Fairview Baptist Church
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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: Overcome: Living Beyond Your Circumstances
What This Study Is About:
focus of our final session of studying how God worked in Joseph’s life,
we will see how he was able to look back over the years and realize how
God was at work in all the difficulties he faced. May we have the same
Overcome Being Forgotten
Overcome Hard Times
Overcome an Earthly Mindset
can trust God is at work on our behalf.
Fear of The Past (Gen. 50:15-17)
of Submission (Gen. 50:18-19)
of The Right Perspective (Gen. 50:20-21)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
In last week’s study, Joseph had revealed his true identity to
his brothers (Gen. 45:3). Since
the famine that caused his brothers to return to Egypt would last for
another five years, Joseph urged them to go back to Canaan and bring their
father to live out the remainder of his life under Joseph’s security.
His brothers told Jacob about Joseph and convinced him to move the
entire clan to Egypt. Jacob
was stunned at the news that Joseph was alive, but Jacob consented to move
and headed for Egypt as Joseph had suggested.
Joseph arranged, with Pharaoh’s approval, to settle his family in
the land of Goshen, some of the best land in all of Egypt for sustaining
Jacob’s flocks and herds. After Jacob had settled in Goshen Joseph sot
Jacob’s blessing for his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 48).
Jacob, anticipating his own death, asked his family to bury him
back in Canaan. Joseph and the
rest of Jacob’s family carried our Jacob’s wish to be buried in
Canaan. God’s plan to forge
the Hebrews into a great nation was moving forward, thanks to Joseph’s
never-wavering faith in the Lord!
Overviews is adapted from the following sources:
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Throughout our lives we find ourselves in many
different circumstances. Some
moments are very special and overflows with happiness.
But, some moments are that are full of pain and frustration.
It is in such moments of pain and frustration that our Christian
values really come into play. If
this world were all we knew, it would be easy to sink into disappointment
and bitterness. What hope do
we have if our circumstances always seem against us and full of pain and
frustration? Thankfully, life
is more than those moments that cause us such anguish.
Our Christian faith can sustain us through such moments.
If we could see our situations from God’s perspective, we would
surely not feel despondent by the way life may have turned out. When
we can look back over our lives, through an eternal perspective, we can
see God’s hand in all that we have encountered.
It is God’s eternal hand that has brought us to this moment in
our lives. We can learn from
Joseph, who recognized God’s hand in all that he faced, and His hand is
in all that we face.
Introduction is adapted from the following source:
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern
Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Of The Past (Gen. 50:15-17)
15 When Joseph’s
brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If
Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all
the suffering we caused him.” 16
So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a
command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your
brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused
you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the
God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him.
has taken place in the life of Joseph since our last study (Gen. 45:3-11)?
how much time has it been since Jacob arrived in Egypt?
do you think fear of Joseph’s taking revenge on the brothers resurfaced
after their father Jacob died (v. 15)?
do you think the brothers were still worried about Joseph taking revenge on
on what had happened to Joseph’s brothers since they first went down to Egypt,
do you think their fears were justified? If
you think their fears were unjustified, why?
message did Joseph’s brothers send to Joseph (vv. 16,17)?
did Jacob think it was necessary to instruct Joseph to forgive his brothers?
you think Jacob was really the source of this message (vv. 16,17)?
Why, or why not?
events in Jacob’s life makes it plausible that Jacob was the source of the
message? (See Gen. 27:36; Gen. 32—33.)
do you think really caused Joseph to weep after receiving the message from his
brothers (v. 17)?
Joseph could trust God throughout his life time, what message can we get from that fact?
we know, as a believer, God is trustworthy do we have a part to play in the
relationship? If so, what do you
think it is?
Do you think
forgiveness is an ongoing process or a one-time event? Explain your answer!
How can we use the
Holy Spirit to keep us from remembering past strained or broken relationships
that have been mended through forgiveness?
Of Submission (Gen. 50:18-19)
18 Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down
before him, and said, “We are your slaves!”
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.
Am I in the place of God?
what two ways did the brothers demonstrate a submissive attitude toward Joseph
you think the brothers remembered Joseph’s earlier dreams?
Why, or why not? (See Gen. 37:5-10.)
was the Joseph’s dream of 37:5-10 fulfilled?
you think there was a difference between the time when the brothers bowed down
before Joseph in 42:6 and v. 18?
so, how would you describe that difference?
did Joseph’s reply to them demonstrate his attitude of submissiveness before
do you think Joseph’s brothers called themselves “your slaves” (v. 18)?
do you think Joseph meant by what he said in verse 19?
Do you think it is important for the one
requesting forgiveness to receive reassurance that is has been given?
If so, why?
are some things the “forgiver” can do to extend reassurance to the
are some things the “forgiven” can do to demonstrate the acceptance of
Do you think there are a lot of believers who
have a hard time leaving judgment or vengeance in God’s hands?
If so, why do you think this may be the case?
What are some things a believer can do to keep
from taking judgment/revenge into his/her own hands?
Lessons in Gen. 50:18-19:
sometimes offer to serve the ones they wronged.
should not “play God” by judging others or treating them vindictively.
can deal with sinners in a compassionate, loving way.
is the ultimate source of justice and judgment in human affairs.
Of The Right Perspective (Gen. 50:20-21)
20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for
good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.
21 Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care
of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to
perspective did Joseph offer to explain the actions of his brothers and the
things that had happened to him?
Because he believed that God had been in control all
along, what actions was Joseph able to take toward his brothers and their
How would you describe the difference between the
brothers’ earlier plan to get rid of Joseph as compared to God’s plan for
to what Joseph said in verse 20, what impact do you think it had on the
on verse 21, what did Joseph promise to do for his brothers and their families?
Do you believe that
trusting God and his timing is easier or harder than fixing things yourself?
If it is easier than
fixing things yourself, what makes it so?
it is harder than fixing things yourself, why is that?
you think it is embedded within our human makeup to want to fix things
ourselves, even when we know better?
are some things you could do to ensure that God is your first choice to fix
thing rather than first doing it yourself?
When God is blessing you and things are going good, why
does it often become easy to forget where the blessings come from?
did Joseph keep from taking matters into his own hands in dealing with his
difficult do you think it is for a believer to see God working in the midst of
you think there is a link between one’s discernment and his/her relationship
with the Lord? Explain your answer!
back over Joseph’s life, how would you summarize his role in God’s plan for
the Hebrews to reside in Egypt?
