God is with Joseph

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 37-50


Alun Owen

This commentary has been through Advanced Theological Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.


Chapter 37

Joseph’s dreams

v1 Jacob lived in the country that is called *Canaan. That is the country where his father had stayed.

v2 This is the story of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was 17 years of age, he and his brothers looked after the sheep. He assisted the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who were his father’s wives. Joseph told their father Jacob bad things about his brothers. v3 Now Joseph was born when Israel was old. Therefore, Israel loved Joseph more than he loved any of his other children. He made for him a long coat, which had sleeves. v4 But his brothers saw how much their father loved Joseph. He loved Joseph more than he loved them. Then they hated Joseph and they could not speak to him in a friendly manner.

Verse 2

‘The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah’ were Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. (See Genesis 35:25-26.) Bilhah and Zilpah were Jacob’s extra wives. His wives were Leah and Rachel.

Verse 3

Most people wore coats that had no sleeves. Their coats reached to their knees. Joseph’s coat had sleeves and it was extra long. It was a special gift that his father gave to him. Probably it meant that Joseph was Jacob’s favourite. (But some people think that the *Hebrew word does not mean a long coat with sleeves. They think that it means a coat of many colours.)

v5 Now Joseph dreamed. And when he told his dream to his brothers, they hated him more. v6 He said to them, ‘Hear this dream that I have dreamed. v7 I dreamed that we were in the field. We tied the corn into bundles. Then my bundle rose from the ground and it stood up. Your bundles gathered round my bundle. And they bent themselves down in front of my bundle.’ v8 His brothers said to Joseph, ‘You mean that you will rule over us. You mean that you will actually have power over us. That will never happen!’ So they hated him more because of his dreams and because of his words.

v9 Then Joseph dreamed another dream and he told it to his brothers. He said, ‘I have dreamed another dream. I dreamed that I saw the sun, the moon and 11 stars. They bent themselves down in front of me.’ v10 Joseph told this dream to his father and to his brothers. And his father told Joseph that he should not insult his own father. His father said to him, ‘Think what your dream means! You mean that I and your mother and your brothers shall come to you. And you mean that we shall truly bend ourselves down to the ground in front of you.’ v11 Joseph’s brothers hated him. But his father remembered what Joseph had said.

Verses 5-11

Genesis usually tells us things in the order that they happened in. But sometimes it does not do this. These verses tell us what had happened earlier. We know that because of verse 10. That verse tells us that Joseph’s mother Rachel was still alive. So the things that are in these verses happened before Rachel’s death. So they happened before Genesis 35:18. Genesis tells us about these things now for a good reason. We need to know about these things when we read verses 18-19.

Verse 5

Joseph was foolish to tell his dream to his brothers. He knew that it would make them hate him more. His father had made him think that he was important. So he thought that he was more important than his brothers.

Verse 7

Many years after this time, Joseph’s brothers did bend themselves down in front of him. (See Genesis 42:6; 44:14; 50:18.)

Verse 10

Many years after this time, Joseph’s father and his brothers did go to Egypt to see him. But his father did not bend himself down in front of him. Instead, Joseph went to greet his father. (See Genesis 46:29-31.)

Joseph’s brothers plot against him

v12 After that time, Joseph’s brothers took their father’s sheep to Shechem. They went there so that the sheep could eat the grass near Shechem. v13 And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Your brothers have taken the sheep to Shechem. I will send you to them.’ And Joseph said to Israel, ‘I will do what you say.’ v14 So Israel said to him, ‘Go. See whether your brothers are well. See whether the sheep are safe. Then come back here and bring me news.’ So Israel sent Joseph from the valley of Hebron and Joseph went to Shechem.

Verse 12

Journeys like this were usual. When the sheep had eaten the grass in one region, they needed to move to another region.

Verse 14

God began to carry out an important plan. Joseph’s journey from Hebron to Shechem was 80 kilometres (50 miles). But soon after this, God sent Joseph out of *Canaan, the country where he was, to another country. He sent him to Egypt. That was a journey of 400 kilometres (250 miles). And after that, in God’s plan, all the children of Israel went to Egypt. They spent many years there and they increased in number. Then they returned across the desert to *Canaan.

When God made this plan, he had two great purposes. God’s purposes were these:

·     He intended to turn Israel’s family into a great nation. He could not do that while they looked after sheep and cows in *Canaan. So he sent them to Egypt.

·     He intended to teach all people how to trust and follow God. He led the children of Israel out of Egypt. He led them across the desert. That journey was like a picture of the lives of people who obey God. And God uses that journey to teach us.

v15 As Joseph wandered in the fields near Shechem, a man spoke to him. The man asked him, ‘What are you searching for?’ v16 Joseph said, ‘I am searching for my brothers. Please tell me where they have taken the sheep.’ v17 And the man said, ‘They have gone away. I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” ’ So Joseph followed his brothers and he found them at Dothan.

Verse 17

The brothers had gone to Dothan. That was an important part of God’s plan. By God’s plan, Joseph must go to Egypt. So it was important that Joseph should meet his brothers near Dothan. There the brothers might meet merchants who went to Egypt. They would not meet them anywhere else.

The reason for this is that the brothers kept their animals in the hilly country. The merchants travelled along the coast near the sea. So the brothers and the merchants did not meet. But when the merchants went further north they turned to the east. There they travelled away from the sea. Some of them travelled near Dothan and they went on to Gilead. (Gilead is a region that is east of the river Jordan.) Now the brothers had come north from Hebron to Shechem. They went further north to the end of the hills near Dothan. There they might meet merchants who went to Egypt.

Perhaps God had made the grass poor at Shechem. Perhaps that made the brothers decide to go further to Dothan.

v18 The brothers saw Joseph while he was still far away. And before he came near to them, they plotted against him. They plotted to kill him. v19 They said to each other, ‘The dreamer comes. v20 Let us kill him! Let us throw him into a deep hole in the ground. Afterwards, we shall say that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we shall see whether his dreams were true.’

v21 But when Reuben heard this, he saved Joseph. He said, ‘Let us not kill him.’ v22 And Reuben said to the other brothers, ‘Do not kill anybody. Drop Joseph into this deep hole here in the desert. Do not hurt him.’ Reuben intended to rescue Joseph from his brothers. He intended to give Joseph back to his father. v23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they took his coat off him. That was the long coat with sleeves that he wore. v24 They took Joseph and they dropped him into a deep hole. The hole was empty and there was no water in it.

Verse 20

‘Deep holes in the ground’. People had made deep holes in the rock in order to store water. The holes were large but they were narrow at the top. People filled the holes with water in the rainy season. They used the water in the dry season. Nobody could climb out of such a hole unless somebody else helped them.

Verse 21

Reuben was the oldest brother. He considered that he was responsible for his brothers. Especially he was responsible for Joseph because Joseph was only 17 years of age.

Verse 24

‘They dropped him into a deep hole.’ See the comment on verse 20.

Joseph goes to Egypt

v25 Then the brothers sat down to eat a meal. While they ate their meal, they saw a group of Ishmaelite merchants. These merchants had come from Gilead and they were going to Egypt. They had camels, which carried spice and balm and myrrh. v26 Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘We could kill our brother and we could hide his blood. But if we did that, we would not make a profit. v27 Let us not kill him but let us sell him to the Ishmaelites. He is our brother! He is a member of our own family.’ And Judah’s brothers agreed with him.

Verse 25

The Ishmaelites were probably *descendants of Ishmael. (See Genesis 25:12-18.) Gilead is the east part of the country that is called *Canaan. Gilead is east of the river Jordan.

People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. ‘Balm’ is a medicine. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell.

Verse 27

Judah and most of the other brothers made this plan. But Reuben considered that he was responsible for Joseph. He intended to go alone to the deep hole as soon as the meal was over. (See verse 29.) He intended to pull Joseph out of the hole. And he intended to send him back to his father at Hebron.

v28 Then a group of Midianite merchants passed. And they lifted Joseph and they helped him out of the deep hole. And they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. So the Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt. v29 After that, Reuben returned to the deep hole. He saw that Joseph was not in the hole. So he tore his clothes because he was so sad. v30 He returned to his brothers. He said, ‘The boy has gone! And I was responsible for him. Now there is nowhere where I can go.’

Verse 28

The Midianites were probably *descendants of Midian, who was a son of Abraham. (See Genesis 25:2.) For Ishmaelites, see comment on verse 25.

Verse 29

Reuben intended to rescue Joseph. (See verse 22.) But he did not find Joseph in the hole. He did not know what had happened. He was very sad because he could not give Joseph back to his father.

v31 Then the brothers took Joseph’s coat. They killed a goat and they put the goat’s blood on the coat. v32 And they took the long coat with sleeves and they brought it to their father. They said, ‘We have found this. See whether it is your son’s coat.’ v33 And Israel recognised the coat. He said, ‘It is my son’s coat. A wild animal has eaten him. It is certain that an animal tore Joseph to pieces.’ v34 Then Jacob tore his clothes. He dressed himself in rough cloth. He wept for his son for many days. v35 All his sons and all his daughters tried to comfort him, but he refused their comfort. He said, ‘I shall be very sad as I go down to the place of dead people. I shall meet my son there.’ So his father wept for him.

v36 Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt. Potiphar was an officer of *Pharaoh. He was the captain of the guards.

Verse 31

The brothers did not know what to tell their father. So they pretended that they had not seen Joseph. They pretended that they had found Joseph’s coat. They pretended that there was blood on the coat. So Jacob would not blame them. Instead, he would blame a wild animal.

Verse 36

Bible students do not agree about why this verse says ‘Midianites’ and not ‘Ishmaelites’. (See comment on verse 28.) Some students say that this verse speaks briefly. It probably means, ‘Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph as a slave. People took him to Potiphar in Egypt.’ The Midianites did not sell Joseph to Potiphar. They sold him to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and they sold him to Potiphar. (For a similar verse that speaks briefly, see Genesis 45:4 and the comment.)

Other students say that ‘Ishmaelites’ and ‘Midianites’ are two names for the same people. Perhaps they were *descendants of Ishmael who lived in Midian.

Chapter 38

Judah and Tamar

v1 At that time, Judah left his brothers. He stayed with a member of the *tribe of Adullam, whose name was Hirah. v2 There Judah saw the daughter of Shua, who was a *Canaanite. Judah married her. He had sex with her v3 and she became *pregnant. A son was born to her and Judah called him Er. v4 Another son was born to her and she called him Onan. v5 And again, a son was born to her and she called him Shelah. She was in Chezib when he was born. v6 And Judah took a wife for Er, who was his oldest son. Her name was Tamar.

Verse 1

This chapter is not a part of the main story. The main story continues from the end of chapter 37 to chapter 39 verse 1.

This chapter has two purposes:

·     It tells the origin of three families of Judah. These were the families of Shelah (see verse 5) and Perez and Zerah (see verses 29-30 and the comment). The Bible also mentions them in Numbers 26:20.

·     It tells about the duty of a husband’s brother. (See verse 8 and the comment.)

Verse 2

Judah married a foreign woman. That caused trouble. Their first two sons were evil. (See verses 7 and 10.) Many years before this, Esau took foreign women as his wives. And that made his parents very unhappy and it caused great trouble. (See Genesis 26:34-35.) Abraham insisted that his son Isaac should not marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis 24:3-4.) And Isaac wanted his son Jacob to marry a woman from his own family. (See Genesis 28:1-2.) So some of God’s ancient people thought that to marry a foreign woman was wrong. And some of those who married foreign women caused trouble.

But to marry a foreign woman was not always wrong. Joseph married the daughter of an Egyptian priest. (See Genesis 41:45.) That did not cause trouble. And God blessed their sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

In later times, God told his people that they must not marry foreign women. (See Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Nehemiah 13:23-25.) But some of God’s people did not obey this rule. Solomon married many foreign wives and they made him do evil things. (See 1 Kings 11:1-6.)

v7 But the *Lord saw that Er, who was Judah’s oldest son, was wicked. And the *Lord killed him. v8 Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Lie with your brother’s wife. Do the duty of a husband’s brother to her. Produce a child for your brother.’ v9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his. So whenever he lay with his brother’s wife he spilled his seed on the ground. So he did not produce a child for his brother. v10 And the *Lord was not pleased with what Onan did. So the *Lord killed him also.

Verse 7

Genesis does not tell us what wicked things Er did. But we can be sure that his deeds were very evil. God had not killed people since the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Genesis 19:25.) And before that, God killed people by the flood. (See Genesis 7:21.) But God did not kill one man alone until he killed Er.

Verse 8

The duty of a husband’s brother forms part of Moses’ law. (See Deuteronomy 25:5-6.) It is important in Ruth 3:1–4:22. We read about it in Mark 12:18-23. But this chapter (chapter 38) shows that the duty was much older than Moses’ law. The duty was this. A married man dies and he has no son. His wife is still alive. The dead man’s brother has a duty that he must have sex with the wife. If there is no brother, the dead man’s nearest relative has the duty. Their son is called the son of the dead man.

The reason for the duty was this. It was important to people in those times that they had *descendants. (See God’s *command to increase in Genesis 1:28.) If a man died without *descendants, his brother should give him *descendants. They were not his own *descendants, but they were *descendants of a close relative. And they were called his *descendants.

Verse 10

When Onan spilled his seed, that was not very wrong. These things were wrong.

·     He did not do his duty. He did not produce a child for his brother.

·     He was not honest. He pretended to do his duty and he lay with Tamar. He could have said, ‘I will not do my duty. I will not lie with Tamar.’ That would not be so bad because he would be honest. But instead he pretended to Judah and he pretended to God.

·     He was selfish. If he produced a child for Tamar, that child would have some of the family’s possessions. Otherwise, Onan would have them because he was the next brother. He wanted those possessions for himself.

v11 Then Judah spoke to Tamar, who was his son’s wife. He said, ‘Stay as a widow in your father’s house. Stay there until my son Shelah is older.’ He was afraid that Shelah would die, as his brothers had died. So Tamar went to her father’s house and she lived there.

Verse 11

Shelah was not yet old enough to have sex with Tamar. When Shelah was older, he would have the duty of the husband’s brother. He would have a duty to produce a son for his dead brother Er. So Tamar waited until Shelah was older. But Judah did not intend to let Shelah do his duty. Judah was afraid that Shelah might die. (See the comment on verse 14.)

v12 After a long time Judah’s wife, who was Shua’s daughter, died. Judah wept for her for a time. After that time, he went to Timnah, where his servants were cutting the wool from his sheep. He went there with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

v13 People said to Tamar, ‘Your husband’s father goes to Timnah. There they are cutting the wool from his sheep.’ v14 Tamar had realised that Shelah had become a man. And he had not taken her as a wife. So she took off her widow’s clothes and she covered her face. She put perfume on herself. Then she sat at the gate to Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah.

