Joseph was an important biblical figure in the history of the Jewish people. God used his life to preserving the Israelites from a devastating famine that had spread throughout the land of Israel. Joseph was an important Egyptian official who was given the responsibility of storing and distributing food to people who were in need. Joseph was not only an important government official he was also a worshipper of God and his life was dedicated to this end. Joseph’s name means to “add to” or to increase or double. His life was a testimony to this definition. He appears on the Bible Timeline circa 1750 BC.
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Joseph’s story began in Genesis 30 when he was born to Jacob and Rachel. In Genesis 30:22 God remembers Rachel’s prayers. She had been praying for a child of her own to give to Jacob because she was not able to conceive. Jacob had children with her sister Leah (see Genesis 29), and Rachel became jealous. She eventually had Joseph and stated that God had removed her disgrace (Genesis 30:23). In verse 24 she says, “May the Lord add to me another son” and this meaning is attributed to Joseph’s name.
Genesis 37 tells the story of Joseph’s early years and how Jacob favored him over his brothers. Joseph also told Jacob whenever his brothers did wrong and when Jacob made Joseph a special coat his brothers would not speak a kind word to him. In Genesis 37:5-7 Joseph tells his brothers about a dream where they would they bow down to him, and this dream infuriated them. Eventually, Joseph brothers took Joseph and threw him into a cistern (or well) and sold him into slavery. The slavers took him to Egypt where he ended up in the service to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.
Joseph eventually learned the Egyptian culture, customs, and language while he served under Potiphar. God was with him during this period of his life and eventually was placed in a leadership position within his home. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph because he was a handsome man, but he refused her advances. She lied and had him arrested for attempted rape. Joseph spent many years in jail where he was placed in charge of the prison because God was with him once again. Whatever Joseph did in Potiphar’s house and the prison was blessed by God. He “added to” the organization and efficiency of the operations of these places.
Eventually, the pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker ended up in prison, and Joseph interpreted their dreams. The Baker lost his life but the cupbearer was spared and though he forgot Joseph he eventually remembered him when Pharaoh had a troubling dream. Joseph was taken from prison to interpret pharaoh’s dream, and he warned him about an impending famine. He also told the Pharaoh what he must do to avoid disaster. His advice was well received, and Pharaoh made him second in charge over all of Egypt. These events take place in Genesis 41.
Joseph had increased the holdings of Pharaoh’s grains during the prosperous period before the famine. Once the famine had arrived, there was more than enough food stored away to feed many people. Soon, his brothers and fellow countrymen came to Egypt looking for food (Genesis 42).
Joseph hadn’t seen them in many years, and he reconciled with them. He realized over time that God had used them so that he could gain the position that he held for second in command over Egypt. Through Joseph’s efforts, knowledge and faith in God he was able to increase the Egyptian’s food while preserving the Israelites and the Egyptians (Genesis 45:5-7). Once again, Joseph’s life was a living testimony about the meaning of his name.
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