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  • 1. Commentary Overview Deliverance Through Joseph (Gen 37:1-50:26) Israel‘s role as the people of promise was being jeopardized by their acceptance of the loose moral standards of the native Canaanites. The incest between Reuben and his father‘s servant-wife (35:22) hints at that moral compromise. Judah‘s marriage to the Canaanite Shua and his later affair with his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, makes the danger clear. To preserve His people, Yahweh removed them from that sinful environment to Egypt, where they could mature into the covenant nation that He was preparing them to be. This explains the Joseph story. His brothers sold him to Egypt to be rid of their brother the dreamer. God, however, used their act of hate as an opportunity to save Israel from both physical famine and spiritual extinction. The rise of Joseph to a position of authority in Egypt in fulfillment of his God-given dreams illustrates the Lord‘s blessing upon His people. Joseph‘s wisdom in administering the agricultural affairs of Egypt again fulfilled God‘s promise that ―I will bless him who blesses you.‖ What appeared to be a series of blunders and injustices in Joseph‘s early experiences proved to be God at work in unseen ways to demonstrate His sovereign, kingdom work among the nations. No one was more aware of this than Joseph, at least in later years. After he had revealed himself to his brothers, he said, ―God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance‖ (45:7). Years later after Jacob‘s death, when Joseph‘s brothers feared his revenge, he reminded them that they had intended to harm him, ―but God intended it for good to accomplish . . . the saving of many lives‖ (50:20). Human tragedy had become the occasion of divine triumph. Joseph‘s dying wish—to be buried in the land of promise—looks past the future tragedy of Israel‘s experience of slavery and anticipates God‘s triumph in the exodus (50:22-26). Genesis 37:5-8,26-28; 50:15-21 (HCSB) 37:5 Then Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, ―Listen to this dream I had: 7 There we were, binding sheaves of grain in the field. Suddenly my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.‖ 8 ―Are you really going to reign over us?‖ his brothers asked him. ―Are you really going to rule us?‖ So they hated him even more because of his dream and what he had said. ........................................................................................................................................................................... . 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, ―What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 1|Page
  • 2. Come, let‘s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,‖ and they agreed. 28 When Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for 20 pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. ........................................................................................................................................................................... . 50:15 When Joseph‘s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, ―If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.‖ 16 So they sent this message to Joseph, ―Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‗Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers‘ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.‘ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.‖ Joseph wept when their message came to him. 18 Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, ―We are your slaves!‖ 19 But Joseph said to them, ―Don‘t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. 21 Therefore don‘t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.‖ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 37:5-8 Commentary A phrase from my growing-up years came to mind as I reviewed the conflict in Jacob‘s family: ―plenty of blame to go around.‖ Jacob displayed open favoritism toward Joseph. Joseph demonstrated immaturity and arrogance in parading his status and dreams before his brothers. The brothers failed to discipline their emotions and allowed their hatred and jealousy of Joseph to grow. Jacob (Israel, v. 3) and his 12 sons lived in Canaan at this time. Joseph was 17 and worked with his brothers tending sheep. In the course of time, Joseph had a dream. Interpreters differ on the dream‘s origin. One view is that directly or indirectly, it was divinely inspired. An alternate view is that the dream came as dreams normally do but was divinely controlled to convey what later would occur. A third possibility is God gave Joseph the dream for his personal benefit. Whether Joseph‘s youthful ambitions caused his dream or God gave it, Joseph demonstrated immaturity by describing it to his brothers. He intensified their hatred for him. Joseph‘s brothers grasped the dream‘s implication: They would become subservient to Joseph. They incredulously asked, ―Are you really going to reign over us?