OLD TESTAMENT - LESSON 11
Genesis 34; 37-39
- Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers.
- Joseph refuses to "sin against God."
- Shechem, Reuben, and Judah commit serious moral sins.
A study of this lesson should remind us that experiences and circumstances
work together for our good and strengthen our commitment to obey the Lord's
standard of sexual morality.
What movies, television shows, books, or magazines are currently popular?
- WHAT STANDARDS OF SEXUAL MORALITY ARE PRESENTED BY THESE POPULAR MEDIA
- HOW DO THESE STANDARDS DIFFER FROM THE LORD'S STANDARD AS TAUGHT IN
THE SCRIPTURES AND BY CHURCH LEADERS?
The moral behavior of society often differs from the moral standards
that the Lord has established. While the standards of society can change,
the Lord's standards are constant.
President Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O McKay: "By
virtue of the authority in us vested as the First Presidency of the Church,
we warn our people who are offending, of the degradation, the wickedness,
the punishment that attend upon unchastity; we urge you to remember the
blessings which flow from the living of the clean life; we call upon you
to keep, day in and day out, the way of strictest chastity, through which
only can God's choice gifts come to you and His spirit abide with you.
"How glorious is he who lives the chaste life. He walks unfearful
in the full glare of the noonday sun, for he is without moral infirmity.
He can be reached by no shafts of base calumny, for his armor is without
flaw. His virtue cannot be challenged by any just accuser, for he lives
above reproach. His cheek is never blotched with shame, for he is without
hidden sin. He is honored and respected by all mankind, for he is beyond
their censure. He is loved by the Lord, for he stands without blemish.
The exaltations of eternities await his coming." (CR, Oct. 1942)
Joseph Is Sold Into Slavery By His Brothers
- As you recall from Lesson 10, Jacob went to
Padan-Aram in search of a suitable wife. There he married Leah and Rachel,
daughters of his mother's brother Laban. He also married their handmaids,
Zilpah and Bilhah. These wives bore Jacob twelve sons who became the beginnings
of the twelve tribes of Israel.
- In Genesis 32 Jacob's name was changed: "Thy name shall be
called no more Jacob, but Israel" (Genesis 32:28).
Joseph, Eleventh Son of Jacob
- According to Joseph Fielding Smith: "At the present time most
of those who are receiving the Gospel are of the tribe of Ephraim [son
Spencer W. Kimball: "Whether we recognize it or not, we are
connected with our past and we can fashion a better future if we draw upon
the inspiration of the past and the lessons of history."
- HOW MANY KNOW THAT THEY ARE OF THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM?
Joseph was born in Haran, the first child of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel
- Few examples from our past can surpass that of Joseph.
Reuben was the firstborn through Leah. He was the automatic heir of
the birthright and birthright blessing.
- Joseph was the youngest of Jacob's eleven boys.
- Benjamin was born as the family was returning to Canaan (Gen. 35:16-18).
- Rachel also died at this time (Gen. 35:19).
- Joseph spent the remaining years of his youth at Hebron (abt 20 miles
south of Jerusalem.
- He primarily watched the flocks of sheep and goats.
The coat of many colors was a symbol of Jacob's favoritism towards
- HOW DID JOSEPH, THE ELEVENTH SON, BECOME THE RECIPIENT OF THE BIRTHRIGHT?
- Reuben was the firstborn through Leah. He was the automatic heir of
the birthright and birthright blessing.
- Reuben lost the birthright as a result of transgression with one of
his father's concubines (Gen. 35:22).
- The birthright then fell to the first son of the next wife.
- Joseph was the first son of Rachel, Jacob's second wife.
- The sons of the concubines did not follow next in order because they
were handmaids to Leah and Rachel.
- "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because
he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours"
- Perhaps the coat of many colors was the badge of birthright.
- As we know, it compounded the antagonism of Joseph's brothers until
they "hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him"
- HOW DO WE, OR OUR CHILDREN, REACT WHEN MEMBERS OF OUR FAMILIES OFFEND
YOU OR RECEIVE BETTER TREATMENT?
