Thirteen years had passed since he was sold as a slave by his brothers, but Joseph had persevered under trial, and God delivered him, and rewarded him for his righteousness. Joseph matured in his faith, and his hardship strengthened his relationship with God. All things given to Joseph were blessings from God. The exaltation of Joseph was to the glory of God. Once Joseph was stripped of his robe by his brothers, but now, God gave him new fine clothes of royalty. Joseph had been sold and forced into a caravan, but now God placed him a chariot of Pharaoh’s, with men clearing a path before him. Joseph had been a slave and a prisoner, but now he was adorned with gold necklace and signet ring from the most powerful man on earth. Joseph had been humbled by his experience, and God exalted him before all to see, even in the midst of a foreign nation.
The cupbearer served the Pharaoh wine and the baker his food, through which the Pharaoh was susceptible to poison, so his trustworthiness of these officials was paramount. The offenses of these men is not made known.
They had been in prison for some time before they had the dreams. In this time Joseph had become acquainted with them, as they were placed under his charge. Joseph did not use his exalted place to mistreat or oppress, but to serve. He attended to their needs. He inquired of their sadness out of compassion. It was in Joseph’s character to raise their the spirits of those around him, even in such a seemingly hopeless place as prison.
The dreams of the cupbearer and baker were perplexing to them. They were stirred in a way they could not understand. They knew they dreams meant something, but they could not grasp the meaning. Joseph’s solution was confident and reassuring. He rightly gave the glory to God, the only true God, to whom all interpretations belong. God had communicated twice to Joseph in his dreams. When Joseph told his dream to his brothers, they ridiculed and conspired against him. Notice that Joseph’s reaction contrasts theirs.
The cupbearer told his dream first. He got good news; that he would be set free and restored. The interpretation included a time frame of three days. If the interpretation did not come true in three days, Joseph would be proved a fraud. Joseph had faith what God revealed, enough faith that he requested the cupbearer mention him to Pharaoh when he was restored to his position. While Joseph was exalted and served with godliness in prison, it was not where he wanted to stay. He wanted freedom, and knew it would only come according to God’s will. With the cupbearer, God gave Joseph an opportunity to plead his case to the outside. Joseph spoke briefly of his circumstance, but did not dwell on it or pity himself. He said he had done nothing wrong, being confident in his righteousness before God.
When he heard that the dream of the cupbearer was positive, the baker engaged Joseph to interpret his dream, anticipating good news. Joseph told him what God revealed. The interpretation was gruesome, but Joseph did not manipulate or soften God’s truth to make the baker feel better. The baker would die, and God wanted him to know it. The baker had three days to think about his impending death. He had chance to look at his life, his sin, and ask for repentance.
In three days the interpretations proved true, and served as a witness to God. Pharoah demonstrated his mercy with the cupbearer freedom, and his power with the baker’s execution.
The cupbearer forgot about Joseph in the midst of his own happiness.
Pride causes us to fall from high places. This may have been the case with Pharaoh’s two officials. We are to use positions of power to serve, as Joseph did, as our Lord did. Desperate, dreadful places are where we must be most hopeful. Christ is needed in such circumstance. We must tend to the needs of others above ourselves. It good to point our companions to God when they are sad and distressed.
Not all dreams are messages from God, but if God chooses to he may communicate this way, and we are right to inquire of a dream that moves us if so guided by the Holy Spirit. We cannot assume a meaning for every dream we have. God will interpret a dream if it needs interpretation, but it is best not to obsess or dwell over dream meanings. Our clear communication with God is through his Word, prayer, and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Not all messages from God are what we want to hear, but they are what he wants us to hear. This is true with the gospel. We do great harm if we water down the truth of God. We must tell the gospel as it was given to us, without alteration for comfort’s sake, or else souls are guided to condemnation instead of salvation. Even in suffering for our righteousness we can be confident of it, and faithful in God. We should use the time given to us to repent of our sins and follow our Lord. Nothing is so relieving and refreshing as receiving mercy: this is the way with Jesus. Nothing is so frightening as not receiving mercy: this is this way without Jesus. We should always remember the kindness done to us, especially in who helped us in our poor circumstances. It is too easy to forget the people who helped us when we move on to more comfortable surroundings. We must always remember Christ, who showed to us the greatest kindness.
