Genesis 37-47



> Zaphnathpaaneah—A revealer of secrets. Christ, that great revealer of secrets (Jn. 1:18) as some translate Joseph’s new name, the Saviour of the world.


> Married to Asenath, the daughter of Potipher the priest



Chapter 37

At this chapter begins the story of Joseph, who, in every subsequent chapter but one to the end of this book, makes the greatest figure. He was Jacob’s eldest son by his beloved wife Rachel, born, as many eminent men were, of a mother that had been long barren. His story is so remarkably divided between his humiliation and his exaltation that we cannot avoid seeing something of Christ in it, who was first humbled and then exalted, and, in many instances, so as to answer the type of Joseph. It also shows us the character of many Christians, who must go through many tribulations in order to enter into the kingdom. In this chapter we have,

I.                     The malice his brethren bore against him. They hated him,

1.                                Because he informed his father of their wickedness (v. 1, 2).

2.                                Because his father loved him (v. 3, 4).

3.                                Because he dreamed of his dominion over them (v. 5–11).

I.                     The mischiefs his brethren designed and did to him.

1.                                The kind visit he made them gave an opportunity (v. 12–17).

2.                                They designed to slay him, but determined to starve him (v. 18–24).

3.                                They changed their purpose, and sold him for a slave (v. 25–28).

4.                                They made their father believe that he was torn in pieces (v. 29–35).

5.                                He was sold into Egypt to Potiphar (v. 36). And all this was working together for good.


Chapter 38 is an intermission in the Joseph story to tell us about the affair between Judah and Tamar.


Chapter 39

At this chapter we return to the story of Joseph. We have him here,

I.                     A servant, a slave in Potiphar’s house (v. 1), and yet there greatly honoured and favoured,

1.                                By the providence of God, which made him, in effect, a master (v. 2-6).

2.                                By the grace of God, which made him more than a conqueror over a strong temptation to uncleanness (v. 7–12).

II. We have him here a sufferer, falsely accused (v. 13–18), imprisoned (v. 19, 20), and yet his imprisonment made both honourable and comfortable by the tokens of God’s special presence with him (v. 21–23). And herein Joseph was a type of Christ, "who took upon him the form of a servant,’’ and yet then did that which made it evident that "God was with him,’’ who was tempted by Satan, but overcame the temptation, who was falsely accused and bound, and yet had all things committed to his hand.



Chapter 40

In this chapter things are working, though slowly, towards Joseph’s advancement.

I.                     Two of Pharaoh’s servants are committed to prison, and there to Joseph’s care, and so become witnesses of his extraordinary conduct (v. 1-4).

II.                   They dreamed each of them a dream, which Joseph interpreted (v. 5–19), and the event verified the interpretation (v. 20–22), and so they became witnesses of his extraordinary skill.

III.                 Joseph recommends his case to one of them, whose preferment he foresaw (v. 14, 15), but in vain (v. 23).


Chapter 41

Two things Providence is here bringing about:—

I.                     The advancement of Joseph.

II.                   The maintenance of Jacob and his family in a time of famine; for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the earth, and direct the affairs of the children of men for the benefit of those few whose hearts are upright with him. In order to these, we have here,

1.                                Pharaoh’s dreams (v. 1-8).

2.                                The recommendation of Joseph to him for an interpreter (v. 9–13).

3.                                The interpretation of the dreams, and the prediction of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Egypt, with the prudent advice given to Pharaoh thereupon (v. 14–36).

4.                                The preferment of Joseph to a place of the highest power and trust in Egypt (v. 37–45).

5.                                The accomplishment of Joseph’s prediction, and his fidelity to his trust (v. 46, etc.).



Chapter 42

We had, in the previous chapter, the fulfilling of the dreams which Joseph had interpreted. In this and the following chapters we have the fulfilling of the dreams which Joseph himself had dreamed: that his father’s family would be under his power and authority. The passage was probably much talked of, both among the Israelites and among the Egyptians. This section of scripture also describes the relocation of of Jacob’s family into Egypt.


The position of Joseph in this chapter is one of power and wealth: absolute power and wealth. There was no one in the land (other than Pharaoh himself) who could overturn any order of Joseph’s. 


Joseph was tested with this power that he had. He was tested in that he had absolute power over his brothers, who had treated him so badly in times past. Here we see he had great opportunity to take revenge on his brothers.

-                                  While we are often tested by poverty, suffering or injustice, isn’t power and wealth a much greater test of our character?

-                                  What do we do with our power and wealth?

-                                  Do we handle these in a responsible, Godly manner?

