Old Testament Lesson 11: “How Can I Do This Great Wickedness?”

1. Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers.

Genesis 32:28 Thy name shall be no more called Jacob, but Israel

“The word ‘Israel’ means one who prevails with God. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel at the time he received the covenant that had been conferred upon Abraham, his grandfather (see Gen. 32:28). His lineal posterity are known in the earth as the house of Israel, although most of them have been scattered throughout the earth and their identity has been lost, except to the Lord. The covenant was later conferred upon Joseph the son of Jacob, and upon his son Ephraim who was given the birthright in Israel in the last days (see 1 Chr. 5:1–2; Jer. 31:9). In keeping with the Lord’s covenant to Abraham, whenever an individual accepts the gospel of Jesus Christ, he becomes a member of the house of Israel, regardless of his actual lineage because he becomes an heir to the blessings of the covenant. The word “Israel” therefore has more than one meaning today, and a literal descendant of Israel may lose his spiritual heritage if he does not accept the gospel. Thus, Paul in speaking of lineal Israel can say to the Romans, ‘They are not all Israel, which are of Israel’ (Rom. 9:6), meaning that one must become an Israelite by covenant, not simply by lineage, if he wants the blessings of eternal salvation. In this respect, those not of Israel who joined the Church—such as Cornelius and his family in New Testament times (see Acts 10–11) were given the same promise of salvation through the gospel as were the Israelites. In a sense, they were adopted, or grafted, into the house of Israel. Whether in Abraham’s time, or in New Testament times, or in the Fulness of Times, Israel is the name and inheritance confirmed upon all who accept the covenants of the gospel (see Rom. 11 and Jacob 5). And those who obey the covenants of the gospel will continue as members of the house of Israel in eternity, ruling forever as kings and priests over their posterity.
“The house of Israel has been scattered throughout the whole world and among all nations so that today there are probably very few places and people in which the blood of Israel is not present to some degree. This does not annul nor supercede the promises made to Adam, Enoch, and Noah about their posterity, but is the way through which the covenants and purposes of the Lord in all ages might be brought to a fulfillment.” (Robert J. Matthews, “Our Covenants with the Lord,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 38)

Genesis 37:3 What Was the Coat of Many Colors?

‘There is some question as to what Joseph’s coat actually was. The Hebrew word denotes “a long coat with sleeves … i.e. an upper coat reaching to the wrists and ankles, such as noblemen and kings’ daughters wore” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:1:335; note also 2 Samuel 13:18, which says that the daughters of King David wore similar coats). The coat may have been of different colors, but its significance seems to have been far more than its brightness and beauty. One noted scholar suggested that it was “a tunic reaching to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; the long tunic with sleeves worn by young men and maidens of the better class; in the case of Joseph, supposed by Bush … to have been the badge of the birthright which has been forfeited by Reuben and transferred to Joseph” (Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “colour,” p. 82).

If indeed this coat signaled that Joseph held the birthright, which may have been in question among the brothers because there were four firstborn sons in Jacob’s family, this fact would explain the intense hostility and jealousy the coat provoked among the other sons of Jacob. ‘ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

Genesis 37:21 Let us not kill him

“Two things probably motivated Reuben to try to save Joseph’s life.  First, as the oldest son (35:23), he was most responsible to his father for the safety of his young sibling.  Second, after having sexual relations with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (35:22), Reuben was undoubtedly attempting to get back in Jacob’s good graces.”  (The Apologetics Study Bible, T. Cabal [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007], 61)

Genesis 37:28 Twenty pieces of silver

‘The price received for Joseph, twenty pieces of silver, is the same price specified later in the Mosaic law for a slave between the ages of five and twenty (see Leviticus 27:5). Typically, the price for a slave was thirty pieces of silver (see Exodus 21:32).’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

Image result for Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers.

