Lesson 5

Joseph: From Pit to Palace

(Genesis 37-45)
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Introduction: One of the great stories of the Old Testament is the story of Joseph. The story covers 20 chapters of the Bible. Since we do not have the time to look at each chapter, let's jump in and study a few highlights from 9 of the chapters.

  1. The Favorite Son

    1. Read Genesis 37:3-4. Who knows this cast of characters? Who is Israel, or is this a place? Who is Joseph? Who are these sons? (Israel is the new name for Jacob (of Jacob and Esau fame). Genesis 32:28. The country was named after him, because the descendants of these sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph is one of his youngest sons, the first born of his wife Rachel. Genesis 30:22-24. Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife. Genesis 29:30. The other sons are the children of Jacob's other wives: Leah (his first wife)and two other wives who were servants of Rachel and Leah.)

      1. What does it do to a family when parents show a preference for one child over the others?

      2. What do you think it did to this family to have the father love one wife more than the others?

      3. Was it a blessing to Joseph to be preferred by his father? (His brothers hated him and would not speak a kind word to him!)

    2. Let's read on. Genesis 37:5-8. What does this tell us about Joseph?

      1. Why do you think he told his brothers his dream?

      2. Does Joseph show emotional intelligence?

    3. Read Genesis 37:9-11. What does this tell us about Joseph? (These two dreams tell us that Joseph had no discretion. He was making a bad situation worse.)

      1. Do you think God wanted Joseph to tell his brothers and his parents these dreams?

      2. Notice verse 11. It says Joseph's brothers were jealous. Why were they jealous as opposed to just thinking Joseph was a nut? (Something made them worry he might be right.)

        1. Did Joseph's father think he might be right? (Yes! Verse 11 tells us he stored it away in his mind.)

  2. The Slave

    1. The brothers are supposed to be grazing Israel's flocks by Shechem. Joseph is sent on a mission by his father to find out how things are going. It turns out the brothers and the flocks are not where they are supposed to be. The "teacher's comments" section to our lesson has a very interesting insight into this. Anyone wonder why the brothers were not where they were supposed to be? Could shepherds graze their animals wherever they wanted?(The comments say that grazing rights required extensive negotiations by the head of the family. When the brothers moved the flock (and no doubt worked out some arrangement) they were usurping Jacob's authority.)

      1. What attitude did these boys have towards their father?

    2. Read Genesis 37:18-20. Why did the brothers hate Joseph so much they wanted to kill him? (They twice mention his dreams.)

      1. What do you learn from this that will help you in your relationships at work? What do you learn for family relationships?

    3. Read Genesis 37:21-24. Reuben is the oldest of the sons. What is his motivation in having Joseph thrown in the dry well? What are the motives of the other brothers?

      1. Why did the brothers strip off Joseph's robe?

      2. If Reuben wanted to bring Joseph back to his father, why did he suggest this plan rather than simply telling the brothers to leave Joseph alone? (He was probably the leader, but, like Pilate, he was weak. This plan involved compromise and deceit rather than standing for principle.)

      3. Was Reuben's plan well-conceived? (How would this work to tell "Dad" that the rest of the brothers wanted to kill Joseph, but he had rescued him?)

    4. Read Genesis 37:25-28. Were the brothers having second thoughts about killing Joseph?

      1. Have you had a bad day recently? How does Joseph's bad day compare? What do you think was going through Joseph's mind as he headed off with the slavers?

        1. Do you think the brothers reminded him of his dreams as they bid him farewell?

        2. What do you think Joseph thought about his dreams now?

        3. Was God still with Joseph?

        4. How important do you think Joseph's robe was to him? (It showed he was rich and important. Now that he is a slave, he has now lost all outward sign of being "somebody." His worldly "anchors" are gone!)

    5. Read Genesis 39:1-5. What does this say about God being with Joseph?

      1. Was it God's idea to have Joseph become a slave? If not, what is God's role when evil things happen to us? (God does not inspire jealousy or the desire to kill. But God does take evil and turn it into good.)

      2. What is the effect on Potiphar of Joseph working for him? Can this principle work for your employer?

  3. The Prisoner Slave

    1. Potiphar's wife tries to seduce Joseph, and when he refuses she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. Why would she do this?

      1. Are her motives similar to those of Joseph's brothers?

    2. Read Genesis 39:20-23. Verses 21 and 23 say that "the Lord was with" Joseph. Do you agree?

      1. Would Joseph have agreed? If you were Joseph would you have blamed God for this further disaster in your life - a disaster which happened only because you were faithful?

    3. While Joseph is in prison, he interprets the dreams of two former members of Pharaoh's court who have been thrown in jail with him. One of these former court members, Pharaoh's chief cupbearer is restored to his position (in accord with Joseph's interpretation of his dream). Let's read just three verses from this: Genesis 40:13-14, 23.