- HOW CAN WE OVERCOME FEELINGS OF JEALOUSY OR ANGER TOWARDS FAMILY MEMBERS
- Dreams played a central role in the life of Joseph - these were visions
of meaning and eternal implications.
- READ GENESIS 37:5-9. Joseph's two dreams.
- These dreams revealed the special relationship Joseph would have with
his family and also foreshadowed the eventual mission of his posterity
in the eternal salvation of the House of Israel.
- HOW DID JOSEPH'S BROTHERS FEEL ABOUT THESE DREAMS? DID THEY HAVE ANY
IDEA THAT THESE DREAMS MIGHT BE FROM THE LORD?
- "And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over
us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet
the more for his dreams, and for his words" (37:8).
- WHY WERE HIS BRETHREN UNABLE TO ACCEPT HIS DREAMS?
- We know that his brethren had been living wickedly. Joseph had been
out tending the flocks with his brethren and returned to his father "their
evil report" (37:2).
- John 3:19-20: "...light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one
that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his
deeds should be reproved."
- Remember the situation with Nephi and his older brothers. After he
had shared with them the meaning of Lehi's dream they said: "Thou
has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear"
(1 Ne. 16:1). Nephi went on to say: "...the guilty taketh the truth
to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center" (1 Ne. 16:2).
Joseph & His Brothers
- Joseph's brothers went to Shechem to feed the flocks (Gen. 37:12).
- Later, Jacob sent Joseph about 45 miles to check on his brothers and
asked him to return with a report (37:13-14). Arriving in Shechem he learned
that his brothers had gone on to Dothan, another 12 miles (37:15-17).
WHAT DID JOSEPH'S BROTHERS DO WHEN JOSEPH CAME TO THE FIELDS WHERE
THEY WERE FEEDING THE SHEEP?
- One wonders if Jacob knew of the intense animosity his other sons held
for Joseph. He certainly would not have sent him.
Reuben, being the eldest, must have felt more responsibility for his
brother. He argued that Joseph must not be killed, but returned to his
WHAT DID THE BROTHERS DO?
- "And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh"
(37:19). One can imagine his brothers laughing and joking about this younger
brother and his aspirations.
- They were also angry with Joseph because he reported to their father
about their evil doings and Joseph had been the one honored by their father
with the coat of many colors. "And when they saw him afar off,
even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay
- "...let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will
say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become
of his dreams" (37:20).
- He was stripped of his coat of many colors and thrown into a dry cistern
- Led by Judah, he and his brothers sold Joseph to a caravan of Ishmeelites
headed for Egypt. He was sold for 20 pieces of silver (37:27-28).
- They then tore Joseph's coat into many pieces, covered it with goat's
blood, and returned it to Jacob as evidence that a wild beast had "devoured"
Joseph Refuses To "Sin Against God"
Joseph Sold In Egypt
- "And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer
of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard" (Gen. 37:36).
- HOW WAS JOSEPH BLESSED AFTER BEING SOLD IN EGYPT?
READ GENESIS 39:7-13. Joseph and Potiphar's wife.
- Joseph became a servant in the household of Potiphar, "a prosperous
- "And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the
Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace
in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house,
and all that he had he put into his hand" (39:3-4).
- WHY WAS JOSEPH SO BLESSED BY THE LORD?
- "And Joseph was a goodly person" (39:20).
- Joseph was a righteous man and abided by the principles of right living.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH ABOUT RESISTING EVIL?
- WHAT EXCUSES MIGHT JOSEPH HAVE USED IF HE HAD WANTED TO GIVE IN TO
THE ADVANCES OF POTIPHAR'S WIFE?
- WHAT EXCUSES DO PEOPLE OFFER TODAY TO TRY TO JUSTIFY MORAL TRANSGRESSION?
- They say that they are in love. Consider the love story in the movie
- They might say that they were overcome by feelings and could not control
- Everybody is doing it.
- WHY ARE THESE EXCUSES NOT VALID JUSTIFICATIONS?
- As someone once said, "The ten commandments are not the ten
- There is no justification or excuse for sin. Sin is still sin.
