Session 11: Joseph
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did. Genesis 39:2-3
Genesis 37-50, key verse 39:2-4
Timeline, about 2000 BC . During the time of the early Israelites, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the great Pyramids and the ancient city of Memphis are built, and the Bronze Age is at its peak.
Key personalities: Jacob, Joseph, Tamar, Potiphar
God continues to move the theme of His Message from His story to our story, from what He does to how He calls us to respond. This is in the midst of our sinful nature, our dysfunctions depicting our desperate need for a Redeemer. Here, in the final section of Genesis, we have examples and warnings on what can shatter the Covenant of Abraham and bring dysfunction to a family. We find what brings reconciliation and love to build a great family and nation that glorifies God.
The Patriarchs all had dramatic face-to-face encounters with God, except Joseph, yet Joseph was the recipient of more divine interaction and reception than all the other Patriarchs put together. In distinction, Abraham walked by faith that God accepted and used to build nations; he obeyed and trusted in God and became the father of faith to his descendants. This showed confidence in God, His provision, and promise. Abraham faced with an unattainable prophecy and its potential lasting ramifications, demonstrated real effectual faith. His faith showed confidence in God, His provision, and promise without an ability to make it come to pass. This same faith also allowed Abraham and his wife Sarah, who were old and childless, to eventually have children by which to build this nation to greater numbers than there were stars in the sky or sand at the beach.
Now at the brink of ruin, when helplessness looms, the possibility of losing all the wealth, starving to death, infighting and betrayal, a hero emerges to save the day, Joseph. A man who demonstrates unprecedented character and faith in extreme opposition and unfairness, even the worst one can experience, family betrayal.
During these times we see humanities worst of wickedness because of sin. We see the struggle against God, the drama of acting the worst with each other, even family, such as lies, jealously, envy, betrayal, violence, cover-up, and murder. Now we have Jacob's twelve sons and they become the twelve tribes of Israel. They show all of humanities wickedness as well as the best of love and character, mostly by Joseph journey from pride to humility to turning his heart to God and allowing a Masters work to redeem, remold and reshape a person to give a new nation a legacy to follow God's heart and will.
Key Happenings, a Contrast between Goodness and Wickedness!
Jacob has two wives and their servants together had twelve sons and one daughter. The oldest is Reuben, then Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Dinah, Joseph, and the youngest is Benjamin (Gen. 29:32-25, 30:5-23).
Chaps. 37. Joseph is plotted against, betrayed, sold into slavery, then rises up only to be betrayed and plotted against again! He suffers unjustly, yet perseveres with faith and character, an example to, a people of faith in Christ (Gen. 39:9)..
· Joseph means "God will increase," and the name Jesus means "Jehovah is salvation." Joseph, although not the oldest, rather the eleventh son, becomes the new Patriarch and the bloodline forges on through jubilations and setbacks through the son, Judah, through today. It is by Joseph's journey of faith and struggle, the new nation gets its foothold in a new land, Goshen, as it waits its population to grow and mature to venture back to the Promised Land.
· Robe of many colors . A long coat with sleeves, "of many colors" may have been a mistranslation that stuck; it was a very expensive and prized then, so the person did not work the fields, but supervised. This was also sign of wealth and preferential status that caused jealousy with the older brothers (2 Sam. 13:18).
· Jealousy and animosity arises because Joseph received a special gift of the robe that his older siblings do not get. He is loved and favored by Jacob his father. He was a boy, the least of his brothers in age and entitlement. Adversity molded him into a man of character, transparent with no hidden agendas in contrast to his older brothers who connived. Then, Joseph has a dream, where he sees himself as the leader of his family, which upsets his older, more entitled brothers to the point they scheme to rid themselves of Joseph by plotting his death. However, Rueben intervenes and Joseph's life is spared, but he is sold into slavery as his brothers craft a lie to his father that a wild animal took him.
