Joseph and His Brothers: A shift from evil to good

Let’s start our time together today in prayer. Take a few minutes to thank God for this week and for the stillness of this time you get to spend with Him. Ask Him to speak to you personally through our readings today.

The story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) is a long one, so I’m going to do my best to give you a brief summary:

Joseph, who was 17 years old when our story begins, was one of 12 sons and was his father’s favorite. (No, that’s not an opinion- his dad actually gave him a “fancy coat” to show that he was his favorite son.) The Bible also says that Joseph’s brothers “hated him,” but they began to hate him more after he told them about these dreams that he was having where his brothers’ wheat and even the sun, moon and stars were all “bowing down to him” (37:4).

Okay, if Joseph was your brother and you were already a little bit jealous of him, don’t you think him telling you about these dreams would have made you even just a little bit angry too? Yeah. Well his brothers got so angry; they decided they wanted to kill him… Pretty evil stuff. Instead of killing him though, they agreed to sell him to some Ishmaelites passing by because, “After all, he is our brother” (37:28). Afterwards, they took his coat home, dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat and told their father that they found it in the woods, leaving their dad to assume that Joseph had been attacked and killed by a wild animal.

Meanwhile, Joseph was sold to a guy named Potiphar, who was the king of Egypt’s high official. Potiphar liked Joseph…that is until Potiphar’s wife framed Joseph for trying to seduce her. That landed him jail. But even while Joseph was wrongfully sent to prison, “the Lord was with him” (39:21).
Joseph eventually ended up getting out of jail because he helped the king interpret some of his dreams and make a plan to help save Egypt. The king recognized this by saying, “God is the one who has shown you these things. No one else is as wise as you are or knows as much as you do” (41: 39) and so he made Joseph governor of all of Egypt.

Twenty-two years after Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites, his brothers went to Egypt to buy some grain (there was a big famine which Joseph helped predict), which happened to be sold by, you guessed it, Joseph. Joseph recognized his brothers right away and tested them by putting them in jail for “suspecting them” to be spies. During their time in jail, his brothers started to feel guilty for wanting to kill Joseph saying, “We’re being punished because of Joseph. We saw the trouble he was in, but we refused to help him when he begged us. That’s why these terrible things are happening” (42:21). Afraid of having to eventually go home without their youngest brother, Benjamin, as ransom, the oldest brother, Reuben, offered himself in Benjamin’s place. Overwhelmed with emotion, Joseph revealed his identity to them and “Joseph and Benjamin hugged each other and started crying. Joseph was still crying as he kissed each of his other brothers. After this, they started talking with Joseph” (45:14). When Joseph’s father, Jacob, heard the news, his entire family left to go visit Joseph in Egypt. A few years later, Jacob died and Joseph’s brothers sent a message to Joseph, asking him to “please forgive the terrible things [they] did.” (50:17).

Please read Joseph’s response to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-21.

In this story, God shifted the hearts of Joseph’s brothers from one’s that desired evil (to kill Joseph) to one’s that desired good (to be forgiven and be loved). Their hearts changed as they recognized their sin and felt sorry for the ways that they hurt their brother.

Part of what triggered this radical shift in Joseph’s brothers is that they were humbled during the three nights they spent in prison, as well as by the thought of losing another one of their brothers. Being humbled by something or someone means that you are taken aback by a particular situation that you witnessed or experienced or by another person’s story you heard. Being humbled also makes you feel small and encourages you to look up to something much bigger than yourself: God.

Address: Youth Conference Ministries 1200 Mountain Creek Road Suite 130 Chattanooga, TN 37405 | Phone: (423) 624-2495 | Fax: (423) 624-7482 | Email