If there’s a story in the Bible that illustrates how God can work through challenging circumstances, and life’s most painful experiences to beautifully fulfill a dream or vision, then it has to be the story of Joseph. The young man, only seventeen, starts out being sold as a slave and ends up second-in-command of all ancient Egypt.
It is easy for us to breeze through the Biblical narrative and not really think about what this young man must have gone through. We may also take for granted the way God promoted him because we do not think about life in the context of that time.
As I typed-out the pages of the book I marveled at the trust and faithfulness Joseph showed. His God did not disappoint him. Several years after he had been brought to Egypt, he stood next to Pharaoh as lord of all ancient Egypt.
Excerpt from Joseph Of Egypt
From Chapter One: One ‘Ordinary’ Day
Dothan was not far from Shechem; it took Joseph only a few hours to reach the place. Soon he could see the flock in the distance and his brothers standing nearby. Jacob’s sons recognized him at about the same time he recognized them. They could make out the unmistakable robe; it was markedly different from the brown and black robes most of them wore. One of them said, “Look, this master of dreams comes, come let us kill him, cast him into a deep pit and say a wild beast has devoured him, and then we shall see what will become of his dreams.” Reuben heard and was against it. He said, “Let us not take his life; shed no blood; cast him into this pit here which is in the wilderness and leave him there but do not lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this so he could later retrieve his brother from the pit and take him back to Jacob. He then walked away to another side of the meadows—a good distance away. He did not want to be there when they cast Joseph into the pit, he knew his presence would betray the concern he had, which would make him appear disloyal and suspicious to the others.
Joseph eventually reached his brothers, and as the greeting came out of his mouth, they seized him. He was bewildered when the men proceeded to violently strip him of his coat with a fierce glare in their eyes. They dragged him towards the dried-up well in his inner tunic. When Joseph realized what they intended to do, he cried out in fear, but they dropped him into the pit and he fell several feet down. He landed at the bottom of the well, his fall cushioned by the moistened earth. He could feel his heart pounding fast. Joseph knew the brothers hated him but this was something he had never anticipated. They were now high up at the mouth of the well looking down at him. He pleaded with them not to abandon him but he got no answer. Suspecting they were upset about something, he offered to do anything they asked—whatever it was.
As he continued to plead, he saw what he feared most: they moved away from the well without saying a word. The pit was deep and its walls slippery so it was impossible to get out without any assistance. He kept calling out to the brothers even when they were out of sight, the echoes of his voice rung in the pit, and when he had begged so many times and got no answer, he began to despair.
By this time, the men had moved away from the well and gone under a tree shade to have their noontime meal. Although they accomplished exactly what they wanted, they did not feel the satisfaction of vengeance they had anticipated. Instead, for most of them, there was guilt; this was especially true for Judah. Joseph’s teary pleas had moved him and he only imagined how much worse it would feel if they left him to die.
As though someone had been listening to Judah’s thoughts, movement on a hill in the distance caught their attention. When they looked up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants carrying their wares on camels. They seemed to come at just the right time; Judah instantly came up with an idea. Instead of letting Joseph die in the pit, they could sell him to the merchants and be rid of him without causing any death and having to bear the guilt thereof. Judah spoke to his brothers, “What gain shall we have if we kill our brother and conceal his death? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelite merchantmen and let not our hand be upon him for he is our brother and our flesh.” They all agreed. Secretly within them there was relief, it was better that no life be lost.
They stood by and waited for the caravan to pass near them. The merchants shortly arrived and the brothers hailed the men to stop. They obliged and all the camels were made to kneel. The leader of the merchants walked towards the sons of Jacob.
The tradesmen’s chief was a lean but firm man with a great beard. His head was covered with a lengthy black cloth wrapped around several times. He had a complexion browned by the sun, eyes wrinkled by glare and a face as rough as the numerous journeys he had made. He wore a large dark robe reaching his feet, and had a dagger tucked under the skin belt around his waist. The camels behind him carried an assortment of spices, balm and plenty of myrrh. The other merchants (who were dressed like their leader) looked on as he spoke to the brothers.
The merchant leader asked to see Joseph and Judah led him towards the well. The man looked down and inside—to the bottom. He wanted to have a better look at the boy. Joseph could only wonder who this man was and why he looked into the pit.
