1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
The last chapters in Genesis contain the story of Joseph's experiences - indeed, the rest of his life - in Egypt. It's a long, drawn-out story, so I'll see if I can condense it some.
Joseph is sold to the captain of the Pharaoh's guards, but "the LORD was with him," so he was soon made overseer of the household. We could interpret that as meaning that Joseph was just especially capable, but that's not how it's presented here. Instead, God has blessed this Egyptian household simply because Joseph is one of their slaves.
Doesn't that sound weird to anyone else? It sure does to me. But it turns out later that there's a very convoluted plan in all this.
6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8 But he refused,...
12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,
14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:
His master's wife notices that Joseph is a "well favoured" young man. But when he refuses her advances, she accuses him of attempted rape. (You really have to wonder what garment he left behind in her room, don't you? What could you lose that easily, but still be evidence of sexual attack?)
Again, this woman is doing the Lord's work here, because, as we find out later, this is still all God's plan.
20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
Luckily, the only thing that happens to Joseph is that he goes from being the guard captain's slave and overseer to being the head trusty of the Pharaoh's prison.
1 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.
3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.
Remember how Joseph interpreted his own dreams (one of the things which got him into trouble with his brothers)? Well, now he interprets the prophetic dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker.
I won't go into the details of each dream, but Joseph predicts that the butler will be released in three days, while the baker will be killed - hanged on a tree for the birds to peck. Both events come true. But when the butler is restored to his position, he forgets all about Joseph.
1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
But this time, it's the Pharaoh himself who dreams, and there's no one who can interpret them until the butler remembers his stint in the prison. Joseph, of course, has no trouble predicting the future, based on those dreams:
29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
30 And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
The Pharaoh believes him (it is, after all, a time of widespread superstition), so he takes some wise precautions. He orders that part of the harvest from the good years be set aside, and stored, so there will be food during the lean years.
He also puts Joseph in charge of everything.
38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Not a bad promotion for a prisoner, let alone a slave, huh? Furthermore, the Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife, "Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On," and she bears him two children: Manasseh and Ephraim. (Finally, no insistence on marrying a cousin - or even within his own religion!)
Note that the Pharaoh sees "the Spirit of God" in Joseph, but he doesn't start worshiping that god himself. And Joseph doesn't expect him to, let alone try to convert him. This god, you see, is just the god of the Hebrews. He's not the only god, he's just the one who cares about them (and only about them).
Of course, this is the Bible I'm reading, so this is supposed to be the Christian 'God,' too. But the whole idea that anyone else should worship this god, except one small clan of his favorites, is completely absent here. Funny, isn't it?
Did God just change his mind after this? When he stopped appearing in person in the world, when he stopped performing miracles, did he also decide that he wanted everyone else to start worshiping him, too, instead of just a handful of his favorites? Did he suddenly start caring about everyone else in the world? There's been no indication of that so far in Genesis, has there?
Joseph is thirty when he's raised up to rule directly under the Pharaoh. He'd been sold into slavery at 17, so it's been a few years. But he's still done remarkably well for himself. And sure enough, everything turns out just as he predicted.
55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
On behalf of the Pharaoh, Joseph takes a fifth of all the grain grown in Egypt during the next seven years of good harvest, and then he sells it back to the Egyptian people during the years of famine. Not just to the Egyptians, either.
Nice racket, huh? For the Pharaoh and for him.
1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.
The famine is everywhere, so in Canaan, Jacob (Israel) sends ten of his remaining sons to Egypt to buy grain. He holds back only Benjamin, Joseph's full brother (Rachel's second child, delivered just before she died), because that's apparently his new favorite now that Joseph is gone.
7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.
8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
They don't recognize Joseph, since he's living as a high Egyptian official, and no doubt dressing like one, too. He speaks to them through an interpreter, pretending not to know their language.
So he decides to screw with them. Of course, from his point of view, they attempted to kill him. On the other hand, they are trying to buy food to keep the whole clan from starving to death. Maybe that explains his contradictory actions.
First, he accuses them of being spies and tells them he's going to throw them in prison. One will be released to go home and return with Benjamin, who supposedly will confirm their story about not being spies. (I'm not sure why he's supposed to believe Benjamin, when he won't believe the other ten brothers. That doesn't make any sense, does it?)
Then he hears them talk among themselves:
21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.
Funny, isn't it? Reuben didn't actually say anything like "do not sin against the child." He just suggested they not shed blood, but to throw Joseph into that pit, instead. Note that they removed Joseph's coat before they did it, so they were obviously expecting their brother to die there.
