Evangelist and Bible teacher in the Eastern Cape. B.A. and H.E.D from University of South Africa and M.A. Abilene Christian University
People Just Like Us: Biblical Characters No.2 - Joseph and His Family
Every family faces its own challenges. This becomes apparent when reading about the many families described in the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul when writing to the church in Rome, states: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning...” (NKJV – used with permission). A look at the families of Terah, David, Solomon, Samson, Esther and Lot, to mention just a few, indicate clearly that the problems that face us today are not new. There does not seem to be a single family descried in the Bible that does not face “people and family problems” just like we do.
A study of Joseph and his family reveals much about the dynamics that exist in every family in the Bible and also in our world today. Joseph grew up in a large family as the eleventh son, and the first by Jacob’s wife Rachel. The account of Joseph’s life is recorded in the 37-50 chapters of Genesis. As the favourite of his father Jacob, he was presented with an “ornate robe”. Joseph was also gifted with the ability to have dreams that foretold events in the future and also the ability to interpret them. When he told his brothers about his dream that indicated that they would bow down before him, serious feelings of jealousy and anger were aroused, even to the extent that when the opportunity came his brothers planned to kill him. After some discussion and deliberation they instead sold him to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites to again be sold at the slave market in Egypt.
In Egypt he was bought by an important official called Potiphar. After refusing the advances of Potiphar’s wife Joseph was falsely accused by her of sexual assault and thrown into prison. Here he soon became a trusted prisoner and was put in charge of the other prisoners. As the story unfolds Joseph again has dreams and they again prove to predict the future. Eventually he was released from prison and became an important leader in the Egypt after correctly interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. As a seven year drought struck the region it was left to Joseph to provide for the storage of food after the seven good years. So he saved the nation from that disaster.
When the drought came, Joseph’s family in the land of Canaan, needed help desperately and so this brought his brothers to Egypt to buy much needed supplies. The reunion of Joseph and his long lost family tells the heart warming story of forgiveness and re-union. Joseph lets them suffer for a while but eventually reveals himself to them in a touching scene (Genesis 43:30). Eventually Jacob and his son’s and their families moved to Egypt and this led eventually to the time known as the “Egyptian Captivity”. Later Moses was to lead the newly formed nation of Israel out of Egypt back to the Promised Land.
Several important lessons about family life and life in general come out of this interesting account that is recorded in the final chapters of Genesis.
- Firstly it is certain that in most families there is sibling rivalry that can even lead to serious problems. Joseph and his “coat of many colours” is a good example of how important it is for parents not to show favour to one or more of their children.
- Secondly is would seem that Joseph should have kept his dream and its interpretation to himself. Was there just perhaps a bit of pride to be seen there? At other times his ability to interpret dreams saved him from prison and then led to him achieving an important role on saving the people of the region from starvation.
- In the third place the story of Joseph teaches us today that every life will go through times of testing and challenges. In those times it is important to live day by day and eventually everything will become better.
- In the telling of the events several people show compassion and try to do “the right thing” rather than go with the crowd. Reuben saves Joseph’s life when his brothers wanted to kill him.
It would have been easy for Joseph to sleep with Potiphar’s wife and keep his position, but he refused. Joseph could have taken revenge on his brother’s but showed a spirit of forgiveness.
- There comes a time to say I am sorry. Everyone at times when we fall into the trap of family subterfuge and jealousy. Being honest with self and especially with God keeps people on the right path even if it brings some hardship along the way.
- All the heroes of the faith went through times of testing and difficult challenges but today their names are recorded in history. (Hebrew 11) So we can look forward to the reward as they did: “so God provided something better for us...”.(vs. 30) In this world we face many challenges as we live in the world of Adam, and even sometimes in our own families. As children of God we look forward to a better eternity because of the promises that God has given us through his Son..
References. NKJV of Bible.