Messages in Joseph (G.G.)

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The story of Joseph is found in the book of Genesis (Genesis 37 - 50).

Genesis is a book of beginnings - the beginning of the universe and how people spoiled it, and the beginning of God's plan to restore it through the beginning of a nation. It tells us about God, who was before time, and is the creator of everything there is. He created people, and he made us in his image, to have an eternal loving relationship with him. God's creation was good. Yet man spoiled this creation, by wilfully separating himself from his creator through disobedience, and bringing death upon himself. However, God has not abandoned us as we have abandoned him. He began his redeeming of the world, firstly through one man, Abraham, from whom one nation, Israel, arose. Joseph is a key figure in the early history of this nation. And through Israel, God brings about his plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.

Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob (also called Israel), who was, in turn, the grandson of Abraham. Joseph was the favourite son of Jacob, because he was the firstborn son of Rebecca. Of Jacob's four wives, Rebecca was the wife Jacob loved most.

The story of Joseph explains why the Israelites ended up in Egypt, and therefore is essential background to understanding the story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites. Yet the story itself offers so much more than just an understanding of this history. In it we can see the character of a man who is unjustly treated, accused and punished and still forgives. Yet not only does Joseph forgive his brothers, he freely saves them from death from starvation. This story can remind us of what Christ has done for us.

The story can be found in Genesis chapters 37, 39 - 47 and 50

Characteristics of Joseph

The life of Joseph was a life of turbulence, of deep lows and towering highs. Yet through these contrasts, his character can be seen standing firm.

Joseph was a man of integrity. When Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph, he did not submit.

Joseph did not credit his abilities to himself. When Pharaoh asked for an interpretation of his dreams, Joseph gave the glory to God.

Joseph forgave. He did not hold grudges against his brothers. Even when he was in a position of power over them he acted to protect them.

Joseph put his trust in God. He realised that God had a plan for him, and that even through difficult times God was fulfilling a plan.

The journeys of Joseph's brothers to Egypt and the strange events at the palace of Joseph

When reading through the story of Joseph, it is hard not to be confused at the part where the brothers came to Egypt in search of food. Joseph apparently had no intention of revenge. However, neither did he reveal himself immediately. Instead, he seemed to set his brothers some tests by which he established that they were repentant of their action against him, and that their hearts were changed.

Firstly he imprisoned the ten brothers. He saw then that their first thought was that this was their unexpected, but just punishment of their maltreatment of Joseph.

Later, the change in their natures is even more apparent when Benjamin was to be imprisoned. Judah begged that Benjamin's punishment be placed on him instead. Joseph could see true repentance, for not only had the guilt of the brothers' past sin remained all these years, but their hearts had changed. For instead of destroying a life, they were now trying to save a life.


The story of Joseph is important historically, because it explains how the Hebrews came to be in Egypt.

There is also a lot to be learnt from the character of Joseph. He was a man who trusted in God's ability to fulfil his plan through the highs and lows of life.

And finally, the story of Joseph is a story of saving forgiveness, and should remind us of Christ. Joseph was punished even though he was innocent of the crime he was accused of. Jesus was punished even though he was innocent of all crimes. Joseph saved his family from death despite the wrong they had done to him. Christ, through the cross, saves us from death and eternal separation from God, despite the wrong we all have done him.

By Graham Llewellyn Grove

Return to Joseph (Genesis)


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