Joseph Saves His Family

12_Joseph Saves his FamilyScripture Reference: Genesis 42:1-47:12

Story Overview: The seven-year famine in Egypt was experienced throughout the region. Joseph’s family travelled to Egypt to obtain grain. Joseph did not reveal his identity until he saw that his brothers were sorry for what they had done in the past. He revealed his identity and forgave them for what they had done. He then invited Israel to move his whole family to Egypt. Pharaoh welcomed Joseph’s family and gave them the land of Goshen to live in.

Suggested Emphasis or Theme: We should not hold a grudge.

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

Background Study:

The famine that hit Egypt also affected Joseph’s original homeland where Israel (Jacob) and all of his sons lived. Joseph’s father sent the older brothers with donkeys to get a load of grain from Egypt.

About twenty-two years had passed since the brothers sold Joseph to the slave traders. Joseph now spoke the Egyptian language, and likely dressed and looked much like other Egyptians. So it isn’t surprising that Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize Joseph when they came to him to buy grain.

In those twenty-two years, Joseph’s brothers had changed also but Joseph knew them right away. He wanted to find out if they were still as hateful as they had been when they had sold him. When Joseph—still seen as a stranger—was harsh to them, they revealed their feelings of guilt for what they had done (Gen. 42:20-21).

Joseph’s brother, Simeon, was kept in Egypt while the other brothers returned home with grain. They promised to bring Benjamin back the next time. Joseph sent them off but had his workers put their silver into the bags of grain. When the brothers discovered the silver they were frightened. They knew that they could be accused of theft.

As time went by the famine became worse. Israel knew that he would have to send his sons (including Benjamin) to Egypt to get more grain. He sent them with extra gifts and more silver.

The brothers were received and treated to a feast at Joseph’s table. Joseph sent them back home with more grain. This time he again ordered that their money be put in the grain sacks. He also ordered that his silver cup be placed in Benjamin’s bag.

Of course this was a set-up. After the brothers had time to have travelled some distance, Joseph had officials catch up with them and accuse them of theft. Not knowing about the planted silver and cup, the brothers happily allowed the officials to search their bags. They said that if anything was found in any brother’s bag then that brother would be put to death. The others would become slaves. When the officials searched the bags they found the planted silver and they found Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. In shock, they all returned to the city.

Joseph decided that only Benjamin would stay in Egypt. Judah pleaded with Joseph to let him be Joseph’s slave in place of Benjamin. Judah would rather have been a slave in Egypt than to have broken his father’s heart again (Gen. 44:33-34).

Joseph tested his brothers to see what kind of men they were. He saw in them evidence that God had worked in their hearts to bring repentance. He could no longer go on with the charade. He revealed himself with much weeping. When Joseph revealed who he was, his brothers must have been terrified. The one they had sold into slavery now had the power of life and death over them! Did Joseph hold a grudge? Would he pay them back? Human nature would have prodded Joseph to get even with his brothers. But his attitude was one of godly humility and understanding.

Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan and told their father the news of finding Joseph. The whole family moved to Egypt. The family now numbered seventy (Gen. 46:27).

Joseph knew that God had been at work to preserve His people (Gen. 45:5-8). Instead of perishing in the famine, Jacob and his family were welcomed into Egypt. Joseph arranged a meeting with the Pharaoh. He told them that they could live in the nearby land of Goshen. During the famine, the Israelites lived in relative comfort in Egypt. Jacob lived there seventeen years, until his death at the age of 147 (Gen. 47:28). Joseph had repaid evil with good, and God was pleased.


Way to Introduce the Story:

“Has anyone ever been to a family reunion? That’s when everyone in a family gets together to visit with each other. Sometimes you see aunts and uncles and cousins that you haven’t seen in a long time. In today’s lesson we are going to find out how Joseph had a family reunion with his family that he had not seen in twenty-two years. Let’s see who Joseph’s family is:” Draw a family tree from Abraham down to Joseph and his brothers. Make boxes and leave the squares blank so that the children can fill them in.

