Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel (Gen 35:24), is a vibrant character in the Hebrew Bible. We know that God is with Joseph through the ups and downs of his life, but we do not always notice the significance that the Bible assigns to his name. We identify with Jacob’s love for Joseph as we imagine him wearing an elaborate and colorful robe (Gen 37:3); we are shocked by his brothers’ jealousy and hatred when they sell him into Egyptian slavery (37:28); we are upset when he is falsely accused and thrown into Potiphar’s jail (39:20); and we rejoice in his vindication when Pharaoh appoints him to the highest post in his kingdom (41:38-39). Finally, after Joseph confronts the brothers who betrayed him and reveals his identity amidst an outpouring of emotion, we are deeply moved (45:1-3). All these important and impactful events become even more significant when we understand that Joseph’s name alludes to the idea of “gathering together,” so that the biblical figure fulfills God’s vision of unity and shalom.
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