Lessons in Gen. 50:20-21:
for good even when humans plan for evil.
demonstrate their forgiveness of others with concrete actions.
adopt a heavenly perspective on our lives, identifying the way God is
active in our lives.
What have we learned about God and us from our study of the events in
the life of Joseph? Several
things should stand out: God is at
work, even when it is not obvious; God is always active; God is no
passive, disengaged, disinterested, absentee God!
In addition to these items, we should also be reminded that
being aware of God’s work of love and grace, and believing that He does
all things well, will allow us to press forward during difficult times
with confidence in Him. Remember,
His graciousness toward us should help us to extend love, grace, and
forgiveness to others who may have harmed us along the way.
Furthermore, we can be assured that God’s will and purpose will
be accomplished in a way that brings glory to His Name!
So, how would you answer these questions that are related to our study
of Joseph’s life: (1) Do
people who know you well think you would hold a grudge?
Why, or why not? (2)
Who would you ask to intercede for you if someone had a grudge against
you? (3) What have you
actively done to show the sincerity of your forgiveness of another?
(4) To what events or experiences can you point to demonstrate that
God has played an active role in your life?
(5) When have you doubted that God cared about you?
Why did you experience this doubt?
Who helped you see that God does indeed care for you?
Remember, God works for good in all situations, even in our own lives
because He loves us and wants to bless us.
So, on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (constantly), how would you
rate your work for God in all situations in your life?
If your rating shows room for improvement, ask God to guide you on
the road to improvement. He
will, just ask Him!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
King James Version:
15 And when Joseph’s
brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure
hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying,
Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17
So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy
brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee,
forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept
when they spake unto him. 18 And
his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be
thy servants. 19 And Joseph
said unto them, Fear not: for am
I in the place of God? 20 But
as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it
is this day, to save much people alive. 21
Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And
he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. (KJV)
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father
was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us
back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So
they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before
he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to
Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they
committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the
servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph
wept. 18 His
brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your
slaves,” they said. 19
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for
good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21
So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”
And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (NIV)
New Living Translation: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:
But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful.
“Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to
him,” they said. 16
So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he
instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please
forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in
treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg
you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and
wept. 18 Then his brothers came and threw
themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said. 19
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can
punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but
God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the
lives of many people. 21 No,
don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So
he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
Outline — “Overcome an Earthly Mindset” — Genesis
Fear Of The Past
Place of Submission (Gen. 50:18-19)
Power Of The Right Perspective (Gen. 50:20-21)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“The Pulpit Commentary,” and
“The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Gen. 50:1-26
Jacob’s Death and Burial (50:1-14)
Over half of the final chapter is occupied with a description of the mourning
and burial of Jacob. Joseph himself mourned (v. 1) and then the Egyptians
(v. 3). Great preparations were made both by Joseph and the Egyptians (v. 2).
A special request was granted by the Pharaoh to bury Jacob in his homeland (vv. 4-5),
and a large entourage (hammahaneh kabed me’od v. 9; NIV, “a very
large company”) was provided by the Pharaoh as a burial processional to carry
Jacob’s body back to Canaan. “All [kol] Pharaoh’s officials ... and
all [kol] the dignitaries of Egypt” (v. 7) along with Pharaoh’s
chariots and horsemen accompanied Joseph on his journey back to Canaan. Even the
Canaanites recognized this as “a very large [kabed lit., ‘heavy’;
NIV, ‘solemn’] ceremony of mourning” (v. 11). The writer himself
seems to go out of his way to emphasize in detail the magnitude of the ceremony
The question naturally arises why such detail
over the burial of Jacob is given when in the death of the other patriarchs we
are simply given the bare facts that they died and were buried. Even the account
of the death of Joseph, which is also recorded in this chapter, consists only of
the brief notice that he died and was embalmed and entombed in Egypt (v. 26).
Was his burial of any less magnitude than Jacob’s? Surely it was not, but
virtually no attention in the narrative is devoted to it. Why, then, the
emphasis on Jacob’s burial? Perhaps such a description is intended merely as a
concluding flourish at the end of the book, or does it play a part in the
ongoing strategy of the text? In light of the writer’s careful attention to
his larger themes throughout these narratives, it is appropriate to seek a
motive for such an emphasis within the narrative. We can do that by asking what
themes may be sustained or highlighted in such a full description of the burial
One theme that immediately comes to mind is that
at a number of points throughout the narrative the writer’s concern focuses on
God’s faithfulness to his promise of the land and the hope of God’s people
in the eventual return to the land. In the later prophetic literature, a
recurring image of the fulfillment of the promise to return to the land pictures
Israel returning to the land accompanied by many from among the nations. The
prophets of Israel saw the return as a time when “all the nations [kol-haggoyim]
will stream to” Jerusalem, and “many peoples [‘ammim rabbim] will
come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of
the God of Jacob’” (Isa 2:2-3); or, as Zechariah saw it, “In those days
ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem
of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you’” (Zech 8:23).
It is difficult not to see the same imagery at
work in the present narrative. Jacob, in his final return to the Land of
Promise, was accompanied by a great congregation of the officials and elders of
the land of Egypt. With him was also the mighty army of the Egyptians. Thus the
story of Jacob’s burial in the land foreshadows the time when God “will
bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of
Israel” (Ezek 39:25).
The Final Joseph Narrative (50:15-26)
narrative turns once more to the scene of Joseph and his brothers and in so
doing returns to the central theme of the Joseph narratives: “You intended to
harm [ra‘ah lit., ‘evil’] me, but God intended it for good [letobah]
...[to] the saving of many lives [lehahayot ‘am-rab]” (v. 20).
