Midweek Bible Study - Joseph(2)
To Egypt via Dothan
Passage for Study: Genesis 37:12-36
Outline of Talk:
• From what we know already of Joseph’s brothers we can surmise that their father needed reassurance that they were caring for his flock at Shechem and not up to no good. So, he decided to send Joseph to check them out and bring back a report. He had done this previously (v2) and the report had been critical of them.
• Note the instant willingness of Joseph to do what his father wanted. “Here I am” in the Bible is used frequently to indicate obedience, as in Isaiah 6 :8. It reminds us of the perfect willingness of Jesus to do his Father’s will (Psalm 40:6-8 and Heb.10:5-7; John 4:34)
• Verses 15-17 record an incident that happened when Joseph reached Shechem where the brothers were thought to be. An unnamed man told him that they were now likely to be in Dothan, having heard them say that they were heading there. These verses are significant in relation to God’s guidance (see Question 2)
• When his brothers saw him in the distance coming towards them it rekindled their hatred of Joseph. They had obviously understood his dreams to mean that he would be in ascendancy over them in some way, so they conspired to kill him and lie to their father as to what had happened to him. Reuben’s intervention saved Joseph’s life, but it was hardly the stuff of courage and faithfulness!
• The plan to sell him rather than kill him is still callous, because they were effectively selling their brother into slavery. However, their plan was overtaken by a group of Midianite traders who found Joseph in the pit, drew him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites.
• The remainder of the chapter shows how sin unconfessed multiplies into more sin. The brothers told their father a pack of lies. But the crucial point is that Joseph is now in Egypt. Who can describe what he must have gone through, but his arrival in Egypt is no accident. God’s plan is being unfolded!
Questions for Discussion Session:
1. Discuss “obedience” (as seen in Joseph’s willingness v13) in relation to Matthew 21:28-32. Where does obedience fit into the actions of faith?
2. Verses 15-17 teach us valuable lessons about God’s guidance. God is not mentioned nor is the man named. It’s all very “ordinary” – no angel appears, nothing dramatic takes place – yet the incident is obviously within God’s plan for Joseph as for the future of his people.
a. Someone might describe this as a “chance encounter.” What would you say in response?
b. Along with verses 15-17 read Psalm 56:8 and Psalm 139:13-18. Explain why God’s providence, guidance and plan are a source of comfort and assurance to you.
c. How would you explain verses 15-17 as a commentary on “we walk by faith and not by sight”?
3. Rejection is one of the most painful experiences we can have. To be rejected by his brothers must have hurt Joseph deeply.
a. Think of examples of how rejection can be experienced in today’s world.
b. What would be your approach to:
(i) being rejected
(ii) supporting someone experiencing rejection
4. As well as hating him the brothers obviously envied Joseph. Envy and covetousness are frequently condemned in the Bible (e.g. Galatians 5: 19-26). Discuss the following quotation from Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, by Alvin Platinga.
“What an envier wants is not, first of all, what another has; what an envier wants is for another not to have it. To covet is to want someone else’s good so strongly that one is tempted to steal it. To envy is to resent someone else’s good so much that one is tempted to destroy it. The coveter has empty hands and wants to fill them with someone else’s goods. The envier has empty hands and therefore wants to empty the hands of the envied.