We left Joseph in jail, the Cupbearer having totally forgotten about him.
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Years later, the Pharaoh has a dream of 7 sickly cows eating 7 healthy ones, and again about 7 poor ears of corn eating 7 healthy ones. No one can interpret this dream, and now the Cupbearer remembers Joseph, who is brought before the Pharaoh.
Pharaoh asks Joseph if he can interpret dreams and Joseph gives credit to God as the one who does that, and then he interprets the dreams Pharaoh had. The interpretation, as we all know, was that there would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph states someone should be in charge of collecting a tax on the good crops and storing it away for the famine years.
Pharaoh, a smart guy, recognizes that Joseph is the right man for the job, and promotes him from prisoner to second in command of the entire country. Joseph then stores grain throughout the kingdom, and when the famine hits, Egypt is the only place anyone in the entire Middle East can find food.
As Joseph continues to be a blessing to the Pharaoh and the people, now married and with children, the famine has hit his family back in Canaan. Jacob tells his sons to go to Egypt and buy food, but he keeps Benjamin home because Ben is now his newest favorite, the only surviving son of his true love, Rachel.
The 10 brothers see Joseph in order to buy food, but they do not recognize him. That makes sense because, first of all, they figure he is probably dead by now, and Joseph would have been dressed and made-up like an Egyptian. However, Joseph knows them right away and immediately comes up with a plan to test them.
Notice that he doesn’t plan revenge, but to test them to see if they have learned to stop being jealous and vengeful.
He gives them a hard time, interrogating them until they tell of their father, what happened to Joseph, and that Benjamin is still at home. He holds Simeon hostage and tells them they can have food, but they must not return without their youngest brother to prove their story or Simeon will remain in jail.
They return to their homes and tell Jacob what happened, but he refuses to let them take Benjamin out of his sight. Not only that, but Joseph secretly put all their money back in their packs, and when they discover this they are now doubly afraid to return, assuming that Joseph will think they stole the food.
Eventually, they run out of food and Jacob says to go back to Egypt and get more, but they say they have to have Benjamin. Finally, only after Judah says he will guarantee Benjamin’s safety, Jacob allows Benjamin to go.
When they arrive, Joseph sees Benjamin and releases Simeon, having all the brothers eat lunch in his house. He has their money put back in their sacks, and also has his servants put a cup of his in the pack belonging to Benjamin. After the brothers leave, Joseph sends his men to catch up to them and accuse them of stealing. They say they wouldn’t do such a thing, and if anything of Joseph’s is found with one of the brothers, that brother will be put to death.
Well, imagine their surprise when it ends up being with Benjamin! They are all taken back, and after pleading with Joseph, Joseph says Benjamin will remain his slave forever, but the other brothers are free to go home.
That’s the end of this parashah.
The story of Joseph is, if you ask me, one of the greatest of all the biblical stories of God’s protection and salvation.
WHAT?? God’s protection? Joseph was almost killed by his brothers, sold into slavery, then made a prisoner…you call that ‘protection’?”
Yes, I do, because he was almost killed, but not killed.
He was sold into slavery, but with an honest and kind man who treated him as a son, putting him in charge of his entire household.
He was imprisoned instead of being put to death, which would have happened to any other slave accused of trying to rape the Master’s wife.
While in jail, he was made a trustee and placed in charge of two high-ranking prisoners, so he was in the best situation one could be in when in jail.
Yes- God protected and carried Joseph through all that because Joseph was continually faithful to God and did as God would have wanted him to do, which is what Shaul, many centuries later, told the Believers in his letter to the Colossians when he said (Colossians 3:23):
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
God’s protection isn’t making sure that your life is a bed of roses and nothing ever goes wrong. God doesn’t see things as we do, and since he is eternal, his focus is usually on the eternal and not so much on the here-and-now, which is essentially what our entire lifetime comes down to.
When we do as God says we should do, we are walking with him and under his covering.
Think of it as walking in the rain under an umbrella: if it is a soft rain with no wind, you will remain completely dry. But, if the wind is acting up and the rain is coming down hard, your feet and even the lower parts of your legs will likely get wet.
You are still covered, you aren’t completely soaked, but you’re not completely dry, either.
Joseph certainly went through a rough rainstorm, and because he remained under the umbrella, even when his feet got wet, he not only survived but thrived at the end.
We all go through a number of situations during our lives when we have tsouris, and it doesn’t matter what happens as much as how we react to it. To some, a molehill is a mountain and to others, a mountain is just something to climb over.
I think most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes.
The take-away for today is to be as Joseph was- always doing what is right, moral, and godly. And staying totally and absolutely trusting in God, convinced unfailingly that so long as you do what is right in God’s eyes (Col. 3:23), which he instructs us to do in the Torah, then even if we get wet and dirty feet from the world, he will still be there to cover the rest of us from even worse things and get us through the fire.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!