Joseph, Master of Dreams
Lesson #11 for June 11, 2022
Genesis 37:1-9: 1Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived, 2and this is the story of Jacob’s family.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, took care of the sheep and goats with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s concubines. He brought bad reports to his father about what his brothers were doing.
3 Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves [traditional translations say many colors; footnote robe with full sleeves; or decorated robe.] for him. 4When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.
5 One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more. 6He said, “Listen to the dream I had. 7We were all in the field tying up sheaves of wheat, when my sheaf got up and stood up straight. Yours formed a circle round mine and bowed down to it.”
8 “Do you think you are going to be a king and rule over us?” his brothers asked. So they hated him even more because of his dreams and because of what he said about them.
9 Then Joseph had another dream and said to his brothers, “I had another dream, in which I saw the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowing down to me.”CAmerican Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Genesis 37:1-9). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡ [Did these dreams come from God?]‡
Soon, he had another dream, of similar import, which he also related: “Behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” This dream was interpreted as readily as the first. The father, who was present, spoke reprovingly?“What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Notwithstanding the apparent severity of his words, Jacob believed that the Lord was revealing the future to Joseph.?Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 210.2.†
Genesis 37:12-36: 12 Joseph’s brothers had gone to Shechem to take care of their father’s flock.…
Joseph arrived at Shechem 15and was wandering about in the country when a man saw him and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 “I am looking for my brothers, who are taking care of their flock,” he answered. “Can you tell me where they are?”
17 The man said, “They have already left. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. [Joseph had walked a long distance!]
18 They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted against him and decided to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer. 20Come on now, let’s kill him and throw his body into one of the dry wells. We can say that a wild animal killed him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams.”
21 Reuben heard them and tried to save Joseph. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Just throw him into this well in the wilderness, but don’t hurt him.” He said this, planning to save him from them and send him back to his father. 23When Joseph came up to his brothers, they ripped off his long robe with full sleeves. 24Then they took him and threw him into the well, which was dry.
25 While they were eating, they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites travelling from Gilead to Egypt. Their camels were loaded with spices and resins. 26Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up the murder? 27Let’s sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we won’t have to hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed, 28and when some Midianite traders came by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben came back to the well and found that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes in sorrow. 30He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there! What am I going to do?”
31 Then they killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. 32They took the robe to their father and said, “We found this. Does it belong to your son?”
33 He recognized it and said, “Yes, it is his! Some wild animal has killed him. My son Joseph has been torn to pieces!” …
36 Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Midianites had sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of the king’s officers, who was the captain of the palace guard.?Good News Bible.*†‡
[From the writings of Ellen White=EGW:] Meanwhile, Joseph with his captors was on the way to Egypt. As the caravan journeyed southward toward the borders of Canaan, the boy could discern in the distance the hills among which lay his father’s tents. Bitterly he wept at [the] thought of that loving father in his loneliness and affliction. Again the scene at Dothan came up before him. He saw his angry brothers and felt their fierce glances bent upon him. The stinging, insulting words that had met his agonized entreaties were ringing in his ears. With a trembling heart he looked forward to the future. What a change in situation?from the tenderly cherished son to the despised and helpless slave! Alone and friendless, what would be his lot in the strange land to which he was going? For a time Joseph gave himself up to uncontrolled grief and terror.
But, in the providence of God, even this experience was to be a blessing to him. He had learned in a few hours that which years might not otherwise have taught him. His father, strong and tender as his love had been, had done him wrong by his partiality and indulgence. This unwise preference had angered his brothers and provoked them to the cruel deed that had separated him from his home. Its effects were manifest also in his own character. Faults had been encouraged that were now to be corrected. He was becoming self-sufficient and exacting. Accustomed to the tenderness of his father’s care, he felt that he was unprepared to cope with the difficulties before him, in the bitter, uncared-for life of a stranger and a slave.
Then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. In his childhood he had been taught to love and fear Him. Often in his father’s tent he had listened to the story of the vision that Jacob saw as he fled from his home an exile and a fugitive. He had been told of the Lord’s promises to Jacob, and how they had been fulfilled?how, in the hour of need, the angels of God had come to instruct, comfort, and protect him. And he had learned of the love of God in providing for men a Redeemer. Now all these precious lessons came vividly before him. Joseph believed that the God of his fathers would be his God. He then and there gave himself fully to the Lord, and he prayed that the Keeper of Israel would be with him in the land of his exile.
