Introduction: One of my greatest blessings is that I have an excellent relationship with my family. How is your relationship with your family? In Lesson 3 we discussed what Jesus said in Matthew 10 about bringing division to families. Is the assumption in the title to this lesson wrong? Is my situation rare? If it is possible to find rest in family ties, how do we go about it? Perhaps, it might be more efficient to learn what we should avoid doing. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Creating a Mess

    1. Read Genesis 37:3. Joseph is the favorite son, even though he is second from the youngest! Why is he Israel’s (Jacob’s) favorite? (The text says because Joseph was born when his father was old. His father was even older when Benjamin was born. See Genesis 42:4,13.)

      1. Does Jacob’s motive make any sense to you?

    2. Read Genesis 37:4. Is Jacob actually benefitting Joseph? (His brothers hate him to the degree that they will not speak with him reasonably.)

      1. Is Jacob stupid? Do you think he is blind to what he has done?  Do you think that the result of giving a special robe to Joseph was something unforeseeable?

        1. Do you think Jacob cares? (I assume that Jacob is not stupid. Instead, he doesn’t care if his other sons don’t like what he has done to honor Joseph.)

      2. What lesson do we find in this for parent’s today? (Do not show favoritism! Think things through very carefully. If you are going to have a favorite child, it better be because of reasons that everyone understands – even the disfavored children.)

    3. Read Genesis 37:5-8. Is Joseph stupid? Do you think he is blind to what he has done?

      1. Do you think Joseph cares about what his brothers think?

      2. What does Joseph’s report of his dream tell us about whether he is stupid, uncaring, or something else?

      3. What lesson do we find in this for favored children today? (Rubbing your favored status in the faces of your siblings is a bad idea. It seems that neither Jacob nor Joseph had given enough thought to this problem. Neither of them showed emotional intelligence.)

  2. Payback

    1. Read Genesis 37:12-14. How would this assignment appear to Joseph’s brothers? (His father has sent the younger son to check up on the work of his older sons!)

      1. Would you be angry about this if you were the older and more mature sons?

    2. Read Genesis 37:18-20. How long did it take the older brothers to decide to kill Joseph?

      1. Is this conspiracy to commit murder based on Joseph’s attitude towards them? (Yes. They tie it directly to Joseph’s report of his dream.)

      2. Are these brothers truly evil men?  Or, is this murder plot understandable?

        1. If you answer that they are truly evil men, how do you explain that they become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel?

    3. Read Genesis 37:21-22 and Genesis 37:25-28. What should Reuben have done differently?

      1. Why does God allow this?  Is this Jacob and Joseph’s fault?

      2. Are the evil brothers (except Reuben) responsible for their own actions regardless of the blunders of Jacob and Joseph?

        1. I trust that we agree that murder is never justified. However, in dealing with family members, should we make adjustments for sin? Should we try to accommodate sinful attitudes without approving of it?

  3. Trusting God

    1. Read Genesis 39:1-3. Put yourself in the place of Joseph. God is blessing everything that you do. How would you reconcile being sold into slavery and at the same time being blessed?

    2. Read Genesis 39:6-9. Why does Joseph suggest that having sex with his master’s wife is a sin against God rather than his master? (This takes us back to our study two weeks ago about King David. He states that his sin was against God alone ( Psalms 51:4), and God’s chief complaint against David is that he did this in the face of God blessing him greatly. 2 Samuel 12:8-9. Joseph’s view is the same as David’s with regard to the nature of the sin, the difference is that Joseph acknowledges his blessings and obeys God.)

      1. Consider the differences in the way David and Joseph had been blessed to this point.

    3. Read Genesis 39:20-21. No good deed goes unpunished, right? Because Joseph was faithful, he is thrown into prison. His status in society keeps falling lower and lower. Put yourself in Joseph’s place again. How would you reconcile this with the statement that God is showing him “steadfast love?”

    4. Read Genesis 41:10-12 and Genesis 41:14-15. Was it necessary for Joseph to be put in prison for this moment to occur?

    5. Joseph gives God the glory and interprets Pharaoh’s dream as forecasting a coming famine. Read Genesis 41:39-41. Consider whether God could have provided this guidance to Pharaoh (or some other powerful person) to rescue people from famine in a way that was less damaging to Joseph?

      1. Joseph’s life is often compare to the life of Jesus. Could God have rescued humans in a way that was less damaging to Jesus?

    6. Read Genesis 50:19-21. This is Joseph’s answer to the question of why God allowed him to be sold into slavery. Do you agree with Joseph?

      1. If there is dysfunction in your family, is this the reason why? Is God bringing something good out of it?

      2. Joseph says that the brothers “meant evil” against him. Do some of your family members mean evil against you or other members of your family?

        1. Or, are you the one who has “meant evil?”

  4. Consider Your Ways

    1. Read Genesis 50:24. What did Joseph foresee about the future of his people? (That they would return to Canaan.)

    2. Read Exodus 1:8-10 and Exodus 1:13. Why did God allow this?

      1. Why didn’t God’s people leave Egypt when Joseph died?

      2. Why didn’t God’s people leave Egypt and return to the promised land when the famine was over?

      3. Was the slavery of the descendants of the brothers the just result of them selling Joseph into slavery?

    3. Read Ephesians 6:1-3. If you are old enough to see family relationships develop over time, do you see this same pattern? Those who have treated others in an evil way find themselves treated evilly?

    4. It appears that all nations at one time permitted slavery. This was a feature of both the Christian and Islamic world. I read that today there are more slaves in the world than were involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Does this pattern of payback still exist?

      1. If payback exists, who should suffer the payback?

      2. In Joseph’s case the payback came against the descendants of his brothers who sold him into slavery, not those who purchased him.

      3. Or, is the destruction of the Egyptian army and the related suffering caused by the plagues payback? See Exodus 7-15.

    5. Read Ephesians 6:5-9. What attitude did Joseph display about his slavery? What attitude does the Bible say to take about slavery? (Joseph seems to have maintained a positive attitude. Ephesians tells us that if we do good, even in difficult circumstances, God will pay back to us that good. Ephesians also warns slave masters about payback.)

      1. How do you reconcile the attitude of Joseph and the Bible with the hundreds of years of slavery suffered by the children of Joseph’s brothers?

    6. Friend, we see in our study that foolish family decisions kept compounding with terrible results. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom in family relationships?

  5. Next week: Rest, Relationships, and Healing.