Lesson 11 - Jacob and Joseph

    Suggested Bible Reading: Genesis, Chapters 25-42

    We have learned already of the faith of Abraham that led him to leave his homeland and travel to an unknown land, that God would show him. The Bible says in Genesis 22:19, “And Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.” Beersheba is located in the land of Canaan, which we know to be the southern part of modern day Israel. Abraham was about 100 years old by the time that he settled down in the land that God had for him. This is where the story of the nation of Israel now begins. It was in Beersheba where God gave Abraham his son Isaac. It was in Beersheba that God tested Abraham’s faith and commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, we know that God spared Isaac’s life. God had promised that through Isaac would come a great nation of people, including the Savior. The Bible tells us the story of how Isaac married a young lady named Rebekah in Genesis 24. Shortly after they were married, they had two children named Esau and Jacob.

    God Blesses Jacob.

    The Bible says in Genesis 25:27, “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” Esau was a skillful hunter. He spent his time tracking and killing wild animals out in the field. The promises of God concerning the Savior would have ordinarily been passed on to Esau, because he was the first born. However, Esau was not interested in the promises of God. He did not trust God like Abraham and Isaac did. Esau was like Cain. He patterned his life around his own ideas and doing his own thing. He did not see that he was a sinner and needed to be accepted by God. As we read about Esau, we find that he lived for the things of this world. These were more important to him than the things which God wanted to give him.

    Jacob lived quietly in his tent and kept the sheep and cattle. Jacob believed God like Abraham and Isaac. He was very interested in God and his promises. We all need to ask ourselves, "Am I turning away from God's truth and following my own way like Cain and Esau? Or, am I like Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who admitted their sin and trusted in God to provide the Savior?"

    Though Jacob believed God, he was also at times a very deceitful man. He was able to trick his brother to sell him his birthright for a pot of porridge. He later tricked his father to give him the family blessing that should have belonged to his brother. This caused so much anger between Esau and Jacob that eventually, Esau threatened to kill his brother Jacob. Therefore, Jacob was forced to leave his father and mother's home and began the long trek back to the land in which his grandfather, Abraham, used to live.

    Jacob Begins a Family.

    The Bible says in Genesis 28:11-12, “And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” Jacob's journey lasted several weeks. One night, as Jacob slept in the mountains, God gave him a dream. Through this dream, God showed Jacob that the coming Savior would bridge the gap between man and God. God is the only one who can make a way for man to come to Him. No amount of good deeds done by man can bring him close to God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the ladder to God had been removed. The only way man could come to God was if God made a new way. God did promise to send a Savior who would be like the ladder which Jacob saw reaching from earth to Heaven. God showed Jacob that there is only one way to God. Jacob must put his trust in God.

    Jacob made his way to Abraham's original homeland. He found his mother's relatives and married her two nieces, sisters, by the name of Leah and Rachel. He went on to have 12 children and after twenty years returned to his father Isaac, and there was peace between Jacob and his brother Esau.

    Joseph was one of the youngest sons of Jacob, but was also Jacob's favorite son, which caused his older brothers to hate him. Joseph was a man that loved God and believed His promises. God gave Joseph two dreams to show that he would become the ruler over the family. The Bible says in Genesis 37:5-10, “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, 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. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth.”

    God Takes Care of Joseph.

    Joseph’s brothers were very jealous. One day they sold Joseph as a slave to traders going to Egypt. The brothers made it look to their father that Joseph was killed by a wild beast. The traders sold him to Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh (king of Egypt). For a short time everything went well for Joseph in the home where he worked, but when Potiphar's wife made false accusations against him, he was put into prison.

    The Bible says in Genesis 29:21-22, “But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” Joseph still trusted God even though he was hated by his brothers and lied about by his master's wife. He trusted God's promises just like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No one can ever please God unless he believes what God says. God did not fail Joseph even when he was in prison. God took care of him because he had a wonderful plan for Joseph's life. It looked impossible with Joseph in prison that he would ever be the ruler of his family, but God always keeps his promises.

    One day Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two dreams that were related. Pharaoh did not know or worship the true and living God. The Egyptians worshipped the sun, moon, stars, animals, and the Nile River. God wanted to tell Pharaoh a very important message through the dream, but no one was able to interpret the dream. Pharaoh was told that a man in his prison, Joseph, would be able to interpret the dream for him, because Joseph worshipped the One True God. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, and he interpreted his dream. Joseph told Pharaoh that God was about to bring 7 years of great plenty followed by 7 years of great famine. The famine would be so severe that the 7 years of plenty would be forgotten.

    Joseph counseled Pharaoh to pick out a man to oversee the officers of the land collecting 20% of the food during the 7 years of great plenty to store up for the 7 years of famine. In this way, there would be food to last throughout the famine, and those in countries nearby would be able to come and buy food. Pharaoh was impressed with Joseph's interpretation and promoted him to the highest position in all of Egypt. Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt. Only Pharaoh was higher than Joseph. Joseph had been through difficult experiences and understood that God was still in control. God had not forgotten Joseph when he was in prison. The dreams which God had given him as a youth were about to be fulfilled.

    Jacob’s Family Comes to Egypt.

    After the seven years of great plenty, the seven years of great famine began. This famine stretched into neighboring countries like Canaan. In fact, Joseph's father and brothers ran out of food. Jacob sent Joseph's brothers to Egypt to buy food. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn't recognize him and bowed themselves to him.

    The Bible says in Genesis 42:3-6, “Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt....And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.”

    God brought to pass the things he showed Joseph in his dreams as a youth. His brothers did indeed bow down before him. Joseph wept when he disclosed his true identity to his brothers. Rather than treating his brothers harshly as they deserved, Joseph explained to them that God used the brothers' horrible actions for good. Joseph instructed his brothers to go back to Canaan and bring his father and all his family to Egypt where they would be able to survive the great famine. Jacob and Joseph were reunited once again. Pharaoh allowed Jacob's family to live in the best part of Egypt where they remained for 400 years. Over the years, they multiplied and became a great nation. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and so all of his descendants became known as the nation of Israel or the Israelites.

    Study Questions

    1. Isaac and Rebekah had two sons named and .
    2. Esau was interested in the promises of God.
    3. Esau wanted to kill Jacob because he had stolen the and the family .
    4. God taught Jacob in a dream that …
    5. How many sons did Jacob have?
    6. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, and was loved by all his brothers.
    7. God obviously failed Joseph after he had been sold by his brothers and landed in prison.
    8. Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, because he worshipped the .
    9. Jacob’s descendants became known as the nation of Israel.

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