October 6, 1996
Joseph’s life makes for a captivating story. More importantly, though, it also demonstrates God’s providential care. Joseph was favored by his father, but a source of envy for his brothers. They therefore planned to kill the one who, in God’s providence, would be used to save them from famine. Reviewing Joseph’s story, Alistair Begg reminds us that God works everything together according to His wise plan—and that by avoiding trials, we may miss out on His blessings.
1Jacob lived in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan.
2These are the generations of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.1 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
5Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
12Now his brothers went to pasture their father's flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
18They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.2 Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
25Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels3 of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
29When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31Then they took Joseph's robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son's robe or not.” 33And he identified it and said, “It is my son's robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
1It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her, 3and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah1 was in Chezib when she bore him.
6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 11Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father's house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father's house.
12In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
20When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her. 21And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute2 who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” 22So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”
24About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral.3 Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.”4 And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
27When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez.5 30Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.
1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
11But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”
19As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
1Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. 2And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.
5And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in custody in his master's house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”
9So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand.” 12Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”
16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”
20On the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. 22But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
1After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
9Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
14Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”1 17Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. 18Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. 22I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. 23Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, 24and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”
25Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land2 of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
37This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”3 39Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.4 Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!”5 Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
46Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
50Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.”6 52The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”7
53The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”
56So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses8 and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.