Verse 12

An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam.

Verse 14

Shelah had become old enough to do the duty of a husband’s brother for Tamar. But Shelah’s father Judah did not allow him to do his duty. Judah was afraid that Shelah would die. Shelah’s two brothers had died because they were wicked. Judah thought that they had died because they married Tamar. So Judah wanted to protect Shelah. And Judah did not allow Shelah to have sex with Tamar.

‘Perfume’ is a substance that has a very pleasant smell.

v15 Judah saw her there. He thought that she was a woman who had sex for money. He thought that because she had covered her face. v16 He went to her at the side of the road. He said, ‘Let me lie with you.’ He did not know that she was his son’s widow. She said, ‘What will you give me, so that you may lie with me?’ v17 He answered, ‘I will send to you a young goat from my animals.’ And she said, ‘How may I know that you will send it? Will you give me a sign?’ v18 He said, ‘What sign shall I give to you?’ She replied, ‘Give your seal and its string to me. And give to me also your stick that is in your hand.’ So he gave them to her. Then he had sex with her and she became *pregnant by him. v19 Then she rose up and she went away. She uncovered her face. And she put on again the clothes that a widow wears.

Verse 15

There were women who had sex for money. And some of those used to cover their faces. So Judah thought that Tamar was such a woman. He did not recognise her because she had covered her face.

Verse 17

Judah promised to send a young goat to Tamar. That was her price. But she pretended that she did not trust Judah. She asked him to give her some of his possessions. She would give them back to him when he brought the goat to her. (See verse 20.)

Verse 18

The seal was a special stone. It had a string so as to hang from a person’s neck. Its shape had a special pattern. Its owner would press the seal on a flat lump of clay. (Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a flat lump. One can write on the flat lump with the point of a stick. People used flat lumps of clay as we use paper nowadays.) Then anyone could see the pattern on the lump of clay. That was like signing a letter nowadays. (See the comment on Genesis 41:42.)

v20 Judah sent his friend the Adullamite to look for the woman. The Adullamite took the young goat that Judah had promised to give. He intended to receive from the woman Judah’s seal and his stick. But the Adullamite could not find the woman. v21 He asked the men of the place, ‘Where is the woman who has sex for money? She was at the side of the road at Enaim.’ And they said, ‘No such woman has been here.’

v22 So the Adullamite returned to Judah. He said, ‘I have not found her. And the men of the place said, “No such woman has been here.” ’ v23 And Judah replied, ‘Let her keep the things. Let them be hers. Otherwise, people will laugh at us. And I did send this young goat to her but you could not find her.’

v24 About 3 months later people said to Judah, ‘Tamar, your son’s widow, has had sex for money. And because of that she is *pregnant.’ And Judah said, ‘Bring her here. We must burn her.’ v25 As they brought her, she sent a message to her husband’s father. She said, ‘These belong to my child’s father.’ And she said, ‘Please look at these things. Discover whose are the seal and the string and the stick.’ v26 Then Judah said that the things were his. He said, ‘She has done better things than I have done. I did not give her as a wife to my son Shelah.’ And he did not lie with her again.

Verse 20

An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam. For ‘seal’, see comment on verse 18.

Verse 23

The seal was much more valuable than the goat. So Judah wanted to give the goat to the woman and to have his seal back. But he did not want to ask all the people who the woman was. Otherwise, they would know what he had done. He had had sex with a strange woman for money. He did not want people to know that. And so he decided that he would do nothing.

Verse 25

For ‘seal’, see the comment on verse 18.

Verse 26

Judah realised his duty. He should have given his son Shelah as a wife to Tamar. If Shelah did not do the duty, the duty was on Judah. Judah was Er’s nearest relative apart from Shelah.

v27 The time of the birth came. Tamar realised that she had two children in her. v28 One child put out a hand. And the nurse who helped at the birth took the hand. She tied a red string on his hand. She said, ‘This one came out before the other one.’ v29 But he pulled his hand back and his brother came out. And the nurse said, ‘You certainly broke out!’ Therefore he was called Perez. v30 Then his brother came out and the red string was on his hand. He was called Zerah.

Verses 29-30

‘Perez’ means ‘breaking out’. ‘Zerah’ means ‘red’.

Jesus Christ was a *descendant of Perez. (See Luke 3:33.)

Chapter 39

Joseph in Potiphar’s house

v1 The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt. Now Potiphar was an Egyptian. He was an officer of *Pharaoh, who was the king of Egypt. Potiphar was the captain of the guards. He bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites who had brought Joseph to Egypt. v2 The *Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful man. He stayed in his master Potiphar’s house.

v3 Joseph’s master saw that the *Lord was with Joseph. He saw that the *Lord made all that Joseph did successful. v4 So Joseph’s master was pleased with Joseph and he made Joseph his own servant. He made Joseph the manager of his house. And he gave Joseph authority over all that he had. v5 From the time that he did that, the *Lord blessed Potiphar’s house. The *Lord made all that he had do well, in his house and in the field. The *Lord did this because of Joseph. v6 So Potiphar let Joseph manage all that he had. Because of Joseph, Potiphar did not need to think about anything. He only needed to think about his food.

Verse 1

The previous chapter (chapter 38) tells things that happened in *Canaan during approximately 20 years. This chapter and chapter 40 tell what happened in Egypt during the same time. So this verse follows after the end of chapter 37.

Egypt is a country that is south and west of *Canaan. An Egyptian is an inhabitant of Egypt. Every king of Egypt was called ‘*Pharaoh’. *Pharaoh was not the name of this one king of Egypt.

For the meaning of ‘Ishmaelites’ see Genesis 37:25 and the comment on that verse.

Verse 3

God often makes people who follow him successful. But he does not always do this. Some people who follow God have many troubles. If that happens, we should not be surprised. If God causes troubles for us, he does so for a good reason. He caused great trouble for Joseph. After Joseph had been in Potiphar’s house, he was in prison for many years. (See verse 20.) And God did that for a good reason.

Verse 4

God was starting to train Joseph. After 13 years, Joseph would rule the whole country, Egypt. So the management of a house in Egypt was good practice for him. And after 13 years, Joseph would need to speak the Egyptian language very well. Potiphar’s house was a good place to learn the language. Probably Joseph worked as an ordinary slave for a time before Potiphar made him his own servant. And after some time as Potiphar’s own servant, Potiphar gave him more authority.

Verse 5

Joseph had authority ‘in the field’ as well as ‘in his house’. After 13 years, Joseph would deal with the farmers of Egypt. Potiphar’s fields were a good place to learn how the inhabitants of Egypt farmed their land.

Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph

Now Joseph was handsome and attractive. v7 And, after a time, his master’s wife looked at Joseph. And she said, ‘Have sex with me.’ v8 But he refused. He said, ‘My master has appointed me to manage the house. He does not think about anything that is in the house. He has given to me authority over all that he has. v9 He is not more powerful in this house than I am. And he has put everything in my care except you, because you are his wife. So I cannot do this very wicked thing. I cannot do this evil thing against God.’ v10 And although she spoke to Joseph every day, he refused to listen to her. He refused to lie with her. He refused to be with her.

Verse 8

Joseph was right to refuse. Potiphar’s wife was doing an evil thing. But God used her evil deed for a good purpose. He used her evil deed in his plan to prepare Joseph for his future work.

Verse 9

‘He is not more powerful in this house than I am.’ Joseph told everyone in the house what they should do. So Joseph was powerful. Potiphar did not say what people should do in his house. He let Joseph do that. So Potiphar did not use his power in the house. But Potiphar could tell people what to do in the house if he wanted to do that.

v11 But one day Joseph went into the house in order to do his work. None of the servants was there in the house. v12 Potiphar’s wife seized Joseph’s coat. She said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his coat in her hands and he ran away from her. He went out of the house. v13 And she had his coat in her hand. She saw that he had run out of the house. v14 So she called the servants. She said to them, ‘Look! My husband has brought a *Hebrew among us so that he can insult us. The *Hebrew came to me in order to have sex with me. So I called out loudly. v15 When he heard my loud cry, he ran away. He left his coat with me and he ran out of the house.’ v16 Then she kept his coat by her until his master came home.

v17 She told the same story to her husband. She said, ‘The *Hebrew servant whom you brought among us came in to me. He insulted me, v18 but I cried out. Then he left his coat with me and he ran out of the house.’ v19 Joseph’s master heard what his wife said. She told him what his servant had done to her. Then he was very angry. v20 He took Joseph and he put him into the prison. He put him in the place where the king’s prisoners were. And Joseph remained there in prison.

Verse 20

‘Potiphar put Joseph into the prison.’ One would expect that Potiphar would kill Joseph. That would be the usual punishment, if Joseph was guilty. But perhaps Potiphar did not believe what his wife said.

God was still training Joseph for his future work. It seemed that God was not pleased with Joseph, as he had been before. But Joseph had to learn to trust God. We must trust God even when things are bad. Nowadays many Christians are in prison. People have put them there because they are Christians. Some remain there for many years. It is difficult to trust God in such circumstances. But God has his own purposes. We often do not know what he intends.

v21 But the *Lord was with Joseph. The *Lord showed him constant love. He made the prison keeper pleased with him. v22 And the prison keeper let Joseph look after all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever anybody did in the prison, Joseph did it. v23 The prison keeper did not need to think about anything that was in Joseph’s care. The *Lord was with him. The *Lord made all that Joseph did successful.

Verse 22

After Joseph managed Potiphar’s house, he managed a prison. So God used this also to train Joseph. Later, Joseph managed the whole country, Egypt.

It is possible that the prison keeper was Potiphar. The reason that it is possible is this. Potiphar was called ‘the captain of the guards’. (See Genesis 37:36 and 39:1.) And, at a later time, Joseph’s prison was the house of the captain of the guards. (See Genesis 40:3.) Potiphar put Joseph ‘in the place where the king’s prisoners were’. (See verse 20.) Perhaps that place was a room in Potiphar’s house. Or perhaps it was a building near to Potiphar’s house.

Verse 23

When Potiphar put Joseph in prison, perhaps Joseph doubted God. Perhaps he did not trust that God was still with him. But ‘the *Lord made all that Joseph did successful.’ So Joseph knew that God was with him.

Chapter 40

The *cup-bearer and the baker in prison

v1 Some time after this, the king of Egypt’s *cup-bearer offended his master the king. And the king’s baker also offended him. v2 *Pharaoh was angry with his two servants. He was angry with the chief *cup-bearer and with the chief baker. v3 He put them in prison. He put them in the prison where Joseph was. That was the house of the captain of the guards. v4 The captain of the guards told Joseph to look after them. So Joseph was responsible for them. And they remained in prison for a long time.

Verse 1

A *cup-bearer was an important person. He provided the wine that the king drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank. But if anybody wanted to poison the king, they might put poison in the wine. So the *cup-bearer guarded the wine carefully. And the *cup-bearer always drank some of the wine before he gave it to the king. That showed that there was no poison in it. So the *cup-bearer was always near to the king. The king trusted him. The *cup-bearer might even give advice to the king, as he did in Genesis 41:9-13. We can be sure that Joseph often talked with the *cup-bearer in the prison. So Joseph heard many things about *Pharaoh and about his court. That was a part of God’s plan. God was preparing Joseph for his future work.

v5 And one night they both dreamed. The king of Egypt’s *cup-bearer dreamed and his baker dreamed. Each one had his own dream and each dream had its own meaning.

v6 In the morning, Joseph came to them. He saw that they were worried. v7 So he spoke to *Pharaoh’s servants who were with him in the prison. He asked them, ‘Why are your faces sad today?’ v8 And they said to him, ‘We have had dreams. And there is nobody who can explain their meanings to us.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘God knows the meanings. Please tell the dreams to me.’

Verse 8

They said, ‘There is nobody who can explain their meanings to us.’ In *Pharaoh’s court there were wise men. These wise men believed that they could tell the meanings of dreams. But the *cup-bearer and the baker were in prison. Therefore, they could not ask the wise men to explain their dreams.

‘God knows the meanings.’ That does not mean that God will always tell us the meanings of dreams. And it does not mean that all dreams are messages from God. But God can use dreams. He can use anything that he has made. He can use dreams to speak to us. And when God gives a dream, he can explain its meaning.

The *cup-bearer’s dream

v9 So the chief *cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him, ‘In my dream there was a vine plant. v10 The vine had 3 branches. The flowers appeared and they grew very quickly. Then the grapes appeared and they became ripe. v11 I held *Pharaoh’s cup in my hand. So I took the grapes. And I squeezed them so that the juice ran into *Pharaoh’s cup. Then I put the cup into *Pharaoh’s hand.’

v12 Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is what the dream means. The 3 branches mean 3 days. v13 In 3 days, *Pharaoh will forgive you and he will put you back in your job. And you shall put *Pharaoh’s cup into his hand as you did before. You shall again be his *cup-bearer. v14 But please remember me, when things are well with you. Please be kind to me and mention me to *Pharaoh. Then he may let me leave this prison. v15 I did not deserve that they should put me into the prison. People seized me and they brought me here from the land of the *Hebrews. And while I have been here in Egypt I have not done a wrong deed.’

Verses 9, 10

A vine is a plant that produces grapes. Grapes are the fruits of vines. People make wine out of grapes.

Verse 11

The chief *cup-bearer dreamed that he was doing his usual job.

Verse 13

‘In 3 days’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:

·     The day when the chief *cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph

·     One whole day

·     The morning of the next day

That makes a little more than 2 nights and a day.

The baker’s dream

v16 The chief baker realised that the meaning of the *cup-bearer’s dream was good. So the chief baker said to Joseph, ‘I also had a dream. There were 3 baskets on my head. v17 In the highest basket there were bread and cakes for *Pharaoh. But the birds ate the food that was in the basket. They ate it while the basket was on my head.’ v18 And Joseph answered, ‘This is the meaning of the dream. The 3 baskets mean 3 days. v19 In 3 days *Pharaoh will cut off your head and he will hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the meat from your body.’

Verse 17

The baker dreamed that he was trying to do his usual job. But he could not give the bread and the cakes to *Pharaoh. Before he could do that, the birds ate them.

v20 The third day was *Pharaoh’s birthday. So he made a big meal for all his servants. He sent for the chief *cup-bearer and the chief baker. People brought them and they put them in front of *Pharaoh among his servants. v21 *Pharaoh took the chief *cup-bearer back into his job. So the *cup-bearer again put the cup into *Pharaoh’s hand. v22 But *Pharaoh hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had said to them.

v23 But the chief *cup-bearer did not remember Joseph. He forgot him.

