The Deaths of Jacob and Joseph

The Bible in Art: The Deaths of Jacob and Joseph

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Verses for Consideration: Genesis 50:15-21

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”  16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions  before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins  and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father. ” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.


18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.  “We are your slaves,”  they said.


19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  20 You intended to harm me, but God intended  it for good  to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.



Who can comprehend what Joseph suffered? His brothers sold him into slavery as a 17-year-old. He endured years of slavery, false accusations of rape, and two years of prison -all through no fault of his own. This would have left many people bitter and looking for revenge.

When Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, he could have done anything he wanted to get revenge on his brothers, but he didn’t. When the brothers bowed before him offering themselves as slaves, Joseph could easily have tormented them, but he didn’t.

When Jacob died and his brothers asked for leniency, instead of getting angry, Joseph wept. In response to his brothers’ terrors of conscience, Joseph spoke words of kindness and consolation. He gave them the same good news that the angels gave the shepherd at Bethlehem: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” Joseph asked.

Nor was he glossing over the crimes of his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

In godly wisdom Joseph looked back at how God used the sin of his brothers to position him to sustain them during the famine. He reassured them and spoke kindly to their hearts: “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” He spoke in view of the promised Savior, who would come from their family and one day save the world.

What a powerful assurance for us in the depths of our trials and tribulations! Remember how God turned Jacob’s and his family’s tragedy into a blessing for all people. Then confess: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Such is our confidence in God’s grace. Joseph’s story shows what the cross confirms: God truly does all things well.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us curb feelings of revenge with the knowledge that in all things you are working for our good. Amen.


Title: Jacob Blesses His Sons (1906) 

Artist: Harry Anderson