Interesting Bible People: Joseph
The Favourite Son, Joseph
Joseph is one more of my interesting Bible people Joseph was the favourite son of Jacob being his favourite wife Rachel's son. It was many years of marriage before Rachel at last gave Jacob a son. . Joseph is second to youngest, his full brother Benjamin being the youngest. Unfortunately Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.
The photo is my own.
One Spoilt Son
Having a favourite son is something which happens today as much as in Joseph's time. Rachel was Jacob's favourite wife and when she finally had a child it was inevitable that Jacob should favour him, but surely it would have been better if he had not made his favouritism so blindlingly obvious. He gave him a very special coat which none of his other sons had been given.We can make this same mistake. It is amazing how those interesting Bible people are just like us and make the same mistakes. Because of this we can learn from them. Human nature has not changed over all those years.
The Tensions of Multiple Marriage
Jacob had two wives and each wife had a maid. Leah, the less favoured wife had Zilpah as a maid. Leah gave birth to Reuben the firstborn and then Simeon and then Levi, she hoped that giving Jacob these sons would make him love her, but it did not. Then she had Judah who is very important as from him came the kingly line of David and later Jesus. Rachel at this time could not conceive and was desperately jealous of her sister. Rachel's maid was called Bilhah and she told Jacob to sleep with her and so have children from a surrogate mother.(How up-to-date the Bible is.) Bilhah had a son and Rachel named him Dan. Bilhah's second son was called Naphtali. Leah had stopped having babies and thought it would be a good idea to take a leaf out of Rachel's book so she told Jacob to sleep with Zilpah. She had Gad and Asher. Then Leah had a fifth son in her own right and named him Issachar. Next came Zebulun. The Bible also mentions a daughter named Dinah, but undoubtedly there were other daughters. Then the Bible says "God remembered Rachel" and she had a son, Joseph. These births all happened in Haran while Jacob was working for his uncle Laban who was the father of Leah and Rachel.Rachel had one more son Benjamin but died in child birth. Jacob favoured her sons still more now that she had gone.
Still More Jealousy
Jacob very unwisely made it evident that he favoured Joseph above all his other sons. To mark this he gave Joseph a special coat richly ornamented.
Joseph was one time looking after the sheep with his half brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. He came back to his father and reported bad things about them. At this time he certainly didn't know how to win friends and influence people.
Joseph had interesting dreams, but was unwise in that he told his brothers about them. He dreamt that they all had a sheaf of corn standing in the field and his brothers twelve sheaves all bowed down to his. He then dreamt that the sun moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him. He very crassly told this to his brothers. They were furious and thought he was expecting them to bow down to him. We must remember that Joseph was only seventeen at this time and not worldly wise. No doubt Rachel had been over protective of him as her only child for some time.
When Joseph told the second dream his father rebuked him for suggesting that Joseph's mother and father ( the sun and the moon) would also bow down to him. However Jacob became thoughtful about these dreams. Dreams were considered important and may be there was something behind these dreams of Joseph. One thing was certain, his brothers resented him because he was the favourite. The sight of his ornamented coat must have brought the worst out in them.
Hatred Boils Over Towards Joseph
One day the brothers had been sent off with the flocks to Shechem. After a while Jacob sent Joseph off to find out how they were doing. Joseph arrived at Shechem but his brothers were not there. A man found him wandering about and told him his brothers had gone to Dothan. He set out to find them. The brothers saw him coming in the distance. No doubt that glamourous coat made him easily recognisable.They were filled with jealousy, hatred and rage.
They talked about killing him and being rid of this supercilious monster. This dreamer who had dreams above his station. Reuben the eldest was against this plan and told them to put him in a pit. He intended to get him safely back to his father. When Joseph arrived they took off his ornamented cloak and put him in a pit, probably a well but it had no water in it at this time. They sat down for a meal and Reuben wandered off to do something else.
Meantime a caravan of Ishmaelites appeared with their camels, with spices, balm and myrrh, going down to Egypt. Judah had a bright idea, they could sell Joseph as a slave and so make a profit on him. Judah said that after all he was their brother and they shouldn't kill him. They sold him for twenty pieces of silver and he was taken to Egypt.
Reuben came back and was distressed to find Joseph gone, but he joined his brothers in the cover-up plan. They took the famous coat, killed a kid and dipped the coat in the blood and brought it to their father, saying they had found it like that. Jacob was distraught and no matter what they did he would not be comforted.
