Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 39-41).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac and not Ishmael, and through Isaac’s son Jacob and not Esau. Jacob disguised himself as Esau, so that Isaac gave Jacob the Abrahamic blessing (Gen.12:1-3). Esau planned to kill Jacob, so Jacob went to live with his Uncle Laban and eventually married Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob had twelve sons through Leah, Rachel and their maidservants. Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, gave birth to Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, and later Rachel died while giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin (35:18-19).   These twelve sons of Jacob became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.  

Now Jacob loved his son Joseph more than his other sons and so his brothers hated Joseph. Joseph told his brothers two dreams that he had and his brothers took to mean that Joseph planned to rule over them. This caused his brother’s to hate Joseph all the more. Given the opportunity Joseph’s brother sold Joseph to some Ishmaelite traders who took Joseph to Egypt where Joseph became a slave. The brothers smeared blood on the special robe that Jacob had given Joseph to make their father think that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal (37:31-33). This takes us to the story of Joseph in Egypt from Genesis 39-41. Watch or listen to the story and read the comments below.
In this story Joseph resists temptation but ends up in prison. Yet, God was with Joseph in prison and everything he did succeeded (39:3, 23). Then after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams the Pharaoh made Joseph his second-in-command in Egypt. Joseph implements a plan that preserved both Egypt and his own family. This story begins with Potiphar not needing to concern himself with anything in his house with Joseph in charge or so he thought (39:6). Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph and tries to seduce him but Joseph refuses to sin against God. Once when Joseph was alone in their house Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s cloak but Joseph ran out leaving his cloak behind. Potiphar’s wife claimed that Joseph attacked her but that he fled when she screamed.  So Potiphar put Joseph in the prison where the king’s prisoners were kept.

Joseph resisted temptation but was falsely accused and thrown in prison. Yet, the Lord was with Joseph and the prison warden put Joseph in charge of everything in the prison (39:20-21). One night Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker, who were in prison with Joseph, both had dreams which they couldn’t interpret. Joseph said that interpretations belong to God so they told Joseph their dreams. The cup-bearer saw a vine with three branches that blossomed, its grapes ripened and he squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup. The baker dreamed that he was carrying three baskets on his head and the top basket was full of baked goods that the birds were eating. Joseph said in three days Pharaoh would restore the cup-bearer but hang the baker and that is exactly what happened (40:20-23).

The cup-bearer forgot about Joseph until two years later when Pharaoh had two dreams. In the first dream Pharaoh saw seven fat healthy cows come out of the Nile then seven thin ugly cows came out of the Nile and ate the fat cows. In the second dream, Pharaoh saw seven healthy heads of grain then seven withered heads of grain sprouted and swallowed the seven healthy heads. Pharaoh’s wise men were unable to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. The cup-bearer told Pharaoh about the Hebrew prisoner, Joseph, who had accurately interpreted his dream. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph and Joseph said that God would interpret Pharaoh’s dream (41:9-16). Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams and Joseph said that there would be seven years of abundant harvests followed by seven years of famine. So Joseph told Pharaoh to store a fifth of the harvest from the abundant years and to put a wise man in charge of Egypt. Pharaoh put a robe on Joseph, gave him a ring, a gold chain and Joseph was made second-in-command in Egypt (41:37-43).

At the age of 30, after 13 years as an Egyptian slave and a prisoner, Joseph became Pharaoh’s second-in-command. The seven years of abundance came and Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain. When the famine came the people cried to Pharaoh for food and the entire world came to Joseph to buy grain (41:46-57). So God was with Joseph and blessed him even when Joseph was a slave and a prisoner and eventually Joseph was exalted to a position of authority in Egypt. All along God was working behind the scenes in Joseph’s life to preserve Israel and bless the world. Even today God is with those who trust in him, and He works out everything in our lives for our good (Romans 8:28). We cannot assume that God will turn our adverse circumstances around in the same fashion as Joseph’s were. However, this story encourages us that God works even through the difficult times in our lives for our good. God promises to work out everything in our lives according to His plan to restore this world and redeem a people for Himself (Romans 8:19-21, 28, Acts 3:21).

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