Verses 20-22

These two dreams told what would happen 2 days later. And, 2 years after this time, *Pharaoh had two dreams. (See Genesis 41:1.) Those dreams told what would happen during the next 14 years. All these dreams told the future correctly because God had given them. God knows what will happen in the future. But he does not often tell us what will happen in the future.

Verse 23

‘He forgot him.’ This also was a part of God’s plan. The time had not come when Joseph should go to *Pharaoh. God planned that it would happen 2 years later. Sometimes we think that God works very slowly. We often need to be patient. God knows the best time for each of the things that he does.

Chapter 41

*Pharaoh’s dreams

v1 After two whole years, *Pharaoh had a dream. He dreamed that he stood by the river Nile. v2 And he saw 7 cows, which came up out of the river Nile. The cows were healthy and fat. They fed among the plants that were by the river. v3 And *Pharaoh saw 7 other cows, which came up out of the river Nile after the first cows. These cows were ugly and thin. They stood by the first 7 cows near the river Nile. v4 And the ugly, thin cows ate the healthy, fat cows. And *Pharaoh awoke.

Verse 1

The Nile is a very big river. Egypt has very little rain, but the river Nile provides water for Egypt. It provides water so that the crops can grow. It provides water for the plants that the cows eat. So the river Nile is very important in Egypt. And a dream about the river Nile might bring a very important message.

v5 *Pharaoh slept again and he dreamed again. He saw a stem of corn that had 7 grains. Each grain was fat and good. The grains grew on one stem. v6 And he saw 7 more grains that grew after the first grains. These grains were thin, as if a cold wind had blown on them from the east. v7 And the thin grains swallowed the 7 fat grains. And *Pharaoh awoke. He realised that it was a dream.

v8 So in the morning, *Pharaoh was worried. He sent for all the people in Egypt who knew magic. He sent for all the wise men and he told his dreams to them. But nobody could explain to *Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams.

Verse 5

The corn had long stems. The grains were at the tops of the stems. Each grain was a seed.

Verse 8

Probably the wise men tried to explain the dreams. Perhaps they guessed part of the meaning of the dreams. But they were afraid to say that bad things would happen. And *Pharaoh did not believe that their explanations were true. Later (in verse 37) *Pharaoh believed what Joseph said.

v9 Then the chief *cup-bearer said to *Pharaoh, ‘I remember my faults today. v10 I remember that *Pharaoh was angry with his servants. He put me and the chief baker in prison. He put us in the house of the captain of the guards. v11 We both dreamed on the same night. The baker and I both dreamed. We each had a dream that had its own meaning. v12 A young *Hebrew was there with us. He was a servant of the captain of the guards. And when we told him our dreams, he explained to us their meanings. He explained to each man the meaning of his dream. v13 And the meanings that he explained to us actually happened. I came back to my job, but *Pharaoh hanged the baker.’

Verse 9

This was happening in the way that God intended. The *cup-bearer had forgotten Joseph until this time. But the *cup-bearer was with *Pharaoh when *Pharaoh spoke to the wise men. That reminded the *cup-bearer about Joseph.

Verse 12

The *cup-bearer said that Joseph was ‘a servant of the captain of the guards.’ He did not say that Joseph was a prisoner. This tells us about how Joseph lived in the prison. He had some freedom while he was in the prison. He did not have to remain in a small room. (See Genesis 39:22.)

*Pharaoh sends for Joseph

v14 Then *Pharaoh sent for Joseph. So people brought Joseph quickly out of the prison. Joseph shaved himself and he put on other clothes. Then he came in front of *Pharaoh. v15 And *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream. There is nobody who can tell me its meaning. I have heard that you can explain the meaning of a dream. If someone tells you the dream you can explain the meaning.’ v16 Joseph answered *Pharaoh, ‘I do not have the power to do that. But God will give the right answer to *Pharaoh.’

Verse 14

Joseph had been in Egypt for 13 years. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph was 17 years of age’. And see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.) And Joseph had been in the prison for most of that time.

‘Joseph shaved himself.’ *Hebrews often had beards. But in Egypt, only prisoners or lazy people had beards. The Egyptians did not allow anybody to come to *Pharaoh with a beard.

Verse 16

Joseph needed great courage to say this. The inhabitants of Egypt believed in many false gods. They also believed that *Pharaoh was a god. Joseph had learnt about the one God from his father Jacob. He knew that God had been with him. He had the courage to tell *Pharaoh about God. And he trusted God to help him now.

Joseph knew God well. He could tell *Pharaoh what God would do. His father Jacob also knew God well. But Jacob and Joseph learned to know God in different ways.

·     Jacob did not know God until he was adult. Jacob’s father, Isaac, had told Jacob about God. But Jacob himself did not know God. Then God appeared to him in a dream. (See Genesis 28:12‑17.) Many people nowadays are like that. And they remember the first occasion when they met God.

·     Joseph learned about God from his father Jacob. And the Bible does not tell us that God appeared to Joseph. Instead, God guided Joseph and he taught Joseph by his experiences. Many people nowadays are like that. They knew about God when they were young. And they have learnt to know him better during their lives.

Joseph explains the dreams

v17 Then *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I saw in my dream that I stood near to the river Nile. v18 And 7 cows came up out of the river Nile. They were fat and healthy. They fed among the plants that were by the river. v19 And 7 other cows came up after them. Those cows were poor and ugly and thin. I have never seen cows anywhere in Egypt that were like those. v20 And the thin, ugly cows ate the first 7 fat cows. v21 But when they had eaten them, they were not fatter. Nobody would have known that they had eaten them. They were still as ugly as they were at the beginning. Then I awoke.

v22 I also saw in my dream 7 grains that grew on one stem of corn. The grains were fat and good. v23 And 7 other grains grew after them. Those grains were poor and thin. They seemed as if a cold wind had blown on them from the east. v24 And the thin grains swallowed the 7 good grains. I told these dreams to the people who know magic. But there was nobody who could explain the meaning to me.’

v25 Then Joseph said to *Pharaoh, ‘*Pharaoh’s two dreams are one. God has shown to *Pharaoh what he will do. v26 The 7 good cows are 7 years. And the 7 good grains are 7 years. The two dreams are one. v27 The 7 thin, ugly cows that came up after them are 7 years. And the 7 empty grains that the wind from the east blew are also 7 years. They are 7 years when there will be no food. v28 What I said to *Pharaoh is true. God has shown to *Pharaoh what he will do. v29 There will be 7 years when food will be plentiful in all Egypt. v30 But after those years, there will be 7 years when there will be no food. The inhabitants of Egypt will forget the plenty. The *famine will ruin the land. v31 People will not remember the plenty because of the *famine that will follow. The *famine will be very bad. v32 And *Pharaoh’s dream was double. That means that God has decided this thing. God will soon make it happen. ‘

Verse 31

‘The *famine will be very bad.’ In some years there is not enough rain and so there is a *famine. This is natural. This happened during Abraham’s life. (See Genesis 12:10.) It had happened during Isaac’s life. (See Genesis 26:1.) Sometimes the *famine lasts for several years. So the 7 years *famine should not surprise us. The wonderful things were:

·     In the 7 years before the *famine, the crops were extra good.

·     The *famine started at the time that God had said.

·     The *famine lasted for the time that God had said.

·     The *famine brought Israel’s children to live in Egypt. That was God’s plan.

God often uses things that are natural. He uses things that he has made. He uses them as his tools. They are wonderful because events happen at the right time and in the right way.

Verse 32

‘God will soon make it happen.’ God could have sent enough rain to prevent the *famine. But he did not do that. He sent the *famine and he warned people about it. The *famine was a part of God’s plan. Because of the *famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. And in Egypt, Jacob’s *descendants became a nation. So we can see the reason why God sent the *famine. Usually, when God sends a *famine or a flood, we do not know the reason.

v33 Joseph continued, ‘Now therefore let *Pharaoh select a man who is clever and wise. And let *Pharaoh give him authority over the whole country, Egypt. v34 Let *Pharaoh appoint managers over the land. And let them take parts of the crops that the land produces. Let them take one part out of every 5 parts. Let them do this during the 7 years of plenty. v35 And let them gather all the food during these good years that will come. Let them store grain as *Pharaoh gives authority to them. The grain shall be food for the people who live in the cities. Let the managers store the grain until people need it. v36 The grain shall be a reserve of food for the country. People will need that food during the 7 years when there will be no food in Egypt. So the inhabitants of the country shall not die. The lack of food shall not kill them.’

Verses 33-36

Joseph did not have enough time to think about this plan. But he proposed a plan that was correct. ‘One part out of every 5 parts’ (verse 34) was the correct amount. Joseph did not make the plan himself. God had made the plan and he showed it to Joseph. God does not always do that for us. More often, he wants us to think for ourselves. He has given us brains and he wants us to use them. But we must always be ready for God to guide us.

*Pharaoh gives authority to Joseph

v37 *Pharaoh and his servants considered that this proposal was good. v38 And *Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘We could not find another man who is like this man. God’s Spirit is in him.’ v39 So *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘God has shown all this to you. Nobody is as clever and as wise as you are. v40 Therefore you shall have authority over my house. All my people shall do as you *command them. Only I, who sit on the king’s high chair, will be greater than you are.’

Verses 37-40

Joseph had explained *Pharaoh’s dreams. But *Pharaoh realised that Joseph had done more than that. He had also proposed a plan. By Joseph’s plan, the inhabitants of Egypt could have enough food during the *famine. *Pharaoh decided that the plan was good. So *Pharaoh told Joseph to carry out that plan.

v41 And *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have given you authority over the whole country, Egypt.’ v42 Then *Pharaoh took his ring of authority from his hand. He put it on Joseph’s hand. He dressed Joseph in linen clothes. He put a gold chain round Joseph’s neck. v43 He made Joseph ride in his second *chariot. And men shouted in front of his *chariot, ‘Make way!’ So *Pharaoh put Joseph over all Egypt. v44 Moreover *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am *Pharaoh. But nobody shall move a hand or a foot in all Egypt if you do not permit it.’

Verse 42

*Pharaoh’s ring was a ‘signet ring’. The shape of a ‘signet ring’ has a special pattern. Its owner would press the ring on a flat lump of clay. (Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a flat lump. One can write on the flat lump with the point of a stick. People used flat lumps of clay as we use paper nowadays.) Then anyone can see the pattern on the lump of clay. So the words that are on the lump of clay have authority. Therefore when *Pharaoh gave Joseph the ring he gave him authority. (See the comment on Genesis 38:18.)

 ‘Linen’ is a material. People make cloth out of it. Only important people and priests wore linen clothes. *Pharaoh made Joseph into a ruler. He may have also made him into a priest.

Verse 43

A *chariot was a cart that had 2 wheels. One or two horses pulled it. It could move fast. *Pharaoh and other important people rode in *chariots. The army used *chariots of a different kind when they fought. Joseph rode in *Pharaoh’s second *chariot because the first *chariot was for *Pharaoh only. Nobody knows whether ‘Make way!’ is the right meaning. Some people suggest that the meaning is ‘Bend the knees’. To bend the knees is to show that you respect someone.

Verse 44

‘I am *Pharaoh.’ *Pharaoh meant that he was the only person with great authority. But he gave that authority to Joseph. In future, Joseph would have the authority that *Pharaoh usually had.

‘Nobody shall move a hand or a foot.’ *Pharaoh did not mean exactly what he said. But he meant that Joseph had complete authority in all Egypt.

v45 *Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah. He gave Asenath to Joseph as his wife. Asenath was Potiphera’s daughter and Potiphera was a priest of On. So Joseph had authority over all Egypt. v46 Joseph was 30 years of age when he became a servant of *Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph went out from *Pharaoh’s palace and he travelled through the whole country, Egypt.

Verse 45

Some people suggest that ‘Zaphenath-paneah’ may mean ‘one who preserves people alive’.

Joseph rules over Egypt

v47 During the 7 years of plenty, the earth produced a large quantity of food. v48 And Joseph gathered all the food during the 7 years when there was plenty in Egypt. He stored food in the cities. He stored in the cities the food that came from the fields. He stored in each city the food that came from its neighbourhood. v49 And Joseph stored a great amount of grain. It was an amount like the sand that is by the sea. And Joseph stopped measuring it, because nobody could measure it.

v50 Before the years of *famine came, Joseph had two sons. Their mother was Asenath, who was Potiphera’s daughter. Potiphera was a priest of On. v51 Joseph called his older son Manasseh. He said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble. He has made me forget my father’s house.’ v52 He called his second son Ephraim. He said, ‘God has made me able to produce in the country where I have had much trouble.’

Verse 48

This does not mean that Joseph gathered food himself. Joseph *commanded what his managers should do. (*Pharaoh had appointed managers. See verse 34.) And the managers *commanded their workers.

Verses 51-52

‘Manasseh’ sounds like ‘forget’. ‘Ephraim’ means ‘fruit’. Fruit is something that a plant produces.

‘God has made me forget my father’s house.’ Joseph thought that he would not see his father and his brothers again. He did not know God’s plan. God had put Joseph in *Pharaoh’s court so that he could help his father and his brothers. God seldom tells us his plans before they happen.

The *famine

v53 The 7 years of plenty in Egypt finished. v54 The 7 years when there was no food began. It happened as Joseph had said. There was a *famine in every country. But in all Egypt there was bread. v55 When all the inhabitants of Egypt were hungry, they cried for bread. They cried to *Pharaoh. And *Pharaoh said to all the inhabitants of Egypt, ‘Go to Joseph. Do what he tells you to do.’

v56 So when the whole country had a lack of food, Joseph opened all the stores. He sold grain to the inhabitants of Egypt. He did this because there was a *famine in all Egypt. v57 Moreover, people from all the earth came to Egypt. They came to Joseph in order to buy grain. They did this because the *famine was very bad in all the earth.

Verse 55

‘Go to Joseph.’ The people did not go to Joseph himself. Joseph told the people what they should do. But he provided grain through the organisation that he had set up.

Verse 57

‘All the earth’ means the parts of the earth that those people knew. That was only a small part of the whole earth.

Chapter 42

Jacob sends his sons to Egypt

v1 Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt. So he said to his sons, ‘You look at each other and you do nothing! v2 I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go there and buy grain for us. Then we shall live and we shall not die.’

v3 So Joseph’s 10 brothers went to Egypt in order to buy grain. v4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, who was Joseph’s brother, with the other brothers. He was afraid that some evil thing might happen to him. v5 So Israel’s sons came to Egypt. They were among many other people who came to Egypt. They came to buy grain, because the lack of food was serious in their own country, *Canaan.

