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God’s providence

God’s providence. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, the outcome could have been tragic. But God in his providence brought good out of their evil actions (50:20). This was a foreshadowing of God’s bringing the ultimate good—eternal salvation for anyone who will receive it, whatever their ethnic or cultural background—out of the wicked actions […]

“Do not bury me in Egypt.”

“Do not bury me in Egypt.” Once a family burial plot had been established, it was customary for future generations to be buried there as well (47:29‑30). This helped to tie the family closer together and also to secure their property rights.

“God sent me”

Joseph’s words “God sent me” reveal his faith in the providence of God who used his brothers’ evil act for great good—the preservation of Joseph and all his family (45:7). That same preserving providence of God is at work today all around the world to govern the lives of God’s people.


Money in the form of coins did not come into use until around the sixth century b.c. In Joseph’s time, in the nineteenth century b.c., items such as spices, gems, or precious metals were used as money.


Signets were seals that bore a unique mark representing their owner. Some signets were worn around the neck; others were worn as rings (41:42). The signet was pressed into soft clay to leave an impression of its mark. Signet impressions were used to certify important documents.


Cupbearers (40:1) were high-ranking officials who served the kings of the ancient Near East. Their job was dangerous: before bringing any drink to the king, they tasted it to make sure that it had not been poisoned.

Levirate marriage

Levirate marriage is the practice of a man marrying the widow of his deceased brother, if she had no children (38:8). A child of this second marriage would provide security for the widow and would carry on the name of the deceased brother.

A costly demonstration of grief

A costly demonstration of grief. The Hebrew custom of tearing one’s garments (37:29, 34) was an expression of grief, often after learning of the death of a loved one. It would surely have had great significance in a day when most people owned very few items of clothing.

A long walk!

A long walk! Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers were doing, as they tended their sheep (37:14). Joseph headed northward, probably walking, and didn’t find his brothers until he came to Dothan (v. 17). The journey would have been more than 50 miles (80 km)!