You will find an introduction and outline of Genesis, here.
A prayer of John Calvin to use before you read:
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
IV. The Story of Joseph 37:1-50:26
C. 39:1-41:57 Joseph in Egypt
41:1-57 Joseph, Dreams and Power: Finally after two years, the cupbearer remembers Joseph.Notice the language the cupbearer uses in verse 9. Again Joseph give God the credit for the interpretation. Joseph interprets the dreams but also suggests what Pharaoh ought to do in response to these dreams. The text doesn’t mention whether or not Pharaoh remembers Joseph and why he was in prison. There is evidence to support this idea that slaves could reach high positions in Egyptian royal households. What does this story suggest about divine and human agency? Do the dreams determine the future or is there room for people to act and affect the future? What does this story suggest about God and the “non chosen” when God sends these dreams to Pharaoh? What do you think it means that Joseph names his sons “Making to forget” and “to be fruitful”. The famine is so severe that “all the world” comes to Egypt and therefore to Joseph. This sets up the reunion of Joseph with his brothers.
D. 42:1-45:28 Joseph and his brothers reconcile: Now the earlier question (37:8) comes to the fore, “Will you be king over us and rule us?”
42:1-38 Joseph’s first meeting with his brothers. What does verse 1-5 tell us about the brothers? Notice Jacob does not send Benjamin. Does Jacob have a “new” favorite? Even though the brothers do not recognize Joseph, they do enact Joseph’s dream by bowing down to him. Now that the dream has been fulfilled, what will Joseph do? Why do you think Joseph decides to test them? Is this a test? Or some sort of punishment? Or is it needed to determine if his brothers have changed and reconciliation is possible? (You may have to wait until the end of the story to decide.) Ironically, the 10 sons first proclaim they are all the sons of one man and are honest men to another son whom they treated dishonestly. Joseph imprisons his brothers, giving them a “taste” of the “pit” that he experienced by their hands. Then by keeping Simeon the test is sharpened. Will they abandon another brother, Simeon? Will they risk Rachel’s other son, Benjamin? What is Joseph’s response when he hears his brothers guilt over what they have done to him?
Why does Joseph return their silver to his brothers? Is this an illusion to their selling him for silver (37:28)? And/or is this a test of their integrity? What about Jacob’s response? It appears that Benjamin is more important than Simeon?
43:1-34 The Second Journey to Egypt: Finally the fear of famine forces Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt. Why do you think the brothers continue to be afraid of Joseph? Notice that a Egyptian ( not one of Abraham’s descendants) speaks about God- as Pharaoh did earlier. Joseph does not reveal himself to his brothers, but by eating with them ( even though observing the social conventions of the time) they are now guests rather than enemies, but not fully reconciled. Notice that Joseph eats neither with his brothers or the Egyptians but by himself. Why do you think Benjamin receives more that the other brothers?
44:1-34 The final test: Joseph is not finished with his brothers. This time their silver is returned and a silver cup is hidden in Benjamin’s bag. This time Joseph’s men “catch” the brothers. The money isn’t a factor in what follows. Is Joseph in an indirect manor refusing to keep money from his family? Or is it to somehow upset his brothers? Can we know for sure? The brothers actions, offering to slaves or die in Egypt oddly mirrors their treatment of Joseph when they left him in the pit. In verse 16, what guilt is Judah referring to? Joseph says the one who possessed the cup must stay and the others can leave, knowing what a difficult position this puts his brothers in. Will they sacrifice another brother to save themselves?
In verses 18-34 Judah offers an impassioned speech. Remember Judah is the one who suggested selling Joseph. Notice the lack of language to suggest Judah is jealous or upset by Jacob’s favoritism. Notice the servant/master language. (recall again Joseph’s dreams). If Joseph was testing his brothers to see if they have changed, Judah passes the test and sets the stage for reconciliation by his words and actions.
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of the Torah.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, “Understanding the Old Testament” Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Keck, Leander E., ed. “The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Mays, James L. ed. “HarperCollins Bible Commentary” (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds. “The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books” (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. “The Torah: A Modern Commentary” (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.