Godly Joseph and Worldly Judah

 Genesis 37-39



Genesis 37:1 - Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.


In Genesis 37:1 we see it mentioned that Isaac, the father of Jacob was a “stranger” or pilgrim in the land. That is a major theme of Genesis in that all of the people of God are “strangers” in this world. The Bible tells us:


1.)    God chooses us “out of” the world – John 15:19; 17:6, 14, 16; 1 Peter 1:1-2.


2.)    The Bible states God’s people are “strangers and pilgrims” in the world – 1 Peter 2:11-12.


3.)    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had their eyes of faith set on a heavenly city built and dwelt in by God – Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16.


4.)    To a great extent we are “homeless” until we get to heaven – Luke 9:58; 1 Corinthians 4:11.


5.)    We are to guard against letting the world stain us or get it’s claws into us – Romans 12:2; Galatians 6:14; Titus 2:12; James 1:27; 1 John 5:4-5.


Having said this, the last section of Genesis begins by presenting us with a contrast of characters. The last major character of Genesis is Joseph and he is contrasted with his brother Judah. Joseph is a picture of godliness while Judah is worldly in his ways.


Godly Joseph


Genesis 37

Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”

10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.”

So he said to him, “Here I am.”

14 Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.” So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.

15 Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?”

16 So he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.

17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. 19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! 20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”

21 But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.

23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. 26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

29 Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. 30 And he returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?”

31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. 32 Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”

33 And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.

36 Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.


Joseph does not reach the biblical prominence of his predecessors Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God never actually appears to Joseph as He did to the others. The covenant promises are not passed down to Joseph in any special way. Joseph’s brother Judah is chosen over Joseph as the one through whom Messiah would descend (Genesis 49:8-12; Revelation 5:5). Yet, of the figures in Genesis, Joseph is the most honorable and holy, the most Christlike. Indeed, Joseph is a type of Christ in the book of Genesis. Through the life of Joseph we will see the way a pilgrim can overcome this world.


Joseph was not perfect. While his dreams were prophetic, the manner in which he shared them with his family reveals that he was possibly given to pride (37:5-11). But Joseph grew to have very Christ-like attributes: He was a man of integrity whose priority was the interests of his father (37:2; compare John 15:18-25; 17:14); Joseph was loved by his father (37:3-4); he had vision in that God gave him dreams of the future (37:5-12; compare Mark 14:62-65; Luke 22:66-71); Joseph was obedient (37:13-14; compare John 14:15, 21,23-24; Philippians 2:5-7); and Joseph persevered in times of persecution (37:19-20, 26-28; Matthew 26:15; Luke 20:13-14; 19:46-47).


When we look at this chapter we see that Joseph exhibited many godly characteristics for us to emulate. What were they?


First, Joseph was a man of integrity (37:2).  While Joseph may have been acting partially from sibling rivalry, he was more concerned about the best interests of his father than the approval of his siblings. Jesus testified against the world and was hated for it (Matthew 24:9-10; John 15:18-25; 17:14; 1 John 3:13-15).


Second, Joseph was loved by His father (37:2-4, 29-36). Joseph was his father’s favorite and he reciprocated that love. Similarly, Jesus is the Beloved of the Father (Matthew 3:17).


Third, Joseph was a man of vision (37:5-12). Joseph received a vision from the LORD in a dream and was hated for sharing that vision. Jesus was hated for telling the world the truth of His mission (Mark 14:62-65; Luke 22:66-71).


Fourth, Joseph was a man of obedience (37:13-14). Joseph obeyed his father. Jesus obeyed the will of the Father (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; Philippians 2:5-8).


Fifth, Joseph was a man of perseverance (37:15-28).  Joseph persevered though persecuted and rejected by those he loved. Jesus was despised and rejected by His own people (Luke 19:46-47; 20:13-14). Joseph was sold into slavery (37:26-28). Jesus was sold out for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).


Worldly Judah


Genesis 38

It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her. 3 So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5 And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him.

6 Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him. 8 And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also.

11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

12 Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.

So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”

17 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.”

So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?

18 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?”

So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. 21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?”

And they said, “There was no harlot in this place.

22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.

23 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.”

24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.”

So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

25 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.”

26 So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.

27 Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. 28 And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.


In Genesis 38 we see a contrasting character, Judah older brother of Joseph. Judah wasn’t all bad. Judah may have left his brothers because of their treachery with Joseph (38:1-2).  It was Judah who kept his brothers from killing Joseph (37:26-27). But Judah impulsively married a Canaanite without consulting his father. Canaanites were traditionally: Idolatrous (Deuteronomy 29:17); Superstitious (Deuteronomy 18:9-11); and Wicked (Leviticus 18:27; Deuteronomy 9:5; 18:12). Judah may have been sick over the treachery against Joseph but he was immoral in his choice of wives. Judah is an example of a worldly believer who is a little bit moral.


