Joseph is one of the most beloved men in the bible. Most people will agree with that statement but perhaps for different reasons. Some admire his courage, others his faith, still others his capacity for forgiveness. Whatever the reason, his life is one well worth imitating. As for his being a type of Christ, we will get to that later. First let us look at his life and how it impacted the history of Israel and the part he played in it's survival during the hardest of times.
Joseph was the son of Jacob, born in his old age; Jacob made no secret of the fact that he loved Joseph above all his brothers. No secret indeed. He even made Joseph a coat of many colors. This made his brothers very jealous. Now Joseph was a shepherd, as were his brothers, and his father and his father before him. One day while tending the flock with his brothers he told them of a dream he had had. Now they already hated him and could not talk to him on friendly terms. Jealousy will do that, and so will one parent showing partiality for one child over another. His dream was this, he was in the field with his brothers and they were binding sheaves of grain. All of a sudden his sheave stood erect and the sheaves of his brothers gathered around him and bowed down to his sheave. Now the brothers hated him even more, "are you actually going to reign over us?" it was bad enough that his father treated him better, now he dreams he is better than them. Not a good way to start the day.
Not long afterward, Joseph had another dream and related it to his brothers. "Behold the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." Now he related this dream to his father and his brothers. His father rebuked him and said, "what is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?" His brothers were really ticked now, but his father kept the saying in his heart. The fact that Jacob did not punish Joseph probably added to the hate the brothers had for Joseph. One day while the brothers were tending the flock of their father, Jacob sent Joseph to them with a lunch. Jacob also asked Joseph to bring back a report of the welfare of his brothers and the flock. Now he did not know that his brothers had moved the flock and it took some time to find them. Thanks to a stranger he found out they had moved and finally located them. While still a distance off, his brothers saw him and decided it was time for a change. A permanent one. It was time to kill this brother who would be over them. The plan was to kill him and throw him in a pit, and tell their father than a wild beast had gotten him. One brother however, Reuben, heard of it and rescued him out of their hands. Now Reuben's plan was to let them throw him into a pit until he could figure out a way to rescue him and bring him back to his father. So when Joseph arrived they stripped off his coat of many colors and threw him into the pit. They decided to have their lunch and to discuss what they were to do with this one. While they were eating they looked up and saw a caravan coming from Gilead and headed to Egypt. Judah had the bright idea to sell Joseph as a slave to the traders, so they would at least see a profit from getting rid of this brother and all the trouble it would bring. So they agreed and sold Joseph to the Ismaelites for twenty shekels of silver and he was brought to Egypt as a slave.
What a tangled web we weave. First they want to kill him, then sell him as a slave to their great uncles descendants. They even went as far as to cover his coat with blood and lie to their father and say he was killed by a beast. Favoritism is a terrible thing. It causes much unrest in any family. Jealousy is just as destructive and the results are just as damaging. The father who should have been teaching his sons the true ways of life, contributed to the break up of a family that was going to eventually be the people of God.
I love types. Types are Old Testament images, which are shadows of things to come. Like the sacrificial lamb that was a type of Christ. Joseph was a type in so many ways it is hard to know where to begin. He was hated by his brothers, as was Jesus. He told his brothers he was to be worshiped by them as did Jesus. He was sold for pieces of silver to outsiders, as was Jesus. He was placed in a pit (tomb) to die only to be raised later as was Jesus. The ones who should have loved and protected him were the ones who betrayed him just like Jesus. But this is just the beginning. We will see more as this story unfolds.
