“The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was called Israel, is a vivid representation of the great truth that’ all things work together for good to (those) who love God’ (Romans 8:28). Joseph always seemed to do the right thing; but still, more importantly, he did it for the right reason.Joseph turned every experience and all circumstances, no matter how trying, into something good.This ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a Godly characteristic.
Howcan we adequately laud the life and legacy of Jacob’s beloved son – the great ancestor of most Latter-day Saints. His Christ-like character stands as a magnificent model for us and all the world. Beset by trials and temptations, he remained true. He endured the chaffing of chains without complaint. He served selflessly and returned love and forgiveness when others would have responded with vengeance and vindictiveness. He had the noble capacity to rise above his temporary troubles and see the hand of the Lord in his life. His indomitable spirit was submissive and sensitive to the living light from the Lord. From and ancient pseudepigraphic text, written well over two thousand years ago as though it were Joseph’s last testament, comes the following:
Mybrothers and my children.Listen to Joseph, the one beloved of Israel.Give ear to the words of my mouth.In my life I have seen envy and death.But I have not gone astray: I continued in thetruthof the Lord.These, my brothers, hated me but the Lord loved me.They wanted to kill me, but the God of my fathers preserved me.
Into a cistern they lowered me; the Most High raised me up.They sold me into slavery; the Lord of all set me free.I was taken into captivity; the strength of his hand came to my aid.I was overtaken by hunger; the Lord himself fed me generously.I was alone, and God came to help me.I was in weakness, and the Lord showed his concern for me.I was in prison, and the Savior acted graciously in my behalf.
Assaulted by bitter words of Egyptians, and he rescued me.A slave, and he exalted me.The author undoubtedly had in mind an earthly exaltation like sitting next to the Pharaoh’s throne. But there is a throne far greater than that. Surely he has now been exalted to a heavenly throne alongside his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather (Doctrine & Covenants 132:29, 37).(The Testament of Joseph 1.2-7, trans. Kee, inCharlesworth, 819)
“Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled upon me, I would hang on, exercise faith and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top” (Joseph Smith).
Joseph, although a slave and wholly undeserving of this fate, nevertheless remained faithful to the Lord and continued to live the commandments and made something very good of his degrading circumstances.People like this cannot be defeated, because they will not give up (Hartman Rector Jr., “Live above the Law to Be Free,”Ensign, Jan. 1973, 130).Genesis 37:2What prompted Jacob to send Joseph sixty miles north to find his older brethren is not known.
Genesis 37:3“The Coat of Many Colors”Thereis some question as to what Joseph’s coat actually was.The Hebrew word denotes:“a long coat with sleeves…i.e. and upper coat reaching to the wrist and the ankles, such as noblemen and kings’ daughters wore” (Keil and Delitzsch,Commentary, 1:1:335).One noted scholar suggested that it was “a tunic reaching to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; the long tunic with sleeves worn by young men and maidens of the better class; in the case of Joseph, supposed by Bush… to have been thebadge of the birthrightwhich had been forfeited by Reuben and transferred to Joseph” (Wilson,Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “color,” 82).
In Alma 46:23 we learn that 1600 years later General Moroni spoke of Joseph’s torn coat as a symbol to rally his people.Perhaps it truly was a badge of the birthright(Alma 46:23-24).Part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed.We simply have no idea what it actually was (some have said it was a shawl).
If indeed this coat signaled that Joseph held the birthright, which may have been in question among the brothers because there were four firstborn sons in Jacob’s family, this fact would explain the intense hostility and jealousy the coat provoked among the other sons of Jacob.The following brothers could easily have thought that they should have had the birthright.Reuben: He was the firstborn of all the sons (he ended up sleeping with Bilhah).Simeon: He was the second son of Leah and next in line following Reuben. After Reuben fell, he might have thought it was his.
Judah:He could have argued that Simeon lost the right because of the massacre of the Schchemites (defiling of Dinah).Dan:He was the first born of Bilhal, who was considered Rachel’s property.Gad:He was the firstborn son of Zilpah.Joseph’s dreams, which clearly signified future leadership, only added to the resentment among the brothers.