Verses 1-2

When Jacob mentioned Egypt, his sons were unwilling to go there. Perhaps the word ‘Egypt’ reminded them of Joseph and therefore they felt guilty. But they went when Jacob told them to go.

Verse 4

Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. Their father was Jacob and their mother was Rachel. The 10 other brothers might be called Joseph’s ‘half-brothers’. Their father was Jacob but they had different mothers. But all 12 were often called ‘brothers’. (For a list of the brothers, see Genesis 35:23-26 and the comment.)

When Joseph was still with his father Jacob, Joseph was Jacob’s favourite. Jacob cared for Joseph more than he cared for his other sons. (See Genesis 37:3.) After that time, Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So Benjamin became Jacob’s favourite. Jacob refused to send Benjamin anywhere where he would be in danger. So he sent his other 10 sons to Egypt but he did not send Benjamin.

v6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the whole country, Egypt. He was the one who sold grain to all the inhabitants of the country. And Joseph’s brothers came and they bent themselves down to the ground in front of Joseph. v7 Joseph saw his brothers and he knew them. But he acted toward them as if they were foreigners. He spoke severely to them. ‘From where have you come?’ he said. They said, ‘We have come from *Canaan in order to buy food.’ v8 And Joseph knew his brothers, but they did not know him.

Verse 6

‘Joseph was the one who sold grain.’ Joseph certainly did not sell all the grain himself. His servants did that. But perhaps Joseph sold grain to those who came from far away. Or perhaps he saw his brothers and so he decided to deal with them himself.

Verse 7

It was God who had brought Joseph to Egypt. Joseph knew that. And God had changed Joseph’s character since he came to Egypt. Because of this, Joseph did not blame his brothers and he was ready to forgive them. But he did not tell them yet that he forgave them. He waited until he knew more about them. Perhaps they would not be friendly to him. And perhaps they were not sorry for what they did to him.

Joseph acted in the way that God acts. God does not blame us for the wrong things that we have done. He is ready to forgive us. But he waits until he knows two things about us. Do we want to know him? And are we truly sorry for the wrong things that we have done?

Verse 8

There were many reasons why the brothers did not recognise Joseph. These are some of the reasons.

·     They believed that Joseph was dead.

·     Joseph had shaved his beard off.

·     Joseph spoke in the Egyptian language and an interpreter translated.

·     Joseph wore Egyptian clothes.

·     Joseph had an Egyptian name.

Joseph speaks with his brothers

v9 Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. And he said to them, ‘You are spies. You have come to see the weak places of this country. You are discovering how an enemy might attack it.’ v10 They said to him, ‘No, sir! Your servants have come in order to buy food. v11 We are all one man’s sons. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.’ v12 He said to them, ‘No, you have come to see the weak places of this country.’ v13 And they said, ‘We, your servants, are 12 brothers. We are the sons of one man, who lives in *Canaan. The youngest brother is now with our father. And one brother is dead.’

Verse 9

Spies are people who come from a foreign country. They come in order to gather information. Spies may discover how an army could attack the country successfully. Joseph knew that his brothers were not spies. But he probably wanted to test them. Perhaps he wanted to know whether there had been a change in their character. However, he did not really want to hurt them.

Verse 13

The youngest brother, who was with their father, was Benjamin. And when they said, ‘one brother is dead’, they meant Joseph. And Joseph knew that they meant him. The brothers had persuaded their father Jacob that Joseph was dead. (See Genesis 37:31 and comment.) But, when they did that, they were lying to their father. They did not actually know whether Joseph was dead. But they believed that he was dead.

v14 But Joseph said to them, ‘What I said is true. You are spies. v15 But I will test you. You shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. That is as certain as that *Pharaoh lives. v16 Let one person go. Let him bring your brother, while you remain in prison here. I will test your words. I will discover whether you say true things. If you do not, you are certainly spies. That is as certain as that *Pharaoh lives.’ v17 And Joseph put all the brothers together in prison for 3 days.

Verse 14

For ‘spies’, see comment on verse 9.

Verse 16

‘So I will test your words.’ It would not test whether they were spies. But Joseph did not really want to test them. He wanted to see his brother Benjamin.

Verse 17

‘For 3 days’ does not mean 3 whole days. The *Hebrews counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:

·     The end of the day when Joseph spoke to his brothers

·     One whole day

·     The early morning of the next day

That makes about 2 nights and a day.

v18 On the third day, Joseph spoke to them. He said, ‘Do what I *command. So I will let you live, because I respect God. v19 If you are honest men, let one remain in the prison. Let the other men go. Let them carry grain for your families, who have no food. v20 And bring your youngest brother to me. In this way I will test whether your words are true. So you shall not die.’ And they did so.

Verse 19

Joseph had changed his plans since he last spoke to his brothers. Then, he said that only one should return to *Canaan. (See verse 16.) But he decided that 9 should return. There were several reasons for this.

·     One brother could not carry enough grain to *Canaan.

·     Jacob would be more likely to send Benjamin if 9 sons persuaded him.

·     Jacob might think that he had lost 9 more of his sons. That would be a great shock to him.

·     The brothers had sent away one brother, Joseph, 20 years before. So Joseph took away one more brother. That was a suitable punishment.

v21 Then they spoke to each other. They said, ‘Truly we are guilty for what we did to our brother, Joseph. We saw his great fear. He appealed to us and we refused to listen. Therefore this trouble has come on us.’ v22 And Reuben answered them, ‘I told you not to hurt the boy. But you did not listen to me. So now this is a punishment for his death.’ v23 They did not know that Joseph understood them. When they spoke to Joseph, somebody interpreted their words into the Egyptian language. v24 Joseph turned away from them and he wept. Then he returned to them and he spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them. He bound Simeon while they watched him.

Verses 21-22

The brothers were losing one member. That reminded them that they had sent Joseph away many years before. They thought that God was punishing them for what they had done.

Reuben called Joseph ‘the boy’. Joseph’s age had been 17 years at that time. But Joseph was the youngest except for Benjamin, who was still with his father. And Reuben considered that he was responsible for Joseph. So Reuben called Joseph ‘the boy’.

Verse 24

‘He bound Simeon.’ Joseph told his servants to tie Simeon with strong strings. Probably he untied him when the brothers had gone.

Joseph had said that Simeon would be ‘in prison’. (See verse 19.) He would probably live in Joseph’s house. He would not be free to go wherever he wanted to go. But he would not have to stay in a small room.

v25 And Joseph told his servants to fill the brothers’ bags with grain. He told his servants to put each brother’s money in his sack. And he told his servants to give food to the brothers for the journey. His servants did what Joseph *commanded. v26 Then the brothers loaded their grain onto their *donkeys and they set off.

Verse 25

The ‘bags’ contained the grain that the brothers had bought. The ‘sacks’ contained their clothes and their other possessions. The food for their *donkeys was in their sacks. The food for their *donkeys was not part of the grain that they had bought.

To give honour to one’s father was very important in those days. Joseph would never take money from his own father. But the money that his brothers brought belonged to their father. Therefore, Joseph could not take the money from them. But he could not refuse the money. If he refused it, he would need to explain his reason. He would need to say that he was their brother. And he was not yet ready to say that. So he returned the money to them secretly. Perhaps he did not expect that this would make his brothers and his father so anxious. (See verse 28, ‘Then they were very anxious.’)

The brothers return home

v27 The brothers reached the place where they would stay for the night. One brother opened his sack in order to give food to his *donkey. And he saw his money, which was in the mouth of his sack. v28 And he said to his brothers, ‘Somebody has put my money back. It is here! It is in the top of my sack!’ Then they were very anxious. They looked at each other and they trembled. They said, ‘What has God done to us?’

Verse 28

The brothers did not understand what was happening. Therefore they were afraid. They did not understand why the ruler of the country himself spoke with them. They expected to buy grain from a less important person. They did not understand why Joseph spoke severely to them. They did not understand why he called them spies. (See comment on verse 9.) They did not understand why he put them in prison. They did not understand why Joseph wanted to see Benjamin. They did not understand why Joseph kept Simeon in Egypt. And they did not understand why the money was in the sack.

The brothers were afraid for another reason too. These events reminded them about Joseph. They were responsible for Joseph’s death. (That is what they thought.) And if they brought Benjamin to Egypt, they might cause Benjamin’s death. And Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. (See the first part of the comment on verse 4.) Also, they had intended to sell Joseph for money. (See Genesis 37:26-27.) And they had lost Simeon but they had gained some money. So these two events were similar. They thought that perhaps God was punishing them. And they said, ‘What has God done to us?’

v29 They reached their own country, *Canaan, and they came to Jacob their father. They told him all that had happened. They said, v30 ‘The man who is the ruler of the country spoke severely to us. He said that we were spies. v31 But we said to him, “We are honest men and we are not spies. v32 We are 12 brothers. We are sons of one father. One brother is dead and the youngest brother is now with our father in *Canaan.” v33 Then the man who is the ruler of the country spoke to us. He said, “I shall know that you are honest men in this way. Leave one brother with me and go on your way. Take grain for your families, who have no food. v34 And bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies. Then I shall know that you are honest men. And I will give your brother back to you and you shall trade in this country.” ’

Verse 30

For the meaning of ‘spies’, see the comment on verse 9.

v35 The brothers emptied their sacks. Then they saw that every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. They and their father saw their bundles of money. They were all very worried. v36 And Jacob their father said to them, ‘You have taken my children away from me. Joseph is dead. We have lost Simeon. And now you want to take Benjamin away. All these evil things have happened to me.’ v37 Then Reuben said to his father, ‘Kill my two sons if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Let me look after Benjamin and I will bring him back to you.’ v38 But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go to Egypt with you. His brother is dead and only he remains. Perhaps some evil thing will happen to him during the journey that you will make. You would send me and my grey hairs sadly to my grave.’

Verse 36

God promised to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham that his *descendants would be as many as the stars. (See Genesis 15:5.) God repeated this promise to Jacob’s father Isaac. (See Genesis 26:3-4.) And God promised to Jacob, ‘Your family shall become a nation and a group of peoples.’ (See Genesis 35:11.) But Joseph was dead. (That is what Jacob thought.) Simeon was a slave in Egypt. (That too is what Jacob thought.) And people wanted to take Benjamin away. It seemed to Jacob that he was losing all his sons. God’s promises were failing.

Jacob probably thought of how God tested Abraham. He probably compared himself with Abraham.

·     God had promised that Abraham would have a son, Isaac. Then God told Abraham to kill Isaac as an *offering. (See Genesis 22:1-2.) Abraham obeyed because he trusted God. And God saved Isaac.

·     God had promised that Jacob would have sons. But God could not save Jacob’s sons. One was dead and one was a slave in a foreign country. (That is what Jacob thought.) And Jacob could not obey God as Abraham did. God had not told him what to do. And so he could not obey God.

We may sometimes be in a situation that is similar to this. It seems to us that God’s promises are failing. It seems that God’s plan is not working. And God has not told us what to do. And so we cannot obey him. We must trust him, especially when it is difficult to trust him.

Actually, God’s plan was working well. All Jacob’s 12 sons lived and they had large families. And Joseph was ready to save them all from the *famine. And God was ready to move them all to Egypt. Egypt was the place where their *descendants could learn to become a nation.

Verse 37

‘I will bring him back to you.’ This promise meant nothing. Reuben did not have the power to keep Benjamin safe.

Verse 38

‘His brother is dead.’ Joseph was Benjamin’s only real brother. The other 10 men were half-brothers. ‘Only he remains.’ Benjamin was the only one whose mother was Rachel. (See the comment on verse 4.)

Chapter 43

Jacob sends his sons to Egypt again

v1 Now there was an extreme lack of food in the region. v2 And they had eaten the grain that the brothers had brought from Egypt. So their father said to them, ‘Go again. Buy a little food for us.’ v3 But Judah said to him, ‘The man warned us definitely. He said, “You shall not see my face again unless your brother is with you.” v4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go. We will go to Egypt and we will buy food for you. v5 But if you will not send him, we will not go. The man said to us, “You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.” ’

v6 Israel said, ‘Why were you so cruel to me? Why did you tell the man that you had another brother?’ v7 They replied, ‘The man asked us all about ourselves and about our relatives. He said, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” We gave him answers to these questions. We could not know what he would say. But he said, “Bring your brother here.” ’

v8 And Judah spoke to Israel his father. He said, ‘Send the boy with me and we will set out on the journey. So we and you and our children may live and we may not die. v9 I will be responsible for him. If anybody hurts him, you shall blame me. I shall bring him back to you and I shall put him in front of you again. And if I do not, then the blame shall be on me for all ages. v10 If we had not delayed, we would now have gone and returned twice.’

Verse 3

Judah spoke on behalf of all the brothers. We would expect that Reuben would do this. Reuben was the oldest brother. And, before this time, Reuben was the most responsible brother. (See Genesis 37:21.) But Judah became the leader. And, later, Jacob dealt with Judah as if he was the oldest. (See Genesis 49:8 and the comment.)

Verse 8

Benjamin was not a boy. He was more than 22 years of age. This is how we know that.

·     Benjamin was born before Joseph went to Egypt.

·     Joseph was in Egypt for 13 years before he met *Pharaoh. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph was 17 years of age’ and see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.)

·     After Joseph met *Pharaoh there were 7 years of plenty.

·     The *famine had already lasted 2 years. (See Genesis 45:6.)

·     The total of 13 and 7 and 2 is 22.

But Benjamin was the youngest brother. Also, he was Jacob’s favourite son. So Judah called him ‘the boy’.

Verse 9

Reuben had made a promise like this. (See Genesis 42:37 and the comment.) And now Judah promised that he would bring Benjamin back. However, he knew that he might not be able to do that. But he still made the promise. If he did not promise, his father would not agree. So Benjamin would not go to Egypt. And the brothers would not go and they would have no food.

v11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then obey me. Take in your bags some of this country’s best products. Carry a present to the man. Take balm, honey, spice, myrrh, nuts and almonds. v12 Take double money with you. Carry back with you the money that came back in the tops of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. v13 Take also your brother. And set out and go again to the man. v14 I pray to the God who can do anything. I pray that God will protect you when you are in front of the man. I pray that the man will send back your other brother and Benjamin. If I lose my children, I lose everything.’

v15 So the brothers took the present and they took the double money with them. They took Benjamin and they set out. They went to Egypt and they stood in front of Joseph.

Verse 11

‘Balm’ is a medicine. People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell. ‘Almonds’ are a kind of nuts.

