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Sabbath School Lessons on Beginnings and Belongings
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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
- Joseph and His Brothers
- 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
- What does the son of the favored wife do to these
"disfavored" sons? (He gave his father a bad report
- Why is this fact in the Bible? How would you react to
this is you were a "disfavored" son?
- 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.)
- What kind of life does this create for Joseph? (They
were mean to him.)
- Is Jacob being wise? (No. Instead of helping Joseph,
he makes him a pariah.)
- Read Genesis 37:5-9. Do you like Joseph?
- 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
- 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.")
- Read Genesis 37:10-11. Was Jacob insulted by the dream?
(Yes, but he took it seriously.)
- Who do you think gave Joseph the dream?
- If you say, "God," is it appropriate to keep
God's message to yourself?
- 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
- Joseph and Betrayal
- 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?
- Was this situation similar to Genesis 37:2.
- If Jacob knew about the problems between Joseph and
his older brothers, why would he send Joseph on such
- Read Genesis 37:18-20. This is the family from which
God's chosen people will arise. What kind of men are
- What is the direct cause of their decision to kill
Joseph? (His dreams.)
- Do you think consideration of the birthright had
anything to do with this?
- 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).)
- 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.)
- Could Joseph live in this cistern? (No. He would
- Read Genesis 37:25-30. How many of the older brothers are
against killing Joseph? (Two.)
- 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
- Tell me your feelings if you are Joseph and you are
riding off as a slave away from your home and your
- What do you think about your dreams?
- 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?
- Joseph and Potiphar.
- 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
- 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.)
- Why does Joseph refuse to even be with her? Certainly
he trusts himself! (Getting close to sin is a bad
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read Genesis 39:20-23. Notice that these verses repeatedly
say that "God was with" Joseph. Is that how it seems to
- Would it seem that way to Joseph?
- What has obedience gotten Joseph? (On the surface, it
got him tossed into prison.)
- 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.)
- Joseph and Vindication
- 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.)
- Read Genesis 40:23. How reliable are humans in getting you
out of trouble?
- Read Genesis 41:1-13. How much longer has Joseph been
languishing in a dungeon? (Two years! There is a test of
- Read Genesis 41:14-16. How is Joseph's faith? (Still
strong. He gives credit to God!)
- 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?)
- If you were in Pharaoh's place, what would you do?
- 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!"
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.