From Obnoxious Kid to Loyal Slave

Title: From Obnoxious Kid to Loyal Slave

Bible Book: Genesis 30

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Joseph


Genesis 30-41


After reading about his distinguished ancestors, Joseph’s life is something like an oasis in the desert. Actually, he was the spoiled child of a spoiled child, but the Lord had a purpose for him that no one would understand for some time. If we get beyond the stories of the obnoxious youth we will find a man of character and distinction, a man of mystery and substance, a man of brilliance and intrigue. He was a man of genuine humility and love that totally eclipses his youthful boasting, pride, and self-centeredness.

The late Bible scholar, John R. Sampey called Joseph “the most Christlike character in the Old Testament.” There was a time when I would write out lists people I considered the best in their field, based of course on my “vast knowledge” of the subject, or so I may have thought. In time I was forced to acknowledge my ignorance. Even in Junior High, I would often engage in intense research in certain fields. I assumed that was the reason the school scheduled “study hall” for us. For example, I was a walking encyclopedia on Boxing. I once met Pete Herman in New Orleans and my first thought was, “He was Bantam Weight Champion of the world from 1918-1922 (as I now recall!). I was addicted to all the traditional sports. Baseball: Stan Musiel and Ted Williams. Football: Johnny Unitas and of course, Archie Manning. I had better stop there before I become distracted.

I prepared lists of the world’s ten greatest military leaders (but please don’t tell General Dutch Shoffner!), the world’s ten greatest explorers, America’s greatest frontiersmen. Of course, there was the list of the top ten preachers. And so on. I prepared a list of Old Testament characters whose lives reminded me more of New Testament Christianity than most others. Since Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven without having to die, they must be at the top of the list. After that, my two favorites are Joseph and Samuel, followed by many more. But that will give you an idea of how I view the first man named Joseph in the Bible.


A. Joseph Was Born in Padan-aram as the Answer to His Mother’s Prayer (Ch. 30).

1. Rachel cried to Jacob, “Give me sons or I die” (30:1).

Rachel lived in a day in which a woman’s worth, esteem, and security were tied to her children. Normally speaking, she was identified with three men throughout her life, and if that sounds unfair, look at the nations of the world. Centuries later, Paul found Gentile women attending worship services in a local synagogue, almost certainly because Judaism show greater respect for women than the pagan religions with which they were familiar. To make matters worse, Rachel had to look her sister Leah, Jacob’s first wife, in the eye, knowing what she must have been thinking about her. After all, she was his favorite, but she had given him no son. So Rachel cried out to Jacob,

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob ⌊any children⌋, she envied her sister. “Give me sons, or I will die!” she said to Jacob. Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in God’s place, who has withheld children from you?” (Gen 30:1-2, HCSB).

Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah, who bore him two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Then, Leah, who could have no more children, gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob and she had two sons, Gad and Asher.
After that Leah had more sons, giving her six sons in all.

2. God blessed her with a son and she named him Joseph (30:22-24).

In all Jacob had ten sons, and then the Scripture tells us, “Then God remembered Rachel. He listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my shame.” She named him Joseph: “May the Lord add another son to me” (Gen 30:22-24).
Rachel prayed for a son and God blessed her with a very special son. She would never live to see the day of his greatness and his special place in God’s plan for His people. In all the Old Testament there is no greater example of New Testament Christian living than we find in Rachel’s son Joseph.

3. Rachel had one other son.

The Lord answered Rachel’s prayer and gave her another son, but sadly, Rachel died as a result of a difficult labor and birth of a son whom she names Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow”). Jacob (Israel) changed his name to Benjamin (“son of my right hand”). As we shall see in the Scripture, Joseph and Benjamin were very close. Joseph’s heart melted when he was Benjamin among his other brothers in Egypt.

B. When We See Joseph Again He Is a Controversial, Obnoxious, Spoiled Youth (Gen 37).

1. Jacob’s partiality toward Joseph was the source of conflict with his brothers (37:1-4).

2. Joseph’s dreams led his brothers to hate him and plot against him (37:5-11).

a. Joseph dreamed that his brothers’ sheaves bowed before his, suggesting that he would have authority over them (37:5-8).

b. In another dream the sun and stars bowed before him.

c. His brothers hated him all the more when he shared his dreams, but Jacob made note
of the dreams (which were indeed prophetic).

3. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in Egypt (37:12-36).

a. Jacobs gave Joseph a coat of many colors which antagonized his half-brothers.

b. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers and they saw him and plotted to kill him.

c. Rueben saved his life, only to find that when he turned his back his other brothers had sold Joseph to some Ishmaelites, who in turn sold him to Potiphar in Egypt.

d. They shredded Joseph’s coat and soaked it in blood and took it to Jacob to convince him that he had been killed by a wild animal (Israel grieve for Joseph for many years).


A. His Deep Faith in God Led Him to Resist the Temptation of Potiphar’s Wife ((39).

Joseph was sold by his brothers to a band of Midianite traders who were on their way to Egypt. They, in turn, sold him to a powerful many in Egypt names Potipher. Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but he ran from the house. First, he resisted her advances, but when she became bolder in her efforts to seduce him he fled from her presence. Joseph showed character, reverence of God, and respect for Potipher. He also showed wisdom which he must have gained while sitting at the feet of the man whose name God had changed from Jacob, on who follows after another to trip him up, to Israel, a prince with God.

B. Potipher’s Wife Falsely Accused Joseph of a Serious Offense.

The charges against Joseph were false but then a lie has often been used by an evil woman to try to destroy a man. The fact that her charges were lies did not stop this evil woman. Charges made by the wife of a powerful man like Potipher, as shocking and vile as they were, would have been hard to refute by a slave.

