An Interpretation of Verse 17 of the Chapter of Joseph

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

قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا إِنَّا ذَهَبْنَا نَسْتَبِقُ وَتَرَكْنَا يُوسُفَ عِنْدَ مَتَاعِنَا فَأَكَلَهُ الذِّئْبُ وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ لَنَا وَلَوْ كُنَّا صَادِقِينَ (يوسف: 17).

They said: “O our father! We went to race with one another and left Joseph with our belongings, so a wolf devoured him; and you will not believe us though we are truthful” (17). Joseph’s brothers started their speech to their father with the loving phrase “O our father!” to create a friendly atmosphere that might help to make him believe the painful details they were going to tell him.
The use of Joseph’s brothers of the clause ذَهَبْنَا نَسْتَبِقُwe went to race with one another” instead of the verb استبقناwe raced with one another” means that their race included going to a relatively far distance from the starting point. The fake story about the race was used by Joseph’s brothers to justify leaving Joseph alone with their belongings, as it is obvious that young Joseph could not take part in this activity.
Joseph’s brothers deliberately combined their claim of being busy racing with the claim about Joseph being devoured by a wolf. The latter is a danger that Jacob himself suggested: “and I fear that a wolf might devour him while you are not attending to him.” They thought that their story was thus more likely to be believed by their father as he himself had acknowledged this possibility.

It is clear from their plan that Joseph’s brothers wanted to convince their father that Joseph was actually dead, not merely missing. They thought that only Joseph’s death would make Jacob ultimately forget his son.

By saying to their father “you will not believe us though we are truthful,” Jacob’s sons suggested that they had to convey to him what happened even though they were aware of his suspicions about their intention. They stressed that their story was true by reminding their father that his failure to believe them was due to the suspicions that he already had, not because their story was fake. They tried to make their father develop doubts about the suspicions that were inevitably going to appear in his mind about their story, and thus making him believe it.

          Copyright © 2006 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved.


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