There were many places or people a slave could be sold to, but the hand of God did not deliver Joseph to cruelty. Joseph was of good character and ethic, and blessed by God. Potiphar was captain of the guard, of leader of the Pharaoh’s security.
Though Joseph was betrayed and abandoned by his brothers, the Lord was with him, so that even in his lowly position of a slave, he would prosper. Joseph’s honest character and work ethic were a witness of God, and Potiphar took notice of the grace and favor that was bestowed upon him. Joseph was both a slave and foreigner and yet Potiphar, a man of status and esteem, trusted him with everything he had. Potiphar was blessed because of his attitude toward Joseph.
Joseph was an attractive young man. While Potiphar noticed the character of Joseph, his wife was drawn to him in lust. Potiphar’s marriage was not honorable. She was persistent in seducing Joseph and his refusal only made her push all the more. Joseph was probably not the first or last man she tried to seduce. He was in the difficult circumstance of having integrity in a world of corruption. So he would not fall into temptation, Joseph recounted the blessings of God given to him. He would not sin against God, who had blessed him so much. He refused her, and avoided her and the temptation.
Potiphar’s wife likely made the arrangement to have no other servants in the house. She was aggressive and manipulative. In grabbing his cloak she wanted to strip him of his moral integrity. Compare this to the action of his brothers, who thought that stripping him of his robe would destroy love his father had for him.
Just as Joseph’s robe was presented to Jacob as false evidence, so was his cloak presented to his master. She was angry at Joseph’s refusal, and bitter over his righteousness. She despised the goodness in him. Like his brothers, she fabricated a story to cover up evil. The wife knew how to agitate Potiphar. Notice how she chose to describe Joseph: your Hebrew slave. She assigned possession of Joseph to Potiphar, and therefore assigned blame to him. She called Joseph Hebrew condescendingly, to conjure up the racist emotions of Potiphar. She identified Joseph as a slave, to stir up Potiphar’s pride regarding his status. It is no surprise that Potiphar was furious. He had after all, taken this young man in, treated him well, and given him the highest position in his household. It was interpreted as betrayal. With the cloak in hand, Potiphar did not doubt or question. Yet, the entire circumstance was out of character for Joseph, and in reality, Joseph did everything right. He did everything to avoid sin, and yet he had to suffer for it. In all likelihood such an event would have lead to a slave’s execution. Potiphar may have been merciful to Joseph on account of God. Joseph was thrown in prison, just as his brothers had thrown him into a pit.
The world had worked against Joseph. It would have been easy for Joseph to slump into self-pity and become angry at his circumstance, and even angry at God, but he didn’t. He continued to be a man of righteousness and faith. As dire as circumstances were, God continued to bless Joseph, and did not abandon him. The lie of the Potiphar’s wife had landed him in prison, but God was pleased with Joseph’s refusal to sin. Joseph was exalted among the prisoners by the prison warden, and the warden trusted Joseph. It was better for Joseph to be in prison than to sin before God.
God never abandons us no matter how bad things may get. We should always do our work as if working for the Lord, that his light may shine through us. If you honor God in all that you do, you will find success. Success is not measured by your social standing but your desire to follow Christ. Prosperity is not measured by wealth, but by your favor with God. We cannot sin against our God who loves us and blesses us with all we have. We need to avoid the traps of temptation. People who try to lure us to do evil will be hateful of our refusal and may throw false accusations at us. Christians who oppose same-sex marriage are often called bigots. Christians who oppose abortion are called anti-women. Christians who say Christ is the only way to heaven are called intolerant. It is better to suffer the slander than to disobey God. It is better to be imprisoned than to disobey our Lord. We may do all things right, and still find ourselves in poor circumstance. We may expect to suffer for righteousness. Blind anger, like that of Potiphar, is not righteous anger. We must be wary of the manipulation of our thoughts and emotions, especially that which conjures up prejudices that stir up hate in our hearts. We must always love. God protects those who love him and honor his commands.