Life in Egypt for Joseph
The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and he was bought by Potiphar a high official of Pharoah. We read in our Bibles that the Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man. this seems a strange way to describe a slave but Potiphar recognised Joseph's God given abilities and how things went right when he was around and so he put him in charge of his house and entrusted him with everything. So the spoilt boy learned to grow up and make the best of a bad situation. Potiphar received God's blessing because Joseph was in his household. so Joseph had landed on his feet. Then trouble struck again. Potiphar's wife toof a fancy to Joseph. She asked him to sleep with her. Joseph was horrified. He had been put in a position of trust by Potiphar and refused her. He recognised that if he did this sin he would be sinning against God. Potiphar's wife did not give up, day after day she asked Joseph to lie with her.. One day Joseph went into the house and there was no one there but Potiphar's wife. She grabbed hold of his cloak and demanded that he lie with her. She would not let go so in desperation Joseph pulled himself away leaving his cloak in her hands and ran away from the house.
Joseph in Prison
Potiphar's wife wasn't going to leave it at that. She called her servants and said Joseph had come to seduce her and here was his coat to proove it. She told the same story to Potiphar when he came home. Potiphar was furious and had Joseph put in jail. It was the prison where the servants of Pharoah were sent when they did wrong. But the Bible tells us God was still with Joseph. The head jailor saw the potential in Joseph and soon he was in charge of all the other prisoners and ended up managing everything for the jailor. Whatever Joseph did God made sure it turned out for the best.
Joseph the Dreamer Finds He Knows How to Interpret Dreams
After a while there were two newcomers to the prison. They were the king's cup bearer and his baker. They had both displeased Pharoah and he had had them thrown into prison. There was a morning when Joseph found these two perplexed. They had each had a dream the night before and felt it was important, but they said they didn't know anyone who could tell them what the dreams meant. Joseph said that he believed God knew the meaning of dreams. He asked them to tell him what the dreams were. First the cupbearer said he had been tending a vine which had three branches and there was a lovely cluster of grapes which he squeezed into the pharoah's cup and gave the cup to pharoah. joseph told him that the three branches signified three days and that in three days time pharoah would retore the cupbearer to his old position. Joseph expressly asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was released and tell pharoah about him and that he had done nothing to deserve being put in jail.
The baker was cheered to hear this meaning for the dream and asked Joseph to tell him what his meant. He told him he had dreamt that he had three baskets on his head with breads and pastries in them and that the birds were landing on them and eating the bread. Joseph had bad news for the baker, he said in three days pharoah would take him from the prison and would kill him.
And so it happened, three days later pharoah restored the cupbearerr to his position and had the baker killed. The ungrateful cupbearer forgot all about Joseph and said not a word about him to pharoah.
Release at last for Joseph
Joseph languished in prison for two more years. Then one night pharoah had a dream. In the morning he was so upset by his two dreams. He sent for all his wise men and they could not tell him what it meant. Suddenly Joseph flashed through the cupbearer's mind and he told pharoah of the interpreter of dreams he had met in prison. He told how Joseph had accurately said what his dream and that of the baker had meant. Pharoah immediately sent for Joseph. He had to cut his hair and put on clean clothes.Pharoah said,"I hear you can tell the meaning of dreams."Joseph replied it was not him but God who would put pharoah's mind at peace.
Then pharoah told Joseph how in his dream he had been standing beside the river Nile. Seven fat healthy cattle had come up out of the Nile. They were followed by seven cows that were all skin and bone. Then the skinny cows ate the healthy ones and were still just as skinny as they were before. Then pharoah had woken up.
He went back to sleep and had a second dream. He saw seven ears of wheat growing fat and lush out of one stalk and then after them seven thin shrunken ears dried by the east wind. Then the weedy ears ate up the healthy ones. Pharoah explained he had told all this to his wise men but they couldn't tell him what they meant.
Joseph said to pharoah that God was giving a message and that the two dreams were the same, and that God was telling pharoah what he was going to do. He said that seven years of plentiful harvest were coming to Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. The fact that the dream came twice emphasised that God intended this to happen. Joseph then advised pharoah to look for a wise and experienced man to be put in charge of the country to organise the storing of grain during the good years to supply food for the years of famine.
Pharoah thought this was an excellent plan. He also declared that as Joseph was so close to God, that he knew the meaning of dreams, he was the best man for the job of organising the storing of the grain. He put Joseph in charge of the whole of Egypt. He put his own signet ring on Joseph's hand. Joseph was given the best of clothes and had a gold chain around his neck. What a change in Joseph's fortunes. Pharoah gave Joseph an Egyptian name Zaphenath-Paneah which means God speaks and he lives.He also gave him a wife called Asenath. Joseph was now thirty years old. He had spent a long time in prison. Joseph at once set about the work of organising store houses for grain.