‖ Just mentioning a dream suggested Joseph was claiming a divine decree. Joseph had a second dream. Having learned nothing from telling about his first one, he described it to his father and brothers. In it, the sun, the moon, and 11 stars bowed down to him. It was Jacob‘s turn to be incredulous. He sharply reprimanded Joseph. The brothers were jealous, but Jacob tucked the incident away in his memory (vv. 9-11). Time elapsed between verses 11 and 12. Because shepherds took their flocks wherever pasturage was available, Joseph‘s brothers had taken the family‘s flocks to Shechem. Israel (Jacob) and Joseph remained in the Valley of Hebron in the hill country of Judah. Israel sent Joseph to see how the brothers and the flocks were fairing. When Joseph arrived in the area of Shechem, he could not find his brothers. An unnamed man 2|Page
  • 3. found Joseph wandering and told him his brothers had taken the flocks to Dothan, an area northeast of Samaria. When Joseph arrived in Dothan, he had traveled about 75 miles. To his credit, he doggedly fulfilled the mission his father had given him (vv. 12-17). When Joseph‘s brothers saw him in the distance, they Qed killing him. Their hatred and jealousy had become murderous. Reuben, one brother, tried to dissuade the others from bloodshed. He suggested throwing Joseph into a pit without hurting him. Reuben intended to rescue Joseph later and take him home (vv. 18-22). At this point, Joseph had a lot of maturing to do. Instead of wearing a shepherd‘s robe (―work clothes‖), he had chosen to ―dress up‖ in the special robe given by his father, thus waving a red flag before his brothers. When Joseph arrived, his brothers seized him and removed the robe Israel had given him. They threw him into a dry pit—a bottle-shaped cistern whose narrow top prevented Joseph from climbing out. Callously, the brothers sat down to eat. They saw a caravan of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt, their camels laden with trade goods (vv. 23-25). Genesis 37:5-8 Commentary A phrase from my growing-up years came to mind as I reviewed the conflict in Jacob‘s family: ―plenty of blame to go around.‖ Jacob displayed open favoritism toward Joseph. Joseph demonstrated immaturity and arrogance in parading his status and dreams before his brothers. The brothers failed to discipline their emotions and allowed their hatred and jealousy of Joseph to grow. Jacob (Israel, v. 3) and his 12 sons lived in Canaan at this time. Joseph was 17 and worked with his brothers tending sheep. In the course of time, Joseph had a dream. Interpreters differ on the dream‘s origin. One view is that directly or indirectly, it was divinely inspired. An alternate view is that the dream came as dreams normally do but was divinely controlled to convey what later would occur. A third possibility is God gave Joseph the dream for his personal benefit. Whether Joseph‘s youthful ambitions caused his dream or God gave it, Joseph demonstrated immaturity by describing it to his brothers. He intensified their hatred for him. Joseph‘s brothers grasped the dream‘s implication: They would become subservient to Joseph. They incredulously asked, ―Are you really going to reign over us?‖ Just mentioning a dream suggested Joseph was claiming a divine decree. Joseph had a second dream. Having learned nothing from telling about his first one, he described it to his father and brothers. In it, the sun, the moon, and 11 stars bowed down to him. It was Jacob‘s turn to be incredulous. He sharply reprimanded Joseph. The brothers were jealous, but Jacob tucked the incident away in his memory (vv. 9-11). Time elapsed between verses 11 and 12. Because shepherds took their flocks wherever pasturage was available, Joseph‘s brothers had taken the family‘s flocks to Shechem. Israel (Jacob) and Joseph remained in the Valley of Hebron in the hill country of Judah. Israel sent Joseph to see how the brothers and the flocks were fairing. When Joseph arrived in the area of Shechem, he could not find his brothers. An unnamed man found Joseph wandering and told him his brothers had taken the flocks to Dothan, an area northeast of Samaria. When Joseph arrived in Dothan, he had traveled about 75 miles. To his credit, he doggedly fulfilled 3|Page