Behind all the events and human plans recounted in the story of Joseph lies the
unchanging plan of God. It is the same plan introduced from the very beginning
of the book where God looks out at what he has just created for man and sees
that “it is good” (tob 1:4-31). Through his dealings with the
patriarchs and Joseph, God had continued to bring about his good plan. He had
remained faithful to his purposes, and it is the point of this narrative to show
that his people can continue to trust him and to believe that “in all things
God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to
his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
The last description of Joseph’s dealings with
his brothers is the statement that “he comforted them [wayenahem ‘oth am;
NIV, ‘reassured’] and spoke kindly to them [wayedabber ‘al-libbam]”
(v. 21). It is again difficult not to see in this picture of Joseph and his
brothers a foreshadowing of the future community of the sons of Israel in exile
awaiting their return to the Promised Land. To that same community the call went
out by the prophet Isaiah to “comfort [nahamu], comfort [nahamu]
my people, says your God. Speak tenderly [dabberu ‘al-leb] to
Jerusalem,... she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins”
Summary of Joseph’s Life and Death (50:22-26)
50:22-26. Though his words are
few, the final statement of Joseph to his sons gives the clearest expression of
the kind of hope taught in these narratives. Again, as had his father Jacob,
Joseph wanted his bones returned to the Promised Land (v. 25). Also like
Jacob, he saw to it that his sons swore to return his bones when they returned
to the land. Though he knew he would die and not see the time when his sons
returned to the land, he nevertheless expressed clearly the hope and trust that
he had in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid [paqod yipqod]
and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob” (v. 24). As has been characteristic of the literary
technique of the Joseph narratives, Joseph repeated a second time (cf. 41:32)
his statement of trust in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid [paqod
yipqod], and then you must carry my bones up from this place” (v. 25).
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Commentary – Volume 1: Genesis: 50:15-26
Verse 15. And when
(literally and) Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they
(literally, and they) said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, —
literally, If Joseph hated us, or pursued us hostilely (sc. what
would become of us?), לוּ with the imperfect or
future setting forth a possible but undesirable contingency — and will
certainly requite us (literally, if returning he caused to return upon us)
all the evil which we did unto him. “What then?” is the natural
conclusion of the sentence. “We must be utterly undone.”
Verses 16, 17. And (under these erroneous though not unnatural
apprehensions) they sent a messenger unto Joseph, — literally, they
charged Joseph, i.e. they deputed one of their number (possibly Benjamin) to
carry their desires to Joseph — saying, Thy father did command before he
died, saying (though not recorded, the circumstance here mentioned may have
been historically true), So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee
now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil (nothing
is more inherently probable than that the good man on his death-bed did request
his sons to beg their brother's pardon): and now, we pray thee, forgive the
trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. Joseph's brethren in
these words at once evince the depth of their humility, the sincerity of their
repentance, and the genuineness of their religion. They were God's true
servants, and they wished to be forgiven by their much-offended brother, who,
however, had long since embraced them in the arms of his affection. And
Joseph wept when they spake unto him — pained that they should for a
single moment have enter-rained such suspicions against his love.
Verse 18. And his brethren
also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy
servants. Both the
attitudes assumed and the words spoken were designed to express the intensity of
their contrition and the fervor of their supplication.
Verse 19. And Joseph said unto
them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? — i.e. either reading the words as a question, Should I arrogate
to myself what obviously belongs to Elohim, viz., the power and right of
vengeance, or the power to interfere with the purposes of God? Or, regarding
them as an assertion, I am in God's stead, i.e. a minister to you for good.
Verse 20. But as for you, ye
thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good (literally, and ye were thinking or
meditating evil against me; Elohim was thinking or meditating for good, i.e.
that what you did should be for good), to bring to pass, as it is this day,
to save much people alive (vide Genesis 45:5).
Verse 21. Now therefore (literally, and now) fear ye not: I will
nourish you, and your little ones. Thus he repeats and confirms the promise
which he had originally made to them when he invited them to come to Egypt
(Genesis 45:11, 18, 19). And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them
— literally, to their hearts (cf. Genesis 34:3).
Verse 22. And Joseph dwelt in
Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. Wordsworth notices that Joshua, who
superintended the burial of Joseph in Shechem, also lived 110 years. Joseph's
death occurred fifty-six years after that of Jacob.
Verse 23. And Joseph saw
Ephraim's children of the third generation: — i.e.
Ephraim's great-grandchildren, or Ephraim's great-great-grandsons, which perhaps
was not impossible, since Ephraim must have been born before Joseph's
thirty-seventh year, thus allowing at least sixty-three years for four
generations to intervene before the patriarch's death, which might be, if
marriage happened early, say not later than eighteen — the children also of
Machir the son of Manasseh-by a concubine (1 Chronicles 7:14) were
brought up upon Joseph's knees — literally, were born upon Joseph's
knees, i.e. were adopted by him as soon as they were born, or were born
so that he could take them also upon his knees, and show his love for them.
Verses 24, 25. And Joseph said
unto his brethren, I die: and God (Elohim) will surely
visit you, — literally, visiting will visit you, according to his
promise (Genesis 46:4) — and bring you out of this land unto the land which
he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the
children of Israel, — as his father had done of him (Genesis 47:31), — saying,
God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. The
writer to the Hebrews (Genesis 11:22) refers to this as a signal instance of
faith on the part of Joseph.
Verse 26. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old (literally, a son
of a hundred and ten years), and they (i.e. the children of
Israel) embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin (or chest, i.e.
a mummy case, which was commonly constructed of sycamore wood) in Egypt,
where he remained for a period of 360 years, until the time of the Exodus, when,
according to the engagement now given, his remains were carried up to Canaan,
and solemnly deposited in the sepulcher of Shechem (Joshua 24:32).
The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 1:
Genesis; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Genesis:
his initial expression of grief, Joseph called in the physicians who served him
and they began the Egyptian process of embalming which continued for 40 days.
The period of mourning continued for 30 more days, with Egypt in a state of
mourning during this time out of respect for Joseph’s father, and as a token
of their affection and esteem for Joseph.
the 70 days of mourning, Joseph asked the household of Pharaoh to tell him about
the oath Jacob made Joseph swear. He did not go directly to Pharaoh probably
because he was still in mourning, which might have included sackcloth and ashes.
Joseph wanted permission to bury his father in the place Jacob had prepared in
Canaan. Joseph also promised to return. Pharaoh gave him permission without
hesitation. Even though he was a foreigner, Joseph had earned Pharaoh’s full
was still the prime minister of Egypt and highly esteemed. This is shown by
Pharaoh’s servants, who were the elders of his household and the elders of
Egypt, traveling with Joseph to bury his father. All Joseph’s brothers and
their families accompanied him as well. Only the little ones, who were probably
left in the care of servants, stayed behind.
