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Studies in the Book Of Acts–THE LIFE OF JOSEPH: ACTS 7:9-19

by Larry Miles

     Stephen has told the Sanhedrin about the faithful life of Abraham who was willing to live by faith. In verse 8 he introduced the patriarchs. In the verse we are studying we have the account of the life of Joseph. Verse 9 tells us that the patriarchs became jealous of Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph. They sold him into slavery and told Jacob that he had been killed by a wild beast. Stephen brings out the fact that what was meant for evil God turned to good. God was with Joseph in Egypt.

     Joseph’s brothers had meant evil but God overruled. They knew that he would end up in slavery in Egypt. They thought he would be mistreated. But Jehovah God was with Joseph, even in the land of Egypt. Verse 10 tells us that God granted that Joseph be favored by Pharaoh. Joseph became the second-in-command in the land of Egypt. 

     In verse 11 we have the famine Joseph said would take place happening. Verse 12 informs us that Jacob, upon hearing that there was grain in Egypt, sent 10 of his sons there to buy grain. Joseph made himself known to them on their second journey to the land of Egypt. Verse 14 reveals to us that Joseph, acting on authority from Pharaoh, invited the patriarchs to settle in Egypt. Verse 15 tells us that Jacob and his family came to live in the land of Egypt. Jacob lived out his years and died in Egypt. In time all of the patriarchs died. In verse 16 they were buried in the land of their fathers. 

     This section shows that God was not bound to a certain area. He was with Joseph even in the land of Egypt. William Barclay, in The Daily Study Bible Series: Acts of the Apostles, had this to say,

 The picture of Abraham is succeeded by the picture of Joseph. The key to Joseph’s life is summed up in his own saying in Genesis 50:20. At that time his brothers were afraid that, after the death of Jacob, Joseph would take vengeance on them for what they had done to him. Joseph’s answer was ‘As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.’ Joseph was the man for whom seeming disaster turned to triumph. Sold into Egypt as a slave, wrongfully imprisoned, forgotten by the men he had helped, the day yet came when he became prime minister of Egypt. Stephen sums up the characteristics of Joseph in two words—grace and wisdom. . . . Once again the contrast is there. The Jews were lost in the contemplation of their own past and imprisoned in the mazes of their own law. But Joseph welcomed each new task, even if it was a rebuff, and adopted God’s view of life.

     In verse 17 we’re reminded of ‘the promise to Abraham that his offspring would be in bondage. All through the life of Joseph they enjoyed great favor with the rulers of Egypt. The children of Israel multiplied and increased in population. In verse 18 we’re told that there arose a new king that cared nothing about Joseph. Who was this new king? J. W. McGarvey had this to say,

The Shepherd kings were Asiatic Semites who had invaded Egypt manyyears before and naturally favored the family of Joseph. The other king that arose was most likely one of pure Egyptian blood, who displaced the sovereignty of the Hyksos rulers and reestablished the Thebian kings.”

Gareth L. Reese, in his book, New Testament History: Acts, had this to say,

The Hebrew idiom means ‘not caring for.’ It can hardly be supposed that the verb is to be taken literally, i.e., that Pharaoh literally knew nothing of the name and deeds of Joseph. This expression therefore must be understood as meaning he did not show special favor to the people of Joseph. Because of the change of dynasties, the promises of the Shepherd kings of another generation were ignored and the contracts made were deliberately broken by the new Pharaoh. Whenever there is a revolution, gratitude for great deeds done by the leaders who are thrown out of power is forgotten. The old class of favored people is often oppressed by the new government.


Larry Miles is Co-Editor of Word and Work and attends Cherry St. Church of Christ in New Albany, IN.


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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10