His soul thrilled with the high resolve to prove himself true to God?under all circumstances to act as became a subject of the King of heaven. He would serve the Lord with undivided heart; he would meet the trials of his lot with fortitude and perform every duty with fidelity. One day’s experience had been the turning point in Joseph’s life. Its terrible calamity had transformed him from a petted child to a man, thoughtful, courageous, and self-possessed.?Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 213.1-214.1.†‡ [Why didn’t Joseph convince the traders to take him to his father to “sell” him?]‡
[From the SDA Bible Commentary:] Being the fourth son of Leah, Judah was certainly not more than 3 years or so older than Joseph, which would make him about 20 years old at the time Joseph was sold (seech. 37:2 [=Genesis 37:2] and onch. 30:24). Between Joseph’s sale as a slave and Jacob’s migration to Egypt lay 22 years (cf.chs. 41:46; 45:6), so that Judah was about 42 years old when the family moved to Egypt. At that time he not only had the three sons, mentioned in ch. 38, but was apparently a grandfather as well, asch. 46:12 seems to imply. If this be correct, his sons Er, Onan, and Shelah must have been born before Joseph was sold, since they themselves had already reached marriageable ages when the events involving Tamar occurred, and Tamar’s son Pharez had two sons of his own when the family moved to Egypt. These observations oblige us to conclude that some of Jacob’s sons must have married while very young. Judah could not have been more than 14 years old at the birth of his oldest son, Er, nor Er more than 13 at his marriage to Tamar. The birth of Judah’s twin sons by his daughter-in-law Tamar must have taken place within two years after Er’s death. Pharez cannot have been more than 14 years old when Hezron and Hamul were born, apparently also as twins, before the departure from Canaan. Such early marriages are by no means uncommon in certain parts of the Orient even today. In the case of Jacob’s family, they may represent Canaanite influence. The considerations make it virtually certain that Judah was a married man and a father at the time of Joseph’s sale, and that part of the narrative of ch. 38 had already taken place.?Nichol, F. D. (Ed.). (1978). [Comments regardingGenesis 38:1.] The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary,* vol. 1, 434. Review and Herald Publishing Association.†‡
Joseph suffered for his integrity, for his tempter revenged herself by accusing him of a foul crime, and causing him to be thrust into prison. Had Potiphar believed his wife=s charge against Joseph, the young Hebrew would have lost his life; but the modesty and uprightness that had uniformly characterized his conduct were proof of his innocence; and yet, to save the reputation of his master=s house, he was abandoned to disgrace and bondage.?Ellen G, White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 218.1.†
Genesis 41:39-40: 39The king said to Joseph, “God has shown you all this, so it is obvious that you have greater wisdom and insight than anyone else. 40I will put you in charge of my country, and all my people will obey your orders. Your authority will be second only to mine. 41I now appoint you governor over all Egypt.”?Good News Bible.*† [What did Pharaoh know about YAHWEH?]‡
[EGW:] In early life, just as they were passing from youth to manhood, Joseph and Daniel were separated from their homes and carried as captives to heathen lands. Especially was Joseph subject to the temptations that attend great changes of fortune. In his father’s home a tenderly cherished child; in the house of Potiphar a slave, then a confidant and companion; a man of affairs, educated by study, observation, contact with men; in Pharaoh’s dungeon a prisoner of state, condemned unjustly, without hope of vindication or prospect of release; called at a great crisis to the leadership of the nation—what enabled him to preserve his integrity? ...
A shepherd boy, tending his father’s flocks, Joseph’s pure and simple life had favored the development of both physical and mental power. By communion with God through nature and the study of the great truths handed down as a sacred trust from father to son, he had gained strength of mind and firmness of principle.
In the crisis of his life, when making that terrible journey from his childhood home in Canaan to the bondage which awaited him in Egypt, looking for the last time on the hills that hid the tents of his kindred, Joseph remembered his father’s God. He remembered the lessons of his childhood, and his soul thrilled with the resolve to prove himself true—ever to act as became a subject of the King of heaven.—Ellen G. White, Education* 51.3-52.3.†‡
The Joseph story builds to a focal point, or pivot point, atGenesis 45:1-3 after which the themes and stories are repeated in reverse order, thus creating the chiastic structure.
InGenesis 45:1-3, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers.
There are six episodes (A, B, C, D, E, F) followed by six parallel episodes (F=, E=, D=, C=, B=, A=) in reverse order.
The result is a neatly constructed palistrophe or symmetrical structure in what is already a well-unified story.
The Joseph Story
A Joseph and his brothers; Jacob and Joseph part (Genesis 37:1-36)
B Interlude: Joseph not present (Genesis 38:1-30)
D Joseph: Hero of Egypt (Genesis 40:1-41:57)
E Two trips to Egypt (Genesis 42:1-43:34)
F Final test (Genesis 44:1-34)
Focal point: Joseph revealed himself to his brothers
F= Conclusion of test (Genesis 45:1-28)
E= Two tellings of migration to Egypt (Genesis 46:1-47:12)
D= Joseph: Hero of Egypt (Genesis 47:13-27)
C= Reversal: Ephraim firstborn, Manasseh second-born (Genesis 47:28-48:22)
B= Interlude: Joseph nominally present (Genesis 49:1-28)
A= Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Joseph part (Genesis 49:29-50:26)†‡
Joseph was arrested and suffered because he was faithful. So was Jesus.