A rope with a cloth bound to its end dropped inside the well. One the brothers told Joseph to hold on so they could draw him out. Certain and grateful that they had reconsidered, he wrapped the cloth with some rope round one hand, and held on firmly with the other. His brothers all got behind the rope and pulled hard. They lifted him towards the top and helped him out. Joseph was surprised to see the caravan of Ishmaelite merchants not far away from the well. Suddenly, two of his brothers held his hands together, and Simeon ruthlessly bound him as if there was no relationship between them.
Still perplexed and wondering what was happening, Joseph saw the merchant leader looking at him with keen interest. It soon was plain that he was becoming a part of their merchandize. He pleaded with his brothers again. The leader ordered two of his men to take Joseph to the caravan. They held him, one on each arm, and dragged him towards the camels.
The brothers ignored Joseph’s desperate pleas. The men put him onto one of the kneeling camels as he continued to plead. They threatened to take his life if he did not comply with them and seeing the daggers they carried, Joseph stopped struggling.
After retrieving a skin pouch from his camel, the merchant leader counted out twenty silver pieces and handed them to Judah. He then went back to the caravan and mounted his camel. All the animals lazily stood up, one after the other. Joseph held on to the camel’s handle with the free parts of his hands and the camel lifted him as high as it stood. There were merchants both ahead of him and behind him.
As the camel train moved forward, Joseph kept his face turned back towards his brothers. Perhaps the desperate look on his face and the tears would move them to reconsider. This did not happen; they coldly turned away from him.
Jacob’s sons shared out twenty pieces of silver among themselves and tried to look pleased, but the experience of seeing their brother begging for mercy and the reality of his permanent separation from them, affected them in a way they would never forget.
Shortly after the Ishmaelites left, Reuben arrived and went straight towards the well to check on Joseph. He was shocked when he found it empty and immediately suspected they had slain their brother, he tore his outer garment in anguish. He then walked towards his brothers who sat under a tree shade, and asked them what they had done with Joseph. They explained what happened and their words distressed him. He thought of their father; his precious son was now the property of merchants and on the way to Egypt. Reuben was the eldest of the brothers and Jacob would hold him accountable. What would he say to their father? Looking at his brothers sternly he said, “The boy is no more, and I—where will I go?”
The men knew they had to account for their brother’s disappearance but none of them wanted to face their father. They needed to come up with a tale to conceal what had happened. They could then send the information to Jacob since no one wanted to give him such news directly. After some deliberation, the brothers decided to stick to the original cover-up they had considered when they contemplated taking his life. A wild beast had met their brother on the way and killed him; after all, they were sure they would never see him again. To convince their father, they cut up Joseph’s garment. Thereafter, they took a young goat, slaughtered the animal and dipped the robe in its blood. As they held the robe up, blood dripped out of it and it looked authentic. They hoped their father would not suspect anything. The men then sent a servant (who had not witnessed anything) bearing the torn cloth to Mamre; he would take it to Jacob. This would be more convincing and make their father believe that they had not seen Joseph at all.
Under the instructions of Joseph’s brothers, the servant set off towards Mamre. After a fairly long walk, he met with some of Jacob’s shepherds. They were feeding flock near the encampment. The servant acknowledged them with a salutation of peace and the shepherds replied with the same. He then held out the robe and spoke of how Joseph’s brothers had found it on the way to Shechem. They suspected it might belong to Joseph. The shepherds were concerned; they knew the boy had gone to Shechem alone. They advised the man to ask Jacob who would know for sure.
The servant slowly and hesitantly walked to the entrance of Jacob’s tent holding the bloodstained robe. He asked for permission to enter and it was granted. Before he could say anything, Jacob fixed his eyes on the coat, he knew what he saw. The servant then narrated how he came to be in possession of the robe and where the brothers had found it.
Jacob was silent and when the servant asked him to examine the robe, he only said, “My son’s robe! An evil beast has devoured him; torn—torn is Joseph!” He had imagined the painful and horrific death his son must have suffered given the appearance of the robe.
Jacob was convinced that another tragedy had just befallen him. He had not completely healed from Rachel’s death and now his beloved son was no more. He tore his outer garment and wrapped himself in sackcloth. Everyone around the encampment soon heard about what happened and they came to bewail the boy’s tragic end.
This time, Jacob would not accept it, he was angry. The God of his father had already been so cruel to take Rachel and now Joseph was gone.