Joseph was quick and eager to please his father. Jacob trusted Joseph to complete the task honestly. There is a curious brief mention of a man telling Joseph where to find his brothers. Without this man directing Joseph, his journey may have taken a different path.
Joseph’s brothers recognized him from a distance, probably because of the robe he was wearing. They immediately plotted to kill him. Here came the one who dreamed he would rule over them. It is evident how much the dream needled them, and too, how much truth they read into it. They made the assumption that Joseph would rule over them in the family setting and take Jacob’s place in the event of Jacob’s death, an assumption that was supported by Jacob’s unfair devotion Joseph. Though the assumption is on a lesser extent correct, it underestimated the scale of Joseph’s rule, and their plan to kill Joseph underestimated God’s will.
Reuben tried to intercede, but his solution was cowardly. As the oldest, he should have taken command and protected the younger, weaker Joseph. Reuben had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Gen 35:22), and he hoped his ‘rescue” of Joseph would put him back in good graces.
The brothers attacked Joseph. It pleased them to rip the robe from him. It surely caused great emotional pain to Joseph. They threw him into a pit, with no regard for him as a brother, or even a person. Then they sat to eat, pleased with themselves at the evil they had committed.
The Ishmaelites were a nomadic people, descendants of Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael. The caravan was on a trade route to Egypt. Judah argued that Joseph’s life was valuable if they could profit monetarily for it. Judah’s rationale that Joseph was their flesh and blood should have taken him much further morally than just to the point of sparing his life and instead selling him as a slave.
Reuben had turned his back on his brothers and found they sold Joseph. He tore his clothes in mourning because his weak attempt to rescue Joseph failed. He chose to join the deceitful plan of his brothers.
The robe stained with blood served as false evidence to Jacob. They presented their father with the symbol of his favoritism covered in blood. It was meant to hurt him. Jacob was convinced of Joseph’s death without hesitation or suspicion. It is possible that attacks by wild animals were common, and there was no reason to second guess. Jacob had sent Joseph by himself to on a journey; he probably felt responsible. He mourned with all of his heart, and refused comfort.
The evil of Joseph’s brothers accomplished nothing. They were no more tender or dear to their father than they had been. The love Jacob had for Joseph was not destroyed with the robe, or with his “death”. They only lost their younger brother, whom they should have protected, and deeply hurt their father.
Although Joseph faced much evil, God was with him, and the guiding hand of God brought him to serve an official in Egypt.
There is an early sense of the tense feelings Joseph’s brothers had toward him. When Joseph saw his brothers doing something wrong, he ran to tell his father. His brothers didn’t like being snitched on, especially by the young favorite son of the favorite wife. The family dynamic was already troubled, as the bearing of Jacob’s children was source of envy and animosity between Leah and Rachel. The end result was four wives with their children competing for the affection and attention of one father. Israel’s feelings toward Joseph were probably more tenderized with the death of Rachel, and the troublesome activities of some of his other sons. Still, he should have known better than to love one child more than the rest, as it was favoritism given by his parents that drove a wedge between himself and his brother Esau. Rather than love all of his sons without partiality, Israel made it clear who he loved the most. The gift of the robe to Joseph was an obvious show of greater affection. Whenever Joseph’s brothers saw the robe that Joseph wore, they saw that their father loved them less than him. They were consumed by their jealousy.
It would be hard to believe that Joseph was naïve of his brothers hatred for him, so why he chose to share his dream is worth pondering. His young age might play a factor in such an unwise or at least insensitive decision. The meaning of his dream with the sheaves of wheat was self-evident and correctly interpreted by his brothers, and they despised him for it. His father rebuked him for speaking of his next dream, but again interpreted it correctly. The rebuke was based on respect for his father and mother (Since Rachel was dead, Israel must have been referring to the wife who continued to raise Joseph). The rebuke was also meant to quell the aggressive reaction of Joseph’s brothers. Jacob kept the dream in mind, because he had experienced similar communication with God.
