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Lesson 12: From Prison Cell to Palace *

Introduction: Time passes, father Isaac dies and his sons Jacob and Esau bury him. The two sons, now at peace, decide that they have too many possessions to live in the same area. Esau moves to the hill country and prospers. Jacob remains in Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and now him. Let's plunge into our continuing saga in Genesis!

  1. Joseph and His Brothers

    1. Read Genesis 37:1-2. Notice with whose sons Joseph is working. What do you think is their outlook on life? (They are the sons of the "lesser" wives. Worse, their older brother, Reuben, had slept with one of these mothers ( Genesis 35:22 - Bilhah) and Jacob knew it. I've got to believe with all of the jealousy in this family they felt inferior.)

      1. What does the son of the favored wife do to these "disfavored" sons? (He gave his father a bad report about them.)

      2. Why is this fact in the Bible? How would you react to this is you were a "disfavored" son?

    2. Read Genesis 37:3-4. We previously discussed this idea of parents who have favorites and the problems favoritism causes. Why does Jacob favor Joseph? (The Bible tells us it is because he was born in Jacob's old age. I have to believe that the favored status of his mother Rachel also had something to do with this. The coat was that of the son of a nobleman.)

      1. What kind of life does this create for Joseph? (They were mean to him.)

      2. Is Jacob being wise? (No. Instead of helping Joseph, he makes him a pariah.)

    3. Read Genesis 37:5-9. Do you like Joseph?

      1. How many of Joseph's problems are created by Joseph? (It is bad enough that Dad favors him, it is worse because Joseph has no common sense. He gives his brothers bad reports and he brags that he will rule over them.)

      2. How do you think Joseph answered the questions in Genesis 37:8? (Notice the text: they hated him for the dreams "and what he had said.")

    4. Read Genesis 37:10-11. Was Jacob insulted by the dream? (Yes, but he took it seriously.)

      1. Who do you think gave Joseph the dream?

        1. If you say, "God," is it appropriate to keep God's message to yourself?

        2. If not, is God part of Joseph's popularity problem? (Romans 14, especially Romans 14:22-23, tells us that when it comes to "disputable" matters we do not have to be telling others about every truth God has revealed to us. We need to use common sense so that we do not insult our fellow Christians. I think this is one truth Paul would tell Joseph to keep to himself.)

  1. Joseph and Betrayal

    1. Read Genesis 37:12-14. When Jacob asked Joseph to "bring word back to me," do you think he was sending Joseph to report on the quality of the work of his brothers?

      1. Was this situation similar to Genesis 37:2.

      2. If Jacob knew about the problems between Joseph and his older brothers, why would he send Joseph on such a mission?

    2. Read Genesis 37:18-20. This is the family from which God's chosen people will arise. What kind of men are these?

      1. What is the direct cause of their decision to kill Joseph? (His dreams.)

      2. Do you think consideration of the birthright had anything to do with this?

    3. Read Genesis 37:21-22. Would you expect Reuben to be the one to intervene for Joseph? (Reuben had serious character problems, he was the one who slept with his father's wife ( Genesis 35:22).)

    4. Read Genesis 37:23-24. Why did they take Joseph's robe from him? (It was the mark that made him special - and apparently superior to them.)

      1. Could Joseph live in this cistern? (No. He would eventually die.)

    5. Read Genesis 37:25-30. How many of the older brothers are against killing Joseph? (Two.)

      1. The Bible notes the names of the two who were against killing Joseph, but do you think they get any credit for their actions? (They should have stood up against any harm to Joseph, but by preserving his life, they preserved their lives in the future when the famine came.)

      2. Tell me your feelings if you are Joseph and you are riding off as a slave away from your home and your father?

        1. What do you think about your dreams?

    6. Read Genesis 37:31-35. The text says that all of Jacob's sons comforted him. What impact do you think that had upon the sons who had sold him into slavery?

  1. Joseph and Potiphar.

    1. Read Genesis 39:1-6. Joseph is a slave, but God is with him. What kind of life do you think Joseph enjoyed at this point? (It was probably pretty pleasant considering that he was in charge of everything in the household of an important man.)

    2. Read Genesis 39:6-10. Again (remember Rachel) we have the Bible describing the body and looks of one of its characters. Why does Joseph refuse to sleep with his master's wife. (He makes reference to the trust his master has placed in him, but he pins his refusal on the requirements of God.)

      1. Why does Joseph refuse to even be with her? Certainly he trusts himself! (Getting close to sin is a bad idea.)

    3. Read Genesis 39:11-15. If Potiphar's wife wants to sleep with Joseph, why does she do this? (She feels rejected and scorned by a slave. That is reflected in her "make sport of us" claim.)

    4. Read Genesis 39:16-20. Keil and Delitzsche Commentary on the Old Testament suggests that this was a very light punishment. What does this suggest? (That Potiphar liked Joseph and was not certain about his wife's allegations. Her heavy reliance on Joseph's coat in her story suggests that she thinks she needs it for credibility.)

    5. Read Genesis 39:20-23. Notice that these verses repeatedly say that "God was with" Joseph. Is that how it seems to you?

      1. Would it seem that way to Joseph?

      2. What has obedience gotten Joseph? (On the surface, it got him tossed into prison.)

      3. How "safe" do you think it would have been to sleep with Potiphar's wife? (Leaving God's requirements to one side, it would no doubt have been very dangerous because she was spoiled and would have tired of him - and probably turned him in then. By that time, there would likely be other evidence of the affair and Potiphar would have put him to death.)

  2. Joseph and Vindication

    1. In prison Joseph comes in contact with a couple of ex-officials of Pharaoh's court. They have dreams, and Joseph correctly interprets their dreams. The interpretation for one is that he will be restored to his former position. Read Genesis 40:14-15 to see what Joseph asks of this official. How would you describe this? Is it trust in God? (I don't think there is anything wrong with Joseph's request. It does not show a lack of trust in God.)

    2. Read Genesis 40:23. How reliable are humans in getting you out of trouble?

    3. Read Genesis 41:1-13. How much longer has Joseph been languishing in a dungeon? (Two years! There is a test of faith.)

    4. Read Genesis 41:14-16. How is Joseph's faith? (Still strong. He gives credit to God!)

    5. Read Genesis 41:25-32. What decision must Pharaoh make? (Will he stake the future of his kingdom on a foreigner he just dragged out of the dungeon?)

      1. If you were in Pharaoh's place, what would you do?

    6. Read Genesis 41:33-36. What is Joseph doing? This is not part of dream interpretation - it is nation-leading advice from the "dungeon crew!"

    7. Read Genesis 41:37-40. I consider this to be an astonishing decision by Pharaoh. On what basis does he make it? (Joseph gave credit to God, not himself. As a result, Pharaoh believed he was turning the job over to God, not a man.)

    8. Friend, how about you? When things are going poorly, do you hold on to your trust in God? Do you give Him credit for every good thing in your life?

  3. Next week: The End of the Beginning.

* Copr. 2006, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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