Unification Sermons and Talks

by Reverend Joy Pople

Joseph And His Brothers

 Joseph the favorite son
Genesis 37

Jacob and his family settled in Canaan. Of all his twelve sons, Jacob had a special fondness for Joseph, Rachel’s oldest son. When Jacob gave Joseph a colorful coat, his older brothers hated him. Seeing that their father loved Joseph the most, the brothers were so angry that they could hardly speak to Joseph.

One day when he was seventeen years old, Joseph saw four of his brothers do something wrong. Quickly he could he told his father what they had done. The brothers hated Joseph for telling on them.

Joseph had a dream, and he told his brothers about it: "We were together in the field tying stalks of grain together into sheaves. My sheaf stood straight up, while yours bowed down around it." This made the brothers very angry. "Do you think you will rule over us some day?" they asked. They hated him even more.

Then Joseph had another dream, which he also told to his brothers: "I dreamed that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to me." His father became upset: "What are you are dreaming about? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow down to you?"

Joseph’s brothers were jealous, but his father remembered the dream and wondered what it could mean.

Jacob’s flocks were so large that there was not always enough grass for them to eat nearby. Sometimes the brothers had to go far from home to find pasture. Jacob sent his ten oldest sons to search food and water for the cattle and sheep. After some time, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers and their flocks and see how they were getting along.

While Joseph was still a long ways off, the brothers saw a young man coming towards them wearing a beautiful coat. They recognized Joseph and began to talk among themselves, planning how to get rid of him: "The dreamer is coming," they said. "Come let’s kill him and throw him into a pit. We can say that a wild animal ate him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams."

Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, heard the conversation. He didn’t want to harm Joseph. "Let us not kill him," he said to his brothers. "Let’s just put him in this pit." Reuben planned to rescue Joseph as soon as the others were away, but he left for a while. When Joseph arrived, his brothers tore off his coat and threw him into a pit. Joseph cried and begged them to let him out. Paying no attention to Joseph’s shouts, the brothers sat down to eat.

While Reuben was still away, the other brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants on their way to Egypt to sell spices.

Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, said to his brothers. "What would we gain if we kill our brother and hide his blood? It would be better to sell him to these people than to let him die in the pit. After all, he is our brother." The others agreed.

When the caravan arrived, the brothers lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver. The merchants took Joseph to Egypt with them.

After selling Joseph, the brothers returned to their work. When Reuben came back he bent over the pit and called out to Joseph. There was no answer. Again and again he called Joseph’s name. Reuben ran to his brothers and said, "The child is gone. What shall I do?" As the oldest son, Reuben felt responsible for his brothers.

The others told Reuben what they had done. "But what shall we tell our father about Joseph?" they wondered. Finally they decided to kill a young goat and dip Joseph’s coat in its blood. They would take the bloody coat to their father and tell him that they had found it.

Jacob was very upset when his sons returned without Joseph. "We found this coat," they told him. "Does it belong to your son?" Jacob recognized Joseph’s coat, and he believed that wild animals had killed his son. Jacob tore his clothes and dressed in coarse sackcloth. People often did this as an expression of mourning. Jacob cried and cried for many days. His children tried to comfort him, but Jacob said, "I will go to my grave crying for my son."

Judah and Tamar
Genesis 38

Judah met a Canaanite woman and married her. They had three sons. Judah chose a woman named Tamar to be the wife of his first son. However, this son was an evil person in God’s eyes, and God killed him. Judah told his second son to take Tamar as his wife, to carry on the oldest brother’s lineage. This was a custom at the time, but the second son did not want to father children who would carry on his brother's lineage, so God killed him too.

The third son was still young, and Judah sent Tamar back to her relatives. As the years passed Tamar realized that her father-in-law would not ask his third son to marry her. Judah had no other descendants. Tamar understood the importance of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that through their seed all the families of the earth would b blessed. She decided to take a great risk to make sure that Judah’s lineage could continue.

When Tamar heard that Judah went away to shear sheep, she dressed herself as a prostitute and put up a tent close to where Judah was working. Judah did not recognize his daughter-in-law and entered her tent. Judah had no money with him to pay her, so Tamar asked to keep his ring, his bracelets, and his staff until she was paid.

Later, when Judah sent servants with money, the tent was gone.

Some months later, word reached Judah that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. If a widow or unmarried woman became pregnant, it was the custom to put her to death. When Tamar was brought to Judah, she held out the ring, bracelets and staff and announced that the father of the child was their owner.

