Joseph was the quintessential spoiled brat. As the child of Jacob’s beloved Rachel, he was his father’s favorite son. It seems as if, after experiencing the ruination parental favoritism had wreaked in his own family, Jacob would avoid it at all costs. But he did not.
Apparently Joseph only worked among his father’s flocks when he felt like it, and his father gave him exclusive, elaborate gifts such as a beautiful, long coat. At seventeen, I suppose none of us has a lion’s share of wisdom, and Joseph was no exception. When he saw his brothers do wrong, he ran to his father and tattled. Then several of his dreams portrayed him as dominant among his brothers, and he didn’t hesitate to blurt out the dreams for all to hear. Obviously, these things did nothing to endear Joseph to the brothers. In fact, the Scripture tells us that not a peaceful word could pass between the fair-haired boy and his siblings. One may wonder if Joseph was so innocent and naïve as a young teen that he actually thought his family would be as fascinated with his strange dreams as was he.
Joseph’s dreams of greatness self-destructed while he was still a youth. His jealous brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. An Egyptian military commander bought Joseph and employed him as a common servant. Joseph’s refusal to be seduced by the commander’s wife caused her to accuse the innocent Joseph of rape, and he was thrown into state prison. There he stayed for a number of years. The tragedy and injustice Joseph faced would have resulted in paralyzing bitterness and depression in most people. However, both in Potiphar’s house and in the prison, Joseph showed himself so industrious and considerate that he was promoted to positions of prominence.
When at age 30 Joseph received an opportunity to interpret a dream of the Pharaoh, God revealed the meaning to him. As a result, Pharaoh removed him from prison and appointed him as vice regent in Egypt. Joseph served as a respected administrator and spared Egypt, his own people, and others from starvation during a seven-year famine. Buechner writes, “almost as much as this is the story of how Israel was saved from famine and extinction, it is the story of how Joseph was saved as a human being.”
But the most moving part of Joseph’s story was the eventual disclosure of his identity to the brothers who, many years before, had sold him into slavery. When his brothers traveled to Egypt to procure food about nine years after the famine began, at firstJoseph was harsh with them, testing to see if their spiteful ways had softened with time. Finally Joseph sent his Egyptian assistants out of the room and all the hurt of the years spilled out as Joseph wept aloud and held his brothers in a forgiving embrace. What mature wisdom Joseph reflected as he later told his brothers, “What you did to me was meant as evil but God transformed it into good by allowing me to rescue these thousands from famine.”
What can we learn from Joseph?
When catastrophes strike we can paralyze ourselves with rage or dead resignation. Or, like Joseph, we can trust God to transform a calamitous situation into a constructive blessing. Whatever happened, Joseph never gave up in bitter despair. And finally when he had the perfect chance to exact vengeance upon his brothers, he chose instead to forgive them. We, too, can take the high road and prove to those around us that character is the true measure of greatness.
Bible Verses about Jospeh
Gen. 35:24, 37-50; Ex. 13:19; Joshua 24:32; 1 Chron. 5:1
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Joseph?
- Was Joseph’s coat technicolored?
- What were Joseph’s dreams?
- Was Joseph a foreshadow of Jesus?