The Life of Joseph

Today’s world seems to be filled with the latest and greatest wonders built by scientists and engineers. So why would we care about an ancient text thousands of years old? Despite our modern technology at a fundamental level man is the same. We are creatures that get jealous, that get angry, have a desire to be loved, and are led by greed. This fundamental nature is exemplified in the story of Joseph.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, had two wives: Rachel and Leah. He loved Rachel very much and did not love Leah, despite the fact that Leah bore him most of his sons. Joseph, being the firstborn of Rachel, was his father’s favorite. In fact he made Joseph a special tunic of many colors. It was such a grand gift that this aroused the jealousy of his other eleven brothers. In fact Genesis 37:4 says “[They] came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.”


Soon though Joseph dreamed that he and his brothers appeared to be serving him. With the existing tensions this vision pushed the other eleven to the edge. They took his tunic, tore it and dipped it in the blood of a goat. They proceeded to throw Joseph down a well and sold him to the Egyptians for twenty shekels of silver or around $135 in today’s currency.


Despite the fact that Joseph was wronged, from experience, I can tell you that the favored child is not typically humble about it. I think God used this experience to help shape his character and to become a better man.


When the Egyptians took Jacob as a slave a man named Potiphar took him in. Potiphar was a powerful man and the captain of Pharaoh’s (most likely Senusret II) guard. Potiphar’s wife soon made sexual advances towards Joseph, and when he rebuffed her, she had him thrown into prison after framing him. But all was not lost.


In prison Joseph met two men, a baker and a cupbearer, who fell under the Pharaoh. Each had a vision and Joseph correctly interpreted both visions. The baker was hanged and the cupbearer was restored to his position. For two more years Joseph sat in the Egyptian prison, until one day Pharaoh had a vision. No one but Joseph could interpret the meaning of the vision that Egypt would have seven years of plentiful harvest and seven years of famine.


Because Pharaoh saw the wisdom that Joseph possessed and the fact that God had shown his favor on Joseph, he appointed him as ruler over all of Egypt, just under himself. It’s hard to fathom really. The leap in his status is quite remarkable. Remember that Egypt was a monarchy, so his equivalent political rank would outrank that of the President. Joseph immediately set to work by storing grain in the seven years of plenty.


Soon the seven years of plenty were over and then began the seven years of famine. All in Egypt and those beyond suffered greatly. However, stored grain and produce provided rations for all the people in Egypt and beyond. Very soon, the other eleven brothers trekked to Egypt to get rations for their family. Upon getting sight of Joseph, they did not even recognize him! He was presumed to be dead by his brothers because they had not seen him in ten years. Joseph having recognized them did not make himself known to his brothers until his second meeting with his brothers in which he gives them all a scare by framing them as thieves and then revealing himself to them and forgiving them.


The most remarkable aspect of this ending is the fact that Joseph is reconciled with his brothers. Joseph at this point was in second command of all of Egypt and his word was law. If he so desired, he could have put his whole family to death. Despite the fact that they wronged him, he did not repay evil with evil. Rather he repaid evil with great kindness by giving his brother’s a home.


The Old Testament is famous for the saying ‘An eye for an eye,’ yet clearly this story hints at what God really desires for us and the new message that Christ came to bring us, the message of forgiveness and hope. If there is one basket you can place all your eggs in, it’s God’s basket. As John 10:28 says, “No one can snatch them from my hand.”

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