Life of Joseph – Part 8 – A Prosperous Slave

Last week we saw Joseph headed to Egypt as a common slave. Today we find out what happened once he got there.


Genesis 39:1-6a / Contemporary English Version (CEV)

39  The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the king’s official in charge of the palace guard. 2-3 So Joseph lived in the home of Potiphar, his Egyptian owner. Soon Potiphar realized that the Lord was helping Joseph to be successful in whatever he did. Potiphar liked Joseph and made him his personal assistant, putting him in charge of his house and all of his property. Because of Joseph, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s family and fields. Potiphar left everything up to Joseph, and with Joseph there, the only decision he had to make was what he wanted to eat.


There are a lot of life lessons we can learn from this passage. Here are some I found.

1. Huge life changes can happen quickly, without warning and without our choosing them, and sometimes through no fault of our own.

2. We don’t always get to choose our job, our position, or our boss.

3. No matter where we find ourselves, God can make us successful and prosperous.

4. God’s work in our lives can be very evident–even to, or especially to, unbelievers.

5. God’s favor and blessings aren’t just for our benefit. They also benefit those closely associated with us.

6. Our work needs to be excellent, no matter who our boss is.

7. God can grant us favor and promotion even when working for an unbeliever.

8. We can go from the lowest position to a management position with a lot of responsibility when the Lord is with us and our work is excellent.

COMMENTARY: I believe we sometimes find ourselves in “dark” places because God needs a light there. How we respond to our low position and our surroundings and our boss and co-workers will determine how much of God they see in us. We can know that God has a purpose for our lives wherever He’s placed us. And believing He has bigger plans for us allows us to relax and do a good job where we are–knowing He will move us at the right time. But we still have to do our best work and have a good attitude while we’re there. While our job may or may not be very challenging or rewarding, our spiritual task is monumental and life-changing for those around us. We’re showing them God at work–at work!

Application Questions:

1. What jobs have I held that weren’t my top choice? What bosses/co-workers have I worked with who were of a different faith?

2. How has God made me successful and prosperous in low-status jobs?

3. How has God’s work in my life affected the people I’ve worked with?

4. Who has benefited from God’s favor on my life and work? How have I benefited from God’s favor on someone else?

5. When have I allowed who my boss was to determine the quality of my work? How did that turn out?

6. When has God granted me extraordinary favor and promotion in a job?

Next week we’ll see what  ALSO comes with promotion . . . something we’d rather leave behind!

See you then.

Life of Joseph – Part 7 – Roasted Goat

Apparently Reuben missed dinner . . . and the decision to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites.

When he sneaks back to the cistern to rescue Joseph and take him home, Joseph is nowhere to be found. And Reuben is distraught.

Since Reuben is the oldest son, he’s probably responsible for Joseph, the favorite son. And now Joseph is gone and Reuben doesn’t know how he’s going to explain things to his father.

But this illustrious clan comes up with a  plan. They kill a goat and dip Joseph’s coat in it and take it back home and show it to their father. They don’t even have to lie . . . at least not very much.

Check out what happens.

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Genesis 37:29-35 / Contemporary English Version (CEV)

29 When Reuben returned to the well and did not find Joseph there, he tore his clothes in sorrow. 30 Then he went back to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone! What am I going to do?”

31 Joseph’s brothers killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s fancy coat in its blood. 32 After this, they took the coat to their father and said, “We found this! Look at it carefully and see if it belongs to your son.”

33 Jacob knew it was Joseph’s coat and said, “It’s my son’s coat! Joseph has been torn to pieces and eaten by some wild animal.”

34 Jacob mourned for Joseph a long time, and to show his sorrow he tore his clothes and wore sackcloth.[a] 35 All of Jacob’s children came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will go to my grave, mourning for my son.” So Jacob kept on grieving.

– – – – – – – –

I love how the brothers took the coat and showed it to their father and said they had found it. Right. Then they told him to look at it carefully to see if it belongs to “your son” . . . like anyone else had a coat that looked anything like Joseph’s! They didn’t have to provide any more details. They let Jacob jump to his own conclusions, and the brothers were good with the ones he jumped to.

Here are a couple of truths I found:

– Sometimes our delay to do good (or to do the right thing) ends up in a missed opportunity.

Reuben “planned” to go back and rescue Joseph. But he was too late. That chance was gone forever.

– Sometime innocents suffer to cover up our sin.

The brothers killed an innocent goat so they would have enough blood to pour on Joseph’s coat so their father would be convinced he was dead.

– When we’ve wronged someone, we tend to distance ourselves from them.

The brothers didn’t even say Joseph’s name when they took the coat back to their father. In fact, they didn’t even claim any relation to him. They called him “your son.”

– If our plans involve any deceit, they rarely work out how we want them to.

The brothers planned to get Joseph out of their lives, but their mourning father was a daily reminder of what they had done–not only to Joseph but to their own father.  I think one of their goals in this betrayal was to get rid of their father’s hyper-focus on Joseph. Instead they created a scenario where he was continually focused on Joseph for the rest of his life. I don’t think they ever got back the relationship with their Dad that they wanted.

