Lesson: Joseph Forgives His Brothers

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What does repentance look like? How can we forgive others? Includes a teaching guide, 2 games, and a craft.

Needed: old garment or another special item to represent Joseph’s cloak; different colors of construction paper, tissue paper, and /or wrapping paper; scissors; staples or hole punch and string; crayons or colored pencils

Intro Game: Joseph’s Coat

play the game from the previous lesson and remind students about how Joseph’s brothers became jealous when their father Jacob gave Joseph a nice, new cloak and didn’t give any of them nice, new cloaks.


Last week, we were talking about Joseph and his brothers. Does anyone remember who Joseph’s father was? (Jacob. It was Abraham and then his son Isaac, and then Isaac’s son was Jacob, and Jacob’s sons were Joseph and his brothers.)

Does anyone remember what bad thing Joseph’s brothers did to him? (They threw him down an empty well and then sold him as a slave. Then they told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.)

So, Joseph was taken to Egypt as a slave and after many years, the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had a dream. The dream showed seven fat cows being eaten by seven skinny cows. The Pharaoh was very worried about the dream because he didn’t know what it meant. Does anyone remember who told Pharaoh what his dream meant? (Joseph.)

God showed Joseph that the dream meant that there would be seven good years in Egypt when a lot of food would grow and everyone would have enough to eat, but that then there would be seven bad years when not very much food would grow and people wouldn’t have enough to eat. So Joseph told Pharaoh what they could do to make sure people didn’t starve during those seven bad years. Does anyone remember Joseph’s idea for what they could do? (Joseph told Pharaoh that they could store up the extra food during the seven good years and then sell it to people when they needed it during the seven bad years.)

When Pharaoh saw how smart Joseph was, what did Pharaoh do for Joseph? (He made Joseph the second-in-command over the whole country of Egypt.)

So Joseph’s brothers did something bad to him by selling him as a slave, but God used that bad thing to save all of the Egyptians from starving, and Joseph got to be the second highest ruler in Egypt. Joseph couldn’t have been Pharaoh’s second in command if his brothers hadn’t sold him. So, God used something bad and turned it into something good!

Today, we’re going to learn about what happened when Joseph saw his brothers again.

(Summarize Genesis 42-50 with the following Bible story, asking the included questions as you read.)

Those seven bad years weren’t only bad for Egypt. There wasn’t enough food growing in the country of Canaan, either.

Does anyone remember who was living in the country of Canaan? (Jacob and all of Joseph’s brothers were living in Canaan.)

So Jacob told his sons, “I hear there is food we can buy down in Egypt. Go there and bring us some so we won’t starve to death.” Then, Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt, but Jacob did not let his youngest son, Benjamin, go with them, because he was afraid something bad might happen to Benjamin like he thought had happened to Joseph.

When Joseph saw his brothers coming to buy food from him, he pretended that he didn’t know them, and they didn’t recognize him because he was so much older. They bowed down to him and asked to buy food.

Do you remember Joseph’s dream of his family bowing down to him? It came true!

“Where are you from?” Joseph asked them.

“We are from Canaan,” the brothers answered. “We have come to buy food from you.”

“You are spies!” Joseph said. “You have come here to spy on us.”

“No,” the brothers answered. “We are all brothers, the sons of Jacob, from the country of Canaan. One of our brothers died” – they were talking about Joseph and how they had lied that he was killed by a wild animal – “and our youngest brother, Benjamin, stayed at home with our father.”

But Joseph said, “You are spies. The only way you can to prove to me that you aren’t spies is for your youngest brother to come down here. Now, I’m going to put all of you except for one in prison. I’ll let one of you go get your youngest brother.” Then, Joseph had all of his brothers thrown into prison for three days.

Why do you think Joseph called his brothers spies and put them in prison? (Maybe because he was mad at them for throwing him down the well and selling him as a slave.)

At the end of three days, Joseph changed his mind. He went to his brothers in prison and said, “Instead of keeping all of you here in prison and sending only of you to go get your brother, Benjamin, I will keep one of you here in prison and let the rest of you take food back to your families and then bring Benjamin back here. When you bring Benjamin back here, I will let your other brother out of prison.”

Joseph’s brothers whispered to each other, “God is doing all this to punish us for what we did to Joseph.”

Then Joseph told his servants to fill up bags full of food for each of the brothers and to secretly put the brothers’ money back in the bottom of their bags. The brothers were supposed to pay Joseph for the food he was giving them with that money, but Joseph told his servants to put it back in the brothers’ bags. Then, he let all of the brothers go except for one.

Why do you think Joseph gave his brothers back their money?

When the brothers stopped for the night, they found their money back in their bags and they were confused because they didn’t how it got there.

When they got home and told Jacob what had happened, Jacob started to cry and said, “Joseph is dead, another of my sons is in prison, and now I have to send Benjamin down there so that the man will know you’re not spies? No, I will not send Benjamin down because then something bad might happen to him too!”

But a little while later, Jacob and his sons ran out of food again. “Go back down to Egypt,” Jacob told his sons, “and buy us some more food so that we won’t starve.”

But the brothers answered, “We can’t go back down to Egypt unless Benjamin comes with us. The man said Benjamin had to come.”

“Why did you have to tell the man about Benjamin?” Jacob asked. “If you hadn’t told the man you had another brother, then he wouldn’t have told you to bring Benjamin with you.”

“We had to tell him about Benjamin,” the brothers answered. “The man kept saying we were spies and kept asking us all kinds of questions about our family. Now, send Benjamin with us so we can buy ourselves some food and not starve to death.”

