Joseph was sold as a slave to some Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt (see the last lesson). They then sold him to one of Pharaoh's officials, Potiphar. God was pleased with Joseph. He was put in charge of Potiphar’s house.
Potiphar's wife came on to Joseph, but Joseph refused her advances. (You can say, "Potiphar's wife accused Joseph of doing something wrong that he didn't do"). She became enraged and accused him of coming on to her. He was put into prison. But God was with Joseph while he was in prison too, and he was put in charge of all the prisoners.
Pharaoh became angry with his two officials, the chief wine taster and the chief baker. He put them in the same prison where Joseph was kept. They both had dreams while they were in prison and couldn't figure out what they meant. Joseph was able to interpret their dreams. Some time later the Pharaoh begins having dreams. He dreams that there are 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows, and the skinny cows eat the fat cows. Then he dreams that there are 7 full heads of grain, and 7 thin heads of grain, and the full heads swallow the thin heads.
He does not understand what the dreams mean and no one could interpret them for him. Word had gotten around that Joseph was able to interpret dreams and is recommended to Pharaoh. He told Pharaoh that there was going to be 7 years of good rain and crops and then 7 years of drought and famine. Pharaoh is pleased that Joseph interpreted the dreams and puts him in charge of storing away crops for the first 7 years so that there will be enough to last Egypt through the 7 years of famine. Joseph becomes very important and is the second most important person in the kingdom after Pharaoh.
During the drought, there was not enough food in Canaan, where Joseph’s family still lived. People came from all over to buy food from the Egyptians. Jacob (Israel) sent his sons to Egypt to buy food. They met Joseph in Egypt, but did not recognize him, until Joseph revealed himself to them as his brother. He invited his family to move to Egypt, so they would have enough food. The brothers return home and then bring their families and their father back to Egypt to live, so they have enough food during the years of famine.
It is very important to begin to understand the fact that Jacob’s 12 sons become the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob’s new name). Read the names of Joseph’s 11 brothers:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin.
You would think the 12th tribe would be Joseph, but there is actually no tribe of Joseph! Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh were elevated to the status of tribal leaders along with their uncles. Their tribes were known as "half-tribes" because they both took Joseph's spot. Far from a demotion, this gave Joseph more honor and blessing than before!
Before Jacob passed, he gave Joseph a double portion of an inheritance, which was taken away from Reuben. Jacob punished Reuben for sleeping with his concubine Bilhah (this was a messed up family!) and took away his birthright as a punishment.
So that makes 13 tribes! But if you look on a map of land allotment, you will only see 12 tribes listed there. What gives? Well, the tribe that is missing from the map is Levi, because that became the tribe of priests. They lived scattered throughout the 12 tribes with no land allotment to call their own.
You will see those names over and over in the Old Testament.
Once Isaac passed away, Joseph's brothers were sure that he would exact revenge on them for everything they had done to him. But Joseph forgave them instead. “You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
God used Joseph's obedience, excellence in his work, and forgiveness of his brothers, to fulfill his promises to Abraham and Isaac.
Show stalks of wheat and pictures of a cow. Bonus points for actually bringing a cow into the classroom...
Ask the children if they had ever been really really hungry (be sensitive to this question based on your students). Help them understand that most of the time, we don't ever get truly hungry because our parents save up food during the week so we always have some available.
Today we are going to learn about how Joseph helped the Egyptians save food so they had plenty when it stopped raining and their crops stopped growing.
This is a very long story (8 chapters of Genesis), so make sure you have read it from start to finish from an actual Bible so you have a fresh understanding of it.
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or tell the story yourself. You may need to fill in the details from the Story Summary above as necessary to communicate the full story to the children.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Genesis 39:1-4; Genesis 41:1-7
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?