Man of Dreams
Joseph in his Father's House
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:1-4)
Q : Why did Jacob prefer Joseph above his brothers?
Perhaps Jacob copied his father Isaac, who wanted to give the blessing to his preferred son, Esau.
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us?” And they hated him all the more. Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers, "... this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him. (Genesis 37:5-10)
Q : What were the feelings of Joseph's brothers when they saw that Joseph was favoured?
They had increasing anger in their hearts towards their brother Joseph.
Joseph Sold by his Brothers
Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. They said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him." Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites." And they sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornamented robe back to their father. Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.” So his father wept for him. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. (Genesis 37:12-36)
Q : Did Jacob know that Joseph had been sold by his brothers in retaliation?
If he had known, he wouldn't have lost his sight from his weeping over Joseph, thinking that he had been killed by a wild animal.
Joseph in the Great Land of Egypt
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him. God was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that God was with him and that God gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, God blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of God was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome. (Genesis 39:1-6)
Q : What do you think was in the minds of Joseph's brothers when they saw the mourning of their father over the loss of his favoured son?
They must have had mixed feelings of guilt and satisfaction.
Joseph in Prison
And after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. God was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because God was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (Genesis 39:7-23)
Q : How do people today repeat the actions of Joseph's brothers?
Many people today plot against others in order to gain what they think is good for themselves.
Pharaoh and his Dreams
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged." (Genesis 41:1-13)
Q : What do you think of dreams and getting too involved in interpreting them?
Dreams can sometimes be a let-out for our inner thoughts, with our fears and ambitions. So they shouldn't side-track us from our daily tasks.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dream
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them, and the famine will ravage the land. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon." The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” And he gave him Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. (Genesis 41:14-49)
Q : What do we learn from Joseph's advice to Pharaoh to store the grain for the coming years of famine?
We learn the importance of saving from our food (or money) for the future of our children and the years of our old age. But that shouldn't contradict with our trust in God's provision for us.
The Surprise of the First Meeting
And the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob said to his sons, “Go down there and buy some for us." So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. He recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He said to them, “You are spies!" "No, my lord,” they answered. "Your servants are honest men. Your servants were twelve brothers. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” Joseph said to them, “I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes. Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack. And they left. At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. Their hearts sank. When they came to their father Jacob, they told him all that had happened to them. As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Go back and buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’” Then their father Israel said to them, “Take some of the best products down to the man as a gift. Take your brother, so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you." (Genesis 41:54 -43:14)
Q : What do you think of a man who cries, as Joseph did when he met his brothers in Egypt?
The healthiness, and social and spiritual benefits of crying should make us willing to use our emotions to gain balance in our life.
The Second Meeting
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon.” Now the men were frightened. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.” Then Joseph said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?” As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. After he had washed his face, he came out, and controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from? This is a wicked thing you have done.'" He caught up with them, and repeated these words. Joseph's brothers answered, "If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city. (Genesis 43:16 - 44:13)
The Third Meeting
Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in. Then Judah went up to him and said, “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly. But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Now hurry back to my father. And bring him down here quickly.” Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin. Hearing the news Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." (Genesis 44:14 - 45:28)
Meeting with the Father
Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive." When Israel breathed his last, Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 46:29,30; 49:33, 50:2-21)
Q : What do we learn from God allowing his prophets to suffer, as He allowed Joseph to suffer?
We learn that God can bring good out of difficult situations, so that when we go through difficult times, He can use them for the benefit of people and for our maturity.
There was a chance for Joseph to take revenge on his brothers, but he preferred to forgive them, and the family of Joseph was able to live in happiness and peace because of his position in Egypt. And they remained there about 430 years, in which time their number increased to six hundred thousand.