But Joseph gets weepy and relents, deciding to keep only Simeon a prisoner, while sending the rest back loaded with wheat. He also orders that their money be put into the grain sacks, too.
27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.
28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?
Yeah, they don't know what the hell is going on! So they return to Jacob (who's still being called Jacob, despite God previously changing his name to "Israel" - twice!) and tell him everything that happened.
36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.
37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.
Jacob resists. Joseph is already dead (or so he thinks), and Simeon is in an Egyptian prison. He doesn't want to lose his youngest child, Benjamin, too.
But Reuben promises that he'll bring Benjamin back, and that if he doesn't, Jacob can kill his two sons. What a deal, huh?
2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.
3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.
4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:
Clearly, they hadn't gone back to Egypt with Benjamin. Jacob didn't want to let him go, so they just left Simeon rotting in jail. However, the famine was still with them, and eventually - after they'd eaten all of the grain they'd brought back - they needed more food.
11 And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:
12 And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:
13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:
They argue about it awhile, rehashing everything that happened previously (there's a lot of that in these chapters), before Jacob relents. This time, they'll take a little gift back with them, plus double the amount of money (they still don't know what to think about the money that was put inside their grain sacks), and... Benjamin.
24 And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.
25 And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.
32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
This time, Joseph has them brought to his (no doubt imposing) house, and they have a party. Joseph is still incognito, so he ate by himself. (The Hebrews and the Egyptians each ate separately, because it was an "abomination" to the Egyptians to break bread with Hebrews. And Joseph is still a Hebrew, though that's not evident to his brothers.)
Apparently, though, they can still drink together, because the last line reads, "And they drank, and were merry with him."
1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth.
2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.
Remember, Joseph's brothers still don't know who he is. This time, he releases all of them, filling their sacks with grain to take home. Again, he puts their money in the sacks, too - but he also has a silver cup put into Benjamin's sack.
And when they've left, Joseph sends his steward to accuse them of theft!
11 Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack.
12 And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack.
13 Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.
As I noted, Joseph keeps screwing with them. Then he'll go off by himself for a good cry, before coming back and continuing the pretense.
18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.
30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life;
31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
Judah is Jacob's fourth son (his mother was Leah). Note that he was the guy in Chapter 38 who slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. He's also the brother who suggested selling Joseph as a slave (after they'd thrown him in the pit), because... why not make a profit on the whole thing?
But here, he seems quite decent. He asks for a private word with Joseph, then explains about their elderly father, how leaving Benjamin behind will kill the old man. He even offers to take Benjamin's place.
1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.
Finally, Joseph can't stand it anymore, and he tells his brothers who he really is. However, they needn't be ashamed of their previous actions. What they'd done was all part of God's plan:
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
You see, God knew that a famine was coming, so this was his plan to save the Hebrews. (Naturally, he didn't give a crap about the Egyptians.) Joseph had to go to Egypt so God could set him up in a position to preserve the family. Simple, huh? Slave to prisoner to ruler of all Egypt, under the Pharaoh.
Now me, I have to wonder why an omniscient, omnipotent god wouldn't just make it rain in Canaan. Or lessen the famine in some other way. Wouldn't that make a whole lot more sense? Also, note that, contrary to what Joseph says here, they hadn't actually sold him to those Ishmeelites, and Joseph has no way of knowing that they'd even planned to do that.
His brothers threw him into that pit to kill him (without actually shedding his blood themselves), and when they decided later to sell him as a slave instead, Joseph was no longer there. Some passing Midianites had already seen him down there and decided to make a profit on him, themselves. So what Joseph is saying is flat-out wrong.
8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:
10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:
11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.
But no, God had Joseph sold into slavery so he could become "a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt," just so he'd be able to keep his family alive during the famine. So Joseph tells them to go back to Jacob, gather up everyone and everything they own, and return to Egypt, where he'll keep them fed.
The Pharaoh is fine with it, too:
17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;
18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.
This is quite a story, isn't it? I can't say it's well-written, because the details are repeated over and over again. (I'm sorry about the length of this post, but I've condensed things as much as I could.) Yet, as a story told orally - which is undoubtedly how it started - that repetition might have been useful.
But note that God isn't even necessary to the whole thing. Sure, Joseph credits God for all of it, even his being sold into slavery, though that's hardly credible. But as a story, God is hardly necessary at all. I find that interesting.
At any rate, Joseph's brothers return and tell their father:
25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,
26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.
27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:
28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.
We'll finish up Genesis next time.
Note: This whole series can be found here.