How Many Brothers Did Joseph Have
In the Bible, we learn that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and later lied to their father about his whereabouts. This is the story of how Joseph was taken by traders to Egypt and eventually became a powerful man in Pharaoh’s court. However, before he ascended to this position of power, Joseph had been given a prophetic dream in which he saw himself standing on a ladder with eleven stars below, one above him and one at his head—his mother Rachel being the twelfth star (Gen 37:9). In this dream, God tells him that these stars represent his twelve brothers (not ten or eleven), all of whom will bow down to him someday. So what does it mean when God says there are twelve brothers? How many did Joseph really have?
Is there a numerical answer to this question?
To begin, we need to clarify the difference between history and theology. History is the actual events that occurred at a particular time in past times, whereas theology is an interpretation of those events. The Bible itself makes this distinction when it says: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of these prophets, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18). In other words, if you take away from what was originally intended by God to be recorded in His Word in order for us to live our lives according to His will (as opposed to merely reading about His acts), then it will affect your relationship with Him negatively.
More Than 10 Brothers?
In the story of Joseph, we learn that Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob. His brothers were jealous because they thought he got special treatment from their father and mother.
The Biblical Narrative
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The Biblical Text
The Bible refers to Joseph as the son of Jacob and Rachel, but it also says he had 11 brothers. It also says he had 12 brothers. It also says he had 13 brothers. And it also says he had 14 brothers.
There are actually two different explanations for why Joseph would have both 11 and 12 siblings depending on the time period you’re reading about in the Bible (Genesis 37–50). The first explanation is that Jacob’s family was so large that each individual child was split into two or more sets of “brothers” or “sons.” This means that there were multiple pairs of full-blood siblings who could be called “brothers,” as well as other half-siblings who were born out of wedlock or adopted into the family later on in life (such as Benjamin).
The Joseph Narrative in Genesis 37-50
The Joseph narrative in Genesis 37-50 is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. It begins with Jacob’s favorite son being sold into slavery by his brothers, who then lie to their father and tell him that he was killed by a wild animal. In Egypt, Joseph becomes a powerful man and interprets Pharaoh’s dreams about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. He saves his family from starvation during this time (Genesis 41-42), which leads to them returning home despite Joseph having warned them not to come back until after the famine was over (Genesis 43).
While we can be fairly certain the Bible sets Josephs brothers to be at least 11 (and at most 13), it is highly unlikely that the Bible was attempting to convey a specific number. If a number is not important in the context of this story, then how should we interpret this puzzling question?
The answer to this question is not as simple as it might seem. On one hand, the Bible does seem to imply that there were more than ten brothers, but then again it also seems clear that there could not have been many more than thirteen since Joseph‘s mother would only have been pregnant with him for three months after giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 41:21). I think the main thing to remember here is that we cannot take any single detail from scripture too literally without considering its context within the whole story and question why it was included in our first place.