- July 8, 2020
The next hero of the faith presented by the writer of Hebrews is Joseph. Here’s what is said about this great patriarch in Hebrews 11:22, “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Backstory Joseph is a big story. It
The next hero of the faith presented by the writer of Hebrews is Joseph. Here’s what is said about this great patriarch in Hebrews 11:22,
“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.”
Joseph is a big story. It covers nearly 20 chapters of the book of Genesis. His birth is recorded in Genesis 30, and his death in Genesis 50. The bulk of his story is found in chapters 37 and 39-50. In 1969, Joseph’s story was turned into a hit Broadway musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It was re-released in 1992 with Donny Osmond playing the role of Joseph. I always do my best to give readers of the Weekly the information they need to know.
Joseph’s story is a rollercoaster of exhilarating highs and devastating lows. Like Isaac, Joseph was a miracle child given to a barren woman. His mother, Rachel, was the chosen love of his father Jacob, who worked for 14 years to earn the right to marry her. There were eleven other children born to Jacob by three different women, but Joseph was the lone child of Rachel, and as such, he was given favored status by his father — and a beautiful robe of many colors. That’s how the story begins, and that was good. (Later in the story, Rachel dies while giving birth to Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin, the only one of Jacob’s children to be born in the Promised Land.)
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
However, that favored status and fancy robe, along with an unusual dream (that his brothers and his father would bow down to him), resulted in fierce jealousy from his brothers and a strong reprimand from his father. That was ugly. His brothers sell him into slavery, and Joseph ends up serving in the house of an Egyptian leader named Potiphar. That was bad. But Joseph excels and in time, becomes second in command in Potiphar’s house. That was good. But then Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. When he rejects her advances, she falsely accuses Joseph, and he ends up in prison. That was ugly. Joseph has more dreams in prison, and these lead to him interpreting dreams for the Pharaoh. Joseph’s interpretations result in him being chosen by Pharaoh to be second in command of all the land of Egypt. That was very, very good. When famine strikes the region, Joseph is in a position to care for his entire family in Egypt — even his brothers who sold him into slavery. That was good — and filled with grace. His statement to his brothers is one we should all memorize, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20. By faith, Joseph was able to see what God had accomplished — and that faith made him a man of profound grace. We’ll come back to that thought a little later.
About the Bones
Joseph’s story is amazing, but the writer of the Hebrews doesn’t even mention it. Instead, he connects faith to Joseph’s speaking of the exodus and giving instructions about his bones. Here’s a quick recap of what happened to Joseph’s bones:
Genesis 33:19 – Jacob (Joseph’s father) buys a plot of ground from Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver.
Genesis 50:24-25 – Before dying, Joseph makes the sons of Israel swear an oath that they will carry his bones with them when God comes to their aid, and they leave Egypt.
Exodus 12:40 – The Israelites spend a total of 430 years in Egypt.
Exodus 13:19 – As Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt, he takes Joseph’s bones with them.
Joshua 24:32 – Over 400 years after his death, Joseph’s bones are buried in the promised land at Shechem on the plot of ground purchased by his father.
The Israelites carried Joseph’s bones with them during the exodus, and for forty years as they wandered through the desert, and throughout the time of the conquest of the Promised Land. Quite a journey. But, I must be frank; with Joseph’s amazing rollercoaster story of faith, it’s hard to believe that the writer of Hebrews only mentions Joseph’s dying wish about the exodus and his bones. I’m not exactly sure what to do with that, but here are some takeaways to consider:
1. Joseph never stopped believing — even in Egypt. The naming of his two sons, Manasseh (God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household) and Ephraim (God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering), reveals his undying faith even the midst of painful rejection, slavery, malicious accusations, and unjust imprisonment. Genesis 41:50-52
2. Is there a chance that Jesus’ father’s name was Joseph so that Jesus would have a constant reminder of God’s sovereign plan as He served and “gave Himself up” in a foreign land? Imagine Jesus hanging on the cross and remembering the words of Joseph, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Maybe that was the thought that flooded his heart with deep grace when he uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” By the way, Jesus’ bones didn’t stay in a foreign land either. That borrowed tomb outside of Jerusalem is empty!
3. The writer of Hebrews didn’t need to retell Joseph’s story; he just needed to remind us of Joseph’s faith and the amazing journey of his bones. His simple statement leaves the door open for us to have plenty of fruitful thinking and introspection. Sometimes what isn’t said has greater value.
4. Even his own death could not deter his faith. He didn’t want his bones left in Egypt. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph wanted to arrive in the Promised Land. He truly never stopped believing. As believers, we long for our bones to leave this place and arrive in heaven, the Promised Land Jesus is preparing for us. This world is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly, but don’t ever stop believing that someday He will return and take us home — it could be today!