Podcast Episode

Joseph the Suffering Servant

He lays down his life to save a remnant of God’s people, he brings God’s blessing to all nations, he forgives those who tried to kill him, and his name is … Joseph? In this episode, Tim and Jon conclude our study of the Genesis scroll with a final look at the theme of exile. See how Joseph’s story becomes an important part of the Bible’s depiction of the ultimate suffering servant, Jesus the Messiah.

Episode 8
Feb 28, 2022
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Show Notes


God orchestrates the evil humans keep doing to Joseph and uses the consequences to weave a story of exaltation and restoration. The Joseph story becomes a really important part of the pattern of the suffering servant that God appoints to rule. But his rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others so that through their suffering and death, they can be exalted and become a source of life to others.


  • Joseph does the opposite of what Adam and Eve did. Instead of waiting to receive wisdom from God, they tried to take it for themselves. All of Joseph’s actions are guided by the Spirit as he patiently waits on God.
  • Pharaoh makes Joseph his second-in-command, so in a sense, Joseph becomes an image of Pharaoh, even as he is bearing God’s image in the way God intended.
  • Joseph’s story becomes a motif we’ll see replayed in the story of the suffering servant, the Messiah. Through his suffering and the laying down of his own life, a remnant of God’s people is preserved. Through his faithfulness, blessing goes out to all the nations, and he even forgives his brothers who tried to kill him.

Back in the Pit

In part one (00:00-6:30), Tim and Jon discuss the final moments of the last movement of Genesis, picking up the story of Joseph we started exploring in our last episode. In this episode, we find Joseph imprisoned in a pit in Egypt.

We’re tracing the theme of exile in this movement, and the biblical author creates an image of exile by using language like “going out,” “going down,” and “death.” Joseph descends further and further into exile in the first half of the narrative describing his life. His brothers throw him in a pit and then sell him to slave traders who take him down to Egypt. In Egypt, he is imprisoned by Potiphar in a jail that resembles yet another pit.

Joseph the Image Bearer

In part two (6:30-17:00), Tim and Jon unpack Genesis 40, where two of Pharaoh’s officials end up in the same prison as Joseph and have dreams they can’t interpret. Joseph’s life has been on a steady descent further into exile. But when he interprets both of the officials’ dreams, it marks a turning point in his life, in which he begins his ascent out of exile.

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh also has two dreams, and his cupbearer (one of the officials Joseph helped in prison) tells Pharaoh about Joseph.

Genesis 41:14

Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him up out of the pit; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh.

After Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh and his servants come to see Joseph as a man in whom God’s Spirit (Ruakh Elohim) dwells. This is the first time since Genesis 1:2 that God’s Spirit has been mentioned, and the Spirit is dwelling within a human with dreams of being seated in the heavens ruling over the Earth—the fingerprints of Genesis 1 and 2 are all over this. Joseph does the opposite of what Adam and Eve did. Instead of waiting to receive wisdom from God, they tried to take it for themselves. Joseph has the Spirit of wisdom, and it’s the Spirit who guides all his actions as he patiently waits on God.

Pharaoh makes Joseph his second-in-command, so in a sense, Joseph becomes an image of Pharaoh, even as he is bearing God’s image in the way God intended.

The Brothers’ Redemption

In part three (17:00-33:20), the guys talk about Joseph’s continued ascent to greater restoration following years of exile. Adam and Eve were lifted up by God to rule the Earth, and then they chose their own descent into exile. But while Joseph also started in an exalted position and descended into exile, he made his way back to a position in which he ruled over others because of his faithfulness to Yahweh. And in this exalted position, he is even given another fabulous robe (Genesis 41:42).

Again and again, God responds to the evil done to Joseph by other humans by weaving a story of exile into a story of exaltation. Joseph’s story becomes an important motif we’ll see replayed in the story of the suffering servant, the Messiah. His rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others, so they can be exalted and become a source of life to others.

From Genesis 42 through the end of the scroll, the narrator switches back and forth between Joseph and his brothers back in Canaan. When his brothers unknowingly visit Joseph for help, he sets out a series of tests that all recreate different parts of what they did to him years previously.

Notably, Judah makes a huge pivot in Genesis 43:9. Formerly the brother with the idea to sell Joseph, he becomes the brother unwilling to let his family die and puts his own life on the line as a guarantee of Benjamin’s safety.

In every way, Joseph is an image of God’s anointed one—through his suffering, a remnant of God’s people is preserved. Through his faithfulness, blessing goes out to all the nations. And he even forgives his brothers who tried to kill him.

Going Back Up to Eden

In part four (33:20-44:49), Tim and Jon conclude our study of the Genesis scroll with a final look at the exile theme. While the theme of exile is especially prominent in the fourth movement of Genesis, the end of the scroll really is like the climax of a symphony, in which all the major themes and patterns from earlier in the scroll come together.

As Genesis comes to a close, Jacob, who is on his deathbed, asks his sons to promise to take his bones back up to Canaan from Egypt (Genesis 49:29-30). The field where Jacob wanted to be buried, Machpelah, is described like Eden. In fact, the whole Genesis scroll riffs continually on the idea of death not being the final event in a person’s life. Rather, the final event is getting back to Eden. This is a pattern that represents resurrection.

Referenced Resources

  • Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here.
  • You can experience the literary themes and movements we’re tracing on the podcast in the BibleProject app, available for Android and iOS.