Joseph Deals with Bumper Crops
During the next seven years, sure enough there were bumper crops. Joseph organised the stockpiling of food for the future. During this time Joseph and Asenath had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Then the years of famine came. all the countries around were experiencing famine, but Egypt had plenty. The people around heard that there was bread in Egypt and came to buy. Jacob too was experiencing the famine. He heard about the bread in Egypt and sent his sons to buy some.
All the brothers except Benjamin went down to Egypt to buy grain.When the brothers arrived they were taken to Joseph but they had no idea it was him. He would have aged and the Egyptian clothes probably made him appear very different. In any case why should they think he would be in such a position when they had sold him as a slave.
The dream Comes True
The brothers bow to Joseph
A Dream of Joseph's Comes True
Joseph recognised his brothers immediately when they came in and bowed to them, but he did not let on who he was. He spoke to them brusquely. He asked them where they came from. Joseph remembered his long ago dream. He accused the brothers of being spies come to find the weakspots of Egypt. They said, no, they were twelve brothers, one at home with his father and one was dead. Joseph said he didn't believe tham and that one of them would have to fetch the other brother while the rest stayed in jail. then he put them in jail for three days. After that time he said they could go to fetch their brother but one must stay behind as a hostage. the brothers talked among themselves and agreed they were being punished for murdering Joseph, as they thought.
All this time Joseph had been using an interpreter and had not spoken to the brothers in their own language. When Joseph heard them speak of him he turned aside and cried. When he had charge of his emotions again he chose Simeon as thebrother to stay behind. Joseph gave orders for the brothers' sacks to be filled with grain and their money to be put in the sacks too.
The brothers set off home, minus Simeon. When they stopped for the night one opened his sack to get food for his donkey and discovered the money. They were puzzled and frightened and said, "What is God doing to us?"
The Second Visit to Joseph
The brothers came back to Jacob and told him all that had happened and how Sineon had had to stay behind and now the ruler of the country wanted them to bring Benjamin before he would see them again. jacob was distraught. He had lost Joseph and Simeon and now they wanted to take Benjamin, his one link with Rachel. Reuben said he would look after Benjamin and Jacob could have Reuben's two sons as a pledge. Jacob would not listen. He would not part with Benjamin.
But the famine got worse and eventually Jacob had to give in. Judah said he would take full responsibility for Benjamin's safety. Jacoh told them to take some good gifts and double the money for the ruler of Egypt. Off they set. When Joseph heard they had arrived he ordered his servants to prepare a meal for them and him. the brothers were worrying about the money that had been returned into all their sacks. They told a steward about the money, but he told them not to worry, That everything was in order he had received full payment for the grain. They went in to have dinner with Joseph and their donkeys were looked after. They spread out all their gifts for Joseph. Simeon joined them.
Joseph's Life Turns Out Well at Last
Joseph came to dinner . The brothers presented him with their gifts and bowed to him. Joseph welcomed them and asked if their elderly father was still alive. They said that he was and bowed again. He pointed to Benjamin and asked if this was their youngest brother. He blessed him in the name of God. Joseph's emotions got the better of him, on seeing his young full brother and he had to leave the room to weep. He recovered his composure and returned to eat with them. Joseph ate at his table separately, the brothers on another table and the rest of the Egyptians present at another table as Egyptians do not like to eat with Hebrews as the brothers were. When the food was served Benjamin was given more than anyone else.
When the men were ready to leave Joseph ordered his steward to put the money for the grain back in the sacks including in Benjamin's and also to put a silver chalice in Benjamin's sack. At daybreak the brothers were sent off with their donkeys. When they had hardly left the city Joseph sent his steward after them. When he caught them he was to say,"Why have you stolen my master's silver chalice which is special to him?" He did this. The men replied that they had done no such thing and said that if the steward found it on anyone that man would die and the rest become Joseph's slaves. The steward said there was no need to be that extreme but the one who had the cup would become his slave, the rest would go free. They all opened their bags, starting with the oldest. The tension must have mounted as the steward got nearer and nearer to Benjamin. And that is where the chalice was found, in benjamin's sack. The brothers were in despair and tore their clothes in anguish as people used to do in those days. They went back to Joseph. Joseph demanded to know why they had stolen his chalice.
Judah spoke up and said that they had no way of proving their innocence and he thought God was exposing what bad people they were. He said they were ready to be his slaves. Joseph said that he didn't require that but just to keep the guilty one while they went back to their father. Judah explained in pitiful terms how their father would die of grief if they did not take Benjamin home, as he had already lost Benjamin's brother. Judah said he would stay as a slave in Benjamin's place. What a turnaround in Judah's attitude.