  • 4. the mission his father had given him (vv. 12-17). When Joseph‘s brothers saw him in the distance, they Qed killing him. Their hatred and jealousy had become murderous. Reuben, one brother, tried to dissuade the others from bloodshed. He suggested throwing Joseph into a pit without hurting him. Reuben intended to rescue Joseph later and take him home (vv. 18-22). At this point, Joseph had a lot of maturing to do. Instead of wearing a shepherd‘s robe (―work clothes‖), he had chosen to ―dress up‖ in the special robe given by his father, thus waving a red flag before his brothers. When Joseph arrived, his brothers seized him and removed the robe Israel had given him. They threw him into a dry pit—a bottle-shaped cistern whose narrow top prevented Joseph from climbing out. Callously, the brothers sat down to eat. They saw a caravan of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt, their camels laden with trade goods (vv. 23-25). Genesis 37:26-28 Commentary Judah, Jacob‘s fourth son, suggested a profitable possibility concerning Joseph. If the brothers killed him and got away with it, they would gain nothing. Why not sell him to the approaching traders? What was Judah‘s motive behind his suggestion? Possible motives include he simply saw an opportunity to make money, he sincerely wanted to prevent murder, and he sought to satisfy his brothers‘ thirst for revenge with the lesser of evils. Whatever Judah‘s motive, he saved Joseph‘s life. As the Midianite traders passed by, Joseph‘s brothers pulled him out of the pit where they had placed him and sold him to the Ishmaelites. The brothers received 20 pieces of silver, the going rate for a slave in that time. The traders took Joseph to Egypt. The traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer in Pharaoh‘s army (vv. 29-36). As Potiphar‘s slave, Joseph became his master‘s personal attendant. Joseph demonstrated such outstanding skills that Potiphar made him administrator of his household and all he owned. Potiphar‘s wife repeatedly tried to seduce Joseph. When he emphatically refused, she accused him of attempted rape. Joseph was imprisoned but again rose to second in authority. In prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two fellow prisoners, who had been Pharaoh‘s cupbearer and baker. Joseph‘s interpretations were accurate: the cupbearer was restored to his former position, but the baker was executed. Joseph asked the cupbearer to intercede with Pharaoh on Joseph‘s behalf. Two years later, Pharaoh had two troubling dreams that no one could interpret. The cupbearer remembered Joseph‘s ability to interpret dreams and told Pharaoh about him. When Pharaoh summoned him, Joseph explained that the dreams forecast a famine following seven years of abundant crops. Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint someone to oversee preparations for the famine, whereupon Pharaoh chose Joseph to do so and made him second in command in Egypt. Joseph successfully stored up food so that when the severe famine came, Egypt was ready (chaps. 40–41). The widespread famine affected Jacob and his family, so all Joseph‘s brothers except Benjamin traveled to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph recognized them but they did not recognize him. He did not identify himself. He 4|Page
  • 5. accused them of being spies and demanded that one brother return home and bring Benjamin back. When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph asked during a noon meal whether their father still lived. They assured him Jacob was well. When Joseph saw his brother Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion but regained his composure so he would not reveal his identity. Later Joseph revealed his identity and tried to allay his brothers‘ fears. He instructed them to go back home, get their father Jacob, and bring him to Egypt. Jacob and his entire family went down to Egypt, where Pharaoh settled them in Goshen (43:15–47:31). Genesis 50:15-21 Commentary With the possible exception of Benjamin, Joseph‘s brothers were still nervous and fearful. When they saw (realized) Jacob was dead, they began to fear what Joseph would do without their father‘s restraining influence. Guilt fueled the brothers‘ growing alarm. They felt Joseph would certainly repay them (pay them back in full) for all the suffering (harm) they had done to him. Rather than ask to meet with Joseph, the brothers conveyed a message to him. The message‘s content was a command Joseph‘s father, Jacob, supposedly had given before he died. The phrase your father subtly stressed Joseph‘s obligation as a son. The message directed Joseph to forgive (take away) the brothers‘ transgression (literally, rebellion [against God], crime, misdeed) and sin against him—the suffering they caused him. They added their own request for forgiveness of their transgression. Because no prior mention had been made of Jacob‘s directive to Joseph‘s brothers, some interpreters have suggested they fabricated their father‘s plea to Joseph. Most likely, however, they were truthful. Joseph accepted the plea as his father‘s intercession for the brothers. When Joseph received his brothers‘ message, he wept. Likely, their mistrust of him pained him deeply. He had forgiven them. He may have been grieved because they still did not understand and trust him and because of his realization they had carried a painful burden of guilt for years, even after he had forgiven and accepted them. After Joseph