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Cocktail Hour” by Strehlow

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Scripture References
Genesis 3
Genesis 42
Genesis 40
Genesis 1:2
Genesis 23
Genesis 22
Genesis 37
Genesis 39
Genesis 40:14-15
Genesis 40:23
Genesis 41
Genesis 41:14
Genesis 41:25-38
Genesis 41:39-41
Genesis 41:42-43
Genesis 37-41
Genesis 43
Genesis 43:11-34
Genesis 44
Genesis 44:14-34
Genesis 45:1-7
Genesis 9:8-11
Luke 24:46-47
Genesis 45:12-28
Genesis 50
Ezekiel 36-38

Joseph the Suffering Servant

Series: Genesis Scroll E8

Podcast Date: February 28, 2022, 44:48

Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie


Jon: We're in the last chapters of the Genesis scroll and we're talking about the stories of Joseph. These stories bring together all the themes in Genesis in a beautiful symphony. Genesis begins with the idea that all of humans are the image of God himself. And in the Joseph stories, we see Joseph becoming the image of the king. 

Tim: When you see Joseph cruising in the chariot, you're like, "That's Pharaoh’s chariot." And it's a guy dressed like Pharaoh wearing his ring and necklace, oh, but it's slightly different. It's an image of Pharaoh. 

Jon: The Genesis scroll begins with the promise that the seed of a woman will come to strike evil in the head, crushing it. And while he does, he himself will be struck and suffer.

Tim: The Joseph story becomes a real important narrative in the pattern of the suffering servant that God appoints to rule. That his rule involves him descending down (00:01:00) into death on behalf of others, so that through their suffering and death they can be exalted, and then become a source of life to others. 

Jon: And of course, if you've been following along, we've been laser-focused on the theme of exile. Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden, and all of humanity continue to be separated from God. And here, Joseph is sold into slavery, locked in prison, lost and alone. But what humans meant for evil God worked out for good.

Joseph's exile turns into a homecoming. He's released from prison, reunited with his family. He was dead but now he is alive. And the story makes you consider if death is the ultimate exile, then the hope of resurrection—well, that's the ultimate homecoming.

Tim: The last paragraph of the Joseph story is Joseph saying, "Hey, I'm going to die down here. But God made a promise that he would bring us up out of this land. And whatever you do, take my bones with you when you go up."

Jon: I'm Jon Collins. This is BibleProject podcast. (00:02:00) And today we finish the scroll of Genesis. Thanks for joining us.

Here we go. Here we are in the scroll of Genesis just reading stories in the Bible. 

Tim: That's right. And in the current story we're in about Joseph we are in a pit in Egypt with Joseph. How are you today?

Jon: I am not in a pit. That's for sure. We left the last conversation just talking about the reality of just that feeling of separation and being lost and alone. That's intense. Fortunately, that is not my current lived experience. (00:03:00) But it is for many people.

And the reason why we're talking about Joseph and the pit is because we are reading through the whole Torah, meaning the first five books of the Bible, or as we're calling them, scrolls. And in this movement of the book of Genesis, we are tracing the theme of exile. This idea of being separated from blessing, from God's presence, and in the Adam and Eve narrative it's going outside of the garden of Eden.

Tim: That's right. And just a little detail. Actually, I didn't bring this up in the last conversation. Adam and Eve are depicted as those who don't know good and bad yet. That's what the forbidden tree is about. In the rest of the Hebrew Bible, to be someone who doesn't yet know good and bad, the only other times the phrase is used is just about four or five other times. And in most of those, it's used to describe children.

In other words, Adam and Eve are depicted as moral infants as it were. So the decision they make at the tree is more of a decision (00:04:00) of folly than outright rebellion. It is disobedience to God's command about the tree, but their motive for it is not depicted as like willful disobedience.

Jon: They're not trying to be deceptive. 

Tim: Yeah. Rather they are deceived and make a foolish decision. It's folly. But then you get into Abraham's story and Isaac and Jacob, and that's just willful, ignorant, selfish stupidness, right? But then when you come to Joseph again, we're back in the realm of a young person.

Jon: A teenager.

Tim: He's not depicted as being overtly malicious. He's just stupid. He's a tattletale.

Jon: It didn't really occur to him like, "I go to my brothers and tell them this is a dream about how special I am. That might not be the best move when they're already a little bit frustrated that I'm the favorite son, got the special coat."

Tim: So in terms of the four movements of Genesis, the first one and the last one begin with depictions of foolish young people, as it were.

Jon: Fascinating. (00:05:00) 

Tim: And it's their folly that begins the cascade of terrible decisions that lead to exile. It's an interesting parallel between Joseph and Adam and Eve. 

Jon: Thanks for bringing that up. So Joseph goes out into the field, his brothers scheme a deception, kind of like the snake, and they throw him in a pit and then send him down to Egypt as a slave. These are all symbols of exile: going out, going down.

Tim: And when their dad hears about the lie, that an animal ate him, what he says is "I'm going to die and go down to meet my son in the grave." 

Jon: So his ideas of dying and going into exile are just merged. Death and exile, exile and death.

Tim: Yeah. The grave, the pit, outside the home, outside the land in the wilderness field.

Jon: Where we left Joseph is in Egypt, where he starts to get some favor, but then is the victim of another deception (00:06:00) and is thrown into prison in Egypt, which is described as a pit. So now he's in a pit within Egypt—

Tim: Down in Egypt, down in a pit. All right, we're going to pick up the story here because the Egyptian pit prison that he's in, that's the bottom. And there's about to happen a pivot moment in the story that's going to invert everything, and the rest of his story will be about ascending back to a place of honor. 