Favoritism of one child hurts the self-worth of the others and brews jealousy and hatred in the family. There is no partiality in God or Jesus Christ (Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9). Hate spreads quickly and consumes us if unchecked by the conviction of Christ’s command to love. We should be humbled by God’s willingness to speak to us as he chooses. We must be cautious and not overzealous about sharing God’s special messages to us, as they may not be meant for everyone to hear. Those who have never felt God touch their hearts may respond with anger and hate. Therefore we turn to Christ for example, who did not share his identity until it was time for him to do so. Let the Spirit guide us in these matters.
The story of Joseph begins with jealousy and hatred seems to be heading for disaster. Joseph was his father’s favorite, a position that did not sit well with his brothers. They betrayed him, attacked him, and sold him as a slave. Joseph found himself in Egypt serving a high official. Though he prospered for a time, he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown in prison. Yet, God was with Joseph, and through patience, perseverance, and faith, Joseph would find his himself exalted, and given the opportunity to either take vengeance on his brothers, or forgive them. The story of Joseph reminds us of the power of forgiveness, the bonds of family, and the forever present providence of God.
This study chronologically follows our study The God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, which you can find here.
Joseph and His Dreams Genesis 37:1-11
Joseph Sold by his Brothers Genesis 37:12-36
Joseph and the Potiphar’s Wife Genesis 39
Joseph and the Prisoners Genesis 40
Joseph and the Pharaoh Genesis 41: 1-36
Joseph Exalted Genesis 41:37-57
Joseph’s Brothers in Egypt Genesis 42
The Return Genesis 43
Joseph Tests his Brothers Genesis 44
Joseph Reveals Himself Genesis 45
Jacob sees Joseph Genesis 46
Jacob’s Family in Egypt Genesis 47
The Blessing of Joseph’s Sons Genesis 48
Death of Jacob Genesis 49:28-33
Conclusion Genesis 50:15-26
We should believe and confess that Jesus is the messiah. In all our physical and spiritual ailments, we can ask Jesus for mercy. Jesus is victorious over evil. Jesus may do his work through us publicly or privately. We should not disobey Jesus. Our personal testimonies should not distract from the work of Christ but enhance his message of salvation.The testimony should always be for the good of the gospel. Sin robs us of seeing and speaking truth. Jesus restores our vision to clarity and gives us a voice of righteousness. Even today enemies of Christ will claim his work to be evil. We must readily be prepared to refute such accusations.
The synagogue leader was not a Pharisee, but still a man of authority. Mark and Luke identify this man as Jairus (Mark 5:22, Luke 8:41). His attitude contrasted that of the Pharisees. He approached Christ in humility, kneeling before him. He either heard of Jesus or witnessed his works before, because he believed that the touch of Jesus would resurrect his daughter. Jesus was immediately responsive and went with him. This is an act of compassion by Jesus–it is appropriate to think on how Christ spoke regarding the preciousness of children.
Tax collectors were extortionists, and considered traitors because of their collaboration with the Roman authorities. Matthew was despised by many, but not by Jesus. Matthew left his post, and followed him. Jesus made such an impact on Matthew, that he invited his tax collector acquaintances and other sinning friends over for dinner to meet him. The Pharisees approached the disciples, to discredit Jesus and asked Why does your teacher, if he is so good and righteous, eat with these people? The Pharisees did not ask Jesus himself, but he overheard them. Jesus responded with what was probably a common proverb. The spiritually healthy did not need Jesus, but the spiritually sick. Jesus told them to go a learn what a verse of scripture meant, which was Hosea 6:6. Now, the Pharisees were a proud sect. They were learned men; they knew scripture. But Jesus did not say to go learn it, but to learn what it meant- and he said this, in front of sinners– Sinners that the Pharisees thought were unworthy to have dinner with. This was embarrassing for the Pharisees.
Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6, which says I desire mercy, not sacrifice. This does to mean that God didn’t require sacrifice, and we know this because Christ was the final sacrifice. It means that God desires people to do what is good, over a vain sacrifice. The Pharisees were great at doing what was good for show, but when it came to offering true mercy they were not. They should have been guiding and helping these sinners to God, but instead, they were judging them.
Jesus made a simple case for his relationship with sinners. He said, I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners. The Pharisees considered themselves righteous, but Jesus had rightly called them hypocrites for merely displaying an prideful outward righteousness. For Jesus to say he had not come to call the righteous, may have meant that he could not call the proud self-righteous, who considered themselves above the need for forgiveness, and above sinners. This is a possibility, because Christ said only the humble can enter the kingdom of heaven(18:1-5).