Verse 12

The ‘double money’ included the money that they found in their sacks earlier. And it included money to buy more grain.

The meal in Joseph’s house

v16 Joseph saw that Benjamin was with them. So he said to the manager of his house, ‘Bring these men into my house. Kill an animal and prepare a meal. These men shall eat with me at noon.’ v17 The manager did what Joseph told him to do. And he brought the brothers to Joseph’s house.

v18 The brothers were afraid because men brought them to Joseph’s house. They said, ‘They have brought us here because of the money that they returned to our sacks before. That is the reason why they brought us here. He wants to show that we are guilty. They will attack us. He will make us slaves and he will take our *donkeys.’

Verse 16

To eat together was a sign of friendship. So the manager knew that Joseph was friendly towards the brothers. But the brothers did not know that yet.

Verse 18

The brothers did not know why they were going to Joseph’s house. They could not guess that they would eat a meal with Joseph. They made the only guess that they could make. And they were very much afraid.

v19 So they went to the manager of Joseph’s house and they spoke with him. They spoke at the door of the house. v20 They said, ‘Oh, sir! We came here the first time in order to buy food. v21 Then we reached the place where we stopped for the night. There we opened our sacks. And we discovered every man’s money! The money was in the tops of the sacks. All our money was there. So we have brought it again with us. v22 And we have brought other money so that we may buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ v23 The manager of Joseph’s house replied, ‘Do not worry. Do not be afraid. Your God and your father’s God put money in your sacks for you. I received your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.

Verse 19

They spoke at the door because they did not want to go into the house. They thought that it was like a trap. They did not know what Joseph would do to them.

Verse 23

The manager of Joseph’s house already knew about the money. Perhaps he had put the money back into the sacks during the brothers’ previous visit. (See Genesis 42:25.) So he knew that Joseph refused to take money from the brothers. And he knew that Joseph would not hurt the brothers. Otherwise, he would not eat a meal with them. But he did not know that they were Joseph’s brothers.

But this verse also tells us something else. It tells us that the manager knew about Joseph’s God. The manager knew that Joseph served God. He knew that Joseph had learned about God from his father. And he knew that Joseph’s God cared about people. Otherwise, nobody would believe that God might give money to people. So it is certain that Joseph had told the manager about God. Joseph is a model for us. We might ask ourselves, ‘Do the people that we work with know about God? Do they know that God cares about people? Have we told them about God?’

v24 The manager of Joseph’s house led the brothers into the house. He gave water to them and they washed their feet. And he gave food to their *donkeys. v25 The brothers heard that Joseph would return at noon. And they heard that they would eat a meal in Joseph’s house. So they prepared the present that they had brought. v26 And when Joseph came home, the brothers brought the present to him. They bent themselves down to the ground in front of him.

Verse 25

To eat together was a sign of friendship. And the brothers heard that they would eat a meal at Joseph’s house. Perhaps they would eat a meal with Joseph. That would mean that they were not in danger. But they were still worried. They did not understand what was happening. And they still could not be sure that they were safe.

v27 Joseph asked whether they were well. And he said, ‘Is your father well, the old man, whom you mentioned? Is he still alive?’ v28 They said, ‘Your servant our father is well. He is still alive.’ And they bent their heads down in honour of Joseph. v29 And Joseph saw Benjamin, who was his brother. Benjamin was his mother’s son. Joseph said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, whom you mentioned to me? Let God be kind to you, my son!’ v30 Then Joseph went quickly out of the room, because of his emotion when he saw his brother. He looked for a place where he might weep. And he entered his own room and he wept there. v31 Then he washed his face and he came out. He controlled himself. And he said, ‘Bring the food.’

Verse 29

‘Benjamin was his brother.’ All the brothers were sons of Joseph’s father. But only Benjamin was a son of Joseph’s mother.

Joseph called Benjamin ‘my son’. But that was a common greeting by an important person to someone who was young. Joseph was not saying that Benjamin was a relative.

v32 The servants brought food to Joseph apart from the other men. The brothers also were apart. And the Egyptians who ate with Joseph were apart. The Egyptians did not eat with the *Hebrews, because Egyptians never eat with foreigners. v33 The brothers were sitting as Joseph directed. The oldest brother sat at the head of the table. That was his right because he was the oldest son. And the youngest brother sat at the other end. And the brothers looked at each other in great surprise. v34 A servant took shares to them from Joseph’s table. But Benjamin’s share was 5 times bigger than the share of the other brothers. So they ate and drank with Joseph.

Verse 32

It was the custom that Egyptians (inhabitants of Egypt) did not eat with foreigners. Also, *Pharaoh may have made Joseph an Egyptian priest. And it was the custom that Egyptian priests did not eat with other Egyptians. But Joseph had another reason to eat separately. He was not ready to show that he was friendly with his brothers.

Verse 33

On important occasions, the brothers would sit in order. The oldest brother would sit nearest to the head of the table. The other brothers would sit in the order of their ages. And Joseph put each brother in the right position. The brothers were very surprised. They could not understand how Joseph knew the correct order.

Verse 34

These shares were not the main part of the meal. Joseph ate at a separate table from them. He sent small shares from his own table to his brothers. That showed that they were eating the meal together. It showed that they were his guests. So these shares were small. And Benjamin’s larger share was not more than he could eat.

Chapter 44

Joseph’s plot against his brothers

v1 Then Joseph *commanded the manager of his house. He said to him, ‘Fill the men’s bags with grain. Give to them as much grain as they can carry. And put each man’s money in the top of his sack. v2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the youngest one’s sack. Put it there with the money that he paid for the grain.’ And Joseph’s manager did as Joseph *commanded him.

v3 As soon as the morning came, Joseph sent the brothers away with their *donkeys. v4 When the brothers had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph spoke to his manager. He said, ‘Go! Follow the men. When you catch up with them, speak to them. Say, “You have done an evil thing to us after we did good things for you. You have stolen the silver cup. v5 My master drinks from this cup. He also uses it to find the truth by magic. You have done a very wrong thing.” ’

Verse 5

‘To find the truth by magic.’ Egyptians used to pour oil into water that was in a cup. Then they looked at the pattern of the oil. They thought that the pattern showed what was true. The *Hebrews did not do this. Joseph probably did not do it. But he pretended to his brothers that he did it.

The cup that an Egyptian used for this purpose was a very special cup. So if the brothers had stolen such a special cup, that was a very evil deed.

v6 When the manager caught up with the brothers, he spoke these words to them. v7 They said to him, ‘My master should not say such words as these. We, who are your servants, would never do such a thing. v8 We found the money that was in the tops of our sacks. And we brought it back to you from our own country, *Canaan. We have no reason to steal silver or gold from your master’s house. v9 If you find the cup among one person’s possessions, let him die. And we also will be my master’s slaves.’ v10 The manager said, ‘We will do what you say. He who has the cup shall be my slave. The other men shall be without blame.’ v11 Then every man quickly put his sack down on the ground and every man opened his sack. v12 And the manager searched. He began with the oldest brother and he finished with the youngest brother. And he found the cup in Benjamin’s sack. v13 Then they tore their clothes. Every man loaded his *donkey and they returned to the city.

Verses 9-10

The brothers were certain that they had not taken the cup. They proposed that anyone who had the cup should die. They proposed that all the other brothers should become slaves. If the manager agreed to that, it would be definite. The punishment that they proposed would happen. That was the custom by Egyptian law. But the manager did not agree to such a severe punishment. He pretended that the brothers had proposed a smaller punishment.

Verse 12

The manager also found the money that was in the top of each sack. But the cup was very much more important than the money. So the manager did not mention the money.

Judah appeals to Joseph

v14 When Judah and his brothers reached Joseph’s house, Joseph was still there. They fell to the ground in front of him. v15 Joseph said to them, ‘You have done an evil deed. You should have known that a man like me can certainly find the truth by magic.’ v16 And Judah said, ‘We do not know what to say to my master. We do not know how to speak. We cannot show that we are honest. God has shown that we are guilty. We are my master’s slaves. Both we and the one who had the cup are my master’s slaves.’ v17 But Joseph said, ‘I would certainly not do that! Only the man who had the cup shall be my slave. But you other men, go in peace to your father.’

Verse 15

Probably Joseph did not believe that he could find the truth by magic. (See the comment on verse 5.) *Pharaoh believed in magic. (See Genesis 41:8.) Many wise men in Egypt believed in magic. So Joseph told his brothers that he could find the truth by magic. That is what a ruler of Egypt would say. And Joseph said it in order to make his brothers more anxious.

Verse 16

Judah knew that he had not taken the cup. He was sure that his brothers had not taken it. They were too worried to do that. They wanted to take the grain that they had bought. And they wanted to return to their father in *Canaan. They would not want the cup. And Judah knew that Benjamin had not taken the cup. He would never do that. So Judah said, ‘God has shown that we are guilty.’ He thought that God had put the cup in Benjamin’s sack. He thought that God was punishing them. It was a punishment for what they had done to Joseph 22 years before.

Verse 17

Joseph was testing his brothers. Many years before this time, they had plotted to kill Joseph. (See Genesis 37:18.) And they had plotted to sell him as a slave. They plotted to sell him to Ishmaelites, who were going to Egypt. (See Genesis 37:27.) Joseph wanted to know whether the brothers would do the same thing again. Would they let Benjamin become a slave? Would they leave Benjamin in Egypt? Or were they more honourable than they were 22 years before?

v18 Then Judah went closer to Joseph. And he said, ‘Sir, please let your servant say a word to my master. And let not your anger be fierce against your servant. Truly you are like *Pharaoh himself. v19 My master asked his servants, “Have you a father or a brother?” v20 And we said to my master, “We have a father, who is an old man. And we have a young brother. He was born while his father was already old. He had another brother by the same mother, but he is dead. He is the only child of his mother who remains. His father loves him.” v21 Then you said to your servants, “Bring your brother to me, so that I may see him.” v22 We said to my master, “The boy cannot leave his father. If he should leave his father, his father would die.” v23 Then you said to your servants, “Unless your youngest brother is with you, you shall not see my face again.” v24 Then we went back to your servant my father. And we told him what my master had said.’

Verse 18

Reuben was the oldest brother but Judah had become the leader. (See verse 14. See also Genesis 43:3, 8.) And after this time, when Jacob gave his *blessing to his sons, he made Judah the most important. (See Genesis 49:8 and the comment.)

Judah’s character was very different from what it had been 22 years before. Judah had suggested that the brothers should sell Joseph. (See Genesis 37:26-27.) But in these verses, he showed that he cared deeply about Benjamin. And he cared deeply about his father Jacob.

Verse 22

Judah called Benjamin ‘the boy’. But Benjamin was more than 22 years of age. (See the comment on Genesis 43:8.) Probably Joseph remembered that the brothers used to call him, Joseph, ‘the boy’. (See Genesis 37:30.)

v25 Judah continued, ‘Then our father said, “Go again and buy some food for us.” v26 We said, “We cannot go there. If our youngest brother goes with us, we will go there. But we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” v27 Then your servant my father spoke to us. He said, “You know that my wife produced two sons for me. v28 One son left me. And I said: Certainly wild animals have torn him apart. I have never seen him since that time. v29 If you take this son also from me, then perhaps some evil thing will happen to him. You would send me and my grey hairs sadly to my grave.” ’

v30 And Judah continued, ‘I shall come to your servant my father, and the boy will not be with us. His father’s life depends on the boy’s life. v31 Therefore, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die. Your servants will send our father and his grey hairs sadly to his grave. v32 And I, your servant, became responsible for the boy. I said, “If I do not bring him back, then the blame shall be on me for all ages.” v33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy. I will be a slave to my *lord. But let the boy go back with his brothers. v34 I cannot go back to my father if the boy is not with me. I am afraid of the evil thing that would happen to my father.’

Verse 28

The brothers had already mentioned Joseph. They had said, ‘One brother is dead.’ (See Genesis 42:13, 32.) But in this verse, Judah said more than that. However, Judah did not confess that the brothers were responsible. They were unwilling to say that they were guilty. And Judah did not think that it would be helpful to confess.

Verses 32-33

Judah had promised to Jacob, ‘I shall bring him back.’ (See Genesis 43:9.) But he was not able to bring Benjamin back. So he tried to send Benjamin back. If he could do that, he would have kept his promise to his father.

Judah alone offered to stay in Egypt as a slave. But, apart from that, he spoke on behalf of all the brothers. He showed that they all cared deeply about Benjamin.

Verse 34

 ‘The evil thing that would happen to my father.’ Judah thought that his father would die. His father had said that. (See Genesis 42:38.) And Judah had just told Joseph what his father had said. (See verse 29.)

Chapter 45

Joseph tells his brothers who he is

v1 Then Joseph could not control himself in front of all those who stood by him. He cried, ‘Make every one go out from me.’ So nobody stayed with Joseph when he showed himself to his brothers. v2 Joseph wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him. And the people who were in *Pharaoh’s court heard.

Verse 1

Joseph had tested his brothers. He had acted as a judge. And he had proved that the character of the brothers had changed. But he could not say, ‘You deserve that I forgive you.’ His emotion was too strong. He could not still act as a judge. He could only act as a brother.

Verse 2

‘And the people who were in *Pharaoh’s court heard.’ Perhaps they heard the sound when Joseph wept. Or perhaps they heard about it when people told them afterwards.

v3 And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, because Joseph astonished them. v4 So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me.’ And they came near to him. And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. v5 And now, do not be worried. Do not be angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here before you. He did that so as to keep us alive. v6 The *famine has lasted for 2 years. And for another 5 years, people will not plough and they will not harvest crops. v7 And God sent me before you so that your families should remain on the earth. He sent me so that many people would remain alive. v8 So you did not send me here, but God sent me. And he has made me like a father to *Pharaoh. God has made me the master over *Pharaoh’s house. He has made me the ruler over all Egypt.’

Verse 3

Before this, Joseph had spoken with his brothers by an interpreter. Joseph spoke in the Egyptian language and the brothers spoke in the *Hebrew language. The brothers thought that Joseph did not understand the *Hebrew language. But at this time, Joseph sent all the Egyptians out. So there was no interpreter. And Joseph spoke in the *Hebrew language.

Joseph knew that his father was still alive. The brothers had told him that. But he said this so as to show that he cared about his father.

Verse 4

‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.’ This verse speaks briefly. It means, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, to whom you did a wrong thing. So people sold me in Egypt.’ The brothers did not sell Joseph in Egypt. But because of their deed, other people sold Joseph in Egypt. (For a similar verse that may speak briefly, see Genesis 37:36 and comment.)