Upon arriving in Egypt, they promptly sold Joseph to a man named Potiphar who was one of Pharaoh's officers, the captain of the bodyguard. Once a favored son and now reduced to a common slave in the house of a powerful stranger. How could God let this happen to one of his supposed people? Why do people always blame God? After all it was his brothers who caused this, all that could be said is that God allowed it. But why? We do not always see the entire plan of God, nor would we want to. We will see however that by trusting in God Joseph could not have planned a better future for himself. Genesis 39:2 tells us "and the Lord was with Joseph, so he became successful. Here Joseph seems to be in some hot water but God is with him and he finds that he is in a position to do some good for himself if he takes the initiative. As Joseph started to do the work of his earthly master it started to become prosperous. And Potiphar saw this also. People can see if you follow your God or not. And Potiphar saw this in Joseph. He was so impressed by his work that he made Joseph his personal servant and placed him over all that he owned. God works better when we trust Him in all that we do no matter what the circumstances. God blessed all that Joseph did and even blessed the house of Potiphar and all that he owned. Potiphar put everything he owned in the charge of Joseph. What a life this man must have projected that a master would make a slave over his whole house. God surely does make all things work for good to those who trust Him.
Genesis 39:6 says that Joseph was a handsome man in form and appearance. Successful and good looking, not a bad combination. Good looks have gotten more than one of God's men in trouble. This time however it could prove fatal. Potiphar's wife did not take long before she noticed this young good looking man and decided she wanted him for herself. This was a capitol offense in Egypt, for a wife to be with another man, and both would be killed just as God had prescribed for the Israelites many years later. Even before there was a law, it seemed to be written on the hearts of even ungodly men. They seem to have been very to the point in Egypt. She goes right up to Joseph and says, "lie with me". Boy no dinner, no music, no nothing. Many a man would have to think awhile about this one. Rich, powerful and she wants me, wow! But Joseph knew whom he served, on earth and in heaven. His response is commendable, he refused and said "behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I and he has withheld nothing in it from me except you. How then can I do this great evil and sin against God." She did not take no for an answer and did not know Joseph's God and so she spoke to him about this day after day. One day when he came into the house to do his work, there was no one around and she grabbed him by the garment he was wearing and said lie with me. Here is something we can all learn about how to deal with sin and those who bring it. He immediately ran away, leaving her holding his garment. When sin comes run do not walk as fast as you can. Do not try to reason with it, or convert it just get out of there, period the end. Any other way leads to trouble.
Like all sin when it is about to be found out, there was only one thing to do. Blame someone else. After all that is the easiest way. So she calls in the men of the household and says that Joseph tried to rape her. Her claim is that she screamed and he got frightened and ran away leaving his garment behind. She also made it clear to her husband when she told him that it was "his" slave that had done this terrible thing. Potiphar had no choice; he had Joseph thrown into jail. Not just any jail though, but the jail that the king's prisoners were kept, not the local scoundrels. You see, Potiphar must not have believed his wife totally. For as I said adultery is punishable by death as is rape. But he only assigned him to a jail reserved for the kings prisoners. Why do you think that was? He probably knew Joseph could not have done such a thing. God had a lot to do with it also, I am sure. Again we see types of Christ in that he was wrongly accused and convicted by lies and finally sentenced. But we are not finished.
God once again looks down upon Joseph in his time of distress and need. Even in these circumstances God saw that the jailer had favor upon him. Again Joseph through God found favor and was placed in charge of all the other prisoners. He was placed in the position of responsibility for all that went on in the jail. Even in this of all places God made everything Joseph did to prosper. Joseph was soon to have more company, and they would play a major role in his future, as he will in theirs. The two new prisoners were the king's cupbearer and his baker. The king had somehow become angry with them and had them tossed here. They were immediately put under the charge of Joseph. The baker was the king's main cook, and was in charge of all food he ate. The cupbearer was a taster of sought. He would taste everything before the king ate it to make sure it was not poisoned. These were important men to the king. Here in this, their lowest time of going from the kings court to the kings jail they are troubled. Dreams have taken control of their sleep time, and no one could interpret them. God gave Joseph the gift to interpret them and he did so. The cupbearer's dream was that he saw a vine with three branches and they blossomed and clusters of grapes were there and he had pharaoh's cup and squeezed the grapes into it and gave it to pharaoh. The interpretation was that in three days pharaoh would restore him to his former place of service.
