The story of Joseph and the Multi Colored Coat is my favorite Bible story and has been since I was very small. It is one story that is common to all the religions of Abraham, and has been told and retold so many times that you would think that there was no way to put a new spin on it. That is the challenge in writing this.
The accounts of the story in the Bible and Quran are very different in ways, but each has many of the same elements. What I've written here is somewhere in between with a touch of the modern realist on top.
I have done much research to find the name and accomplishments of the Pharaoh that lifted Joseph up from a slave, but have only been able to set it in the Twelfth Dynastic Period. Sesostris is not any one Pharaoh, but a composite legend of that same period who has been credited with all the great works of the Dynasty by others. Thus the only thing close to an answer I'll ever have for my question.
Don't take this story as Bible truth, it was never meant to be that. It is a speculative fiction from my mind and research. It should be treated as such.
Lyda Mae Huff
The Retelling of Hovsep, Yoseph or Joseph.
by Lyda Mae Huff
Chapter One: The Night of Dreams & The Prophet
Sesostris stood in the hot sun of mid-day. There was no awning, and no fan barer to shade and cool him. The Pharaoh turned about to try an gain an idea of where he was or what he might be doing there. There was no one to be found, but he heard the sound of the Nile. In an aired land like this, the river was the only option of where to go. He walked for a short time in the direction he heard the river, which unfortunately was also the direction facing the sun.
When he reached the river he saw a man on the opposite bank beneath the glare of the ever present sun. The stranger wore the cloths of a peasant, but had the bearing of a prince. There were with the man fourteen cows; seven that were fat and healthy, and seven that were lean an grotesque with want for food. The man drove all fourteen cows through the river, but only the seven lean ones emerged on the bank in front of Sesostris and the man herded them on without even taking notice that the fat cows were missing.
When Sesostris inquired of the man, "Where have the fat cattle gone?"
He turned back to the Pharaoh, "They have been devoured by the lean ones."
Sesostris looked on the face of the man, and felt that he should know him, and though a peasant should not look Pharaoh in the eye he was unoffended by this mans gaze.
Sesostris awoke to find himself drenched in a cold sweat. The night was not too warm of too cold. He should be comfortably asleep, but the dream had disturbed him. Pharaoh could wake his body servant and demand towels to dry himself with, but he decided against it. He settled himself again on his couch, closed his eyes and commanded himself to sleep.
Pharaoh was standing in a field of grain in a flood plain of the Nile near a city that he had visited last three years before. Before the death of his father.
There in the field was the same man who had driven the cattle through the river, but now he was walking with a basket. Sesostris walked toward the man, and when he reached him he watched carefully. The man set down the basket and took up a sickle from the ground. He then cut seven of the fattest ears of corn from their sheaths that Sesostris had even seen and tossed them into the basket. The man then cut seven lean ears from from their stalks and tossed them in upon the others.
The man lifted the basket up for Pharaoh to see into, and only the seven lean ears remained inside. Sesostris pulled one of the lean ears from the basket, and found that the chaff was empty.
Once more Pharaoh questioned the man, "What happened to the fat ears?"
"They have been devoured by the lean..."
Sesostris bolted upright on his sleeping couch more drenched than before. This was not just a dream...
His body servant rose from his mat at the foot of the couch. "Is something the mater Master?" the Nubian asked with concern.
Pharaoh threw the sheet off to reveal his near naked body. "Summon my Counselors and my Priests."
The slave rushed to the door and told the guard what the Pharaoh commanded, then busied himself lighting lamps and preparing the Pharaohs cloths.
It was not yet dawn when Sesostris sat down upon his throne and despaired. The wisest men in his kingdom could not tell him what the dreams had meant. He wanted to rage at them for their idiocy. For though each had in his turn tried, each had failed. Rage he knew however; would do no good.
Pharaoh closed his eyes for a moment, and tried to recall the dream again, looking for some detail he might have missed. There was nothing.
When he opened his eyes again he found his chief butler bowed before his throne. If wise men could not tell him the meaning, perhaps a fool could. "What is it you have to say Aziz?"
