Genesis 37; 39:1-6
The term patriarch denotes the father or male leader of a family or tribe. When used in biblical studies, it usually refers to the three main characters in Genesis 12-50: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Under God’s direction, Abraham left Ur in Mesopotamia, with its culture and conveniences, for the land of Canaan. Patriarchal life was seminomadic. The patriarchs wandered from place to place, searching for grazing land and water for their cattle. They measured their wealth in livestock and movable goods such as silver, gold, and tents.
Through Abraham and his descendants, God began to develop a people of His own. The Abrahamic Covenant contains many precious promises: Abraham would have numerous offspring; his descendants would possess the land of Canaan; and the Messiah would come forth one day from his line. These promises passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob. Jacob’s sons formed the nucleus of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Joseph is the long-awaited son born to Jacob (whom God later renames Israel), and his beloved wife Rachel. After many years of childlessness for Rachel, Joseph is born into an extended family of ten stepbrothers. Later, Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son—Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin. Joseph is deeply loved by his father and deeply bonded to Benjamin. Jacob’s 12 sons were the ancestors of the children of Israel, the people through whom God sent His Son, Jesus.
Read Genesis Chapters 37-50 to get the “Big Picture” for the 3-lesson study of Joseph.
Use a Bible handbook, Bible text notes, or other sources to find out more information about the time period in which Joseph lived. Suggested topics to research:
· The variety of uses of a cloak—
· A slave’s life in Egypt—
· The job of a steward—
· Signet rings—
· Egyptian storehouses—
1. Read Genesis Chapter 37:1-11. Describe the nature of Joseph’s relationship with his father and older brothers.
2. How do Jacob and Joseph both contribute to the seething resentment of Joseph’s brothers?
3. Read Genesis 37:11-36. Describe what happens to Joseph. What is the motivation behind such cruel treatment?
4. We get a glimpse of Joseph’s reaction to all of this in Genesis 42:21. How does he respond?
Think About It: “Although Joseph’s brothers didn’t kill him outright, they wouldn’t expect him to survive for long as a slave. They were quite willing to let cruel slave traders do their dirty work for them. Joseph faced a 30-day journey through the desert, probably chained and on foot. He would be treated like baggage, and once in Egypt, would be sold as a piece of merchandise. His brothers thought they would never see him again…” (Life Application Study Bible)
5. Read Genesis 39:1. Joseph is taken to Egypt, and purchased by Potiphar, who is captain of the guard for Pharaoh. In a short period of time, 17-year-old Joseph had been forcibly taken from his adoring father and a simple, rural environment to endure slavery in a foreign land and culture--all from the hand of his own brothers. What sort of traumatic adjustments do you suppose Joseph had to make physically, mentally, and emotionally?
6. Considering typical human nature, what potential reactions toward God might Joseph have experienced during this distressing time?
7. Read Genesis 39:2. Whatever his feelings and/or reactions towards God might have been, where does Scripture tell us God actually was during all of this (Genesis 39:2)?
8. Your Life’s Journey: God tells us in His Word that difficulties are a part of life, even for His children (Matthew 7:24). He also promises us that He will be with us in our darkest hour, just as He was with Joseph. Read the following verses. How do they encourage you? How can you apply them to your life?
· Deuteronomy 31:6—
· Isaiah 40:27-31—
· Psalm 118:5-9—
· Hebrews 13:5—
9. Read Genesis 39:1-6. Joseph was rejected, betrayed and abandoned by his own family. His status changed in an instant from favored son in Canaan to anonymous slave in the house of an Egyptian. Notice that there is no mention of time in verses 1-6. We have no idea how long Joseph labored for Potiphar as these events began to unfold. It could have been months or it could have been years. At this vulnerable point in his life, Joseph could have easily given in to despair and hopelessness. Instead, he chose (i.e., exercised his will), to apply himself to service in Potiphar’s household. What does this response to such harsh, bewildering circumstances in his life demonstrate about Joseph?
10. How does God respond to His faithful servant Joseph (verses 2-6)?
11. Your Life’s Journey: Consider a time when you chose (exercised your will) to respond with faithfulness to God despite difficult circumstances in life.
· How was God faithful to you? In what ways did He encourage you?
· How can you encourage someone who is struggling with this right now?
Think About It: “Fill your mind with the thought that God is there. And once your mind is truly filled with that thought, when you experience difficulties it will be as easy as breathing for you to remember, ‘My heavenly father knows all about this!’…Jesus said there are times when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but you should trust Him. At times God will appear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not. Keep the thought that the mind of God is behind all things strong and growing.. Therefore, you can rest in perfect confidence in Him…God does not give us an overcoming life—He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength…” (Oswald Chambers)