 Judah’s family life reveals he was not blessed: his sons were wicked (38:7, 9-10); and his wife died (38:12). Judah was not a man of his word, not a man of integrity (38:11, 13-14). He went looking for sin, e.g. a prostitute (38:15-18; Proverbs 7). He thought he could hide his sin (38:20-23). Judah was hypocritical (38:24). He was shamed by his sinfulness (38:25-26).


Judah was a worldly believer. When we look at his life we see things that should not characterize a believer of God. What are they?


First, Judah was only a little bit moral (38:1-2).  Judah was moral enough to leave his brothers over the mistreatment of Joseph, but not moral enough to curb his worldly lusts; he actually married a worldling.


Second, Judah was not blessed (38:3-10-12). Judah’s sons were wicked and his wife died; the Lord was not with him like He was with Joseph.


Third, Judah was not a man of his word (38:11, 13-14).  He forgot about his promise to Tamar concerning the Levirate vow.


Fourth, Judah went looking for sin (38:15-18).  He looked for a prostitute who just happened to turn out to be Tamar (Proverbs 7).


Fifth, Judah thought he could hide his sinfulness (38:20-23).  He thought by giving up on his pledge that his sin would just go away (Proverbs 24:12; Romans 2:6; 6:23; Galatians 6:7-8).


Sixth, Judah was hypocritical (38:24).  He was ready to sentence Tamar to be burned until his involvement in her pregnancy was revealed (John 8:1-11).


Seventh, Judah was shamed (38:25-26).  Judah’s involvement in the world and sin came back to bite him as he suffered public disgrace (Philippians 3:19).


All of what happens in this chapter is a sad commentary on Judah and his family. A lot of families throughout history and up to today can probably relate to the dysfunction found in this chapter. But there is hope and grace. When we turn to the first chapter of the first book in the New Testament, Matthew, in the first few verses we find an interesting name listed in the genealogy of Jesus. When we read down to verse three we find the name Perez. This Perez is the same Perez who was born from the illegitimate immoral actions of Genesis 38. And yet God used him. That should give you hope and a deeper appreciation for God’s grace. All of us have things in our past which are cause for regret. But the inclusion of Perez should give us hope that in Christ God can and does redeem us and make us useable for His glory. With Paul we can trust and rest in the fact that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Thank you Lord that there is always hope for redemption and recovery in You.


Godly Joseph Guards His Heart in a Tempting Trying World


Genesis 39

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. 13 And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14 that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.”

16 So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; 18 so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”

19 So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. 20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.


In Genesis 39 we see Joseph as a stark moral contrast to immoral Judah (Genesis 38). The phrase, “The LORD was with Joseph” and the opening verses of this chapter indicate there was a relationship of faith and trust in God by Joseph(39:1-6). Joseph was approached by Potiphar’s wife and tempted to commit adultery (39:1,7). In this situation, Joseph was uncompromisingly moral (39:8); he knew sin was not only against Potiphar, but more importantly against God (39:9-10). What we see here in Joseph is something every Christian should take note of. Joseph guarded his heart. Joseph did not allow himself to be lured into sin. His heart always belonged to God first and foremost and that is the secret to overcoming temptations. Joseph ran from sin (39:11-12). Because Joseph’s heart belonged to the Lord he did not complain when thrown into prison. Just like Jesus Joseph did not defend himself (39:13-23). In these situations Joseph gives us a perfect example of how to respond to temptations and trials in the world (See Psalm 119:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:8-9).


How did Joseph guard his heart to resist temptation and weather the storms of trial that hit him?   There are six things we see in Joseph that answers this question.


First, “the LORD was with Joseph” (39:1-2,3, 21, 23). God blessed Joseph. Even unbelievers knew God was with Joseph (39:3). Joseph had a relationship with God and that relationship sustained him throughout out all his difficulties. Eternal life is all about knowing God (John 17:3) and abiding in Him (John 15).


Second, sin had to look for him he did not look for sin (39:4-7).  He did not seek out sin but it sought out him.


Third, Joseph was a man of uncompromising morality (39:8).  Joseph would not compromise his moral standards; he would not give in to the call of the world (Proverbs 6:20-29).


Fourth, Joseph had a godly fear (39:9-10). He was not afraid of God, but he was afraid of giving the world reason to blaspheme God because of his behavior. Joseph cared more for his relationship with God than for any relationship in the world (39:9-10; 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51:4; Proverbs 1:7; 15:3).


Fifth, Joseph ran from sin (39:11-12). Joseph sought an escape from sin, he didn’t succumb to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 2:22).


Sixth, Joseph depended on God to defend him (39:13-23).  Joseph didn’t defend himself but trusted in God to work things out. Jesus did not defend Himself (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:19-23).


What about you? Are you more like Joseph or Judah? Judah’s trials were self inflicted because of sin and he suffered shame as a result. Joseph lived godly and suffered too, but God got him through and used him mightily. The choice is yours. Who will you follow?