Although we meet Joseph when he is a baby, we start to learn about him when he is 17. We know that Rachel, his mother, has died and that he is Israel’s (Jacob’s) favorite son. The first we hear of him is in Genesis 37:2, where we are told that Joseph felt the need to bring a “bad report of his brothers” to Jacob while they were tending the flock. This did not endear him to them. They hated him and would not listen to anything he said. While his brothers were getting angrier and angrier at him, his father Israel loved him so much that he made Joseph a special coat of many colors. This did nothing to help his relationship with his brothers. The Lord then sent Joseph two dreams. He shared both with his brothers and the second with his father. Jacob rebuked him by saying in Genesis 37:10b and 11” 10 …….‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you’” 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.”
Doing research online and in my study bible, I found that most commentators think that Joseph, at this point in his life, was protected by his father and was rather naïve. Upon reading these verses originally, I felt that Joseph was full of himself and extremely prideful. He was his father’s favorite, even though Rachel had also given Benjamin to Jacob. The NKJV Life Application Bible has an article on Joseph on page 75. The article states:
“As a youngster, Joseph was overconfident. His natural self-assurance, increased by being Jacob’s favorite son and by knowing of God’s designs on his life, was unbearable to his 10 older brothers, who eventually conspired against him. But this self –assurance, molded by pain and combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prospe where most would have failed. He added quiet wisdom to his confidence and won the hearts of everyone he met—Potiphar, the keeper of the prison, other prisoners, the king, and after many years, even those 10 brothers.”
To be rid of their annoying brother, his older brothers sold him as a slave. He ended up in the house of Potiphar. Scripture tell us in Chapter 39:2a “The Lord was with Joseph and he was a successful man.” Joseph used this time to allow the Lord to start working in his life. Whether he was a spoiled brat or a naïve teen, he saw that the Lord was with him and allowed the Lord to start changing him. Potiphar also saw that the Lord was with Joseph and gave him charge of his house. Joseph was also developing a very strict sense of right and wrong. Scripture doesn’t tell us if he learned it as a youth, or if God impressed it upon him in Egypt. When Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tried to seduce him, he repeatedly refused her. One day, despite his protests, she was able to frame him for being with her. Potiphar was so angry that he immediately threw Joseph into prison.
Verses 21 and 22 tell us “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing.”At both Potiphar’s house and in the prison, Joseph chose to work as if working unto the Lord. We have no indication that he was angry with Potiphar or his wife. The keeper of the prison also put most of the control of the prison under Joseph and trusted him, because the keeper knew that God was with Joseph.
At one point of Joseph’s stay in prison, both Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker were thrown in prison. Each had a dream and the next morning Joseph saw them and saw that they were sad. Chapter 40 verses 7 and 8 state: 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’ 8 And they said to him, ‘We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it’ So Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.’”. Joseph was becoming more and more aware that God was in control. He interpreted the two dreams and then asked the butler to remember him to Pharaoh, which he forgot to do. Again, there is no record that Joseph was angry or upset. He was still allowing the Lord to work in and through him.
Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams that no one could interpret. This is when the butler finally remembered Joseph. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and asked to interpret his dreams. In Chapter 41 verse 16 Joseph tells Pharaoh “16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Joseph, through the power of the Holy Spirit tells Pharaoh what his dreams mean and that he needs to appoint someone he can trust to store up supplies for the seven lean years that will be coming. Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the man he could trust, because he recognized that God was with Joseph. Scripture tells us that Joseph was 30 when this happened, so that means he spent 13 years allowing the Lord change him into the person the Lord needed him to be.
The famine that plagued Egypt was not contained only in Egypt. Canaan, where Joseph’s family still dwelt was also afflicted by the famine. Jacob sends his 10 older sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph, as Governor, was responsible for selling all the grain, to make sure that it was fairly given out. This meant that Joseph’s brothers had to meet with him to get the grain. He recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him. Joseph decided to test his brothers to see if they had changed in the intervening years. He made them promise to bring Benjamin and kept Simeon as ransom. Jacob did not want to let Benjamin go, but Rueben and Judah both said they would take responsibility for Benjamin. The first thing they did when they saw Joseph was confess that they found the money they had brought to pay for the first portion of grain, back in their sacks. Joseph continues to test them by putting his cup in Benjamin’s pack. As punishment, Joseph was going to have Benjamin stay with him as his slave, but Judah pleaded with Joseph to let Benjamin go and let him be his slave instead. This was a true turn-around for Judah who had been the one to instigate his brothers to sell Joseph in the first place.
At this point, Joseph knows that his brothers have changed and he reveals himself. Scripture tells us in Chapter 45 verses “8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” It also appears that the dreams that the Lord sent Joseph when he was 17 came true. The Lord’s Word is Truth,
Jacob decided to elevate Ephraim over Menasseh when he blessed them. Due to his heightened sense of right and wrong, Joseph didn’t think this was right. He should have known, because the Lord chose his grandfather Isaac, who was not the first born and his father Israel, also not the first born, to fulfill some of His promises to Abraham.
The Lord used Joseph mightily and during all the circumstances that one would judge as being negative in a worldly way, God grew Joseph to become the man He needed him to be during the crisis in Egypt. This was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s prophesy to Abram in Genesis 15:13 “13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
Bible Gateway, New King James Version, Holy Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com, accessed 7/08-7/10/17
ARTICLE ON JOSEPH on page 75 in the “ Life Application Study Bible – New King James Version”. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Wheaton, IL 1989, 1996 (Notes). Print.