Section break (00:06:28)

Tim: So in the pit (prison), two officials of Pharaoh end up getting imprisoned: the chief baker and the chief cupbearer is our English translation. But it's like the guy in charge of all of the wine at Pharaoh's household. The title of this guy in Hebrew is the mashqeh (the one who provides drink).

Jon: I thought this was the guy who tests the wine to make sure you're not getting poisoned. 

Tim: It's the word "mashqeh." He is the captain of drinking.

Jon: Captain of drinking. Oh, man.

Tim: It's the captain of the baking and the captain of the drinking. Those are the two titles kind of literally translated. So two of Pharaoh's officials end up in the same prison pit that Joseph is in. And lo and behold, they each have a dream. So just like Joseph's two dreams marked his high point, then he went down, down, down, down, and here he is at the bottom most point. And what happens again? A narrative about two dreams. 

And in these dreams, each of these officials, in some form or another, has their head lifted up in the dream. And Joseph is like, "Oh, you had a dream? Hey, you know what? I think I know what that means. I think God has revealed to me the meaning of your dream." (00:08:00)

So for the captain of drinking, he says, "Your dream means your head is going to be lifted up in honor. You're going to be restored to your job." The guy is like, "Awesome. I hope that happens." And then when the baker has a dream about his head being lifted up, he says, "Yes, your head is going to be lifted up off your body. You're going to be executed."

And then Joseph says, "Hey, listen, if your interpretations actually come true, will you remember me?" And what he says is—Genesis 40—"Do me kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh to get me out of here. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And even here, I've done nothing wrong that they should put me into this pit."

Jon: This is where he calls it the pit.

Tim: He's in prison. He calls it the pit. So the dreams become reality. The baker is executed in three days and the captain of drinking is elevated back to his position in three days. (00:09:00) And then the last line in the story is, "And he forgot about Joseph in the pit."

Jon: You had one job, captain of drinking. 

Tim: The next story, Genesis 41, Pharaoh has two dreams. Notice the doubling. It's all about these double dreams. So Pharaoh has two dreams, and they're all about bundles of grain or a dream about cows. They're seven bundles of grain and then seven cows. There's good stocks of grain and beautiful fat cows. And then skinny, withered heads of grain and skinny, emaciated cows come and eat up all the good stuff. Seven bad things come eat up seven good things. And you wouldn't even know that the emaciated cows ate seven good cows. There's no sign that they ate anything at all.

Jon: They didn't plumpen up. 

Tim: Yeah. Those are his dreams. He wakes up and he brings (00:10:00) his counselors and he's like, "I had these dreams." No one can help him. That's when the captain of drinking, who's there in the courtroom says, "You know, I'm remembering something. It reminds me I met this young Hebrew slave in a pit and he interpreted my dreams and it's what happened. Let's call that guy."

This is Genesis 41:14. “Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph and they hurriedly brought him up out of the pit. Then they had him shave.” This image of like all your hair, the hair associated with your whole previous, whatever, journey, that's all cut off, and his clothes are changed. He gets new garments and he's brought to Pharaoh. So right there, that's a little pivot in the story right there. And you can see it. 

Jon: Yeah. That's used in film a lot, the moment where the guy is like, I'm shaving the beard, that montage.

Tim: Sure. Or the changing of clothes, that's pretty iconic for a change of character, a change (00:11:00) of destiny. So Joseph comes, he interprets the dreams, and says, "Hey, the seven beautiful, good things are seven years of abundance coming and they are going to be followed by seven years of famine. And the famine is going to be so intense that it will be like the seven years of abundance never happened.”

So what he says is, "You know what you gotta do, you gotta get a guy who's really wise and discerning and can make a plan to store up all of the abundance and make a rationing plan so that during the seven years of famine, you could survive off of the seven good years." This is Pharaoh's response. He said to his servants, "Where could we find a man like this in whom is the Spirit of Elohim?"

Jon: The Ruakh of Elohim. 

Tim: This is the first time that phrase has been used since Genesis 1:2. The Ruakh Elohim. The Spirit of God appears only in the first movement of Genesis, you know, as we traced it (00:12:00) throughout Genesis 1 to 11, and then it's just gone, in terms of not being mentioned in the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stories. And then this is the next appearance.

And it's about a guy who had dreams about being raised up as a ruler above Heaven and Earth. And now you hear that he has the spirit. And you're like, "I'm just beginning to smell whiffs of Genesis 1 and the Eden narrative of Genesis 2 about a human exalted to rule over creation guided by the Spirit of Elohim.” 

Pharaoh said to Joseph, "God has informed you of all of this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you." Remember what that tree was all about.

Jon: The tree of knowing good and bad?

Tim: Yeah. The woman said it was good. She saw that it was good for eating and desirable for gaining wisdom. So there's two paths to becoming a wise ruler of (00:13:00) creation, right? This is the test.

Jon: Do I eat of the tree on my own initiative or do I let the Spirit of God be the one that instructs me?

Tim: That guides me, gives me wisdom. Here's a guy with the spirit of wisdom. 

Jon: Wow.

Tim: So what he says is, "You are going to rule over my house. Only in the throne will I be greater than you."

Jon: It's quite a promotion. 

Tim: Yes. He will become an image of Pharaoh. Second—like the viceroy or the deputy. This is all Genesis 1 and 2 imagery here coming back to us. So cool.

