Joseph – week 3, day 5

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:18-28 (ESV*)

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginThis Zaphenath-paneah is a hard man. I suppose I can understand why he thought that ten men arriving together might be a gang of spies. But then to throw us in jail after we explained to him that we are brothers, and to leave us there for three days, that I don’t understand. We came all this way looking for assistance, and instead we receive an audience with someone who throws us into the pit. It didn’t take me long to realize that we were being punished somehow for what we did to Joseph. I told my brothers just that as we stood in Zaphenath-paneah’s hall. He is going to release us to bring food back to our families, but one of us has to stay behind as a hostage to guarantee our return with Benjamin. I said to my brothers, “Don’t you see? Even though Joseph begged us not to hurt him, we didn’t listen. This is our punishment for what we did.” I swear, for just a moment I thought I saw Zaphenath-paneah wince when I spoke, but there is no way he could have understood me. He was speaking through an interpreter the whole time, and he doesn’t speak our language. He turned away for a moment, then had Simeon tied up and dragged off to the prison. But he let the rest of us go. So we’re on our way home now, and I have to deliver the news to our father. None of this has gone according to plan. I just hope the journey home goes smoothly.Quote End
— Reuben

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • Why does Joseph use an interpreter to speak to the brothers when he can understand them perfectly?
  • What advantage does it give Joseph to have the brothers think he can’t understand them?
  • What does Joseph hope to learn through testing his brothers in this way?
  • Why do you think Joseph chose Simeon as the hostage?
  • Why does Joseph put the money in the sacks?
  • Why do the brothers blame God for what has happened?

FOLLOW UP

“Joseph orders not only that the brothers be given grain and food, but also that the money paid for the grain be placed in their sacks. This ploy explores the theme of integrity rather than being a sign of love or harshness. Even more, it ironically relates to their selling him for silver. This elicits further reflections regarding what they have done, including God’s activity in their lives. The brothers depart for Canaan without Simeon; en route one brother discovers the money. Their ‘hearts sink’ — they could be accused as being thieves as well as spies. Perhaps catching the irony of the silver, they feel themselves at the mercy of powers beyond their own. Joseph, of course, had done this; yet, his discernment and wisdom are God-given. Hence, the brothers do get it right in one sense: God indeed remains active in these exchanges among the brothers, not least in seeing to the moral order at work in their lives.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 629.)


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Joseph – week 3, day 4

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:6-17 (NRSV*)

Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in prison for three days.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginAs the oldest son, I know my responsibility to my family. I know that I have to protect my younger brothers, and to find a way to procure food to keep my father and brothers alive. We’ve had such a long journey to get to Egypt. Not an easy road to travel! Then we arrived with, I think, thousands of other people all traveling for the same thing: food. It was a bit frightening, being jostled around on the full streets, with so many hungry people in a panic. It was all I could do to keep track of my nine brothers. Then we were brought into the presence of Zaphenath-paneah himself! We had heard about him from the moment we stepped foot in Egypt. A man with the power of life and death, the power to give food or withhold it. The power of Pharaoh! I told all my brothers to put their faces right down to the ground as soon as we entered his chambers. I didn’t want to take a chance at offending this great man by our country manners. But somehow we managed to offend him anyway. Now we’re sitting here in jail, and he’s told us that we need to bring back our little brother Benjamin, or be prosecuted as spies. How in the world am I going to explain this to Father? After what happened to Joseph, it will break his heart if he loses Benjamin, too.Quote End
— Reuben

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • The brothers only know that they are being directed to meet the man who is administering the kingdom for the Pharaoh. What must be running through their minds at this moment?
  • Why do you think Joseph didn’t immediately tell his brothers who he was?
  • The brothers don’t recognize Joseph. Why do you think that is?
  • Why does Joseph accuse the brothers of being spies?
  • We are told that right before he accuses them of being spies, he remembers the dreams he had of them. How might this memory of those dreams have affected his actions here?
  • The last time Joseph saw his family was over twenty years before, and he was the youngest son at the time. What do you imagine Joseph is thinking and feeling as he sees his brothers and hears that he now has a younger brother?

FOLLOW UP

“The fact that the brothers bow down before Joseph fulfills the dream in 37:7, reinforced by the brothers’ repeated use of lord/servant language (verses 10, 11, 13, 30, 33). Verse 9a shows that Joseph recognizes this; his dream has now come full circle. This recognition now propels the story over the next chapters. The brothers’ lack of recognition enables Joseph to manipulate the situation toward the objective he chooses.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 628.)


