According to the simple reading of the verses, the end of Sefer Bereshit (Bereshit 50:24-26) and the beginning of Sefer Shemot (Shemot 1:6) describe Yoseph dying before any of his brothers.

Why was Yoseph the first of Ya'aqov's sons to die despite being younger than all but one, and despite his tremendous righteousness?

3 Answers 3


This is addressed in Brachos 55a. The reason given is that he conducted himself ברבנות. Seemingly an excessive degree of acting in command.

דא״ר חמא בר חנינא מפני מה מת יוסף קודם לאחיו מפני שהנהיג עצמו ברבנות

This is brought as a proof to Rabbi Yehuda's statement there that all who conduct themselves this way will have their lives shortened.


I'm not exatly sure if I am understanding this correctly, but I get the sense that the Ohr Hachayim on 1:6 seems to make an argument about the progression towards slavery (he wonders why Yoseif's death is mentioned in 2 verses). It seems that things developed along a continuum which had, as its first level, the death of Yoseif.

אכן ב' כתובים הבאים כאחת להודיע השתלשלות התחלת השעבוד וסיבותיו, והם במספר ד'. הא' מיתת יוסף שאם היה יוסף קיים יספיק שלא ימשלו בהם המצריים הא למדת שכל זמן שיוסף קיים היו ישראל בארץ מצרים שקטים ומעונגים. ב' מיתת האחים שכל זמן שאחד מן האחים קיים היו המצריים מכבדים אותן וכמו שפי' ז''ל (סוטה י''ג.) בפסוק (בראשית נ יד) וישב יוסף וגו' ואחיו וגו' אחר קברו את אביו יעוין שם דבריהם. ג' מיתת כל הדור פי' כל הע' נפש שכולן היו חשובין בעיניהם ובאמצעותם לא היה להם פנים להשתעבד בהם,

For this process to develop logically, Yoseif had to die first.

  • FWIW I understood Or HaHayim in the same fashion you described.
    – Lee
    Jan 12, 2017 at 12:40
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    What is the gist of the Hebrew passage you quote? Does it describe the continuum you mentioned? Jan 12, 2017 at 14:01
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    I'm hazy on the details but it seems to say that while Yoseif was alive, the Hebrews still had an enjoyable life and the Egyptians didn't rule over them. As long as any of the brothers was alive, the Egyptians still respected the Hebrews and once everyone of the 70 original descenders died, nothing stopped the slavery (though I personally disagree with the timeline, as the oppression happened while some of the 70 were still alive).
    – rosends
    Jan 12, 2017 at 14:46
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    Could you edit a version of that summary into your answer? Jan 12, 2017 at 15:44
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    @NoachMiFrankfurt only if I felt more comfortable that I was understanding it properly
    – rosends
    Jan 12, 2017 at 16:13

I believe the the answer is two-fold. A) he wasn't since he was in Mitzrayim he couldn't fulfill the mitzvah of kibod av, which grants arichas yomim (long life). B) The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer says Yosef's life was shortened by 10 years because he heard Yehuda say “your servant, our father” 10 times, when he was speaking to him in Parshas Mikeitz.

  • Do you have a source for your first answer?
    – Lee
    Jan 15, 2017 at 10:42

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