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JOSEPH was sold as slave by his BROTHERS – God meant EVIL for GOOD? – Gen. 50:20

joseph-slave1Gen. 50:20 But as for you, ye thought EVIL against me; but God meant it unto GOOD, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Joseph’s brothers evil intention was to kill Joseph (which wasn’t God’s intention) but conveniently a caravan passed by in the right moment and Joseph’s life was spared when he was SOLD as a slave and brought to Egypt – and thus being a blessing for Israel. Thus, ”ye thought EVIL against me; but God meant it unto GOOD”.

Just because God allows man to sin, and on a few occasions even uses man’s evil schemes for something useful in the end – like punishing Israel physically by not preventing their enemies from attacking them – it doesn’t mean that everything under the sun happens for a reason. If that were the case, we’re making God out to be the author of sin. Allowing people to sin is not the same as endorsing evil. The truth is that each time a sin occurs, it always happens against God’s will with no exception.

God has created us with free will, and this means that he normally doesn’t step in and prevents us from sinning (or else we wouldn’t have free will). I say ”normally” because I’m thinking of the global flood where God put an end to much wickedness by eliminating all people from the earth apart from Noah and his family.) If God would be the type who always prevented sin, his first measures would be to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the forbidden fruit – something he never did. Neither did God prevent Joseph’s brothers from sinning, particularly not when God saw a way to let their ideas (even if they were wicked and against his will) be the means to use Joseph in a good way and save his people. God could naturally use other means, but he chose to make use of these particular events that Joseph’s brothers planned in their hearts. God certainly didn’t place any evil intentions in their hearts, because there is no darkness in God.

Naturally it would be even better if the evil plans did not take place at all (it’s always better if people do NOT sin) but he is still able to respond to man’s actions and use them as he deems appropriate. If God knows that certain men plan X to occur, then naturally God can purpose to use it to his own advantage and even thwart their plans. This doesn’t mean that God always acts in this way. God decided to overrule the intended evil by Joseph’s brothers and rather use the events for something good (saving Israel) which was not intended by the brothers! It’s in this sense that we can read that  the brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

If God purposed a man like Joseph to end up in Egypt, why would he prevent his brothers from selling him to people who he knew would take him there? God doesn’t sin by purposing Joseph to end up in Egypt, and allowing his brothers to sin by selling him as a slave. God also knew the heart of Joseph and would naturally hear his prayers and help him out both where he was in the pit, where he screamed for help, and later on in Egypt. If, however, God would cause Joseph’s brothers to be jealous, hateful, selfish and end up being murderers and liars, God alone must also be blamed for their sin. It’s God’s prerogative to let a man like Joseph be subject to his brothers, but it’s all about allowing and not about causing/decreeing.

In having Joseph be sold as a slave God actually saves Joseph’s life because his brothers originally MEANT to kill him

It’s actually Judah (who would later on produce the Messiah in his blood line) who suggests that the brothers would not let Joseph die there in the pit where they had just thrown him, but that they would rather sell him for a price to the Ishmaelites. This idea actually saves Joseph’s life, but it certainly doesn’t pardon any of the evil actions committed by his brothers. God could easily have arranged circumstances, such as a caravan on route to Egypt to pass the area in the right time, knowing full well that the character of Joseph’s brothers would trigger them to act in the way they did. Selling Joseph rather than killing him would be a better solution for the brothers since they 1) did not have to get rid of Joseph by killing him, which is a serious step to take for most people, and 2) they would instead get money. The arrival of the caravan in that moment changed the whole story. Joseph would end up with much authority over the food supply in Egypt, resulting in that he would be able to spare his own people from the worldwide famine.

If on the other hand God decreed and rendered certain the wicked intentions of the brothers as the means to bring about a good purpose, then again, God not only tempts people to sin but forces them to sin. When it comes to Joseph in Egypt and Jesus Christ being crucified, God has acted in a unique way to bring about a divine saving purpose for all humanity, but this doesn’t mean we should add to the Bible and suggest that God’s will always happens or that God wants people to sin so that he can bring about certain events.

