Old Testament Reading Guide -March 5-11, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 41:46-57        Joseph and His Service for Pharaoh

When last we saw Joseph Pharaoh had just endowed him with a new name: Zaphenath-Paneah {which, according to the Old Scofield Study Bible page 1407, means “prince of the life of the age”.}  The Pharaoh, also in his generosity, gave Zaphenath-Paneah {Joseph} a wife from among the daughters of one of his priests Potiphera by name {which means “belonging to the sun” Scofield p. 1400}: Asenath {meaning “she who is of Neith”, an Egyptian goddess}.  I mention this only to draw attention to the fact that, unlike today, names had great significance to the ancients.  A curious coincidence is that Joseph’s father-in-law had the same name as his master in Chapter 39.

Here we learn that Joseph was thirty years old when he undertook to prepare Egypt for the years of plenty and the years of want.  How much grain was Joseph able to store up?
[“Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.” (Genesis 41:49 NIV)  This is the kind of abundance that the LORD likes to shower on his faithful servants.  Jesus said “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)]

How many sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine came?
[Joseph had two sons born to him: Manasseh and Ephraim.]

Focus on the importance of names.  What does Manasseh mean and why did Joseph choose that name?
[Manasseh means “forget” “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” (Genesis 41:51 NIV)]

What does the name Ephraim mean?
[Ephraim may mean “twice fruitful” (NIV footnote}.  “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:52 NIV)]

Just as Joseph had prophesied, the seven (!) years of abundance were hard followed by seven (!) years of famine.  When the people begin to feel want, what is Pharaoh’s advice to them?
[Pharaoh tells the people to go to Joseph for relief. (v. 41:55)]

What does Joseph do?  How far-reaching was the famine?
[Joseph sells the grain to the people.  “And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.” (Genesis 41:57 NIV)]

Genesis 42:1-17           One of Joseph’s Dreams Begins to Materialize

Jacob had learned that there was abundance in Egypt so then commissioned ten of his sons to travel from Canaan to Egypt to buy grain.  (Benjamin, because he was too young, remained with his father.)  What was Israel’s concern for Benjamin?
[“But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.” (Genesis 42:4 NIV)]

When Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt and are brought before him, what do they do?
[“So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6 NIV)]

How is this connected to one of the dreams of Joseph?
[If you remember the trouble-making dreams of Joseph, this scene is remarkably accurate.  “He (Joseph) said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” (Genesis 42:6-7 NIV)  The “grain” in the dream is significant because that is exactly what Joseph’s brothers were seeking.]

How does Joseph have the “upper hand” in this situation?
[“Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.” (Genesis 42:8 NIV)]

Of what does Joseph accuse these foreigners?
[Joseph accuses his brothers of spying. (Genesis 42:9)]

What arrangement does Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) make with the sons of Israel?
[“Joseph said to them, ‘it is just as I told you: You are spies!  And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.  Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth.  If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!’” (Genesis 42:14-16 NIV)]

Genesis 42:18-28    The Case of the Re-appearing Silver

What bargain do Zaphenath-Paneah and the strangers settle on?
[“Let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households.  But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” (Genesis 42:19-20 NIV)]

What further advantage does Joseph have over his brothers?
[Joseph used an interpreter to talk to his brothers so that they would think that he could not understand them.]

What does Joseph learn from his brothers unbeknownst to them?
[“They (the brothers) said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.’” (Genesis 42:21 NIV)]

What can we glean from what Reuben says “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”?  (Genesis 42:22 NIV)
[I think that Reuben still does not know that Joseph was sold and believes rather that he is actually dead.]

Which brother is settled upon to remain in Egypt while the others return to Israel?
[Simeon is left behind.]

What bit of trickery does Zaphenath-Paneah play on these seekers of grain?
[All the money paid to Joseph was returned and hidden in the sacks of grains of his brothers.  Of course they did not know it.]

What is the reaction of the brothers once they make this discovery?
[I think it was one of panic.  The bible says: “Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’”  (Genesis 42:28 NIV)]

Genesis 942:2-38     The Return to Canaan

Jacob’s sons report to their father all that had happened in Egypt.  The news is grim but it gets worse.  The brothers discover that all of their silver was returned in the sacks.  This prompts Jacob to do what?
[Since Joseph and now Simeon are lost, Israel is determined that Benjamin will remain with him; he cannot risk losing him too.]

What offer does Reuben make to his father?
[“Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him (meaning Benjamin) back.’” (Genesis 42:37 NIV)]

Why, do you suppose, Reuben makes this particular offer to his father?
[I think that Reuben still feels very guilty over the “death” of Joseph, which he had hoped to prevent so many years before.]