John the Baptist was in prison at this point. His disciples followed his example by fasting in repentance. Pharisees fasted superstitiously and for show. We know that Jesus spoke against fasting hypocritically like the Pharisees, and the disciples were to imitate Christ, not John. Jesus called himself the “bridegroom” for the first time here, a reference the marriage between Christ and his church. Weddings were festive times, no one fasted. Yet, there would be a time, when Jesus would depart, and it would be a time of mourning.
Jesus came to institute a new covenant, one that would not fit into the old covenant. This new covenant overrides the old. We can witness the issues with this in the Book of Acts when Paul confronts the Jewish Sect on behalf of the Gentiles concerning the rite of circumcision(Acts 15:1-21).
Not all Pharisees were opposed to Jesus. For instance, one Pharisee, Nicodemus, went to see Jesus, to learn more about the kingdom of heaven. Something Jesus said drew Nicodemus to Christ, but Nicodemus had to humble himself to meet Jesus, and acknowledge his own need for redemption (John 3:1-21).
Matthew left his post, his old way of life to follow Christ. This sinner never returned to his old profession, but followed Jesus and authored a gospel. Matthew was a hated sinful man, loved by Jesus and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Christ loves all sinners. Our guilt of sin should never keep us from following Christ, who is more than willing to sit and eat with all of us sinners. He will give us mercy and forgiveness so that we, like Matthew, can leave our old lives behind us and be renewed. Let us not sit back and judge, but reach out for the good of the kingdom, following his example. We who have taken the new covenant offered by Christ, should share it with others, so those who feel outcast, or tortured by guilt of sin and the hate of the self righteous, can know they have a friend and redeemer in Jesus Christ.
Jesus returned to Capernaum because the townspeople in Gadarenes asked him to leave. The paralyzed man was brought to Jesus in faith, by those who cared about him. Jesus approached the issue of the man’s sin first, before healing the body. This is the first time we see Jesus forgiving someone. Matthew wants us to know that things were progressing. It is a shift in his ministry, and a shift in attitude toward Jesus. The scribes correctly acknowledged only God could forgive sins, but failed to make the connection between Jesus and God. The scribes did not voice this openly, Jesus knew what they were thinking. He responded with a question. He asked why they thought evil thoughts because there was a choice in the matter. The thoughts were evil, because they discounted the work of God. The scribes were taking an issue with the authority of Jesus. Jesus called himself the Son of Man, and said he would prove his authority. It was easy for anyone to say the words of forgiveness because there was no way to “test” its result. There was an obvious measure as to whether or not a man was healed by someone’s words, so the scribes would see that task as being more “difficult”. Both tasks were impossible for man, both tasks were easy for God. Jesus commanded the man Get up, pick up his mat, and go home. All three of these things displayed the man’s renewed health. There could be no doubt that the man was healed. It proved the authority of Jesus, which the crowd marveled at and praised God for.
As remarkable as the healing was, the greater miracle was that of forgiveness. As terrible as afflictions of the body are, to be separate from God is far worse. Jesus is our redeemer, and forgives those who come to him. There can be no question of the forgiving grace or healing power of Jesus. This is a witness to the divinity of Jesus. If we doubt his authority, or reduce his status to a mere “philosopher” or “teacher” as some in this modern age do, then we are no better than the scribes, whose thoughts Jesus called evil. We must submit to who Jesus truly is, and praise God.
Jesus got in the boat first, his disciples followed. A violent, brutal storm hit, and the reaction of the disciples tells us it was of a magnitude they had never seen before. These were professional fishermen, and yet this storm terrified them. Jesus was sleeping, because he was human, and was wearied form his travels. (Here we see were the “Son of Man” laid his head, whatever brief opportunity he had.) The storm was not coincidence. The disciples had a very real fear- their boat was filling with water and sinking. They woke Jesus, because none of them knew what to do. They were afraid of dying. He woke and called them “You of little faith.” Of little faith, because they did not trust God, of little faith because they did not understand who Jesus was, of little faith, because their faith only lasted from the shore to the storm. Jesus said get in the boat, and they followed, but when things got tough, they were not so sure anymore. Jesus had not told them about this giant storm sinking the boat. With every wave their faith diminished. Yet, Jesus was not worried. He stood up and calmed the storm, and in doing so, revealed himself. Still, the disciples struggled to understand! They would witness more.
