The Old Testament Bible Story: Joseph

Joseph started out an arrogant young man, but when his brothers sold him into slavery, he had to overcome his arrogance and learn courage.

Imagine having your own family beat you, throw you into a pit and leave you to die. They do have a change of heart and come back but only to sell you into slavery. You spend years in prison. Wouldn't you lose heart? I would. I'd sit there and nurse resentment. But Joseph didn't. His courage and faith in God kept him and enabled him to do great things.

Joseph was the 11th child of Jacob and the first child of Rachel, Jacob's second wife. Joseph's half-brothers and sister were the children of Leah, Rachel's elder sister. Joseph was the favorite child of Jacob; something Joseph's elder brothers resented. "And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." (Genesis 37:4 KJV)

Joseph didn't handle his favored position very diplomatically, either. When he had a series of dreams that showed in symbols his brothers and parents bowing down to him, he hastened to let them know about it. This arrogance inflamed his brothers further. (Genesis 37:11)

Joseph was sent by his father to see how his brothers who were tending flocks were doing. His brothers seized the opportunity to do away with this younger and arrogant sibling. They threw him into a pit and intended to leave him and tell their father that he was attacked by some beast and killed. However, Judah talked them out of this plan and they sold Joseph into slavery instead. (Genesis 37:18-28)

Joseph is taken to Egypt where he is sold to a wealthy man named Potiphar. Joseph is put in charge of all of Potiphar's holdings and increases his master's wealth. But, Potiphar's wife takes a liking to Joseph and tries to seduce him. Joseph tells her that to do as she suggests would be a sin against God. She pursues him nonetheless and finally Joseph has to run from her to get away. She accuses him of trying to rape her and he is put in jail. (Genesis 39:1-20)

By this time, I think I would be stewing with resentment. I would be angry for the turn my life had taken. Most of us would react this way, I think. Yet, Joseph takes it all in stride and even in jail finds favor with the jailor and elevates his station. Throughout this series of adventures, the Bible records that the Lord was with Joseph. So He is with us. In our trials, the Lord is with us. Joseph shows courage and accepts his situations gracefully and finds favor in God's eyes. This is how God would like for us to respond to the trials of life, gracefully and with faith. Rather than rant against the situation, He wants us to make the best of our situations and rely on Him to care for us.

While Joseph languished in prison, two chief servants from Pharaoh's house were imprisoned with him. These servants both had dreams that they could not understand. Joseph heard of it and told them that the interpretations of dreams belonged to God. They told their dreams to Joseph and God gave him their interpretations. One of the servants was restored to the house of Pharaoh. Joseph had asked this servant to tell Pharaoh about him but the servant did not. Joseph spends another two years in prison.

Here was another opportunity for resentment and bitterness to form, but Joseph did not let them. He continued in his faith and waited on God. It's difficult to keep focused on God when you feel passed over, overlooked or unappreciated. Yet, it is these times in particular that we must stay focused on God and trust that He will provide for us. "Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?" (Luke 12:24 KJV)

One night, Pharaoh has a dream he doesn't understand and it alarms him. His servant tells him about Joseph and Joseph is brought to the palace and interprets the dream. God reveals to Joseph that Pharaoh's dream is a prophecy of the next seven years. The kingdom will experience seven plentiful harvests followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advises Pharaoh to store grain from the plentiful harvests to be used during the famine. Pharaoh agrees and puts Joseph in a position of power. (Genesis 42:1-36)

The storehouses are filled through the seven prosperous years and then when the famine comes, people from all around begin coming into Egypt to try and buy corn. Among those who came in search of grain were Joseph's elder brothers. Joseph is now in a position of power and could gain revenge for the way his brothers had treated him. He does cause them some fear, but in the end is able to spare his brothers and his father from suffering the famine as a result of his position. (Genesis 43-47)

Though his brothers had meant him harm, God meant good things for Joseph. It probably didn't look that way to Joseph sometimes, but he persevered through his hardships and learned humility. Joseph faced his challenges courageously.

So, what then are the elements of courage that Joseph displayed? Grace under pressure, making the best of his situation and remaining faithful to God despite any evidence he may have had that God had forgotten him. The evidence of his courage is in his behavior, doing right even when he was wronged or in danger. He learned to wait patiently on God and to look to God for everything. It takes tremendous courage to look away from circumstance and look instead to God. A good part of faith is having the courage to believe despite all that we see.

When Joseph came into power, his courage continued. The easy thing to do would be to punish his brothers for the way that they treated him. He doesn't though. Instead, he realizes the work that God has done in him and the opportunity God has given him to spare his family from the famine. He understands that he has received a blessing out of the situation that his brothers put him in and he is grateful to God instead of resentful of his brothers.

It's seldom easy to do the right thing. It takes courage and faith to stand up when the world would beat you down. In all things, God is there to hold us up when we rely on Him for support. If hard times, bitterness, resentment or anger are things that you are struggling with, read Joseph's story and learn from his courage. God probably has a blessing waiting for you at the end of your trials, too.

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