Joseph could contain himself no longer. He ordered his attendants to leave the room. No one else was there when he revealed to the brothers who he was, but he cried so loudly that the attendants outside could hear him. Joseph told his brothers who he was and they were speechless and amazed. He told them not to feel badly about selling him into slavery or blame themselves.He said that it was all planned to happen by God so that he could provide the food which they were now eating and deliver them from famine. He told them to hurry back to his father and tell him that Joseph was alive and Prime Minister of Egypt. also to tell Jacob to come as fast as he could and live in a part of Egypt, called Goshen and Joseph would take care of all of them. They all had a big hugging and crying session then. Pharoah approved of the plan to get Jacob and all the families settled in the land. Pharoah privided wagons and food for the journey. The wagons were for the old and the little children. joseph told his brothers not to quarrel on the journey.
Jacob went into shock when he was told Joseph was still alive and a great man in Egypt. But when he saw the wagons that had been sent he could see it was true and began to recover. He said," I must see him before I die. They set off for Egypt. When they got to Beersheba Jacob stopped to worship God and to sacrifice to him. God reassured him that he should go to Egypt and told him he would see Joseoph before he died. The whole family came to Egypt, to Goshen and when he had heard they had arrived Joseph went to see his father. Jacob said that having seen Joseph he could die happy. Joseph took good care of his family.
The famine got more and more severe. First the people sold their livestock to Joseph for food and then the next year themselves as slaves. All the land was sold to pharoah too. But when things got better Joseph gave the people seed to sow. They were to give a fifth of their harvest to pharoah and keep the rest for themselves. Jacob lived seventeen years more.
So Israel had settled in Egypt, one day I will tell you how they got out again and back to the Promised Land.
Could you have forgiven your brothers if you had been Joseph?
The time came for Jacob to die. He blessed his sons. This is the blessing he gave Joseph. "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb. Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brethren."
He made Joseph promise that he would take his body back to Canaan and bury it in the cave in the field of Machpelah where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah had been buried. Joseph promised to do this. When Jacob died Joseph had Jacob's body embalmed after the traditions of the Egyptians. He then asked pharaoh if he could take his father's body back to Canaan. Pharoah approved and in fact many Egyptians also accompanied the courtege. It must have been an imposing sight as it travelled across the land. The local inhabitants decided it was a great mourning of the Egyptians and named the area according to that Abel Mizraim. After the funeral Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt. The brothers were worried that Joseph with his high position in Egypt would now wreak revenge on them for the bad way they had treated him all those years ago. They hatched a plan and told Joseph that Jacob had asked him not to take vengeance on them. Joseph wept. Surely his brothers knew he had forgiven them or he would have had vengeance already. He explained to them how he saw things. They had intended to do him great harm, but God was using it to bring about deliverance for his family when famine came, and deliverance for many other people too. The brothers settled in the land of Goshen and all continued well for many years. One day after Joseph had died a new pharaoh came to the throne and he knew nothing about Joseph. This made for trouble for the Children of Israel, but that's another story.
Thinking Time For Joseph
I wonder what Joseph thought as his life changed dramatically so many times. What was he thinking as he trudged the miles to Egypt., shackled by the Midianite merchants to other slaves. Suddenly his position in life as the favourite son of a wealthy sheep owner had changed to that of a slave going where he did not wish to go. He had been brought up to believe in God who had a purpose for his family and him as well. Didn't it all seem to be going wrong just now? And yet after arrival in Egypt things gradually picked up, he found a sympathetic owner who saw potential in him and put him in charge of all his affairs. Yes, Joseph could see God's hand in this, he had useful work and his owner relied on him. Next came another bombshell, he was accused of attempted rape of his master's wife. This trumped up charge landed him in prison, but could easily have meant his death.In prison Joseph again had time to think. He must have pondered long on God's purpose in this. Soon he found himself in charge of the other prisoners and in charge of their food rations. Everything Joseph did prospered even in the most difficult circumstances. Then when the butler was re-instated by Pharoah and Joseph asked him to put in a word for him, Joseph must have hoped for release from prison, but no, he had to wait a further two years.
When he was finally released and in a whirlwind raised to the position in the land of second only to Pharoah, he must have felt quite dazed at yet another turnaround in his fortune, or as he was to realise, the providence of God which had brought this about. His life had been lived on a switchback and yet he adjusted to each new event and continued to thrive. He surely knew what was meant by the saying, "If it doesn't kill you ,it makes you stronger." By this time Joseph was indeed a very strong man and able to all but rule Egypt. He went on to see his whole family rescued from famine because God had given him the wisdom to store up food in the years of plenty. His philosophy of life is summed up in his words to his brothers, "You meant me ill, but God intended it for good and the saving of many." Joseph had learned that whatever happened to him, whether it appeared to be good or bad, God had a purpose in it. Can you trust God like that?