New Revised Standard Version Bible, © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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Joseph – week 3, day 3

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:1-5 (NIV*)

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginMy sons. What am I to do with such sons? We’re on the verge of starvation here in Canaan, and they’re just sitting around looking at each other, each hoping that the other one will take some responsibility for fixing the situation. I am an old man, and I had high hopes that my sons would grow up to take care of me in my old age. Such dreams. I’ve heard that they still have grain for sale in Egypt, and I would go there myself, but… I’m an old man! I would have thought that my boys would have taken it upon themselves to find a way to get food for me, but I’ll just have to light a fire under them. Again. I’ll send a few of them off to Egypt to buy grain so that we don’t starve. Actually, I think I’ll send them all, and get some peace and quiet for a change. But no way am I sending Benjamin with them. They don’t have a good track record of keeping their youngest brothers alive. Benjamin stays safe here with me. I can’t lose him the way I lost Joseph. I’m an old man, and that might just kill me…Quote End
— Jacob

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • Why do you think the brothers were “looking at each other”?
  • This is a life and death situation (see verse 2). Why is it Jacob who comes up with a solution, and not the brothers?
  • Why do you think Jacob didn’t just send one or two of his sons to Egypt?
  • Why did Jacob not send Benjamin with the rest of his brothers?
  • If you were Benjamin, how do you think you might feel at being left behind?
  • How do you think you would have felt as one of the brothers entering the city in Egypt with all of the other people in need?

FOLLOW UP

This passage contains foreshadowing of the Exodus: “Verse 5 seems to be set already in Egypt. It blends the brothers into a crowd of peoples who have made the journey for the same purpose, picking up on the theme of 41:57. The phrase ‘sons of Israel’ appears purposely ambiguous; it refers to Jacob, but also anticipates the Israel of the exodus. The journeys in and out of Egypt mirror later developments.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 626.


Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

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Joseph – week 3, day 2

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:50-57 (NLT*)

During this time, before the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On. Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”

At last the seven years of bumper crops throughout the land of Egypt came to an end. Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. The famine also struck all the surrounding countries, but throughout Egypt there was plenty of food. Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt. And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI have been very lucky in the husband Pharaoh chose for me. Zaphenath-paneah is a good man, and we have been blessed with two healthy boys in the seven years we have been together. I was initially confused when the boys were born, and he wanted to give them such strange names. So often I could almost forget that he wasn’t born Egyptian. His accent is so slight now, and he makes such a handsome administrator. Why would he want to remind everyone that he was born a foreigner? But he was so insistent, I did not want to force the point. So we named the boys Manasseh and Ephraim. What beautiful boys! They will grow up to be just like their father, and serve the Pharaoh. My husband has been faithful in carrying out his duties, and the Pharaoh often shows his appreciation to our family. And now that the famine has begun, just as my husband predicted, the Pharaoh is leaning on him more and more for advice and guidance. My husband will save our land, and he will keep our family safe and strong. I am a lucky wife.Quote End
— Asenath

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • The name Manasseh stems from the Hebrew word nāshâ, which means to forget. Joseph has accepted a new name and a new life in Egypt. What point could he be making by naming his son Manasseh?
  • If Joseph has “forgotten his father’s house,” (41:50) why does he not choose traditional Egyptian names for his sons? Why does he choose names that have Hebrew roots?
  • The name Ephraim stems from the Hebrew word pārâ, which means to be fruitful. This seems to be a more positive name for his second son. Why do you think this is?
  • If you were experiencing seven years of abundance, how willing would you be to think about a future possibility of famine?
  • What parallels are there in this abundance/famine pattern in your life?

FOLLOW UP

“When the years of famine come, it affects every country, not just Egypt. But only Egypt has grain. The success of Joseph redounds to his reputation. When Egyptians cry out for bread due to the famine’s severity, they can get relief from Joseph (note that they buy grain; it is not given away). In fact, Joseph’s wisdom enables Egypt to become the bread basket for ‘all the world’ (verses 54-57).” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 622.

 


Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

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Joseph – week 3, day 1

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:37-49 (ESV*)

This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginIt is amazing how quickly things can change. Just a few years ago, in a matter of minutes I went from being the favorite son to a slave bound for Egypt. Then because of the lies of my master’s wife, I went from a trusted slave to a forgotten prisoner in a dingy jail. And now, oh now! From that jail to the Pharaoh’s palace! In place of that colorful robe from my father that my brothers so cruelly stole from me, I have the finest Egyptian clothes and jewelry. I have a chariot and driver at my disposal, and a signet ring symbolizing my power. I have a beautiful wife named Asenath, and even have a new name, given to me by Pharaoh himself. I am no longer Joseph, but am Zaphenath-paneah, and am in charge of the entire country of Egypt!Quote End
— Joseph

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • What is the symbolism in the young Hebrew boy named Joseph being renamed Zaphenath-paneah?
  • Do you think that leaving his Hebrew roots behind him would help him to accomplish more in his new role as Pharaoh’s right-hand man?
  • We do not hear any word of refusal from Joseph to Pharaoh’s sweeping changes in his life: Egyptian clothing, a non-Hebrew wife, and new name. Why do you think this is?
  • Even though there is no criticism in the text of Joseph’s decision to accept these changes, the scripture continues to refer to him as “Joseph,” not “Zaphenath-paneah.” Why is this?
  • Look again at the Joseph at the beginning of the story, and compare this man who is in charge of Egypt. What changes have taken place?

