Bible Stories for Young Adults


Joseph - Purity Paves the Way to Greatness

Joseph was his father¹s favorite son.  His ten older half-brothers were

jealous because they saw the obvious favoritism.  Perhaps Joseph was his

father's favorite because he was the son of his favorite wife, Rachel.  The

other ten were sons of Leah, and two concubines who had been maidservants of

Rachel and Leah.  The older brothers considered their teenaged brother

Joseph to be a tattle-tale, as he brought bad reports about them to their

father.  Perhaps they thought Joseph was putting them down in order to gain

more favor with their father.

What really inflamed them with hatred was when their father gave Joseph a

richly ornamental robe that designated him as the ruler over all the family.

They could not even greet their brother kindly anymore.  He had been given

the rights of the firstborn, and they must not have their own sins as a

cause for disinheritance.  The firstborn was Reuben, who committed incest

with Jacob's concubine Bilhah, which was a serious dishonor to his father,

as well as the kind of sin which makes the land vomit.  (Genesis 35:22)

Simeon and Levi, the second and third born, were the slaughterers at Shechem

which caused them to lose favor in Jacob's eyes.  So, we can assume that

none of the ten sons older than Joseph manifest the kind of character that

Jacob felt the firstborn, who had many more family responsibilities than

other sons, should have.

To make matters worse between Joseph and his older brothers, Joseph started

having dreams which he revealed to his brothers.  The dreams indicated that

the brothers would one day bow  to  him.  They replied, "Do you really think

you will rule over us?"  After the second dream, even his father rebuked

him.  Was Joseph a megalomaniac, an egotistical spoiled brat?  However,

Jacob pondered Joseph's dreams in his heart.  Perhaps he wondered if Joseph

was the promised Messiah.

When the opportunity arose, they connived to be rid of Joseph, saying "What

will come of his dreams now?.  Though they originally thought to kill him or

let him die in a pit, they sold him as a slave and he was carried into the

country of Egypt by traders.  In Egypt, which was an idolatrous nation that

did not worship the Lord, Joseph became the slave of Potiphar, an Egyptian

official.  Joseph was so intelligent and efficient that he soon became the

head slave and acted as master over Potiphar¹s business and household.  Now

Joseph was in a place where he no longer had to act to please his father.

However, he knew he was being watched by God and there was no one around

other than Him to whom he must be accountable.

Joseph was young and handsome, and Potiphar¹s wife started lusting for a

sexual affair with Joseph.  She invited him to her bed a number of times,

but he replied saying that he had been given great authority and privilege

by his master Potiphar, but she was his wife and he could not do a wicked

thing like this and sin against God.  Even with these spoken convictions,

she still nagged him day after day.  Finally, one day when no one else was

in  the house, she caught Joseph by his cloak and said, ³Come lie down with

me!²  But Joseph left the cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.  He

did not stop to even consider it.  He fled!

Then, what normally happens when someone takes a stand for what is right

happened to Joseph.  The adulterous woman screamed and said that Joseph had

just tried to rape her.  She showed her husband Joseph¹s cloak as proof.

Then Potiphar imprisoned Joseph.

So, is this how the Lord rewards moral purity?  Getting falsely accused as

Joseph did?  Perhaps getting teased or tormented about it?  Yes, if one

stands for moral purity, there will be negative consequences initially.  But

wait.  That¹s not the end of the story.

The Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph in prison.  He became the

warden¹s favorite.  He correctly interpreted the dreams of two of Pharoah’s

officials.  Though Joseph was confined in the prison for two more years

after this encounter with Pharoah’s officials, this eventually led to

Joseph¹s interpreting Pharoah’s dreams and to his becoming governor of

Egypt, second in power only to Pharaoh.  This position later made it

possible for him to save not only the Egyptians but his starving family back

in Israel ­ even his brothers who had sold him.  And, yes, the dreams Joseph

had had as a teenager came true.  His brothers all bowed down to him and he

indeed did rule over them when they had to move to Egypt to escape the

famine in their homeland.

Would Joseph have risen to power and saved the lives of many people had he

succumbed to the advances of  Potiphar’s wife?  Of course not.  An affair

with that woman would have made his life become unnoticed, perhaps even a

curse to others, instead of a blessing.

Free fornication or flee fornication?

In the late 1960¹s  and early 70¹s, just after the birth control pill came

on the market, the hippie segment of that generation began to call for ³free

sex.²  By that they meant that no longer should society¹s constraints on sex

be limited to the confines of marriage, which was not ³free² but cost much

in the way of personal responsibility, sharing, and caring, but the walls of

marriage should be torn down completely.  At one point, a host of young

unmarried couples turned themselves in to the police confessing to breaking

the law against fornication just to see what they would do about it.