· An alleged Bible contradiction is this: who did the brothers sell Joseph to--the Midianites or the Ishmaelites? The answer is simple: they are both decedents of Abraham and their cousins, who intermarried, thus the same people. As in many business transactions, you have brokers, representatives and the transaction parties and sometimes as well, deceit. Reuben spared Joseph's life and was planning to rescue him; the other brothers wanted to kill him, and Judah thought he might as well make a profit and sell him as a slave. Joseph was sold to Midianite merchants who were in the area. Then, he was either brokered to the desired party, their distant cousins (perhaps for reason of shaming him further) to the Ishmaelites or the Midianite, or maybe Joseph went directly to Potiphar, the captain of the guard, themselves .
· Joseph exercises wisdom, character and so people around him needed his wisdom, and he rose in rank under Potiphar and later on Pharaoh.
Chap. 38, Tamar . Judah disobeyed God and his father by marrying a Canaanite women who would infect him and the family negatively and being discord and dysfunction to the home. Yet sin and temptation rose up, and the results, Judah lost two of his sons and his wife.
· Sin always brings tragedy, why God hates it and wants us to stay away from it. Flee sin as Joseph demonstrated in the next chapter.
· It was a cultural expectation then that the next oldest son marry and care for the widow of his older brother and even continue the family line through procreation. Judah was avoiding his responsibility, and Tamar--feeling betrayed and desperate--makes a poor choice to solve the problem and brings more misery.
· A staff and signet ring was like a signature and promise of the person. God's love and redemption is shown as Judah lineage is used to form our Redeemers family tree (Ruth 4:18-22; Psalm 1:1; Gen. 24:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Chaps. 39-41. Joseph flees sin and works his job as He is working for the Lord. Joseph is a model to all who labor and are tempted. If we realize the Lord is in control, it makes little matter who is the boss of us. God is with us when we wait, and He is with us when we work (Psalm 105:17-22).
· The jail Joseph goes to was for the Pharaoh's prisoners, so Potiphar must have known and protected Joseph; he had to act because of his position. Normally a slave, no matter what the position was, was killed heinously and forthwith.
· Dream . God used this as a communication device to show His purpose, control and give warnings and revelation that will come to pass. He usually does not do this today, because we have His Word and Holy Spirit now (Gen. 12:1-3; 25:22; 41:1-7).
· As Joseph waited for God to act, he was used, interpreted dreams, predicted events and thus gained favor and received abundant previsions and recognition. Even when times seem bleak and we wait in life's hallways, God is still at work in you. The key is to learn, grow, be humble; God works (Psalm 60:11; 146:3; 1 Pet. 5:6-10).
Chaps. 42-45. God takes Joseph's downfall from a curse to a blessing. He allows him to be wise and have favor, so people around him needed his wisdom, and he rose in rank under Pharaoh.
· Joseph, now second in command of all Egypt, is given his greatest test of character. Joseph confronts his brothers when they needed food to survive. Since the brothers do not recognize him, instead of invoking his revenge, he does not play games with their lives, but teaches them a lesson. Imagine their terror and surprise. As they bowed before them, his dream of his family as a child is fulfilled.
· Joseph's response to his brothers is the same as how God responds to our sin, He gives opportunity for our repentance and humbleness, teaches us a lesson and then reconciles and restores, protects and loves us through it (Rom. 3:19; 8:1; Col. 1:20; Heb. 10:19-25; James 4:8; 1 John 4:7).
· Benjamin was not complicit in the sins of his older brothers, so Joseph gave him extra favor.
Chaps. 46-50. The transition from Jacob to Joseph as Patriarch. A blessing is bestowed and warnings against sin are given. A warning how lust and anger will destroy and bring dysfunction to the family and the new nation and that the Lord was with them, so they can be better and proper and the promise to Abraham can continue.
· Instead of reprisal, vengeance after Jacob is too old then pass on to glory, Joseph once again acts with honor and bestows blessings and gifts to his bothers as they worried and connived. The lesson to trust and fear the Lord is a tough one for most people. We rely on ourselves and place God last and not first. Joseph placed God first and foremost, while his bothers (Psalm 34:11; Matt. 6:33).
