In 19th century Persia, a group of spiritual seekers became convinced that the Messiah promised to all religions would appear in their country. One of the signs of His Prophethood would be that He would, unasked, reveal a unique and penetrating interpretation of the story of Joseph. The revelation of the first chapter of His Commentary on the Story of Joseph was the first public act in the ministry of the Bab, and is told in more detail here.
The deeper meanings of the Holy Books were sealed up until the end times, as told to the Prophet Daniel. The process of breaking those seals began with the Bab's Commentary on the Surah of Joseph, titled by Him the "Qayyumu'l-Asma" and reached its maturity with Bahaullah's revelation of the "Book of Certitude". His Son Abdu'l-Baha, the appointed Interpreter of His teachings, applied the key Baha'u'llah provided in the Book of Certitude in His many explanations of Bible verses.
I have written a very brief article on this subject on the Huffington Post, and I would like to offer a more substantial explanation here.
If you are not yet familiar with the story of Joseph it will not take long to read it; the links are above in the first sentence, and I will assume the readers are basically familiar with its features and themes. I am here blending elements from both the Book of Genesis and the Quran.
The rendering of scriptural symbolism lends itself to more than one interpretation, as it moves through archetypal levels. As explained by Nader Saeidi in his book on the Bab's Writings, in this commentary on the story of Joseph, the Bab explains that:
1. the dream of the sun, the moon and 11 stars bowing before Joseph, signifies
- the recognition of the Bab by Muhammad and His successors the Imams;
2. the women being attracted by the beauty of Joseph refers to
- the essential attractiveness of the Manifestation of God in every Age, to the human heart;
3. the caravan refers to
- spiritual seekers;
4. the brothers of Joseph recognizing him indicates
- the first people to recognize the Manifestation of God in every age, and
- symbolizes the Bab's own earliest disciples, “The Letters of the Living”;
5. Joseph's authority refers to
- the sovereignty of each of the Manifestations of God over human hearts, and to
- the ultimate exaltation and sovereignty of the Cause of God in human society.
I would like to add my own personal understanding of various symbols in this, “The Best of Stories”:
6. Jacob entrusting Joseph to His brothers, and
- the brothers promising their father in return to take care of Joseph
(in verses 11 and 12 of the Surah of Joseph in the Quran), signifies
- the Great Covenant between God and humanity:
(as explained here by the Bab and here by Abdu'l-Baha)
--- to send Messengers to humanity, and
--- humanity's promise to turn to Them.
7. Jacob recognizing the scent of his son Joseph on his garment is
(a well-known and often-used)
- symbol of recognition of the Manifestation of God.
Rumi used it often, for example here, and Franklin Lewis, a Bahai, who is a professor of Persian literature,
who wrote a book about Rumi has provided a number of new English translations of Rumi's odes referring to Joseph:
I was Venus, I am the moon
I become celestial wheel
with countless levels
I was Joseph, and now I engender Josephs
-- (p. 352)
O Joseph (sweet the name!)
is that you walking sweetly overhead
along the roof?
Shatterer of my chalice
Destroyer of my traps
my light, my trumpet
my victorious fortune!
Stir up my ferment
that my grapes may wine
-- (p. 369)
8. The appearance of Joseph's brothers, gathered before him, signifies (see 4 & 5)
- the great gathering of all humanity before their Lord at the Judgment Day
(also Quran 83:6).
9. Joseph's tribulations: being cast into a pit, being sold into slavery, and being cast into prison, all indicate:
- humanity's initial rejection of Him,
- violation of their Covenant with God to treat His Manifestations well, and
- specifically refers to Bahaullah’s imprisonment in the Black Pit of Tehran.
10. The Pharaoh's realization of Joseph's spiritual powers to interpret dreams indicates
- humanity's dawning recognition of the powers of the Manifestation
--- to unravel their mysteries,
--- resolve their complexities, and
--- solve their intractable problems.
11. The famine in the land signifies
- humanity's hunger for divine knowledge.
12. Joseph's position as being charged with distribution of food to the land signifies
- the eventual rise of the Manifestation to universal recognition by all humanity, which feasts on His Word.
13. Joseph giving full measure of corn to His brothers, and returning their payment to each of them, relates to the abundance of gifts God's Messenger gives to humanity, and to His Self-Sufficiency, being above any need of His creatures.
14. Joseph's brothers wearing new clothes (a symbol also used in the Gospel), is
- a symbol of the people in every age who at first refused to recognize the Manifestation, but eventually recognize and accept Him,
--- as Christ Himself implied; and
--- as Bahaullah states in the Book of Certitude:
“O brother, behold how the inner mysteries of 'rebirth,' of 'return,' and of 'resurrection' have each, through these all-sufficing, these unanswerable, and conclusive utterances, been unveiled and unravelled before thine eyes. God grant that through His gracious and invisible assistance, thou mayest divest thy body and soul of the old garment, and array thyself with the new and imperishable attire.”
- It also refers to humanity's acceptance of the new divine principles.
15. The brothers of Joseph eating bread with Him signifies
- drawing near to Him in faith.
This symbol is explained here (http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAQ/saq-21.html).
- Likewise the disciples of Jesus, so long as they only used their rational faculty could not “recognize” Jesus;
--- but after they used the power of faith, after they relied on the Scriptures, and
--- after they “ate bread,”
--- their “eyes” were opened and they “recognized” Him.
Their eyes being closed, then being opened and recognizing Him after eating bread,
--- signifies human beings, who at first do not recognize the Manifestation, then after receiving His spiritual gifts, His divine grace, recognize Him.
16. The brothers' mistreatment of Joseph at first, and their later bowing before Him with their faces to the ground,
- signifies humanity's initial rejection of the Manifestations of God in every Age, and
- in particular their rejection of the True Joseph,
- the Manifestation to succeed the Bab - and humanity's eventual universal acceptance of Him, also symbolized by "every eye seeing" Him.
17. Joseph gathering one-fifth of the produce of the people symbolizes
- the Right of God, one of the laws of Bahaullah.
I hope these thoughts are of interest to the reader in coming to his or her own understandings of the Word of God.
The original posting was made at http://hojja-nusreddin.dreamwidth.org/110458.html