Verse 5

Joseph said, ‘Do not be angry with yourselves. God sent me here.’ He did not say, ‘You did a wrong thing, but I forgive you.’ He could not say that. The thing that happened was right. God did it. God brought Joseph to Egypt. God did that so as to save Jacob’s family in the *famine. And he did it so as to save Egypt.

God also had another purpose, which Joseph did not know. God had brought his people to Egypt to make them into a nation. In Egypt, they would learn many things that they would need to know in later times.

Verse 8

‘Like a father to *Pharaoh’ Perhaps this means that he had looked after *Pharaoh’s business. Or perhaps this was an official name that described Joseph’s authority.

v9 Joseph continued, ‘Hurry! Go to my father. Say to him, “Your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me the master of all Egypt. Come to me here and do not delay. v10 You shall live in the district that is called *Goshen. So you shall be near to me. You and your children and your grandchildren shall live there. Bring your sheep and your cows. Bring all that you have. v11 There will still be a *famine for a further 5 years, but I will provide for you. Otherwise, you will starve. Your family will starve. And all that you have will starve.’ ” v12 And now it is I who speak to you. You can see that it is I. My brother Benjamin can see that it is I. v13 You must tell my father how important I am in Egypt. Tell him about all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father here.’

v14 Then Joseph put his arms round his brother Benjamin’s neck and he wept. And Benjamin put his arms round Joseph. v15 Joseph kissed all his brothers and he wept with them. And after that, his brothers talked with him.

Verse 9

Joseph gave honour to God. He told the brothers what God had done.

Verse 10

Joseph had made this plan long before this time. And he had chosen the district that was called *Goshen. That was the place where his family should live.

Verse 15

They had many things to say. They had not met as brothers for 22 years. During that time, they had all changed in character. Probably they talked about what the brothers had done to Joseph. (See Genesis 37:24.) That was easier to do because of what Joseph said. He said, ‘Do not be angry with yourselves. God sent me here before you.’ (See verse 5.)

The brothers go to fetch their father

v16 *Pharaoh and his servants heard that Joseph’s brothers had come. They were very pleased. v17 And *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this! Load your animals and go back to your country, *Canaan. v18 Bring your father and all your people to me. I will give you the best things in Egypt. And you shall eat the best food in the country.” v19 *Command your brothers also, “Do this! Take wagons from Egypt so that your children and your wives may ride. And come and bring your father. v20 Do not worry about your goods. The best things in all Egypt are yours.” ’

v21 Israel’s sons did so. And Joseph gave to them wagons, as *Pharaoh *commanded. And he gave to them food for the journey. v22 He gave new clothes to each of them. But to Benjamin he gave 300 pieces of silver. And he gave to him 5 sets of clothes. v23 Moreover he sent to his father 10 *donkeys, which carried products of Egypt. And he sent 10 female *donkeys, which carried grain, bread and other food. These things were for his father on the journey. v24 Then Joseph sent his brothers away. And as they left, he spoke to them. He said, ‘Do not quarrel during the journey.’

Verse 17

Joseph had already said this to his brothers. But it was necessary that *Pharaoh should approve. And *Pharaoh approved gladly.

Verse 20

Actually, they did bring their goods to Egypt. They brought their animals and all their possessions. (See Genesis 46:6.)

Verse 24

Joseph spoke as a brother would speak. He did not speak as a foreign ruler would speak. He had a friendly relationship with his brothers and he did not blame them.

v25 So the brothers left Egypt and they came to their father Jacob in their own country, *Canaan. v26 And they told their father, ‘Joseph is still alive! And he is the ruler of all Egypt.’ Their words astonished Jacob and he did not believe them. v27 But they told him all that Joseph had said to them. And Jacob saw the wagons that Joseph had sent. He recovered from the shock. v28 And Israel said, ‘Now I believe what you say. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go. I will see him before I die.’

Verse 28

Perhaps the brothers confessed to their father Jacob at this time what they had done 20 years before. They had dropped Joseph into a deep hole and they had put a goat’s blood on his coat. (See Genesis 37:24, 31.)

Chapter 46

Jacob travels to Egypt

v1 So Israel set out on his journey and he took all his possessions with him. He came to Beer-sheba. And there he gave *offerings to the God of his father Isaac. v2 And God spoke to Israel in dreams. He said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And Israel said, ‘I am here.’ v3 Then God said, ‘I am God. I am your father’s God. Do not be afraid to go to Egypt. There I will make from you a great nation. v4 I will go with you to Egypt and I will also bring you back again. And when you die Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’

Verses 1-2

‘Israel’ and ‘Jacob’ are two names of the same man. (See Genesis 32:28.)

God had sent Joseph to Egypt. God had prepared a place in Egypt where Jacob and his family could live. God was providing food for Jacob and for his family during the *famine. By these things, God was guiding Jacob. God was showing him that he should go to Egypt. But Jacob still needed to make sure that God wanted him to go to Egypt. So he went to Beer-sheba, which was on the way to Egypt. Perhaps he used the *altar that Isaac had built for his *offering. (See Genesis 26:23, 25.) Jacob prayed. And then he was certain what God wanted him to do.

When God guides us, he may prepare the way for us. He may make some things impossible for us. And he may give us opportunities. These things may tell us what we should do. But we still need to pray. Then we can be certain what God wants us to do.

Verse 3

Until this time, Jacob expected to go to Egypt for a short time. He expected that he would return as soon as the *famine was over. But at this time God told him that his *descendants would stay there for a long time. They would stay until they became a great nation.

Verse 4

‘I will bring you back again.’ The word ‘you’ does not mean Jacob himself. It means the nation that Jacob would become. So it means Jacob’s *descendants. Jacob himself would not return. But when he was dead, his body would return. And his sons would bury him in *Canaan.

In the phrase ‘when you die’, the word ‘you’ does mean Jacob himself. ‘Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ That means that Jacob would die in peace. And Joseph would be with him. So Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when he died. That was a son’s duty.

v5 Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba. And Israel’s sons carried Jacob their father. And they carried their children and their wives. They carried them in the wagons that *Pharaoh had sent for them. v6 They also took their cows and their possessions, which they had gained in *Canaan. And they came into Egypt. Jacob and all his family came with him into Egypt. v7 He brought his sons and his sons’ sons. He brought his daughters and his sons’ daughters. He brought all his family with him into Egypt.

Verses 5-7

From Hebron to Beer-sheba was 50 kilometres (30 miles). And from Beer-sheba to *Goshen was 300 kilometres (180 miles). When the brothers travelled to Egypt before, they took food for themselves and for their *donkeys. And the journey might take 10 days. But when the whole family travelled with all their animals, they had to go more slowly. The animals needed to eat grass, but there was little grass because of the *famine. So the journey took much longer.

The names of those who entered Egypt

v8 These are the names of Israel’s family who entered Egypt. They were Jacob and his sons. Jacob’s oldest son was Reuben.

v9      Reuben’s sons were

                      Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi.

v10    Simeon’s sons were

                      Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar and Shaul.

                                  (Shaul’s mother was a *Canaanite woman.)

v11    Levi’s sons were

                      Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

v12    Judah’s sons were

                      Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah.

                                  (But Er and Onan died in *Canaan.)

                      And Perez’s sons were Hezron and Hamul.

v13    Issachar’s sons were

                      Tola, Phuvah, Iob and Shimron.

v14    Zebulun’s sons were

                      Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

v15 These are Leah’s sons. They were born to Jacob in Paddan-aram. His daughter Dinah was also born there. The number of these sons and daughters of Jacob was 33.

v16    Gad’s sons were

                      Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.

v17    Asher’s sons were

                      Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, with Serah their sister.

                      And Beriah’s sons were Heber and Malchiel.

v18 These are Zilpah’s sons. Laban gave Zilpah to Leah his daughter. These 16 children were born to Jacob.

v19    Rachel’s sons (Rachel was Jacob’s wife) were

                      Joseph and Benjamin.

v20 Joseph became the father of Manasseh and Ephraim. They were born in Egypt and their mother was Asenath. She was Potiphera’s daughter. Potiphera was the priest of On.

v21    Benjamin’s sons were

                      Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard

v22 These are Rachel’s sons. These 14 children were born to Jacob.

v23    Dan’s son was


v24    Naphtali’s sons were

                      Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

v25 These are Bilhah’s sons. Laban gave Bilhah to Rachel his daughter. These 7 children were born to Jacob.

v26 The number of people who came into Egypt was 66. Those were Jacob’s own relatives. That number does not include Jacob’s sons’ wives. v27 And Joseph’s sons, who were born to him in Egypt, were 2. The number of all the persons of Jacob’s family who entered Egypt was 70.

Verse 8

‘These are’ refers to the names in the verses that follow.

In these verses, the word ‘sons’ sometimes means ‘grandsons’. And it can also include the sons of grandsons.

Verse 15

We do not know why the total is 33. Verses 9-15 mention 33 names. With Dinah too, the total is 34. Perhaps these verses leave out Er and Onan because they did not go to Egypt. And perhaps there was another daughter. That could make a total that is 33.

Verses 15, 18, 22, 25

‘These are’ refers to the names in the previous verses.

Joseph meets his father

v28 Jacob sent Judah before him to Joseph. He asked Joseph to meet him in the district that is called *Goshen. And they came into *Goshen. v29 Then Joseph prepared his *chariot and he went to meet Israel his father in *Goshen. He presented himself to his father and he put his arms round his father’s neck. He wept for a time. v30 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die. I have seen your face. And I know that you are still alive.’

v31 Joseph spoke to his brothers and to his father’s family. He said, ‘I will go and I will speak to *Pharaoh. I will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s family, who were in *Canaan, have come to me. v32 The men are keepers of animals. They have their own sheep and cows. They have brought their sheep and cows and they have brought all their possessions.” v33 When *Pharaoh calls you, he will say, “What is your occupation?” v34 And you shall say, “Your servants have kept animals for our whole lives. Our fathers did the same thing before us.” In that way you may live in the district that is called *Goshen. The inhabitants of Egypt avoid those who keep animals.’

Verse 30

Jacob said, ‘Now I am ready to die.’ Actually, Jacob lived for 17 years after this time.

Verse 34

Joseph was afraid that his brothers would become slaves. So he told them to emphasise that they kept animals. The inhabitants of Egypt themselves kept few animals. They avoided people who kept animals. So they would not want the brothers as slaves in their houses. Instead they would let the brothers live in the district that is called *Goshen. There they would be separate from the inhabitants of Egypt. Joseph said this because he did not trust *Pharaoh.

Chapter 47

Jacob and his sons meet *Pharaoh

v1 So Joseph went to *Pharaoh. He said to him, ‘My father and my brothers have come from *Canaan. They have brought their sheep and their cows and all their possessions. They are now in *Goshen.’ v2 Joseph had chosen 5 out of his brothers and he introduced them to *Pharaoh. v3 *Pharaoh said to Joseph’s brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to *Pharaoh, ‘Your servants keep animals. Our fathers did the same thing.’ v4 They said to *Pharaoh, ‘We have come to this land because there is no food for your servants’ sheep. The lack of food is serious in our own country, *Canaan. And now, please, let your servants live in *Goshen.’

v5 Then *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘So your father and your brothers have come to you. v6 The land of Egypt is in front of you. Let your father and your brothers live in the best part of the land. Let them live in *Goshen. And if you know any capable men among them, let them look after my cows.’

Verse 2

Perhaps Joseph took only 5 brothers because the other brothers were looking after the animals. Or perhaps *Pharaoh did not allow more than 5 foreigners to visit him at one time.

Verse 3

‘Your servants keep animals.’ See Genesis 46:34 and the comment.

Verse 4

‘Please let your servants live in *Goshen.’ Joseph had already said that they should live in *Goshen. And *Pharaoh had made Joseph the ruler of all Egypt. Therefore, Joseph had the authority to make that decision. But it was right that they should ask *Pharaoh to agree.

Verse 6

‘Let them look after my cows.’ *Pharaoh offered employment to some of Jacob’s family. *Pharaoh expected that they would mix with the Egyptian people. But they did not mix. About 400 years after this time, they were still separate. (See Exodus 1:8-9.)

v7 Then Joseph brought Jacob his father and he introduced him to *Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed *Pharaoh. v8 *Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the years of your life?’ v9 And Jacob said to *Pharaoh, ‘The years that I have stayed on the earth are 130 years. The years of my life have been few and evil. They have been fewer than the years of my fathers who were before me.’ v10 And Jacob blessed *Pharaoh. And he went out from *Pharaoh.

v11 Then Joseph gave a place to live to his father and to his brothers. He gave them a possession in Egypt. It was in the best part of the country. It was in the region that is called Rameses. That was as *Pharaoh had *commanded.

v12 And Joseph provided food for his father and for his brothers. He provided enough food for all the people who lived in his father’s house.

Verse 9

Jacob changed *Pharaoh’s word ‘life’. (See verse 8.) Instead, he said, ‘I have stayed on the earth’. He meant that it was a temporary stay. Jacob knew that his stay on the earth was temporary. After it, he would be with his fathers and with God.

Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. It was less than his father Isaac’s life, which was 180 years. But it was not ‘few’ years. We can only guess why Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. The Egyptians did not live for so many years. Jacob did not say, ‘We live for more years than you do.’ To say that would be not to respect *Pharaoh. So he said, ‘The years of my life have been few.’

Jacob calls his life ‘evil’. Perhaps this is to respect *Pharaoh. He does not say, ‘I have lived a better life than you have.’ Instead, he says the opposite. But this also has another meaning. Jacob remembers that he has done many things that were wrong. For example, he cheated his brother Esau and his father Isaac. (See Genesis 27:19.) And he cheated Laban. (See Genesis 31:20.) And Jacob had much trouble in his life.

Verse 11

When Jacob initially decided to go to Egypt, he expected to go for a short time. He expected to stay in Egypt until the *famine was over. He did not expect to own property in Egypt. But Joseph gave them land as a possession. This was part of God’s plan. He intended to make them a great nation. So their *descendants would live in Egypt for about 400 years.

‘Rameses’ was the name of a part of the region *Goshen.

Joseph sells grain to the people

v13 Now there was no food in all the country. The *famine was very bad. It ruined all Egypt and it ruined all *Canaan. v14 And Joseph gathered all the money that was in Egypt and in *Canaan. People gave it to him when they bought grain. And Joseph brought the money into *Pharaoh’s house.

v15 And the inhabitants of Egypt and the inhabitants of *Canaan spent all the money that they had. Then the inhabitants of Egypt came to Joseph. They said, ‘Give us food. If you do not do so, we will die. We will die because we have spent all our money.’ v16 And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your animals. I will take your animals and I will give food to you. I will do that because you have no money.’ v17 So they brought their animals to Joseph. And Joseph took the animals and he gave food to the people. Joseph took their horses, their sheep, their cows and their *donkeys. He took their animals and he gave food to them during all that year.

