“The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”
Not only is Joseph one of the great believers of all time, in the New Testament, he did something in dying that was greater than anything he did while living: he gave the Jews a Bible for 400 years, before Moses came into the scene. He gave them doctrine, the plan of salvation, in his death. So in Hebrews 11:22 when the Holy Spirit summarized the life of Joseph, the story of his life was omitted. Joseph was mentioned for two reasons by Stephen. First, he was the one who perpetuated the spiritual heritage of Israel by providing the basis for doctrine during the Egyptian bondage. Secondly, Joseph always aroused the jealousy, the envy, the bitterness, the antagonism and hostility of those around him because of his relationship with God. This was true as far as his brothers were concerned. That is why he is mentioned here because Stephen was comparing the ten patriarchs to the Sanhedrin. Obviously he can’t talk about the wonderful life of Joseph; he must talk about what his brothers did to get rid of Joseph and what was behind it all.
The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. The patriarchs are the brothers of Joseph. Here is one of the greatest of all sins. Mental attitude sinfulness characterized the self-righteous and moral Sanhedrin. Stephen was now pointing out to them their extreme sinfulness. In Matthew 23 Jesus condemned them for their pride and mental attitude sins. Envy or jealousy is a terrible sin and one that makes an individual miserable. It also makes its object miserable as well. Egypt was always associated with the slavery of the Jews. The Jews in the day of the Sanhedrin, when they thought of Egypt, they thought of slavery. The interesting this is that the Sanhedrin in their jealousy were in slavery or bondage themselves, spiritually. Very subtly Stephen was saying to the members of the Sanhedrin that they were slaves. The Sanhedrin were the supreme court. But because of their envy, jealousy and prejudice they failed to operate as a supreme court—as illustrated by the death of Christ and the martyrdom of Stephen. The Sanhedrin were in slavery to religion, to mental attitude sins, and instead of functioning as a true supreme court they had failed to use justice. Eventually Stephen was going to tell them how they will be judged by God.
Yet God was with him. You can’t destroy the plan of God by persecuting or destroying a believer. The heresy of the Sanhedrin and the apostasy of the Jewish nation would not destroy the plan of God, it would actually further the plan of God because God uses the wrath of man to praise Him. And rescued him from all his afflictions means you are in the plan of God, God’s plan is greater than your problems, sufferings, sins, or failures. We should underline the word “all.” There is no problem too great for God’s plan.
And granted him favor and wisdom means Joseph didn’t earn or deserve the grace God gave him. There was nothing in the background or the life of Joseph whereby Pharaoh would look at Joseph and “hire” him as prime minister. Joseph was more prepared than anyone else, not because of his experience but because of his relationship with the Lord. His relationship was grace: everything depended on Who and what the Lord was. And his relationship to Pharaoh was grace because when Joseph came into the picture he didn’t have anything to recommend him. This section reminds us of two things: our relationship to God is grace; the power of our lives, relationship to others, is grace. God also gave him wisdom which is the application of doctrine to experience.
With Joseph wisdom included the application of general knowledge to experience. Joseph was given by God the Holy Spirit general knowledge of administration. As a result he applied these things and became the number one man in the Egyptian empire. God really promoted him even over Pharaoh’s household.
The following verses are recounting the story surrounding Genesis 37. There are three introductory principles to Genesis 37.
Genesis 37:1-11, Joseph becomes the object of envy and jealousy, mental attitude sins. Joseph’s father Jacob was in the land of promise. The patriarchs (his brothers) were in the land of promise. At the end of the life of Joseph his family will be in Egypt, and eventually we see the principle of God’s overruling will in delivering them.
There were twelve sons. Out of the twelve sons Jacob loved Joseph more than all the rest. But Jacob failed as a parent. He didn’t fail because he loved Joseph more than the others; he failed because he showed favoritism toward Joseph to the exclusion of others. His brothers became jealous because of a multi-colored robe Jacob gave to Joseph. Notice these verses in chapter 37: verse 11 – “his brothers were jealous of him” Verse 18 – “they plotted against him” Verse 19 – they ridiculed him, “here comes the dreamer comes” Verse 20 – they said, “let us kill him.” But although they do everything to destroy Joseph God was still faithful to that boy and His faithfulness carried him through. In every situation that Joseph faced the Lord had provided a solution.
