GENESIS 39 – 41
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
Joseph in Egypt
Joseph grows to become a man of wisdom and integrity in a way that contrasts remarkably with his father Jacob and with his brothers. Joseph has dramatic ups and downs in his life, but we are told repeatedly that the Lord is with him and Joseph is used by God to bless those around him. In this same way, the nation of Israel as a whole will experience similar ups and downs yet God will be with them and use them to bless the nations around them.
o Who comes to your mind as an example of integrity? What is the evidence of that integrity?
God was with Joseph (39:1-23)
o Describe the relationship between Potiphar and Joseph. What does it tell us about Joseph?
o How does Joseph react to the continual requests of Potiphar’s wife? Why does he respond in that way?
o How does Joseph’s response to sexual temptation contrast with that of his brothers’ Judah (38:16) and Rueben (35:22)?
o How does Potiphar’s wife twist the truth to cause trouble for Joseph? Why does she do this?
o Have you experienced a situation that tested your integrity? How did you deal with it?
o Jesus was misunderstood and mistreated as he tried to do what was right, and he told his disciples it would happen to them as well (John 15:20). Has it ever happened to you?
o What evidence do we see that the Lord is with Joseph? In what ways does God give Joseph success?
It certainly looks as if the idea that God was with Joseph collapses when he ends up in jail, yet Genesis then takes up that idea again. Joseph is the guy who keeps bouncing back, not because he has an inherent resilience but because God is with him and shows commitment to him…[A motif that finds a parallel in other stories of God’s people.] Their challenge is to stay faithful to what they know is right. The invitation to them is to live in hope that “God will be with you” even when things go horribly wrong. It does not always work out, but it can work out. John Goldingay
Dreams of the Prisoners (40:1-23)
o Why do the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker end up in prison with Joseph?
o What is Joseph’s attitude toward these two prisoners?
o What does Joseph believe is the source of understanding the meaning of dreams? What gives him the confidence to think he can interpret the dreams?
o What does Joseph hope to gain from interpreting the dreams for the men? How does the end of this chapter leave that hope in question?
Dreams of the Pharaoh (41:1-32)
o Why does Pharaoh think that Joseph can provide an interpretation for his dreams when others have tried and failed?
o What enables Joseph understand the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams? Why did Pharaoh have these dreams?
o Have you ever had the experience of God speaking to you through the understanding of a dream?
Joseph in Charge (41:33-57)
o What advice does Joseph give the Pharaoh?
The recession that began in 2008 came about in large part as a result of our living beyond our means for years. Our motto has been “spend first, save later.” If you can make things work out the opposite way, it has advantages. Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams makes it possible to save first and then manage through the crisis when it comes. Joseph surely didn’t have to be a genius to formulate a plan to handle what was to unfold over the periods of surplus and shortage. Yet with hindsight one can say that likewise the world doesn’t have to get into the economic messes it gets into from time to time. One big factor that generates them is a combination of greed and stupidity; more specifically, greed makes people throw wisdom to the winds. John Goldingay
o How could Joseph’s wise advice for the country of Egypt provide guidance for our country and for you personally?
o Pharaoh’s understanding of God would have been very different from Joseph’s, yet he recognizes something of the divine in Joseph. What was it he saw? How might people who do not know God recognize the divine in us?
o Robes have played an important part of Joseph’s life. How have they signaled his rises and his falls?
o What is the significance of the names Joseph gives his sons? Is the explanation for the name of the first son, Manasseh, a statement of fact or more of a wish?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997