received his brothers‘ message, they went to him as a group. They bowed down (lay face down) before him and declared themselves to be his slaves. If Joseph would spare their lives, they would bind themselves to him as the most menial of slaves. Their petition reflected their deep fear. Did the brothers and Joseph recall his dreams as a teenager in which they bowed before him (37:5-9)? Joseph‘s attitude had changed markedly as he matured. He had no desire to ―lord it over‖ his brothers; rather, he had their welfare at heart. Instead of smug superiority, he demonstrated compassion, forgiveness, and a readiness to help. Not only did God‘s purpose prohibit Joseph from taking revenge, but also Joseph had neither the power nor the right to interfere with God‘s workings. Years previously, when the young Joseph found his brothers herding sheep at Dothan, they planned (devised) evil (harm) against him. They had bad intentions, first to kill him, but then to get rid of him by selling him into slavery (vv. 18-28). God overrode their evil with good. He produced a redemptive result: the survival of 5|Page
  • 6. many people. Joseph‘s status in Egypt enabled him to rescue the children of Israel from death by famine. Even more, people in Egypt and surrounding areas were able to buy grain to survive. Joseph saw God‘s guiding hand in his painful path that led to astonishingly good results. DIGGING DEEPER: Children Seen As Blessings—The people of the patriarchal times viewed children as blessings from God. Being barren was a curse. This became an important issue for the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In some cases, they resorted to practices that are not approved by the Bible as a whole. This was especially true of Jacob. His favorite wife, Rachel, was the last of four women to have his children. The other siblings came from three different women. Joseph was the first child of Jacob and Rachel. This helps explain the negative feelings of his brothers and the warm feeling of Joseph for Benjamin. The actions of the brothers toward Joseph are described by the word evil (Gen. 50:20). It is found many times in the Old Testament. It usually describes sinful actions by human beings. Before the flood, people‘s hearts were said to be ―evil all the time‖ (Gen. 6:5). The Hebrew word is ra’. The word with the opposite meaning in Genesis 50:20 is good. The Hebrew word is tob. The word is often used to describe God, as in, ―Taste and see that the Lord is good‖ (Ps. 34:8). JOSEPH (Joh' sihf): Personal name meaning, ―adding.‖ Name of several men in the Bible, most importantly a patriarch of the nation Israel and the foster father of Jesus. Joseph in the Old Testament primarily refers to the patriarch, one of the sons of Israel. Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons, the first by Jacob‘s favorite wife, Rachel. His name, ―may he [the Lord] add,‖ was a part of Rachel‘s prayer at his birth (Gen. 30:24). As the child of Jacob‘s old age and Rachel‘s son, Joseph became the favorite and was given the famous ―coat of many colors‖ (Gen. 37:3; ―long robe with sleeves,‖ NRSV, NEB; ―richly ornamented robe‖ NIV) by his father. This and dreams which showed his rule over his family inspired the envy of his brothers, who sold Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites (Gen. 37). Joseph was taken to Egypt where he became a trusted slave in the house of Potiphar, an official of the pharaoh. On false accusations of Potiphar‘s wife, Joseph was thrown in the royal prison, where he interpreted the dreams of two officials who had offended the pharaoh (Gen. 39-40). Eventually Joseph was brought to interpret some worrisome dreams for the pharaoh. Joseph predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and recommended a program of preparation by storing grain. Pharaoh responded by making Joseph his second in command (Gen. 41:39-45). With the famine, persons from other countries came to Egypt to buy food, including Joseph‘s brothers. They did not recognize him, but Joseph saw the fulfillment of his earlier dreams in which his brothers 6|Page
  • 7. bowed down to him. After testing their character in various ways, Joseph revealed himself to them on their second visit (Gen. 42-45). Under Joseph‘s patronage, Jacob moved into Egypt (Gen. 46:1-47:12). Joseph died in Egypt but was embalmed and later buried in Shechem (Gen. 50:26; Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32). That the influential Joseph (Gen. 47:13-26) is not known from Egyptian records would be expected if he served under a Hyksos pharaoh, as seems likely. See Hyksos. Later Egyptians tried to erase all evidence of that period. The pharaoh ―who did not know Joseph‖ (Ex. 1:8, NRSV) did not ―know‖ of him in a political or historical sense. While in Egypt, Joseph became the father of two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 41:50-52), who were counted as sons of Jacob (48:5-6) and whose tribes dominated the northern nation of Israel. The name Joseph is used later in the Old Testament as a reference to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Num. 1:32; 36:1, 5; 1 Kings 11:28) or as a designation for the whole Northern Kingdom (Ps. 78:67; Ezek. 37:16, 19; Amos 5:6, 15; 6:6; Obad. 18; Zech. 10:6). ISHMAELITE (ihsh' may ehl ite): Tribal name for descendants of Ishmael. According to Genesis 25:1216, Ismael was the father of twelve sons. The Ishmaelites were regarded as an ethnic group, generally referring to the nomadic tribes of northern Arabia. The Ishmaelites were not, however, exclusively associated with any geographic area. References to them in the Old Testament are relatively few. The people to whom Joseph was sold by his brothers are called Ishmaelites in Genesis 37:25. ISHMAELITES - , yishme m): The supposed descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar, whom Abraham sent away from him after the birth of Isaac (Gen 21:14-21). The sons of Ishmael are given in Gen 25:13, 14; they were twelve in number and gave rise to as many tribes, but the term Ishmaelite has a broader signification, as appears from Gen 37:28. 36, where it is identified with Midianite. From Gen 16:12 it may be inferred that it was applied to the Bedouin of the desert region east of the Jordan generally, for the character there assigned to Ishmael, ―His hand shall be against every man, and every man‘s hand against him,‖ fits the habits of Bedouin in all ages. Such was the character of the Midianites as described in Jdg 7, who are again identified with the Ishmaelites (8:24). These references show that the Ishmaelites were not confined to the descendants of the son of Abraham and Hagar, but refer to the desert tribes in general, like ―the children of the east‖ (Jdg 7:12). MIDIAN, MIDIANITES (Mihd' ih uhn, Mihd' ih uhn ites): Personal and clan name meaning, ―strife‖ Midian was the son of Abraham by his concubine Keturah (Gen. 25:2). Abraham sent him and his brothers away to the east, leading to the association of the Midianites with the ―children of the east‖ (Judg. 6:3). Midianites took Joseph to Egypt (Gen. 37:28, 36). Since the caravan in the passage is described as Ishmaelite, it is possible that these two groups descended from Abraham had become interrelated. The Old Testament mentions the Midianites in widely scattered geographical locations, but their main homeland seems to be east of the Jordan and south of Edom. Later historians locate the land of Midian in 7|Page
  • 8. northwestern Arabia east of the Gulf of Aqabah. The people of Israel had both good and bad relationships with the Midianites. When Moses fled from Pharaoh, he went east to Midian (Ex. 2:15). Here he met Jethro (also called Reuel), the priest of Midian, and married his daughter. During the wandering in the wilderness, Reuel‘s father-in-law Hobab served as a guide for the Israelites (Num. 10:29-32). The Midianites are associated with the Moabites in seducing Israel into immorality and pagan worship at Baalpeor (Num. 25:1-18). For this reason God commanded Moses to execute a war of vengeance against them (Num. 31:3; compare Josh. 13:21). In the time of the judges the Midianites along with the Amalekites began to raid Israel using camels to strike swiftly over great distances. Gideon drove them out and killed their leaders (Judg. 6-8). They never again threatened Israel; but Midian did harbor Solomon‘s enemy Hadad (1 Kings 11:18). MIDIAN; MIDIANITES; , n , - - m , οι, naioi): 1. The Seed of Abraham to the Time of the Judges: Midian was a son of Abraham by his concubine Keturah. To him were born 5 sons, Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah (Gen 25:2, 4; 1 Ch 1:32 f). Bearing gifts from Abraham, he and his brothers, each with his own household, moved off from Isaac into ―the east country‖ (Gen 25:6). The first recorded incident in the history of the tribe is a defeat suffered ―in the field of Moab‖ at the hands of Hadad, king of Edom. Of this nothing beyond the fact is known (Gen 36:35; 1 Ch 1:46). The Midianites next appear as merchantmen traveling from Gilead to Egypt, with ―spicery and balm and myrrh,‖ with no prejudice against a turn of slave-dealing (Gen 37:25 ff). Moses, on fleeing from Egypt, found refuge in the land of Midian, and became son-in-law of Jethro, the priest of Midian (Ex 2:15, 21). In Midian Moses received his commission to Israel in Egypt (Ex 4:19). A Midianite, familiar with the desert, acted as guide (―instead of eyes‖) to the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings (Nu 10:29 ff). The friendly relations between Israel and Midian, which seem to have prevailed at first, had been ruptured, and we find the elders of Midian acting with those of Moab in calling Balaam to curse Israel (Nu 22:4-7). Because of the grievous sin into which they had seduced Israel on the shrewd advice of Balaam, a war of