Joseph: The Favored Son

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Jacob had 12 sons total; however, Joseph was his favored son because he was born of Rachel. From Genesis 37 to the end of Genesis, the focus is on Joseph except for chapter 38 which covers the story of Judah and Tamar, and chapter 49 which covers Jacob’s farewell blessings for his sons.[1] This post will cover just a few known facts on Joseph we find in Genesis.

Genesis 37 covers the well-known gift of the coat of many colors Jacob gave to Joseph. Jacob’s favoritism was shown in his giving Joseph a special coat, which was probably a token of rank indicating that he was the intended head of the tribe which bothered his older brothers.[2] Genesis 37:4 calls Jacob’s gift to Joseph as a coat of many colors; the expression Ketonet passim has been translated three possible ways: a coat of many colors, a long-sleeved robe, and an ornamented tunic. The Hebrew phrase passim would be an adaption of AKK. pisannu which is a technical term denoting applique ornaments on costly vests and bodices.[3] The resentment of his older sons increased when Joseph revealed his dream to them.

Genesis 37 tells the 2 dreams of Joseph. The first one he and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field, and his brothers’ sheaves made obeisance to his, and the meaning it was that his brothers would serve him. In his second dream, the personification of natural elements is extended to the sun and moon which bowed down to Joseph which means he would be supreme over his parents.[4] Being 17 years at the time, Joseph was not mature enough to truly understand the meaning and how this would affect his relationship with his brothers. The envy his brothers had for him being the favored son boiled over and caused them to desire to kill him.

Instead of killing Joseph, his brothers sold him to slavery. The slave traders sold him to an Egyptian named Potiphar. God allowed Joseph to find favor in his new master’s eyes. He proved himself to be intelligent and trustworthy so he was given the head servant’s position of Potiphar’s house.[5] Potiphar’s wife started to want Joseph, but he refused her advancement. Joseph’s two reasons for refusing Potiphar’s wife were he wished to be faithful to his master, who helped him, and he wished to be faithful to God.[6] Joseph resistance of the temptation was very brave, and the victory truly honorable. The almighty grace of God enabled him to overcome this assault of the enemy. By strength of reason; and wherever right reason may be heard, religion no doubt will carry the day, he argues from the respect he owed both to God and his master, v. 8, v. 9. He would not wrong his master, nor do such an irreparable injury to his honor. He considers, and urges, how kind his master had been to him, what a confidence he had reposed in him, in how many instances he had befriended him, for which he abhorred the thought of making such an ungrateful return. He would not offend his God. This is the chief argument with which he strengthens his aversion to the sin. How can I do this? not only, How shall I? or, How dare I? but, How can I? We can do that which we can do lawfully.[7] At the end of the encounter, Joseph was thrown in prison. He did the right thing but was punished for it; however, this was all part of the plan of God.

Genesis 40-41, has Joseph in prison where he encounters two men who would result in him meeting the ruler of Egypt. The baker and the butler of Pharaoh had dreams. The baker’s dream turned out negative; Genesis 40:16-19 says, “When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favorably, he said to Joseph, “I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head; and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh off you.” As Joseph told the baker, during a royal celebration, the Pharaoh ordered the baker to be hung.[8] The butler was restored to his position which resulted in Joseph meeting Pharaoh. After Pharaoh had his dream and none of his wise men or magicians could interpret the dreams, the butler told Pharaoh about Joseph. Once Joseph was in front of Pharaoh, Joseph explained (Gen. 41:16) that he could not interpret Pharaoh’s dreams but God could. God gave the interpretation to Joseph to give to Pharaoh.[9] Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreamed saved Egypt from a famine. Because of this, Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt. The position Joseph held in the royal court was vizier or prime minister. Joseph rode in the second chariot, he was over all the land of Egypt, and he had the royal seal to do the bedding of Pharaoh.[10]

Because Joseph was faithful to God, he was able to be used to save his family. Because Egypt was blessed, Joseph’s family had a place to come for food. Joseph was used to bring the nation of Israel to Egypt for the 400 years of slavery that God told Abraham would happen. This period of slavery was told to Abraham by God even before he had Isaac. Joseph was the tool God used to continue the covenant He planned to use to bless the world; that Israel would be the nation to bring about our Savior Jesus Christ.

[1] John Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998), 262.

[2] Moises Silva, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011),767.

[3] John Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998), 263-264.

[4] Ibid, 264.

[5] Moises Silva, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011),767.

[6] John Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998), 271.

[7] Matthew Henry Commentary: Genesis 39. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/genesis/39.html).

[8] John Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co., 1998), 274.

[9] Ibid, 275.

[10] Ibid, 276.

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