Joseph was a direct descendant of Abraham. As a boy, Joseph was favored by his father Jacob in such a way that his brothers hated him. When he had dreams that his parents and brothers would all bow down to him someday, the brothers had enough. Given an opportunity, they threw Joseph into a pit and sold him for 20 pieces of silver to slave traders who were on their way to Egypt. In this way, Joseph was a “type” of Jesus whom Judas betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. The brothers then took Joseph’s torn robe to their father to convince him Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
Years passed, and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had 2 identical dreams that only Joseph was able to interpret. The first dream involved ears of corn both healthy and withered; the second dream involved cows, one healthy, one starving and ugly. Joseph interpreted both dreams, saying that God was warning that 7 years of great abundance would come to Egypt, followed by 7 years of the worst famine they ever knew, and instructed Pharaoh how to prepare. Pharaoh, seeing that God had blessed Joseph with great wisdom, appointed him as the ruler second in power so that the people might survive the great famine.
As the famine spread, Joseph’s brothers eventually travelled to Egypt for food so they wouldn’t starve. Immediately Joseph recognized them, and he tried to keep his young brother Benjamin in Egypt by accusing him of stealing a valuable cup and having him arrested. The despondent brothers begged Joseph to release Benjamin, but at this point Joseph couldn’t bear to hide his identity any longer, and revealed who he was to his shocked and terrified brothers. He said to them, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good," because he believed in the sovereignty of God over all the affairs of mankind.
Every figure in the painting has emblems identifying them according to the prophecy their father Jacob spoke over each of the 12 sons just before he died:
The entire family eventually traveled to Egypt where they lived for generations, an estimated 440 years, until the great Exodus under Moses.
Joseph & His Brothers received 3rd place at the 2018 Illinois State Fair Professional Exhibition