Joseph had two dreams, verses 5-10. In the first dream Joseph was superior over his brothers. In the second dream Joseph was superior over all Israel. Both became a reality. There are four ways in which God revealed Himself in Old Testament times: dreams, visions, trances, and direct spoken conversation. But there is only one way that God reveals Himself today: the written Word.
In verses 12-17 Joseph was sent by his father on a mission. He couldn’t find his brothers in Shechem where they were supposed to be. A stranger told Joseph where they had moved the flock to and Joseph approached his brothers who were now in Dothan. In verse 18 he is still approaching when his brothers conspire against him to kill him by throwing him in a pit.
Joseph knew while down in that pit what his brothers’ intentions were, that he was to be left to die. So he begged for deliverance and they did not pay any attention to him. These men were callous. They sat there and listened to the anguished cries of their brother and at the same time enjoyed their food. Nine of these brothers admit three things: they saw the anguish of his soul, Joseph begged to be delivered, and they would not listen.
At this point the cries of Joseph indicated failure to use the Faith-Rest technique. He had two visions which meant God had a future for him. The time would come when his brothers would serve him, when all Israel would serve him. He failed because he looked at his circumstances instead of looking to God.
One brother, Rueben interceded for Joseph and persuaded the other brothers not to kill him. So, just as the nine brothers were sitting down to a meal a came the caravan headed for Egypt was passing by. They decided to sell him into slavery to those in the caravan.
Nine threads from Romans 8:28 regarding “God works all together for good to those who love Him” can be seen in the life of Joseph. All things were not good for Joseph, but all things worked together for his good.
What his brothers meant for evil for Joseph, God turned to good and he became the Pharaoh’s governor ruling the land of Egypt. God also used these events to reunite Joseph with his brothers and his father and save Israel from starvation due to a famine in their land.
Joseph was reunited with his family as result of this famine in the land of Canaan where his family lived. Egypt had plenty of food stored because of Joseph’s efficient planning as the second in command. His brothers made the trip to Egypt to buy food and Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize him. After a series of events designed by Joseph to make his brothers see the error of their ways and how God had used their treachery to bless their entire family, his family joined him in Egypt.
By relating this story to the Sanhedrin, Stephen was leading up to an accusation and condemnation of them as the “spiritual leaders” of Israel. The comparison was obvious to all who heard him speak that day. As the patriarchs had failed in their responsibility to God, so had these leaders in Israel who should have believed the Word of God regarding Jesus Christ and recognized Him when He presented Himself as their Messiah.
Just as Joseph’s brothers had rejected him and plotted to kill him, these religious leaders in the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus Christ and plotted to kill Him. And like Joseph, God had another plan which included resurrection, promotion and deliverance. In the case of Joseph, it was resurrection from exile, promotion to governor and deliverance of his family and all Israel. In the case of Jesus, it was resurrection from the dead, promotion as King of kings and Lord of lords and deliverance to all who would place their faith in Him as Savior. The story of Joseph is truly a story of redemption, promotion and blessing in the face of adversity. So in many ways Joseph was a type of Christ.
The Biblical definition of the word redeemed is “to be purchased from the slave-market of sin.” There are three Greek words for redemption: “agorazo” meaning to buy, “exagorazo” meaning to buy out of or remove from sale and “lutroo” meaning to release on receipt of ransom or payment. (Romans 7:14)
There are several definitions for sin in the Word of God: falling short of God’s righteousness, which is lacking the perfection needed to enter Heaven(Romans 3:23), transgression, which is overstepping God’s law (Psalm 51:1-4), trespasses, which is deviation from God’s righteousness (Ephesians 2:1), disobedience which is rebellion against God’s law (I Timothy 1:9-10), and unbelief in Christ as Savior (the only unpardonable sin) (John 8:24).
Christ redeemed us from all categories of sin: inherent sin, Adam’s original sin and personal sin. A believer is also redeemed from the Mosaic Law, which had been distorted into a system of “pseudo-salvation” by religious Jewish leaders. The Law was never designed to provide salvation, but rather it shows us our need for a Savior and points us to Jesus Christ.