The flocks and herds were also left behind, as further evidence that
Joseph and his company would return soon. Joseph also brought along an armed
contingent of war chariots and horsemen, to ensure their safety and rapid
progress along the way. All this made a great and impressive company of people.
50:10-11. The great
procession probably made a detour to avoid the Edomites and Philistines, and
came to the threshing floor of Atad on the east side of the Jordan River. Since
the Egyptians who were with Joseph apparently did not want to enter Canaan, this
was an appropriate place for them to carry out final mourning rites for Jacob.
The threshing floor was a level, hard-packed
piece of ground outside of town. There they spent 7 days lamenting and carrying
out great and grievous rites or customs of mourning, which probably included
beating the breast and much wailing expressing their sorrow. The Canaanites who
lived in the region saw these grievous mourning rites and were so impressed by
them that they named the place Abel Mizraim, “Mourning of Egypt.”
sons obeyed his command by burying him in the cave of Machpelah. Then they
returned to Egypt. But the fact that Jacob was buried in Canaan was a reminder
that God would be faithful to His promises.
Joseph’s brothers began to consider that their father was dead, they
apparently concluded that Joseph had treated them so well only for their
father’s sake. Perhaps he was still holding a grudge against them, and now he
would surely pay them back for throwing him into the cistern and then selling
him as a slave. The brothers were still full
of guilt feelings. Though they had accused one another in Joseph’s presence
without knowing he understood them (42:1-22), they had never made an honest,
open, full confession to Joseph. Since they were afraid of what might happen,
they sent a message to Joseph concerning a command they said their father made.
They claimed Jacob commanded them to tell
Joseph to please forgive the brothers’ offense and sin--the harm they did to
him. Then they begged him to please forgive them for they were the slaves, the
worshipers, of the God of his father. While the messengers were telling Joseph
these things, Joseph wept. The brothers had mistrusted his motives after so many
years of enjoying what he provided. They understood neither his love, nor his
faith in God. This broke his heart.
50:18. Without waiting for a reply, the brothers
themselves came and fell down before Joseph, saying they were his slaves. They
had made an honest confession and were ready to suffer the consequences.
told his brothers not to be afraid. His words show his first and primary reason
why he would not seek revenge. He was not in the place of God. God said later,
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay (Rom. 12:19; cf. Deut. 32:35). When we try to
repay or “get even,” we do not leave room for God to deal with the
situation. He can make enemies into friends. Joseph’s experiences were hard,
but they taught him about God’s love and grace. It was a future glimpse of the
love that Christ would later show, that is literally “thrown beyond”
knowledge. (See Eph. 3:16-19).
second reason why Joseph didn’t seek revenge, was because he could look back
over the course of events and see that though the brothers intended evil, God
intended it for a good purpose, to accomplish what they could see that day, and
to save many people’s lives.
again encouraged his brothers not to be afraid. He would provide for them and
their little children. So he comforted them and kept on speaking to their
hearts. That is, he kept encouraging and reassuring them of his love and
and all his father’s household continued to live in Egypt. Joseph lived to be
110, and saw his grandchildren from Ephraim and even great-grandsons who were
sons of Machir, Manasseh’s son. That they were “born on Jacob’s knees”
means he lived to see them and treated them like his own children. (The phrase
can refer to adoption, but probably does not mean that here.)
Joseph knew he was about to die he told his brothers, that is his relatives. The
contrast is emphatic. Joseph was dying, but God was not dead. Joseph’s faith
and confidence was that God would bring them out of Egypt to the land He swore
to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
then made the sons of Israel, that is, all the descendants of Jacob, swear an
oath. God would surely intervene. He would act to fulfill His promise to give
them the land of Canaan. When He did, they must carry Joseph’s bones from
Egypt to that land. When the Book of Hebrews catalogs the people of faith, it
notes this confidence that Israel would return and this provision for his bones
as the outstanding expression of Joseph’s faith (Heb. 11:22).
50:26. The Book of Genesis ends with Joseph dead at 110
years of age and his body embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. This coffin
would be a constant reminder of their promise and of God’s promise as well.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Transgression—In what the brothers claimed was Jacob’s message
to Joseph, Jacob described the brothers’ prior actions as a transgression (50:17). This
Hebrew word could be translated “sins” (NIV), “trespass” (KJV), or
“crime” (NRSV). The primary
meaning of the Hebrew word is “offense.”
Here Jacob acknowledged that the brothers had dealt in an evil, sinful
way with Joseph when he was 17 years old.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
fundamental idea behind the Hebrew word rendered trespass (v. 17) is a breach in relationship between two parties.
It can be rendered “rebellion,” “sin” (NIV), or
“transgression” (NASB, HCSB, ESV); that is, against an authority, either
human or divine. Primarily the word
was used in the Old Testament in reference to people’s rebellion against God.
To trespass against God is to
reject His authority, to violate His covenant law, and to claim independence.
The word can be applied to interpersonal relationships, as in verse 17,
usually speaking of violations of one’s personal and property rights.
Certainly that was the crime Joseph’s brothers committed against him.
They rejected him as a person and violated any right he had to live.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Transgression - trans-gresh´un: From
“transgress,” to pass over or beyond; to overpass, as any rule prescribed as
the limit of duty; to break or violate, as a law, civil or moral; the act of
transgressing; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of
command; offense; crime; sin. In the Old Testament פֶּשַׁע, peshaʽ, occurs 80 times, rendered in all versions by
“transgression.” Its meaning is “rebellion”; see REBELLION. The
word “rebellion” differs from this word in that it may be in the heart,
though no opportunity should be granted for its manifestation: “An evil man
seeketh only rebellion” (Prov 17:11). Here the wise man contemplates an evil
heart, looking for an excuse or opportunity to rebel.
The New Testament uses παράβασις, parábasis, “trespass”:
“The law … was added because of transgressions” (Gal 3:19); “Where there
is no law, neither is there transgression” (Rom 4:15); “for the redemption
of the transgressions that were under the first covenant” (Heb 9:15).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James
Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
By Fred Wood
Fred Wood is
pastor emeritus, Eudora Baptist Church, Director, Preach-Teach Ministries,
express their grief in many ways. I
once asked a funeral director what was the most unusual song he remembered being
requested at a funeral. He replied,
“At one man’s funeral the widow and children asked for the soloist to sing
‘Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.’” He
continued, “I softly whispered to myself, ‘I guess they all knew him better
than we did.’” As a pastor, I
recall an only son, whose father was already buried, putting expensive jewelry
on his mother’s corpse and more in the casket.