“Fine,” Jacob said. “But make sure you take double the amount of money with you this time, in case it was a mistake that your money was put back in your bags the last time you went.”

Then, the brothers left for Egypt and took Benjamin with them. When Joseph saw his brothers coming again, he told his servants to take the brothers to his house and to cook a feast for them. Then, when the brothers were brought to his house, Joseph asked them, “How are all of you? How is your father? Is your father still alive?”

Why would Joseph want to know how Jacob is? (Jacob is Joseph’s dad, too, and Joseph hasn’t seen his dad for about twenty years in this story.)

“Our father is doing well,” the brothers answered.

Then Joseph saw his little brother, Benjamin, and he had to run out of the room so he could cry.

Why do you think Joseph started to cry when he saw Benjamin? (He was probably happy to see Benjamin. Maybe Benjamin was his favorite brother and he hadn’t seen him for so long. Maybe he liked Benjamin best because Benjamin was the only brother who didn’t throw Joseph down the well and sell him as a slave.)

When Joseph came back from crying and the food for their feast was brought out, Joseph told his servants to give Benjamin five times more than anyone else.

After lunch, Joseph told his servants to fill the brothers’ bags full of food and to put their money back into their bags too. Then, he said, “And I also want you to hide one of my silver cups at the bottom of Benjamin’s bag.”

Why do you think Joseph said to hide the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag?

Then, Joseph let the brother who was in prison go, and all of the brothers left to go back home. A little while later, though, Joseph sent his servants to capture the brothers. When the servants caught up to the brothers, they said, “Stop! One of you brothers stole our master’s silver cup!”

Did the brothers steal the silver cup? (No, Joseph told the servants to put it in Benjamin’s bag.)

“We didn’t steal your master’s silver cup!” the brothers answered. “You can check our things, and if one of us has your master’s silver cup, then you can kill that brother and the rest of us will be your master’s slave.”

So the servants checked all of the brothers’ bags and found the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Then, all the brothers were sad and they followed the servants back to Joseph’s house.

“What have you done?” Joseph yelled. “You stole my silver cup!”

“We will be your slaves,” the brothers answered, even though they still did not know how the cup got in Benjamin’s bag.

“No,” Joseph said. “Only the one who stole the cup will be my slave. Benjamin will be my slave, and the rest of you can go home.”

The brothers answered, “Benjamin is our father’s youngest and favorite son, just like Joseph used to be. Our father was afraid that something bad would happen to Benjamin if we brought him down here, and if we don’t take Benjamin back home, our father will be so sad that he will die. So, please, instead of taking Benjamin, take one of us instead. One of us will be your slave instead of Benjamin.”

Then, Joseph saw that his brothers had changed. Instead of being mean to Benjamin and making him be a slave like they had been mean to Joseph and sold him as a slave, the brothers were actually offering to take Benjamin’s place! When Joseph saw this, he cried out loud and said, “I am Joseph! I am the one you sold as a slave!”

All of Joseph’s brothers were afraid and thought that Joseph was still mad at them and would do something bad to them. But Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. I forgive you. You did something bad to me, but God used it for something good. He gave me the idea to store up food so that all the people in Egypt would have enough to eat during these seven bad years. Plus, He made me the second highest ruler in all of Egypt! Now, go back to Canaan and bring my father and our whole family down here so you can all live next to me!”

Then, all of Joseph’s brothers went home and told Jacob what had happened. When Jacob heard the brothers’ story, he was very happy and said, “My son, Joseph, is still alive? I will go see him before I die.”

So Jacob and all of Joseph’s brothers and their whole family moved down to Egypt to be with him again.

Craft: Change of Heart

Students will cut out two hearts from construction paper, tissue paper, or wrapping paper. Tell them that the first heart represents a heart that is sinful. Joseph’s brothers’ hearts were sinful when they threw Joseph down the well and sold him as a slave. Have the students decorate their first heart to represent a sinful heart in some way. It could be black with the “dirt” of sin, crumpled up or torn to show that it’s not in the best shape, or have words written on it that name sinful attitudes: greedy, hate, jealous, anger, selfish, etc.

The second heart represents a heart that changes to be like God wants us to be. Joseph’s brothers’ heart changed when they showed that they were willing to become Joseph’s slaves to save their brother Benjamin. This second heart can be new or shiny or list pure attitudes (love, kindness, peaceful, giving, etc.) to show the change.

Game: Freeing the Benjamin!

Divide the students into two teams on opposite sides of your play area. A line divides the play area. A “Benjamin” from each team goes to stand on the play area’s boundary, behind the opposite team. They are in the opposite team’s prison. The rest of the team then tries to reach their Benjamin without being tagged. The opposing team can tag them anytime they cross the middle line into their territory. The strategy is for the teams to send some of their members to free their Benjamin while leaving others behind to tag members of the opposite team trying to cross over to free the Benjamin they’re guarding. When a player crosses the line and gets tagged by a defending team member, they’re out. The game is over when one team reaches and frees their Benjamin.

Play as many times as you like, choosing a new Benjamin each time. Afterward, remind the students that Benjamin’s brothers had a change of heart and were willing to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave so that he could go free.

Closing Prayer

Father, we thank You for the example of Joseph’s brothers’ change of heart and for Joseph’s example of forgiving them. We pray that You’ll help all of us to have hearts that are pure and keep the attitudes that you want us to have. We also pray that You’ll help us to forgive other people when they do wrong things to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

This lesson is included in my book, Father Abraham: Children Sunday School Lessons on Genesis 12-50.

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