Joseph: Forgiveness and Redemption

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Joseph rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·         A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·         A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·         The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



Genesis 37; 45:4-15; 50:15-21

Memory verse for this rotation:

            “Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.”  Romans 12:21 CEV


¨      In everything God works for good.

¨      God works through the actions of humans to accomplish God’s will.

¨      Sin and evil will not stop God’s will from being accomplished.

¨      God is the one who will punish wrongdoing, not us.

¨      We are called to forgive those who hurt us as Joseph forgave his brothers.

¨      Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation.


Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·         If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·         Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud. Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts


            Chapters 37-50 of Genesis tell us the story of Joseph and read as a unified narrative.  These chapters are different in many ways from the 36 previous chapters and although they focus on Joseph, they continue telling the story of the whole family of Israel (Jacob) – of the people of God (Fretheim, 592).  You may notice that God acts behind the scenes more in the Joseph story than in the early chapters.  Part of the author’s intention is to show that in the contingencies of history, the purposes of God are at work in hidden and unnoticed ways” (Bruegemann, 289).  There is little consensus about when this section was written but one possibility is in the 10th century BCE during the Solomonic period. If this placement is correct, this story was written in response to a theological crisis in which religion and the old faith were no longer completely accepted but were looked upon with skepticism (Brueggemann, 288).  [READ FROM BRUEGGEMANN P. 289]

            In his commentary Fretheim offers several ways in which the Joseph story functions within Genesis:

  • These chapters depict “the journey from individual Israel to people Israel” (593).
  • “The story leads into the book of Exodus” and “sets up issues for the book of Exodus” (593).
  • It “continues and develops the story of Jacob and his forebears” (593)
  • It “picks up on key themes from Genesis 1-11 and, together, they enclose the unity of that book” (595).

Fretheim says that “the primary issues throughout the story are creational . . .  God’s purposes throughout are to preserve life and well-being” (595).


Interesting Words/Phrases/Ideas

Chapter 37

·         Joseph is the favorite – the child of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife

·         robe/coat – showing of favoritism that makes brothers jealous

·         issues of love/hate and peace/disorder

·         Joseph’s dreams are about power and promise – he is powerless against his brothers and he receives a dream about power over others.  This dream imagines new possibilities (Brueggemann, 302) and for that reason angers and scares the brothers.  Dreams at that time were thought to come from God – the divine.

·         v. 8 reign – word used for royalty

·         rule – used only for Joseph in the Genesis narratives

·         v. 11 Jacob “kept” the event in mind (reminiscent of Mary)

·         conflicting stories about Reuben/Judah and the Ismaelites/Midianites

·         it seems that Joseph is out of the picture and that the dream will die but verse 36 leaves some hope – at least Joseph is not dead.


Chapter 45:1-15

·         Verses 1-15 are the climax of the narrative!!  This is quite a speech from Joseph about God’s role especially considering that we have heard little about God from Joseph so far.

·         God is identified as the actor

·         Joseph does not call attention to his brothers actions in trying to get rid of him.  He acts to help his family and to provide for them.  However, we do not see a full reconciliation.

·         issue of divine vs. human agency


Chapter 50:15-21

·         story of reconciliation

·         the brothers appeal to their common ancestor Jacob and their “common faith in the God of Jacob” when asking for Joseph’s forgiveness (Fretheim, 671).

·         In verse 18 the brothers bow down to Joseph but he dismisses this saying that he is not God.  He is not in authority over them and is not the one who can offer forgiveness.  However, Joseph will not take revenge and in fact will help his brothers and their families.

·         “Do not be afraid” – often used as reassurance especially when God is appearing or speaking to someone.  Here “it is spoken in order to announce that the purposes of God are much larger and more powerful than the grip of guilt” (Brueggemann, 373).

·         Joseph names the brothers’ actions as evil but says that God has used them to accomplish good

·         Verse 20, according to Brueggemann “is a summary of the entire Joseph narrative” (373).

·         use of the word good connects us back to the beginning when God created the world naming everything good (Brueggemann, 377).

Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

Antioch Arcade:  The children will hear the story, with an emphasis on Joseph’s reunion with his brothers and will play a game that reinforces their knowledge of chapters 45 and 50.  They will consider Joseph’s forgiveness toward his brothers, and their own call to forgive others.

Apostles’ Playhouse:  The children will hear the story of Joseph and his brothers and do several activities that explore the themes of jealousy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Creation Station:  The children will create an Egyptian style hieroglyphic drawing showing one of Joseph’s dreams.  They will discuss how God used the brothers actions to bring about something good and the fact that Joseph forgave his brothers for hurting him.

Holywood:  Children will view the video “Joseph’s Reunion” and discuss the concepts relating to God working through the actions of humans to bring about good things in the world.

Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), pp.288-307 and 343-351 and 369-380.

Fretheim, Terence E. “Genesis.” New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1. Leander Keck, et. al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1994), pp. 592-674