He then buried all of it with her body.
Egyptians shared the universal custom practiced by all cultures, even exceeding
most in their mourning for the dead and conducting of elaborate funerals.
As today, more financial resources enable a family to have a more
embellished ceremony in putting away their loved ones.
activity immediately following a person’s death was described graphically by
two ancient writers. Herodotus, the
first Greek historian, gives an insightful and discerning description of the
initial stages in the mourning for an ancient Egyptian immediately subsequent to
wrote, “When a man that has repute is dead and his household has lost him,
then all the womenkind from that house plaster their head and face with mud, and
afterwards, having left the corpse in the house, they themselves wander through
the city, beating their breasts; while so doing, they wear their clothes girt up
and show their breasts, and with them are all their kindred women; on the other
side, the men beat their breasts, and they too wear their clothes girt up.
When they have done all this they then carry the corpse to the
Diodorus, an outstanding scholar of the fourth century AD,
and mentor of Chrysostom, gave a similar account that agreed with many
particulars of Herodotus. His
account, however, included some additional details. According
to him, “When any of them chance to die, their friends and relatives wander
the town until he body is buried, heaping dust on their heads and mourning.
Indeed, they partake not of the bath, nor of wine, nor of any food worth
mentioning, nor do they wear any bright colored garments.”2
process of embalming, also called mummification, as practiced by the ancient
Egyptians developed over several centuries.
In the early days, called the Old Kingdom (2830-2130 BC ), only members
of the royalty, especially the king, possessed access to it for their families.
By the time of the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC ), the practice extended to
almost anyone who desired and could afford it.3
The process differed according to one’s ability to pay.
The most fully developed form contained three basic steps.
the embalmers removed all the internal organs except the heart.
The Egyptians considered the heart necessary to activity in the
afterlife. Knowing the internal
organs decomposed first, the embalmers mummified them separately.
They placed the internal organs in canopic jars in the tomb at the time
of the burial. Believing
the heart was the seat of intelligence and emotion, the Egyptians left it in the
body. Contending the brain had no
significant value, they removed it through the nose and discarded it.
the embalmers packed and covered the body with natron, a salty drying agent.
They left the body to dry out for 40 to 50 days.
By this time, the body’s moisture had been absorbed, leaving only the
hair, skin, and bones. They then
stuffed the body cavity with resin, sawdust, or linen to restore the
deceased’s form and features.
Third, the embalmers wrapped the body in many layers of
linen, inserting good luck or protective charms, known as amulets.
Since Egyptians considered the scarab beetle the most important good luck
piece, embalmers placed it above the heart.
The priests recited prayers or incantations at each stage of the
wrapping. This entire process or
operation often required as many as 15 days.
The final act consisted of putting the body in a shroud or winding sheet.
The entire mummification process required about 70 days.
Those in charge of placing the mummy in a decorated coffin
also placed prepared furniture, carved statues, games, food, and other items to
be buried with the mummy. One final
ritual remained, called “The Opening of the Mouth.”
Egyptians believed this ceremony gave the deceased ability to speak
again, eat again, and have full use of his body in the “other world.”
Having completed the work of embalming and the accompanying rituals, the
embalmers sealed the sarcophagus and pronounced it ready for burial.
about the burial ceremony, last rites, and interment?
Unless the person was affluent or of great importance, his funeral
resembled one of today but in the context of Egyptian culture and properties.
For the poor or anyone not wealthy nor of royalty, funeral services
involved little pomp or ceremony. The
preparers steeped the body for a short time in bitumen or natron or perhaps even
rubbed the body with these substances. They
placed his few personal ornament on it and wrapped it in one piece of linen.
To aid him in the nether world, his staff and sandals accompanied him,
the former to support him and the latter to protect his feet.
A few amulets to help him meet his foe in the grave completed the
so, the burial of a monarch, his family, or an extremely opulent person!
Since when a king died, the country died symbolically, all the
country’s inhabitants wept and tore their garments.
Religious officials closed the temples.
The people abstained from sacrifices and celebrated no festivals for 72
days. Men and women went about the
streets in great crowds, sometimes as many as two or three hundred with mud on
their heads. Knotting their garments
below their breasts like girdles, they sang dirges twice daily in praise of the
dead. They denied themselves wheat,
animal food, wine, and any kind of delicacy or dainty fare.
this time, no one made use of baths or unguents nor did they recline on couches
or enjoy the pleasures of sexual love. The
people rather continued to sing dirges and spent the days in grief.
Meanwhile those preparing the body assembled the paraphernalia necessary
for the funeral and placed it in the coffin.
Scriptures tell us Joseph instructed the physicians in his service to embalm the
aged patriarch Jacob. This varied
from ordinary Hebrew custom, but the faithful son planned to fulfill his
father’s request. He expected to
carry the body back for burial in the Cave of Machpelah.
This meant Jacob would realize his ambition to lie in Canaan with
Abraham, Isaac, their wives, and with his first wife Leah.
This showed a noble trait in Joseph, since Jacob buried Rachel,
Joseph’s mother, by the roadside near Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19).
granted Joseph’s request concerning Jacob’s burial.
What a royal procession that must have made the journey!
The Book of Genesis describes the details.
Everyone who saw the group immediately realized Joseph’s importance!
The pompous funeral defied description.
One Old Testament student says concerning the caravan, “in it, besides
members of the family, high Egyptian officials took part, and it was even
accompanied by a considerable military escort.
Even the Canaanites were astonished at this funeral.”4
Scriptures give no clue as to which road the funeral train took.
Normally traffic went up the western coast of Canaan, cut over to
Beersheba, approaching Hebron from the west.
Some evidence exists, however, that they took the detour across the Sinai
Peninsula to the land east of the Jordan River, approaching Hebron from the
east. At some nearby location before
reaching the Cave of Machpelah, Joseph held a seven-day mourning period for his
ceremonies impressed the Canaanites and enhanced the Jews in their eyes.