Judah realized what had happened, and he admitted, "She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t give her my third son to be her husband."

Tamar was carrying twins. When it was time to give birth, one baby stuck out his hand, and the midwife tied a red thread around it, so they would know which was born first. Then the baby pulled back his hand, and his brother came out first. The first-born was named Pharez and the second-born Zarah.

Ever since Adam’s family, Satan had a special claim upon first sons. God wanted to restore the position of first son to his side and reclaim the birthright for heaven. In Isaac’s family, Jacob gained the birthright from his older brother Esau when they were grown men. Now, in Judah’s family, Pharez won the birthright for God’s side even before he was born. Because of this, the Messiah would come from Pharez’s lineage.

Joseph the slave
Genesis 39: 1 - 20

After a long journey through dry and rocky lands, Joseph and the merchants arrived in Egypt. The Egyptians spoke a different language and worshipped many gods. They built large cities, beautiful temples and mighty pyramids by the great river Nile. Life in Egypt was very different from life in the tents of Canaan.

Joseph was sold to Potiphar, the captain of the guard for the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

God did not forget Joseph, even though he was now a slave in a strange land. God was with Joseph, and everything he did went well. Even Potiphar realized that God was with his servant, and after a while he put Joseph in charge of his home and his business. Joseph was a slave, but his master trusted him very much and gave him a big responsibility.

Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but he refused. He told her that he would do nothing that would hurt his master or to hurt God. One day when Joseph was alone in the house with Potiphar’s wife, she grabbed his clothes. Joseph turned and quickly ran out of the house.

Angry because Joseph rejected her, the woman decided to cause trouble for him. She called out to the other men and told them that Joseph had tried to rape her. She held up his clothes as proof. When Potiphar came home, she told him the same story. Potiphar believed his wife and had Joseph thrown into the Pharaoh’s prison.

Joseph the prisoner
Genesis 39:21 - 40:23

What happened to Joseph must have seemed terribly unfair. To be a slave was bad enough, but to be put in prison for doing what was right was even worse. However, Joseph did not complain or feel sorry for himself.

The prison keeper watched Joseph and realized that he was good at taking care of people and that he could be trusted. He put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. Even in prison, God was still with Joseph, and everything Joseph did turned out well.

Pharaoh became angry at two of officials: the chief butler and the chief baker. He had both of them put in prison. The captain of the guard asked Joseph to take care of them.

One morning Joseph noticed that they were upset. "Why are you troubled?" he asked them.

"We have had strange dreams," they told Joseph, "and there is no one here to tell us what they mean." In the palace, there were wise men who could often explain the meaning of dreams.

"Surely God knows the meaning of your dreams," Joseph said, "and I am His servant. Tell me what happened in your dreams, and maybe God will show me what they mean."

The chief butler spoke first. It had been his job to bring the king’s drink to him. "In my dream," he said, "I saw a vine with three branches on it. The branches budded, formed blossoms and produced ripe grapes. I pressed the juice of the grapes into the Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in the Pharaoh’s hand."

Joseph explained the dream: "The three branches are three days. In three days, the Pharaoh will return you to your position, and you will bring the Pharaoh’s cup to him again." Joseph asked the chief butler to remember him and tell Pharaoh about him when he returned to the palace. The chief butler promised to do that.

Next the chief baker told Joseph his dream: "There were three white baskets on my head. In the top basket were all kinds of baked things for the Pharaoh, but the birds came and ate the food in the top basket."

Sadly, Joseph explained the meaning of his dream: "The three baskets are three days. In three days the Pharaoh will have you hanged."

Three days later the Pharaoh held a great birthday feast. During the feast he summoned the prisoners to the palace. He returned the chief butler to his former job, and he had the chief baker hanged. The chief butler, however, soon forgot about Joseph.

Joseph the prime minister
Genesis 41

Two years later, the Pharaoh had two strange dreams. In the morning, he woke up very troubled and called for the wise men in Egypt. He told them his dreams, but no one could explain them.

Then the chief butler remembered Joseph’s kindness. He told the Pharaoh about the young man in prison who could explain the meaning of dreams. The Pharaoh immediately called for Joseph. Joseph must have been surprised to be suddenly released from prison. After shaving and changing his clothes he quickly went to the palace.

"I have had a dream," the Pharaoh told Joseph, "and no one here can explain it. I have heard that you can explain dreams."