There is seldom a shortage of people who want to harm good people like Joseph Jacob’s son and Jesus Christ, so God certainly doesn’t need to cause anyone to do it. It’s sometimes enough to just remove a protecting hand from certain individuals, and their enemy might be able to hurt them. However, our prayers and our actions can naturally influence the outcome. Why else pray?

Gen. 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

Here is the rest of the story a few chapters later:

Gen 50:15 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the EVIL which we did unto him.16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?20 But as for you, ye thought EVIL against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

The brothers wanted to ask for forgiveness, and Joseph did not correct them and say that they had not sinned. However, he did inform them that something good came out of the whole story – something that their brothers did not intended or had in mind. They initially intended to kill Joseph but ended up selling him.

We can also read about Joseph’s fate in The book of Jasher (or The book of the just which is a translation from the Hebrew sēfer ha yāšār). This book is mentioned in 2 Sam. 1:8 and Joshua 10:13, as well as quoted by Paul in 2 Tim. 3:8 . This ”lost book” is best viewed as secular Jewish history rather than necessarily being divinely inspired by God, but also secular history might contain the truth. (There is at least one falsification of The book of Jasher, so don’t read the version from 1750.) This book sometimes reveals lots of extra details of Biblical events, and despite these details they line up perfectly well with the Bible and sometimes even provides extra light. Nevertheless, if we would end up with contradictions the Bible is the source to trust since we know that the content is inspired by God and accurate. According to The book of Jasher, it was Simeon who brought forth the idea to have Joseph killed, and it was Judah who suggested that Joseph should rather be sold (and thus saved his life). In the meantime, God heard Joseph’s anguish in the pit, and saved him from being killed by scorpions and snakes. In both the Bible and The book of Jasher, Reuben seems to be one of the most innocent of the brothers. However, apparently he went along with the lies afterwards, and never told their father what really happened to Joseph.

Joseph slave 2

Jasher 41:9 And Joseph was seventeen years old, and he was still magnifying himself above his brethren, and thought of raising himself above them.—21 And Jacob sent his son Joseph to the valley of Hebron, and Joseph came for his brothers to Shechem, and could not find them, and Joseph went about the field which was near Shechem, to see where his brothers had turned, and he missed his road in the wilderness, and knew not which way he should go.—25 And Simeon said to his brethren, Behold the man of dreams is coming unto us this day, and now therefore come and let us kill him and cast him in one of the pits that are in the wilderness, and when his father shall seek him from us, we will say an evil beast has devoured him.—28 And they took him and cast him into a pit, and in the pit there was no water, but serpents and scorpions. And Joseph was afraid of the serpents and scorpions that were in the pit. And Joseph cried out with a loud voice, and the Lord hid the serpents and scorpions in the sides of the pit, and they did no harm unto Joseph.

Below we can read that the Lord was pleased to have Joseph sold, because he didn’t want Joseph to be killed as his brothers intended. This means that the arrangement that the brothers had in mind (killing Joseph), was overturned when the caravans passed by and Judah proposed to have Joseph sold.

