Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
We come to the end of the message of Genesis. Perhaps we will come back later to fill in some of the gaps. Here we find an explanation of how God used a particularly difficult time in a young man’s life. We see the misunderstanding on the part of Joseph’s brothers. Too often God’s actions are misinterpreted because of our humanity. Here, the brothers of Joseph came to ask him for what he had already given. Let’s look at the unfolding drama.
Joseph was the son of Jacob’s wife, Rachel. He had worked for the right to marry her for a total of 14 years. Jacob loved her so much and without any doubt Joseph was his favorite son. His father, Jacob, even provided him with a coat of many colors that made his brothers very jealous.
Joseph certainly got special treatment and, as if that wasn’t enough, he had two dreams each of them portraying Joseph being in authority over his brothers and also over his father. That was unheard of in his day. In normal society the older generation would never bow down to the younger.
So we can understand why,,,
Joseph’s brothers meant him harm. Let’s look at Genesis 37:18-20. They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
Jacob sent Joseph to look for his brothers who were moving his sheep around to get the best grass. The brothers were not were Joseph expected them to be and he asked directions from a man he met.
After asking for directions Joseph set out for Dothan. When the brothers saw him coming they immediately began to scheme against him. The first decision was to kill him and throw him into a pit nearby. They could easily take his fancy coat dip it in blood and tell their father that some animal had killed him.
When Reuben heard their discussion he turned the situation around. Since Reuben was the oldest. He had some authority over the others. He had to think of a way to stop them and get them out of trouble. When Joseph went back to his father all of the other brothers were going to be in big trouble!
While Reuben was away from camp…
God rescued him. Let’s read on Genesis 37:26-28. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
The conspirators saw a camel train coming down out of the hill country on their way to Egypt to sell all kinds of goods. Normally when we think of God rescuing someone we don’t think of him doing that by selling the person into slavery! When the brothers saw the opportunity to get rid of Joseph without having to kill him. They also saw the opportunity to make a little money. When Reuben came back he discovered the teenaged Joseph was gone. He believed he had no choice now he must agree with the actions of his brothers.
Some of the brothers, led by Judah, certainly had meant to bring harm to Joseph. God allowed this because it provided transportation to Egypt! Now I admit this is not the kind of transportation we would have expected. Not only did Joseph need to be in Egypt he also needed to be in a certain position when the time came to act on God’s behalf. There is no way we can imagine that Joseph would have left his father's home and traveled to Egypt to become the Prime Minister. Joseph needed a lot of preparation. Some people talk about their having been in the “school of hard knocks”. Joseph certainly was enrolled in such a school. God rescued Joseph from the hands of his brothers and gave him transportation to Egypt. Then…
God gave Joseph a place to stay. Let’s read Genesis 39:1-2. Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.
Slaves could not choose where they would live nor could they choose the conditions under which they would live. Joseph could have easily been sold into hard labor. That is probably what his brothers assumed would happen and probably even hoped would happen. Instead Joseph was brought into the house of one of the wealthiest and powerful men in Egypt. Very soon this godly young man was raised up into the position of head housekeeper! In that position he was in a much higher position than in his own father’s house. When Joseph had learned as much as God wanted him to. He was confronted by a problem that he could not solve. His master’s wife began to try to seduce him. Being a godly man he would not commit such a great sin against God. One day she moved on him when they were alone in the house and Joseph ran leaving behind his coat. Immediately she called in the other servants and charged Joseph with attempted rape.
I’m convinced that Potiphar did not believe her. However he couldn’t keep Joseph in his service any longer. So he placed him in prison. Actually since Joseph was his property he could’ve sold him into hard labor or even have taken his life. God had a plan that included Joseph telling his brothers about his dreams, being sold by his brothers into slavery, and being brought to Egypt and parked in Potiphar’s house. Now…
God moved him at the right time. Let’s read on Genesis 39:21-22. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.
