Genesis 42-45; 50:15-22
Pharaoh’s terrible dream is realized: a severe famine grips the Earth. Joseph, as Pharaoh’s prime minister, has wisely prepared his country for the oncoming devastation, and Egypt is a land of plenty. Back in Canaan, Joseph’s family is starving. His brothers (except for Benjamin) journey to Egypt to buy grain. More than 20 years have passed since they threw Joseph into a pit. Joseph now lives as an Egyptian in dress and speech, and his desperate brothers do not recognize him as they stand before this powerful official, begging for food. But Joseph recognizes them. One can only imagine his shock as he looks at them. He must find out, without revealing his identity, if they still hate him or have since felt any sorrow or guilt for their wicked actions. He must see if these brutal men have changed in mind and heart. Joseph decides to test them severely, for bitter circumstances tend to reveal the true character of a person.
Read Genesis chapters 41 and 42.
1. In Genesis 42, describe Joseph’s treatment of his brothers during their encounter. What does Joseph demand of them (verses 15-16, 20)?
2. What types of feelings do Joseph’s actions awaken within his brothers (verses 21-22, 28)?
When Joseph’s brothers return home to collect Benjamin, they relate their startling news to Jacob. Angry and distraught, Jacob refuses to release Benjamin, only to relinquish him later when they run out of food. So Joseph’s brothers, burdened with anxiety and bearing gifts, arrive in Egypt with Benjamin.
3. Read Genesis 43:15-34. Make the following observations:
· How does Joseph receive them this time?
· How does he react to the sight of Benjamin?
4. Compare Genesis 43:26 with 37:7-8. What is happening?
5. After they feast and are given grain, the bewildered men depart. But Joseph must test them one more time to see if God has truly penetrated their callused hearts. His brothers are trapped by unfair circumstances, orchestrated by Joseph, just as Joseph had once been through their efforts. Describe their predicament (44:1-12) and their reaction (v.13-14).
6. In Genesis 44:15, Joseph probes his brother Judah’s conscience. (It was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph into slavery.) How does Judah respond (verses 15-34)?
7. To what event do you think his words in 44:16 are primarily referring?
8. What does this response demonstrate about Judah and his brothers?
Joseph becomes emotional when he hears Judah offer himself in place of Benjamin. He realizes the testing is finished; the change in his brothers is genuine. Overwhelmed, Joseph realizes he can finally disclose his true identity. His dreams are fulfilled. Losing control, he emotionally tells them who he really is.
9. Read Chapter 45 and 50:15-22. How do Joseph’s brothers react to this news that this powerful Egyptian is really their brother, whom they mistreated and abused over 20 years ago?
10. What is Joseph’s continual attitude toward his brothers and everything that has happened to him?
11. In your opinion, how is such an attitude possible from someone who has experienced so much pain in his life?
12. Read Psalm 105:16-24. What further insight does this psalm give us about Joseph’s life?
God tells us in His Word that trouble is an everyday part of the human experience (Matthew 7:25). God also tells us that God can and will use each and every painful circumstance we experience in life to achieve a greater good (Romans 8:28). But when we are besieged with trouble, God’s greater purpose may not be immediately obvious to us. For Joseph, it took 13 years of waiting and choosing to respond in faith on a daily basis followed by 9 more years before he could look back and say, “God meant it for good.”
13. Your Life’s Journey: Through words and/or creative element (poem, picture, song), describe how our study of Joseph helps you rest in God’s promise that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
14. Your Life’s Journey: What in Joseph’s life encourages you to persevere?
Joseph sends his brothers back to Canaan to bring their father and his household to Egypt. Jacob, in his old age, is brought to Egypt to be protected through the famine, living on fertile land granted to him by Pharaoh. Canaan, during the centuries that the Jews were in Egypt, was a highway for the armies of nations to the north and south. The Hebrews could hardly have grown in such numbers living there as they did in Egypt. In a very real sense, Egypt was a womb in which the seed of Israel grew and multiplied until in God’s own time a nation was born (Genesis 46:3-4).
Joseph’s emotional reunion with his father is detailed in Chapter 46. On his deathbed (chapters 48-49), Jacob prophesies over each of his sons (see summary table, next page) who are the ancestors of the children of Israel. Chapter 50 ends with the death of Joseph.
And so God’s greater purpose for the nation of Israel continued through the fortitude and faithfulness of Joseph, whose amazing attitude towards the tragic circumstances of his life is summed up in 50:20: “you meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good.”