Week 2 – Joseph
Joseph’s life started out with headline-worthy examples of family dysfunction. As a boy, Joseph was pretty arrogant, and had a bad habit of bragging in front of his brothers and his parents. That didn’t sit well with Joseph’s older brothers, considering Joseph was clearly their father Jacob’s favorite son. So his brothers threw him in a pit, faked his death, and sold him into slavery (and pretended like that wasn’t a huge overreaction). While Jacob was grieving the supposed death of his son, Joseph was being marched off in chains to Egypt, where he was sold to a rich man named Potiphar as a household servant.
This is the first moment we see a recurring phrase from Joseph’s story; “but the Lord was with Joseph.” (Gen. 29:2) This phrase helps us see the Lord’s closeness to Joseph’s situation through all the twists and turns of his story. The Lord caused Joseph’s work as a servant to prosper, and eventually Potiphar took notice of Joseph and promoted him to head his entire household. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife took notice too. She started trying to seduce Joseph, and after being rejected one too many times she framed Joseph for attempted rape. In his rage, Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison, and Joseph found himself in a pit yet again.
Here we see that phrase again, “but the Lord was with Joseph.” The word “but” is perhaps the most indicative part of that phrase, if only because it contrasts the presence of the Lord against our expectations. Just looking at the series of events, you might think God was elsewhere, ignoring all the bad things happening to Joseph. And yet God was with him, showing him steadfast love. (Gen. 39:21) In our own lives, when we feel like we’re in the pit, we might be inclined to believe the same thing, that God must be absent. Instead, the whole of scripture would urge us to trust in the Lord, who promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6), and to live our lives as an outworking of that trust.
The Bible Project: Genesis 12-50
Check out this video to learn more about Joseph (5:19-6:25).
About The Bible Project
The Bible Project makes broad biblical narratives accessible through short, publicly available videos. Narrative summaries combined with visual story telling makes their videos compelling and incredibly helpful for studying scripture. Check out their Youtube channel for videos on books of the bible, biblical characters, word studies, and more.
Questions for Discussion
• Read Genesis 39:1-23
• What are some of the recurring phrases in this passage, and how can that help us understand what’s going on here?
• Why do you think God allowed all this to happen to Joseph?
• Looking at the passage, how do you think Joseph was relating to God through all this?
• What does this passage encourage us to believe about God?
• What impact could those beliefs have on the way we live?