Joseph illustrates Christ. Jesus came to his own, but his own received him not. He was rejected and despised, because his acts were righteous, and his consistent, self-denying life was a continual rebuke upon those who professed piety, but whose lives were corrupt. Joseph=s integrity and virtue were fiercely assailed; and she who would lead him astray [Potiphar’s wife] could not prevail, therefore her hatred was strong against the virtue and integrity which she could not corrupt, and she testified falsely against him. The innocent suffered because of his righteousness. He was cast into prison because of his virtue.?Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 157.2.†‡ [How could anyone oppose such beautiful writing?]‡
Joseph was sold to his enemies by his family. Jesus was betrayed by one of His disciples.
Joseph was sold to his enemies, by his own brethren, for a small sum of money. The Son of God was sold to his bitterest enemies by one of his own disciples.?Ibid.*
Jesus was humble, meek, and refused to use His power to fight His enemies. Joseph humbly served God in whatever place he found himself.
Jesus was meek and holy. His was a life of unexampled self?denial, goodness, and holiness. He was not guilty of any wrong; yet false witnesses were hired to testify against him. He was hated because he had been a faithful reprover of sin and corruption.?Ibid.*
Joseph and Jesus were both stripped of their coats.
Joseph=s brethren stripped him of his coat of many colors. The executioners of Jesus cast lots for his seamless coat.?Ibid.*
Joseph=s brothers wanted to kill him; but, they finally sold him as a slave because they were jealous of him. The Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and arranged for His trial and crucifixion because they were jealous of His miraculous powers and His influence with the people. What did the Pharisees and the Sadducees say to each other about Jesus?
[EGW:] Joseph=s brethren purposed to kill him, but were finally content to sell him as a slave, to prevent his becoming greater than themselves. They thought they had placed him where they would be no more troubled with his dreams, and where there would not be a possibility of their fulfillment. But the very course which they pursued, God overruled to bring about that which they designed never should take placeCthat he should have dominion over them.
The chief priests and elders were jealous of Christ, that he would draw the attention of the people away from themselves, to him. They knew that he was doing greater works than they ever had done, or ever could perform; and they knew that if he was suffered to continue his teachings, he would become higher in authority than they, and might become king of the Jews. They agreed together to prevent this by privately taking him, and hiring witnesses to testify falsely against him, that they might condemn him, and put him to death. They would not accept him as their king, but cried out, Crucify him! crucify him! The Jews thought that by taking the life of Christ, they could prevent his becoming king. But by murdering the Son of God, they were bringing about the very thing they sought to prevent.?Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 158.1-2.†‡ [SeeActs 6:7and 15:1.]‡
Despite the terrible treatment that both Joseph and Jesus received, as a result of their treatment, they rose to take the pre-eminent position that God had planned for them. In neither case did it lessen the guilt of those responsible.
Joseph, by being sold by his brethren into Egypt, became a saviour to his father=s family. Yet this fact did not lessen the guilt of his brethren. The crucifixion of Christ by his enemies, made him the Redeemer of mankind, the Saviour of the fallen race, and ruler over the whole world. The crime of his enemies was just as heinous as though God=s providential hand had not controlled events for his own glory and the good of man.?Ibid.*
Despite everything that Satan could throw at them, neither Joseph nor Jesus could be persuaded to depart in the least manner from his/His walk with God. In the end, both graciously forgave those who had done them wrong.
[EGW:] Joseph walked with God. He would not be persuaded to deviate from the path of righteousness, and transgress God=s law, by any inducements or threats. And when he was imprisoned, and suffered because of his innocence, he meekly bore it without murmuring. His self?control, and patience in adversity, and his unwavering fidelity, are left on record for the benefit of all who should afterward live on the earth. When Joseph=s brethren acknowledged their sin before him, he freely forgave them, and showed by his acts of benevolence and love that he harbored no resentful feelings for their former cruel conduct toward him. The life of Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was a pattern of benevolence, goodness, and holiness. Yet he was despised and insulted, mocked and derided, for no other reason than because of his righteous life, which was a constant rebuke to sin. His enemies would not be satisfied until he was given into their hands, that they might put him to a shameful death. He died for the guilty race; and, while suffering the most cruel torture, meekly forgave his murderers. He rose from the dead, ascended up to his father, and received all power and authority, and returned to the earth again to impart it to his disciples. He gave gifts unto men. And all who have ever come to him repentant, confessing their sins, he has received into his favor, and freely pardoned them. And if they remain true to him, he will exalt them to his throne, and make them his heirs to the inheritance which he has purchased with his own blood.CEllen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 159.1.†‡
©2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: April 13, 2022
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