Heroes in History – Joseph

The story of Joseph is the record of the exaltation of the man whom men rejected, of man’s passions and God’s purpose. Our study of Joseph constantly reminds us of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, once “despised and rejected of men” but now “exalted, a Prince and a Saviour”.

We note that Joseph was

Beloved as a Son, ch. 37

The “generations of Jacob” are mainly occupied with the history of Joseph. We read that “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours”, v. 3.

Hated as a Brother, ch. 37

The hatred was three-fold, w. 4, 5, 8. He was hated for


The coat was a mark of distinction and honour, a coat of extremes with long sleeves extending beyond the hands and reaching in length down to the feet (see R.v. marg.). Perhaps it was the coat of the firstborn which belonged to the heir. Was Jacob wise in displaying an apparent favouritism? Could he have forgotten the bitter experience of his own youth and the way he had gained the birthright?

Joseph was also hated for


In the company of the sons of the two slave women, Bilhah and Zilpah, Joseph was distressed by their sinful behaviour and brought to Ins father their evil report. The sons of the bondwomen were sure to hate the son of the free as they do even at present. “Sons of the day” cannot but rebuke the darkness. The advice of the wise man in the book of Proverbs was, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not”. Never mind a world’s hatred, there is a father’s love to be enjoyed.

Lastly, he was hated for


The chief incidents in Joseph’s life arise from dreams, firstly his own, then those of his fellow-prisoners and finally those of Pharaoh. In his own dreams he was the central sheaf upon earth and the ruling sun in the heavens. This caused his brethren to say “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?”, v. 8. It seems that the dreams were told with perfect innocence, not the vain boast of a lad of seventeen. The commentary was the work of his brothers who were always ready to find cause to expend their hate upon him.

Obedient as the Sent One

“And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I”, 37. 13. Joseph’s obedience to his father’s will took him from the vale of Hebron (place of fellowship) to Shechem (place of blood, shame, sin and sorrow), see 34. 25-30. The word Shechem also expresses “burden-bearing” or “shoulder” and we are reminded of the One who was the perfect Servant of Jehovah and who “took upon him the form of a servant”, Phil. 2. 7.

Sold as a Slave

“Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard”, 37. 28, 36. This is the story of man’s passions and God’s sovereign purpose – a hideous tale of vulgar hatred and cruelty. Joseph’s words describe the meaning of the whole incident, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good … to save much people alive”, 50. 20. Can we forget the crime of crimes, the shameful cross, when the Son of God fulfilled the purpose of God in redemption for mankind?

Trace the story of Joseph’s humiliation scorned, “Behold, this dreamer cometh”, 37. 19. stripped, “they stript Joseph out of his coat”, v. 23. set at nought, “And they sat down to eat bread”, v. 25, perhaps the very provision which Joseph had himself brought them. Amos denounces some of his own generation by saying they “drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”, 6. 6. sold, “and sold Joseph … for twenty pieces of silver”, v. 28.

Prosperous as a Servant, ch. 39

“And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; … And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand … The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field”, vv. 2, 3, 5. Compare the blessings of the man in Psalm 1 of whom we read “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”.

Trace now Joseph’s pathway: vv. 1-6, Prosperity; vv. 7-12, Purity; vv. 13-19, Perfidy; vv. 20-23, Prison.


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