How could it have done otherwise! They
named the river bed to commemorate the mourning of the Egyptians that took place
there. The expression “Abel
Mizraim” means “mourning of Egyptians.”
Thus ended the life of Jacob and an epoch in Hebrew history.
The History of Herodotus, Green, trans. Book II, Section 85
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987), 165.
Antiquities of Egypt (Translation with Notes, Book I The Library of History
of Diodorus Siculus) Book I, Section 91 (New Brunswick, USA and London U.K.);
Transaction Publishers, 1990), 115.
”History of Egypt: New Kingdom (DYN. 18-20),”
The Anchor Bible Dictionary,
vol. 2, Freedman, ed-in-chief (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 348.
Von Rad, Genesis:
A Commentary, Marks, trans. (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1961),
By Harold R.
Mosley is associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.
OF JOSEPH in Egypt is one of the most beloved
stories in the Bible. Countless
children have listened with keen interest to the story of how God worked in the
life of a Hebrew slave who rose to high position in Egypt.
Both young and old listen with anticipation at the turn of events that
brought Joseph to Egypt and then to his elevation to Pharaoh’s
second-in-command. Some people might
be tempted to view the narrative of Joseph as merely an enchanting tale that
teaches a moral. It is much more
than that, however. The Joseph story
consists of an historical narrative that reflects the particular culture and
society of ancient Egypt. Exactly
how does Joseph fit into the known societal structure and history of Egypt?
THE HIERARCHY OF
Pharaoh—The pharaoh was the supreme head over
Egypt. The word translated
“pharaoh” appeared around 2500 BC and meant “great house.”
However, by 1500 BC, the name indicated a title for the inhabitant of the
house, that is, the king.1
As the name is used in Scripture, “pharaoh” merely indicates the king
of Egypt. The earliest biblical
narratives do not mention a personal name with the word “pharaoh.”
By the time of Solomon (about 1000 BC), the pharaohs would often be
mentioned by name (such as Pharaoh Neco in 2 Kings 23:29).
Egyptians viewed the pharaoh as the living embodiment of the falcon-god Horus.
Pharaoh was thus a god in the eyes of the Egyptians.
As in incarnation of Horus, the pharaoh spoke with divine authority.
Egyptian theology saw the king (most pharaohs were “kings,” through
three women served as pharaoh) as being the only one who could prevent disaster
in the land, as well as the one who maintained proper order.2
He guaranteed the land’s fertility because of his connection to the
Upon the pharaoh’s death, he was worshiped as Osiris, the god of the
underworld. The new pharaoh then
became the living Horus as he ascended to power over Egypt.4
power in Egypt came ultimately from the pharaoh.
In theory, he owned all land, livestock, and people.
In practice, however, the same families often worked the land for
generations, thus giving the practical benefit of private ownership of the land.5
The pharaoh maintained authority over every aspect of Egyptian life.
In essence, the pharaoh was not only the head of Egypt; he was the
embodiment of Egypt.
the pharaoh functioned as the divine ruler, he obviously could not perform every
function himself. A complex system
of government developed within Egypt where various departments oversaw the vast
empire. The pharaoh maintained
ultimate control of the government, since every office operated at his whim.
He appointed all major officers, who in turn appointed other officers
religion had the pharaoh as its focal point, with the king functioning as the
ultimate high priest. Only the
pharaoh could intercede directly to the gods.6
Temples to the various Egyptian deities existed, each with its own high
priest appointed by the pharaoh and each priesthood being supported by the
pharaoh. All of these temples were
staffed with several layers of priests and attendants.
As the number of temples increased over the generations, the number of
priests and temple staff supported by the Egyptian king came to number in the
tens of thousands.7
Vizier—Next to the pharaoh, the vizier served as
the most powerful individual in Egypt. The
earliest indication of this particular office comes from around 2600 BC,
although records reveal little of the position until around 2000 BC.8
At times, two viziers would share responsibilities of service with one
operating in the southern region and another having authority in the northern
region.9 As the
pharaoh’s chief representative, the vizier held great power and influence over
all the land.
precise duties of vizier seem to have varied, depending on the administration of
each pharaoh. Even though records
mentioning viziers date far back into Egyptian history, the clearest information
regarding the responsibilities of the position comes from the vizier Rekhmire of
the Eighteenth Dynasty (about 1450 BC). Rekhmire
referred to himself as “second to the king,” “the heart of the king,”
and “the ears and eyes of the sovereign.”
The vizier was indeed “second to the king” in authority.
“He was treasurer, chief justice, high priest, chief architect, and the
king’s closest advisor.”10
His responsibilities consisted of maintaining civil order, assessing and
collecting taxes, preserving the state archives, mobilizing troops as needed,
appointing officials, and monitoring natural phenomena, such as flooding of the
The viziers themselves did not possess the necessary skills to perform
all the functions for which they were responsible.
Thus each vizier appointed the skilled persons necessary to carry out his
The Skilled Class—A large
class of skilled and educated individuals developed in Egypt that consisted of
craftsmen, artisans, and scribes. These
individuals lived in communities concentrated around the centers of population
that required the specific skills possessed by the craftsmen.
These positions of skill were generally hereditary in nature and were
learned from members of the immediate family through apprenticeships.12
scribes formed an important part of the skilled class.
Their task involved making careful notation of seemingly every detail of
daily Egyptian life. Records exist
indicating the size of herds, the grain harvested, the amounts of seed and
materials issued from storage, types of manufactured goods, supplies requested
by artisans, and extensive other minute details and records.
These meticulous records helped with the administration and taxation of
the land. Interestingly, the annual
flooding levels of the Nile formed the basis for the system of taxation in
Egypt. Based on past experience,
flooding to a certain level typically produced a certain yield of crops.
Tax assessments and revenue came, not from what farmers and families
actually produced, but from what yield should have been produced from that
Society’s Lower Classes—At
the bottom of Egyptian society were the peasants.
This segment of Egypt’s population formed by far the largest group of
people. Because these individuals
possessed no particular skills that made them valuable to the pharaoh, they
enjoyed none of the privileges afforded the higher social classes, despite the
fact that they produced food for the entire country.
No real chance existed for the peasants to advance to a higher social
formed the lowest of the social classes. Extensive
slavery did not exist in Egypt’s earliest days.