"That wisdom does not belong to me," Joseph answered humbly, "but to the God I serve. God will give the Pharaoh an answer of peace."

Then the Pharaoh described the dream: "I was standing upon the bank of the river when seven nice, fat cows came up out of the river and ate in the green grass. Then seven other cows came up after them. They were the skinniest-looking cows ever seen in Egypt. The seven thin cows ate up the seven fat cows, but they looked as skinny as before. Then I woke up. Afterwards I fell asleep and dreamed again. I saw seven ears of corn growing on one stalk. They were full, good ears. Then seven more ears sprang up, but they were thin and dried up, blasted by the east wind. The thin ears of corn ate up the good ones."

Joseph told the Pharaoh: "Both dreams have the same meaning. God wants to show you what is going to happen. The seven fat cows and seven full ears of corn mean seven years. The seven thin cows and the seven thin ears also mean seven years. There will be seven years of abundant harvests in Egypt. Afterwards will come seven years when no plants will grow. All the food will be gone, and people will become so hungry that they will forget the good years. God has given you these two dreams to show you that these things will happen soon. You should choose a wise man and put him in charge of all the food in Egypt. During the seven years of abundant harvests, let him save enough each year to last through the years of famine."

The Pharaoh and his servants listened carefully to what Joseph said. "Surely the spirit of God is in this man," the Pharaoh said to his servants. To Joseph he said, "God has showed these things to you. No one is wiser than you. You shall be in charge of my house and be responsible for all my people. Only I will be greater than you. I will put you in charge of all the land of Egypt."

The Pharaoh took the ring off his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in royal robes and put a gold chain around his neck. He gave him a chariot to ride in and servants to run ahead and order the people to bow down to him. He also gave Joseph an Egyptian wife, the daughter of a priest.

Joseph was thirty years old. All these honors did not change his heart. He was still kind and fair to everyone. Every day he traveled around the country and gathered up the extra food and put it in storage.

During this time God blessed Joseph with two sons. He called his first son Manasseh and his second son Ephraim.

When the seven years of plenty had passed, the land became dry. Grain did not grow anywhere in Egypt. When people needed food, they came to Joseph. He opened the storehouses that had been filled during the years of great harvests and sold the food to the Egyptians. Not only the Egyptians were hungry, but also people from other countries. From far and near, people came to Joseph, begging him to sell them corn so they would not die of hunger.

Joseph the administrator
Genesis 42 - 44

The hunger spread to the land of Canaan. There was little food, and people worried about finding something to eat. Jacob said to his sons, "Why do you look at each other? I have heard that there is corn in Egypt. Go down there and buy food for us so we don’t die."

Ten brothers left for Egypt. Benjamin did not go with them. Since he had lost Joseph, Jacob loved his son Benjamin best. Jacob was so afraid that something bad would also happen to Benjamin that he would not let his youngest son go so far away from home. More than twenty years had passed since the brothers had sold Joseph. Now they too were going to Egypt.

The fields in Egypt were just as bare as the fields in Canaan. The corn was kept in great storehouses. Like everyone who wanted to buy food, the brothers went to see Joseph. Little did they dream that this person dressed like an Egyptian prince who sat on the throne was their brother. In these twenty years he had become a man. Everyone bowed to him as if he were a king.

Joseph recognized his brothers at once. When they bowed down, he remembered his dreams. Joseph missed his family. He wanted to know whether his brothers had changed. He pretended not to know them and spoke to them in the Egyptian language. "Where are you from?" he asked.

"We have come from the land of Canaan to buy food," they answered.

"You are spies," he argued. "You came to see how much our country is suffering, so you can come back and fight us."

"No, my lord," they answered humbly. "We are your servants, coming to buy food. We are all sons of one man. We are not spies." Joseph still insisted they were spies. "We are a family of twelve brothers, the sons of one man in Canaan," they answered. "The youngest is at home with our father."

Joseph wondered whether they were kind to Benjamin. He wondered whether they cared any more about their father’s happiness now than they did when they sold their brother as a slave. Joseph decided that he must find out more before he told them who he was. "You must prove that you are not spies," he declared. "I will put nine of you in prison and send one back to Canaan. If he returns with your youngest brother, then I will believe that you are telling the truth."