-                                  Does God get the glory by how we deal with our power and wealth, or do we become like the others in our world who have wealth and power?


I.                     Jacob’s sons, Joseph;s brothers, humble themselve to Joseph in order to buy corn (v. 1-6). They do not know that they are humbling themselves to Joseph.


Genesis 15:13 will be fullfilled as a result of Joseph’s power and how he handled it.

God said to Abram, «Know for certain that *your [1]descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, [2]where *they will be enslaved and oppressed *four hundred years.

[1]Lit seed
[2]Lit and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them


Here we see Jacob look at his son’s in amazement: “Why are you standing there?” he asks. “We are hungry!!! Get moving!!!”.

-                                  Jacob keeps Benjamin out of favortism for the sons of Rachael and probaly not his young age.

-                                  Benajmin was probably in his twenties by now. Recall that Joseph was 17 years old when Jacob sent him out to find his brothers in the pastures (37:2,12).



I.                     The fright Joseph put them into, for their trial (v. 7–20).

-                                  Joseph’s harsh talk to his brothers was his way of disguising himself (v.7).

-                                  His harshness was intended to produce fear, for at this point in the lives of his brothers fear produced more facts than faith.

-                                  In verse 9,  he “remembers the dreams he had about them”.  He puts them on the defense immediately with the accusation that they were spies. He “jacks up” their fear of him to the next level.

-                                  Joseph’s tactics were beginning to work, as they blurted out information about themselves and their family relationships.

-                                  The outcome of Joseph’s dealings with his brothers was considerably less harsh than what was first threatened. He had first maintained that all of the brothers would be held captive while only one was to be sent for Benjamin (verse 16).


I.                     The conviction they were now under of their sin concerning Joseph long before (v. 21–24).


- Each of them acknowledged that their difficulties were the result of their sin in regard to Joseph.

-                                  Why was Simeon who was chosen by Joseph to remain behind? With Reuben absent when Joseph was sold down to Egypt, Simeon was the responsible leader, being next to the oldest; hence his being retained.


I.                     Their return to Canaan with corn, and the great distress their father Jacob was in upon hearing the account of their expedition (v. 25, etc.).


-                                  One of the brothers discover that his money to purchase the grain is still with them. They immediately recognize that God has his hand in it, but interpret it as a negative sign from God: that impending doom would be on them. They continued in their heart of repentance. (Evil men would have laughed at the stupidity of the servant who must have misplaced the payment and would have enjoyed having put one over on the Egyptians. Such an event would have been considered a stroke of good luck. )

-                                  They later discover, in the presence of Jacob, that they all had their money. It grieved all of them.

-                                  Jacob is grieved at the thought of losing Benjamin, as the brothers had promised Joseph to bring him back to Egypt. In his state of depression, Jacob even considers Simeon to be “gone”.  Reuben however, stands up to try to convince his father that it’s the right thing to do.

-                                  We don’t know whether Jacob sees the existance of the money in their bags as they did, the hand of God, or whether he believes in his heart that the brothers were dishonest and kept it themselves. In either case, Jacob takes it as a bad omen.



Chapter 43

Here the story of Joseph’s brothers continues:

I.                     Jacob’s fear of losing another of his favorite sons of Rachael. Their somber parting with their father Jacob in Canaan (v. 1–14).

- Note that in verse 2, even though Simeon was being held hostage, Jacob waited until the food ran out to send his sons back to Egypt to get more food. What about Simeon????? Jacob waits until his family is again in crisis: no food. It appears that Jacob’s reluctance to send the brothers back for food was his attempt to preserve his last favorite son, Benjamin. Judah put his finger on Jacob’s procrastination when he chided, “For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice” (Genesis 43:10).

- Jacob displays a further attempt to deny reality and to defer sending Benjamin to Egypt when he charges that his sons have treated him so badly. Jacob chided his sons for their truthfulness when being questioned in Egypt.

- Being influenced by his fear of the outcome of not taking any action, Jacob reluctantly agrees to the pleading of Judah to take Benjamin to Egypt and get food. He finally gives them his blessing, though he refuses to leave his own feelings of self pity. While Jacob refers to God Almighty, El Shaddai,70 he is not praying as much as wishing. We do not pray by saying, “May God do such and such,…” but by speaking to God Himself, “God, I ask that you …”



- we see the faith of Jacob very weak. His leadership in this time of crisis is not a pattern for us to follow. His fears are completely unfounded; and if he had gotten his way, his family would not have been saved. Jacob’s leadership I this story can be characterized as follows:

(1) Whatever problems arise today are best dealt with tomorrow.