Verses 14-17

Joseph did not do this himself. He had appointed managers, who organised the work. (See Genesis 41:34.) And the managers had many servants, who helped them. The managers and their servants gathered the money. And the people did not bring the animals to Joseph himself. They brought them to the managers and to their servants.

They did not take the animals away from the people. They let the people keep the animals. But the animals belonged to *Pharaoh.

v18 So that year ended. And in the next year, the people came to Joseph. They said to him, ‘We will not hide from our master that we have spent all our money. All our animals belong to you, our master. We have nothing else that we can give to our master except our bodies and our lands. v19 It is not right that we and our land should die. Take us and take our land. And give food to us. We will be *Pharaoh’s slaves and our land shall belong to *Pharaoh. And give us seed so that we may sow it. So we may live and not die. And so the land may not become a desert.’

v20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. All the inhabitants of Egypt sold their fields, because the *famine was so bad. The land became *Pharaoh’s. v21 And Joseph made the people slaves in all Egypt. v22 But Joseph did not buy the land of the priests, because *Pharaoh gave to them a regular payment. The priests lived on the payment that *Pharaoh gave to them. Therefore, the priests did not sell their land.

Verse 18

Perhaps some of the people came to Joseph himself. But usually they went to the managers. The managers reported to Joseph and Joseph sent instructions to the managers.

Verses 20-21

The land became *Pharaoh’s property. The people became slaves and they too belonged to *Pharaoh. So *Pharaoh became more powerful. But the people continued to farm the land, as they had done before. Their lives did not change when they became slaves.

v23 Then Joseph said to the people, ‘I have bought you and your land for *Pharaoh. Now I give seed to you. Sow the seed on the land. v24 And at the harvests, you shall give a part of the crops to *Pharaoh. You shall give to *Pharaoh one part in every 5 parts. And 4 parts in every 5 parts shall be your own. It shall be seed for the field. And it shall be food for yourselves and for your families and for your children.’ v25 And the people said, ‘You have saved us and we are still alive. We will be slaves to *Pharaoh, if that pleases you, our master.’ v26 So Joseph made a law, which still stands in Egypt. The law says that *Pharaoh should have one part in every 5 parts. Only the priests’ land did not become *Pharaoh’s.

Verse 25

Joseph made big changes in Egypt. And the people realised that they benefited from these changes. They benefited because they had enough food during the *famine. And they realised that they would also have enough food during future *famines. Therefore, they were willing to become slaves.

Nowadays, the word ‘slaves’ means people who are not free. A slave is a person who belongs to another person. That is a very evil thing. But slaves in ancient Egypt were different. They farmed the land and they lived in an ordinary way. But, because they were slaves, they did not manage their own affairs. *Pharaoh’s servants told the people what they should do. And they told the people when they should sow their seeds. *Pharaoh’s servants managed the farming in the whole country. This was an advantage for the people. The reason was that farming was difficult in Egypt. Egypt has a very dry climate. There is not enough rain for the crops. So people had to use water from the river Nile to water the crops. And they needed canals to bring the water from the river. *Pharaoh and his servants managed all this. And they stored grain in case there was a *famine. They could do these things better than the separate farmers could do them.

Verse 26

The law still stood at the time when people wrote Genesis. Joseph’s law remained after Joseph’s death. So there would still be a store of food in case there was a *famine.

Joseph’s promise to Jacob

v27 Israel and his family lived in Egypt. They lived in the district that is called *Goshen. They gained possessions in it. They had large families and they increased greatly. v28 And Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years. So Jacob’s life was 147 years.

v29 And when the time of Israel’s death was near, he called his son Joseph. He said to him, ‘If now you are pleased with me, put your hand under my leg. Promise that you will be honest and true toward me. Do not bury me in Egypt, v30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry my body out of Egypt. Bury me in the place where people buried my fathers.’ Joseph answered, ‘I will do as you have said.’ v31 And Israel said, ‘Make a firm promise to me’. And Joseph made a firm promise to him. Then Israel bent himself down over the head of his bed.

Verse 29

‘If you are pleased with me.’ This is not what the father of the family would say to his son. The son should respect and obey his father. But Joseph was not only Jacob’s son. Joseph was also the ruler of the whole country where Jacob was staying. So Jacob gave honour to Joseph. And Joseph gave honour to Jacob, because he was his father.

‘Put your hand under my leg.’ This was a sign of an important promise. (See Genesis 24:2.)

Chapter 48

Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons

v1 After this, Joseph heard that his father was ill. So he went to his father and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. v2 And someone said to Jacob, ‘Your son Joseph has come to you’. Then, by an effort, Israel sat up in his bed. v3 And Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God, who can do anything, appeared to me at Luz. That is in the land that is called *Canaan. He blessed me. v4 And he said to me, “I will make you have large families. I will make you have many *descendants. I will make from you a group of peoples. And I will give this land to your *descendants who shall be after you. They shall possess it for all ages.” ’

Verse 2

‘Israel’ was the same person as Jacob.

Verse 3

Luz was the same place as Bethel. (See Genesis 28:19.)

Verse 4

Jacob reminded Joseph about God’s promise. (See Genesis 35:11-12.) God had given the country that is called *Canaan to Jacob’s *descendants. He gave it to them so that they should possess it for all ages. Therefore, they should not always live in Egypt. They lived in Egypt for 400 years. And after that time God led them back to *Canaan.

v5 Jacob continued, ‘And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, shall be mine. They were born to you here in this country, Egypt, before I came here. But they shall be called my sons, as Reuben and Simeon are my sons. v6 And the children who shall be born to you after them shall be called your sons. When they come to their own land, they shall be called by their brothers’ names. v7 When I came from Paddan, Rachel died during the journey. I was very sad that she died. She died in *Canaan, when we were still some distance from Ephrath. I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is called Bethlehem.’

Verse 5

‘Your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, shall be mine.’ Later, the *tribes had the names of Jacob’s sons. But two *tribes were called the *tribe of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh. And Ephraim and Manasseh were not actually Jacob’s sons. They were actually Jacob’s grandsons. So Ephraim and Manasseh were called Jacob’s sons.

Verse 6

‘They shall be called by their brothers’ names.’ Joseph’s later sons would not give their names to *tribes. Their *descendants would be part of the *tribe of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh.

v8 Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons. And he said, ‘Who are these?’ v9 Joseph said to his father, ‘These are my sons, whom God has given to me here.’ And Israel said, ‘Bring them to me, please, so that I may bless them.’ v10 Now Israel’s eyes were weak because of his age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near to him. And Israel kissed them and he hugged them. v11 And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I did not expect to see your face. But God has let me see your children also.’ v12 Then Joseph took the children from Israel’s knees. And he bent himself down with his face to the earth.

v13 And Joseph took the two children. He took Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand. And he took Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand. And he brought them near to Israel. v14 And Israel reached out his right hand and he put it on Ephraim’s head. But Ephraim was the younger son. And Israel reached out his left hand and he put it on Manasseh’s head. But Manasseh was the older son. So Israel held one arm across the other arm.

Verse 10

Probably Israel could see that two people were with Joseph. But he could not see clearly. He could not recognise them until they were close to him.

Verse 11

For many years, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. (See Genesis 37:33.) That was why he did not expect to see Joseph’s face.

Verse 12

‘Children’ does not mean young children. They were more than 19 years of age. These are the reasons why we know that. They were born before the *famine began. (See Genesis 41:50.) Jacob came to Egypt 2 years after the *famine began. (See Genesis 45:6.) And Jacob lived for 17 more years. (See Genesis 47:9, 28.) So we can be sure that Joseph’s sons did not sit on Israel’s knees. They stood by his knees.

Verse 13

‘And he took Manasseh toward Israel’s right hand.’ Joseph did this so that Jacob would put his right hand on Manasseh’s head. So Jacob would give to Manasseh the right of the oldest son.

Verse 14

Jacob knew that Ephraim’s *descendants would be greater than Manasseh’s *descendants. (See verse 19.) God told him this.

v15 And Israel blessed them. He said,

          ‘My fathers Abraham and Isaac lived in front of God’s face.

                      And God has led me through all my life to this day.

v16    He is the *angel who has rescued me from all evil things.

                      He shall bless these boys.

          They shall be called by my name

                      and by the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.

          Let them increase greatly on the earth.’

Verse 16

Jacob called God ‘the *angel who has rescued me’. God had appeared several times as an *angel. (For example, see Genesis 31:11.)

v17 Joseph saw that his father put his right hand on Ephraim’s head. That did not please Joseph. He took his father’s hand so as to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. v18 And Joseph said to his father, ‘No, my father! This one is the older son. Put your right hand on his head.’ v19 But his father refused. And he said, ‘I know, my son. I know. He also shall become a nation and he also shall be great. But his younger brother shall be greater than he shall. And his family shall become many nations.’ v20 So Israel blessed them that day. He said,

          ‘The nation of Israel will use your names when they bless people.

          They will say,

                      “Let God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.” ’

So Israel made Ephraim more important than Manasseh.

v21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘I shall die very soon, but God will be with you. He will bring you back to the country where your fathers lived. v22 Moreover I give Shechem to you rather than to your brothers. I took it from the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.’

Verses 17-18

Joseph thought that Jacob had made a mistake because of his weak sight.

Verse 20

‘The nation of Israel’ means Israel’s *descendants. They are still called ‘Israel’ nowadays.

Verse 22

Perhaps this refers to Genesis 34:25-29. That city was called Shechem. And the son of the chief man of the city was also called Shechem. Jacob did not take the city himself, but his sons, Simeon and Levi, took it. Perhaps Jacob meant that he had the responsibility as their father. For Amorites, see Genesis 10:16 and the comment on that verse.

Many years after this, people buried Joseph at Shechem. (See Joshua 24:32.) They buried him in the piece of land that Jacob had bought. (See Genesis 33:19.)

Chapter 49

Jacob blesses his sons

v1 Then Jacob called his sons. He said to them, ‘Gather yourselves together. I will tell you what shall happen to you in the future.’

Verses 1-27

Before Jacob died, he gave his *blessing as the father of the family. A father’s *blessing was very important. (See Isaac’s *blessing in Genesis 27:26-40.) God told Jacob what he should say. Therefore, the things that Jacob said were true. And Jacob said things that actually happened many years later.

After this time, Jacob’s *descendants lived in Egypt for 400 years. The *descendants of each of Jacob’s sons became a *tribe. Then they returned to the country that is called *Canaan. And each *tribe obtained land in *Canaan. Many parts of this *blessing refer to those lands.

The names in this chapter sometimes mean Jacob’s sons. And sometimes they mean the *tribes, which were the *descendants of Joseph’s sons. In verses 3-7, the names usually mean the sons. After verse 8 the names mean the *tribes.

Many *Hebrew words in this chapter are difficult to understand. We cannot be sure what they mean. These are likely meanings, but some of these meanings are not certain.

v2      ‘Come near to me and listen, Jacob’s sons.

                      Listen to Israel your father.

v3      Reuben, you are my oldest son.

                      You are my strength and you have come out of my strength.

                                  You are very proud and you are very powerful.

v4                  But you flow as water flows. You shall not be first,

                                  because you had sex with your father’s extra wife.

                                              You did a very wrong thing. You went into my bed.’

Verse 4

‘You flow as water flows.’ A person cannot lean on water because the water moves. So this means, ‘A person cannot trust you.’

‘You shall not be first.’ Before this time, Reuben had the right of the oldest son. Jacob said that Reuben would not keep that right. But this verse does not only mean that Reuben himself would not be first. It refers to Reuben himself, but it also refers to Reuben’s *tribe. Reuben’s *tribe would not lead the other *tribes. Judah’s *tribe would lead them.

‘You had sex.’ See Genesis 35:22.

v5      ‘Simeon and Levi are brothers.

                                  They make plans for deeds of war.

v6                  I do not join in with their plans.

                                  I do not go with them.

                      They are angry and they kill men.

                                  They are fierce and they kill animals.

v7                  Their anger is evil, because it is so fierce.

                                  Their deeds are wicked, because they are so cruel.

                      I will divide them in Jacob

                                  and I will scatter them in Israel.’

Verses 5-6

‘They use their swords.’ Simeon and Levi attacked the men in Shechem. (See Genesis 34:25-26.) ‘I do not agree.’ Jacob told them that their deed was wrong. (See Genesis 34:30.)

Verse 7

‘I will divide them in Jacob and I will scatter them in Israel.’ This does not refer to Simeon and Levi themselves. It refers to the *tribes of Simeon and Levi. When those *tribes reached their own country, they did not receive land. The *tribe of Simeon shared land with the *tribe of Judah. So God divided the land for them. (See Joshua 19:9.) The *tribe of Levi lived among all the other *tribes. So God scattered them in Israel. (See Joshua 13:14.)

v8      ‘Judah, your brothers shall praise you.

                      Your hand shall be on your enemies’ necks.

                                  Your father’s sons shall bend themselves down in front of you.

v9                  Judah is like a young lion.

                                  You have returned with the animal that you killed, my son.

                      You prepare to attack and you lie down like a lion.

                                  You are like a female lion. Nobody dares to wake you.

v10                There shall always be a king in Judah.

                                  There shall always be a ruler in the *tribe of Judah.

                      Then he shall receive the things that belong to him.

                                  All the peoples must obey him.

v11                He shall tie his *donkey to the vine.

                                  He shall tie a young *donkey to the red vine.

                      He washes his clothes in wine.

                                  He washes his coat in the new wine.

v12                His eyes shall be darker than wine.

                                  His teeth shall be whiter than milk.’

Verse 8

‘Judah’ means Judah himself and it also means the *tribe of Judah. But the verses that follow refer to the *tribe of Judah.

Judah was not the oldest son. But Jacob blessed Judah as if he was the oldest son. And the *tribe of Judah later became the most important *tribe.

Verse 10

Later, there were many kings in the *tribe of Judah. David and Solomon were two famous ones. Jesus too is a king and he also is a member of the *tribe of Judah.

Verse 11

A ‘vine’ is a plant. People make wine out of the fruits of vines.

This verse probably means that there would be plenty. If one ties a *donkey to a vine, the *donkey will eat the grapes. (Grapes are the fruits of the vine.) One would only do that if there were plenty of grapes.

This verse probably also means that there would be peace. A king would ride on a *donkey if he came in peace. That was the custom. Otherwise he would ride on a horse or in a *chariot. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he rode on a *donkey. (See Matthew 21:5.)

v13    ‘Zebulun shall live at the sea’s shore.