WHAT NEXT HAPPENED TO JOSEPH?
- Potiphar's wife persisted in asking Joseph to lie with her. He refused
her each time. Potiphar trusted Joseph and he did not wish to break that
trust or sin against the Lord.
- We must always say no and never even consider the thought.
- Finally, when he was caught in a most difficult situation, when no
one would have known, he "left his garment in her hand, and fled,
and got him out" (Gen 39:12).
- When caught in a difficult situation, just leave and go to a place
of safety. Do not hesitate.
READ GENESIS 39:21-23. Joseph in prison.
- Potiphar's wife reported that Joseph had attempted to seduce her. As
a result Potiphar "took him, and put him into the prison, a place
where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison"
- Old Testament Student Manual: "Because Potphar had great power
with the pharaoh and perhaps was even head of the royal executioners, it
is remarkable that Joseph was only put into prison and not executed. A
slave acused of attempting to rape his master's wife would seem to have
deserved the most severe punishment, and yet Joseph was only imprisoned.
Could it be that Potiphar, knowing of Joseph's character and his wife's
character, suspected the truth and, although he had to take action, chose
comparatively lenient punishment? Whatever the case, the hand of the Lord
certainly preserved Joseph from what would otherwise have been almost certain
- WHAT DOES THIS REVEAL ABOUT JOSEPH?
- WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH ABOUT TURNING BAD EXPERIENCES AND CIRCUMSTANCES
INTO GOOD ONES?
- Hartman Rector Jr: "[The] ability to turn everything into something
good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems
able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the
Lord. Joseph, although a slave and wholly undeserving of this fate, nevertheless
remained faithful to the Lord and continued to live the commandments and
made something very good of his degrading circumstances. People like this
cannot be defeated." (Ensign, Jan. 1973, p130)
- Robert H. Schuller wrote:
- "A Jew, one of many hiding from Hitler, once knew such a dark
time. We know neither his name nor his face, but we know about his faith.
For scrawled on the basement walls of a German house are these courageous
-I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
-I believe in love even when I do not feel it.
-I believe in God, even when He is silent."
(Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking, pp174-175)
- "For three years Reverend Martin Neimoller survived the horrors
of Dachau--the smells of burning human flesh and the sights of walking
dead men. For three years this German pastor who dared to defy Adolf Hitler
was kept in solitary confinement in the world's worst concentration camp.
"'How could you stand it without losing your sanity?' an interviewer
asked Pastor Neimoller years later over a Chicago radio station. 'A man
doesn't realize how much he can stand until he is put to the test,' Neimoller
answered confidently, continuing, 'you can stand far more than you think
you can. You are much stronger than you think you are...if God is dwelling
in your life'." (Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking, p180)
- "What happens to good people when bad things happen to them?
They become better people." (The Be Happy Attitudes, p51)
Joseph - A Man of Integrity
- WHAT IS INTEGRITY?
HOW DID JOSEPH DEMONSTRATE INTEGRITY?
- Elder James E. Faust said: "I should like to emphasize three
important elements of integrity--dealing justly with oneself, dealing justly
with others, and recognizing the law of the harvest."
- WHAT IS THE LAW OF THE HARVEST ELDER FAUST MAKES REFERENCE TO?
- What one sows is what one will reap. That which is sown does not necessarily
bear fruit quickly. The tomato seed sown early in the spring will not bear
fruit until mid to late summer.
- Dealt justly with himself.
- While in the house of the heathen he was true to the principles which
he believed in - as a consequence he was blessed by the Lord.
- Rather than complain to the Lord about the situation he was in, he
worked hard at making the best of it.
- Dealt justly with others.
- While in the employ of Potiphar he endeavored to do the best at his
job. Because of his integrity he was made overseer of Potiphar's home.
- When seduced by Potiphar's wife, he remained true to Potiphar and himself
by not giving in to her desires.
- Understood the law of the harvest.
- No matter what situation Joseph was in, he practiced the Law of the
Harvest by always planting righteous seeds - even though the immediate
consequences looked dismal. As one studies the story of Joseph, this integrity
is evident throughout the experiences of his life.
