Genesis 50:1-21 • When Misfortune is God’s Opportunity


No one goes through life without experiencing misfortune. Sometimes misfortune happens as a result of our own poor choices, or, in Joseph’s case, naiveté. Other times, misfortune is the result of circumstances beyond our control. While we often focus on circumventing the misfortune, sometimes the better choice is to seek insight on what God is accomplishing through the misfortune. This week’s study revolves around the events that brought Joseph, and eventually his entire family, to Egypt. As you remember, Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. God’s hand was upon Joseph, however, and he became Pharaoh’s right-hand man and a powerful official in Egypt. The chapter begins with the death of Joseph’s father, Jacob. This study will focus on the remarkable insight Joseph had toward his brothers and the hand of God in all their lives. The lesson will focus on the message God is teaching us about trusting God during times of misfortune, and how God can make good come from even the bleakest of circumstances.

Read verses 1-3

Q: What kind of relationship did Joseph have with his father Jacob, and why? How does their relationship mirror the relationship between God the Father and God the Son?

A: The answer can be found in Genesis 37:3 and 46:28-31. There was a special relationship that, in spite of the evil deeds of men, could not be broken.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.

— Genesis 37:3

Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me;

— Genesis 46:28-31

Q: What does Joseph’s relationship with Jacob tell about Joseph’s life?

A: Joseph is a “type” of Christ. A type is a person or thing that reflects a greater person or thing. For example, Noah’s ark is a type of Christ; it saved Noah and his family from the flood, and the flood is a type of God’s ultimate judgment on all unrighteousness at the Second Coming. There are a great many similarities between Joseph and Jesus, some of which are:

Q: What motivated Joseph’s brothers to almost take his life? How does this relate to the events at the end of Christ’s life?

A: It was jealousy that drove Joseph’s brothers to reject him ( Genesis 37:4). The same was true of the Jewish leaders rejection of Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4)

Read verses 4-14

Q: What does Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh teach us about our conduct in the workplace?

A: Joseph earned Pharaoh’s favor because he was an exemplary servant. Even though Pharaoh was a heathen, did not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and may have participated in immoral behavior, Joseph, because he was Pharaoh’s servant, maintained respect for his employer and excelled in his work ethic. His position as a steward of Pharaoh’s possessions was assigned, but his favor and respect was earned.

Q: Why did Pharaoh see fit to send such a large contingent of Egyptian officials and chariots to accompany Joseph to bury his father?

A: Joseph was so valuable to Pharaoh that he sent official ambassadors and soldiers with chariots to protect the funeral party from any enemy it might encounter. (For an interesting comparison, see Matthew 26:53.)

Q: What is the significance of Jacob wanting to be buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah?

A: First, it was his request (Genesis 49:29-32). It was the burial place for his grandparents Abraham and Sarah, for his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, and for his wife Leah (Rachel was buried near Bethlehem). Second, his burial there continued the claim to the land that God had promised to Abraham. Part of the Abrahamic Covenant was the promise of land to establish a nation (see Genesis 12:6-7 and 15:17-21). Although promised to Abraham by God, Abraham had no possession of land until he purchased a burial site for Sarah. This significant and prophetic event is recorded in Genesis chapter 23, with emphasis in verse 20:

So the field and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.

— Genesis 23:20

Read verses 15-21

Q: After Jacob’s death, why are Joseph’s brothers so afraid.

A: Joseph would not have dared seek revenge while his father was alive, lest he lose his inheritance and his sons’ blessings. Now that Jacob was dead, and being the powerful person he was in Egypt, he could now exact revenge and suffer no consequences.

Q: Why do you suppose Joseph wept when his brothers told him their lie?

A: First, Joseph could see right through the lie. If Jacob had actually said those things, why would he not have shared it directly with Joseph? Second, Joseph is grieving that his brothers actually thought he might exact vengeance. Third, his brothers are willing to admit that “they did you wrong.” Lastly, he is grieved that they are so afraid of him.

Q: What event does verse 18 fulfill?

A: This event fulfills Joseph’s dreams (Genesis 37:5-11).

Q: What is the meaning of Joseph’s response to his brothers in verse 19?

A: He first wants to dispel their fear: “Do not be afraid.” He then explains why they do not need to be afraid. He is not their judge but their savior. He is also offering the proposition that it is God who orchestrated the events of his life, even his misfortunes.

Q: Why is verse 20 so important to viewing life’s misfortunes?

A: From a human perspective, Joseph experienced great misfortune at the hand of his jealous brothers. Those who were supposed to love him actually turned against him and hated him. He was treated unfairly by those in whom he had put his trust. But he had insight to see that “this present result” was orchestrated by God and that he had no cause for bringing harm to his brothers. This verse is one of the most important practical verses in the Old Testament regarding how Christians should view all misfortune. While we often struggle so hard to elude the misfortune, to protect ourselves against it, to circumvent unfortunate circumstances, the Christian has the assurance that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).

Q: How does verse 21 remind us of Christ’s love for us?

A: In the midst of our misfortunes, Jesus calms our spirits by the Holy Spirit’s voice, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus assures us of His presence: “I will provide for you and your little ones.” He brings comfort to us and continues to speak to us through His Word: “So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Overall Application