· Reuben , who spared Joseph, proceeded in the cover up and negated his responsibility a the oldest, so his sin remained and he lost the blessing of leadership. But, his life is sparred and his family prospers by Joseph's leadership.
· Joseph's bones: why did he have himself embalmed like an Egyptian? He earned it as a leading ruler, there was no probation to it, and to remind his brothers and descendents about righteousness and forgiveness.
Joseph's key to success is the same as ours, to realize that you belong to God, that you are to know and serve Him, He is our purpose and our response is to live for Him and glorify Him. What we are not to do, what causes us to fail in life and relationships is to base our faith and response on how people treat us or expect them to give us power. Joseph was a man who lived the faith, regardless of circumstances. He was grateful, acted with integrity even at a cost, complemented others, forgave the seemingly unforgivable, acted responsible, made wise decisions, set reasonable goals and made honorable plans, lived with an attitude of Joy, even in adversity, helped others in need and helped them succeed.
In contrast Joseph's bothers felt entitled, felt they had to manipulate to get their way, criticized, held grudges, blamed other and refused to accept responsibility, conveyed anger and bitterness, helped others to fail, and did not have a heart for God and His goodness. Character is formed by our faith production in God's Word and to know that He is with us always. Joseph represents faith the continued hope of a nation and the Messiah Savior to come, now fulfilled in Christ (Gen. 39:2-23; 48:13-20; 50:24-25; Ex. 13:19; Rom. 13:14; 1 Cor. 10:13; Eph. 6:5-8; 2 Tim. 2:22).
God desires us to be His, to listen to Him, and to trust and obey Him. He gives a warning about bad attitudes and shortsightedness. Bad attitudes cause us to reject God's Truth and we lose out because we forfeit our growing faith and righteousness.
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Joseph was made to suffer unjustly. Then he went from suffering to glory as Jesus does for us by the cross and saves those who rejected Him. Joseph saves Egypt from famine including those who caused him suffering. We also see a father who loved his son and publicly states it, as God the Father loved Jesus (Matt. 3:17). We also see how those of ill character plotted against Joseph of great character as people did to our Lord (Mark 15:10; John 15:25).
Key Takeaway: God's prime purpose for His people is simple. He wants us to know and trust Him, then to be formed like His Son, to be Christ like. Joseph is a pre-Christian example of this happening. The building of faith can be agonizing, but its results are glorious and worth the journey. God tends to bless those whose heart is after His. He wants to see righteousness, character and the Fruit of the Spirit flow from us, not envy, hate and conniving bickering that only serves ones pride and the destruction of precious relationships. This only happen when we take adversity and still remain steadfast in our faith in Christ, as Joseph did (Luke 24:26; Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Pet. 5:10).
Questions to Ponder
1. How do you handle family blessings and drama? How do you handle being betrayed, especially from a trusted family member?
2. How does the life of Joseph teach us what is important in life and relationships?
3. How do these passages gives us a 'how to' on how Character is formed?
4. Several times the Bible says, the Lord gave him success in everything he (Joseph) did. How does this motive or challenge you?
5. How have you seen bad attitudes cause us to reject God's Truth? What do we forfeit because of this? What can we do to not lose our gratitude and hope in Christ regardless of circumstances?
6. Considering that the other Patriarchs had spectacular face to face encounters with God, they never developed the fortitude of faith and character that Joseph did who did not have these experiences. How does this help motivate your life, hurts, struggles, jubilations, when God does not 'seem' to respond to you?
7. Why do people who have no good character attack those who do?
8. How have you experienced that the building of faith can be agonizing? If this is true, as stated in Scripture, how can the results are glorious and worth the journey?
9. Judah quickly condemned Tamar, but what about his son that sinned? And his sin toward Joseph? How does this show ill character?
10. Joseph triumph was to learn, grow, be humble, and then God worked. How can you learn from this? Can you think of specific ways?
11. God is with us when we wait, He is with us when we work, how does this motivate your faith?
12. What key to success do you see in the life of Joseph that you can apply to your life?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org