Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.0 20020314-20070126)
Jacob and Rachel had a son named Joseph. Joseph was the youngest of Jacob’s eleven sons born in the service of Laban. The twelfth son, Benjamim, was born later in Canaan. Joseph was Jacob’s favourite and this caused much jealousy among the other brothers. We will see from the story of Joseph that he had an important role to play in the history of Israel.
For some time Rachel was not able to have any children. But Leah gave birth to many sons. Reuben was the first-born son; then came Simeon, Levi, Judah and later Issachar and Zebulun. Rachel wanted to have children so badly that she gave her female servant Bilhah to Jacob, as a wife, in order for children to be born to her. Bilhah gave birth to two sons called Dan and Napthali.
Leah also gave her female servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife and she gave birth to two more sons named Gad and Asher. Then, God blessed Rachel and allowed her to give birth to a son. This son was named Joseph. The name Joseph meant, “God has taken away my reproach”(Gen. 30:23). Rachel died giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth and final son, Benjamin. So, Jacob had a total of twelve sons (Gen. 35:23-26).
Joseph’s dreams of greatness
Meanwhile, Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob, grew into a young man. By the time he was seventeen years old he was working hard on his father’s land in Canaan. His brothers did the same work, but they did not like Joseph. This was because he was special to their father (Gen. 37:3). Joseph also brought back tales to his father about some of the wrong things his brothers had done. This practice made his brothers dislike him even more.
By this time Jacob was an old man. Joseph had spent much of his time as a youth with Jacob. As a result, Jacob had a stronger bond with Joseph than with any of his other sons. Jacob gave Joseph a cloak of many colours. Joseph’s brothers saw their father’s favouritism towards Joseph and became full of jealousy.
Genesis 37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
To add to all this Joseph had some dreams, which showed him being an important person some day. In Joseph’s first dream, he dreamt that he and his brothers were tying together bundles of wheat in their fields. Then, while they were tying these bundles, Joseph’s bundle of wheat rose up and stood straight, while their bundles bowed down to his bundle (Gen. 37:6-8).
In Joseph’s second dream, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to him (Gen. 37:9). He told this second dream to his brothers and his father. Joseph’s father said: “Do you expect your whole family to come and bow down before you?”
Genesis 37:10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earh before you?”
Because of these dreams, Joseph’s brothers hated him even more. They questioned him in disbelief and asked him if he really thought that he would be ruling over them, or maybe that they would one day bow down to him?
We can probably all remember times when we have been jealous of our brothers or sisters. This may even have caused us do bad things. Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy eventually caused them to suffer through a lot of fear, pain, and sorrow. Eventually, they did come to bow before Joseph, just as Joseph had dreamed.
However, no matter what Joseph’s brothers thought, Jacob kept Joseph’s dreams in mind (Gen. 37:11).
We need to think about the meaning Joseph’s dreams, as they are important to the Plan of God. We will see later in the story of Joseph that these dreams did come true (see Gen. 42:6; 43:26; 44:14). Joseph would later become prince among his brothers (Deut. 33:16). He would also receive the right of the first-born (1Chro. 5:2). This was to be a double portion of the inheritance because his father, Jacob, had adopted his two sons.
However, there is another part to the meaning of the dreams that is even more important. As we mentioned before, God’s Feasts are called harvests. The sheaves in Joseph’s dream represent the general harvest, which occurs at the Feast of Tabernacles. The tribe of Joseph is not only part of the harvest, but also has a greater part than the other tribes.
Then we see that the sun, moon and stars bow down to Joseph. Jacob becomes the sun as the ancestor of Messiah. His nation is called he shall rule as God or Israel. His wife is represented as the moon because she is the mother of Israel. She also represents the nation. The Church is also called the wife of Messiah or the bride of Christ.
The tribes of Israel are the eleven stars with Joseph as the twelfth star. The physical nation of Israel later became spiritual Israel, which is the Church.
So the moon stands for the nation Israel and also for the Church. The moon has no light of its own, but is given light from the sun, which is a star. This sun is also the star that shall come out of Jacob (Num. 24:17). This is talking about Christ who was one of the Morning Stars. He gave up his position in Heaven and came to Earth to die for us. This was so we could qualify for the new system that Christ came to introduce. In the same way the Church gets its power from the sun (Christ) who came from the Creator God.
Some of this may be a little hard to understand just now, but it will become clearer as we learn more about God’s Plan for all of us.
Joseph sold by his brothers
Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers had gone to feed their father’s flock in the land of Shechem. After they had been gone a number of days and Jacob received no word from them, he became worried. So, Jacob sent Joseph to go and see how things were going and to bring back a report of what was happening.
After Joseph reached Shechem, a man found Joseph wandering in search of his brothers. The man approached Joseph and asked him why he was wandering around. Joseph told him and the man informed him that his brothers had moved on to the land of Dothan.
