“And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father’s house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me; And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath ben to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians. And he [Joseph] took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell;” (Genesis 46:31-34, 47:2-3, 5-6)
Joseph was one of twelve sons. His father Jacob loved him, but his brothers hated him. One day his brothers threw him into a pit and then sold him as a slave. Yet God was with Joseph. He was sold to an Egyptian named Potiphar. He did such a great job that Potiphar entrusted Joseph with all his goods. Things went well until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. When he fled, she made up a story that he’d tried to molest her. Joseph was thrown into prison, but God was still with him. The keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. Again, Joseph did a great job.
Two of Pharaoh’s servants were also in the prison. Both of them had dreams that Joseph interpreted. Later, when Pharaoh had a troubling dream, Joseph was sent to interpret it. Joseph told Pharaoh that the dream was about a coming famine. Pharaoh saw that God was with Joseph and appointed him as governor to handle the food supply. Eventually, Joseph’s brothers showed up in need of food. They’d had a change of heart, Joseph revealed to them who he was, and there was a happy, tearful reunion with the whole family.
Joseph certainly was a godly man, but on this occasion, he may have goofed up. Picture him in this passage preparing his brothers to meet Pharaoh. He told them in so many words, “Look, guys, when Pharaoh asks what you do for a living, don’t tell him that you’re shepherds. They don’t like shepherds here. [“…every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”] Say that you’re in the cattle industry.”
So they went before Pharaoh. He asked what they did for a living. What did they tell him? The truth: “Thy servants are shepherds.” Can you imagine Joseph cringing inside and thinking, “I told them not to say that!” Yet Pharaoh didn’t react the way Joseph may have expected. To Joseph’s probable surprise, Pharaoh was still favorable to them. In this instance, Joseph’s brothers were in a way more honorable than he.
In police work, you can be tempted to lie, especially if no one else but you and the suspect knows the truth (and who’d believe him?) Yet God knows the truth. So strive to be honest, even in small matters: “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” (Proverbs 12:22).
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Brian Miller 11/11/2016
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