How did Israel end up in Egypt? — Genesis 37-39

Hey, welcome again to our daily Bible reading companion. Glad to see you again.If you’ve ever wondered how the nation of Israel ended up in Egypt in the first place, this is the beginning of that story.

It all starts with Joseph vs. the rest of Jacob’s sons. Jacob wasn’t a terrific parent; he showed favoritism to one of his youngest sons, because he was the son of his favorite wife. Those sorts of mistakes have consequences. Jacob didn’t even try to hide his favoritism; he gave to Joseph a special coat that clearly marked him out above his older brothers as the son who would be given the birthright privileges. Jealousies and rivalry will tear a family apart, and that’s what began to happen to Jacob’s family.

To make matters worse God gave to Joseph dreams, revelations, that predicted how he would dominate and rule over his brothers, and in typical teenage hubris, Joseph brags about it (37:7,8). When Joseph came telling about a second dream in which it was revealed that he would rule over not only his brothers but his parents, too, even Jacob began feeling like he might have created a monster (37:10). Even so, Jacob still used Joseph as an informant on his other sons and made matters even worse (37:13,14). Joseph went to check up on his brothers who were caring for the family flocks a considerable distance from home, which gave them the perfect opportunity to “set things straight” (37:19,20).

They captured Joseph as he came upon them, and they threw him in a pit. Although they originally had intended to kill him, they instead sold him as a slave to passing traders who were on their way to Egypt. The Midianite traders in turn sold Joseph as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. From “little prince” to a slave in far off Egypt was a long way to fall!

But instead of weeping and wailing and bemoaning his fate, Joseph set to work as a slave and quickly rose through the ranks of slaves (by God’s blessing of his work) to become the chief steward of this high-ranking officer of Pharaoh’s court (39:6). Being a chief steward was not a bad position; you told others what to do and you were generally treated quite well. But Joseph as a young man of only late teens or early 20’s (37:2) was apparently quite attractive to the one person you wouldn’t want to be attractive to, if you wanted to keep your job — the boss’ wife!

Potiphar’s wife sought numerous occasions to carry on an affair with him, but Joseph was apparently very circumspect about avoiding situations where something could happen or someone could make an accusation — couldn’t we all learn something here? But one day, Potiphar’s wife found Joseph at the right (wrong) place at the right (wrong) time; she grabbed his cloak and said, “Come lie with me.” But Joseph — and this is important to make note of — tried to escape so quickly that he left his cloak still in her hand. There was no hesitation with Joseph, no thinking about it, no rolling it around in his mind, no fantasizing what it would be like — just escape from the temptation. There’s something to learn here, too, isn’t there?

Mrs. Potiphar, the woman scorned now, accuses Joseph of trying to sexually attack her, and Potiphar (what choice did he have) threw Joseph in jail — probably in his own basement, the dungeon. Once again, rather than weeping and wailing and bemoaning his fate, Joseph simply does what’s right and again rises to the top — even if it is the top of the dungeon. Joseph was faithful in even little matters, which is what made him faithful in much. Instead of kicking dirt about how life has given you a bummer of a hand, why not simply do our best, do what’s right (1 Peter 2:13-20) and wait for the hand of God who “… causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NAS95.

One last note on this principle, too. We skipped over chapter 38, the story of Tamar, but we don’t want to ignore its lesson. Here’s a woman, a Gentile woman, who does what’s right, in spite of others around here who were not, and who was rewarded with a son — who was an ancestor of Christ. This is true of poor Leah, too, of an even earlier chapter. Poor Leah was unloved by her husband, but she, too, was an ancestor of Jesus Christ by just keep the course and doing what was right. Just do what’s right! You never know what great good, what super great good, your righteous acts may accomplish with the Lord’s blessings.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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