Part 4 - Lesson 10

The Unhappy Family

Joseph had real family problems. His 10 older brothers hated him, and he had three stepmothers at once!

Jacob, Joseph’s father, had four wives, two of them sisters. There was great jealously among the wives and bitter rivalry among 10 of the 12 sons.

Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Rachel, who died when Benjamin was born. Jacob had loved Rachel deeply, and now all his love was shown to her sons, especially to Joseph.

Once he gave Joseph a splendid coat, embroidered with silver and gold threads. This made the older brothers angry. The birthright was supposed to go to the oldest son. He would inherit the largest share of his father’s property and would become head of the family when his father died. This was very important. The coat made the brothers fear that Jacob meant to give the birthright to Joseph, who was the next to the youngest.

Even though they hated him, Joseph loved his brothers. When he saw them doing wrong, he tried to talk them into obeying God. They made fun of him and chased him away. Joseph went to his father, hoping Jacob could turn his sons away from sin.

The brothers acted like they were sorry for doing wrong, but they were only sorry they got caught. They did not blame themselves for sinning; they blamed Joseph for finding them out.

Their hatred grew so strong they decided to kill their younger brother. At the last minute, they changed their minds and sold him as a slave. They tore his beautiful coat, splashed it with goat’s blood, and let their father think Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. But Joseph lived. He was taken as a slave to Egypt, and there he obeyed God just as he had at home. God blessed him and led him to a position where he could use his talents for good. God told Joseph a famine was coming. Joseph told Pharaoh, the king. Pharoah believed Joseph and made him second in command over all the land of Egypt.

As ruler, Joseph was able to gather food and store it during the good years, so that when the famine came, people would not starve. The famine hit Canaan, too, where Jacob and Joseph’s brothers lived. The older brothers, all grown men now, went to Egypt to buy food. There they had to appear before Joseph, because he was the person who controlled all the food storage. Because Joseph was so much older now, the brothers did not know him. But Joseph knew them, and he wondered if they were as cruel and selfish as ever. To test them, he accused them of being spies and asked about their family. He learned that his father was still alive.

Joseph said the men must prove their story by bringing Benjamin next time. He allowed nine of them to take grain back home, but he kept Simeon in prison until they returned.

When Benjamin came, Joseph invited all his brothers to eat at his house. He gave Benjamin five times as much food, but the brothers were not jealous. He gave them all presents, but gave Benjamin much more. Again the brothers were not jealous, only happy for Benjamin.

As a final test, Joseph planted his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag of grain and accused the young man of stealing it. He said Benjamin’s punishment would be to stay in Egypt as a slave.

The other brothers knew this would break their father’s heart. They had stopped fighting for the best place, and now they tried always to make their father happy. To save Benjamin, Judah offered to become a slave in his place.

Then Joseph knew that his brothers had truly changed. They had given their hearts to God, and God had changed their greed, cruelty and selfishness into love, kindness and generosity.

Joseph told his brothers who he was. He told them he forgave them. “You tried to hurt me,” said Joseph, “but God turned your evil to good by putting me here to save lives.” He brought his father and all his brothers’ families to live with him in Egypt, safe from the famine.

God can change you and me, just as He changed Joseph’s brothers. No matter how sinful we are, God can make us kind and loving and clean, if we only give our hearts to Him.

Won’t you give Him your heart right now?

On The Bible Trail

How does John say we show we love God? 1 John 4:20,21 Why does Peter say we should love? 1 Peter 4:8 Who is our brother if we obey God? Matthew 12:50 How often should we forgive our brothers and sisters? Matthew 18:21-22. Where does love come from? 1 John 4:7, 8. Joseph had many adventures. You can read his story in the book of Genesis, chapters 37 and 39 through 47. 1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Read it and see why.

Treasure Chest Verse

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” John 13:34