We are first introduced to Joseph as the son born to Jacob by his wife Rachel (Gen. 30:22-24). Later in Genesis 37, Joseph was seventeen years old and was with his brothers tending the flocks when he apparently saw his brothers do something his father would not approve and brought a report to their father about it. It is also revealed that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers, and this made the brothers jealous of Joseph. Favoritism by a parent is not wise and usually results in hurt feelings and jealousy.
Joseph dreamed two dreams that seem to exalt him over his brothers and his parents. Joseph may have told these dreams and naively thought they were interesting, but his brothers resented him for them. Later when Joseph was sent by Jacob to check on his brothers, Joseph found them tending the flocks. As he came to them, the brothers plotted to kill Joseph; but Reuben offered a different plan. He suggested they cast Joseph into a pit, but Reuben meant to return and rescue Joseph. While Reuben was away, the brothers cast Joseph into a pit and took his coat away. When some Midianites passed by on the way to Egypt, they sold Joseph to them for 20 pieces of silver. The Midianites then sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt, where Joseph became a slave.
While in Egypt, Joseph showed good character in that he labored faithfully for Potiphar and was put in charge of all his master had. Sadly, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to lie with her, and Joseph was cast into prison.
In prison Joseph found favor with his jailor and was put in charge of other prisoners. Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and butler and the dreams came true. Joseph was eventually brought to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, and Joseph foretold of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh elevated Joseph to high office in Egypt, and Joseph’s prophecy came to pass.
During the famine Joseph’s brothers travelled to Egypt to purchase food. Joseph met with them, but they did not know it was their brother who was now a powerful Egyptian. Joseph could have used the shameful way his brothers had treated him to justify arresting them or having them killed, but Joseph was moved with compassion for them instead. He arranged for them to have food, but gave back their money. Later the brothers returned and brought their younger brother Benjamin with them. When Joseph saw them, once again, as well as his brother Benjamin, he was moved to tears. Joseph did not take vengeance on them, but provided for them and gave them a prosperous place in Egypt to live and raise their herds. Joseph was able to see his father Jacob again and had a tearful, glad reunion with him.
Joseph had reasons to resent his brothers for how they had mistreated him, but he did not act out in anger. Joseph also was falsely accused in Egypt and imprisoned. He could have become bitter and blamed God for his mistreatment, but he showed faith and strong character in remaining positive and in working with integrity wherever he found himself. Joseph serves as an example of one who remained faithful and maintained his integrity in the face of adversity. He showed his faith in God and His providence when he said to his brothers, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” Later after Jacob died in Egypt, his brothers still feared that Joseph might hate them. However, Joseph said to them, “Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive,” (Gen. 50:19-20).
However, Joseph said to them, “Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive,” (Gen. 50:19-20).
Examples like Joseph encourage us to take hardship and mistreatment with dignity and courage, and to trust that God knows our struggles. If we trust in God and serve Him faithfully, He will work things out for our good. In Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Joseph could have held a grudge against his brothers, but instead he forgave them and took care of them. In the same way we need to be forgiving toward others and treat them kindly. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). It is not easy to act on that commandment, but it promises reward for those who do it. In that sermon Jesus taught us to forgive others (Matt. 6:12-15). Jesus prayed to God on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34). When we face problems in life, and perhaps even mistreatment, we can take courage from Joseph’s example and persevere.
By Kathy Scott