Genesis 37:5-11Dream #1All of his brothers made obeisance to his sheaf.Dream #2The sun and moon and eleven stars made obeisance tohim.Joseph was taught through dreams, visions and revelations relevant to his future leadership.Asael Smith (Joseph’s Grandfather) and Joseph Smith Sr. both had seven visions prior to the First Vision.Genesis 37:19“The dreamer cometh”“True”
The parallel nature of Joseph’s dreams suggest that this future spiritual deliverance would parallel the pattern of deliverance established in Egypt. This pattern was as follows:Joseph was broken off to a place apart from the rest of the house of Israel.Joseph resided in a distant land, unknown to his family.The experiences of Joseph in the distant land prepared the way for the salvation of Israel.Israel began to be saved when they learned of Joseph who was separated.The House of Israel bowed before Joseph.As we see, Israel’s spiritual deliverance unfolds in precisely the same way.
Genesis 37:28“The price for a slave”Theprice received for Joseph, twenty pieces of silver, is the same price specified later in the Mosaic law for a slave between the ages of five and twenty (Leviticus 27:5).Typically, the price for a slave was thirty pieces of silver (Exodus 21:32).
Genesis 37:36“Potiphar’s Position”The Hebrew phrase which is translated as “captain of the guards” literally means “chief of the butchers or slaughterers.”Some scholars have thought that he was the chief cook or steward in the house of the pharaoh, but other scholars believe that butcher or slaughterer is used in the sense of executioner, and thus Potiphar was the “commanding officer of the royal body-guard, who executed the capital sentences ordered by the king” (Keil and Delitzsch,Commentary, 1:1:338).Either way, Potiphar was a important man, but the latter position especially would give him great power and status in Egypt.
Judah and Tamar
Genesis 38:1-30Yuk!!!!HadJudah faithfully kept his promise to Tamar, the seduction would never have taken place.Likewise, had Judah been faithful to the laws of morality, he never would have sinned with Tamar.Ancestry is not the determiner of one’s righteousness.This story shows the lineage that the Messiah would come from.
Genesis 38:5-11Why was Tamar to marry the brothers of her husband?Ancient customs of the Middle East provided that a brother of a deceased man should marry his widow.The purpose of such a marriage was to produce a male heir for the dead man and thus perpetuate his name and memory. It was regarded as a great calamity to die without a son, for then the man’s lineage did not continue and also the man’s property reverted to someone else’s family.Thus, when Judah failed to keep her promise to send the youngest son to her, Tamar resorted to deception in order to bear children.
Genesis 38:24“Judah’s twisted sense of values”Hehad no qualms about sending Tamar home with unfulfilled promises nor of picking up a harlot along the road, but when he heard that Tamar was pregnant he was so incensed that he ordered her put to death.
Genesis 39:2“The Lord was with Joseph”We assume he had been taught and lived the covenant of Abraham. He must have had the priesthood before he was sold, for he exercised it in Egypt (Answers To GospelQuestions,8:9).Genesis 39:9“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”How does the Lord feel about chastity and virtue?Jacob 2:28Alma39:5Moroni9:9Doctrine & Covenants 59:6Don’t do anything like unto it!
Genesis 39:12“He fled and got himself out”Elder Hartman Rector Jr. taught that sometimes running is the only thing to do!“It is so important that young people who are unmarried erect barriers against temptation to help them avoid the compromising situations. May I suggest a few barriers.1. Never go into a house alone with one of the opposite sex.2. Never, never enter a bedroom alone with one of the opposite sex.3. Do not peck or pet.
4. Never park with just the two of you alone.5. Do not read pornographic literature.6. Do not attend “R” or “X” rated movies, and avoid drive-ins.7. Do not spend time in drinking or gambling establishments.(Conference Report Oct., 1972, 172-73).
Genesis 39:20Why not executed?Aslave accused of attempting to rape his master’s wife would seem to have deserved the most severe punishment, and yet Joseph was only imprisoned.Could it be that Potiphar, knowing of Joseph’s character and his wife’s character, suspected the truth and, although he had to take action, chose a comparatively lenient punishment?Whatever the case, the hand of the Lord certainly preserved Joseph from what would otherwise have. been almost certain death.
Examining the fate of Potiphar’s wife:TheNeal A. Maxwell Institute’s Kristian S. Heal spoke about how ancient Christians interpreted the stories of Joseph, his brothers in Egypt and the woman whose immorality and lies sent Joseph to prison.The judgment of Potiphar’s wife was a story not found in the Bible, of course, and some contradictory traditions arose around it among ancient Christian commentators.“There are several important morals to the story of Joseph, and many types for our day. But one of them has to be reconciliation and forgiveness. Forgiving someone who has ruined your life in many ways. Who has done a great hurt and harm to you,” Heal said. The ancient sources couldn’t bear this silence (about the fate of Potiphar’s wife).