Jon: In the same way that humans are meant to represent God and rule over the land, here is Joseph being lifted up to image Pharaoh and rule over the land. And he was able to do so because he has a Spirit of Elohim. 

Tim: That gives wisdom. Verse 42 of Genesis 41, "Then Pharaoh took off his (00:14:00) signet ring ..." Like it's a ring with an image on it. 

Jon: Oh. Oh, yeah. 

Tim: He puts it on Joseph's hand. “He clothed him in garments of fine linen." It's actually very simple garments but beautiful, white, clean. "He put a gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in a second chariot, and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’” Everyone bow down. “And he set him over all the land of Egypt.”

Jon: He's a big deal.

Tim: The arc of his dreams. His dreams were about being exalted over his family and over the sun, moon, and stars. And everybody came and bowed down to him. 

Jon: Oh, and here it is: bow the knee. 

Tim: And here it is: bow the knee. He becomes an image of Pharaoh—a second self. When you see Joseph cruising in the chariot, you're like, "That's Pharaoh’s chariot." And it's a guy dressed like Pharaoh wearing his ring and necklace.

Jon: Oh, wow. 

Tim: But it's slightly different. (00:15:00) It's an image of Pharaoh. This is so rad. We're exploring the meaning of the image of God but in this narrative about Joseph. Isn’t this cool?

Jon: This is cool. 

Tim: You know how in our Image of God conversations long ago, but in our video, one of the proud moments where I'm like, "That was so cool that our artists thought of that," was when they're depicting the exalted new human rulers is a line of people in the video and what they're holding up as their scepters are like pencils ... 

Jon: Yeah, their vocation—

Tim: ... cooking pan, and an architecture little drawing tool, and a ruler. 

Jon: The specific ways that you rule. 

Tim: That's right, exactly. So what's cool is that was partially inspired by this little connection here. Because what Joseph is being appointed to is essentially being like a disaster ... He's starting the bureau of disaster relief and prevention. His goal is, he has seven years to build a team and a plan to store up enough reserve food and supplies (00:16:00) so that when a food shortage comes there's enough. That's how he exercises his rule as the image of God filled with the Spirit, with wisdom. Joining like the city commission, you know. 

Jon: Yeah. And this department is the most important department for Pharaoh now. He's like, "Put my chips in with you."

Tim: Totally. No, it's just rad because this is a narrative illustrating that being a ruling image of God ruling with wisdom and authority, like the venue for that is just the circumstances of actual human life and community. You can be a software engineer and rule the world by the Spirit of God. I mean, just whatever. The variety of ways that the human project goes forward are all a variety of ways that you can image God's wisdom. So rad.

Jon: That is cool. 

Tim: Yeah, totally. 

Section break (00:16:55)

Tim: Okay. He’s still in Egypt.

Jon: Which is not the land promised to Abraham. 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. He's been exalted in exile. So dude, this pattern here in the Joseph story is the template off of which whole books of the Hebrew Bible are going to be patterned. The story of Daniel is packed with hyperlinks back to the Joseph story. Daniel being exalted in Babylon, just like Joseph, but after—through many tests of suffering and going down into pits with wild animals in them. 

And then also the book of Esther. The Esther scroll is very hyperlinked in many ways. It's in Persian exile. She and her relative Mordecai go through many great tests, put their lives on the line, (00:18:00) and then are exalted and save their people, and so on.

So those stories are modeled after the Joseph story. But as we can see, the Joseph story is modeled after all the generations in Genesis going all the way back to the first exile. So Adam and Eve were elevated up to rule and then forfeited that and then went down, out of Eden and down.

And Joseph’s story is the opposite, where he began in a place of rule, went down into the pit, but then was elevated up out of the pit. And notice the dreams, it was two dreams and a royal robe that he was given at the beginning. And then the robes are taken, and he goes down to Egypt, down to prison, down into the pit, where there's two more dreams. 

And then those dreams begin his ascent up where he interprets Pharaohs two dreams. And he's given new garments and a new royal robe and elevated to the position of his first two dreams. So it's like a perfect arc.

Jon: Yeah. That symmetry in the going down and then back up. (00:19:00) 

Tim: That's right. And it's an image of the suffering seed of the woman. I mean, he got his heel ravaged by the snake, so to speak. Here's a seed of the woman—

Jon: Who's suffered many deceptions.

Tim: Many deceptions.

Jon: It turned him into a slave, turned him into a prisoner.

Tim: And what God does is turn the evil that humans keep doing to Joseph and take the consequences of those evil acts and weave a story of exultation and restoration out of it. The Joseph story becomes a real important narrative in the pattern of the suffering servant that God appoints to rule. But his rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others so that through their suffering and death they can be exalted and then become a source of life to others. That's exactly what's going to happen now. Joseph will be in a position now to save his family in the time of famine. 

In Genesis 42 on through the end of the book, (00:20:00) the story is going to go back and forth now to his brothers. His brothers and Jacob, up in the land of Canaan, are going to realize like, "Hey, we're going to die in this food shortage." And so Jacob sends the brothers down. This is in Genesis 42 and following. 

He says, "Go down to Egypt and get food for us there." And it's always described as down. Go down to Egypt. The brothers went down. And there they're going to meet the brother they betrayed, but they're not going to recognize him. 

