In the book of Genesis is found the story of a dreamer with a multi-colored coat, Joseph. Favored by his father Jacob, Joseph was despised by his brothers. They resented him and his dreams.
Blinded by emotion, Joseph’s brothers sold him into bondage. Joseph was separated from his land and his family by his captors. His beloved father was overcome with grief thinking that his favorite son was dead. Joseph’s brothers became his enemies who did unthinkable evil to him.
Provision for Traitors
How did Joseph, a man of God, re-pay this horrible mistreatment? Joseph made sure that in the time of famine these very same brothers had enough for themselves and their families to eat. He settled them in a land of plenty and welcomed them into his royal palace.
Joseph had the power to destroy his brothers. He could’ve ignored their needs. Instead he chose to lavish kindness on them in exchange for the hatred they showed to him.
The Final Reckoning
But was kind to his brothers only to avoid further hurting his elderly father? This was the question that nagged at the brothers as they received Joseph’s kindness. Once Jacob the patriarch died, the depth of Joseph’s forgiveness would be seen. What would Joseph do to his brothers then? It is at this time that Joseph says these words:
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:15
The story of Joseph is recorded as an example of one who repaid evil with kindness. This principle is repeated throughout the Bible and will later be codified in Mosaic law and the teachings of Jesus. God wants us to learn how to react to the evil we are sure to encounter.
In Joseph is a type of Christ. Both were betrayed for money, without just cause. Both forgave and returned good for the evil given to them. The suffering of both led to the saving of lives. Joseph is a foreshadowing of the glorious suffering of Christ that led to the salvation of all the world!
Ask God to show you how you can return good for the evil done to you.
Going Further: In-Depth Exercises for Bible Teachers
- (Often when Joseph is taught God’s favor is the focus. Remember and teach that God’s favor was seen in the midst of the heartbreaking suffering Joseph endured. Encourage your students to feel the depth of the brothers’ rage and the extent of Joseph’s pain in these first few exercises.) Read the text of Joseph’s brothers betrayal of him. (Genesis 37:12-36) List all the consequences Joseph immediately faced as a result.
- If you were in a similar situation, list the emotions you would have felt at the time of the betrayal.
- Who else was directly affected and saddened by Joseph being sold away to travelers? How do you think Joseph felt about this? How did the brothers feel about this?
- Read Genesis 39 and Genesis 40:33 for more of the personal consequences Joseph faced later in his life because he was a slave in a strange land due to his brothers’ treachery.
- Read over the story of Joseph then read the story of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering and crucifixion. Make a list of all the similarities you see. Then read a commentary comparing Joseph to Christ. (Like H.A. Ironside’s Care for God’s Fruit-trees and Other Messages or Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament) Encourage your students to find Christ each time they read the Old Testament.
- How can you help your students put their enemies in perspective using the story of Joseph? Do you think that doing so may give them hope?