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How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 12: “Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 14, 2010

Both the current lesson manual and this trio of lessons scheduled for 18 May, 25 May, and 8 June 1930 examine Joseph’s life in Egypt, noting how Joseph’s faithfulness during trials led to great blessings for himself and all his family.

Joseph

There are many reasons why Joseph should be the favorite son of his father, Jacob. In the first place he was the first born of Rachel whom Jacob had to work so long to get and with whom he was in love from the day he first caught sight of her. Then, too, Joseph was next to the youngest of Jacob’s children. Joseph soon displayed the type of characteristics and disposition which any parent would cherish. Joseph stands out in the history of Israel not only as a great heroic character who saves his family and who becomes great in a strange land, but also as a model boy, son, and brother.

Joseph returned the affection which his father had for him and showed splendid filial traits. This tended to attract the envy and hatred of his brothers. Then, too, Joseph began to dream drams and this characteristic marked him among his brothers. Just to dream was bad enough but on two occasions he dreamed dreams which were exceedingly distasteful to his brothers. These two dreams seemed to imply that some day he would be a ruler over them. Now, every one knows that no older brothers ever like to hear about such conditions as that. The result, of course, was more hatred and envy, and soon dislike which caused the brothers to want to even kill him.

You know this story very well for it is one of the most famous in the whole Bible. We will not excuse the brothers. What they did was wrong and they got in time the lessons which have always come to those who follow inclinations or temptations to hate, to kill, and to spitefully mistreat. But we can, nevertheless, understand their feelings and the story makes us appreciate the Bible because we see how true to human nature it is.

The hateful brother part of the story has a number of redeeming features. Two of the wicked brothers, at least, Reuben and Judah, showed some compassion. Reuben persuaded them to put Joseph into a pit instead of killing him, thinking that after night fall he could return and save Joseph. However, Judah convinced them to sell Joseph to passing merchants. This was where the real romance for Joseph begins. Here is a boy sold into slavery who is taken to a strange land and works his way up by honest, upright methods to the highest position in that land. it is just such stories that all American boys and girls thrill over. Joseph the slave becomes Joseph the favorite. Joseph the boy hated b his brothers becomes Joseph the man loved and honored by Princes.

But let us return to Joseph’s brothers and follow their part in the story. Here we learn the first great secret of wrong doing. Did you ever realize that when you do a good deed or act that is the end of it as far as you are concerned. You can forget and go on to do other deeds or acts. But when you do a misdeed or commit a really bad act there seems to be no end to it. That is why good actions keep us contented and make us enjoy meeting friends and loved ones. A bad act always has to be covered and the covering leads to lying and lying makes it necessary to continue a whole chain of bad deeds until in time we live such a complete life of deceit that there is no chance to ever tell the truth. Think of the almost necessary wrong doing which one evil act commences. Logically evil doing is really not worth while. Just follow then the steps these foolish wicked brothers take in wrong doing. First, they are jealous, then envious, then hateful, then they wanted to kill, then after selling Joseph, came the necessity of lying, then more lying and never again being happy in the presence of their father. Then, too, they could never be happy again in one another’s presence because there was a secret evil among them and none could hurt the other so suspicion filled their lives. Without trust social life is impossible. Without social life, life is a failure. The story of Joseph and his brothers is not just a Sunday School lesson. It is the lesson of life.

Questions and Problems

1. Who was Joseph’s mother? Which of Jacob’s sons was his full brother?
2. Relate Joseph’s two dreams. give their meaning.
3. Who were the Ishmaelites? (Genesis 16:15.)
4. Can you give three reasons why Joseph’s brothers hated him?
5. Who was Potiphar? Why did Potiphar’s wife tell untrue things about Joseph?
6. Show how Joseph by refusing the temptations of Potiphar’s wife remains true to himself, his master, and his God.
7. Note by your answers how complicated wrong doing is. Why does a wrong act lead to another?

Things looked well for Joseph a little while after he was sold as a slave to Potiphar in Egypt. Potiphar liked him because of his trustworthiness. Soon he was elevated from the ordinary station of a slave and allowed the freedom of his master’s home and was given the opportunity to study and live in the ways of a free man.

