Genesis ends with Joseph and his brothers settling in Egypt after Jacob’s death. We’re told in general terms that many generations pass, and the only information we’re given about this period is that this family is particularly gifted in multiplying! The Bible is largely silent on what historically took place during this time, and you might be left wondering about the real connection between the Genesis and Exodus.
What is wrong with this family?
Think of the first part of Genesis, where we saw humans seize the opportunity to define good and evil for themselves, culminating in the building and scattering of the city of Babylon (see Genesis 1-11). In the next main section, we were introduced to Abraham and his family, who are, to be frank, not people you would want to emulate. Sure Abraham had his bright moments (his radical faith in ch. 15), but he could also be a coward (ch. 20). His son could too (ch. 26). As for his grandsons, Jacob and Esau? Let’s just say the apples didn’t fall too far from the family tree here. This family’s dysfunction comes to a climax when Joseph’s brothers kidnap him and sell him into slavery in Egypt. But at every turn, God responds to human evil by paradoxically steering these tragedies back toward his good purposes.
Joseph experiences more providential reversals than we can count, and every hardship he undergoes is followed by a surprising twist of fate. He goes from prisoner to prison warden, then from slave to estate manager, and then from being falsely accused to being elevated as second-in-command over all Egypt! And through it all, his strange teenage dreams (remember the sheaves of wheat in Genesis 37) all come true. Joseph’s brothers are eventually brought to their knees before him as he saves them from starvation.
We arrive at chapter 50 of Genesis, and the story closes with Joseph speaking to his brothers. But pay attention, the author has placed his words near the very end because they summarize more than just his own story, they act as a thematic summary of the entire book up to this point. Joseph forgives his brothers, and says, “While you planned evil against me, God planned it for good in order to accomplish what’s happened today, saving the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).
No matter what evil human beings do, God responds with good, weaving events together into the grand and complex tapestry of his plan to redeem and bless the world. Joseph is talking about his brothers, but the author of Genesis wants us to think of all the events from Genesis 3 onward. And God’s not done. He’s going to perfect this tactic of turning evil into good, and that’s exactly what we see in the opening story of Exodus.