This week we will finish out the book of Genesis which has been packed full of people with a past, a people who struggled through difficult situations, a people who were by far not perfect. Genesis can be a very challenging book, especially for non-believers. We can give them a pass on their non-belief because they have not signed on to this. But as believers we hear from Jesus who spoke of Adam and Eve as real people in history. Jesus died and rose again, so anything that he says, I am on board with. On with the study…

We start the story off with another group of people that are flawed beyond imagination. Generation after generation you would think people would change based upon events of the past. But…nothing changes.

Read Genesis 37:2-5

What do we learn about Jacob (Israel), in these short passages? He has not learned anything. His battle with his brother, Esau, was started because his mother favored him over Esau. That situation we studied last week and we know that it was a bad situation all around. God was still able to redeem the bad and make good come from it. Jacob came before his brother Esau and was humbled. These life circumstances still taught him nothing against favoritism. Jacob loved Joseph and Benjamin more than his other sons because they came from his favorite wife (again extending from the problems with the multiple wives situation).

Have you ever been the favored one in a relationship? Have you ever been on the other side of that having to see someone else get favored? What did it feel like? Keep those in mind as we move forward with the story.

Read Genesis 37:12-36

Joseph’s brothers know exactly how to deal with the problem, “Kill our brother!!” Why? Because Dad sent him out to see how they were doing? Nope. There’s more to the story.

Joseph was Jacob’s youngest at this time, and his very, very favorite son. The other sons were not only older, but Joseph had been born of Jacob’s favorite beloved wife.

The dysfunctional family problem became obvious by Jacob’s words and actions. He gave Joseph a beautiful cloak to wear, demonstrating his affection. Apparently none of the other sons had received such gifts. Israel obviously was not an observant father when it came to his other, hard-working sons. Joseph wasn’t in line to inherit anything other than the typical son’s share, so what else enraged his brothers?

They called Joseph “the dreamer” because he had experienced dreams that indicated that his parents and brothers would bow down to him. Being a typical teenager, he pretty much bragged about this dream in front of all the family. This was probably in part to find help in deciphering the dream, but having not questioned his father in private, we have to assume that he was not totally humble concerning this dream that would turn out to be God’s message concerning the future.

His brothers’ rage was so intense that they plotted his murder, even to the point of telling his loving father that an animal had killed the boy. That certainly tells us something of the brothers’ faith in God and respect for their father, and what it tells us is not good.

Judah was the oldest, but it was brother Reuben who convinced the others to just toss Joseph into a nearby cistern. I guess that’s a step in the right direction, though apparently this would also have led to the boy’s death. At the sight of an approaching caravan, Judah stepped in and persuaded his brothers to sell Joseph to traveling traders rather than kill him. Joseph was on his way to Egypt to be sold as a slave. The picture of the map at the top of this post will help give you a good idea of the journey that Joseph went on.

How would you react in Josephs situation? Was Joseph completely innocent in the situation?

Many would curse God and give up their faith, or sit down and give up, or do everything they could to mess up their new master’s plans. often times we think Joseph is innocent. But think about him as the younger brother and his approach to his older brothers.

Read Genesis 39:1-20

The next time we see Joseph he is in Egypt as he was sold to a man named Potiphar. Joseph remained faithful to God and tried to be the best slave in the household.

Could you do what Joseph did? He was sold into slavery out of hatred by his brothers. This could have left him bitter and angry at the world, refusing to do anything.

There is a story within the story of Potiphars wifes lie concerning Joseph’s supposed attack.  Potiphar was the captain of the guard. He could have had Joseph executed for what his wife charged Joseph had done, but he did not. There is a real possibility that Potiphar knew that his wife was not exactly faithful, but to save face and not publicly imply that she was a liar, he had to do something to punish Joseph–thus the prison sentence instead of death.

This is the second time that Joseph’s world fell apart.

Was there anything positive that came from Joseph’s time in Potiphar’s household?

We tend to focus on the negative things that happen to us instead of the great things that could be going on. How can we start to focus on the positive things in our lives?

How do you think you would have handled life in such difficult circumstances?

Read Genesis 40

Even in prison, Joseph was the best worker of them all. He rose to a position of authority again! After interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh’s servants, the one who lived forgot all about Joseph for two more years of jail time, remembering him only when the pharaoh’s priests and advisers could not interpret his own dreams.