Aziz did not look up, only raising his head enough to be heard. "I know that I risk Pharaoh's wrath to mention this, but after the death Pharaoh's Great Father I was cast into the prison on suspicion that it was my humble hand which had fed poison to Pharaoh. It was later proven it was not me, but the palace baker who had done this vile act."
"You are right to think that you risk Pharaoh's wrath Aziz, but I will suffer it if you will get to the point."
"While in the prison, the Baker and I did meet a man who could interprate dreams. He was a Hebrew slave called Hovsep, or Yoseph."
Sesostris was curious. "Do you believe him to be very good at interpretation of dreams."
Aziz took a deep breath and raised his head a little higher. "I do believe this Mighty Pharaoh, for he did accurately interprate two dreams that were related to him. One of my own and one of the Bakers."
Pharaoh thought about this. "look me in the eyes and tell me the story."
Aziz looked up and let Pharaoh see into his eyes. If Pharaoh saw deceit there then he would have him put to death on the spot. "While in prison I dreampt that there was a vine before me, and on the vine were three branches. The branches budded, bloomed and ripened before my eyes and in my hand was your cup. I picked the grapes and crushed them to wine for your cup. When the cup was full, I handed it to you Pharaoh, and you did drink of it."
"I told the slave of my dream and he said that in three days you would restore me to my former job, and treat me as if I had never fallen under suspicion. At that time he made me promise that when I should return to Pharaoh's service I should plead his case to you, for he claims to be a innocent man."
"Why did you not tell me of him then as you had promised?"
"I was newly returned to Pharaoh's good graces, and did fear to be thrown back into prison if I displeased you."
Sesostris could see the earnestness in Aziz's eyes. "Tell me of the other dream you heard him interprate."
"The same night that I dreamed of the vine the Baker had a dream, and he told it to myself and to Hovsep. He said that in the dream he had three white baskets on his head, and in the uppermost one were all manner of breads and pastries as he did bake for Pharaoh. The birds descended from the sky and ate the food from the basket until there was none left." Aziz had to look away from Pharaoh's eyes.
"Did this Hebrew tell the Baker that in three days time that he would be hung for treason?"
Aziz could only nod the affirmative, "It is what came to pass, Mighty Pharaoh."
Sesostris stood, "You will go into the prison and bring me back the man you have spoken of."
Joseph lay on his cot and coughed very hard and violently. The sickness was getting worse. He may have been treated better than the other prisoners, but he was still a prisoner, and still prone to the disease of men.
He would have to rise from his cot soon, even though another night of rest had been denied him. Once the coughing subsided he slipped from the thin cover and knelt to say his prayers. He could feel the aches from the beating he'd received at the hands of two other prisoners only the day before. The bruises having grown purple in the night.
Joseph's prayers were always silent. He had learned long ago not to speak the words aloud in this land unless he wished to be beaten. As he finished his prayers the door of his cell was thrown open. The guards he saw there were not the guards from the prison. They were new ones and he froze in fear. They grabbed him roughly and drug him through the door.
They chained his hands behind him, and one pulled his head up by the hair so that the light of a torch fell on his face and painfully into his eyes. "Is this the man Pharaoh sent you for." one growled.
"This is the man Lieutenant, and be gentle with him." Aziz said. "He can do things that no other can for the Pharaoh, and if you injure him I will see you put in his cell."
Joseph felt the hand holding his hair let go, and he blinked forcing his eyes to adjust. "Aziz?" he said in disbelief. "I thought for sure you had forgotten me by now."
"I hadn't forgotten you Hovsep," Aziz said, "only failed you."
"If you are here for me now then you have not failed me. What is it I can do for Pharaoh?"
Aziz took Joseph by the shoulders. "He has had a dream that no one can understand. I told him of you, and he told me to fetch you. We'll get you cleaned up a bit, and then we must go to him."
Joseph had been permitted to shave and bathe, and given new cloths to wear. Though he had been chained at the ankles and his wrists bound behind him again before he was lead before Pharaoh. He wore no sandals as befit the rank of a slave, but a kilt of fine linen that Aziz had brought for him. He had also tied back his curly head of brown hair so that Pharaoh could see his whole face.