Joseph had all the brothers put in prison for three days. Then he sent for them and said, "I respect God, and I want to do the right thing. I will send nine of you back home with food, but I will keep one of you here in prison. The next time you come, you must bring your younger brother along. If you don’t, I will know that you are spies."

The brothers began to think about Joseph. They said to each other, "We are suffering now because of our sin. Now we know how afraid and upset Joseph was when we sold him. He begged us not to sell him, but we would not listen. That’s why this terrible thing is happening to us."

Reuben, the oldest brother and the one who had planned to save Joseph’s life, told them, "Didn’t I tell you then not to sin against the boy? You would not listen to me. By your sin you brought this trouble on all of us."

They did not know that Joseph understood what they were saying, because he always spoke to them through a translator. Joseph’s heart was touched. They were sorry for their sin. Joseph turned his face away and wept. Then he dried his tears and acted like an Egyptian prince again.

Joseph took Simeon, the second oldest brother, and had him tied up and returned to prison. Then he ordered his servants to fill the brothers’ sacks with grain and put each man’s money back into his sack.

With heavy hearts the brothers started home. What would their father say? That night, one of them opened his sack of grain to feed the donkeys and found his bag of money on top of the food. They were even more afraid when they saw the money. "What is this that God has done to us?" they asked each other.

When they reached home they told their father what had happened. As they emptied their sacks, each of them found his money inside. Both they and their father were afraid.

The terrible hunger continued in Canaan. When the corn they had brought from Egypt was all eaten up, Jacob said to his sons, "Go again and buy us a little food." Judah reminded him, "The man told us we would never see his face again unless our younger brother was with us."

"Why did you tell the man you had another brother?" Jacob asked bitterly. "He asked us directly whether our father was alive and whether we had another brother," Jacob’s sons answered. "We only answered his questions."

The days dragged on, and each day there was less to eat. Finally Judah said, "Father, if you do not send us soon, we will all die of hunger. I will take good care of Benjamin. If any harm comes to him, you can blame me forever."

At last their father let Benjamin go with his brothers. Jacob told them to take presents and carry twice as much money as before. Sadly he said, "If my children must all be taken away from me, then I must bear the loss."

When the brothers arrived in Egypt and Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he ordered his servants to take them to his house and prepare a feast for them. The brothers did not know why they were being taken away. They were afraid. "He thinks we stole the money," they said to each other. "Now he will make us his slaves."

The brothers spoke to the man in charge of Joseph’s house and told him that they had found their money inside their sacks of corn. "The God of your father gave you that as a treasure," the steward answered. Then he had Simeon released from prison and brought him to the brothers. He told the brothers that they were all invited to eat dinner with the prince.

At noon Joseph returned. They gave him the presents and bowed to him. Joseph spoke to them kindly and asked, "Is your father well?" Next Joseph turned to Benjamin and asked, "Is this the youngest brother you told me about?" He heart ached for his younger brother, and he longed to throw his arms around Benjamin, but there was still more he wanted to find out. He walked away from his brothers and went to his own room, where he wept in private.

When the tables were arranged, Joseph and his brothers entered the dining hall. One table was for Joseph, another for the Egyptians, and the third was for Joseph’s brothers. The brothers were assigned seats according to their ages, from the oldest to the youngest. They were amazed. Joseph sent them food from his table. Joseph told his steward to fill the men’s sacks with grain and put their money in the top of the sacks. He also ordered that his silver cup be put in the top of Benjamin’s sack.

The next morning, the brothers set out at dawn. Before they had gone far, Joseph told his steward, "Go, follow those men, and ask them why they took my silver cup." The steward found them and repeated Joseph’s question. Upset, the brothers answered, "We returned the money we found in the tops of our sacks after our last visit. Why should we steal something from your master’s house? If you find the cup in the sack of any one of us, let that person die, and the rest of us will become your servants."

The steward began searching all the brothers' sacks, beginning with the oldest. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. The brothers were so upset that they began to tear their clothes. They re-packed all their animals and returned to the city, where Joseph was waiting for them. They fell to the ground before him.

"Why did you do such a thing?" Joseph asked in a harsh voice. Judah spoke for all the brothers. "Surely God is punishing us for our sin. We are all your servants."

"God would not want me to keep all of you," Joseph replied. "I will punish only the one in whose hand the cup was found. The rest of you may return in peace to your father." Joseph wondered if they would be willing to let Benjamin stay behind and suffer so they could escape.