Genesis 37:16-17 So he said “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.” 17 And the man said, “ They have departed from here for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.
Now, when Joseph’s brothers saw him coming from far away they said to one another, “Look the dreamer is coming!” Then before Joseph had even come near to them they planned to kill him.
Genesis 37:20 “Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him in some pit; and we shall say ‘ Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams.
But, when Jacob’s oldest son Reuben heard his brothers’ plans to kill Joseph, he stopped them. Reuben told them to make it appear that Joseph had been killed. So instead of really murdering Joseph, they should place him in a pit. After the brothers did this, Reuben was planning to take Joseph out of the pit and bring him back home (Gen. 37:22).
So, when Joseph did finally reach his brothers, he was stripped of his cloak of many colours and cast into the pit in the wilderness by his brothers. Joseph’s brothers then sat down to eat a meal. Just as they began to eat, they looked up to see a group of Ishmaelites coming from the land of Gilead with their camels. The Ishmaelites were on their way to Egypt carrying many goods such as spices, balm, and myrrh.
When Joseph’s brother Judah saw these merchants coming towards them, he got an idea. Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?” (Gen. 37:26)
Instead of killing Joseph with their own hands, Joseph’s brothers decided to sell him as a slave to the Ishmaelites. So it came to pass that Joseph was pulled out of the pit and sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.
Then Reuben, as oldest brother and therefore responsible for Joseph, tore his clothes when he realized that he had no way to explain the disappearance of Joseph to his father Jacob (Gen. 37:30).
Joseph’s brothers then got an idea of how to explain the disappearance of Joseph. They took Joseph’s cloak of colours, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped Joseph’s cloak in the blood of the kid goat. The brothers then took the cloak to their father and asked him if the cloak was really Joseph’s cloak. (Even though they knew full well it was Joseph’s cloak.) Jacob recognized the cloak as belonging to his son.
Genesis 37:33 And he recognized it (the cloak or tunic) and said, “ It is my son’s tunic, A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”
Jacob tore his clothes and put sackcloth around his waist. Jacob mourned the death of his son Joseph for many days. Jacob’s family tried to comfort him, but Jacob refused to be
comforted. Jacob then declared that he would grieve the loss of Joseph until his dying day.
Joseph as a slave in Egypt
Now, it came to pass that the Ishmaelites had sold Joseph to Potiphar. Potiphar was an officer of the Pharaoh of Egypt, as well as the captain of the Guard.
The Lord was with Joseph in Egypt and the Lord made Joseph a successful man. He also blessed all that Joseph did, and in return the Lord’s blessing passed on to the house of the Egyptian master of Joseph. Joseph’s master, Potiphar, saw this and gave favour to Joseph and made Joseph the overseer of his house and all that he had.
After all these things, Potiphar’s wife looked at Joseph with longing, for Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Potiphar’s wife then asked Joseph to lie with her. But Joseph refused her.
Genesis 39:8-9 But he (Joseph) refused and said to his master’s wife, “ Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand.” 9 There is no one greater in this house then I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
Day by day, Potiphar’s wife continually spoke to Joseph asking him to lie with her. But, again and again, Joseph refused her. Then, one day when no manservants were in the house, Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph by his cloak and tried to make him lie with her. Joseph fled, leaving his garment in her hands. Potiphar’s wife then called to the manservants of her house. When the manservants arrived, she lied about Joseph and accused him of trying to force her against her will (Gen. 39:14-15).
So, she kept his garment until Potiphar came home and then she told him the same lie about Joseph that she had told the manservants. When Potiphar heard her story he became angry and put Joseph in the prison where the King’s prisoners were held.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. The Lord gave Joseph favour in the sight of the prison guard, and the prison guard gave Joseph authority over all things that the prisoners did. The guard did not check over anything that was under Joseph’s authority (Gen. 39:23).
While Joseph was in prison there was a plot to poison the Pharaoh of Egypt. As a result of this, the chief butler and the chief baker were put in prison with Joseph. Potiphar himself told Joseph to look after them (Gen. 40:4). This tells us that Potiphar probably did not believe that Joseph was guilty of any wrongdoing.
Over time Joseph became quite friendly with these two men. One morning he noticed that they were sad. So he asked what troubled them. They told him they both had a disturbing dream the night before and they did not know the meaning of the dreams. Joseph, being the friendly person that he was, asked them to tell him what the dreams were about (Gen. 40:5-8). He knew that if there was something God wanted them to know from the dreams that He would reveal it to Joseph.
The butler dreamed of a vine with three branches that blossomed into ripe grapes, after which he pressed the grapes and put the juice into the Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to him to drink. God helped Joseph to understand what this dream meant. He told the butler that in three days he would be out of prison and given his job back as head butler (Gen. 40:9-13).
