Joseph in Egypt

11_Joseph in EgyptScripture Reference: Genesis 39:1-41:57

Story Overview:  In Egypt, Joseph became a slave to a man named Potipher. Potipher’s wife lied about Joseph so he went to prison. While there Joseph interpreted the dreams of two prisoners (the former cupbearer and baker of King Pharaoh). The cupbearer was set free from prison and returned to the Pharaoh’s service. Later, when the Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret, the cupbearer suggested he call for Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dreams and Pharaoh was so impressed that he put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt. Joseph had integrity (Integrity is doing right even when no one else can see what you’re doing.  Integrity is doing what is right because it is right).

Suggested Emphasis or Theme: We should have integrity.

Background Study Way to Introduce the Story The Story
Review Questions Craft and Activity Ideas Other Online Resources

Background Study:

In Egypt, Joseph was sold as a slave to a captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph’s master’s name was Potipher. God blessed Joseph in the work he did. After a time, Potiphar trusted Joseph so much that he placed him in charge of everything he had.

Joseph was well built and handsome. Potiphar’s wife tried to tempt him, but he refused to sin. Who would have known if Joseph would have disobeyed God? His family was not around and he might never see them again. The fact that Joseph chose to do the right thing even when no one else was around to see him shows that he had personal integrity. He did the right thing because he truly was a righteous person. Eventually Potiphar’s wife tricked him and accused him. Potiphar was angry over this (39:19), but he put Joseph in prison rather than executing him, which was the normal punishment for the sin he was falsely accused of committing.

Sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph could have given up on God, but even in prison he remained faithful (Gen. 39:21-23). God blessed Joseph in prison; soon the warden put him in charge of everything done there (39:22-23).

It is not unusual that the cup bearer, the baker, and Pharaoh all seemed obsessed with their dreams. Dreams were given great importance in those days. Pharaoh’s advisers even had manuals to help them interpret dreams. Note that Joseph didn’t use a manual—he depended on God to provide the interpretation (Gen. 41:16, 25).

It was bold of Joseph to suggest a plan for dealing with the famine, but God must have been at work because Pharaoh was impressed (Gen. 41:37-40). And Pharaoh was not disappointed—Egypt had plenty of food for the years of famine (Gen. 41:54).

Joseph was about seventeen years old when he was sold into slavery, and apparently was put in prison soon after that. He was thirty years old when he was released from prison (Gen. 41:46). So he had been in prison close to thirteen years. What a surprise! Joseph went from prisoner to second-in-command of the whole land!

In whatever situation Joseph found himself, he did his best and he kept his personal integrity.


Way to Introduce the Story:

“Who had a dream last night? What did you dream about?” Discuss dreams that you and the students have had. You could even review Jacob’s dream. “In today’s story we are going to learn about dreams that have meaning.”

The Story:

Joseph knew that God was with him. He always did what was right and obeyed God even though he was very far from his family. Joseph was sold as a slave to Potipher, the captain of the Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Joseph worked very hard and soon Potipher respected him enough to put him in charge of everything he owned.

Potipher liked Joseph very much but Potipher’s wife told some lies about Joseph and Potipher put him in prison.

Poor Joseph! He had done nothing wrong but he was still in prison. How sad he must have felt. Do you think he stopped obeying God? No! Even in prison Joseph was so kind, thoughtful and helpful that the jailer put him in charge of the other prisoners. Joseph had personal integrity. That meant that he did what was right even when no one else was around to see him.

One day, two new prisoners arrived. One was the king’s (Pharaoh’s) wine-steward and the other the king’s chief baker. Somehow they had displeased the Pharaoh. When they had some dreams Joseph offered to tell them the meanings. The chief butler dreamed about a grapevine with three branches. In the dream the butler squeezed grape juice into a cup for Pharaoh. Joseph was happy to tell him that this meant that in three days the Pharaoh would let him out of prison and ask him to come back to work. That’s exactly what happened!

The chief baker dreamed about three baskets full of bread and cakes that he had baked for Pharaoh. Birds came and ate all of the breads and cakes. Joseph was sorry to tell him that this meant that in three days the Pharaoh would have him put to death. Three days later the Pharaoh ordered the baker to be hanged.

God had told Joseph the true meanings of the dreams.

One night, two years later, Pharaoh, King of Egypt, had a dream. It was very real to him. He was standing on the bank of the Nile River. In his dream, he saw seven cows come up out of the river to feed on the grass. Then seven more cows followed them out of the water, but they were very skinny and all their ribs stuck out. As he watched, the skinny cows ate the fat cows, but they didn’t get any fatter.