A very good friend of mine once went with a friend to visit his girlfriend. A sister to the girl friend walked out to speak to my friend, and in a very flirtatious manner told him she might accuse him of something if he didn’t come to see her. He was a few years older than the girl, who must have been in her late teens. My friend told me he looked her in the eye and said, “I may spend the rest of my life in the penitentiary, but I WILL NOT spend the rest of my life with a woman I don’t love.” That made an impression on, but that older friend often offered words of guidance to young people in our community.

My friend smoked, as did many young men at the time. Once, before going into out church building, he started to throw down a cigarette he had just lighted. He would have ground it out with the toe of his shoe, but a teenager a couple of years younger than I stepped up and asked for the cigarette. My friend, who was four years older than I, looked him in the eye and said, “Son, if I give it to you your daddy is going to be mad at me. If I don’t, you are going to be mad at me.” He looked off to the side and flipped it onto some green grass and then walked on into the building. The younger friend picked up the cigarette and left the grounds for a neighbor’s outbuildings.

Young people learn how to deal with temptations through the Word of God, and they may depend on the Holy Spirit to guide them. It is important to have parents who prepare their children at an early age to resist temptations. It also helps to have a respected friend who sets good examples for teenagers.

C. Joseph Was Sent to Prison on False Charges (40:1-23).

It may seem incredible to some that a man who was chosen by God for such a great purpose would be subjected to such a cruel injustice as this. What had he ever done to deserve this treatment? Wasn’t it enough that he had been sold into slavery by his own brothers? Could God not have prevented all these things that might have threatened the very purpose God had for this young man?
Of course, God could have prevented all the bad things that happened to Joseph, but our sovereign God knows when to deliver us and when to develop us. James was inspired to write that the trials of life may produce endurance, maturity, and strength (James 1:1ff). The Scripture shows us that God never forgot Joseph.

1. He remained faithful to the Lord while in prison.

2. He interpreted a dream for Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who would be restored to his position.

3. He interpreted a dream for Pharaoh’s chief baker, who would be executed.

4. The cupbearer forgot Joseph when he was restored to his position.

D. Joseph Interpreted a Dream for Pharaoh (41:1-36).

1. Pharaoh had a very disturbing dream and could find no interpretation.

2. The cupbearer remembered Joseph, who had interpreted his dream.

3. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.

a. There would be seven years of abundant harvests.

b. There would then be seven years of famine.

E. Joseph Was Given Authority Over the Land to Prepare for the Famine (41:37-57).

What an amazing testimony to the faithfulness of Joseph, the saintly son of Jacob, whose name had been changed to Israel (prince with God). More than that, what testimony this is to the providence, sovereignty, and power of Almighty God! The story of Joseph is a great one for children to learn about how the Lord can use people for His purpose. However, children may listen to Bible stories and love them without getting the broader picture. When I was on the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources, I served on the Broadman and Holman Committee. My first vote, other than to approve the minutes was a vote on proceeding with the translation and publication of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. During my two terms on the board, I was given numerous Bibles as soon as they were published. I received Children’s Bibles, Bible stories, and Bible games. I gave some of those gifts to my granddaughter Abigail.

One day, we visited Abigail and her family, and when my wife was busy with her little brother Jacob, Abigail asked me to go to her room. She picked up her Children’s Bible and asked me, “Do you know my favorite person in the Bible?” I asked her who and she said, “David.” Immediately, she began looking in her Bible for a story about David. I said, “Look in First Samuel.” She ignored me and kept thumbing through the first half of the Old Testament. Again, I said, “Look in First Samuel.” And again, she ignored me and kept looking. I said, “First Samuel.” She turned back to the index and took her little index finger and began running it down the list. I said, “First Samuel.”

Abigail slammed the cover closed and said, “I don’t have to do this!” I was shocked, but I didn’t want to overreact. She laid her Bible down and as I trying to decide whether to talk with her about her Bible or not, she walked over to her book shelf and picked up a game and turned around and pressed a button. We listened to the story of David and Goliath together. Believe me, I was relieved.

An eight year old child may learn a lot about God through Bible stories. He or she learns that God loves us, protects us, and provides for us. As we grow older we should be able to see the broader picture. When the Lord called Abraham to leave the Ur of the Chaldees and go to the Promised Land, He told him He would give his descendants the land to which He led him, but before they would take possession of the land they would go into another country for a period of four hundred years. This was an incubation period for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel.

Joseph was the pivotal figure of this period. The Lord always had a man, or woman on hand to accomplish His purpose, and Joseph was the man He would use to fulfill His covenant with Abraham. The road was a rather bumpy at times, but God saw Joseph through the trials of youth, rescued him from the evil plot of his brothers, delivered him from false charges, freed him from prison and elevated him to great power in Egypt. He also put Joseph in a position to prepare a place for the Children of Israel to live for 400 years.

When we first read, or hear the story of Joseph we may wonder how the Lord could let such things happen to such a remarkable young man. Then, as we study the Scripture we must see that it was the Lord who delivered Joseph from trouble time after time. He gave him a victory over all obstacles and placed him in a position to save his family, the Chosen People.

There are two basic themes we may follow throughout the New Testament. The first is how the lost are saved, and the second is how the saved should live. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, I would like to invited you to trust Him and profess him today as the Lord over your life. If you already know Him, will you not make a fresh commitment today to be faithful to the Lord, and to serve him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

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