Joseph is the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons and is labeled as a “Miracle Child” since his mother, Rachel, was believed to be barren. Whilst his brothers work the farm, Joseph in contrast is doted upon and educated by Jacob, inciting the brothers’ jealousy and hatred. When he receives a beautiful coat from his father, his brothers hate him even more and fear he may take over as clan leader upon the death of Jacob, despite him being the youngest and only their half-brother. One evening Joseph dreams that the sheep his brothers herd are being attacked by wolves, and true enough whilst his brothers leave him alone to care for the sheep whilst they go swimming, a pack of wolves attack the flock and Joseph is nearly killed until Jacob saves him. Jacob is enraged that Joseph was abandoned by his brothers, and also amazed that Joseph’s dream came true. Judah, the eldest of the brothers and therefore their leader, merely dismisses this but Jacob is uncertain.
The next night, Joseph dreams that his brothers each carry sheaves of wheat that bow down to Joseph’s gigantic sheaf, and that he is a brilliant star in the sky, surrounded by eleven smaller stars and the sun and the moon. Jacob predicts that one day Joseph will rise above them all, alarming the brothers. They leave and retreat to a cave where they plot to do away with Joseph. Having followed them, Joseph overhears, and the brothers tear his cloak and hurl him down a pit until nightfall. When they “rescue” him, Joseph is horrified to discover their scheme to sell him to desert slave traders who take him to Egypt. The brothers then bring Joseph’s torn and bloodied coat to Jacob and Rachel, who are heartbroken and are led to think he was killed by a wild animal.
In Egypt, Joseph is made the servant of a wealthy Egyptian Potiphar. He quickly proves himself an asset to his master and the two become less master and slave and more friends. However, Potiphar’s unfaithful wife, Zuleika, takes a liking to Joseph. She tries unsuccessfully to seduce Joseph and grabs him, tearing his clothes as he flees. In spite, she tells Potiphar that Joseph attempted to assault her. Angrily, Potiphar orders Joseph killed, but when his wife intervenes, he realizes that Joseph is not guilty of his wife’s accusations and he reluctantly has Joseph thrown into prison. While imprisoned, Joseph shows his gift by interpreting the dreams of the royal butler and baker who are also prisoners. He accurately predicts that the butler will be restored to his position at the palace in three days, and that the baker will be put to dead.
Eventually, the Pharaoh begins to be plagued by dreams and is told by the butler that Joseph can interpret them. He sends Potiphar to retrieve Joseph who forgives his old friend and master immediately. Joseph interprets the pharaoh’s dreams as warnings of an upcoming seven years of abundance in Egypt followed by seven years of famine that will wipe out Egypt. The pharaoh is troubled and at a loss for what to do in order to prevent the upcoming disaster, however, Joseph cleverly suggests that each year one fifth of the crops are put aside and kept for rationing in order to save Egypt. The pharaoh, impressed by Joseph, makes him (Joseph) second only to pharaoh, and gives him the name “Zaphenapt-Paneah”.
As the years pass, Joseph’s plan saves Egypt from starvation, Joseph marries the niece of Potiphar, Asenath, and has two children with her. Eventually, his brothers arrive in Egypt to buy food because the seven-year famine that struck Egypt has also desolated Canaan. They do not recognize Joseph, who is enraged to see them. They offer to pay for the grain with silver – but Joseph accuses them of being spies, and demands proof of their identity. When the brothers claim they need the food to help their ailing father and youngest brother, Joseph becomes even more angry and has Simeon arrested and locked in prison. He orders the remaining brothers to return with their alleged youngest as proof. If they do not, then Simeon will be put to death. Appalled, the brothers leave.
