An Interpretation of Verse 16 of the Chapter of Joseph

This article is taken from The Prophet Joseph In The Qur’an, The Bible, And History

وَجَآءُوٓ أَبَاهُمْ عِشَآءً يَبْكُونَ (يوسف: 16).

And they came to their father isha‘an (at night), weeping (12.16). Joseph’s brothers returned home pretending to cry for their brother.
The mention of the verse that the time of the return was عِشَآءًisha‘an (at night)” confirms my interpretation of the word “ghadan” in verse 12.12 as meaning “in the early morning.” Allah tells us that after taking their brother with them in the early morning, Joseph’s brothers came back at night without him.
Al-Qurtubi believes that Joseph’s brothers chose to return at night because that would have helped them make up the story about what happened, as their faces would not be seen in the darkness of the night. But even if that was true, they must have given their father another reason for getting back late. Let us remember that verse 12.12 indicates that Joseph was with his brothers in the early hours of the morning in summer, which means that they got back 10-12 hours after they should have brought Joseph back to his father. They were supposed to return him before the sun reached a high point in the sky and it became too hot.
Joseph’s brothers were keen on pretending that they cared about Joseph and were sad to lose him, so they would have been expected to tell their father about Joseph’s death immediately after they knew about it. What, then, was their excuse for returning late? We will see in the next two verses Joseph’s brothers untruthfully claim that a wolf has devoured Joseph, and that they could find only his blood stained shirt. This leads me to conclude that Joseph’s brothers must have claimed that they could not come back before night because they kept on looking for Joseph’s body until the night set in.

Probably, Joseph’s brothers thought that getting back at night would provide cover for their lie. If they had told their father about what had happened to Joseph in the morning he would have certainly asked them to take him to where they left Joseph or found his shirt. By returning during the night, they guaranteed that Jacob would not be able to go before the next morning to wherever Joseph was supposed to have been devoured by the wolf and they found his shirt. If Jacob went there in the morning and did not find anything supporting his sons’ claims, that would not represent a problem for them. They could claim that beasts or the elements had removed any trace of their brother. In fact, we will see in verse 12.18 that Jacob knew that it was useless to try to search for Joseph, so his only reaction to the news of losing his son was to leave the matter in the hands of Allah.

The well that Joseph’s brothers chose was far enough from their home to prevent Joseph from returning home should the person who found him try to identify his family and return him home. This could have been one reason that forced them not to come back before night.

Copyright © 2005 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved.


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