1. Introduction.
As we look at Joseph’s life with the benefit of hindsight, see God at work, His sovereignty and His plan unfolding even though it wasn’t obvious at the time. Also we observe Joseph’s response to adverse and unfair treatment of himself by others.
As you see these things ask God to help you trust and obey Him especially in times that seem to make no sense to you as it did at times with Joseph.
2. Joseph’s Background.
Joseph was born in Paddan-Aram, in the ‘land of the east’. Genesis 29:1, 30:22-24. Even though Paddan-Aram was his home for the first six years of his life Jacob his father would have taught Joseph and his siblings about their real home Canaan, where their grandfather Isaac presently lived 600-700 km away in southern Canaan. This land had been promised by God to the descendants of their great grandfather Abraham, grandfather Isaac, father Jacob and their descendants.
As Joseph grew up he developed his values and convictions of right and wrong.
Write down and discuss in your group what the following circumstances Joseph would have observed, were:

  • Genesis 31:36-42.
  • Genesis 33:1-12.
  • Genesis 34:1-4, 25-31.
  • Genesis 35:1-5.
  • Genesis 35:9-15.
  • Genesis 35:16-20.
  • Genesis 35:21-22.
  • Genesis 35:27-29. (when he would most certainly have spent time with his grandfather Isaac)
  • Genesis 37:1-2.
  • Genesis 37:3-4.

3. Joseph’s Maturity.
Read Genesis 37:3-17.
Discuss what the following tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of the 17 year old Joseph? :
• What did his response to the dreams God had given him say about his maturity?

• How did his brother’s attitude toward him seem to affect him?

• What can you discern about his level of self-esteem/self-confidence?

• His willingness to obey his father?

• Genesis 42:21.

4. Joseph’s response to His Circumstances.

Consider and discuss the new circumstances that was thrust upon Joseph.
a. Joseph’s journey to Egypt.
“….Joseph faced a 30-day journey through the desert (about 150 km.), probably chained on foot. He would be treated like baggage and once in Egypt, would be sold as a piece of merchandise.” #
Imagine what Joseph would have gone through, the thoughts and fears of what awaited him at the other end of his journey. Imagine his prayers and cries to God! Who would buy him? Would God somehow save him? From a human perspective Joseph’s future looked very grim!

b. Joseph’s new ‘home’.
Read Genesis 39:1-6. Consider and discuss the following:

Ancient Egypt was a land of great contrasts. People were either rich beyond measure or poverty stricken. There wasn’t much middle ground. Joseph found himself serving Potiphar, an extremely rich officer in Pharaoh’s service. Rich families like Potiphar had elaborate homes two or three stories tall with beautiful gardens and balconies…. Servants like Joseph, worked on the first floor, while the family occupied the upper stories. #

Imagine how relieved and thankful to God Joseph would have felt for the person who bought him and where he ended up compared to the alternative.

c. Joseph’s attitude and standards.
Read the following passages:
• Genesis 39:7-18.
• Genesis 39:19-23.
• Genesis 40:1-22.
What was Joseph’s attitude towards living the way that pleased God in what-ever circumstances he was placed in? How did he apply himself? How did he respond to the injustices that were served to him?
Who did he really serve whether under Potiphar or the prison warden’s control?
Discuss the following (include also regarding in Potiphar’s home)

As a prisoner and slave Joseph could have seen his situation as hopeless. Instead he did his best with each small task given him. His diligence and positive attitude were soon noticed by the warden, who promoted him to prison administrator…. #

5. God’s Sovereignty.
Consider each of the above Bible passages. How have we seen so far God being in control even in the adverse circumstances Joseph had been forced into?
• Joseph’s brothers wanting to kill him but they changed their minds to sell him and the Ishmaelite traders who were going to Egypt happen to come along at that time.
• The person who bought Joseph.
• Genesis 39:2-3, 5, 21, 23.
• Potiphar could have had Joseph executed on the spot for what his wife accused Joseph of doing. Consider the following…

As all who are familiar with the Biblical account will remember, Joseph, while still in the household of Potiphar, was falsely accused of adultery with the wife of his master and thrown into prison. The normal punishment for adultery in ancient Egypt was death….

The Biblical mention of Joseph serving time in a prison is noteworthy in itself. To us in the 20th century, serving time in a prison as punishment for a crime seems quite natural. But in the ancient world, this was not the case. The death penalty, a fine, or even bodily mutilation were the usual means of making people suffer for their crimes in the ancient Near East. Prisons were rare in the ancient world. To see this, one need only look at the Old Testament Law. There is nothing there about serving a prison sentence for any sin or crime, and in fact there is nothing Biblically or archaeologically that would lead us to believe that the Hebrews even had prisons as we know them.  The importance, then, of the prison sentence of Joseph is that the author of the book of Genesis is recording correct information, for Egypt was one of the few nations in the ancient Near East that had prisons in the classical sense of the term.

# taken from ‘Life Application Bible.’
6. Conclusion/Application.
For all of us who are familiar with this true store we know where Joseph ended up but he didn’t know that at the time. He could have stayed in the prison until he died a natural death or been executed earlier still!
What lessons can we learn/be reminded of to apply in our difficult circumstances about God’s sovereignty? What attitude can we choose to have when we don’t understand why and don’t have answers?
Next study we look further into how God was using ALL of Joseph’s (difficult) circumstances to accomplish His purposes which were so far above and beyond anyone but God who knew exactly what He was doing and from God’s perspective, ‘all was well and on track’.


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Bible Study EgyptGod's SovereigntyJoseph