What Joseph is going to begin to do is craft a whole very ... The narrative goes on for four long chapters. Genesis 42, 43, 44, 45. And it's one long testing narrative. And Joseph is going to cleverly create all these scenarios where he's going to re-create scenes ... re-creating situations of what they did to him back in chapter 37.

So he's going to accuse them of being spies, and then he's going to take one brother and put the brother in a prison in Egypt. (00:21:00) And then he's going to return the money they brought down to the other brothers, and say, "Go back home." He just, "You guys are loaded with cash and you could go back home with food and money, but you have to abandon a brother." And so they could go back up to their land. And they could just say, like, "One of our brothers died on the way." 

Jon: "An animal got him."

Tim: "An animal got him." They could pocket the cash and come back with the food. But what they do is they tell the truth when they go back to the land. But back when the brothers were down in Egypt and Joseph was testing them the first time, he finds out that his brother Benjamin is still alive. And Benjamin is not there. Jacob didn't let Benjamin go down.

Jon: Right. Because there's a part of the story we hadn't talked about where Jacob has a new favorite son—Benjamin.

Tim: Which is Joseph's brother. Joseph's younger brother.

Jon: And Jacob, when he sends his brothers down to Egypt to go get food, he doesn't let Benjamin go. 

Tim: He keeps his (00:22:00) beloved son back. So Joseph notices that Benjamin is not there with the rest. So he takes one brother captive, he sends them back, and he says, "If you ever want to see my face again, you got to come with that brother, the youngest brother that you didn't bring."

So they go back to the land and they run out of food, and Jacob's like, "Hey, go down and get more food." And they're like, "We can't. Simeon is down there in prison. And the only way he'll even see us is if Benjamin comes with us." And so Jacob comes to his moment that becomes parallel to Abraham and Isaac, having to give up the beloved son of his old age. That's a brilliant replay of that story now in this generation. 

So what Jacob finally does is he says, "I'm not going to do it." And then steps in Judah. And Judah says, "Dad, we are all going to die if you don't let Benjamin come with us. So here's (00:23:00) the thing. I make a promise to you." He makes an oath promise. "I will offer my life in the place of Benjamin.” And Judah was the one who had the idea to sell Joseph for cash all the way back. 

Jon: Oh, it was his idea?

Tim: It was Judah's idea. Yes. And now here's Judah, saying, "We're not going to leave the brothers behind. In fact, I will put myself in the place of a brother ..."

Jon: “If Benjamin's in trouble, I'll take the hit. Benjamin will come back because he's your favorite and I'll surrender my life.” 

Tim: Yeah. So think through. This story is patterned after Abraham being asked to surrender Isaac. After the long history of Abraham's sin and failure, God asked for the life of Isaac back as a sacrifice. And then at the last minute, because of Abraham's trust, God provides a substitute ram in the bushes. 

Now here is Abraham's grandson, he's being asked to surrender his (00:24:00) beloved son, Benjamin, and Judah offers himself as the substitute.

Jon: Judah, who will be then the father of the tribe of Judah, which is the line of the king. 

Tim: Yeah, the line of David and the ... 

Jon: The line of David.

Tim: ... the lineage of Jesus Messiah. So profound, dude. Jacob says, "Fine, take Benjamin."

Jon: This is different than Abraham. Abraham had to surrender and then the substitute comes.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Jacob surrenders once the substitute is announced. 

Tim: That's right. Man, this story is so cool. Jacob allows it, the brothers go down. Judah with Benjamin in his care. They go down and Joseph sees all the brothers, he sees Benjamin, he breaks down crying, he releases the captive brother to come back with them, and he makes them a great meal.

And this becomes a second test. He makes them a huge meal and he gives them all the same portion of food (00:25:00) except Benjamin. He gives Benjamin five times a bigger serving of food than all the brothers. And then he rigs it so that he puts a special silver cup of divination that the sorcerers use, Egyptian sorcerers. He hides it in the saddlebag of Benjamin's camel. 

Jon: So he kind of like is like—first he makes the brothers jealous. 

Tim: Yes, he activates their jealousy.

Jon: He activates their jealousy. And then when he sends them on their way, he sets Benjamin up so that they could easily throw him under the bus.

Tim: Totally. He's doing everything to re-create the situation here of his own betrayal when the brothers betrayed him. So he sends people after the brothers right after they leave. And they say, "Hey ...”

Jon: "We're missing a cup." 

Tim: "... we're missing a silver cup around here." What Joseph's official says is, "Don't you know that our master uses this for divination?" (00:26:00) And dude, the word for "divination" is spelled with the same Hebrew letters as the word snake (nachash). So this is Joseph, acting the role of the snake, but inverting the purpose of the snake. The goal is not to deceive to lead people to death. The goal is using deception as a means of revealing the truth.

Jon: We talked about this in our test conversations, which is what's the difference between a test that is meant to destroy you as a trap, like throwing you in a pit and then selling you into slavery, and a test meant to give you an opportunity to succeed? And here it is, the test as an opportunity to show that you have changed.

Tim: Yeah. So at this moment, the brothers have money in their pocket. They could go back with money and food. And it's not just one of their brothers. It's Benjamin who they could leave behind this time in prison. (00:27:00) 

Jon: And aren't we tired of these favorite sons anyways? You know.

Tim: So the climactic scene is the brothers go back in—this is Genesis 44—and Judah comes and he kneels before Joseph—and he doesn't know it's his brother—and he just says, "Listen, you can't take this little guy, Benjamin, prisoner, it will kill our father. He'll die of grief. He's already lost his other beloved young son. We can't do this to him."