      1. How do you feel if you are Joseph? (High hopes at first, then disappointment.)

      2. What do you think that Joseph now believes about the dreams he had "long ago and far away?"

      3. The teacher's helps tell me that my "aim" is "to portray Joseph's life from God's point of view" - as "an unbroken series of successes, as each part of God's plan for Joseph was set in place."

        1. Do you agree that God viewed Joseph's life as an unbroken series of successes?

        2. Do you think Joseph viewed it that way?

        3. Do you think Joseph had regrets about how he acted in the past? (As we have discussed, there is a direct link between Joseph's telling of his dreams to his brothers and his being sold as a slave. Both Israel (in giving him the special robe) and Joseph (in recounting these dreams) showed a lack of emotional intelligence.)

        4. Do you think what happened was God's "master plan" for Joseph's life? Or was this God's frequent role of overcoming evil with good? (Compare Romans 8:28 with John 16:33)

  4. The Road to Glory

    1. Read Genesis 41:1, 8-13. Pharaoh has a dream about cows and grains which bothers him and cannot be deciphered by his wise men. Why do you think the chief cupbearer tells Pharaoh about Joseph now? Did he just now remember him? (I think he remembered before, there was just no benefit to him to tell Pharaoh about his prisoner.)

    2. Read Genesis 41:14-16. How would you feel if you were Joseph?

      1. What does verse 16 tell us about Joseph's "emotional intelligence" now and his devotion to God? Would the young Joseph had said, "I've been interpreting dreams all my life!" Is that what you would have said to Pharaoh?

    3. Read Genesis 41:25-28. Pharaoh did not believe in God. Why did God reveal to Pharaoh the future?

    4. Read Genesis 41:39-41. If you answered the last question by saying God revealed the future to Pharaoh (and Joseph) as part of a "promotion plan" for Joseph, what was the ultimate outcome of this promotion? (Slavery for God's people for hundreds of years.)

      1. Does that make any sense to you?

      2. Wouldn't it have been easier on all concerned just to rescue Joseph from the dry well and insure that he became the leader of his family? (I have no doubt it would have been easier - and I bet this was God's original plan. But a series of sins got in the way - starting with Laban's deceit in giving Leah to Jacob (Israel) as a wife instead of Rachel (Genesis 29). If Rachel had been Jacob's only wife, then Joseph would have been the oldest and Jacob's heir. The next major sin was selling Joseph as a slave. The consequences of that sin were horrendous - the brothers were guilt-ridden (as we will see) and their descendants became slaves.)

      3. When you consider sinning, do you think about the life altering consequences that could follow?

  5. Dreams Fulfilled

    1. Read Genesis 42:1-2. How does the relationship between father and sons sound?

      1. We discussed the reason why Joseph was sold into slavery and why God revealed His will to Pharaoh. Do you think it is possible that Jacob (Israel) and his family would have starved had it not been for the Egyptian supplies?

    2. Read Genesis 42:3-9. Why is verse 6 important? (This fulfills his dream!)

      1. Why do you think that Joseph accused them of being spies when he remembered his dreams (v.9) and not when he first recognized them? Why is the accusation connected to his dreams? (The "point" of the first dream, the part that made the brothers mad, was that Joseph would rule over them ( Genesis 37:8). To be able to accuse them of a crime and throw them in jail showed that he had the authority as a ruler over them.)

    3. Joseph decides to test his brothers. He tells them not to come back for more food unless they bring his brother Benjamin with them. Jacob does not want the boy to go, but he finally relents and all the brothers return to Joseph. Let's continue by reading Genesis 43:16-18. Why do you think the brothers were so fearful? (They are living under the pressure of guilt. Genesis 42:21-22 show that they are expecting punishment from God. Such a sad way to live.)

    4. Joseph now gives the brothers another test by having his silver cup hidden in Benjamin's sack. The cup is found in Benjamin's sack, he is arrested, and they all return to Joseph. Joseph tells them they are all free to go except Benjamin. Judah offers Joseph a deal in Genesis 44:32-34. Read.

      1. Why is it significant that Judah makes this offer? (Judah is the one who suggested selling Joseph into slavery ( Genesis 37:26). He had now completely changed. He is willing to give up his freedom for his brother, rather than take his brother's freedom.)

    5. Read Genesis 45:1-5. Why did Joseph and the brothers have such a different attitude. (The brothers were concerned about the judgment of God (and Joseph), while Joseph believed that God had ordained this for the good of all.)

      1. Why did Joseph forgive? Why didn't he say, "I told you so!"

      2. Why did the brothers change?

      3. Read Genesis 45:6. What does this add to your thoughts about why God let Joseph be sold into slavery? (If Jacob and his sons were out of food in less than two years, they surely would not have made it for five more. This tends to show this sequence of events was God's method of saving the family, and drawing Joseph and his brothers closer to Him.)

    6. Friend, how about you? Are you willing to trust God's love for you even though your life seems to be going in the wrong direction? Are you willing to trust God when all your earthly "supports" have been taken away?

  6. Next week: Sibling Rivalry

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