vengeance was made against the Midianites in which five of their chiefs perished; the males were ruthlessly slain, and Balaam also was put to death (Nu 25:15, 17; 31:2 ff). We next hear of Midian as oppressing Israel for 7 years. Along with the Amalekites and the children of the East they swarmed across the Jordan, and their multitudinous beasts swept up the produce of the earth. Overwhelming disaster befell this horde at the onset of Gideon‘s chosen men. In the battle and pursuit ―there fell a hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword‖; their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, and their princes, Oreb and Zeeb, sharing the common fate (Jdg 6—8). Echoes of this glorious victory—―the day of Midian‖—are heard in later literature (Ps 83:9; Isa 9:4; 10:26; Hab 3:7). 2. The Kenite Branch: 8|Page
  • 9. The Kenites appear to have been a branch of the Midianites. Jethro could hardly have attained the dignity of the priesthood in Midian had he been of alien blood (Jdg 1:16). Again, the tribesmen are named indifferently Ishmaelites and Midianites (Gen 37:25, 28, 36; Jdg 8:22, 24). They must therefore have stood in close relations with the descendants of Hagar‘s son. 3. Modern Arabs: The representations of Midian in Scripture are consistent with what we know of the immemorial ways of Arabian tribes, now engaged in pastoral pursuits, again as carriers of merchandise, and yet again as freebooters. Such tribes often roam through wide circles. They appear not to have practiced circumcision (Ex 4:25), which is now practically universal among the Arabs. The men wore golden ornaments, as do the modern nomads (Jdg 8:24 ff). 4. Historical References: The name of ―Midian‖ is not found in Egyptian or Assyrian documents. Delitzsch (Wo lag das Paradies? 304) suggests that Ephah (Gen 25:4) may be identical with Chayapa of the cuneiform inscriptions. If this is correct the references point to the existence of this Midianite tribe in the North of elz in the times of Tiglath-pileser and Sargon (745-705 BC). Isaiah speaks of Midian and Ephah apparently as separate tribes, whose dromedaries bear gold and frankincense to Zion (60:6); but he gives no hint of the districts they occupied. The tribe of r, found in the neighborhood of Medina in Mohammed‘s day, Knobel would identify with Epher, another of Midian‘s sons. 5. Territory: No boundaries can now be assigned to ―the land of Midian.‖ It included territory on the West as well as on the East of the Gulf of ‗Aqaba (Ex 4:19). It lay between Edom and Paran (1 Ki 11:18). In the time of the Judges their district seems to have extended northward to the East of Gilead (8:10). A trace of the ancient name is found in that of Madyan, a place mentioned by the Arabic geographers, with a plentiful supply of water, now called ir Shoʽaib It lies East of the Gulf of . , some miles from the coast, almost opposite the point of the Sinaitic peninsula. The name Shoʽaib given by , Mohammed to Jethro, may here be due to ancient Midianite tradition. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: JOSEPH A Man of Integrity By Terry W. Eddinger, Benjamin Miller Professor of Old Testament and vice president for academics at Carolina Graduate School of Divinity, Greensboro, North Carolina. THE STORIES IN GENESIS 37—50 depict a person of high moral integrity. His name is Joseph. Being 9|Page
  • 10. the great-grandson of Abraham, the hero of faith (Heb. 11:8-19), perhaps we would expect nothing less. Perhaps we would expect integrity to be a family tradition for Joseph and that it would come easily. Yet we would be wrong to have such expectations. What He Came From Joseph grew up in a family that lacked integrity. As Charles Swindol points out, Joseph‘s family proved to be poor role models.1 He was the son of a master deceiver. Jacob, Joseph‘s father, spent much of his life tricking and deceiving people, mostly members of his own family. Even his name means ―one who supplants.‖ He deceived his father Isaac and cheated his brother Esau on at least two occasions. Jacob was in the process of deceiving his uncle Laban out of his flock when Joseph was just a boy (Gen. 30:2343; 31:41). Even Joseph‘s mother Rachel stole her father Laban‘s household gods when the family fled from him and then she failed to tell the truth when confronted about it (31:19,34-35)! Joseph‘s brothers proved they knew the art of trickery too. After selling Joseph to Ishmaelites, they deceived their father by putting goat blood on Joseph‘s coat and then telling him that a wild animal had killed Joseph (37:31-35). Joseph‘s childhood years did not bode well for building his character. Joseph was the youngest of Jacob‘s sons except Benjamin. He was the firstborn to Rachel, Jacob‘s favorite wife. Jacob favored Joseph over his other sons and on one occasion gave him a distinctive coat which indicated special favor or status (vv. 3-4). This coat may have