Joseph in the Bible

The Bible Story of Joseph, from the Book of Genesis, is one of heroic redemption and forgiveness. Joseph was the most loved son of his father, Israel, given the famous robe of many colors. When Joseph reported having dreams of his brothers, and even the stars and moon, bowing before him, their jealousy of Joseph grew into action.  The brothers sold him into slavery to a traveling caravan of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard.

In Egypt, the Lord's presence with Joseph enables him to find favor with Potiphar and the keeper of the prison.  With God's help, Joseph interprets the dreams of two prisoners, predicting that one of them will be reinstated but the other put to death.  Joseph then interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh, which anticipate seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh recognizes Joseph's God-given ability and prompts his promotion to the chief administrator of Egypt.

Shortage of food in Canaan forces Jacob to send his sons to buy grains from the Egyptians.  Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother remains at home as Jacob fears losing him, as he did Joseph.  When Joseph finally encounters his brothers again, he deliberately conceals his identity. He accuses them of being spies and tells them to return with Benjamin or he will not sell them grain.  The ongoing famine forces Jacob to reluctantly send his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin, and they are unexpectedly invited to dine at Joseph's house. Joseph then tests the character of his brothers by placing a silver cup in the sack of Benjamin and falsely accusing him of theft.  When Judah offers to stay in place of Benjamin, Joseph knows that his character has changed and reveals that he is their brother. Joseph explains they need not feel guilty for betraying him as it was God's plan for him to be in Egypt to preserve his family.  He told them to bring their father and his entire household into Egypt to live in the province of Goshen because there were five more years of famine left.  Joseph supplied them with Egyptian transport wagons, new garments, silver, and twenty additional donkeys carrying provisions for the journey.  Jacob is then joyously reunited with his son Joseph.

Bible Commentary on Joseph in Genesis 37

Joseph is loved by Jacob but hated by his brethren. In Joseph's history, we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes. Though Joseph was his father's darling, yet he was not bred up in idleness. Those who do not truly love their children, who do not use them in business, and labor, and hardships. The fondling of children is with good reason called the spoiling of them. Those who are trained up to do nothing, are likely to be good for nothing. But Jacob made known his love, by dressing Joseph finer than the rest of his children. It is wrong for parents to make a difference between one child and another, unless there is great cause for it, by the children's dutifulness, or undutifulness. When parents make a difference, children soon notice it, and it leads to quarrels in families. Jacob's sons did that when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill conduct, that he might restrain them. Not as a tale-bearer, to sow discord, but as a faithful brother.

Joseph's dreams. God gave Joseph betimes the prospect of his advancement, to support and comfort him under his long and grievous troubles. Observe, Joseph dreamed of his preferment, but he did not dream of his imprisonment. Thus many young people, when setting out in the world, think of nothing but prosperity and pleasure, and never dream of trouble. His brethren rightly interpreted the dream, though they abhorred the interpretation of it. While they committed crimes in order to defeat it, they were themselves the instruments of accomplishing it. Thus the Jews understood what Christ said of his kingdom. Determined that he should not reign over them, they consulted to put him to death; and by his crucifixion, made way for the exaltation they designed to prevent.

Jacob sends Joseph to visit his brethren, They conspire his death. How readily does Joseph wait for his father's orders! Those children who are the best beloved by their parents should be the readiest to obey them. See how deliberate Joseph's brethren were against him. They thought to slay him from malice aforethought and in cold blood. Whosoever hateth his brother is (1 John. 3:15) because their father loved him. New occasions, as his dreams and the like, drew them on further; but this laid rankling in their hearts, till they resolved on his death. God has all hearts in his hands. Reuben had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born; yet he proves his best friend. God overruled all to serve his own purpose, of making Joseph an instrument to save many people. Joseph was a type of Christ; for though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world, yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us in great humility and love. He came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him. His own not only received him not but crucified him. This he submitted to, as a part of his design to redeem and save us.

Joseph's brethren sell him. They threw Joseph into a pit, to perish there with hunger and cold; so cruel were their tender mercies. They slighted him when he was in distress, and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, see (Amos 6:6); for when he was pining in the pit, they sat down to eat bread. They felt no remorse of conscience for the sin. But the wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain, (Psalms 76:10). Joseph's brethren were wonderfully restrained from murdering him, and their selling him as wonderfully turned to God's praise.

Jacob deceived, Joseph sold to Potiphar. When Satan has taught men to commit one sin, he teaches them to try to conceal it with another; to hide theft and murder, with lying and false oaths: but he that covers his sin shall not prosper long. Joseph's brethren kept their own and one another's counsel for some time, but their villany came to light at last, and it is here published to the world. To grieve their father, they sent him Joseph's coat of colors; and he hastily thought, on seeing the bloody coat, that Joseph was rent in pieces. Let those that know the heart of a parent, suppose the agony of poor Jacob. His sons basely pretended to comfort him, but miserable, hypocritical comforters were they all. Had they really desired to comfort him, they might at once have done it, by telling the truth. The heart is strangely hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Jacob refused to be comforted. Great affection to any creature prepares for so much the greater affliction, when it is taken from us, or made bitter to us: undue love commonly ends in undue grief. It is the wisdom of parents not to bring up children delicately, they know not to what hardships they may be brought before they die. From the whole of this chapter we see with wonder the ways of Providence. The malignant brothers seem to have gotten their ends; the merchants, who care not what they deal in so that they gain, have also obtained theirs; and Potiphar, having got a fine young slave, has obtained his! But God's designs are, by these means, in train for execution. This event shall end in Israel's going down to Egypt; that ends in their deliverance by Moses; that in setting up the true religion in the world; and that in the spread of it among all nations by the gospel. Thus the wrath of man shall praise the Lord, and the remainder thereof will he restrain. (Excerpts from Matthew Henry Commentary)

Meaning of Joseph's Bible Story

The life of Joseph gives a testament of the sovereignty and grace of God for those who live faithfully and righteously. Despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph remained faithful and trusted in God to deliver him from tribulation. Additionally, this story shows how God's plan may not be obvious to our limited perspective but indeed "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Let us be inspired by the Bible story of Joseph to have faith through our trials, knowing that God will deliver us in the glory of His justice.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." ~ Romans 8:18

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." ~ Romans 8:28

Read the full Bible story of Joseph in the scripture text below and find Articles, Videos, and Audio Sermons relating to this inspiring story.

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