Jasher 42:1 And they went and sat on the opposite side, about the distance of a bow-shot, andthey sat there to eat bread, and whilst they were eating, they held counsel together what was to be done with him, whether to slay him or to bring him back to his father. 2 They were holding the counsel, when they lifted up their eyes, and saw, and behold there was a company of Ishmaelites coming at a distance by the road of Gilead, going down to Egypt.3 And Judah said unto them, What gain will it be to us if we slay our brother? peradventure God will require him from us; this then is the counsel proposed concerning him, which you shall do unto him: Behold this company of Ishmaelites going down to Egypt, 4 Now therefore, come let us dispose of him to them, and let not our hand be upon him, and they will lead him along with them, and he will be lost amongst the people of the land, and we will not put him to death with our own hands. And the proposal pleased his brethren and they did according to the word of Judah. 5 And whilst they were discoursing about this matter, and before the company of Ishmaelites had come up to them, seven trading men of Midian passed by them, and as they passed they were thirsty, and they lifted up their eyes and saw the pit in which Joseph was immured, and they looked, and behold every species of bird was upon him. 6 And these Midianites ran to the pit to drink water, for they thought that it contained water, and on coming before the pit they heard the voice of Joseph crying and weeping in the pit, and they looked down into the pit, and they saw and behold there was a youth of comely appearance and well favored. 7 And they called unto him and said, Who art thou and who brought thee hither, and who placed thee in this pit, in the wilderness? and they all assisted to raise up Joseph and they drew him out, and brought him up from the pit, and took him and went away on their journey and passed by his brethren. 8 And these said unto them, Why do you do this, to take our servant from us and to go away? surely we placed this youth in the pit because he rebelled against us, and you come and bring him up and lead him away; now then give us back our servant. 9 And the Midianites answered and said unto the sons of Jacob, Is this your servant, or does this man attend you? peradventure you are all his servants, for he is more comely and well favored than any of you, and why do you all speak falsely unto us? 10 Now therefore we will not listen to your words, nor attend to you, for we found the youth in the pit in the wilderness, and we took him; we will therefore go on. 11 And all the sons of Jacob approached them and rose up to them and said unto them, Give us back our servant, and why will you all die by the edge of the sword? And the Midianites cried out against them, and they drew their swords, and approached to fight with the sons of Jacob. — 17 Surely you have said that the young man is your servant, and that he rebelled against you, and therefore you placed him in the pit; what then will you do with a servant who rebels against his master? Now therefore sell him unto us, and we will give you all that you require for him; and THE LORD WAS PLEASED TO DO THIS IN ORDER THAT THE SONS OF JACOB SHOULD NOT SLAY THEIR BROTHER.  18 And the Midianites saw that Joseph was of a comely appearance and well-favored; they desired him in their hearts and were urgent to purchase him from his brethren. 19 And the sons of Jacob hearkened to the Midianites and they sold their brother Joseph to them for twenty pieces of silver, and Reuben their brother was not with them, and the Midianites took Joseph and continued their journey to Gilead. 20 They were going along the road, and the Midianites repented of what they had done, in having purchased the young man, and one said to the other, What is this thing that we have done, in taking this youth from the Hebrews, who is of comely appearance and well favored.

Joseph was sold twice…

Jasher 42: 23 And whilst they were thus discoursing together, they looked, and behold the company of Ishmaelites which was coming at first, and which the sons of Jacob saw, was advancing toward the Midianites, and the Midianites said to each other,Come let us sell this youth to the company of Ishmaelites who are coming toward us, and we will take for him the little that we gave for him, and we will be delivered from his evil. 24 And they did so, and they reached the Ishmaelites, and the Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver which they had given for him to his brethren. 25 And the Midianites went on their road to Gilead, and the Ishmaelites took Joseph and they let him ride upon one of the camels, and they were leading him to Egypt.

PHARAOH is told to have hardened his own heart – Bible verses

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth (Rom 9:17) 

God’s had not YET destroyed Pharaoh in order to further demonstrate His power. God spared Pharaoh for a while, instead of destroying Egypt more quickly. Rom. 9:17-18 is a reference to this verse:

Exodus:9:15 For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. 16And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.17AS YET EXALTEST THOU THYSELF AGAINST MY PEOPLE; THAT THOU WILT NOT LET THEM GO? (KJV)

Notice in this reference, that Pharaoh is suggested to have exalted himself against God’s people by refusing to let his people go. This was an idea coming from Pharaoh himself and not from God. Another translation is:

Exodus 9:15-16 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up [or have spared you, NIV mg.] for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  

The word hardened consists of three different Hebrew words used to describe Pharaoh’s heart condition. Kabed which has the idea of to be heavy, insensible, or dull, qasah which conveys the sense of being hard, severe, or fierce, hazaq, meaning to be or grow firm, strong. The plagues are called ”judgments” (7.4), because God judged Egypt in its treatment of Israel. We can read in the Bible that people ”perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2:10) and that would have been an option also for Pharaoh. Instead he ended up much like the rebellious people spoken about in Romans 1, who God gave up to a depraved mind because of their wickedness.

There were to be ten wonders in all, each time a sign judgment would be delivered for the purpose of freeing Israel. These become more severe as the months go by (approximately 6 months). The magicians finally acknowledged; ”This is the finger of God” (8:19) so the judgements were apparently effective. Pharaoh admitted this off and on through the ordeal (9.27; 10.17), the officials did likewise (9.20; 10.17), the Israelites (14.31) and many Egyptians (12.38) went with the Israelites (and were saved during the Passover judgment/plague–12.48-49), and the Philistines in Canaan honored Israel’s God and knew all about Pharaoh’s folly (I Sam 4.8; 6.5-6).

