Week 4: God’s People Saved Through Joseph

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Genesis 37-50 tells the story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob (Israel). While Joseph’s brothers persecute him, God’s sovereign hand uses Joseph’s suffering to preserve his covenant people.

Reading & Summaries

READ: GENESIS 37-39

Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son)—dreams that his brothers, father, and mother will all bow down to him. His brothers, already angry about their father’s favoritism, sell Joseph into slavery. The immorality of Jacob’s brother Judah is contrasted to the righteousness of Joseph, who resists the advances of the wife of his Egyptian slave-master, Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph; Potiphar sends Joseph to prison.

Dreams: At certain times in history, God has used dreams or visions to reveal truth or prophecy. While dreams and visions are less common now that God has revealed Himself through Jesus, there will likely be an increase in dreams and visions as we approach Jesus’ second coming (Acts 2:17).

READ: GENESIS 40-42

God sends dreams to two of Joseph’s fellow prisoners; God enables Joseph to interpret them. Joseph is called upon to interpret the dream of Pharaoh (the Egyptian king); Pharaoh appoints Joseph to act on his behalf to save the land of Egypt from famine. Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt to buy food during the famine, but do not recognize Joseph. Joseph demands they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin.

READ: GENESIS 43-45

Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin, and Joseph tests them. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers and weeps with them; he provides for his family and sends for his father.

READ: GENESIS 46-48

Jacob brings his large family to Egypt; they settle in Goshen. Joseph provides food for all of Egypt and Canaan during the famine. Jacob blesses Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Blessing: The act of blessing someone was very significant in Hebrew times. (Recall the blessing given to Jacob instead of Esau.) Blessings often included prophecies, such as the prophecy that Manasseh would serve his younger brother Ephraim. In chapter 49, Jacob goes on to bless and prophecy about each of his twelve sons (who will later form twelve large tribes).

READ: GENESIS 49-50

Jacob blesses each of his twelve sons (the twelve tribes of Israel); Jacob dies and is buried with his forefathers. Joseph reassures his brothers that he has forgiven them; Joseph dies after making his brothers promise to bury him with his ancestors.

Key Verse — Genesis 49:10, The King of Judah: Despite Judah’s sin, Jacob prophesied that Israel’s throne would be established through him. God reaffirmed this promise when he made his covenant with King David, the descendent of Judah: “Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). The kings in Judah’s line are described as lions (Gen. 49:9). Jesus is the great lion of the tribe of Judah, who establishes the throne of Judah and David forever. Highlight Genesis 49:10 in yellow.

Study Exercises

When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.

  1. What questions do you have about this week’s reading?
  2. Because of Jacob’s overt favoritism for his son Joseph, as well as the pride and jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, the family was full of strife and division. What has caused problems in your family? How might your family look different if everyone was truly Christlike?
  3. In what ways is Joseph an example of what Jesus preached about in Matthew 5:11-12? What does 2 Timothy 3:12 teach us?
  4. Despite Joseph’s terrible suffering, we read that “the Lord was with him.” What similar encouragement does Romans 8:31-39 promise us for when we encounter suffering?
  5. Joseph could have easily been bitter towards his brothers. What does Hebrews 12:15 tell us about bitterness? What might the story have looked like if Joseph refused to do what we are commanded to do in Ephesians 4:31-32?
  6. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says that what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. God knows the future, and—knowing the evil choice that Joseph’s brothers would make—planned to redeem their evil choice and use it to save Joseph’s family from famine. How is this amazing act of God’s sovereignty similar to what God did through the crucifixion of Jesus?
  7. When we refer to God as “sovereign,” we mean that God is in total control of everything that happens in the universe. Nothing happens without His permission. Compare Genesis 50:20 to Romans 8:28, and Proverbs 16:9. How are these verses comforting for Christians?
  8. The Old Testament gives us many hints about Jesus and what He will be like. Joseph is often recognized as a “type” of Christ (a person who God used to foreshadow the Savior). Look up the following verses and observe how the details of Jesus’ life closely parallel with the details of Joseph’s life: Genesis 37:3 and Matthew 3:17; Gen. 37:4 and John 7:4-5; Gen. 37:20 and John 11:53; Gen. 37:23 and John 19:23-24; Gen. 39:16-18 and Matthew 26:59-60; Gen. 40:2-3 and Luke 23:32; Gen. 41:41 and Philippians 2:9-11; Gen. 50:15-21 and Luke 23:34; Gen. 45:7 and Matthew 1:21; Gen. 50:20 and 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.