The bakers dream was similar but with a twist. He dreamed there were three baskets of bread on his head and on the top basket there were all sorts of baked goods for pharaoh and the birds were eating the food out of the basket from his head. The interpretation was that in three days pharaoh will have your head removed and hung on the city gate and the birds will eat your flesh. Two dreams, two interpretations but with drastically different outcomes. Both dreams came to pass exactly as Joseph had predicted. Before they left the jail Joseph asked that the cupbearer when he comes into his place of service again he remember Joseph. After the dream came true and he was restored of course he forgot about Joseph. Another two years passed and Joseph was still in the jail. He oversaw everything but it was still jail. Interestingly, God never made a way of escape for Joseph, although he could have leveled the place instantly without much thought. What he did do however was supply Joseph with what he needed not necessarily what he wanted. God still works this way today, but we can not always see the wisdom in His decisions. We may not fully see it here but it will become apparent soon as to why these things had to take place.
Chapter 41 of Genesis starts "Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream". Two more years of Joseph' life passed away as a puff of smoke. Two more years in this prison for something he didn't do. Two more years away from his father and yes even his brothers. And for what? What could possibly be the reason for all this? After all Joseph did nothing except bask in his father's love. But life is often like this, isn't it?
Pharaoh had a dream! A simple statement. One, however that would change the life of Joseph and Israel forever. The dream was this. Pharaoh was standing by the Nile, and lo, from the Nile came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the sleek and fat cows, then Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. Behold seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold seven ears thin and scorched by the east wind sprouted up after them. And the thin ears ate up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke.
We all have dreams and think nothing of them, no matter how weird they may be. In the eastern culture however dreams are believed to be the door to the future. We see often in scripture how God used dreams to tell His prophets the future or His will for the people. Pharaoh was troubled by these dreams and called his magicians and all its wise men. He told them the dreams but they could not interpret them. Only now does the cupbearer remember Joseph. He tells Pharaoh of the dreams he and the chief baker had in prison and how Joseph interpreted them correctly. Pharaoh sends for Joseph to interpret his dreams. They shave and wash Joseph and bring him to Pharaoh. He then questions Joseph as to whether he can give him an answer and Joseph says something that has always impressed me. Even after all he had gone through he say's "it is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer". After all that he has been through he can still trust in God. We can learn much from this young man.
Joseph listens to both dreams and God gives him the answer he requested. The seven fat cows and seven fat grain ears will be seven plentiful years of harvest in Egypt. They will be followed by seven lean years of famine represented by the seven lean cows and scorched grain ears. And he tells him that although the first seven years will be prosperous they will not be noticed due to the severe famine that will follow. Joseph suggests that pharaoh appoint overseers and to let them take 20% from the plentiful years and store them away for the years of famine. Now this plan found favor with Pharaoh and his servants. Pharaoh says that no one in all the land can possibly be as wise as the man whose God has told him these things so he appoints Joseph to the task. Not as only an overseer of this task however. He places Joseph in charge of the entire of Egypt. Second only to Pharaoh himself. And he gives him his signet ring as proof of his authority. And gave him fine clothes and a gold necklace and he was to ride in the second chariot. He even gave him a wife from the priestly family. WOW! If patience is a virtue, then Joseph hit the jackpot on this one. He never stopped trusting God; he waited patiently and was thus rewarded for his long suffering. Was not Christ rewarded for his patience and long suffering? Was he not placed in authority? Was he not clothed as king, second only to the King of Kings? Was he not placed over all? Was he not given a bride (the church)? What a beautiful picture of Christ we have in the life of Joseph. But we are far from through!
Joseph did all that God had told him. He held back the 20% and stored it up for the lean years. And lean they were. The famine was so severe that it reached all the way to where Joseph' father and kinsmen were living. When the famine arrived Joseph opened the grain vaults and all the people came to Egypt to buy grain. Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt and sent ten of Joseph' brothers to buy some for the famine was great. He did not send Joseph' brother Benjamin though, for he feared harm would come to him. Now it was Joseph who was selling the grain to the people and his brothers came and bowed down low before him. Now Joseph recognized his brothers but disguised himself from them and spoke to them harshly. He accused them of being spies. They said no we are only twelve brothers serving our father. But I only see ten, Joseph said. Well one brother died and the youngest is with our father, they said.
