Bible study: Despite his circumstances, Joseph stayed faithful to God

Genesis 37:5–8, 18–28


In our culture, we do not value dreamers. I tend to be a daydreamer. I have had people say to me, “Mark to Earth,” as I dreamed about the coming months.

In the Bible, God uses dreams at least a dozen times to reveal His nature or plan. For example, the terms “dream” and “dreams” occur seven times in Matthew’s narration of the events associated with the birth of Jesus in Matthew 2. The Bible also warns against false dreams. He notes that some dreams may come from a demonic source.

A dream (5–8)

Dreams play a major role in the narrative of Genesis. In the Christian Standard Bible, the terms “dream” and “dreams” occur 84 times in Genesis. Genesis 37 begins on an ominous note. The 17-year-old Joseph brings a negative report about his brothers to their father. Joseph was a dreamer. He had had a dream that focused on the roles within the family. He dreamed of sheaves of agricultural products. Joseph’s sheaf stood up, but the sheaves of his brothers bowed down to Joseph’s sheaves.

Joseph, the 11th of 12 brothers, does not need to interpret the dream to his brothers. He had dreamed that he would be elevated and be more important than his brothers. Jacob, now known also as Israel and the father of the 12 sons, earlier had added fuel to the fire by making known to all the family that Joseph is his favorite son (v. 3).

A plot (18–22)

Israel sends Joseph to his brothers and the flocks. The brothers see Joseph at a distance and plot to kill their younger brother.

The brothers sarcastically call Joseph “the dream expert,” or literally, “lord of dreams.” The Hebrew term translated as “expert” or “lord” is “ba’al,” from which came the name of the fertility god of the Canaanites. The oldest brother, Reuben, attempts to save Joseph from his brothers by setting forth what may have been an indirect manner of death rather than an active manner of death.

Reuben says to the other brothers, “Don’t shed blood.” Reuben advises the brothers to throw Joseph into a pit. Reuben plans to return later to rescue Joseph and return him to their father.

A pit (23–28)

The brothers strip Joseph of his prized gift coat and throw him into an empty pit without any water. While Joseph is in a pit without any water, the brothers feast on a meal.

A caravan of Ishmaelites are found traveling to Egypt with rich spices such as aromatic gum. Judah proposes the brothers sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the descendants of Ishmael, who was the offspring of Abraham and Hagar.

The treatment of Joseph could have led him to question God’s promises regarding his future. Would Joseph begin to doubt the dreams given by God? Would he remain faithful to God? Would Joseph become callous because of the way his family treated him? An equally important question is how we respond when we feel mistreated by family or close friends.

In future chapters within Genesis, we discover that Joseph becomes the physical savior of his family in his leadership role within the Egyptian government.


This lesson was written by Mark Rathel, professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Fla., and originally published by The Baptist Paper. This study is based on the Explore the Bible curriculum from Lifeway Christian Resources.