Integrity Tested

Chapter 13

Jacob’s sin of deceiving his father, and the events that it led to, had an influence for evil in the character and life of his sons; as they grew to manhood, they developed serious faults. Unlike his brothers, however, Joseph had a much different character. He listened to his father’s instructions and loved to obey God. His mother having died while he was very young, he drew close to his father. As the first born son of his beloved Rachel, Jacob “loved Joseph more than all his children.”

But even this affection was to become a cause of trouble and sorrow. Jacob unwisely showed his partiality for Joseph in giving him an expensive coat such as was usually worn by persons of position and importance. This show of affection created animosity in the hearts of Jacob’s other sons. Their dislike turned to hatred as Joseph one day told them of a dream that he had had. “Hear, I pray you,” he said, “this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.” The same spirit that drove Cain to kill Abel was burning in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. In jealousy, they exclaimed, “Shalt thou indeed reign over us?”

The large flocks and herds that the family owned made it necessary for Joseph’s brothers to move from place to place in order to keep them in good pasture. They would often be away from home for months at a time. Sometime after Joseph had related his dream to them, they again had to move their flocks and herds. The place they chose to pasture the flocks was about fifty miles away from home on some property their father had bought near the town of Shechem. Time passed and no news came from them. Beginning to fear for their safety, Jacob sent Joseph to find them. Had he known their real feelings toward their younger brother, Jacob would not have trusted him alone with them; but they had very carefully hidden these from him.

After a long and lonely journey, Joseph arrived at Shechem only to discover that his brothers and their flocks had already moved again and were another fifteen miles away. Forgetting his weariness, he hurried on.

When Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching, the sight of the coat, the sign of their father’s love, filled them with fury. “Come now therefore, and let us slay him,” they said, “cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” They would have followed through with their plan but for Reuben, the oldest brother. Reuben shrank from taking part in the murder of Joseph. He suggested that a better plan would be to throw him into a pit and leave him there; he secretly intended, however, to later rescue him and return him to his father. Having persuaded the rest of the brothers to agree to this plan, Reuben left the group, fearing that his real feelings might show and his brothers would discover his real intentions.

When Joseph arrived at their camp, his brothers seized him and stripped him of his coat. Taunts and threats revealed their deadly purpose. Roughly dragging him, they threw him into a deep pit. After making sure that there was no possibility of his escape, they left him there to die from hunger.

As time passed, some of the brothers did not feel the satisfaction from their revenge that they had expected to experience. Soon they saw a company of travelers approaching. As the caravan came closer, they realized that it was a band of Ishmaelites from beyond Jordan on their way to Egypt with spices and other merchandise. Judah now suggested that instead of leaving Joseph in the pit to die, they sell him to these heathen traders. While he would be effectually put out of their way, they would not be guilty of actually killing him. They all agreed to this plan, and Joseph was quickly pulled out of the pit. Ignoring his pleas, they gave him over to the heathen traders and the caravan soon moved on and was lost to view.

Arriving in Egypt, the Ishmaelite traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, captain of the king’s guard. For the next ten years, he continued to work for Potiphar. In all that he did, he honored God; and “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. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.”

The marked prosperity which attended everything placed under Joseph’s care was not the result of a direct miracle, but his hard work and attention to details were blessed by God. Joseph gave the God of heaven the credit for this, and even his master—a believer in the heathen gods of Egypt—accepted his explanation as to the secret of his unmatched prosperity.

But Joseph’s faith and principles were to be tested by severe trials. His master’s wife tried to lead him into sin. She said to him, “Lie with me.” This was a severe temptation to Joseph. His whole future life depended upon his decision of the moment. If he agreed to do as his master’s wife suggested, he could expect favor and rewards. Should he refuse, however, he knew that he would face disgrace, imprisonment, and perhaps even death. Joseph determined to remain true to principle regardless of the cost. He was unwilling to betray the confidence of his master on earth; and whatever the end result, he would be true to his Master in heaven. "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” he replied.

Joseph suffered for his uprightness. Potiphar’s wife accused him of being guilty of the foul crime that she had tempted him to commit but in which he refused to take part. Had Potiphar truly believed his wife’s lying charge against Joseph, it would have cost him his life; but merely to save the family reputation, he had Joseph thrown into prison.

At first Joseph was treated with severity by his jailers, but in prison he did not allow bitterness and anger to make him sad or distrustful of God. Gradually his excellent attitude gained the confidence of his keeper, and he was given the responsibility of caring for all of the other prisoners. Sometime after he had come to this responsible position, the king’s chief baker and chief butler, who had in some way offended the king, were also placed in prison. One morning, Joseph saw that they appeared very sad. Speaking to them kindly, he asked the cause of their sorrow. They told him that they had each had a remarkable dream, but they did not know the meaning. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” he said. He then encouraged them to tell him their dreams.

The butler was the first to relate his dream. “In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: and Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph told the butler that the three branches represented three days and that in three days he would be restored to his position as Pharaoh’s chief butler.

Greatly encouraged, the baker then told his dream. “I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: and in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.” As with the butler, Joseph faithfully revealed the meaning. The three baskets also represented three days. Within three days the king would order the death of the chief baker. “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: . . . And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; . . . but he hanged the chief baker.”

The king’s cupbearer had professed the deepest gratitude; but once he was again restored to royal favor, he forgot all about Joseph.

Two years passed, and then the king of Egypt had two dreams in the same night. Though somewhat different, both dreams seemed to be pointing to the same event and seemed to foretell some great tragedy. The king called his magicians and wise men, but they could give no interpretation; his confusion and distress increased. The general excitement in the palace reminded the chief butler of his own dream, and with it came the memory of Joseph. He at once told the king how his own dream and that of the chief baker had received an interpretation by a Hebrew captive and how the predictions had been fulfilled exactly as they had been told.

The king immediately sent for Joseph. As quickly as he could change his prison dress and shave, he was shown into the presence of the king. The king said to him, “I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

Pharaoh then related his dreams: “In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: and, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: and, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: and the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: and when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning.” Falling back to sleep, the king dreamed another dream. “And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: and, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: and the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.”

“The dream of Pharaoh is one,” Joseph told the king. He continued, “God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.” There were to be seven years of great plenty. Field and garden would yield more abundantly than ever before. This period was to be followed by seven years of famine that would be so severe that all the good years would be forgotten. The fact that the dream was repeated was evidence both of the certainty and nearness of the fulfillment. “Now therefore,” he continued, “let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.”

The interpretation was so reasonable and consistent, and the plan that had been proposed to meet the emergency was so sound and wise, that its correctness could not be doubted. But whom could the king entrust to carry out such a plan? In all the kingdom, Joseph was the only man gifted with wisdom to point out the danger that threatened the realm and also to suggest necessary preparation to meet it. The king was convinced that he was the one best qualified to carry out the plans that he had proposed. It was evident that a divine power was with him and that there were none among the king’s officers of state so well qualified to manage the affairs of the nation at this crisis. “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” asked the king of his counselors.

The appointment was decided upon; and to Joseph, the astonishing announcement was made. “Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” The king proceeded to instate Joseph with the insignia of his high office. “And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.

At the very beginning of the fruitful years of good harvests, they began to prepare for the coming famine. Under Joseph’s direction, great storehouses were built in all the main areas of Egypt, and arrangements were made for preserving the surplus of the expected harvest. The same plan was followed during each of the seven years of plenty, until the amount of grain laid in store was beyond calculation.

This chapter is based on Genesis 37–41