So right there and then Judah offers himself in the place of his brother as a substitute. And the moment Judah does that, Joseph just breaks down weeping and he reveals himself to his brothers. I imagine that moment. So powerful.

And what Joseph says is, "Listen, I know you guys sent me down here, but I need to tell you something. Actually, God is the one (00:28:00) who has been with me down here. And he has raised me up to be a ruler of the nation so that I can save the life of a remnant in the famine." That's what he says.

Jon: Save the life of a remnant. 

Tim: He's using the language of what God says to Noah about you and the animals in the ark: to keep alive seed and to save a remnant from the flood. So Joseph is depicted as a new Adam human image of God, and he's depicted as the righteous remnant raised up to preserve the life of seed through a de-creation.

And he's talking to Judah when he does this. And of course, this is going to be all about the ending of Genesis, which highlights the line of Judah and the seed of Judah as the source of a royal priest who will come in the future. Dude, what on earth? What's going on here?

I reach moments like this and you're like, when Jesus says at the end of Luke, (00:29:00) “You know what the Torah and the Prophets and the Writings are all about?” He says they're about an anointed one who goes into suffering and then is raised up into a place of glory or honor, so that forgiveness can be announced in that anointed one's name to all of the nations. He's summarizing the whole Hebrew Bible. And one of the stories in it is the story of Joseph. It's a perfect outline of the story of Joseph climaxing in the announcement of forgiveness that he forgives his brothers.

So what's cool is that this elevation to rule as an image of God that Joseph is experiencing, this rescue of the family, the preservation of a remnant through whom God can raise up a new seed to be a source of blessing, this is all happening in exile down in Egypt.

Jon: Right. God promises Abraham a land of blessing, and it's not Egypt. So what's the deal? Why are they in Egypt? (00:30:00)

Tim: But even though the family has been landed in exile in Egypt because of their own history of sin and folly and treachery and betrayal, even there outside of the promised Eden land, God can turn their exile into a little temporary Eden refuge and install the wise image of God and create life out of death. And that's the message of the Joseph story.

Jon: Eden can show up where we least expect it.

Tim: Yeah. Eden anywhere. Eden can be anywhere.

Jon: Eden can be anywhere. 

Tim: And actually, when Joseph goes on in chapters 45, 46, 47, he sends a message. He says, "Go back to my dad and tell him that the son who is dead is now alive. And you guys need to come down and see me down here. And listen, I'll work with Pharaoh and we'll make a plan and you will come down and you will get a wonderful land and you will eat of the good (00:31:00) of the land of Egypt." You're like, "Ooh, eat the good fruit of the land! That sounds awesome."

And then the name of the land that they get down in Egypt is famously Goshen. It's all kinds of Goshens across the United States now in different states. 

Jon: Oh really? I don't know of Goshen. 

Tim: Goshen, Indiana. 

Jon: Oh.

Tim: But the Hebrew word “Goshen” is the kind of central network of cities around the Nile Delta that were in Egypt at that time. And Goshen refers to a region that was a border region. It was a rural border region outside the city.

Jon: They're in a little suburb in Egypt. 

Tim: Yeah, they get a suburb called Goshen. The word Goshen is spelled with three Hebrew letters. The first letter and the last letter are ghimel (g), the last letter is nun (n), and the Hebrew word for garden is ghimel, nun. Gan. That's the word “garden.” And then the word “Goshen” is spelled with ghimel, shin, nun. Goshen.  

But the point is the word "Goshen" is spelled with (00:32:00) the first and the last letter of the Hebrew word “garden.” You've made this wordplay before I think. Goshen.  

Jon: Yeah. You told me this, and I said, "Oh, it's like calling it Goshen instead of garden. 

Tim: Totally. 

Jon: Like, hey, we got to live in Goshen. 

Tim: Totally. If you're trying to model Goshen after the word garden, you could do it. Like what gan is to Goshen, garden is to Goshen.

Jon: This is the suburb of Goshen. Why is it called Goshen? It's supposed to remind us of a garden.

Tim: Totally. And what you're told is they go down to the land. And you get one little concluder line. "And they were fruitful and multiplied in Goshen."

Jon: And they were fruitful and they multiplied in the garden. 

Tim: Yes. So this would be a great concluder to the story of the Bible if it were happening in Eden and if it were all of humanity. But in fact, it's happening to a small remnant of humanity that is the family of Abraham, and it's happening in Egyptian exile. But it's a little (00:33:00) foretaste of where the whole biblical story is going. And it happened through the suffering and exaltation of the beloved son. Come on. It's like Jesus was really right.

Jon: That everything was about him?

Section break (00:33:14) 

Jon: There's so much happening. I know we're tracing the theme of exile, but we're also talking about the test, and we're talking about the seed, and we're talking about the remnants. Like all this stuff. The way these narratives work, we try to tease it out to be like, "Let's just focus on this one thing," but it's like—

Tim: So tangled. 

Jon: Yeah, a tangle. Like this fluid. I mean, it's art. At this point you realize how artistic it is. And when we want to like (00:34:00) analyze it, it's like you're dissecting the frog, but there's this living thing happening, that when it all kind of layers in, you kind of feel it. And it's like, "Whoa." But then I get overwhelmed trying to keep it all making sense in my mind in a way. But you feel it. You're like, "Oh, I get it."

