My interview with Joseph surpassed my high expectations. What an amazing man!
Joseph, your life took an unexpected turn when you were just seventeen. Would you tell me about it?
I was just a kid—eleventh and favorite son of Jacob, being the son of his old age and born to his cherished wife, Rachel. (She died after giving birth to my younger brother, Benjamin.) While minding my own business, I had this wild dream about sheaves of grain bowing down. And in another dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed to me. Young as I was, I sensed the dreams were symbolic. Could it be that some future day, my siblings would kneel before me?
What did you think about such an implausible scenario?
I thought, who, me? When I told my family about the dreams, my brothers thought I was boastful. I had no idea how much they hated me until one day my father sent me to the fields to check on them as they tended our flocks. When they saw me coming, they actually plotted to kill me! My brother Reuben suggested throwing me in a pit. I think he intended to sneak back later and rescue me. Surely it was divine intervention that a caravan of merchants came by, headed to Egypt. My brothers seized an opportunity to get rid of me and also profit financially. They sold me to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
How would they explain your disappearance to your father?
Much later I learned they killed an animal and dipped my coat in the blood. That was a special coat my father had given me, a coat made of colorful strips of cloth—a gift that had intensified the jealousy. My father quickly identified it as mine and concluded a wild animal had devoured me. I can’t imagine his grief.
So you traveled to Egypt with the caravan. What happened there?
A wealthy man named Potiphar—an officer of the king—bought me to be a servant in his lavish house. He soon recognized the Lord gave me success in everything I did and placed me in charge of his entire household. Life was good…until his wife tried to seduce me. When I started to run away, she caught hold of my cloak and later used it as evidence when she lied to her husband, saying I’d tried to take advantage of her. Potiphar had me thrown in prison, where I spent thirteen dreary years.
How did you adjust to life in prison?
Memories of those baffling dreams drifted through my thoughts like barley seed scattered in the wind. I remembered vividly the catastrophic events after I fell out of favor in the family. But strangely, I prospered in prison. That was all the Lord’s doing. The warden put me in charge of all the prisoners. When the pharaoh’s butler and baker landed in prison for offending the king, both had a mysterious dream the same night. Relying on God I interpreted their dreams. In three days, the butler would be released and restored to his position; the baker would be put to death. That’s exactly what happened. Before his release, I asked the butler to mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of prison. He forgot.
Although the Lord gave you favor enabling you to prosper in prison, you must have grown weary. Did you ever lose hope for a happy ending?
What do you think? An innocent man mistreated, wrongfully accused, imprisoned, and forgotten? Of course I felt weary at times. Many midnights I cried out, Lord, what were those dreams about? Did I misunderstand? But God never let me lose hope.
How did you manage to persevere through those challenging times?
I felt a calling from God. At each step he gave clear instructions and blessed everything I did. He never abandoned me.
And then overnight, everything changed. You went from prison to Pharaoh’s palace. How did that happen?
To set the record straight, it wasn’t overnight. It was thirteen years—at least 4,745 long, lonely nights. And then God did something amazing. Pharaoh had two dreams about fat cows and lean cows, but no one knew the meaning. The butler remembered that while he was in prison, I had interpreted his dream and the baker’s. The king sent for me and asked if I could interpret his dreams. I told him I couldn’t but God could. He related the dreams and I explained what God was getting ready to do. The dreams foreshadowed seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of severe famine that would ravage the land. I recommended a plan to store grain during the plentiful seasons to feed the people during famine and suggested Pharaoh select a wise man to supervise the process. He discerned I was such a man, led by the Spirit of God, and made me governor over all the land of Egypt, second only to himself in authority.
Did you ever expect to see your father and brothers again?
That didn’t seem likely. But when the famine struck, people streamed to Egypt to purchase grain. One astonishing day, bowing before me were ten of my brothers! They’d come to buy grain, and since over twenty years had passed, they didn’t recognize me. I questioned them without revealing my identity. The story is too complicated to relate all the details here, but it was a dramatic scene when I later told them, “I am Joseph.” They were terrified. I assured them God had been in control of every circumstance, sending me ahead of them to Egypt “to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” I sent them home to bring our father and their families to Egypt to survive the famine.
You had several years with your father before his death. Did your brothers worry that you’d postponed retribution for his sake and would try to get even?
Yes! They sent a message saying my father wanted me to forgive them. “We are your slaves,” they said, falling before me. I told them not to be afraid. “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”
Joseph and his large family spent the rest of their lives in Egypt growing in numbers and receiving God’s blessing.
Through one man’s unflinching obedience, God preserved a nation. (Read this amazing story in Genesis 37-50.)
Please tell me about a time in your life when God turned a hard situation around and brought good out of it. And I’d appreciate your sharing this with your friends.
© Dianne Barker 2020