Whether through traditions they had received or simply from their own imagination, they tell us what happened.”When Potiphar saw the honor heaped by Pharaoh upon Joseph, he was afraid and said to his wife, “You have brought all these terrible things upon me. You dishonored me and made me a disgrace and an object of derision.”Heal said, “He is panicked and he is looking for someone to blame.”Potiphar can’t see how he can show his face to Joseph. He says he always knew that Joseph was not really a slave and that his wife’s story about Joseph trying to assault her was a sham. Joseph had fled Potiphar’s wife’s advances, leaving her holding his clothes. “If you had been assaulted by him,” Potiphar tells her, “you would have left your clothes in his hands.”
Potiphar’s wife responds, “Truly I have sinned and wronged him. Now don’t be upset, for I will appease him and he will honor you more than all of your friends and he will make you a great man and a ruler over all the freemen and nobles of Pharaoh.”Potiphar’s wife petitions Joseph and begs his forgiveness. Joseph sends her gifts in response and invites her to a feast where he calls Potiphar “father” and Potiphar’s wife “mother.”Joseph declares, “Were it not for you, sending me to that prison, I would never have been brought into a situation where I could have interpreted Pharaoh's dreams.”It is a beautiful example in the spirit of forgiveness that Joseph showed toward his brothers --- and that Christ shows toward sinners.
Healsaid he believed this story was the earliest thread of the fate of Potiphar’s wife.“Other writers just couldn’t stand the idea,” Heal said, “particularly as we see the rise of monasticism and (the idea that) women are the root of all evil. They couldn’t bear the idea of Potiphar’s wife, this ‘brazen hussy,’ beingforgiven(KristianS. Heal,Mormon Times, Sept. 18, 2010).
Ifany person had cause for discouragement and bitterness, it was Joseph, but he never faltered in his faith.Truly, Joseph is a model to be emulated!Doctrine & Covenants 122:7
Former U.S. president Calvin Coolidge said:“Nothing in this world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” (Calvin Coolidge, in Wisdom for the Soul:Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing, comp. Larry Chang (2006), 226.
Joseph --- a type and shadow of the Savior:The beloved son (Gen. 37:3).Declared that he would be the ruler over the children of Israel (Gen.37:6-11).The children of Israel saw him as taking authority over them and rejected and hated him (Gen. 37:8, 11).Sought out his brethren on behalf of his father (Gen. 37:12-17).The children of Israel conspired to kill him (Gen. 37:18-20).Judah (in Greek, Judas) betrayed him to the Gentiles (Gen. 37:25-28).Sold for the price of a slave of his age, in pieces of silver (Gen. 37:25-28; Lev.27:5).The attempt to destroy him set in motion events that saved the children of Israel fromdeath.Was taken captive and placed under the dominion of an officer of the strongest army of theworld.
Resisted temptation perfectly (Gen. 39:7-12).Was falsely accused (Gen.39:16-19).Was given the name of Azphnath-paaneah, which means Savior (Gen. 41:45).Began his ministry of preparing salvation for Israel when thirty years old (Gen. 41:46).Provided bread and water to Israel and saved them from death (Gen. 42:25).Offers that bread without price (Gen. 42:25; 44:1).In offering that bread, he offers the opportunity to repent (Gen. 42:25; 44:1).Forgave those who had caused him to suffer and offered them opportunity to repent (Gen. 45:1-5, 14-15).Was recognized and accepted by his people only the second time they met (Gen. 45).All bowed to him (Gen. 43:26-28).
Joseph saved Israel from physical death, and will save Israel from spiritual death.The following are true both of Joseph and the Lord:He is the beloved son.He reveals that he will rule over Israel.The children of Israel reject him out of jealousy and hate.Notwithstanding their mistreatment of him, he seeks out his brethren on behalf of his father.When they cannot be found where they were thought to be, he goes farther. He will go wherever he needs to go to do the work of his father.But the children of Israel conspire to kill him.He is betrayed by the hand of Judah --- or, in the Greek, Judas.He is sold for the price of a slave of his age.
This very attempt to destroy him sets in motion events that will eventually save the house of Israel from death.He resists temptation perfectly.He begins his public mission of preparing salvation for Israel at the age of thirty.He provides bread for Israel, saving them from death.He offers that bread without price.In the offering of that bread, he offers the opportunity to repent.Josephis a similitude of the Savior.Joseph’sbrothers are in similitude of us.Throughour sins, we, in effect, have thrown the Saviorin a pit. We are the cause of his suffering.We hold ourselves back from him out of guilt over the pain we have caused him.