Saturday, November 18, 2006

What's in the Bible   Lesson 1.4  Joseph (cont.)

This is part of my current Sunday School, which is a basic tour through the whole bible. The primary text is What's in the Bible by R. C. Sproul and Robert Wolgemuth. Most of the maps are from the Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts and Maps

The approach here is big picture, less detail. The goal is to make you comfortable with the entire bible, so that when you look in detail at any one part you don't feel as though you're picking up a tome youv'e never read and starting in chapter 47.

I will maintain a list of links to the lessons in the left sidebar.

Joseph to Moses (cont.)

It is fascinating how when God has big plans for someone, they first go through a maturation process. This pattern is repeated many times, and Joseph is no exception. In Egypt Joseph was sold to Potiphar, captain of the Pharaoh's guard. Though he prospered, he was again the victim of deceit when Potiphar's wife falsely accused him of attempted rape:
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. 13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. "Look," she said to them, "this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." 16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me," he burned with anger. 20 Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined. (Gen. 39:11-20)
A coat got him in trouble again! Joseph spent almost ten years in prison where he received the Lord's blessing. Once again he prospered, found favor in the eyes of his masters, and was given great responsibilities.

While in prison, Joseph encountered two of Pharaoh's officials (his cup bearer and baker) who had somehow managed to offend the Pharaoh and get sent to prison. When Joseph meets these men, he interprets their dreams:
7 So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?" 8 "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." 9 So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand." 12 "This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon." 16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. 17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head." 18 "This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh." (Genesis 40:7-19)
Does something ring familiar here? Joseph being unjustly punished alongside two prisoners, one of who is saved and the other isn't? We think of Christ and the two thieves with whom he was crucified. Joseph is indeed a "type" of Christ, with many parallels.

While in prison, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream and gained his release. His guidance in getting Egypt through a famine catapulted him to a prince of the land. Once again, Joseph prospered. His position eventually lead to Joseph's reuniting with his brothers (including Benjamin, a younger brother he had never met) and his father Jacob. Because of Joseph's high standing in Egypt, Jacob and other Jews were treated as guests in the land. That would of course change very quickly.

Near the end of Jacob's life, something very interesting happens. He places the covenantal blessing not upon Rueben, the firstborn, but upon Judah, his fourth son:
"Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. (Gen 49:8)
This certainly came to pass, as both David and Jesus are descendants of Judah. Other sons (tribes) with notable descendents: Joseph's descendants include Joshua, Gideon, and Samuel. Benjamin's include Saul, Ester and Paul. Samson was a descendant of Dan, Barak and possibly Elijah were of the tribe of Naphtali. The Levites claim Aaron, Moses, Eli, and John the Baptist.

Later, when Joseph gathers his brothers and teaches them a lesson still important to us today when we struggle with the question of why evil befalls the people of God:
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. (Gen 50: 18-21)
And as he lay dying, Joseph told his family:
22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim's children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph's knees. 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." (Gen 50: 22-25)
Joseph might have been surprised to learn that it would be four hundred years until his descendents would leave Egypt. In fact, the timing of this is a bit mysterious. Earlier in Genesis, when God is making his covenant with Abraham, we read:
13 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Gen 15:13-16)
And in Christ's genealogy in Matthew we read:
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. (Matt 1:6)
Hezron, Ram and Amminadab are the three generations of captivity in Egypt—but how this spans four hundred years is not clear.

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