2. Joseph refuses to “sin against God.”

Genesis 39:1-4 Joseph becomes ruler of Potiphar’s house

‘The age, appearance, and intelligence of the Hebrew slave would soon cause him to be picked up in the market. But the unseen, unfelt influence of the great Disposer drew the attention of Potiphar towards him, in order that in the house of one so closely connected with the court, he might receive that previous training which was necessary for the high office he was destined to fill, and in the school of adversity learn the lessons of practical wisdom that were to be of greatest utility and importance in his future career. Thus it is that when God has any important work to be done, He always prepares fitting agents to accomplish it.’ (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)

Genesis 39:5-6 A goodly person, and well favoured

‘The Hebrew terms characterizing Joseph – goodly person’ and well favoured’ – have much more meaning than the weak English translation. The Hebrew text describes Joseph as having ‘nice form and nice appearance’, or in other words, he was well built and handsome, which sets the stage for the encounter with Potiphar’s wife, which follows.’ (D Kelly Ogden, Andrew C Skinner, Verse by Verse, The Old Testament)

Genesis 39:10 She spake to Joseph day by day

‘The case of Potiphar’s wife is an example of the creeping tentacles of sin (Gen. 39:7-20). Even though this scheming woman did not succeed in defiling Joseph, her sin was most grievous. The intent was there and the desire and the lust and the coveting. She had “already committed adultery with him in her heart and mind . . .” as she “cast her eyes upon Joseph day by day” (Gen. 39:7,10). This woman’s transgression did not begin when she ripped the clothes from the body of this fleeing stalwart. Her perfidy had been born and nurtured in her mind and heart in the “day by day” of wanting him, teasing him, desiring him, lusting for him, and coveting him. Her sin was a progressive thing. So, for all the numerous people, who, like this seductive woman, carry in their hearts and minds designs or desires or covetings, deep sin lieth already at their doors.’ (Spencer W Kimball, Conference Report, October 1962, pp. 55-60)

Genesis 39: 21-23 The Lord was with him

‘His father, Jacob, loved Joseph even from his youth. The Lord revealed future events to Joseph in dreams. However, his brothers hated him, plotted to take his life, and then sold him as a slave. When he was carried captive to Egypt, the Lord was with him there. Joseph became overseer of the house of Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard. When approached by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph refused and fled from her improper advances because of his personal righteousness and because he would not violate Potiphar’s trust. [see  Gen. 39:7–18]

This refusal and the accusations it prompted caused Joseph to be imprisoned. Again the Lord was with him. Joseph became overseer of the prison. [see  Gen. 39:21–23 The Lord enabled him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker, and later, Pharaoh’s dreams of seven fat and lean cows and of seven full and thin ears of corn. Subsequently, Joseph became ruler over all Egypt, second in rank only to Pharaoh. [see  Gen. 41:1–45 He directed the storage of food during the years of plenty and the dispensing of it during the years of famine [see  Gen. 42:1–3] (Joseph B Wirthlin, General Conference, April 1990)

3. Shechem, Reuben, and Judah commit serious moral sins.

 Genesis 34:1–31 The Defilement of Dinah

‘The Hebrew word that is translated “took” in the phrase “he took her” can mean “to take away, sometimes with violence and force; to take possession, to capture, to seize upon” (Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “take,” p. 435). Commenting on the phrase that Shechem “spake kindly unto the damsel” (Genesis 34:3), one scholar said it means:

“Literally, he spake to the heart of the damsel—endeavoured to gain her affections, and to reconcile her to her disgrace. It appears sufficiently evident from this and the preceding verse that there had been no consent on the part of Dinah, that the whole was an act of violence, and that she was now detained by force in the house of Shechem. Here she was found when Simeon and Levi sacked the city, verse 26.” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:207.)

The outrage of Simeon and Levi was justified, but to deceitfully set up a whole town for slaughter on the pretext of bringing them into the covenant was an evil and wicked thing. Jacob’s blessings on these two sons just prior to his death (see Genesis 49:5–7) show that neither he nor the Lord condoned this act.’ (Institute Old Testament Manual)

Genesis 49:3-4  Reuben

‘REUBEN forfeited by his crime the rights and honors of primogeniture. His posterity never made any figure; no judge, prophet, nor ruler, sprang from this tribe.’ (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)

Watch: Staying in Bounds

Staying in bounds—on the ski slopes and in life—leads to joy and safety. (6:25)

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