Names in the Bible: Joseph
Joseph is one of the most well known characters in the Bible with his story inspiring numerous musicals and movies over the years.
The name Joseph means ‘God will increase’ and it is certainly true of Joseph’s life. His story begins in Genesis Chapter 37. Regularly regaling his brothers with interpretations of his enigmatic dreams and showered with gifts by his father, Joseph exhibits more than a little arrogance when we first meet him.
Becoming embittered with jealousy Joseph’s brothers plot against him. ‘But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him’ (Gen 37:4)
After throwing him into a pit with the intention of leaving him for dead, Judah persuades the other brothers to sell Joseph into slavery instead. Ultimately, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, becoming master of all of his slaves and increasing Potiphar’s wealth in the process.
Unfortunately, it’s not long before he finds himself in prison after Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce him. When he declares it a sin against God, she makes false allegations of rape against him.
‘…..Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ (Gen 39:8-9)
Joseph is left to languish behind bars but before long he’s interpreting the dreams of other prisoners who also happen to be servants of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh too is puzzled by a mysterious dream Joseph is called to interpret it for him. Joseph reveals to Pharaoh that his dream means Egypt will enjoy seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine for which he must prepare.
‘And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”’(Gen 41:38).
Consequently, Joseph is placed as second only to Pharaoh in command of all Egypt. When the predicted famine arrives, Joseph’s brothers come in search of food, although they fail to recognize him. Rather than seek revenge, Joseph ultimately forgives his bemused and repentant brothers, saves them and brings all of his family, including his father to live in Egypt.
‘….do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life…And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God’ (Gen 45:5-8)
Throughout his trials, Joseph expresses no resentment; indeed his faith only increases as he waits patiently for God to deliver him. Gradually his former arrogance dissipates and he responds to punishment and ill treatment with grace and fortitude, trusting God to save him in His time.
What an inspiration Joseph’s story is for all of us.
Let us also not forget that another Joseph was also the husband of Mary, mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This Joseph also demonstrated incredible faith and courage in marrying a young girl who was suddenly pregnant yet claimed to be a virgin. What greater reward for Joseph than God entrusting the safety of His fragile newborn son and his mother Mary to him. God certainly did increase this Joseph’s life too.
If you choose Joseph as a name for your cherished newborn, trust God that no matter what trials he faces in his life, God is faithful to His promises. God will increase.
No matter what our name is, it is something for all of us to remember as we seek the eternal light in our darkest times.
Baby Names Tags:joseph bible, joseph and his brothers, joseph in the bible dreams
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