Joseph was the eleventh of Jacob’s twelve sons and was Rachel’s firstborn. Due to Jacob’s deep love for Rachel, Jacob had a special love for his son Joseph (Gen. 37:3). The story of Joseph spans from Genesis 37-50 and explains how God preserved this family (from which will come blessing) through Joseph. The life of Joseph also provides the reader with many practical principles for trusting God’s sovereignty and obedient Christian living.
Sold into Slavery
The Joseph narrative begins when he is seventeen. Jacob’s special love for Joseph was seen in his treatment of him, an example of that is the robe of many colours he gave him (Gen. 37:3). Immediately he is seen as living a righteous life in contrast to his brothers (Gen. 37:2) and he received revelation from God by means of dreams (Gen. 37:5-7, 9). When Joseph shared the first dream with his brothers they hated him even more (vv. 5-7). They understood the implication of the dream to mean that he will one day rule over them. This is actually fulfilled later in Egypt. The second dream of Joseph confirms that Joseph will rule over his family, and it contains imagery used to symbolize Israel (cf. Revelation 12:1). Filled with fury, the brothers of Joseph plan and plot to kill him. At different times, both Rueben and Judah argue that he shouldn’t be killed. Though Reuben is seen as the kinder of the two. In the end, Joseph is sold as a slave for twenty pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28). So as to provide a cover-up, they killed a coat and soaked the robe of many colours in the blood. They deceived their father with the news that Joseph died by means of a wild animal attack. Meanwhile, Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, to an officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar (Gen. 37:36).
Service in Egypt
Life changes radically for Joseph now that he is in Egypt. In this narrative, Joseph goes from being a slave in Egypt to being the superintendent of Egypt. Despite the difficulties Joseph faces, it is clear that the Lord is with him (Gen. 39:2, 3, 21, 23). Joseph’s tragedy turns to triumph as a result of God’s sovereign grace. Joseph is promoted in the house of Pharaoh and becomes an overseer. Potiphar greatly trusted Joseph. Things go bad when Potiphar’s wife is attracted to Joseph’s handsome “form and appearance” (Gen. 37:6). After many attempts at seduction, Joseph refuses her offer to lie with her and flees from the situation. This is very different to Reuben and Judah (Gen. 35:22; 38:15-18). Potiphar’s wife then creates a fabricated story to make it look like Joseph had made advances toward her (Gen. 39:11-18). Potiphar responds with swift action and has Joseph sent to prison. Though the situation seems bad, the Lord was with him and enabled him to prosper. He was promoted to being in charge of the other prisoners (Gen. 39:21-23).
While in prison, Joseph meets two men who formerly worked for Pharaoh, a cupbearer, and a baker. Joseph rightly interprets their dreams, revealing that one of them will be reinstated to serving Pharaoh whereas the other will be killed. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember Joseph when he is reinstated, but he forgot him (Gen. 40:23). After two years, Pharaoh has a troubling dream and no one could interpret it for him (Gen. 41:1-8). The cupbearer remembers Joseph and shares his experience in prison with Pharaoh (Gen. 41:9-13). Pharaoh then summons Joseph, and Joseph gives glory to God (Gen. 41:16) and interprets the dream reveals a time of prosperity and then famine in the land (41:25-32). He then provides a proposed plan of survival (Gen. 41:33-36). Pharaoh was pleased with what he heard, so he promoted Joseph to being second in charge overall in Egypt (Gen. 41:39-40). Joseph was now thirty years old and went about his new role (Gen. 41:46).
Salvation in Egypt
The famine had also reached the land of Canaan, where Jacob and his eleven sons were living. By the providence of God, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to obtain some grain. He held back Benjamin his youngest son, for fear of any harm (Gen. 42:1-5). When his brothers arrive in Egypt, they bow down before Joseph. This happens in fulfillment to dreams (Gen. 37:5-9). They didn’t recognize as twenty years have passed, but Joseph recognized them. After the first visit, they were accused of being spies. So as to prove their innocence, Joseph requested that they prove it by bringing back their youngest brother from Canaan. Simeon was then held in custody. After journeying back, this news broke Jacob’s heart. With the effects of the famine still occurring, they needed to return, this time they had Benjamin with them. Joseph put on a grand feast for them. Then as they prepared to leave Joseph arranges for a silver cup to be placed in Benjamin’s sack. After being accused of theft and being told that Benjamin must remain in Egypt, Judah pleads with Joseph. Judah’s speech reveals that he is a changed man. Unable to control himself any longer, he reveals to them that he is Joseph (Gen. 45:1). In the end, his entire family relocates to Egypt, and by means of Joseph, the whole family is saved and experience blessing in the land of Egypt. What was meant for evil against him, God meant for good, so that many would be kept alive and saved (Gen. 50:20). Joseph dies in the land of Egypt at the age of 110.
The stage is now set to see how God’s plan unfolds by taking this family, which has now become a large group of people and turns them into a nation.