2-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting Children in the Bible

Part 2: Joseph

001-joseph's family

A young boy named Joseph, who lived in Canaan, was next to the youngest son of a man called Jacob who owned many sheep and goats. He had a younger brother called Benjamin and ten older brothers who took care of their Dad’s animals by protecting them from harm and by leading them to green pastures. They also grew gardens with wheat and other plants and vegetables that helped his family to have plenty of good food to eat.

002-joseph's coat

One day, Joseph’s father gave him a very special coat that had many colors in it. This made his brothers jealous because they could tell that their father liked Joseph more than them.  So they made fun of him and treated him unkindly.

003-joseph-dream of sheaves

One night Joseph had a strange dream when he saw his brothers and himself picking up big sheaves or bunches of wheat from a field that they tied up and left in the sun to dry. They did this so that the tiny kernels of wheat could dry and fall on the ground so that they could be picked up and be used to make bread. Joseph dreamed that his brother’s sheaves had bowed down to his. When he told his brothers about this dream they became even more furious. Who does the little rascal think he is?” one of them asked while another threw up his hands and spat on the ground.

004-joseph-dream of stars

Then Joseph dreamed again. This time he saw the moon and eleven stars bowing down to one star. How strange! he thought. When he told his brothers  about this dream they knew what the dream meant. They, of course, were the eleven stars that were bowing down to him. They would have liked to punch him in the nose, but they didn’t dare. Instead they began to talk behind his back and to make fun of him.

005 Jacob sends Joseph find brothersIt happened that the brothers had to move further and further away from where their tent-home was because the animals had eaten up all the good grass there. When they were gone some time their father Jacob began to worry about them and wondered if they were all right. When more days passed and no news came he decided he just had to do something because they would surely be needing food. So he called Joseph and told him to go look for his brothers and make sure they were well. He also gave Joseph lots of good  food to take along that his servants had prepared.

006-joseph's brothers take coat

So Joseph obeyed and after walking a long time he finally saw them  way off in the distance. Though he was hot and thirsty he ran to them as quickly as he could, but when he got closer he could tell  that something was very wrong. One was  saying in a mean voice, “Here comes the dreamer.” Another said, “What are we going to do with him?” A third said, “Let’s teach him a lesson.”  Now he began to be afraid, but he  had to give them the food he had brought, so he came to them, Then suddenly a bunch of them grabbed him and tore off his coat. Then they picked him up and threw him into a pit.

007-joseph sold to traders

Joseph got hurt from the fall, but he tried to be brave and not cry. It was dark and smelly in the pit and he was desperately afraid.  He scrammed and begged them to get him out but they just laughed and it sounded like they were getting ready to feast on the food he’d  brought. Meanwhile they talked and Joseph could hear one of them saying, “‘Let’s just kill him and be rid of him.” Another said, “No, it will make Father sad.”

About then the brothers  saw a caravan or a group of merchants who were ricing on camels. This gave them an idea. They knew that traders often sold people at the markets in Egypt, so they decided to sell him as a slave. They pulled Joseph up from the pit and tied him up like an animal. Then they tried to clean him up and make him look good. When the merchants came close they acted friendly by chatting with them for a while and them and one of them pointed to Joseph and said, “How much would you pay for the young fellow?  The traders looked carefully at Joseph who was now so scared that he was crying. But the brothers paid no attention.


The traders looked at Joseph and then whispered together. One of them who was a father of a little boy said, “A sharp little fellow he is, but he’s so distressed, couldn’t we just go on?”

But another answered, “No, he’ll bring us lots of money. Let’s offer a good price for him.” To this most of the others agreed. So a bargain was made  Then they grabbed poor Joseph and drug him along, put him on a camel, and off they went.

009-joseph's Father

“Now what are we going to tell our father?” the brothers asked one another. They all looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Finally  one said, “Let’s  take one of our old goats and kill it and dip Joseph’s coat into it’s blood. Then we’ll tell father that surely a wild beast killed him.” The others agreed it was a good idea. So they did the ugly deed.

Later when they returned to their father and showed him Joseph’s coat that was now torn and bloody, and when the father saw it he thought exactly what they wanted him to think. He took the coat and held it to himself. His heart hurt so bad he just wanted to pull his hair out and scream, “No, no, no,” he said. “This just can’t be true. My dear son Joseph. I can’t believe this. How can I live without you?   Over and over he said things like that as he wept.

The brothers thought no one had seen what they’d done, but God sees everything. He knows everything about us.  He hears what we say and even knows what we think.

From then on father Jacob cried day after day and night after night. He also blamed himself for letting his precious Joesph go away all by himself. His brothers were old enough and strong enough to protect themselves, but Joseph was still a young fellow all by himself.

010-joseph-sold in Egypt

Meanwhile Joseph got to Egypt where he was sold at a market, first to Potiphar, a rich man who liked him, but whose wife told lies about him. So he was put in dismal prison. He was sad but he knew that God had protected him and helped him before, so he kept praying for help to do what is right no matter what. In all this hard time God helped him one day at a time. The jailer saw that he was different from the other prisoners and was kind to him and made him his helper. Still many days he was sad and lonely for his father, and he grieved for his mother who had already died when his younger brother was born. It hurt too to know that his brothers would be so unkind to him. It wasn’t easy, but each day he thought upon the things his father had taught him about God, and that comforted him.

011-Joseph Pharoah's dreraml

After a while the great Pharaoh, who was like a king, had some dreams and it happened that he was able to tell the Pharaoh what his dreams meant, and what God wanted him to do. He was to store up lots of grain from wheat and other plants because after seven years there would be seven years with no rain and no fresh food for all the land.

012 Ruler in Egypt

The King was pleased with Joseph and made him a very important ruler in his kingdom. He was put in charge of making plans to store up food for the years when food would be hard to find.

One day Joseph’s family back home ran out of grain to make food because their fields didn’t get enough water. Their father heard that there was grain in Egypt so he sent his sons, except for the youngest Benjamin, to buy some there. Since Joseph was in charge of the food and grain they had to bow down to him and make their request. They didn’t recognize Joseph at first because he’d  grown up and was dressed like an important Egyptian ruler,  but Joseph recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them.

013-Joseph reconciled with family

At first he didn’t  tell them who he was but when his brothers—including Benjamin— returned another time he told them all how God had helped him to become a great ruler in Egypt. His brothers were sorry for what they’d done to him, and Joseph forgave them.

014.Reunion with family in Egypt

Later he was able to help his family come to Egypt where they could live a long time, and where their family would grow to become an important nation. Joseph’s life shows us how God takes care of each one of us, even when bad things happen and we don’t understand why. He also wants us to be forgiving and kind when we could take revenge or be mean to those who have treated us unkindly.

Photos curtesy of: Free Bible images.org The Word in Pictures

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