Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons, and the first by Jacob’s wife, Rachel. He is written about in Genesis 37-50. Because he was Jacob’s favorite son, and his dreams, which showed him ruling over his family, his ten older brothers hated him. When opportunity arose, they planned to kill Joseph, but instead sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites.
Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. His good behavior soon earned him the highest position in Potiphar’s household. Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to commit adultery with her, but he refused. She then falsely accused him of the crime and he was cast into prison, but again Joseph’s good behavior earned him a position of responsibility. Joseph interpreted the dreams of two former officials of Pharoah, which eventually led him to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. He predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and when he recommended that Pharaoh appoint a commissioner to store up grain during the seven prosperous years, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his prime minister.
When famine struck, people came to Egypt from other countries to buy grain, including Joseph’s brothers. They did not recognize him, but Joseph saw the fulfillment of his earlier dreams in which his brothers bowed down to him. After testing their characters, Joseph revealed himself to them on their second visit. He sent them back to Caanan, and invited Jacob and his family to move to Egypt. Joseph fathered two sons in Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim. He died in Egypt, but was later buried in Shechem.
Divine Providence in Joseph’s Life
Perhaps because of his noble character, God used Joseph to prepare the way for his family to come to Egypt, etc. Joseph’s faith in God and in the Abrahamic promise was the basis of his strength of character, and he responded trustfully and obediently in every trial.
When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph maintained his virtue. Even when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him and he was imprisoned, he never questioned Divine providence any more than he questioned it in permitting him to be sold into slavery. His later experiences proved that God had used those experiences for his instruction in righteousness, patience, faithfulness and in preparation for greater future blessing. Of note, there is no record of Joseph ever speaking evil of his brothers, Potiphar’s wife or anyone else.
Joseph’s prison experiences taught him tender-heartedness toward the other prisoners. When Joseph interpreted the dream of the butler, informing him that he would be released from prison and reinstated in his position, he urged the butler to remember him and to speak a word on his behalf. But when the ungrateful butler was freed, he forgot about Joseph. Two years later, when Pharaoh had his dreams, the butler remembered Joseph, which led to his release and exaltation. But his exaltation did not make him proud, for adversity had taught him humility.
Joseph’s Course toward his Brothers
The evil course of Joseph’s brothers did not make him bitter, but he overcame their evil dispositions by his wisdom, love, mercy, kindness and generosity. Undoubtedly his course toward them influenced them favorably for the rest of their lives.
From our text, we see Joseph’s faith at the end of his life, by directing that when Israel would leave the land of Egypt for Caanan, they should take his bones with them. This testified to his faith in a resurrection of the dead.
Joseph’s character is a wonderful example to us. His life reminds us of the Scripture, “Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2: 30). Joseph will no doubt occupy a high position in the earthly phase of God’s Kingdom.
Type of Christ
(1.) As Joseph suffered, and was then delivered and exalted to power, next to Pharaoh; so Christ suffered, and was then delivered and exalted to power and great glory, next to God.
(2.) As Joseph provided grain for Jacob, his brethren and the Egyptians; so Christ provides the living bread for the household of faith, and will provide the living bread for the world in the next Age.
(3.) As Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who became his associate; so God has given His Son a wife, the Church, as His associate.