While we attribute our dreams to pizza and beer overload, the Egyptians put great stock in dreams (http://www.fruitofthenile.com/dreams.htm).  When a dream projected an obvious vision, the pharaoh was greatly concerned. Interpreting the dream therefore raised Joseph’s reputation to a great level in the leader’s eyes.

Read Genesis 41:14-16

Pharaoh called Joseph out of prison to interpret his dreams. This was good news and bad news for the Pharaoh; there was going to be great growth for the next seven years, but this would be followed up with bad news that the land would be seven years in drought and famine.

Read Genesis 41:39-41

God’s plan for Joseph (unknown to him) was rapidly coming to a climax as the dream was fulfilled in famine and plenty. It’s amazing that this event was even happening to Joseph at all. He was an outsider, a slave, an inmate…but now he was the no. 2 man in all of Egypt. Amazing!

Joseph used his talents given to him by God to put things in order according to the plenty and famine.

What kind of leadership skills do you think Joseph used to make all of this happen? What can we learn from him when leading others?

Read Genesis 42:1-8

The famine not only hit the land of Egypt, it also affected Joseph’s brothers and family living over in the land of Shechem. Jacob knew that without help from Egypt his family would perish.

So, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain, and there begins a story worthy of any Hollywood masterpiece.  Ten brothers were sent. Joseph, of course, did not even know of Benjamin’s existence.

Why do you think that Josephs brothers did not know him?

Was it their assumption that he was long dead, or at least a lowly slave in some unknown place? Was it the long time that had passed and aged them all? Or, did God blind them to recognizing their brother? Was it all of these, or something else?

Perhaps it was Joseph’s make-up. He was wearing the facial makeup that we have become familiar with from the drawings in history books and movies, as well as an Egyptian high official’s clothing.

Why did Joseph torture (figuratively) his brothers with demands, imprisonment, and accusations that were of a death penalty nature?

During the meal, when Joseph gave Benjamin five times the portion of the other guests, it was an almost unbelievable honor for the young man. To give a guest in Egypt three times as much as others was considered the highest honor.

After tears shed away from the dining room, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”

Why were they terrified and he overcome with joy?

Here is the vast difference between Joseph and his brothers. They had lived their lives in terror of being found out; of their great sin being revealed. When they realized who had been tormenting them, they did not react with joy, but terror. The one they had tried to kill was not only alive, but second in power only to the Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph had lived a life without malice or revenge in his heart. He had lived a life devoted to God, knowing that everything happened for a reason and that God’s plan would be revealed.

In chapter 50 of Genesis, Gods purpose in Josephs life is revealed. We find out why he could live a life of joy after being victimized as a youth. He summarized what he had been trying to explain to his brothers for years since their arrival in Egypt. He said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….”    God can use any life for His glory; He can heal any life for His story; He can guide any life on His own path.

Before we close I wanted to point out one character in this story other than Joseph. I wanted to highlight Jacob.

Read Genesis 37:32-35

Jacob refused to be comforted by anyone. Has grief ever hit you so hard that you refused to be comforted? What did that event do to shape your life?

This event shaped Jacob throughout the rest of his life. Take a look at what he says when the brothers try to take Benjamin with them to Egypt…

Read Genesis 43:1-11

The exchange that Jacob has with his other sons is interesting. You can tell he did not want to let Benjamin go. He questions and questions and finally agrees. The oldest son identifies that if he doesn’t come back home with Benjamin his father will lay his head down and die. One more bad event was going to throw him over the edge.

Jacob was deeply affected when he thought Joseph was dead. Do you think he ever got over it? Did he allow this pain to divide his relationship with his other children? When we have a bad event that occurs in our life do we allow that to consume us and every other relationship around us?

If we look at how Jacob responded to tragedy vs. the way Joseph responded, what can we learn?  What is the one or two points of the Joseph story that continue to build up your faith?

We are left with a question at the end of Genesis. Though Joseph is highly respected; a man of great power in Egypt, he feels he has to assure his brothers (probably relatives, since his “brothers” would have been ancient) “…God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  Were the Israelites already being eyed as potential slave labor? Could they not leave of their own accord?  Or, did God reveal to Joseph that the time would come when only God’s power could rescue them from a foreign land? Or, was it an instruction to wait for God’s timing before leaving the land that had rescued them from starvation?

What are your thoughts about the great patriarchs, and Joseph, as we leave Genesis behind and meet Gods reluctant hero in a time four hundred years after Josephs family entered Egypt?

Please let me know if there is something that you want to look at in the text and we can do that. Thanks for reading and following today.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

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