This is the last lesson in a series of 5 about Joseph’s life and the incredible way that God used him to bless his people.
Title: Joseph is Revealed to His Brothers (Lesson 5 of 5)
Scripture: Genesis 43-45
Target Age Group: Elementary, but could be modified for younger age groups
Supplies: Several hula-hoops or masking tape, a way to play music (iPhone, CD player, etc.) pencils, paper, and crayons
Optional Story Illustrations: The Story of Joseph Coloring Pages
Lesson Opening: Offering and Receiving Forgiveness
Ask: What does it mean to forgive someone? (To stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone who has wronged you.)
Ask: When was the last time you had to forgive someone? (Allow anyone who is comfortable to share.)
Ask: Is it always easy to forgive other people? (Nope!)
Ask: When was the last time someone had to forgive you for something?
Say: The most important example of forgiveness is what we see in Jesus. When we give our lives to him we find forgiveness for everything we’ve ever done wrong. It’s as if it never even happened! When we experience forgiveness like that, it’s easier for us to offer forgiveness to people who wrong us.
Say: Today’s lesson is the last part of Joseph’s story with his brothers. We are going to hear about the power of forgiveness!
Pray that God would open their hearts to his word today and that we would all come away with a new understanding of the forgiveness that Jesus offers us.
Tell the Story of Joseph
Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream had come true. There was a severe famine in the land of Egypt, but thanks to Joseph’s wisdom, Pharaoh had ordered that some of the food be stored away and sold during the famine so the people wouldn’t starve to death. Last week we learned that Jacob sent 10 of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. The brothers came and bowed down to Joseph who was in charge of distributing the food. The brothers didn’t even recognize Joseph after all their years apart, but Joseph certainly recognized them. We heard last week that he gave them grain and demanded that they return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin. In the meantime, Joseph had his brother Simeon put in prison.
Jacob refused to send Benjamin to Egypt, fearing that he would lose yet another son. In due time, as the famine continued, the need for food outweighed everything else, and Jacob finally agreed to send Benjamin with his older brothers. Judah, one of Jacob’s sons, promised his father that he would protect Benjamin with his life.
Ask: Why do you think Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go to Egypt?
The brothers then journeyed to Egypt and were met by Joseph’s servant. Joseph gave orders that the brothers were to be brought to him home to eat with him. The brothers were terrified, because the last time they encountered Joseph, he accused them of being spies!
When Joseph entered the room the brothers all bowed low before him and presented him with many gifts they had brought from the land of Canaan. When Joseph saw his brother Benjamin among them he was so overcome with emotion that he had to leave the room to weep!
Ask: Why do you think Joseph’s response to his brothers was to cry?
Joseph gave his brothers more grain then sent them on their way, but before they left he had his servant secretly hide a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Shortly after the brothers set off for Canaan the next day Joseph sent his servant out to them accusing them of stealing the cup. “Of course we didn’t steal the cup!” the brothers exclaimed. “If you find it among us, the one who has it will remain in Egypt as a slave!” They were so certain that the cup was not with any of their belongings, but they didn’t know that Joseph had secretly hidden it! The servant found the cup in Benjamin’s bag and all the brothers were shocked. They knew that if they didn’t return home with Benjamin, Jacob would die of despair. But what could they do?
They all returned to Egypt and Judah went before Joseph, pleading for his brother’s life. “Please,” he said, “let me stay here in Egypt and be your slave in Benjamin’s place. Our father wouldn’t be able to bear it if he were to lose this son also!” When Judah said this Joseph knew that his brothers were truly sorry for what they had done to him years earlier in selling him into slavery. He knew that their hearts had changed, and he was ready to forgive them. Then Joseph revealed to his brothers who he really was.
Read: (Genesis 45:4-8) “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there had been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Ask: Who did Joseph believe really sent him to Egypt? (God)
Ask: Was Joseph still angry with his brothers for what they had done to him? (No, he forgave them.)
Joseph knew that God had used the sin of his brothers to bring blessings to his family, and the whole nation of Israel. Even though he suffered greatly, Joseph’s faith in God never waivered.
The brothers were overjoyed to see Joseph again and they were eager to hear his story. There was much hugging and celebrating at this reunion! Joseph then told his brothers to return to Canaan and bring their whole family back to Egypt to live. Pharaoh himself promised that Joseph’s family would have the best land there was. When Jacob heard that his son Joseph was still alive he could barely believe it. What happy news! The whole family moved from Canaan to Egypt where they lived out the rest of their days.
Joseph could have remained angry and bitter at his brothers for what they had done to him. He could have had them thrown in prison or worse, killed. But instead, he chose to forgive them because he knew that God had used their sin for good. Joseph remembered that God was in charge! In this story we see Joseph showing grace to his family. They deserved punishment for their sin, but instead Joseph showed them mercy.
Just like Joseph’s brothers we deserve to be punished for our sins, but God doesn’t treat us the way we deserve. He sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment for us, so we can be fully forgiven! Now, when God looks at us He doesn’t see our sin and failure, but the perfect obedience of Jesus.
Genesis 43-45 Lesson Review
- What did Joseph hide in Benjamin’s sack? (A silver cup)
- Who offered to take Benjamin’s place as a slave? (Judah)
- Why did Judah want take Benjamin’s place? (He had promised their father that he would protect Benjamin.)
- What were the brothers’ attitudes toward Joseph when they realized who he was? (They were sorry for what they had done and thankful that he forgave them.)
- In Joseph’s story, what are ways we see God using for good what people planned for evil? (Joseph was sold into slavery and put in prison, but God put him in a position of power to save Egypt and Israel from starvation.)
- What is a remnant? (Something that is left over. God always saved a remnant of people from Israel who would serve and worship Him alone.)
Learning Activity 1: Preserving a Remnant
Supplies: hula-hoops (or masking tape), music on iPhone
- If you are using tape for this activity, you will need to prep the game before class. In a large circle around the room place large X’s in masking tape. The number of X’s will depend on how big you think your class will be.
- Ask: What is a remnant? (Something that is left over.)
- Ask: Why did God want to preserve a remnant of Israel? (So there would always be people that were set aside as God’s chosen people.)
- Explain that throughout the Old Testament we see God preserving His remnant, and eventually it was through that small group of people that the Messiah (Jesus) would come.
- Explain that we are going to play a game that demonstrates the idea of preserving a remnant. This game is similar to musical chairs. Around the room place the hula-hoops (or use the tape.) As the music plays the kids will walk around the circle, but when the music stops everyone must stand in a hula-hoop (or have their foot on the tape.) Depending on how many kids are present, you can make a ruling as to how many kids can be in each hula-hoop. Whoever doesn’t have a place is out. With each round, take away one of the hula-hoops, or pull up one of the tape X’s. At the end of the game you will have only a few kids (or a remnant) leftover as the winners.
Learning Activity 2: Thankfulness for our Families
Supplies: Paper, pencils, and crayons/markers
- Encourage the kids to think about the different members of their families and reasons they have to be thankful for each. If they have strained relationships with their siblings this may be difficult, but help them to see that each person in their family is a gift from God whom they can be thankful for.
- Pass out the paper and drawing supplies. Have the kids draw a picture of their family and write what it is they are thankful for. Then have them find a partner and share their drawings.
- Encourage the kids to spend time this week thanking God for the gift of their family.