Judah remembered his promise to bring Benjamin safely home or bear the blame forever. He stepped closer to Joseph. "Please don’t be angry with me," he said to Joseph. Then he described how upset their father was when he learned that they had to take Benjamin with them to Egypt if they wanted to buy more food. "If I go back to my father without Benjamin," Judah continued, "he will die, because he lives for Benjamin. I promised my father that if anything happened to Benjamin, I would bear the blame for ever. Please let me stay here as a servant in Benjamin’s place and let him return."

It was Judah who had suggested that the brothers sell Joseph. Judah's words sounded different now. Now Judah was offering himself as a lifetime slave in Benjamin’s place.

Joseph the family savior
Genesis 45- 50

At last Joseph knew that the hearts of his brothers had changed. Joseph began to cry. He ordered all the Egyptian servants to leave the room so the brothers could be alone.

"I am Joseph," he announced. "Is my father still alive?"

The brothers could not say a word. They were stunned and very afraid.

"Don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me," Joseph told them. "God sent me here to preserve your family line and save your lives. The famine has lasted for two years and will continue for five more years. Bring all your families and all your belongings to Egypt."

Joseph told them to return to their father and tell him the news that God had made Joseph lord over all Egypt, inviting him to come to Egypt without delay. "I will take care of you for the remaining five years of famine," he reassured them.

Joseph hugged Benjamin, kissed him and cried. Benjamin also cried. Then he embraced each of his brothers and cried with them. Finally his brothers talked to him.

Word reached the Pharaoh that Joseph's brothers had come, and he was pleased. He sent Joseph a message telling him to to invite his father and all his household to move to Egypt.

The brothers started home, taking with them new clothing and various presents, along with wagons carrying supplies for their trip. When they reached Canaan, the brothers told their father the news: "Joseph is alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt."

At first Jacob’s heart could not receive the news. When he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent, Jacob said. "Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."

Jacob and all his family traveled to Egypt. Jacob, the women and the small children rode in the wagons. Judah led the way. Including Joseph and his two sons, there were seventy men and boys in Jacob’s family at that time. Joseph rode in a chariot to meet his father. They embraced and cried for a long time. Jacob said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face while you are still alive."

Joseph introduced his father and his brothers to the Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh gave them land where they could live and find pasture for their animals.

Jacob lived seventeen more years after moving to Egypt. When his death was near, he made Joseph promise to bury his body in Canaan beside his ancestors.

Joseph brought his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to visit Jacob. "Surely God has been good to me," said Jacob. "I never thought I would see your face, and now I see your sons."

Jacob placed his trembling hands on the boys’ heads to bless them. He put his right hand on Ephraim, the younger child, and his left hand on Manasseh. When Joseph saw that his father had laid his right hand on Ephraim, he lifted up his father’s hand to move it to the head of Manasseh. "Not so, my father," he said gently. "This son was born first; put your right hand on his head." Jacob refused. "I know. I know. He also shall become a great people, but his younger brother shall become greater than he."

Jacob called all his sons together and gave them blessings, telling them what their future would be like. Judah received high praise. His lineage would include kings and, some day, the Messiah.

When Jacob died, Joseph ordered the doctors to embalm his father’s body in preparation for burial. Joseph and his relatives went back to Canaan to bury Jacob in the cave with Abraham, Isaac and Sarah.

When they returned, the brothers thought, "Maybe Joseph has been kind to us only for our father’s sake. Now he may treat us cruelly to pay us back for what we did to him many years ago." They sent a messenger to Joseph, saying, "Before our father died, he told us to ask you to forgive us. Please forgive us, for we are servants of the God of our father."

Joseph cried when he heard this message. His brothers were afraid. He sent for them and said, "Do not be afraid. Am I in God’s place that I should punish you? No! I will take care of you and your children for as long as I live."

At last the brothers’ minds were at ease. Joseph's brothers had been his enemies, but Joseph forgave them and loved each of them with all his heart. The brothers were able to love Joseph and receive God's love through him. The realm of heart was expanded because God could connect with twelve brothers. From the twelve brothers would come twelve tribes, who would build the nation that could receive the Messiah.

Joseph lived to be one hundred and ten years old. When Joseph was about to die, he called the old men to his bedside and said that he wanted his body taken back to Canaan when their descendants returned in the future.

During the long years to come, Jacob's descendants remembered God’s promise that they would return to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Joy Pople (pople@servtech.com) wrote this Bible story from the standpoint of the Divine Principle.

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