(2) No problem can possibly be as bad as it seems.

(3) Honesty is not the best policy.

(4) Always look out for number one.

(5) As much as is possible, see to it that others receive the blame for any problems.

(6) If our efforts to solve a problem fail, add money.

(7) When all else fails, trust God.


II.                   Their pleasant meeting with Joseph in Egypt (v. 15, etc.).

- Joseph instructed his servant to take these men into his house and to prepare a meal for them in a way that parallels the reception of the prodigal son in the New Testament (Luke 15:11-32).

- The brothers are particularly scared because of being taken to Joseph’s house. As potential captives in Egypt, being taken to the master’s house would have been highly unusual. It would have been more likely that they would have been thrown in prison.

- One commentary mentioned that prisons were actually dungeons which were commonly located beneath the homes of the well-to-do political figures.

- They blab out an explanation to the steward of how they found the money.

- It is interesting to note that the steward informed these men that it was their God and the God of their father who had provided this money (verse 23).

- As they prepared for the meal, Joseph greets them and engages them in conversation. Joseph pronounced upon Benjamin a blessing which should have sounded strange coming from an Egyptian in verse 29 (cf. Genesis 33:5,11; Numbers 6:25; Psalm 67:1).

- Joseph had arranged for his brothers to be seated in the order of their ages, from the oldest to the youngest. While all of his brothers were well fed, Benjamin received a portion that was five times greater than his brothers.


Chapter 44

Joseph, having entertained his brothers, dismissed them; but here we have them brought back in a greater fright than any they had been in yet. Observe,

I.                     What method he took both to humble them further and also to try their affection to his brother Benjamin, by which he would be able to judge of the sincerity of their repentance for what they had done against himself, of which he was desirous to be satisfied before he manifested his reconciliation to them. This he contrived to do by bringing Benjamin into distress (v. 1–17).

II.                   The good success of the experiment; he found them all heartily concerned, and Judah particularly, both for the safety of Benjamin and for the comfort of their aged father (v. 18, etc.).



Chapter 45

In Chapter 44 we had Judah’s intercession for Benjamin, with which, we may suppose, the rest of his brethren signified their concurrence; Joseph let him go on without interruption, heard all he had to say, and then answers it here in Chapter 45 all in one word, "I am Joseph.’’ Those years which Joseph spent in slavery and prison could have been the occasion for a slow burn that might have ignited into an explosion of anger at the sight of his brothers.

Instead, he found his brothers humbled for their sins, mindful of his memory (Judah had mentioned him twice in his speech), respectful to their father, and very caring of their brother Benjamin; now Joseph feels they are ripe for the comfort he wants for them, by making himself known to them, the story of which we have in this chapter.


This is a chapter about forgiveness.


 In this Chapter we find:

I.                     Joseph’s discovery of himself to his brethren, and his conversation with them upon that occasion (v. 1–15).


- Here we have the high point of Joseph’s relationship with his brothers. It is here that there is a reconciliation brought about between them. In order for this reconciliation to take place, there had to be proper attitudes on both sides: Joesph’s side and his brothers’ side.  This became possible on the brothers’ part by their genuine repentance. They regretted their sin of abandoning Joseph, and reversed their actions when a similar situation was presented with regard to Benjamin. But for Joseph’s part, reconciliation was possible through his sincere and total forgiveness of his brothers for the evil they had committed against him.

- Forgiveness is a vital part of the Christian experience. It is necessary in terms of our relationship with God, our friends and our enemies:

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15).

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you; in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43-45).

- Joseph’s words are hope and encouragement to his brothers. Verses 5-8 assures them that their sin had not thwarted the will of God. Joseph said, “You sold me, but God sent me” (verse 5). Their purpose was to get rid of Joseph, but God’s will was to save Joseph. We may sin by attempting to do what is unacceptable to God, but at the same time we may be unknowingly accomplishing God’s will.


II.                   The orders Pharaoh gave to go bring Jacob and his family down to Egypt, and Joseph’s sending of his brothers back to his father with those orders (v. 16–24).


-                                  We know that Hebrews were not well thought of by Egyptians.

Genesis 43:32; So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is [1]*loathsome to the Egyptians.


Genesis 46:33-34: When Pharaoh calls you and says, "*What is your occupation?' you shall say, "Your servants have been [1]*keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' that you may [2]live in the land of *Goshen; for every shepherd is [3]*loathsome to the Egyptians.»