Genesis 43:1-14       The Second Journey to Egypt

As happens with food, it comes and it goes.  Hunger will compel us to make interesting decisions.  In this case, the need for food compelled Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt.  What does Judah remind Israel of?
[“But Judah said to him (Israel), ‘The man warned us solemnly, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.”’” (Genesis 43:3 NIV)]

Jacob seeks to place responsibility for his setbacks with his sons: “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” (Genesis 43:6 NIV)  Is this fair of Israel?
[I don’t think so.  What we have here is an opportunity to trust in the Lord.  What we don’t see here is a turning to God to ask him for help at this time.  Jacob was blessed with great wealth and yet he is hungry.  He had twelve sons and now he thinks that he has lost two of them (Joseph, his favorite and Simeon, who was left behind as a hostage).  No one here knows that Joseph is very much alive, less still that he is the second most important man in Egypt.  Joseph has used deception against his brothers, and by extension, his father as well.  Deception is a hallmark of this family.  No one can be trusted.]

Judah spends some time explaining to his father how it happened that Benjamin would be required to go to Egypt.  How does Judah plan to assuage Jacob’s fears regarding Benjamin?
[“Then Judah said to Israel, his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.  I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him.  If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.’” (Genesis 43:8-9 NIV)]

What does Jacob tell his sons?
[Jacob wants to ease his way back into some kind of favor with the Egyptian and so has his sons bring an offering to the man.  Also he wants his sons to take back double the amount of money so that he will not be indebted to the man.  He wants to return what was “erroneously” given to his sons the last time they were there.]

How hopeful is Israel?
[Not very.  “As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:14 NIV)  He seems to be resigned to things.]

Genesis 43:15-34          Joseph Reveals Himself to his Brothers

What does Joseph do when he sees Benjamin with his brothers?  Does this remind you of one of Jesus’ parables?
[“When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon.” (Genesis 43:16 NIV)  This reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke Chapter 15.)]

Joseph’s brothers are ignorant of what is going on in the background and there they are waiting for this powerful man to speak to them.  They are told by the steward of Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) to accompany him to his master’s house.  This strikes dread into Judah and his brothers.  What do they think?
[“Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house.  They thought, ‘We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time.  He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys’”  (Genesis 43:18 NIV)]

Do you see any prophecy or foreshadowing in their thoughts?
[Slavery will become the lot of the sons of Israel in time to come.]

What changes once the brothers explain to the steward the mix-up concerning the silver from their first visit?
[The steward’s attitude and, I suspect, voice softens, “‘It’s all right,’ he said.  ‘Don’t be afraid.  Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’  Then he brought Simeon out to them.” (Genesis 43:23 NIV)]

Again one of Joseph’s dreams enters the mix.  How?
[“When Joseph came home, they presented him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.”  (Genesis 43:26 NIV) See Genesis 37:7]

It is important to remember that all this time Joseph is speaking through an interpreter because he does not yet want his brothers to realize it is he.  Joseph is overcome with emotion.  Why?
[“He looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son. … Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep.” (Genesis 43:29, 30 NIV)]

What is “foreign” to us about how Joseph, his brothers, and Joseph’s household staff ate?
[Joseph was served by himself, the brothers were served separately, and the household staff could not eat with non-Egyptians for that was an abomination to them.]

How are the brothers arranged at table?
[The brothers are seated from the oldest to the youngest.  That may have been common among them as birth order seemed rather important to them.]

The portions of the food for the brothers were taken from Joseph’s table.  How did Joseph demonstrate his partiality toward Benjamin?
[Joseph gave Benjamin five times more than the rest of his brothers (verse 34).  Verse 33 says “The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment.”  I think the astonishment is as a result of the bounty shown to Benjamin.]

Genesis 44:1-17        The Silver Cup

So Joseph “sells” all the grain these Hebrews can carry and then sends them on their way.  The very interesting thing here is that the boys go on their way fat dumb and happy.  For some reason, it does not occur to them that Zaphenath-Paneah may pull the same stunt again – which he does.  What is different this time?
[Joseph, again, puts the silver back into the grain sacks of his brothers, but this time he also put a silver cup (from his own table) into Benjamin’s sack.  It looks like these guys are not quick studies; they don’t seem to learn from their experiences.]

Joseph’s steward catches up with the Hebrews and accuses them of theft.  It is clear that Jacob’s sons did not check their sacks and, without looking into them, made a rash vow.  What was it?
[“But they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say such things?  Far be it from your servants to do anything like that!  We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks.  So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house?  If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’” (Genesis 44:7-9 NIV)]

Now Joseph’s steward examined all the sacks of Judah and his brothers and lo and behold, they find the missing cup in Benjamin’s sack.  It now appears that Benjamin is under a death’s sentence.  These guys have got to be saying to themselves: “How are we ever going to explain this to dad?  This is his greatest fear and disappointment.  Remember how he said: ‘As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’?”  Then they all return to Egypt, to Zaphenath-Paneah to face the music.  What hint does Joseph give his brothers as to his identity?
[“Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him.  Joseph said to them, ‘What is this you have done?  Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?’  (Genesis 44:14-15 NIV)]

Joseph decides not to imprison nor enslave these men of Canaan.  Instead, he decides to keep Benjamin with him and to release the others.  Is this not a sentence worse than death?

You will have to wait until next week for the exciting conclusion.

One thought on “Old Testament Reading Guide -March 5-11, 2012

  1. Pingback: Resources for Genesis 43:8 - 9

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