Matthew has mentioned demon possession before, but this one he wants us to pay careful attention to. This possession was different, more powerful than seen before. If we consider that Jesus crossed the lake with the intent of confronting these demons, it is not surprising that they met opposition in the storm. The two possessed men were violent, and terrified the people. Notice that they came out to meet Jesus. They knew who he was, and called him Son of God, a messianic title. Their question “What do you want with us?” indicates they knew he had come to confront them. They make a reference to an appointed time, a day of judgment. They feared him, and pleaded with him, that he permit them to go into a herd of pigs. Note the authority of Christ. He did so permit. The pigs ran down the bank and drowned themselves. There could be no question of to the reality of the possession. It was a disturbing scene. Instead of praising Jesus for the healing of two men, and the expulsion of evil, the herders ran and told the town, and the town, seeing the drowned pigs, pleaded with Jesus to leave.
In our own lives, we are willing to trust God as long as things are going well. When events unexpectedly go bad, our faith can be terribly shaken. We need to hold onto our faith especially in times of trouble, when our boats our filling with water. It is not wrong to be afraid. Fear is a recognition of danger, and an important emotional response that God himself designed, but faith is greater than fear. The authority of God is greater than all things. Think about the townspeople, who out of fear asked Jesus to leave their land. There is no occasion on which to ask Christ to leave, but how quickly people can blame God for anything, even the evil of the world. As followers, we must go where Jesus leads us. We can expect to meet storms caused by enemies of Christ, and witness spiritual warfare- but we must know, that he is with us always.
The crowds surrounded Jesus, and it was evening. Christ’s order to cross the lake was to evade the crowd and get rest. In the middle of preparing, Jesus was approached by two men.
One man is a teacher of the law, or scribe, with a bold proclamation that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. Scribes were well educated men. It would appear that a scribe would be a valuable addition to his crew. Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus would not have said this, if it were not necessary for the scribe to hear it. The scribe heard two things that he should have considered. The first was the rough life of a disciple in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus and his disciples had no home, and only rested where they could. The second, was the reference to the son of man. Son of Man was a messianic title, which a scribe would certainly recognize. Jesus did not say, I am the son of man, he only spoke of it, and left it for the scribe to ponder. This was not a rejection, but the words of Christ were meant to strike the heart of the scribe.
The next man is disciple who had been following Jesus. Time to bury his father was a customary request, and by any earthly standard, would have been granted. Jesus responds in what superficially seems irrational and insensitive, but this man had already begun a commitment to Jesus. If he left, he could have been persuaded not to return, or tempted to a worldly life. His family and friends might have said, Forget about that Jesus. After all, who was Christ to them? They were so spiritually devoid that Jesus called them “dead”. Let the spiritually dead tend to their own. Jesus did not want to lose one of his disciples, who already begun to know him, to turn back to his former life. His offer of comfort and compassion were in the words, “Follow me.” Jesus told the man to leave death behind him- the physical death of his father, and the spiritually dead world.
We should note that each of these men heard what they needed to hear to bring them closer to Christ, not drive them away. The scribe offered to follow, Christ told him to ponder the cost, the other man wanted to stay, Christ told him to follow at any cost. It would be a mistake to think that all disciples of Jesus must be homeless, or that funerals are forbidden for Christians. However, a funeral should not keep us from our Christian duty and neither should a lack of comfort.
When Jesus came down from the mountain, the crowds were drawn to him. Matthew describes three specific healings: The man with leprosy, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. This is followed by the casting out of demons and healing of the sick that are brought to him. There is a theme of humility and submission to the authority of Jesus. The man with leprosy knelt before Christ and asks for healing, if it was the will of Jesus. The centurion called himself undeserving but understood the authority of Christ. Peter’s mother-in-law, after being healed, served Jesus.