No matter where we are, if we are godly people, God will always show steadfast love for us. The king’s prison was probably a step down from being the head housekeeper for Potiphar. No matter where Joseph was he did all things to the glory of God. The Lord was with Joseph! For those who think that serving God is always going to be a piece of cake. Isaac Watts put it this way in the hymn, Am I a Soldier Of the Cross? Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? While others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas? Sure I must fight, if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord! I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy word.
The keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge. And soon he found himself being joined by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker. These two men had strange dreams one night. The cupbearer dreamed of three branches on a vine covered with clusters of grapes. He gathered some of the grapes and squeezed them into the cup that he gave to the king. Joseph told him that in three days he would be put back into his position.
Since the cupbearer got a good interpretation the baker told his dream. He had seen three baskets on his head and the top was filled with all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh. And while he was dreaming birds came and ate the baked food. Joseph gave him the interpretation of the dream. In three days he will be taken from the prison and the king would have him executed.
Joseph then asked the cupbearer to remember him when he came into the king’s court again. The cupbearer promised but promptly forgot about Joseph. Now we might think that was a bad thing but it certainly was not. Not only had God rescued Joseph from his brothers, and gave him free transportation to Egypt. God had placed him in the household of Potiphar and then moved him to being the chief trustee of the prison. All of these moves were necessary they were from God, two years passed, and now at the right time…
Joseph was in the right place. Now let’s read Genesis 41:15-16. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
Joseph was moved from the prison to the throne room. He listened to Pharaoh’s dreams and gave him the interpretation. Both dreams represent the same thing. In the first dream seven attractive, plump cows came up out of the Nile River and began to graze. Behind them came seven skinny cows who promptly ate up the fat cows. In the second dream there were seven ears of grain plump and good growing on one stalk. After they were formed seven thin blighted ears appeared and swallowed up the seven plump ears.
The interpretation was that there would be seven prosperous years coming up followed immediately by seven years of drought and famine. Then Joseph said that Pharaoh should appoint someone who would supervise the gathering of all the excess food during the fat years in order to feed the people during the lean years. For this purpose…
God brought Joseph to the throne. Let’s read on Genesis 41:38-40. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”
Immediately, Pharaoh knew how to deal with the situation. Pharaoh appointed the Hebrew slave to be the prime minister of Egypt. During the seven fat years Joseph bought up all the excess produce of the land. Joseph was no longer a teenager. He was 30 years old when he entered into the King’s service. As the years of famine came on them Jacob sent his sons to Egypt because he had heard there was grain to be had there. Time will not permit all of the story I would encourage you to read it for yourself. Joseph put his brothers through a series of tests and then sent them to Canaan to get his father and the rest of the family.
God brought about all of these things…
In order to bring Israel to Egypt. Let’s read ahead to Genesis 45:27-28. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Many years before, God had told Abram that his offspring would own the land of Canaan but first they would be taken to a land they did not own and they would live there for 400 years. Joseph settled them in the best of Egypt! A land so rich it would have been hard to convince them that should return to the Canaan that their ancestors had left 400 years before. In order to make the people of Israel willing to leave Egypt it was necessary for them to be unhappy there. Many years before this time God told Abram that they would be afflicted in that place…
So he could prepare them to return to Canaan. Now let’s move to Exodus 1:8-10. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
This new king placed the people of Israel into slavery. We don’t know how long this lasted. It was a short enough period of time that they remembered the good times in Egypt. It was a long enough period of time that they no longer wanted to be in Egypt. When we find ourselves confronting difficulties we need to remember that God has a plan that involves those difficulties in our lives. Our difficulties will lead us in paths we would then choose for ourselves. They are designed by God to lead us where he wants us to be in order to do in us what we really want done.
Throughout this whole story we can see the unseen hand of God guiding in unusual ways. That should not seem strange to us because our “unusual” is often really God’s “usual”! When we’re going through difficult times we need to remember that God is still there overseeing our situation. We need to know that even when men around us mean to do us harm our God is there to do us good. The story of Joseph tells us that God can use the worst possible conditions to accomplish his purpose for his people. Never assume that God is taken by surprise when things do not go well for us. Not only does he know what’s happening he controls what’s happening. Cast your cares on God because he cares for you.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.