I’m not sure how many times the story of Joseph and his brothers has been made into a movie, but I know of at least three and I’m sure there are probably more. It’s a great story. It’s filled with drama—love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, plenty and lack – but most of all, forgiveness.
Joseph stays in prison for two long years. Two years. He did nothing wrong. In fact, he did much that was very right in the face of some pretty fierce temptation—and surely he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife.
Pharoah’s butler, having forgotten all about his promise to tell Pharoah about Joseph suddenly remembers when Pharoah has a couple of troubling dreams. Dreams that even the wisest men in his court can’t interpret. So Joseph is brought up out of prison, shaved, dressed, and presented to Pharoah.
We know the story. Pharoah sets Joseph up as his second in command, rising him so high in his government that only the throne separates Joseph from Pharoah. Joseph is given a wife who bears two sons. For seven years of plenty, Joseph stores up food so Egypt is ready when the seven years of famine come – and they do.
And, of course, that brings Joseph’s brothers to Egypt, hoping to buy food enough to keep the family alive. After a few tests, Joseph’s brothers prove themselves and Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. He forgives his brothers, which couldn’t have been easy. After all, they would have killed him if they hadn’t gotten the bright idea to sell him.
I’ve seen the story on the silver screen more times than I can remember, but it’s never really hit home for me before why the tests Joseph puts his brothers to prove anything. But today, I realize that Benjamin is the only other child of Rachel, the woman Jacob loved. If the brothers are truly sorry about what they did to Joseph and they are willing to sacrifice themselves to save Benjamin, they have truly changed.
So Joseph forgives his brothers and is reunited with his father, and once again Joseph gives the glory to God, saying,
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
It’s this one thing about Joseph, I think, that continually sets him above the rest. Even here, he’s aware that God is in charge. That all increase comes from God. That even the immense hardships he endured served a higher purpose. He’s able to look beyond the human face of his brothers’ actions and realize that God led him into an extremely difficult situation for a reason.
That’s not an easy perspective to maintain, but I think it’s crucial. Why else would God spend so much time on this story in the Bible? One thing I know for sure, this story is not there just to entertain us.