- If Pharaoh knew the specifics of how Joseph had come to Egypt, he would probably not have treated these brothers with such warmth and hospitality. So why would Pharaoh react with such extraordinary kindness towards Joseph’s brothers? First, it is possibly out of his great respect for Joseph. It has already been two years out of the 5 years of famine that Joseph had predicted. All that Joseph had predicted to Pharaoh had come to pass exactly as predicted (thus far). Second, it could be that no one in Egypt knew of the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers. We have no record of Joseph telling anyone about that it was his brothers who sold him into slavery. (Genesis 40:14-15).

- We note that Phaoraoh gives the order for the brothers to take wagons back to retrieve Jacob and his klan.  Note how all the brothers were clothed, but Benjamin is still clothed with 5 times more than the rest plus 300 pieces of silver! (verse 22). We have seen partiality before. Isaac preferred Esau above Jacob. Jacob favored Rachel over Leah. In every instance, partiality had negative effects. Why, then, did Joseph also show partiality to Benjamin? Of course, Benjamin was the only other son of his mother.  Benjamin did not have a part in the sale of Joseph into slavery either.




I.                     The joyful news of this brought to Jacob (v. 25, etc.).


- It is interesting to note that Joseph never commanded his brothers to confess to their father, nor is their confession reported by Moses. But why should it be made public? This was a family matter that was dealt with in private.

- In verse 26, Jacob did not believe the son’s when they reported to him that Joseph was not only very much alive, but a ruler of Egypt as well.



Chapter 46

Jacob is here removing to Egypt in his old age, forced thither by a famine, and invited thither by a son. Here,

I.                     God sends him to Egypt (v. 1-4).

II.                   All his family goes with him (v. 5–27).

III.                 Joseph bids him welcome (v. 28–34).



Chapter 47

In this chapter we have Jacob traveling to Egypt to settle there at the invitation of his long lost son Joesph.

Verses 1-7:

- Jacob is 130 years old when he makes this move, to the home of his “retirement” (Gen. 47:9).

- Jacob was moving to a land in which he knew was hostile to Hebrew people (Gen. 43:32; 46:34)

- Jacob passes through Beersheba and offers a scarifce to God here. While there, he receives a vision of comfort from God. Beersheba is important because Abraham had called upon the name of the Lord here (21:33) and had settled here after offering up Isaac on Mt. Moriah (22:19). It was here at Beersheba Isaac had been visited by God, and the covenant made with Abraham was reiterated (26:23-25). Its possible that Jacob lived at Beersheba when he deceived his father and obtained his blessing (chapter 27), for it was from this place that he had fled from Esau and departed to Haran (28:10). Beersheba was at the southern extremity of the land of Canaan. Here in Beersheba Jacob offered a sacrifice as a part of a peace pact between himself and Laban.


Verses 8-27: The Genealogy of Jacob

- All those named in Numbers 26 as heads of tribes or families are found in this listing of descendants in Genesis 46.

- It appears possible that Moses intended to name every leader of family or clan who would come forth from Egypt, not every person who went into Egypt.



Verses 46:28-30: Joseph Greets Jacob

- Joseph’s separation from Jacob has now been almost 22 years

- Jacob, satisfied at the sight of his son, was now ready to die in peace (verse 30), but God still had 17 years of blessing in store for him (47:28).




Verses 46:31-34 and Chapter 47: 1-6  The Land of Goshen

- Joesph tells them to stress the fact that they are shepherds and that this was their sole occupation, as it had been for generations. This would assure that they would be given the land of Goshen, not only because it would provide pasture for their flocks, but because it would keep the Hebrews somewhat removed from the Egyptians, who despised shepherds (46:34).

- Goshen was probably some of the best land in Egypt (47:6). That is what Pharaoh promised (45:18) and what he professed to give (47:6). Second, it was located near enough to Joseph that he could see his family frequently:

- It is likely that the reason for settling in the land of Goshen was in order to keep his family isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of Egypt. Joseph was strong enough to survive life in the city and in the palace, but he had already been given an Egyptian wife, the daughter of a priest, and an Egyptian name (41:45).



Overview of Chapter 46:

I.                     Of Joseph’s kindness and affection to his relations, presenting his brethren first and then his father to Pharaoh (v. 1–10), settling them in Goshen, and providing for them there (v. 11, 12), and paying his respects to his father when he sent for him (v. 27–31).

II.                   Of Joseph’s justice between prince and people in a very critical affair, selling Pharaoh’s corn to his subjects with reasonable profits to Pharaoh, and yet without any wrong to them (v. 13, etc.). Thus he approved himself wise and good, both in his private and in his public capacity.