Application Questions:

1. When has my delay to do good or to do the right thing resulted in a lost opportunity?

2. What innocent people have suffered in order to cover up my wrong-doing?

3. When have I made plans that didn’t turn out like I wanted them to?

Life of Joseph – Part 6 – Dinnertime

Today’s part of our story reminds me of those famous Snickers commercials. You know the ones. Someone is pitching a hissy fit about something and a friend says, “Have a Snickers. You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.” Then the “hissy fit pitcher” takes a bite of a Snickers and all of sudden he’s a different person . . . back to his old self.

Well, apparently when Joseph’s brothers were talking about killing him, they were hungry, because the next verse says they sat down to eat.

Genesis 37:25-28 / Contemporary English Version (CEV)

25 As Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with all kinds of spices that they were taking to Egypt. 26 So Judah said, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his body? 27 Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not harm him. After all, he is our brother.” And the others agreed.

28 When the Midianite merchants came by, Joseph’s brothers took him out of the well, and for twenty pieces of silver they sold him to the Ishmaelites[a] who took him to Egypt.


Sometimes eating can keep us from making poor choices. I know stopping for lunch at the mall food court has saved me from many poor fashion . . . and financial . . . decisions! But seriously, when your blood sugar is low, your brain doesn’t function normally.

I’m not excusing the brothers’ plan to kill Joseph. But sitting down to eat a meal apparently calmed them a little and also focused their attention on a caravan headed to Egypt. And that gave them an idea.

Judah voiced it: What are we going to gain by killing him and covering it up? Let’s sell him to this caravan of Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him–after all, he is our own flesh and blood. The other brothers agreed.

So that’s what they did.

Don’t you just love how the brothers made this new option sound so gracious. Joseph’s brothers decided that it WAS NOT OK to kill their own brother and go lie to their father about what happened to him.

However . . . it WAS OK to sell their brother as a common slave to a group of foreigners who would take him to Egypt . . . so they would never have to look at him again! At least they could now lie to their father about what happened to Joseph with a much clearer conscience, right?!?

That’s the first truth I see in these verses.

1. We tend to grade sin on our own self-made scale.

I sometimes look at my own sin and remember how badly I COULD have behaved . . . and feel good about my final choice . . . even though it was still bad behavior! And then I turn around and expect perfect behavior from others. Ridiculous.

2. People who are not “sold” on your dreams/visions will sometimes go to great lengths to distance themselves from you . . . even to the point of betrayal.

3. Some of our decisions are the result of us not liking the role it looks like we’re going to play in the future. But there are some things we cannot change.

I’m sure as the caravan faded from view, the brothers were thinking—–Finally! He’s out of our lives. We’ll never have to look at Joseph again or listen to another one of his dreams or watch our father dote on him. Ever again.

What they didn’t realize was that they had just set in motion a chain of events they could never have imagined. They had just sold their future savior for 20 pieces of silver. Thinking they were cutting off an unwanted branch of their family tree, they were actually jump-starting a section of their family’s history where they eventually become a nation of innumerable people while living as slaves in a foreign land.

Application Questions:

1. Who is bothered by my dreams for my life? Why do I keep sharing with them? Whose dreams bother me?

2. What is my personal scale for sin? Which sins are “not so bad” in my eyes? Which ones are almost unforgivable?

3. When/How have I pushed my destiny away? How has God brought it back into my life?

Life of Joseph – Part 5 – The Wicked Plan

None of us has a perfect family. I think we probably all have a couple of skeletons in a closet somewhere. Or at least a family member you would prefer NOT to see on the evening news after a tornado blows by.

But Joseph’s family makes most of ours look like angels! I mean, I don’t THINK the suggestion of murder has come up at any of our family get-togethers. How about yours?!?

Last week we looked at the verse where the brothers saw Joseph coming toward them and plotted to murder him. Today they actually discuss the details.

Genesis 37:19-24

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

19 They said to one another, “Look, here comes the hero of those dreams! 20 Let’s kill him and throw him into a pit and say that some wild animal ate him. Then we’ll see what happens to those dreams.”

21 Reuben heard this and tried to protect Joseph from them. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Don’t murder him or even harm him. Just throw him into a dry well out here in the desert.” Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father.

23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat 24 and threw him into a dry well.

Here are the truths I found in these verses:

– When a person’s power or position is threatened by your dreams (goals, visions), they may go to great lengths to try to stop you from being successful.

– There needs to be a voice of reason in a crowd of crazies.

– Things we treasure can be taken from us in a moment by someone who doesn’t value them like we do.

– When we don’t fulfill our life-giving purpose, we become empty and dry and full of death.

The cistern was no longer fulfilling its role. It was designed to collect water to be used during dry spells. But it was empty, so the brothers were going to use it as a grave for Joseph’s body after they killed him.

One of our purposes is to take what God blesses us with and share it with those who come to us with a need. If we don’t, we can end up empty and dry–with no life to offer anyone.

Application Questions:

– What person(s) am I spending my time with who doesn’t believe in my dreams? What am I risking by being in close relationship with them?

– Am I more likely to be the voice of reason or part of the crazy crowd?

– What treasure have I had taken from me? How did I react?

– Who has come to me thirsty and left me still thirsty? What do I need to do to be better prepared?

See you next week!