In fact, the pyramids, which date to around 2500 BC, were not built
primarily with slave labor. Rather,
the three months of Nile flooding allowed the conscription of the peasant class
for work in the various building projects of the pharaoh.
With the advent of the “New Kingdom” (in 1570 BC), however, slavery
began to increase. Slaves consisted
originally of foreign captives of war. This
group often engaged in the large-scale building projects of the various
Israel’s slavery in Egypt fits well into this time frame.
What Was Joseph’s
The precise placement of Joseph and the
Israelites into Egyptian history persists as an unanswered question.
The Genesis account clearly reveals Israel’s presence in Egypt.
However, because the narrative mentions no specific individual who can be
placed into Egypt’s known history, Joseph cannot be placed with certainly into
any particular time period. In spite
of the lack of clarity as to the exact date of Joseph, the Egyptian context in
the story of Joseph cannot be denied.
Genesis narrative does not preserve the translations for the precise Egyptian
titles given to Joseph. Rather, the
attempt of the Hebrew text is to describe the titles given to him.
Because of this, scholars disagree regarding the exact position Joseph
gist of the story in Genesis, however, seems to indicate Joseph rose to the
position of vizier. The most
convincing statement for Joseph’s position as vizier is Pharaoh’s
declaration in Genesis 41:40: “Only in the throne will I be greater than
Also the reference to Joseph riding in the “second
chariot” (v. 43) pictures him as second-in-command to the pharaoh.
The known duties of the vizier mesh well with the stated responsibilities
of Joseph. The vizier held
responsibility for the oversight of the royal granaries.16
Joseph presided over the gathering of the excess harvests in the seven
years of plenty (vv. 47-49). During
those years he stored the grain, and in the lean years that followed, he opened
the storehouses to sell the grain. Again,
the pharaoh’s words indicate the authority of Joseph over Egypt as the keeper
of the storehouses: “Go to Joseph. That
which he says to you, do” (v. 55).
The title of “father to Pharaoh” (45:8) indicates
Joseph’s close advisory role for the king.
Although the title could refer to a physical relationship, a common usage
of the term indicated an advisory function.
The title appeared often in reference to viziers.17
particular duty of the vizier figures prominently in the Joseph story.
After the famine had become severe in Canaan, Jacob sent 10 of his sons
to Egypt to buy food. There, they
appeared before Joseph (42:6-26). The
function of vizier required that he receive foreign embassies.18
Joseph seems to have been functioning in this capacity when the brothers
came before him.
Genesis story points to the conclusion that Joseph indeed served as vizier, that
is, the second-in-command to the pharaoh. This
high position for Joseph played a role in God’s plan for Israel.
Years later, Joseph told his brothers: “You, on your part, thought evil
against me; God thought it for good” (50:20).
God had given Joseph authority in Egypt second only to the pharaoh in
order to accomplish His purpose for Israel.
“Pharaoh” in Holman Illustrated Bible
Dictionary (HIBD), Brand, Draper, England, gen. eds. (Nashville: Holman
Bible Publishers, 2003), 1285-1287.
Hobbs, Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999), 59, 61.
Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Browning, Jr. and Kilpatrick, “Egypt” in HIBD, 468.
and Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 70.
and Teeter, 71.
quotations within this article are the writer’s own translation.
and Bible History: From Earliest Times to 1000 BC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book
House, 1981), 47.
CULTURE In Joseph’s Time
Meier is adjunct instructor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and
William Carey College, teaching in the areas of Old Testament, New Testament,
name comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to add” (see Gen. 30:24), was added
to the clan of Jacob by divine providence. Joseph, the oldest son of Jacob’s
beloved wife Rachel, received favored treatment from his father. To his older
brothers, Joseph was an unwelcome addition to the family. Joseph’s
unpopularity with these brothers increased as he began to share his dreams of
domination over them. The brothers’ increased as he began to share his dreams
of domination over them. The brothers’ animosity toward Joseph culminated in
their act of selling him to some passing merchants (37:28).
was taken to Egypt. There he suffered imprisonment but eventually became
second-in-authority to Pharaoh due to his God-given ability to interpret dreams.
A central theme running through the stories of Joseph is that of divine
providence. The Lord was with Joseph, even in Egypt (39:2,3,21,23).
likely, Joseph’s rise to power occurred during the Hyksos rule in Egypt,
between approximately 1800 and 1550 BC. Who were the Hyksos, and what was life
in Egypt like under their control? Understanding the origins and culture of the
Hyksos provides much insight into how a Hebrew such as Joseph could have risen
to power in the Hyksos period.
Manetho, an Egyptian historian of the third century BC, comes information about
the Hyksos. Although none of Manetho’s writings survived, the Jewish historian
Josephus (first century AD) quoted Manetho. The designation “Hyksos” means
“shepherd kings . . . out of the eastern parts.” Obscurity surrounds the
beginning of the Hyksos dominion in Egypt. Probably the rulers at Thebes were
subject to the Hyksos during the fifteenth and sixteenth dynasties in the north.
No clear evidence indicates the Hyksos fully controlled the territory of Thebes
and the area to the south. The Hyksos established their capital at Avaris in the
Delta region. The Delta area, serving as the Hyksos base of operations, included
Goshen where Jacob’s descendants settled. Genesis 46:26-34 indicates
Pharaoh’s court was located near Goshen. Both before and following the Hyksos
era the capital city was Thebes in Upper Egypt.
Hyksos were not an ethnic unity. Because the Hyksos adopted the language of
Egypt when they arrived, the linguistic evidence for the composite ethnic
background of this group consists mainly of personal names. The only personal
names that can be identified with certainty are Semitic. Since Joseph’s
origins were Semitic, as likely were a majority of the Hyksos origins, Joseph
had an opportunity to rise to power during this period. Joseph apparently was
related ethnically to the Semitic Hyksos rulers. Native Egyptians, in contrast,
viewed the Semites with contempt.
Furthermore, prior to the era of Hyksos domination, the
nation consisted of numerous small landholders over whom Pharaoh ruled. After
the Hyksos domination, Pharaoh personally owned all the land of Egypt and the
people became his servants. During the famine, the Egyptians sold their land,
their possessions, and ultimately themselves into servitude in order to survive
was Egyptian culture like under the Hyksos domination? Certainly these invaders
were not barbarians in many respects. Among the cultural changes associated with
the Hyksos invasion of Egypt was the introduction of the horse and chariot. In
Genesis 41:43 Pharaoh had Joseph ride in a chariot (see also 46:29; 50:9).
