Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Genesis 39-47, Genesis 50

Story Summary

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.

What You Will Need

Snack Suggestion
Whole Grain Bread (Genesis 42:1-2)

Video Options

Joseph Forgives

From Saddleback Kids Hey-O Series

God's Story - Joseph

From Crossroads Kids Club

Resource Sheets

Jacob's Family Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts the dream Pharaoh had that led Jacob's family to Egypt.

Cow Outline

Use this cow outline for some of the reinforcement activities below


1. Warm Up get your kids talking and engaged

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.

2. Teach the Story teach a holistic story

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. 

3. Bible Mastery give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Genesis 39:1-4; Genesis 41:1-7

4. Comprehension Questions make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Who was Joseph's boss in Egypt?
  • Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials
  • How did Joseph end up in jail in Egypt?
  • Potiphar's wife accused him of doing something wrong
  • How did Joseph get out of jail?
  • He interpreted Pharaoh's dreams for him
  • What did Pharaoh's dream about?
  • 7 fat cows, 7 skinny cows, skinny cows eat the fat cows; 7 full heads of grain, 7 thin heads of grain, full heads swallow thin heads
  • What did Pharaoh's dreams mean?
  • That there would be 7 years of plenty, and then 7 years of famine, and that he should save up during the years of plenty
  • What did Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of?
  • Storing up food to prepare for the famine
  • Who came to buy grain from Joseph?
  • People from all over the lands, including his brothers who were still living in Canaan
  • Did Joseph forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery?
  • Yes
  • Why did Joseph's family move to Egypt?
  • So they would have enough food to get through the time of famine
  • What did Jacob's family become known as?
  • The Israelites
  • Name Jacob's sons.
  • Listed above

5. Faith Questions open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer

  • Even though something bad happened to Joseph (his brothers selling him), God still had a plan for Joseph and worked it out to Joseph's good, and his family.
  • Did you know that God has a plan for your life? (good verses here are Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28)

6. Memory Verse hide God's Word in their heart

Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don't give up. Galatians 6:9

Reinforcement Activities

Suitcase Relay

Scripture So Jacob and his whole family went to Egypt. They took their livestock with them. And they took everything they had gotten in Canaan. Genesis 46:6
Supplies Suitcase, clothes, toys, etc
  • (repeat from lesson 5, Abram's call)
  • Divide class into two teams and have them line up one behind another.
  • Give the first child in line the suitcase.
  • Put all the items (clothes, toys, etc) at the opposite side of the room, in a pile on the floor.
  • The first child in line for each team must run to the pile of clothes and toys, fill up the suitcase, run back to the line, and hand the suitcase to the next child in line.
  • The next child must take the suitcase to the opposite side of the room, unpack it, run back to the line, and hand the empty suitcase to the next child in line.
  • Repeat until all children have gone for each team.

Fat Cow, Skinny Cow Balloons

Heads up! Be aware of latex allergies
Scripture The ugly, skinny cows ate up the seven cows that looked healthy and fat. Then Pharaoh woke up. Genesis 41:4
Supplies Light-colored balloon for each child, sharpie markers, yarn, printed picture of a cow (see below for cow outline)
  • Print out the cow outline (from the Resource Sheets)
  • Allow the children to color their cows if they would like
  • Provide each child a balloon
  • Before blowing up the balloons, put the cow inside the balloon (you may need to fold the paper a bit to get it in)
  • Blow up the balloon
  • Decorate the balloon to look like a cow (eyes, spots, etc)
  • Tie the yarn on the end of the balloon for a tail
  • Remind the children that in Pharaoh's dream, the skinny cows ate the fat cows.

Lego Grain Silos

Heads up! Prepare bags of the same number and style of building blocks for each group of students.
Scripture During the seven years of plenty in Egypt the earth brought forth abundantly. Joseph went forth and gathered up all the food and stored it up in the cities of Egypt. Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea.
Supplies Lego or similar style building bricks, rice or other grains to fill constructions, small scoop
  • Divide students into groups to work together to design a storage bin for the grain. Remind students that Joseph had to be able to store alot of grain.
  • Distribute the prepared bags of building blocks.
  • Instruct students to build a storage container using the building materials they have, trying to see what type of construction will hold the most grain.
  • Allow time to construct.
  • When finished, add scoops of grain to the constructions, counting to see how many each different type of container will hold.

Family Tree Mobile

Scripture So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain there. But Jacob didn't send Joseph's brother Benjamin with them. He was afraid Benjamin might be harmed. Genesis 42:3-4
Supplies clothes hanger for each student, 12 people cutouts for each student, yarn, markers
  • Have each child decorate and label person cutouts with names of 12 brothers.
  • Attach 12 people with yarn to the hanger to make a mobile.

Water Bottle Silos

Heads up! cut top off of water bottles prior to class.
Scripture During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. Genesis 41:47-49
Supplies water bottles, construction paper, rice, scissors, clear tape
  • Cut a circle out of black construction paper.
  • Cut a slit in the circle in toward the middle.
  • Fold together to make a some shape. This is the top of your silo.
  • Add rice to the silo.
  • Cut a small square of construction paper and write:
  • 7 years of pently, 7 years of famine

Family Tree

Scripture So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain there. But Jacob didn't send Joseph's brother Benjamin with them. He was afraid Benjamin might be harmed. Genesis 42:3-4
  • Make a family tree with 12 branches, one for each of the brothers, the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Add 2 branches coming off of Joseph for Manasseh and Ephraim.

"Hello, my name is Joseph" Game

Scripture As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them. But he pretended to be a stranger. He spoke to them in a mean way. "Where do you come from?" he asked. Genesis 42:7
  • One student ("it") steps out of the room.
  • Choose one student to be Joseph.
  • Invite "it" back into room, without allowing them to see who you chose as Joseph.
  • Have "it" close their eyes.
  • Joseph has to say "Hello, my name is Joseph" in a disguised voice.
  • "It" has to guess who Joseph is.
  • Joseph's family did not recognize him when they went to Egypt to get food.

Dream Interpreters

Scripture Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream. No one can tell me what it means. But I've heard that when you hear a dream you can explain it." Genesis 41:15
  • Have each child tell the group about a very strange dream that they have had.
  • Have the other children come up with the meaning of that dream.

Paper Family Chain

Scripture So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain there. But Jacob didn't send Joseph's brother Benjamin with them. He was afraid Benjamin might be harmed. Genesis 42:3-4
  • Make a paper doll chain according to the instructions below.
  • If your paper does not allow for 12 people, attach them together with glue or tape to make 12 people in a line.
  • Write the names of Joseph's brothers (1-11)
  • Two of Joseph's sons (Manasseh and Ephraim) were considered half tribes. Write them together on the last person cutout.
  • Note: There is not a tribe of Joseph. His tribe was named after his 2 sons.