Summary: Biblical predestination is that though human beings have free will and are responsible for their sins, God works in all circumstances to bring about his will.
Joseph and Predestination
Genesis 50: 15-21
Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis Chapter 50 and follow along as I read verses 15-21
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, "What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?"
16 So they approached Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this instruction before he died,
17 ’Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, "We are here as your slaves."
19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?
20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones." In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Amen. the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
Genesis tells us that Jacob had several wives and twelve sons and assorted daughters, but he loved his wife Rachel most of all, and consequently her firstborn, Joseph, was his favorite son. The other sons were soon put to tending flocks, but Joseph stayed home with his father.
Joseph was something of a tattletale. His father frequently sent him on errands to his brothers, and he sometimes found them doing things that they were not supposed to be doing, and he told all to his father—which did not set well with his brothers.
But Jacob doted on Joseph and gave him what the KJV calls “the coat of many colors.” The point of giving this distinctive “coat” was that Jacob recognized Joseph as his eldest son. In that culture, 4000 years ago, the eldest son got double the inheritance of any other son. So, Jacob’s decision had direct economic consequences, and it aroused jealousies that nearly destroyed his family. Joseph was not the eldest son. Joseph was the eleventh son. Reuben was the eldest. We can imagine that the other sons would have reluctantly allowed Reuben a double portion because after all he was the firstborn, but they were unhappy with their father changing the natural order of succession and promoting Joseph to eldest son.
The final straw was the dreams. Joseph was always a visionary and he had prophetic dreams. His dreams were symbolic, but the dreams obviously represented Joseph’s superiority over his brothers. And he foolishly told the brothers about the dreams, and we imagine he told them with smug satisfaction.
This drove the brothers over the edge. They had had enough of this arrogant jerk. They decided to kill him. But eventually they thought better of that, and sold him to a passing company of Ishmaelite slave traders.
The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and sold him again to Potiphar. Poor Joseph, he had been a Bedouin prince; now he was just property. He belonged to Potiphar just as much as Potiphar’s dog, and had about the same rights. Being sold into slavery was certainly a traumatic experience, but Joseph, in whom we have not found much to admire so far, was apparently transformed by the experience. He was humiliated and shaken by what had happened, but he determined to make the best of his situation, and he rose quickly through the ranks of the slave hierarchy, and became Potiphar’s steward, or head overseer, supervising all his possessions.
Things were going well for Joseph again, but then disaster again. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. When Joseph refused her advances, she, in her fury, accused him of rape. Joseph was still a slave. His word against the word of his master’s wife was not worth diddily. Potiphar threw Joseph in prison. Commentators point out that Potiphar could have killed Joseph. That he did not suggests that he had some doubts about his wife’s story. In any case, Joseph was still in prison.
This must have seemed like the depths of the depths to Joseph. He was a slave and now on top of that he was in prison with no prospect of ever getting out.
After some time, Genesis tells us that Pharaoh got angry with his cupbearer and his baker and threw them into prison, the same prison were Joseph was. These two high-ranking prisoners had dreams that Joseph interpreted. His interpretation was that the cupbearer would be restored to his office in three days, but that the baker would have his head chopped off in three days. Sure enough, in three days, Pharaoh restored the cupbearer and decapitated the baker.