In the story of Joseph (12:77), when the cup is found in Benjamin's bag, the other sons of Jacob say this about him:

"If he steals - a brother of his has stolen before."

Who are they referring to? And what happened in that incident?

2 Answers 2


They are talking about Joseph (عليه السلام) as Benjamin was Joseph's full brother, as they both were sons of Jacob (عليه السلام) and Rachel. While the remaining brothers were his half siblings, their father was Jacob but their mothers were Jacob's other wives and concubines named Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah. See Tahreer wa't-Tanweer.

The exegetes have narrated the following traditions as explanations for the accusation against Joseph by his brothers:

  • They were referring to the belt of Isaac (عليه السلام) . This belt was inherited by Isaac's daughter, the sister of Jacob, and who was the paternal aunt of Joseph. She had raised Joseph when he was an infant. When Joseph had grown a little older, Jacob intended to take him back. However the aunt loved Joseph too much and asked to keep him. Jacob refused and so she planned a trick to retain Joseph with herself. She made Joseph wear the belt of Isaac and then pretended that it had been lost or stolen. The family searched for the belt and eventually it was found in Joseph's possession. According to their laws a thief was made the slave of the victim (also seen in verse 75), and hence the aunt gained custody over Joseph for the remainder of her life, which Jacob accepted. A similar trick is later employed by Joseph to keep his brother Benjamin with him in Egypt.

  • They were referring to the idol owned by Laban, the maternal grandfather of Joseph. Joseph's mother Rachel had instructed him to steal and destroy the idol. Doing this was permissible.

  • They were alluding to an incident when Joseph had taken some food from the family's table and gave it to a beggar, without seeking his father's permission.

  • They were lying and their slander had no basis whatsoever.

Ref: Tafsir al-Tabary and Tafseer al-Maawardi


They are referring to Joseph accusing him also of theft. No such incident occurred with Joseph nor he was involved in any theft. Below explanation from Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

(If he steals, there was a brother of his who did steal before.) They tried to show themselves as innocent from being like Binyamin, saying that he did just like a brother of his did beforehand, meaning Yusuf (peace be upon him)

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