Now originally he said he was going to imprison them and one could go back and get the youngest brother to prove they were telling the truth. He finally let just one stay in prison while they all went back to get Benjamin. As they argued between them and discussed how this was happening because of what they had done to Joseph, they did not realize Joseph could understand them for an interpreter was present. Now Joseph cried, but hid it from his brothers. He took Simeon and sent the others on their way. He loaded their bags with grain but put the money they paid back in the sacks. On the way home the brothers discovered this and were afraid they would be accused of stealing. They come back to Jacob and explain what had happened and Jacob was very distressed. First I lose Joseph, Simeon is in prison in Egypt and now you want to take Benjamin. This was all too much for the old Jacob. Reuben however, said Jacob could kill his two sons if he did not bring Benjamin back safely. But Jacob refused. The grain however did not last and they needed more.
Jacob tried to send them for more grain but they would not go. The Egyptian said the next time we see his face we better have our younger brother with us. Jacob was near collapse. This time Judah gave personal guarantee for the lad's safety. Jacob had to give in or they would starve. He told them to bring gifts, double payment for the grain and the original payment that was found in the sacks. When they got to Egypt Joseph saw them and the young Benjamin and told his servant to sacrifice an animal for a great meal. The brothers were brought to Joseph' house and they were afraid. Water was brought for the brothers to wash their feet and relax. Joseph came home and saw his brothers and they explained why they were paying double this time. As Joseph looked up he saw Benjamin his brother and his mother's son and was so overcome he had to leave. He wept and could not control himself. Now he washed his face and returned and they were seated at a table to eat, but Joseph sat at a table alone. He took food from his table and served his brothers from his food, but Benjamin he gave five times as much.
The next day Joseph commanded his servants to fill their sacks with grain and to also put their money back in the sack as before. He also put his personal cup in also. He then sent them on their way. They were followed and Joseph's servants caught up to them and searched the sacks. Upon finding the loot he brings them back to Joseph. They try to explain but Joseph would have non of it. He tells them that they can go, but the one in whose sack the cup was found would be his personal slave. This was Benjamin of course. Knowing this would surely kill their father all sorts of excuses and sacrifices are suggested. They even admit to Joseph (not knowing he was their brother) what they had done to him. Joseph is so moved he falls on his brothers in tears and tells them who he is. This is one of the most touching moments in scripture. Joseph tells them all that has happened and even goes to Pharaoh and explains to him what has happened. Eventually there is a touching reunion with his father and Pharaoh even gives them a part of Egypt to live in (Goshen). And there they live in peace for some time, together again.
Here we see more of Christ in the way he deals with his brothers. How they wronged him at first but upon confession of their sin are forgiven and made part of the kingdom. Not just a part, but living with him in the best part of the kingdom. Even the King looked favorably upon them because of Joseph. We can learn much from the Old Testament scriptures about Jesus. He was not seen clearly but He was there to be seen if we would only look.
How many times have we been in circumstances in our lives and could not reason why God would let this happen. Or why we as his people would be put into this situation. People wrong us and treat us wrongly or disrespectfully, and we do not see why. We loose jobs or family members. Things do not go right or the way we would like. We fail at our endeavors or fail financially. Why why why? Joseph himself said it best when talking with his brothers about what they had done. "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good".
God will place you in situations you are not comfortable in. he will place you in circumstances you can not understand at that time. He may even for a time allow evil to come upon you. But be assured you are not alone. He is there with you. He will get you through it. In His way and in His time. Only trust and obey is a popular hymn we sing often, but how often do we listen to the words. I would not want a God I could understand all the time. Nor would I want one I could figure out. This would make me equal with God. But He is so far above me I can not understand, but I trust and hopefully obey. For there is no other way, but to trust and obey!
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