Asenath is equally shocked and demands to know what Joseph is up to. When she sees through his lies that they are thieves, he reveals that they are his brothers and that it was they who sold him into slavery. Shortly afterward, the brothers reappear with a young man named Benjamin who is almost identical to Joseph. Simeon is released and Joseph asks Benjamin about his family. He is saddened to realize his mother has died but his father mollycoddles Benjamin, for fear of losing another son. The brothers lie that they had a youngest brother who was killed by wolves, angering Joseph more, though he does not show it. He decides to test his brothers.
Joseph invites the brothers to a feast and has his own golden chalice concealed in Benjamin’s bag whilst no one is looking. After the feast when the brothers prepare to leave, Joseph prevents them from going and lies that one of them has stolen his goblet. Despite the brothers’ protests, Joseph cuts open the sacks of grain he gave them to take back to their homeland, and out of Benjamin’s topples the gold cup. Joseph orders that he be imprisoned and enslaved. When his older brothers implore him to let Benjamin go and offer themselves instead, he is shocked. Judah beseeches Joseph not to take Benjamin, as the shock of losing another son would surely kill their elderly father. He confesses that their wickedness blinded them in the past and that, in jealousy, they sold the brother they claimed had been killed by wolves. Touched by their honesty and their show of love for Benjamin, Joseph forgives them and reveals his true identity. The brothers plead for forgiveness, which Joseph grants, and invites them and their families to live with him at the palace.
Shortly after, he is reunited with his father who is overjoyed to see him again.
- Ben Affleck – Joseph and
- Ben Affleck also provides the voice of Egypt.
- David Campbell – Joseph (singing voice)
- Mark Hamill – Judah
- Richard Herd – Jacob
- Russell Buchanan – Jacob (singing voice)
- Maureen McGovern – Rachel
- Jodi Benson – Asenath
- Judith Light – Zuleika
- James Eckhouse – Potiphar
- Richard McGonagle – Pharaoh
- Dan Castellaneta – Auctioneer, Horse Trader
- René Auberjonois – Butler
- Ken Campbell – Baker
- Steven Weber – Simeon, Slave Trader
- Piera Coppola – Zuleika’s servant, Additional Voices
- Emily Eby – Servant
- Matt Levin – Benjamin
Differences between the film and the Bible
- In the Bible, Judah is the fourth son of Jacob, but in the film, he is the oldest.
- In the Bible, Joseph was very humble about his gifts for predicting dreams, whereas in the film he is spoilt and arrogant.
- In the film, Joseph has a dream about wolves killing sheep and in the daytime, he saves the little lamb from the black wolves until one of them kills the ram, but it’s not part of the Bible.
- In the Bible, Asenath is the daughter of Potipharah the priest of On, but in the film, she is Potiphar’s niece, and Potiphar is childless.
- In the Bible, after Joseph’s older brothers rip his coat, they pick him up and toss him into a well, but in this film, they shove him in a ditch.
- In the film, the majority of Joseph’s brothers go unnamed but he just mentions, Reuben, Levi and Issachar and they have little action in the story, with Judah, Benjamin and Simeon having roles vital to the plot.
- In the film, Asenath sneaks food and supplies to Joseph whilst he is incarcerated; in the Bible, she does not do this.
- In this film, Potiphar plans to buy a horse from an Ishmaelite merchant, but is informed by Joseph the scales are imbalanced so as to cheat him. However, this did not occur in the Bible.
- In the Bible, Joseph’s mother Rachel died before he was sold into slavery, but in the film she died after he was sold into slavery.
- In this film, Benjamin was born after Joseph was taken away, but in the Bible, he was born before that.
- In this film, the Butler and the Baker were in prison before Joseph, but in the Bible Joseph was put in prison first and then years later came the Butler and the Baker.
- In this film, as Joseph says to the Baker that the three baskets signify three days, and in the next three days, Pharoh will behead him, but in the Bible, he says that the three trays signify three days, and in the next three days, he will hang him where the birds will consume his flesh.
- In this film, the Egyptians receive the food for free during the years of drought. In the Bible, however, Joseph takes all their money, their animals and finally their land for it (Genesis chapter 47).
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