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Joseph and His Brothers: A Picture of Mercy, Not Revenge


When I was a boy, I was fascinated by the story of Joseph.

His brothers pretended he was dead and sold him into slavery, he got thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t do–and yet he rises to the top. God gives him the power to read the future from dreams, and the wisdom to make the most of it.

But really the thing that got me was Joseph’s brothers.

All right, Jacob was wrong to make Joseph his favorite; that didn’t sit well with the other lads. I got that.

But I was too young to appreciate how much trouble Joseph made for himself by telling his brothers that they were all going to bow down to him, because he’d dreamed it. How to make yourself obnoxious!

I was afraid of Joseph’s brothers. In my book of Bible stories there was a picture of them, kind of in a huddle, debating whether to kill Joseph or what. If these weren’t bad guys, I didn’t know who were. And they had the power. They had Joseph at their mercy, and could do anything to him that they liked.

Now I’m older, and there’s another part of the story that impresses me the most.

The time came when Joseph had his brothers at his mercy. He could have ordered all their throats cut, or had them all sent as slaves to the mines in the desert, and no one would have stopped him. Think of the temptation! “All right, you creeps–welcome to payback time…”

You can easily imagine what Joseph would do if he were the (ahem) action hero of a modern movie.

But what he does do is awesome. He forgives them.

“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

[For those who do not know the Bible, Joseph’s being sold into slavery in Egypt, and rising there to the highest office in the land, was the means by which the whole family of Israel was saved in time of famine.]

Joseph is great enough not to be seduced by his own greatness. He humbles himself before God.

A great man in this world today would be far too foolish ever to do that. “Hey! I am in the place of God, and I can do anything I want!”

When they finally did bow down and honor him, Joseph raised them up again. And that is awesome.


Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.


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