Superior weapons of bronze, heavier body armor, and a new type of earthen
fortress were introduced. Massive embankments erected of beaten earth surrounded
major Hyksos cities. Moats lay outside these embankments. The Hyksos exhibited
special skills in metallurgy and making jewelry. Fine linen was exported from
ancient Egypt. Observe the references to both jewelry and fine linen when
Pharaoh placed Joseph in charge of the land of Egypt (41:41-43). The Hyksos
supported art, commissioning various works. Also as active merchants, the Hyksos
introduced a new system of weights into Egypt.
story of Joseph in Genesis 37 – 50 reflects economic, social, religious, and
governmental aspects of Egyptian society during the time of the Hyksos rule.
Economic elements may be observed in Genesis 41:56-57 and 47:20-26. As the
severity of the famine increased, Joseph sold grain to the Egyptians and to
people from other countries. When the people’s financial resources had been
exhausted, they sold their livestock, lands, and even themselves into servitude
in exchange for food. Evidence from nonbiblical sources indicates that such a
major shift in landholdings occurred during the Hyksos period of rule. Joseph
established the law that a fifth of the produce in the land of Egypt belonged to
Pharaoh (47:26). This statement reflects the return of normal conditions and the
end of crop failures. In effect, Joseph levied a 20 percent tax. Joseph’s
economic policies highlight his skill as an administrator.
aspects of Egyptian society during the Hyksos period also appear in the story
about Joseph. Two verses indicate social practices the Egyptians regarded as
detestable. Genesis 43:32 records that the Egyptians would not eat with Hebrews.
Thus when Joseph’s brothers dined with him, they were served separately from
Joseph and from the other Egyptians eating with them. In
Genesis 46:34 shepherds are described as abhorrent to the Egyptians. This latter
fact probably influenced Pharaoh’s decision to permit Jacob’s family to
settle in the border area of Goshen, the good grazing land located in the
northeast part of the Delta (47:5-6).
practices described in 50:1-3,22-26 also reflect Egyptian customs. Both
Jacob’s and Joseph’s remains were embalmed according to the Egyptian custom
of mummification of kings and high officials. Mummification was expensive and
time-consuming. These burial procedures indicated Joseph’s social standing in
Egypt. He was both wealthy and influential. Through their practice of
mummification, the Egyptians believed that they were preparing the body for an
aspects of Egyptian culture during the period of Hyksos rule are evident in
references to Pharaoh’s dream, priests, wise men and magicians, and divination
practices. The nature of Pharaoh’s dream reflects Egyptian culture.
Appropriately Pharaoh’s dream included cattle, an object of many Egyptian
paintings. The word translated “reeds” in 41:2 has an Egyptian origin.
Pharaoh’s dream involved the welfare of cattle and grain, both dependent on
the Nile River, an object of Egyptian worship. The Hyksos worshiped a pantheon
of both Egyptian and Asiatic deities.
received special status in Egyptian culture as evidenced in Genesis 37 – 50.
Pharaoh gave Joseph Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the high priest of On,
as his wife (41:45). This action indicates Joseph’s noble status. Joseph was
assigned the name Zaphenath-Paneah, meaning “the God speaks and he lives.”
Joseph’s authority as an administrator who brings life is affirmed in this
name. The name change also was a ceremonial act intended to draw Joseph
completely into the Egyptian court circle. When Joseph began buying Egypt’s
land, the priests’ land did not become Pharaoh’s (47:26). The priests
received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from that
divination was practiced in the Hyksos period (44:5). The silver cup found in
Benjamin’s sack was used for divination. The king or Pharaoh erroneously
believed that knowledge of the future belonged to those with specially trained
skills in divination. Yet Egypt’s wise men and magicians could not interpret
Pharaoh’s dream (41:8). In contrast the biblical writer asserted that true
understanding comes only from God (41:16).
story of Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt provides some insights into
governmental conditions during the Hyksos period. Joseph originally was sold as
a slave to Egypt. In that era slaves commonly were brought from Canaan to Egypt.
Joseph, the model servant, soon gained favor with his master Potiphar, one of
Pharaoh’s officials and captain of the guard (39:1-6). Out
of loyalty to both God and his master, Joseph rejected Potiphar’s wife’s
advances (39:9). Joseph’s moral stance resulted in imprisonment. Potiphar’s
wife referred to Joseph as a Hebrew (39:17), the term here designating a
socially rejected individual. The punishment Joseph received may indicate that
Potiphar was not convinced of Joseph’s guilt since he was only imprisoned
instead of being sold into base slavery or put to death for such action. Little,
however, is known of Egyptian or Hyksos laws related to such matters.
status advanced to that of second-in-command of the land of Egypt due to his
God-given ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream (41:41). Joseph’s
installation ceremony described in verses 41-43 reflects actual Egyptian
practices. The words for “signet ring: and “fine linen” (41-42) have an
Egyptian origin. The chain about the neck signified honor. Joseph became the
authorized representative of Pharaoh and directory of the palace.
Frequently Joseph’s rise to such high status in
Egyptian government is attributed to the nature of the Hyksos rule. The biblical
writer, however, repeatedly asserted that Joseph’s status resulted from the
Lord’s presence with him. (see 39:2,3,21,23). A young man away from all family
influences in a foreign land maintained his integrity, morality, and faith in
God in the face of prolonged and severe testing. The story of Joseph reveals his
faithfulness, fortitude, and forgiveness. Joseph, whose model character blesses
our lives today, remained steadfast because behind all his life’s
circumstances, he recognized God’s hand at work (45:5-8; 50:15-21).
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 1995.
Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question
Found? (11/16/14) (Three-part
question) Who slew 600 Philistines with an unusual weapon?
Answer next week: (Who?); (What kind of weapon?); (Found in?).
The answer to last
week’s trivia question: (11/16/14)
(Two-part question) (1) Who
prophesied concerning which (2) nation dwelling in Gad?
(1) Who: Jeremiah; (2) Where: Ammon;