Joseph asked the butler to remember him when all these things happened. He asked the butler to tell the Pharaoh that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing and should not be in prison. But we will see later that the butler forgot to do this for a long time (Gen. 40:23; 41:9-14).
The dream of the baker did not have such a happy meaning. He dreamed that he was carrying three baskets of food on his head to Pharaoh, but hungry birds came down and ate the food. Joseph was not happy to tell the baker what his dream meant, but he knew he had to tell the truth. So he told the baker that within three days the Pharaoh would cut off his head, hang him on a tree and the birds would eat his flesh (Gen. 40:16-19). How awful is this?
Now three days later it was the Pharaoh’s birthday. There was always a big feast on this day and some prisoners were released from prison as a special favour from the Pharaoh on his birthday. As it turned out the butler was freed and given back his old job. On the same day the baker was hanged and the birds came and ate his flesh. These things happened just as Joseph said they would.
Well, after two more years had passed, the Pharaoh himself had two dreams that puzzled him. He sent for all the magicians in Egypt to try to find the meaning of his dreams. But none of them could tell him what these strange things meant. It was then that the butler remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh about Joseph and how he had given the correct meaning to his dream and to that of the baker.
So Pharaoh of course sent for Joseph. Finally Joseph might get out of prison. After he was clean and dressed up, he was taken to the Pharaoh. Joseph told Pharaoh that he did not have the power to understand dreams, but God does and He would give an answer through Joseph.
In the first dream the Pharaoh was standing by a river and up came seven fat cows out of the water. Then he saw seven thin ugly cows come up out of the water and eat the seven fat cows. Even stranger is the fact that these seven thin ugly cows still remained thin after eating the seven fat cows (Gen. 41:17-21).
In the second dream Pharaoh saw seven plump heads of grain growing out of one stalk. Then seven thin withered heads of grain, blown about by the wind, sprang up and ate the seven good heads (Gen. 41:22-24).
Joseph told Pharaoh that both dreams had the same meaning. The reason was that God wanted to make sure that the Pharaoh would heed the warning of the dreams. Joseph told him that the seven fat cows and the seven good heads of grain represented seven years when there would be more food than the people could eat in Egypt. The thin cows and the withered heads of grain meant that right after the seven good years there would be seven bad years. The cattle would die and the crops would fail and there would not be enough food for man or animal. That meant that there would be a famine in Egypt for seven years.
Pharaoh must have been quite amazed at what Joseph’s God had revealed to him. He asked Joseph what they could do to prepare for this very severe famine. Joseph replied, “You should choose a wise and capable man to take charge of matters during the seven years of plenty. Appoint officers to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land and store it in storehouses under the authority of the Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:33-36). This made good sense to the leaders of Egypt. By storing grain in the good years, they would have enough to feed the people of the land when the famine came. They were so impressed with Joseph’s wisdom they decided to appoint him leader over all these things.
“You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” (Gen. 41:40)
Joseph obeyed God even when everything seemed to be going wrong in his life. After many hard times God blessed Joseph greatly by making him a ruler over the nation of Egypt and second in rank to the Pharaoh. This is a good lesson for us also. We must trust in God and obey His Laws and He will always look after us.
So thirteen years after Joseph was sold as a slave at the age of seventeen, he was made ruler in the most powerful nation on Earth at that time. He was now thirty years old. Pharaoh gave Joseph fine clothes, a ring to stamp important papers, and put a gold chain around his neck (Gen. 41:42). He also gave Joseph a wife. Her name was Asenath and she was the daughter of the priest.
As time went on Joseph noticed that the crops produced a plentiful supply of food. He could see that God was carrying out His promise for the seven good years. So he gathered up all the extra food in the cities and stored it in special places to be ready for the seven years of famine. There was so much grain to be stored that Joseph could not count it all (Gen. 41:46-49).
Before the years of the famine came, Joseph became the father of two sons. Their names were Manasseh and Ephraim. This special blessing from God helped Joseph to forget the long and lonely years he spent in prison and the terrible things his brothers had done to him.
So seven good years passed and the seven years of famine began. The rains stopped; hot dry winds began to blow; and the crops soon began to fail. It was just as Joseph had said it would be. The famine was in all the lands, but in Egypt there was food. When the Egyptians ran out of their own food they cried out to Pharaoh to help them. The Pharaoh told them to go to Joseph and do whatever he ordered them (Gen. 41:54-55).
The famine was all over the Earth and Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians. Not only that, but also all the other countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was so bad in all the lands.
So Joseph’s prophecy had come true. Because he obeyed God and stored food for the years of famine many people’s lives were saved. If we obey God’s Laws He will not forget us either.
We will continue with the story of Joseph in the paper Joseph: The Son of Jacob Part 2 (No. CB15).