been one that a supervisor would wear and not that of a day laborer,2 perhaps implying to his brothers that Joseph outranked to them. Genesis tells us that Joseph‘s brothers hated him to the point they could not speak kindly to him. This was partly because of his favored status and partly because Joseph tattled to his father about his brother‘s wrong-doings (37:2,4). When Joseph told his brothers about his dreams that reflected his self-importance, they became jealous and hated him even more (vv. 5-11), even to the point of wanting to kill him. Instead, they sold him into slavery (v. 28). Up to this time, Joseph had acted like a spoiled child before his family, being insensitive to how his actions affected them. The teenaged Joseph did not reflect the sage and person of moral character that he would become in Egypt. What He Became Joseph‘s demeanor changed on his forced journey from Canaan to Egypt. He became the model of integrity. The self-centered teenager became a responsible, selfless adult. His brothers betrayed him. Potiphar enslaved him. Potiphar‘s wife tempted him and falsely accused him. Potiphar put him in prison. Through it all he remained upright. He kept integrity as a major character trait for the rest of his life. We can learn several lessons about integrity from Joseph‘s adult life. First, Joseph put forth his best effort despite his circumstances. Joseph successfully took on responsibility, even when he was not the primary beneficiary of his work. Although a house slave, Potiphar recognized Joseph‘s potential and promoted him to head of the household (39:1-6). Likewise, the captain of the guard placed Joseph over all the work 10 | P a g e
  • 11. at the prison where he was confined (vv. 21-23). Pharaoh recognized Joseph‘s wisdom when he interpreted Pharaoh‘s dreams. Pharaoh promoted him to second in command over all Egypt (41:40). In this capacity he effectively served as an administrator to save the people from starvation during the sevenyear famine (vv. 38-57). Second, Joseph was a person of moral character. Joseph demonstrated this best in how he dealt with Potiphar‘s wife. He did not give in to her recurring advances (39:7-9). Instead he fled, leaving his coat behind. He did not violate the trust Potiphar had placed in him. Unfortunately, Potiphar did not return the loyalty Joseph had shown him. Third, Joseph forgave. When he faced his brothers (without Benjamin) in Egypt about 22 years after they sold him into slavery, Joseph did not take revenge for how they had mistreated him. Instead, he tested them to see if they had changed their ways before he revealed his identity. Joseph accused them of being spies and dishonest and then put them in prison for three days (42:8-17). He questioned them to see if they would answer honestly; then he tested them. Next Joseph put Simeon in jail and allowed the rest to return home. Joseph required the brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt as proof they were telling the truth (v. 20). The brothers passed their test on several occasions. First, they recognized and admitted they had mistreated Joseph wrong (vv. 21-23). Joseph heard this confession although the brothers did not know he was Joseph at the time. Second, they brought Benjamin with them on their next journey to Egypt (43:15). They treated Benjamin kindly in Joseph‘s presence. Joseph discovered they had spared Benjamin the ill treatment he had received. Third, they attempted to return the moneythey found in their sacks. Earlier, Joseph had it placed there without their knowledge. Joseph saw that his brothers had learned to be honest with material things (vv. 19-23). Fourth, when Joseph threatened to put Benjamin in jail, Judah asked to take Benjamin‘s place for his father‘s sake (44:18-34). This was the final proof; he knew his brothers had indeed changed. Joseph‘s revealing himself to his brothers is not only a scene of great joy but also one which best shows Joseph‘s integrity and forgiveness. ―Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here‖ Joseph said, ―for God sent me before you to preserve life‖ (45:5).3 Rather than be angry and retaliate, Joseph kissed them and promised to provide for them (vv. 9-15). ―Joseph could never have spoken such words of reassurance if he had not fully forgiven his brothers.‖4 A similar scene occurred after their father Jacob had died. The brothers were afraid Joseph would exact revenge. They sent a message, asking for his forgiveness. Hearing of their concern (and likely heartbroken), Joseph wept (50:17). How did Joseph respond when he spoke to his brothers? ―‘Do not be afraid for am I in God‘s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.‘ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them‖ (vv. 19-21). Joseph‘s words and actions 11 | P a g e
  • 12. reflected what he had become—one of the best examples of a person of integrity in the Old Testament. 12 | P a g e