Pharaoh awoke feeling very troubled. But he soon fell asleep again and he had a second dream. This time he saw seven ripe healthy ears of corn growing on one stalk. Then he saw seven more ears of corn all shrivelled up by the wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed the seven fat ears but the first corn still looked thin.

Pharaoh woke up. He was bewildered. He called all of his advisors together and told them about his dreams. But no one knew what they meant.

Now, after these two years had passed, the cupbearer remembered how Joseph had told him what his dream meant. He went to Pharaoh and told him about Joseph.

“Bring him to me at once!” Pharaoh ordered. A messenger went to the prison and brought Joseph before the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh asked Joseph to tell him the meaning of his dream.

“I don’t know the meaning of dreams on my own. Only God knows the meaning and He tells me.”

When the Pharaoh told Joseph what he had dreamed, Joseph told him the meaning. Your two dreams are about the same thing. God is telling you what is going to happen so that you can be prepared. The seven good cows and the seven good ears of corn represent seven years. There will be seven very good years of harvest, and there will be plenty for both cattle and men to eat. But, in the next seven years, there is going to be a dreadful famine. There will be no food. God gave you the dream twice so that you would know for sure that this is what will happen.”

Joseph continued, “You must find a good, honest man and put him in charge of all Egypt to see that your orders are carried out. You should command that during the seven good years, on fifth of all the grain be stored in barns. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come.”

The king was pleased with Joseph and his wise advice. “You shall be that man!” he announced. “Since it is through you that God has spoken, and since in all Egypt I know of no one wiser than you, I shall put you in charge. Everyone shall obey you, and only I shall be greater than you.”

The Pharaoh placed his own special ring on Joseph’s finger as a sign of his authority, dressed him in fine clothes, placed the royal golden chain about his neck and gave Joseph a chariot that was next in rank to his own.

Joseph never stopped obeying God through all the years of being a slave and prisoner. Even when he was the only one who believed in God, he still did the right thing. Joseph did not do right just when others were watching. Joseph did right all of the time.

Review Questions:

  1. Who was Joseph sold to in Egypt? Potipher
  2. Why did Potipher put Joseph in prison? Potipher’s wife told lies about him.
  3. Whose dreams did Joseph interpret in prison? Chief Baker and Chief Butler to the Pharaoh.
  4. What did Pharaoh’s dreams about cows and grain mean? Seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
  5. Who did Pharaoh put in charge of preparing for the famine? Joseph


Craft and Activity Ideas:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

  • Continue to learn the names of the twelve sons of Jacob.
  • Write situations on cards. Let the children act out the situation showing personal integrity.  The other children can guess what they are acting out and how they are showing integrity.  Here are some examples:
    • Integrity is seeing rubbish/trash on the floor and picking it up and putting it in the bin without being asked.
    • Integrity is saying good things about someone when others are gossiping about them.
    • Integrity is choosing not to watch a movie that you are not allowed to watch even when you are at a friends house and your parents would never know.
    • Integrity is telling the teacher that you were playing by her desk and broke her vase while she was out of the room.
    • Integrity is telling the truth even if it means you will get in trouble.
    • Integrity is finding money on the floor at the library and reporting it to the librarian rather than putting it into your pocket.
    • Integrity is replacing someone else’s property that you broke.
    • Integrity is studying for the test and writing your own answers instead of copying someone else’s work.
  • Another way to do this is to show pictures of different places and let the children say ways they could show integrity in those places.
  • Retell the story and let the children do the appropriate sound effects. They could make the sound of footsteps, Potiphar’s wife blowing kisses, prison doors closing, sleeping, etc.
  • Look up Egypt on a map.
  • Use encyclopaedias, magazines, or books from the library and study things about life in ancient Egypt.
  • Copy some Egyptian writing.
  • Sing “Oh, Be Careful”
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
  • Joseph View more ideas on the Pinterest Board: “Joseph”


Other Online Resources:

Note: Also see the Joseph Sold By His Brothers Story and the Joseph Saves His Family Story on this site. Some of these resources relate to this lesson.


4 Responses to Joseph in Egypt

  1. Pingback: Doing Right Because It is Right | Mission Bible Class

  2. Pingback: Joseph Interprets Dreams – Children's Church

  3. Maria Corazon "Maricor" Talaver says:

    Thank you Mary for this wonderful lesson, Will use this tomorrow with the kids at downtown church of Christ. More power and God bless you always.

    Maricor Talaver from Cebu City, Philippines

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