Analyzing the Story of Joseph in the Koran and the Bible

Introduction

The Bible and the Koran are both wonderful books that have been used for numerous years to guide and counsel members of the religious cultures that these two books represent. The reason why these books are popular is that Christianity and Islam are the only two religions that command wide following in every part of the world. Although these two books draw their inspiration from different sources, they contain scenes that carry identical story lines.

This is best demonstrated in the story of Joseph that is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Koran. By reading the two stories, one is quick to realize that both stories contain the same foundational principles and plot. However, by closely analyzing the two stories, one realizes that the each version contain deep-seated variations that might be theoretical in nature depending on the passage being analyzed. (Submission.Org)

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To begin with, the story of Joseph in the Bible that appears in the book of Genesis starting from the 37th Chapter gives a detailed account of how Joseph spent his youth and explains why the brothers were jealous of him. In the story, we get to learn that Joseph was 17 years and that his occupation was a shepherd boy. In the Bible story, Joseph is seen intermingling with his siblings and letting them know of his frequent dreams. (New Revised Standard Version)

This differs from the Koran version where we only encounter Joseph telling his father of his recent dream. Unlike in the bible where his brothers know the content of the dream, Joseph’s father does not allow him to disclose the dream to his siblings for fear that they would “plot and scheme against” him. (Submission.Org)

However, both stories are similar in their account of the cause of the brother’s hatred toward Joseph. In both stories, the aspect of Joseph finding favor from his father is considered the cause of the hatred from his eleven brothers.

Another major contrast between the two stories appears in the way they are presented. In the bible version, the story is presented in form of a narration. In fact, the story spans from chapter 37 all the way to chapter 50 from the time when Joseph was a young boy up to a point where he is old and the brothers come begging for his forgiveness.

All throughout the narration, the story pauses to give little moral lessons. At the end of the narration, the moral of the whole story comes out when Joseph tells his brothers “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” (Genesis 50:20)

On the other hand, the Koran version of the story is given in a summary form with only 111 verses covering the whole story. Contrary to the bible, the Koran focuses on giving God the glory that is due to His name.

This is seen at the beginning of Sura 12 when the author says “In the name of God, Most Gracious, and Most Merciful.” (Submission.Org) What this verse seems to stress is that all initial stages of doing things must begin by mentioning the name of the highest God in the land. This aspect of honoring God appears numerous times in the text.

The stressing of this verse can also be seen in Verse 91 when Joseph’s brothers tell him “By GOD, GOD has truly preferred you over us.” (Submission.Org) This clearly shows that the Koran version is more concerned with glorifying the name of God as opposed to the bible story whose main goal is to pass out key moral lessons.

In both versions of the story, we see the brothers conspiring to kill their brother. While this is the case, both versions give a different account of how the brothers carried out their mission. In the Koran version, the brothers first had a meeting where they decided to kill Joseph. After ensuring that the conspiracy was well perfected, they requested their father to allow them to take Joseph with them so they can play in the fields.

The story takes a different turn in the Bible since we see Jacob sending his son to the fields to see how his brothers were doing so he can present a report to his father. Unlike the Koran version where the brothers conspire to kill Joseph before hand, the Bible version says that they only hatched the plot once they saw him in Dothan. (New Revised Standard Version)

Another similarity of the story is seen in what transpires while the brothers are in the field. While the original plan was to kill Joseph, both accounts document that one of the brothers prevailed upon his brothers to instead throw him in to an abyss. Immediately after this, the brothers slaughter an animal and dip Joseph’s coat then take it to his father claiming that a wolf ate him.

The difference in this story is soon seen in the preceding verses where the Koran says that a caravan passed by and in the process of drawing water they discovered Joseph in the pit then took him with them to Egypt. This is in stark contrast to the Bible version, which documents that the pit that Joseph was thrown in to contained no water.

Instead of leaving him in the pit, the bible claims that the brothers sold him to Midianite traders for twenty pieces of silver whom in turn who sold him to a certain household in Egypt. Still on the same issue, a difference occurs in the way Jacob receives the news concerning the death of his son. While the Koran says that Jacob does not believe the story told by his sons, the bible version says that he believed them and mourned for his son many days. (New Revised Standard Version)

Another similarity in both stories is seen in what happens in the household to which Joseph is sold in Egypt. In both accounts, it is detailed that his masters gave him much authority and despite being in exile, he keeps on prospering. Additionally, both accounts of the Joseph story show that his wisdom and knowledge kept on increasing for the whole time he was in Egypt and was consulted regarding various things.

On top of this, both the Bible and the Koran agree that the woman of the house in whom Joseph was living tried to seduce him. According to the two versions of the story, Joseph fled the scene and was imprisoned after the woman accused him of trying to rape her. Despite this agreement on the rape scenario, the two versions give a completely different account on the outcome of this case. (New Revised Standard Version; Submission.Org)

In the Koran, it is reported that both Joseph and the woman of the house almost succumbed to their desires before he saw a proof from his Lord, which caused him to flee. While trying to flee, the Koran claims that the woman grabbed his garment and it was torn from behind.

Upon arriving at the door, the two of them found the woman’s husband standing outside and she accused Joseph of trying to molest her. With this accusation at hand, a witness from the house suggested that if the garment was torn from the front then the accusation was true but if it was torn from behind then it was a lie. As it turns out, the garment had been torn from behind and so Joseph was pronounced innocent. However, the master decided to commit him in to a penitentiary in order to please his wife. (Submission.Org)

In the bible’s version, Joseph does stop to analyze things and he flees immediately after the woman makes her advances. Unlike the Koran version, the man of the house shows up later and upon hearing the accusations brought in by the woman he immediately throws Joseph in to prison without proving his innocence. (New Revised Standard Version)

Conclusion

The bible and the Koran provide inspiration and guidance to its members. Although the writers of the two books were drawn from different backgrounds, both books contain stories bearing the same theme and teachings. Although most of the stories found in the Koran and the Old Testament part of the bible correspond in different aspects, they still have fundamental differences that make them distinct.

One story that is found in both the bible and in the Koran is the story of Joseph, which explains how God prepared the young man to save his household from future famine. Although both stories bear the same foundational message, they contain numerous dissimilarities that make them distinct.

Works Cited

New Revised Standard Version. Trans. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Zondervan, 1983. Print.

Submission.Org. Sura – 12 Joseph, 2007. Web. Mar 26, 2011.

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