The guards lead him behind Aziz, and the chains on his feet made it hard to keep their pace. When they entered the throne room Aziz and the guards bowed to Pharaoh. Joseph did not, for he would bow to worship only God.
Sesostris could not believe his eyes when the slave did not bow, but it was not because he did not bow. It was because he had seen this man before. First as he had driven the cows through the river, and then in the second dream as he had cut the ears from their sheaths. Though he was pale and thin it was the same man.
When the Guards realized their charge had not bowed and that the Pharaoh's eyes had grown wide with shock they each struck Joseph forcing him to the floor.
Sesostris raced down from the dais that held his throne. "Stop!" he yelled. "Do not strike that man again, or I will have your heads removed." He knelt on the floor beside the stranger and helped him to roll to his side.
Joseph looked up to face Pharaoh again. He knew his nose was bleeding and he began to cough as violently as he had upon waking that morning.
"Remove his chains, and summon my Physician." Sesostris commanded.
With the chains removed Joseph was able to sit and he felt Pharaoh's hands steady him. Some one handed him a towel to try and stanch the flow of blood from his nose, and he was able to get the coughing under control.
When Sesostris's Physician Sinuwae entered the throne room with his attendant he stood and let Aziz take take Joseph's hand. "Have a litter brought." Pharaoh commanded. "You will take this man to my chambers and attend him as if he were me. Have a couch brought to the room beside my own and lay him upon it, and give him raiment from my own wardrobe."
"As Pharaoh commands" Sinuwae said with a bow.
Sesostris turned to the guards, "As for the two of you. You shall each be given fifty lashes and confined."
Nearly three hours after the stranger had been brought to his throne room Pharaoh entered his bathing chamber and found Joseph who was now bald laid out on the massage table where Sinuwae dressed his wounds. "What is your prognosis Sinuwae?"
"He is quite ill Pharaoh." the Physician said with candor. "Another week or more in that prison and he would have died from the sickness in his lungs."
"Is he strong enough that I may speak with him?"
Joseph tried to sit up, but Sinuwae held him down.
"He is strong enough to speak, but do not tire him." the Physician said. He then moved to leave the room. "He needs medicine that requires preparation. You may speak with him until I have it ready, but it will make him sleep."
Sesostris sat upon a chair, "I am told that your name is Hovsep."
"That is one version of my name."
"What is the name that your parents gave you?"
"Joseph is the name that my mother gave me." he said. "I was the first child that God had given her, though she had been married for some years. The name was plea that she be granted another."
"Was she ever granted another?"
"After many years, but these are stories for another time." Joseph sat up slowly. "You sent for me to interprate a dream."
"Last night I dreampt that I saw seven fat cows driven though the river followed by seven lean, but only the lean ones emerged. Their driver told me that the lean ones had devoured the fat ones."
Joseph thought about that a moment. "But that was not all you dreamed."
"You are right. That was only the first of two dreams." Sesostris took a deep breath, for though he had told his wise men about the first dream, he had not told them there was second. "In the second I stood in a field and saw a man cut seven fat ears of corn from their sheaths and toss them into a basket. He then cut seven lean ears and tossed them into the same basket, but when I looked into the basket only the lean ears remained."
"And he told you once again that the lean ears had devoured the fat ones."
"They are the same dream. The seven fat in each dream represent seven years of plenty the seven lean are seven years of famine." Joseph began to cough again, but more mildly than before and he grabbed a near by towel to catch what had come up. "Egypt will know seven years of plenty in which you should prepare for seven years of famine that will follow."
It made perfect sense once Sesostris thought about it. "You are indeed a gifted man to see what so many could not."
"The gift belongs to God." Joseph said with reverence.
"You are pious man then."
"I worship only the God of my fathers', that is why I did not bow before Pharaoh."
"Then I will never expect you to bow to me Joseph." Sesostris leaned closer on his chair. "What were you doing in my prison?"
