Week Three: Joseph and His Brothers – Genesis Ch. 37 and 50

Verse to memorize

“You meant it for harm to me, but God meant it for good.”

Introduction to the Book of Genesis: In this first book of the Bible, we have two creation accounts, the story of Noah and the flood, the Tower of Babel and the stories of Abraham, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whose other name became Israel. He became the patriarch of a family which would grow into the nation of Israel. Jacob had 12 sons, including Joseph, who was his father’s favorite. Joseph dreamed that he would rule over his brothers and be a powerful person. He told his brothers these dreams, and they were jealous and hated him.


Genesis 37:12-14, 17c-28
One day when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, (Jacob) said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not tending our flocks at Shechem? Come and I will send you to them.” “I am ready,” Joseph answered. “Go then,” he replied; see if all is well with your brothers and the flocks, and bring back word.” So he sent him off from the valley of Hebron. (The brothers) saw him from a distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. They said to one another: “Here comes that dreamer! Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns (wells) here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We will see then what comes of his dreams.”

But when Reuben (the oldest) heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying: “We must not take his life.” Then Reuben said, “Do not shed blood! Throw him into this cistern in the wilderness; but do not lay a hand on him.” His purpose was to save him and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped him of his tunic, the long ornamented tunic he had on; 24 then they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm, and resin to be taken down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Come, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves…

Midianite traders passed by and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern. They sold Joseph for 20 pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

The brothers dip Joseph’s robe in goat’s blood and bring it to Jacob. Jacob assumes that Joseph has been killed by wild animals. Years pass. At first Joseph has a very hard time in Egypt. He is falsely accused and put in jail. Later, Joseph interprets dreams correctly and becomes very powerful in Egypt; second in power to the Pharaoh. A famine comes to Egypt and to the land of Canaan. But Joseph has wisely stored up grain. Old Jacob sends his sons down to Egypt to buy grain. They meet Joseph without recognizing him. But Joseph recognizes them! Eventually Joseph tells them he is their brother and invites the whole family to move to Egypt. Jacob dies in Egypt.

We resume the Genesis story here:
Ch 50: 15:
Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought, “Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now most certainly will pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!” (So they apologized to Joseph).. and flung themselves down before him and said, “We are your slaves!” But Joseph replied to them: “Do not fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people. So now, do not fear, I will provide for you and for your children. (NAB)


1.) Q: In the story, why did Joseph’s older brothers throw him into the well and then sell him to the traveling traders? A: Because they were jealous of him. Q: Why were they jealous of Joseph? A: Many possible answers: Joseph was Jacob’s favorite. Jacob had given Joseph a special robe. Joseph had dreams that put him ahead of his brothers. Q: Are you ever jealous of any one? Q: Jealousy (or Envy) is a sin. Why? A: Because it breaks down relationships. It is the opposite of trust in the other person. It is like poison in your heart. Don’t let it in!

2.) Q: Why were the brothers afraid of Joseph after Jacob died? A: Because they knew they had done a very wicked thing and Joseph had the power to put them in jail or kill them. Q: What was Joseph’s answer to his brothers? A: Don’t be afraid.

3.) Q: Why did Joseph ask his brothers, “Can I take the place of God?” A: In the Bible, God is both Redeemer/Savior and Just Judge. Joseph is humble before God. He knows that God will judge his brothers for what they did. Much later, Jesus says, “Judge not, lest thou be judged!”

4) Q: What did Joseph mean when he said to them, “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good.” A: Our plans are not always God’s plans. Sometimes God lets us go through difficult times, so that later something much better can happen. Q: How did Brother Joseph “achieve the present end, the survival of many people”? A: Joseph fed his whole family because he had stored up grain in Egypt. Q: Can you think of a time when you had something disappointing happen, which later turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

5) Q: How does Joseph show “wisdom” in this story: A: First, he stored up grain for several years before the famine. Second, he trusted God. He trusted even in jail for something he did not do, that God had a plan for him. Third, he taught his brothers that God can even bring great good out of evil.


Courtesy of The Bible Project