Shechem, Reuben, & Judah Commit Serious Moral Sins
- Not all of Joseph's family members and acquaintances were as valiant
as Joseph when facing temptation.
Shechem's temptation (Genesis 34):
- HOW DID SHECHEM, REUBEN, AND JUDAH REACT TO SEXUAL TEMPTATION?
- Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite was tempted when he saw Dinah,
the daughter of Leah, "and lay with her, and defiled her".
- Only after he had done this did he wish to properly marry her.
- Eventually, some of her brothers took revenge and killed Shechem.
Judah's temptation (Genesis 38):
- "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that
Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine" (Gen.
When Jacob blessed each of his sons at the end of his life, he referred
to Reuben's moral transgression and described Reuben as "unstable
as water" (Gen. 49:3-4).
- Judah forgot the importance of marrying in the covenant and married
a Canaanite women: "AND it came to pass at that time, that Judah
went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose
name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite,
whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her" (38:1-2).
- This disregard for marrying outside of the covenant led to other sins
which included the seduction of his daughter-in-law.
WHAT ARE THE SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL SIN TODAY?
- HOW IS THIS A VALID COMPARISON?
- Consider water: It runs all over unless it is contained. If it gets
too hot, it boils and turns to steam. If it gets cold, it freezes solid.
Joseph was more like a rock. A rock is not affected by heat and cold. It
stays put. You can depend on a rock. Reuben, being more like water, was
undependable. He even defiled one of his father's concubines. Reuben needed
to be contained and frozen. (I wouldn't carry this analogy too far)
- Because of this instability, Jacob told Reuben, "thou shalt
not excel" (49:4).
- WHAT DID REUBEN LOSE BECAUSE OF HIS IMMORALITY?
- Reuben lost the birthright which then fell to Joseph. Consider the
blessings that have fallen to Joseph's descendants through the centuries.
The domino effect.
- Unrepented sin can keep us from receiving our eternal birthright.
- Like Reuben, we may affect generations of children yet to be born.
- What can it do to our own lives? It can lead to deceit, the destruction
of marriages and families, and lead to other sins.
- It may even cost us our life.
- Spencer W. Kimball: "May I talk to you just a moment or two
about that which is most dear and precious above all things. Can you think
what it would be? Would it be bonds, stocks, or diamonds? Would it be herds
or flocks? Would it be automobiles and houses? Would it be medals in athletics?
This is the greatest blessing, the most dear and precious above all things—above
all things. It cannot be purchased with money, but may be enjoyed by all,
even those of humble circumstances as well as the affluent, as much by
the high school student as by those who have doctors degrees. Even mortal
life when placed upon the balance scales weighs less. That of which I speak
is chastity and virtue. The lack of it has caused rivers of tears to flow,
broken numerous homes, and deprived large numbers of innocent children."
- Boyd K. Packer: "The power of creation—or may we say procreation—is
not just an incidental part of the plan: it is essential to it. Without
it the plan could not proceed. The misuse of it may disrupt the plan."
(CR, Apr. 1972)
Melvin J. Ballard: "Certainly our teachers were right when they
held up an ideal that virtue was as sacred as life itself, and that we
had better lose our lives than lose our virtue . . . . Next to the crime
of murder itself is the crime of sexual impurity." (CR, Apr. 1929)
Joseph, like his great-grandfather Abraham, sets a wonderful ideal for
us to aspire to. He was absolutely true to the principles of righteousness.
When sold by his brothers as a slave, he remained faithful and became the
chief overseer of his master's possessions. Joseph refused to give into
Potipher's wife. Was he tempted? I think not. He ran from the house when
she attempted to seduce him. Joseph had the big picture. He was not about
to give up his destiny for the sake of a few moments of temporary pleasure.
We need to be like Joseph. We need to be true to the principles we have
been taught. We must look at the big picture and remember that adversity
is temporary and makes us better people. We need to be constantly vigilant
in not allowing our standards to be lowered by the media, associates, or
other negative influences. We need to teach our children to be like Joseph
and not his brethren.
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Changes last made on: Mon Mar 9 1998