Pharaoh hardened his own heart numerous times before God did. If Pharaoh started out to harden his heart first (even though the Bible says the opposite) wouldn’t this mean that Pharaoh’s heart was NOT hard/hardened BEFORE this occurred? This is usually not what reformed believers believe could be the case with ”non-elect”, but rather that wicked people have hardened hearts all the time. When is a person’s heart in risk to be hardened?

Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness

This means that it’s our responsibility to not harden our hearts, and we can see that we get hardened hearts when hearing the voice of God and refusing to hearken to him. This could explain why we can read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart at the same time as we read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Before the first contact with Moses and his God, Pharaoh’s heart was not hard/hardened because he had never faced any options about adhering to God’s requests or not. (I’m not saying Pharaoh was necessarily ”saved” during that time, because he could still have lived in sin and against his own conscience.) Some might experience hardening of their own hearts and lives if they know that God is calling them to come to him – maybe through another person who evangelizes for them – but due to fear, peer pressure, or similar, they decide to reject the calling even though they believe it’s divine. They have then hardened their hearts, or we could say it’s the evangelist who hardened their hearts since he is the one who ”caused” the hardening to happen by evangelizing to them. Had he not done so, they would remain in their ignorance. So both alternatives are valid depending on how we look at it. The same evangelist might approach the same people yet again, and once again ”harden” them when he reminds them of that God wants them to repent for their sins and accept him as their Savior. If they once again reject the calling, they have once again hardened their hearts (or the evangelist did). I believe street preachers constantly ”harden people’s hearts” when they preach to them about repentance and that God is calling them to come to him to get life. Even though some of them realize that they do live in sin and really should turn their lives around, they still choose to reject the offer.

Pharaoh is said to have hardened his heart in the below verses

Ex 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Ex 8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Ex 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. (Here we can read that Pharao SINNED by hardening his heart, so if we want to believe God is the one hardening it, then GOD is the one who forced Pharao to sin.)

1 Sam 6:6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? (Here the pagan kings understood the root cause of Pharaoh’s problem was HIS OWN hardening.)

Verses in Exodus with no source of agent mentioned

7:13 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard (and the heart of Pharaoh is strong, and he hath not hearkened unto them, as Jehovah hath spoken” / Young’s Literal)
7:14 ”Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding
7:22 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard
8:19 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard”
9:7 ”Pharaoh’s heart was unyielding”
9:35 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard”

God is said to have done the hardening in the below verses in Exodus:

4:21 ”I will harden his heart” (future – a prophesy)
7:3 ”I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (future – prophesy)
9:12 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
10:1 ”I have hardened his heart”
10:20 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
10:27 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
11:10 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
14:4 ”I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”
14:8 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
14:17 ”I will harden the Egyptians’ hearts”  

This means, that the first mention of someone hardening Pharaoh’s heart is in Ex. 8:15, where Pharaoh is said to have done it. Not that it matters, considering what I’ve written above. This is what might have happened to Pharaoh:

Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:—28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God GAVE THEM OVER TO A REPROBATE MIND, to do those things which are not convenient;—31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Examples of hardening of a heart

2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

Ps 95:7For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

Pro_21:29 A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way. 

Isaiah 63: 17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.18 The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. (Notice that one could be aware of this condition and ask God to change it. Pharaoh could have done the same thing.)

Dan 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him (Note the means of self-hardening was pride. In this case, God punished the ruler with deposition rather than additional and prolonging hardening)

Deut 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward

Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Deut 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Notice that God will circumcise their hearts AFTER they return to Him which is a condition.)

Ps 119: 17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. 18Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (Notice that the writer can see well enough to know he needs ‘more visibility)

1 King. 8:58 That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.59 And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:60That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day. (Notice that one can ask God to turn our hearts)

2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

1 Chron. 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee: 19 And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision. (Notice that these things can be prayed for)

Mark 9:23Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (This person expressed faith and asked to be given more faith. We know when we need ”unhardening” or renewal)