                      He shall become a harbour for ships

                                  and his border shall be at Sidon.

v14    Issachar is like a strong *donkey,

                                  which lies in the sheep’s pens.

v15                He sees that his home is good

                                  and that the land is pleasant.

                      So he lifts up his load

                                  and he becomes a willing worker.’

Verse 13

Jacob blessed his first 4 sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah) in the order of their birth. He blessed the other 8 sons in a different order. The order of their birth was this:

                        Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin

The *tribe of Zebulun later possessed land in the north part of *Canaan. The edge of their land that was towards the west was near the coast. Sidon is there. The east edge of their land reached to the big lake that is called the ‘Sea of Galilee’. They used ships on the sea and on the lake. Most of Jacob’s *descendants did not use ships.

Verses 14-15

The *tribe of Issachar would have land that was good for farming. They would work hard on their land.

v16    ‘Dan shall be a judge for his people.

                                  They shall be as the other families in Israel.

v17                Dan shall be like a snake on the way.

                                  He shall be like a snake that waits by the path.

                      It bites the horse’s feet

                                  so that the rider falls from the horse.

v18                I wait until you save me, *Lord.

v19    Robbers shall attack Gad,

                      but he shall attack them from behind.

v20    Asher shall eat good food every day.

                      He shall provide food that is for a king.

v21    Naphtali is a wild animal that goes free.

                      Its young ones are lovely.’

Verse 17

A small snake can overcome a large horse. So the *tribe of Dan will be a small *tribe but it will be powerful.

Verse 19

The *tribe of Gad would have land east of the river Jordan. So robbers might come from the desert in the east. The *tribe would be too small to fight a battle and so they might attack from behind.

Verse 20

The *tribe of Asher would have land where crops grow well.

Verse 21

The meaning of the *Hebrew language in this verse is not certain. Perhaps it means that the *tribe of Naphtali would be peaceful people.

v22    ‘Joseph is like a young wild *donkey.

                                  He is like a young *donkey, which is drinking at a pool.

                                              He is like a young *donkey by the side of a rock.

v23                Those who use bows attack him fiercely.

                                  They shoot arrows at him in order to kill him.

v24                But the bow broke.

                                  The strong arms trembled.

                      The hand of the strong one of Jacob helps him.

                                  The keeper, who is Israel’s rock, supports him.

v25                You stand by your father’s God, who helps you.

                                  The God who can do anything blesses you.

                      He blesses you from heaven that is above.

                                  He blesses you from the deep place that is underneath.

                                              He blesses the mothers and their children.

v26                Your father’s *blessings are strong.

                                  They are stronger than the high mountains.

                                              They are stronger than the hills that last for all ages.

                      Let these *blessings be on Joseph’s head.

                                  He was a prince over his brothers.’

Verse 22

The *tribe of Joseph was usually called the two *tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.

The meaning of the *Hebrew words in this verse is doubtful. Some people translate it as, ‘Joseph is a branch with fruit, which is near to a pool.’ But this is not likely. People do not shoot arrows at trees.

Verses 22-24

If the translation ‘*donkey’ is right, these verses mean this. Joseph is in a dangerous place. One can shoot a wild *donkey when it is drinking. It cannot hide itself when it is by a rock. So people attack Joseph’s *descendants, but God protects them. He makes the strong arms of the attacker weak.

v27    ‘Benjamin is a hungry wild dog.

                      In the morning, he eats what he has killed.

                                  In the evening, he shares the things that he has taken.’

v28 These are the 12 *tribes of Israel. And their father said these words to his sons as he blessed them. He blessed each one with the *blessing that was suitable for him.

Verse 27

The *Hebrew word for ‘wild dog’ means ‘wolf’. A wolf is a fierce wild dog that hunts in groups.

In later times, the *tribe of Benjamin were fierce people. They fought a war against the other *descendants of Israel. (See Judges 20:12-48.) And they were skilful fighters. (See for example 1 Chronicles 12:2.)

Verse 28

‘The 12 *tribes of Israel’ means the *descendants of each of Israel’s 12 sons.

Jacob dies

v29 Then Jacob *commanded his sons. He said to them, ‘I will soon go to be with my fathers. Bury me in the cave where people buried my fathers. The cave is in the field of Ephron the *Hittite. v30 It is in the field at Machpelah. It is east of Mamre, in *Canaan. Abraham bought the field and the cave from Ephron the *Hittite. He bought it so as to use it as a grave. v31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife. And there I buried Leah. v32 Abraham bought the field from the *Hittites. And he bought the cave that is in the field.’

v33 Then Jacob finished *commanding his sons. He drew his feet up into his bed and he died. So he went to be with his fathers.

Verse 29

Jacob’s real home was the country that was called *Canaan. Egypt was only a temporary home for Jacob’s *descendants. That was important. God had promised to Abraham that his *descendants would live in *Canaan. (See Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7 and 17:18.) So Joseph must bury Jacob in *Canaan. And Jacob’s *descendants would live in Egypt for only 400 years. After that time, they would return to *Canaan.

Verse 30

Genesis 23:17-18 tells how Abraham bought the field and the cave.

Chapter 50

Joseph buries his father

v1 Then Joseph bent himself down over his father’s face. He wept over him and he kissed him. v2 And Joseph told his servants the doctors to embalm his father’s body. So the doctors embalmed Israel’s body. v3 They did that in 40 days, because 40 days are necessary to embalm a body. And the Egyptians wept for him 70 days.

Verses 2-3

‘To embalm’ means to put special substances on a dead body and in it. These substances keep the body in a good state. A dead body that people have embalmed is called a ‘mummy’. It lasts for very many years. The Egyptians used to embalm the bodies of important people who had died.

v4–5 And when the days for weeping were over, Joseph spoke to *Pharaoh’s servants. He said, ‘If you are pleased with me, please speak to *Pharaoh. Please tell *Pharaoh that my father made me give a firm promise. He said to me, “I will die soon. Bury me in the grave that I bought in *Canaan.” Therefore, please let me go to bury my father. After I do that, I will return.’ v6 And *Pharaoh answered, ‘Go! Bury your father. Do what you promised to him.’

Verses 4-5

Joseph did not speak to *Pharaoh but he sent a message. We do not know why he did not speak to *Pharaoh himself. Perhaps he did not approach *Pharaoh because he had touched Jacob’s dead body.

‘After I do that, I will return.’ Jacob promised to *Pharaoh that he would return to Egypt. He would not take the opportunity to move his home back to *Canaan.

v7 So Joseph went to bury his father. And all *Pharaoh’s servants went with Joseph. The leaders of *Pharaoh’s court went and all the important inhabitants of Egypt went. v8 Joseph’s brothers went. Joseph’s servants and his father’s servants went. Only the children and the sheep and the cows stayed in *Goshen. v9 And *chariots and horsemen also went with Joseph. Very many people went together.

v10 They came to the farm of Atad, which was near the river Jordan. They stopped there and they wept loudly and bitterly. There Joseph wept for his father for 7 days. v11 The *Canaanites, who lived in the region, saw the weeping at the farm of Atad. They said, ‘The inhabitants of Egypt weep bitterly.’ Therefore, they called the place Abel-mizraim. It is near the river Jordan.

v12 And so Jacob’s sons did for him as he had *commanded them. v13 They carried him to his own country, *Canaan. And they buried him in the cave that is at Machpelah. It is east of Mamre. The cave is in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the *Hittite. He bought it so as to use it as a grave. v14 When Joseph had buried his father, he returned to Egypt with his brothers. And all those people who had gone with him returned to Egypt.

Verse 7

The inhabitants of Egypt gave great honour to Jacob. The reason was that Jacob was Joseph’s father. And Joseph was the most important person in Egypt apart from *Pharaoh.

Verse 10

The ‘farm of Atad’ was actually ‘the threshing-floor of Atad’. A ‘threshing-floor’ is the part of a farm where people beat grain with sticks. That separates the seeds from the rest of the grain.

Verse 11

‘Abel-mizraim’ means ‘Egypt weeps’.

Verse 13

They did as Jacob had said. (See Genesis 49:29.)

Joseph’s promise to his brothers

v15 After the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us. Perhaps he will punish us for all the evil things that we did to him.’ v16 So they sent a message to Joseph. They said, ‘Your father *commanded us before he died. v17 He said, “Say to Joseph: ‘Please forgive your brothers’ faults and their evil deeds. I know that they did evil things to you.’ ” So please forgive the evil deeds that we have done. Remember that we are the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. v18 Joseph’s brothers also came to him and they fell down in front of him. They said, ‘We are your servants.’

Verse 15

Joseph had forgiven his brothers. He did not blame them for what they did. He showed this clearly, by what he said. (See Genesis 45:5 and the comment.) And he showed it by what he did. (See Genesis 47:11-12.) But the brothers were still not sure that Joseph had forgiven them.

We may sometimes be like the brothers. We may not be sure whether God has forgiven us. But God forgives all those who come to him. He shows this clearly, by what he says in the Bible. And he shows it by the help that he gives to us. If we forget this, we may ask, ‘Has God really forgiven us?’ We should always trust him.

Verse 16

We do not know whether Jacob actually said this. Probably the brothers were lying.

Verse 17

‘Joseph wept.’ Joseph had already forgiven his brothers but his brothers did not trust him. Joseph wept because they did not trust him.

Verse 18

Initially, the brothers sent a message. (See verse 16.) They also came themselves. (See verse 18.)

v19 But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I am not a judge, as God is. v20 You intended to do evil things to me. But God intended to do good things. The purpose of his plan was to keep many people alive. And they are alive today. v21 So do not be afraid. I will provide for you and I will provide for your children.’ And so, Joseph took away his brothers’ fear and he comforted them.

Verse 19

The brothers had asked Joseph to forgive them. (See verse 17.) But Joseph did not say, ‘I forgive you.’ He had already forgiven them, many years before this time.

Verse 20

The things that had happened were a part of God’s plan. Joseph realised that and so he did not blame his brothers. Instead, he praised God.

Joseph dies

v22 So Joseph lived in Egypt. He and his father’s family lived there. And Joseph lived for 110 years. v23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s grandchildren. The children of Machir, who was Manasseh’s son, were born on Joseph’s knees.

v24 And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I will soon die. But God will be with you and he will bring you out of this country, Egypt. He will bring you to the country, *Canaan, that he promised. He promised it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ v25 Then Joseph made Israel’s sons give him a firm promise. Joseph said, ‘With God’s help you shall carry my bones away from here.’ v26 So Joseph died when he had lived for 110 years. The doctors embalmed Joseph’s body. And they put Joseph’s body in a box in Egypt.

Verse 24

Many years after Joseph’s death, Israel’s *descendants left Egypt. They crossed the desert and they entered *Canaan. And they overcame the people who lived in *Canaan.

Verse 26

For ‘embalm’ see the comment on verses 2-3.

Nearly 400 years after this time, Israel’s *descendants left Egypt and they went to *Canaan. They took Joseph’s mummy with them and they buried it in *Canaan. (See Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32.)

Exodus follows Genesis in the Bible. Exodus describes how God’s people left Egypt. And it tells how they began their journey to *Canaan.

Word List

altar ~ a table where one burned an animal as an *offering to God. An altar is usually several large stones that form a pile.

angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven. The *Hebrew word that means ‘angel’ also means ‘*messenger’.

blessing ~ a father’s prayer for his sons before the father died. God sometimes showed the father what would happen to the son. And so the blessing said what would happen in the future. The blessing of the oldest son was extra important. It showed that the oldest son took his father’s place as the head of the family. (The word ‘blessing’ also has other meanings.)

Canaan ~ the country where the *Canaanites lived. (See *Canaanites.) It is approximately the same land as the modern country Israel together with the land of the Palestinians.

Canaanites ~ Canaan’s *descendants. Canaan was a grandson of Noah. (See Genesis 9:18.) The word Canaanites included Amorites and Hivites and other nations. (See Genesis 10:16-17.) It sometimes also included other people who lived in the country *Canaan. These people were not *descendants of Canaan.

chariot ~ a cart that has 2 wheels. One or two horses pull it. It can move fast. Some important people rode in chariots. Armies used chariots of a different kind when they fought.

command ~ to tell people (or a person) that they must do something; to say to people (or to a person) something that they must obey; to control by means of commands. A command is an order that one must obey.

cup-bearer ~ a person who provided the wine that the king drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank.

descendants ~ children and grandchildren and later members of the family.

donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. Donkeys can carry heavy loads on their backs. People ride on them.

famine ~ a period when crops do not grow. It may last for several years. There is a serious lack of food.

Goshen ~ a district that was a part of Egypt. It was on the east side of Egypt. A canal brought water to it from the river Nile. It was good land for sheep and cows. Few Egyptians lived in Goshen. Most of the Egyptians lived on land that was good for crops.

Hebrew ~ the Hebrew people were Abraham and his *descendants. The ancient Hebrew language is the original language of Genesis. It is also the original language of most of the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). This language is like the modern Hebrew language, which people speak in the country Israel today.

Hittites ~ one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before Abraham went there.

Lord ~ a lord is a person who has authority. ‘The Lord’ means God. It is a translation of God’s name. The *Hebrews wrote God’s name as YHWH. We may write it as Yahweh.

lord ~ a person who has authority.

messenger ~ someone who brings a message.

offering ~ a gift to God. An offering may be an animal. People killed the animal and burned it on an *altar.

Pharaoh ~ every king of Egypt was called ‘Pharaoh’. It was not one king’s name.

pregnant ~ a woman is pregnant when she has a baby in her.

tribe ~ a large group of people who are relatives of each other. Judah’s *descendants were called ‘the tribe of Judah’. In a similar way, each of the 12 sons of Israel became a tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants were not called ‘the tribe of Joseph’. They were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.

Book List

G. Ch. Aalders ~ A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch ~ Tyndale Press

V. P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (NICOT) ~ Eerdmans

E. F. Kevan ~ ‘Genesis’, The New Bible Commentary ~ IVF (1953)

G. T. Manley ~ The New Bible Handbook ~ IVF

M. Salisbury (editor) ~ Skills for Translating and Exegeting the Primary Scriptures (STEPS) ~ SIL (CD-ROM)

J. A. Thompson ~ The Bible and Archaeology ~ Paternoster

G. J. Wenham ~ ‘Genesis’, New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition ~ IVP

Chambers Concise Dictionary

Oxford Bible Atlas ~ Third edition

Logos Bible Computer Software 1.6

Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon

Bibles ~ KJV, NIV, REB, RSV, TEV


© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

November 2004

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