But this was not to last long. he is to be once more a victim of spite. And as a result he was cast into prison by his master and there he remained for two years. This prison experience turned out to his advantage. In the first place his disposition attracted the prison keeper and he was given, as a result, privileges above the other prisoners and the other prisoners were put under his care. Among these were two of the King’s servants. They had been put into prison because they had offended the King. One was the King’s butler or cupbearer and the other was his chief baker.

One day the cupbearer told Joseph of a dream he had had and he asked Joseph to interpret it. now it was dreams that got Joseph into trouble with his brothers but this time it was a dream that helped to get him out of trouble. Joseph told the cupbearer the meaning of the dream and asked him, when he should be free again to remember Joseph and see if he could not get Joseph freed. The interpretation which Joseph put upon the butler’s dream proved to be correct, and things came out just as Joseph said they would, but it was a long time after the cupbearer was freed that he remembered to do anything about Joseph. it is easy to forget even those who do kindnesses for us, when we are enjoying our own good luck.

The butler probably would have forgotten Joseph entirely had not the King dreamed two dreams which worried him a lot. the wise men even could not tell him their meaning. it was, of course, then that the butler thought of Joseph. The butler told the king about Joseph, and he sent for him. And it was in this way that Joseph was saved from prison because of a dream.

All their dreams are interesting. Joseph’s own dreams were about himself, and dealt with the things he was familiar with. The cupbearer’s dream was bout things the cupbearer handled and did. The baker’s dream, too, was about things he ordinarily did – carrying loaves of bread in baskets. So the King’s dream was about his work too; the King’s chief work was to see that his people had food and his chief concern was about the condition of his land, the crops and the herds. The dream which the King had was a natural one for him to have an d when Joseph told its meaning, the King could see that Joseph was right so he was happy in receiving his advice. His ability as a wise advisor was immediately recognized, and Joseph, instead of being sent back to prison, was made one of the great men in the court of the Pharaoh. he was allowed to wear the clothes of the mighty and ride forth in a chariot and the Pharaoh allowed him to rule in the land and to supervise the harvesting. Joseph believed the King’s dream was true, so he planned the direction of the affairs of the people to meet the emergency which the dream predicted. At that time the King was absolute. He owned all the land, and to an extent, all the people who lived on the land; and all that the land produced. Therefore, Joseph could ride in his chariot over the whole land of Egypt and direct the affairs of all the farmers. He took the grain from the husbandmen, allowing them only so much as was necessary for food and for seed. But he did not tell any of them the reason why he did so. The grain he took was put away in granaries and storehouses. The people probably wondered why Joseph did this year after year. The King’s trust in Joseph’s ability must have been very great, for sure there must have been complaint as harvest after harvest came around and Joseph took away all the surplus.

Questions and Problems

1. Tell the story in connection with the butler’s dream. Give Joseph’s interpretation.
2. relate the baker’s ream and its interpretation. Give the outcome of this dream.
3. Tell the King’s dream. give its meaning.
4. Give Joseph’s plan for providing against the emergency which the dream foretold was coming.
5. How can you account for the way in which Joseph was able to impress himself upon the King?
6. Find out how old Joseph was when he became the Pharaoh’s chief officer. (Genesis 41:46.)
7. Whom did Joseph marry? (Genesis 41:45.)
8. Did Joseph have any sons?

Joseph was seventeen years old when he was sold by his brothers into slavery. By the time he was thirty he was the King’s chief minister. The King chose a wife for him, from among the noble families of the court, and to this wife and Joseph were born two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

After the seven years of plenty and storing had passed, famine commenced in the eighth year as Joseph had foretold, Egypt became known among the famine stricken countries that surrounded her as the one place where grain could be purchased. Joseph does a really remarkable thing for even our times for he allowed all men, foreigners as well as Egyptians to buy his grain. his theory was that those who have plenty and live in happiness should help those who have not and who therefore cannot know happiness.