The Story:

During the seven years of famine people got very hungry. People needed grain to make bread. The only place where people could buy grain was in Egypt. Israel (Jacob) told his ten oldest sons to travel to Egypt and buy grain. He kept Benjamin home with him.

It had been twenty-two years since Joseph and his brothers had seen each other. The brothers did not recognize Joseph when they saw him but he knew who they were. Since the Pharaoh had put Joseph in charge of the grain, his brothers had to ask him for it.

Joseph was glad to see his brothers but he wanted to know if they still hated him like they used to. He did not tell them who he was. He told them that he would give them grain if they would bring Benjamin back with them the next time. He said that Simeon would stay with him until they came back. He told them not to come back unless they brought Benjamin. The brothers took their bags of grain and went back home.

On the way home the brothers looked in their bags of grain and were shocked to find not only the grain but their money too! They were afraid. What if the Egyptians thought they had stolen the money? (They did not know that Joseph had put the money in the bags to test them).

As time went by the grain was all used up and Israel and his family became hungry again. Israel did not want the brothers to take his youngest son, Benjamin, to Egypt but he knew that if Benjamin didn’t go, then the official in charge of the grain would not give them any. Benjamin said good-bye to his father and went with his brothers.

Joseph was so happy to see his brother Benjamin! He held a large feast for all of his brothers and gave Benjamin five times as much food as everyone else.

This time when the brothers left Joseph tested them again. Joseph secretly told his workers to put all of their payment money into the bags of grain that they were taking home to Israel. He also told them to put his expensive silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Then Joseph sent his brothers on their way home.

Joseph waited a little while and then he sent his officials after his brothers. When the officials found the money and cup they brought all of the brothers back to Joseph. Joseph told them that it looked as if Benjamin stole his cup. Benjamin would have to stay and be a slave in Egypt.

Joseph’s brother, Judah, begged him not to keep Benjamin. “It will make my father so sad! First my father’s favourite son, Joseph, was taken away from him. Now he will die if we tell him that his son, Benjamin, is gone.”

Joseph finally decided that his brothers were very sorry for what they had done. He saw that they really loved their father. Joseph said, “Don’t you understand . . . I am Joseph!”

Joseph’s brothers were so happy to see their brother again. They were very sorry that they had been so mean to him before. Joseph forgave his brothers. He was not angry with them anymore. Joseph invited all of his brothers to come live in Egypt where there was plenty of food. Israel’s whole family came to Egypt. There were seventy of them. The Pharaoh told them that they could live in the land of Goshen. What a wonderful family reunion that must have been!

Review Questions:

  1. Why did Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt? To buy grain during the famine.
  2. Who did Joseph say that his brothers must bring back next time they came for grain? Benjamin
  3. In whose sack of grain did the officials find Joseph’s missing silver cup? Benjamin’s
  4. Did Joseph forgive his brothers for what they did to him? Yes
  5. Why did Israel and his entire family move to Egypt? So they would have plenty of food during the famine.


Craft and Activity Ideas:

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

  • Continue to review and learn the names of Jacob’s 12 sons.
  • Read and discuss Romans 12:17-19
  • Review the story using paper doll figures.
  • Look up Egypt and Palestine (Cana) on a map and measure how far Joseph’s family had to travel.
  • Sing songs about love and forgiveness out of the church song book.
  • Read about Egyptian dress and make-up and dress up one or more of the children.
  • Use a hand puppet and tell the story from different points of view (Joseph, Israel, Benjamin, Simeon, Judah)
  • Pick one scene in the story and act it out (discovering the silver cup, Joseph revealing himself, etc.)
  • 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 in Egypt Story on this site. Some of these resources relate to this lesson.

One Response to Joseph Saves His Family

  1. Pingback: Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt: Part 1 – Children's Church

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