FOLLOW UP

“The acts of giving or changing a name can be descriptive or prescriptive (that is, demonstrating the authority of the one giving the name)… The pharaoh of Egypt gives Joseph a new name as part of commissioning Joseph to be a royal administrator.” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4 (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2006, 218.)

“There is some evidence that slaves from the ancient Near East achieved positions of high standing in Egyptian royal circles. The rite of installation also has parallels in that world, and rings, chains, and chariots that were used on such occasions have been found.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 622.)


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Joseph – week 2, day 6

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:25-36 (NRSV*)

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI was not convinced when they brought the prisoner in to see me. He could not have been thirty years old. How could he possibly interpret my dreams, when my most experienced and venerable counselors could not? And yet, these dreams burned in my heart, and I knew that they must be interpreted. So I told this young man my dreams. And without hesitation, he gave me such a clear interpretation that I immediately knew he was correct. It wasn’t pleasant, that interpretation. Seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. No ruler wants to hear that difficult times are coming to his land. But to have foreknowledge of such a disaster? That is worth everything. And then, at the end of his interpretation, this young boy said something incredibly wise: ‘Let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.’ … Ah, well. I think I have found that discerning and wise man. Joseph will not be returning to the prison today, or ever.Quote End
— Pharaoh

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • This is the third time in the story that Joseph has discussed a set of dreams. What do you see has changed in his manner of delivering the interpretations?
  • What does the way Joseph handles this interpretation tell you about how Joseph has changed and matured?
  • It was not usual for a servant, let alone a stranger, to be so forthright with the Pharaoh. How do you account for Joseph’s confidence in giving advice to the king of Egypt?
  • What does Joseph’s answer to Pharaoh tell us about Joseph’s relationship with God?
  • What do you believe God’s role was in this situation?

FOLLOW UP

“The theological explanations that punctuate this section (verses 25, 28, 32) accomplish three things: (1) They emphasize that God reveals this meaning; in other words, this is serious business; (2) they indicate that God speaks through Joseph; and (3) they provide a structure for the section…  The interpretation centers on the years of famine, the better to impress upon Pharaoh the need to take action. Joseph offers more than just an interpretation. Without waiting for Pharaoh’s response… Joseph puts forward a plan whereby these events can effectively be addressed, preventing much damage to the country.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 621).


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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Joseph – week 2, day 5

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:14-24 (ESV*)

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI was in that prison for over a decade. I’m not complaining. I fully realize that my time there could have been much worse. The warden put me to good use, and I was relatively comfortable there. But I have to admit that there were times I despaired of ever being free again. I had many hours each day to think about my childhood, and all that my father tried to teach me. I wish I had appreciated it all more at the time. I thought when the cupbearer was restored to his position, he would remember to tell Pharaoh about me. But two more years went by with no word. And then, just as suddenly as it all started, here I am in the Pharaoh’s palace. The Pharaoh told me about that he had two dreams that he needed me to interpret. I knew very well what was at stake here. If I wasn’t able to interpret for him…back to the prison for me. I remembered my father talking about his God, and I told Pharaoh, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” That answer seemed to work for Pharaoh, and he began to tell me the dreams…Quote End
— Joseph

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • The Hebrew word used in verse 14 for “dungeon” is bôr, which can also be translated as “pit,” “cistern,” or “well.” This is the same word that is used for the pit that the brothers threw Joseph into in 37:22. What is the significance of this?
  • How would you imagine Joseph is feeling as he moves from pit to palace?
  • What could be the significance to Joseph’s shaving and changing clothes before the interview with Pharaoh, beyond his need to be cleaned up?
  • Pharaoh tells Joseph that he has heard that Joseph can interpret dreams. Joseph had interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and baker in prison without hesitation, so why here does he tell Pharaoh that he cannot do it, but that God can?
  • How would you have felt in Joseph’s shoes as Pharaoh related the contents of his dreams?
  • What do you imagine the court magicians and counselors were thinking as they waited to hear Joseph’s answer?

* Click here to view an engraving by Gustav Dore of Joseph’s audience with the Pharaoh. Courtesy of the Wesley Center online. To view a painting by Peter von Cornelius on Wikipedia, click here.

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