Tim: It really is like the climax of a movie musical score or of a symphony. So if you sit through some musical event that comes to a climax and like all the melodies and the songs and the instruments all come together in one big thing, it's overwhelming. That's the feeling.

Jon: And you have such a sense of completion. But then, at the same time, you're like, "But they're in Egypt." And all of a sudden now the franchise is like, "Yeah, wait for the sequel." 

Tim: Totally. 

Jon: The Exodus scroll.

Tim: It's perfect. The last literary unit corresponds to the last chapter of (00:35:00) Genesis 50. That is truly like the cliffhanger. Because Jacob is now reunited with his sons, they're living in Goshen, fruitful and multiplying. 

“And then the days drew near for Jacob to die.” And just right there you remember, "Oh, yeah, we are not in Eden." Death is the number one sign that we are outside the garden. 

So what he does is he gets Joseph and then his sons and he says, "Listen, swear an oath to me that you won't leave my body or bones down here in Egypt. I can't die and stay here in exile." He says, "Make me go up from Egypt after I die and bury me up in the land of Canaan in the cave, that cave of Machpelah that my grandfather bought.”

Jon: That Abraham bought?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: This was the moment Abraham owned a piece of the promised land (00:36:00) when he bought this cave. 

Tim: Only piece he ever owned. That's right. He bought a field that had a cave and was surrounded by trees. This is Genesis 23. We talked about this. So the phrase "cave of Machpelah" is a Hebrew wordplay because it looks like the words “nakedness.” And then "Machpelah" means "a double" or "a pair." 

Jon: Oh, that's right. This is where I got confused. You said the naked pair and I was thinking of a piece of fruit. Do you remember that?

Tim: Yeah, totally. The naked couple.

Jon: Yeah, the naked couple. 

Tim: The phrase “cave of Machpelah,” arat Machpelah in Hebrew, it's a wordplay because it looks like also the way that you would spell the "naked couple." And it's in a field with beautiful trees all around the property.

Jon: A field with trees and a naked couple.

Tim: Oh, yeah. And you're told it's by the trees of Mamre, which is where—

Jon: It's where Abraham feasted with—

Tim: With the angels under the tree. Yeah, that's right. So it's an Eden place. (00:37:00) So where Jacob goes is, he says, "After I die, make me go up." The word "go up" is used so many times in Genesis 50. It just hits you over the head. Remember it was all about the descent going down, down, down, down to Egypt. But once you die outside of the land, he asked, “Make me go up, go up, go up, up, up, up, up to the place of the naked couple.” 

Jon: "Put my bones in Eden."

Tim: Yeah, "put my bones in Eden." It's a symbol of hope. In other words, it's a way of echoing—

Jon: And why does it matter where you're buried? You're dead. 

Tim: Yeah, totally. And you could raise interesting questions about conceptions of the afterlife that people had at this time. But as a narrative image, you have to sit and ask, why is this whole narrative focusing on a guy saying “I want to go back to this place. Take my body to this place”? And what is that place? It's a place that both (00:38:00) in the name of it and in the symbolism of a field with trees. 

And what happened there with Abraham as the Eden moment, it's all about the return to Eden. The hope for a return to Eden that even death cannot prevent God's plan to restore the life of Eden to his people. And so that's how the book ends.

Jon: Isn't there still a place ... We saw it straight outside Jerusalem in a valley where it's very customary to be buried.

Tim: Oh, yeah. It's called the Valley of Kidron.

Jon: Valley of Kidron. 

Tim: And then flanking up as you go away from Jerusalem up the steep hillside of the Mount of Olives. And there's traditional grave, burial sites all over.

Jon: And the hope there is to be buried there is this hope of being like resurrected in the first into Jerusalem, right? 

Tim: Yes. To be buried on the hillside that faces the temple, where the temple used to stand, is a symbol of hope. (00:39:00) 

Jon: It's a symbol of hope in the resurrection to be buried there.

Tim: And that's what Jacob asks for and gets here. Very similarly. And then actually, the last paragraphs of the Joseph story is Joseph saying, "Hey, I'm going to die down here, but God made a promise that he would bring us up out of this land. And whatever you do, take my bones with you when you go up."

Jon: So you could say it's just a sentimental thing. Like, I just want my bones to be there. But this is at the end of a scroll that began with the story of the human rulers being stupid—

Jon: Being given access to ... 

Tim: Eternal life.

Jon: ... eternal life.

Tim: And they're exiled from that because of their folly out down from the high place outside where they die. And now here's two guys who are going to die outside of their little version of Eden, and their only request is that they ascend back up to the Eden land. (00:40:00) Even if they die, they hope in the bones going up to the Eden land. 

And you're just like, "Okay, whatever one thinks about ..." It's very common in Biblical studies to talk about that the idea of resurrection was a very late development in the history of Israelite religion; it really only became clear in the late Second Temple period. And so all of that aside, the narrative message of Genesis in the shape that it's in right now I think is about that very thing—the hope of the bones rising up to eternal life. What else is this scroll about?

Jon: If death is the ultimate exile, then resurrection is the ultimate homecoming.

Tim: Yeah. It's the only appropriate way to resolve the problem created with the garden of Eden story. When you go to the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, I think he gets it, man. Ezekiel 36 is about how God's going to create a new Eden in the promised land that will spread to all the nations. (00:41:00)

Then the next vision you have is of the valley of dry bones, which is about God's Spirit filling up the bones to re-create a new family for Abraham. And then the next story is about the reunion of the tribes of Joseph and Judah so that the divided two can become one. That whole section of Ezekiel, for example, is a meditation on what went wrong in Eden is going to be reversed in the new creation. 

