring him back to me. Then I will know that you are telling the truth.” <br/>The brothers trembled with fear. Was Yah punishing them for what they had done to their younger brother long ago? They quickly loaded their donkeys with food and left for the land of Canaan. But Joseph kept Simeon and put him in prison to make sure his brothers returned to Egypt. – Slide 12
When the frightened brothers arrived home, they told their father everything that had happened. “The governor of Egypt threw Simeon in prison. We must return to Egypt with Benjamin so we can free our brother!” <br/>“On the way home, I found the money we used to buy grain hidden inside my sack of food,” added Zebulon. “What is Yah doing to us?” The other brothers emptied their sacks of food. To their surprise, money was hidden in their sacks, too! <br/>Jacob stared at the money anxiously. “I will never let you take Benjamin to Egypt. I would die if something happened to him.” However, the day came when the grain they brought from Egypt had almost gone. Jacob said to his sons, “Go back to Egypt and buy more food.” <br/>“We must take Benjamin with us,” said Judah. “Otherwise the governor will throw us all in prison.” Jacob sighed and gazed at Benjamin. “Okay,” he said. “Take Benjamin with you. If I must lose my children, so be it.” – Slide 13
Joseph’s brothers set out for Egypt again, this time with Benjamin. They took many gifts for the governor, including double the amount of money to pay back what was hidden in their sacks. <br/>When Joseph saw Benjamin with his brothers, he let Simeon out of prison and invited everyone to eat with him. “Prepare a huge feast,” he said to his servants. “These men will eat with me tonight.” The brothers looked nervously at each other. “Why is the governor inviting us to a meal? Perhaps he put the money in our sacks so he can steal our donkeys and make us slaves.” <br/>The men had nothing to fear. That night, Joseph held a feast for his brothers. But something unusual happened at the meal. He seated them at the table from oldest to the youngest, and served Benjamin five times more food than the others. “How does he know our ages?” they whispered. “And why has he given Benjamin more food?” – Slide 14
When the meal was over, the brothers wanted to go home. Joseph told his servants, “Fill their sacks with as much food as they can carry. Hide my silver cup in Benjamin’s sack.” He wanted to see if they loved Benjamin, or if they would treat their youngest brother the same cruel way they had treated him years ago. <br/>The next morning, the brothers left for the land of Canaan. But they didn’t get far. Joseph sent a servant after them to accuse them of stealing his silver cup. When the servant reached them, he said, “The governor’s silver cup is missing. Have you taken it?” <br/>“No! We have stolen nothing,” said the brothers. “There is no way we would steal the governor’s cup.” Joseph’s servant did not believe them. One by one, he searched their sacks of food. Inside Benjamin’s sack he found the missing cup. “You are a pack of thieves!” he shouted. <br/>The brothers stared at the cup, full of fear. “We don’t know why the cup is in Benjamin’s sack. None of us would steal this cup.” But the servant did not listen to the brothers. He marched them back into the city to stand before Joseph. – Slide 15
At Joseph’s house the brothers threw themselves on the ground before him, begging for mercy. “How can we prove that we did not steal your silver cup?” Joseph looked down at the men. “Did you think you could trick me?” he said sternly. <br/>Joseph pointed at Benjamin. “From now on, Benjamin will be my slave. The rest of you can go home.” Worried their father would be broken-hearted if they came home without Benjamin, Judah stepped forward and knelt at Joseph’s feet. “Do not keep Benjamin,” he said. “Our father has already lost one son. Let me be your slave instead.” <br/>Joseph was filled with love for his family. Because they cared for Benjamin, he was sure their hearts had changed and were no longer wicked and cruel. Taking a deep breath, he ordered all his servants from the room. It was time to share his incredible secret! – Slide 16
Joseph’s eyes filled with tears and he began to weep. “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into slavery,” he said. “Is my father still alive?” The brothers stared at Joseph in disbelief. They were so afraid that they could not speak. With their legs shaking like jelly, they looked at each other. Would Joseph punish them for betraying him all those years ago? <br/>But they had nothing to worry about. Joseph loved his brothers and had already forgiven them. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Yah made me ruler over Egypt. He sent me here to save lives. What you meant for evil, Yah meant for good.” Joseph understood that Yah had a plan to save His people from the beginning. <br/>Soon, the brothers were talking and laughing, and sharing stories. “Go and fetch our father and your families, and come back to Egypt,” said Joseph. “I will take care of you.” Pharaoh was pleased, too. He said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers to take my wagons to carry their wives and children. Bring your father with them. I will give them the best land in Egypt and they will have plenty to eat.” – Slide 17
The brothers hurried back to the land of Canaan to see their father. “Joseph is still alive!” they told him. “He is ruler over all of Egypt.” At first Jacob did not believe them. But when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to take him to Egypt, he knew his sons were telling the truth. <br/>Jacob packed up everything he owned and set out for Egypt. On the way, Yah spoke to Jacob whose name He had changed to Israel. “I will go with you to Egypt, and you will become a great nation. One day I will bring this nation home.” <br/>As soon as Joseph heard his family had arrived in Egypt, he jumped in his chariot and raced off to meet them. When they met, Joseph kneeled before his father and wept for a very long time. “Now I can die in peace,” said Israel. “I have seen my son is alive!” <br/>Pharaoh kept his promise. He gave Joseph’s family the best land in all of Egypt – the land of Goshen. They worked hard and became rich in every way. And for many years the Hebrew people lived peacefully in Egypt because of what Joseph had done for Pharaoh. – Slide 18
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