This condition shortly brought Joseph’s brothers back into Egypt for grain supplies. Joseph now was in a position to test his brothers feelings towards one another and to discover whether they had repented for the ill they had done him. He, of course, was not recognized by them and besides they did not know that he could even talk their language. Thus they talked among themselves about their plans, their hopes and their fears and Joseph learned their innermost thoughts and discovered the condition o their hearts. This story is one of the most interesting in the whole Bible. You can find it in the book of Genesis, chapters 42, 43 and 44.

One thing especially Joseph was anxious to know about his brothers and that was whether they would stand together and take care of one another or if they would still act towards one of their number and desert him int rouble as they had left Joseph years before. this is the test he thought out and actually carried through to try them. – Joseph invited them all to supper and he arranged them in the same places that they were accustomed to sit when they ate with their father Jacob. Joseph treated them all kindly but he was especially kind to Benjamin, sending him double what he sent to the rest of the guests. After the supper when the brothers had gone to sleep Joseph commanded his steward to prepare the sacks of grain for them to take home. he had the price which they brought to pay for the grain put back into the bags and in addition he had his own golden cup which he had used at the super put into Benjamin’s sack. thus was he to try his brethren to see, when Benjamin became accused of stealing the cup, if they would desert him and because of their own innocence go back to their father without him.

Soon after the brothers started towards their home land, he sent a troop of horsemen to overtake them. among the horsemen was the steward who had placed the cup in benjamin’s sack. When the brothers asked in surprise the reason for this attack upon them so soon after being so honorably entertained, he called them wicked wretches who had forgotten Joseph’s kindness and who had actually stolen Joseph’s feast cup. The brothers, of course, insisted upon their innocence and invited a search and promised that all would accept the punishment if one were found guilty. the steward answered the guilty one only would be punished and that the rest should no be blamed. You see everything was done to test the loyalty of the brothers to each other. At last when the cup was found in benjamin’s bag there was great sorrow as well as surprise among all and they went in fear of the punishment their brother would receive. They all returned with Benjamin to Joseph.

When they came before Joseph he scolded them and said, “How came you, vile wretches that you are, to make so evil a return for my kindness to you?”

when the steward told him it was Benjamin alone who was guilty, Joseph said he would release the others, that they might return to their father, but would make Benjamin his slave. this was too much for the brothers and one of them, Judah, spoke up and told Joseph that Benjamin was the best loved of all the brothers by Jacob and that none of them would go home without him. He offered himself in place of Benjamin and asked Joseph to punish him instead. All the other brethren cast themselves at the feet of Joseph and offered themselves in place of Benjamin.

This made Joseph very happy. He saw that his brothers had changed their ways. he therefore sent all Egyptians away and remained in the room alone with the brothers. Then he told them who he was. This filled them with fear because they expected he would punish them for what they had done to him yrs ago. instead, though, he told them that he had forgiven them – that he really did not believe that they were wicked in their nature, but that everything had happened in order that god’s purposes might be brought about. he and they could, of course, see that good had actually come out of their evil act. That fact did not make the brothers less conscience smitten and in truth it should not. Just because things came out well in the end for the person who is mistreated is in no sense a justification for a wrong doing.

Thus did Joseph bring about a reuniting of his father’s family. This later resulted in Jacob’s coming to Egypt with all his family and descendants – at that time about seventy people, and thus were the Israelites brought into Egypt. Great are to be their experiences before they leave that land!

Questions and Problems

1. Find in Genesis the place where it tells of Jacob’s coming to Egypt to meet Joseph.
2. why was Benjamin so much loved by his father?
3. Retell the story of Benjamin and the supposed stealing of Joseph’s golden cup.
4. Do you think that Joseph’s plan to test the loyalty of his brothers was a good one?
5. Tell of Joseph’s meeting with his father.
6. Under what theory did Joseph allow others besides Egyptians to buy grain in Egypt:
7. In Genesis 49, Jacob blesses his sons. Do you note a practice here s9milar to the Patriarchal Blessings of the present time?
8. how long did Joseph live? (Genesis 50:22.)
9. What was Joseph’s prophecy concerning his descendants? (Gen. 50:23-26.)
10. What was the relationship between Jacob, Ephraim and Manasseh? (Gen. 48:5-22.)



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