"When I was still too young to marry I was stolen away from my father in Canaan, and sold as a slave in Egypt to a man named Potipher."
"One of my father's Captains." Sesostris nodded recognizing the name.
"He made me steward over his house, until his wife tried to force me to lie with her when we were the only ones in the house. I fled from her, but she tore off my shirt as I fled and used it as proof to say the I had tried to force her to lie with me."
"So you were sent to the prison."
"Can you give me a reason to believe you are innocents?"
"When I was not yet a man my sister Dinah was violated in such a manner by a prince. I saw the pain that it caused her, and could not bring such a thing on another."
"I thought you said you were your mother's first child."
"But my father had three other wives that bore children before her."
Sinuwae returned with the medicine and a body servant bearing some of the Pharaoh's cloths. "Are you done talking with him Pharaoh."
Sesostris stood. "I am done for now Sinuwae, but I will have more questions for him when he has rested."
"I will see you later Joseph, my servants will attend you and you will stay in my chambers until I have had some of your own made ready for you." At that the Pharaoh left.
"It would seem that you have impressed Pharaoh Joseph." Sinuwae said as the servant helped his patient dress. "I dare say that if you asked it, you could probably have the men that gave you all of these bruises executed."
Joseph's face grew a little more pale. "I don't intend to ask."
When Sesostris had finished with the business of the day it was well past the hour when darkness came. Once he had slipped off the heavier ornaments of his office he made is way to the curtain that separated his sleeping chamber from the smaller room where he had commanded they place a couch for Joseph.
Joseph lay on his side with his head resting on a fine cushion instead of upon a carved headrest that was the custom of Egypt. Pharaoh could see his chest rise and fall slowly, for the medicines had made him sleep deeply.
By the side of the couch was a slave girl that Sesostris could not recall the name of though he knew she had lived in the palace for nearly as long as he had been Pharaoh. She had been a gift that was intended for the harem, but she had been too young and he'd sent her to the kitchens. Now she was older and more beautiful, but the harem large enough for to suit Sesostris. Her back was to Pharaoh and he watched as she tenderly mopped Joseph's brow and pulled his covers a little closer to his neck.
"How is he?" Sesostris asked the girl.
The girl was startled by the question, but recovered quickly and placed her head to the floor. "He rests well and is only slightly fevered, Pharaoh."
"What is your name?"
She raised her head only enough that her voice may be heard. "I am Nefer."
The memory of the painted doll that was forced to show herself at Pharaoh's feet came back. "Your former master called you only woman when you were not yet that."
"As Pharaoh said when I was given to him."
"Who told you to care for this man?"
"Pharaoh's Physician took me from the kitchens earlier today and told me to care for this man who had found favor with Pharaoh."
"What did my Physician tell you to do for him?"
Nefer sat up a little and looked to Joseph. "He said to keep his brow cooled and his body covered. To make sure that he drinks water with a little wine in it, but not straight wine. To keep the steamer going to draw out the sickness in his lungs. To make sure he eats the food that is brought for him. To help the Physician or his servant when they bring medicine, but most importantly not to leave the man's side until I am told otherwise."
Sesostris moved into the room and took a seat on the other side of the couch. It was then that he noticed the set of twin ten year old boys sleeping on a mat in the corner of the room. "Why do you think this man has found favor with me Nefer?"
"It is not my place to question Pharaoh?" she said as she looked to the floor again.
"He is a prophet sent to me by his God to save Egypt Nefer." He saw her eyes grow wide even though she did not look up at him. Sesostris folded his hands and brought then to his chin. "Would you care to belong to such a man Nefer?"
"If that were what Pharaoh wished."
"I think you are fitting gift from a Pharaoh to a Prince." he brought his hands down to his knees.
Nefer smiled, "I will serve him well."
Sesostris stood up and began to head for his own couch. "I have no doubt." In two weeks time Captain Potipher and the Lady Zulika would be here to settle the matter of Joseph's innocence and then Pharaoh would make the former slave Grand Vizier of all Egypt. He smiled, surely Joseph's God would be gracious after that.