So I don't think it's inappropriate to say that you finish the Genesis scroll and what you hear is the author painting a picture to generate hope in the resurrection and the hope for a new creation. It's certainly what Ezekiel saw here. And I think that's what Jesus saw here, too.

Jon: Yeah. 

Tim: It's remarkable.

Jon: All right.

Tim: Well, we're going to continue. We just finished Genesis, but we're not stopping, are we, Jon?

Jon: We finished Genesis. Let's stop and let that sink in.

Tim: I don't think we've ever (00:42:00) said a sentence like that. We finished Genesis.

Jon: Next week, we are going to do a Genesis Q and R. So I guess we haven't finished Genesis proper. But we will respond to your questions next week, and then we'll begin the scroll of Exodus.

Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. Next week we begin in the scroll of Exodus. And in the first movement of Exodus, we will trace the theme of God's name. 

Tim: Even though in Genesis the narrator and the characters have been engaging Yahweh by that name all the way through, there's something very special about the new or the renewed revelation of the name of Yahweh, and the name’s meaning to Moses and the Israelites after generations of being enslaved to Egypt.

The question of the cultural identity and the religious identity of the (00:43:00) Israelites in these chapters are really up for grabs because they have been dominated by an oppressor that claims to be like an incarnate deity, that is Pharaoh. And the gods of Egypt, we're told, are also a part of what's oppressing the people. And so the revelation of the name attached to the liberation of people is all connected here. Yahweh is revealing his character in a new way in this story. 

We're going to camp out on the repeated phrase that's all through this section of Yahweh's plan that people come to know the name of Yahweh. So shall we venture forth? Shall we exodus, take the road out?

Jon: BibleProject is a nonprofit. We exist to experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. And everything that we make is free to use—our videos, this podcast, our graduate-level classes, and our new mobile app. It's all free because of the generous support of thousands of people just like you. So thank you so much for being a part of this with us. (00:44:00)

9 Episodes

Episode 9
Why Can’t Jacob and Esau Both Be Blessed?
How is Jesus the firstborn of creation and the "second Adam"? Why are the biblical authors so obsessed with the east? And why can’t Jacob and Esau both be blessed? In this episode, Tim and Jon tackle your questions about the Genesis scroll.
1hr 2m • Mar 7, 2022
Episode 8
Joseph the Suffering Servant
He lays down his life to save a remnant of God’s people, he brings God’s blessing to all nations, he forgives those who tried to kill him, and his name is … Joseph? In this episode, Tim and Jon conclude our study of the Genesis scroll with a final look at the theme of exile. See how Joseph’s story becomes an important part of the Bible’s depiction of the ultimate suffering servant, Jesus the Messiah.
45m • Feb 28, 2022
Episode 7
Joseph the Exile
Joseph is one of the Bible’s most famous characters, and in the Genesis scroll, his story is a climactic moment in the theme of exile that spans the whole book. In this episode, Tim and Jon dive into the fourth and final movement of Genesis, a narrative rich with patterns, repeated words, and the presence of God even in the pit.
42m • Feb 21, 2022
Episode 6
Wrestling God for a Blessing
Throughout the story of the Bible, God singles out different people, like Jacob, to be the conduit of his blessing to all humanity. But from birth, Jacob consistently acts more like the snake from the garden of Eden than a righteous chosen one of God. He lies his way into blessings that God had intended for him all along. So what will God do? In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss the theme of blessing and curse in the life of Jacob.
1hr 6m • Feb 14, 2022
Episode 5
Great Blessing and Great Responsibility
The word “blessing” brings to mind a variety of images for all of us. But what exactly does it mean when God blesses someone? And where did the curse come from? In this episode, Tim and Jon start exploring the third movement of Genesis, tracing the theme of blessing and curse.
1hr 3m • Feb 7, 2022
Episode 4
Trees of Testing and Blessing
The family of Abraham is chosen by God. But despite God’s promises to them, they continually act out of greed, division, fear, deception, and lack of trust in Yahweh. How does God respond to this? What will he do to make sure his blessing comes to all nations? Join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they continue tracing the theme of the tree of life in the second movement of Genesis.
1hr 6m • Jan 24, 2022
Episode 3
Under the Trees with Yahweh
Blessing, testing, failure, success, God’s plan for the nations—you’ll find all these themes woven through the story of the Bible, often accompanied by … trees? While it might not seem obvious, trees play an important role in the Bible and, notably, in the life of Abraham. In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they dive into the second movement of Genesis and trace the theme of trees through the story of Abraham.
51m • Jan 17, 2022
Episode 2
God’s Spirit in the Flood Narrative
When we think of God’s Spirit, judgment is probably not what comes to mind. But the biblical authors saw God’s Spirit as the one who gave life and took it away—the one who could create, de-create, and recreate. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa follow the theme of God’s Spirit through the second half of the first movement of Genesis.
1hr • Jan 10, 2022
Episode 1
God’s Spirit in Creation
Why does the author of Genesis make a point to name God’s Spirit in Genesis 1 and 2? In this week’s episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa embark on a new journey for the BibleProject podcast—reading the Torah in thematic movements, starting with a close look at the Holy Spirit’s role in the book of Genesis.
57m • Jan 3, 2022
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