He lays down his life to save a remnant of God’s people, he brings God’s blessing to all nations, he forgives those who tried to kill him, and his name is … Joseph? In this episode, Tim and Jon conclude our study of the Genesis scroll with a final look at the theme of exile. See how Joseph’s story becomes an important part of the Bible’s depiction of the ultimate suffering servant, Jesus the Messiah.
God orchestrates the evil humans keep doing to Joseph and uses the consequences to weave a story of exaltation and restoration. The Joseph story becomes a really important part of the pattern of the suffering servant that God appoints to rule. But his rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others so that through their suffering and death, they can be exalted and become a source of life to others.
In part one (00:00-6:30), Tim and Jon discuss the final moments of the last movement of Genesis, picking up the story of Joseph we started exploring in our last episode. In this episode, we find Joseph imprisoned in a pit in Egypt.
We’re tracing the theme of exile in this movement, and the biblical author creates an image of exile by using language like “going out,” “going down,” and “death.” Joseph descends further and further into exile in the first half of the narrative describing his life. His brothers throw him in a pit and then sell him to slave traders who take him down to Egypt. In Egypt, he is imprisoned by Potiphar in a jail that resembles yet another pit.
In part two (6:30-17:00), Tim and Jon unpack Genesis 40, where two of Pharaoh’s officials end up in the same prison as Joseph and have dreams they can’t interpret. Joseph’s life has been on a steady descent further into exile. But when he interprets both of the officials’ dreams, it marks a turning point in his life, in which he begins his ascent out of exile.
In Genesis 41, Pharaoh also has two dreams, and his cupbearer (one of the officials Joseph helped in prison) tells Pharaoh about Joseph.
Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him up out of the pit; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh.
After Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh and his servants come to see Joseph as a man in whom God’s Spirit (Ruakh Elohim) dwells. This is the first time since Genesis 1:2 that God’s Spirit has been mentioned, and the Spirit is dwelling within a human with dreams of being seated in the heavens ruling over the Earth—the fingerprints of Genesis 1 and 2 are all over this. Joseph does the opposite of what Adam and Eve did. Instead of waiting to receive wisdom from God, they tried to take it for themselves. Joseph has the Spirit of wisdom, and it’s the Spirit who guides all his actions as he patiently waits on God.
Pharaoh makes Joseph his second-in-command, so in a sense, Joseph becomes an image of Pharaoh, even as he is bearing God’s image in the way God intended.
In part three (17:00-33:20), the guys talk about Joseph’s continued ascent to greater restoration following years of exile. Adam and Eve were lifted up by God to rule the Earth, and then they chose their own descent into exile. But while Joseph also started in an exalted position and descended into exile, he made his way back to a position in which he ruled over others because of his faithfulness to Yahweh. And in this exalted position, he is even given another fabulous robe (Genesis 41:42).
Again and again, God responds to the evil done to Joseph by other humans by weaving a story of exile into a story of exaltation. Joseph’s story becomes an important motif we’ll see replayed in the story of the suffering servant, the Messiah. His rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others, so they can be exalted and become a source of life to others.
From Genesis 42 through the end of the scroll, the narrator switches back and forth between Joseph and his brothers back in Canaan. When his brothers unknowingly visit Joseph for help, he sets out a series of tests that all recreate different parts of what they did to him years previously.
Notably, Judah makes a huge pivot in Genesis 43:9. Formerly the brother with the idea to sell Joseph, he becomes the brother unwilling to let his family die and puts his own life on the line as a guarantee of Benjamin’s safety.
In every way, Joseph is an image of God’s anointed one—through his suffering, a remnant of God’s people is preserved. Through his faithfulness, blessing goes out to all the nations. And he even forgives his brothers who tried to kill him.
In part four (33:20-44:49), Tim and Jon conclude our study of the Genesis scroll with a final look at the exile theme. While the theme of exile is especially prominent in the fourth movement of Genesis, the end of the scroll really is like the climax of a symphony, in which all the major themes and patterns from earlier in the scroll come together.
As Genesis comes to a close, Jacob, who is on his deathbed, asks his sons to promise to take his bones back up to Canaan from Egypt (Genesis 49:29-30). The field where Jacob wanted to be buried, Machpelah, is described like Eden. In fact, the whole Genesis scroll riffs continually on the idea of death not being the final event in a person’s life. Rather, the final event is getting back to Eden. This is a pattern that represents resurrection.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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