Nothing came of it, so basically the marriage license, which was simply a

license to have sexual contact with another person, came to mean nothing.

The laws against fornication came to mean nothing at an earlier point than

this.  Young women who were having children out of wedlock had already begun

to receive welfare checks to help support their illegitimate children.  By

the government's starting this help, the here-to-fore illegitimate children

became legitimatized and the acts of fornication which produced them also

became legal, regardless of whatever was on the law books, and regardless of

whether one had a license ­ a so-called marriage license ­ to engage in sex.

We have come to see the high cost to society of “free fornication.”  Over

forty million babies have been murdered in the womb due to the fact that

free fornication made it necessary to legalize abortion in 1973.  If

fatherless children are born, the high cost to society in welfare payments

and other benefits to single mothers is one thing, but the statistics show

that children raised without fathers are more likely to get into trouble

with the law and and contribute to other social problems in our nation.  No,

³free  sex² is not free.  Above all, it is “free sex” which has destroyed

the institution of marriage in our country.

If we think it is same-sex marriage or polygamy which will destroy it, we

are quite foolish and perhaps self-righteous, especially if we ourselves

have ever willingly engaged in sex outside of marriage and not had a

repentant heart about it.  Any nonmarital sex destroys the boundaries that

marriage was intended to uphold.  It is sex outside of marriage that makes a

mockery of not only God¹s laws, but the laws of a state which demands a

license to have sex, which is called a marriage license.  Even as late as

1970, I knew of no couples living together before marriage.  Co-habitation

was a product of the “free sex” movement.  I can understand the male

attitude commonly held toward marriage now.  “Why buy the cow, when you can

get the milk free?”

Basically, the choice for each one of us is either ³free fornication² or

“flee fornication.”  The Bible says to “flee fornication.”  Don¹t even give

your choice a second thought.  Don¹t listen to the Jezebels who tell you

that having sex outside of marriage is acceptable, because there are even

teachers who may claim to have the voice of God in some churches, just as

there was in the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:20, who will teach that

fornication is not a sin.  The Bible says to flee fornication, so we must

also flee any teacher or any TV celebrity or any movie or any songs or any

literature or any other kind of seducer who would cause you to even pause to

question God¹s direction.  God says to FLEE.  Run!  Get out of the presence

of those who speak or act otherwise.

Perhaps you may not believe that your personal sex sin can affect a whole

nation, as was the case of the Israelites if Joseph had sinned with

Potiphar's wife.  Perhaps you may believe that your sex sin will not

negatively affect others around you, your children, or even yourself.

Though this is not the case, it is certain that God will withhold certain

blessings if you do not have a commitment to moral purity.  The story of

Joseph shows why a commitment to moral purity is not optional for a

Christian.  If you desire to impact others around you for God, you must

repent of all of your past sins in this area and uphold God¹s standards of


On college campuses of America having illicit sex is so easy that one must

truly go out of the way to remain pure.  How do you think a Joseph would

behave if he were on a college campus in America today?

Martin Luther, the man through whom God brought the Reformation, and then

translated the Bible into the tongue of the people of Germany, was a man

whose father had taught him to remain pure.  When he went into the

priesthood, the men around him were corrupt and all but Martin and one other

young aspiring priest had committed the sin of fornication.  Because

Martin¹s conscience was undefiled, God used him mightily to change the

entire course of  the history of Western civilization.

In the 20th century a young man by the name of Billy Graham also kept

himself pure and he made dozens of safeguards throughout his ministry so

that the blight of sexual sin would not ruin his ministry. Billy Graham

became a world-famous evangelist who had the respect of millions.  These

two examples, in addition to that of Joseph, show how God will work mightily

on the behalf of those who are committed to purity amongst those in a nation

which has become licentious.

Symbolism in the story of Joseph

The story of Abraham offering Isaac on an altar was foreshadow of God the

Father offering His Son on the cross to atone for our sin.  The story of

Abraham sending his servant to get a bride for Isaac prefigured the  fact

that God the Father sends the Holy Spirit to fetch a bride, the Church, for

His Son Jesus Christ.  So what is the story of Joseph, which takes up

thirteen chapters in the book of Genesis, telling us?

Joseph can represent the story of Christ and the ingathering of the Church.

Christ, like Joseph, was rejected by his own family of Jews.  The Jews

thought they had gotten rid of Christ when they had him killed, just as

Joseph's brothers thought they were rid of him  when they sold him into


Joseph gained fame and power among the Gentiles in Egypt, just as Christ is

now gaining fame and power amongst the Gentiles.  There will be a time when

the Jews will come to bow before Christ as Savior, just as the brothers of

Joseph bowed before him.  Just as Joseph ensured that his brothers were

sorrowful for their past treatment of him before he revealed himself to

them, so Christ will bring the Jews to repentance and they will then

recognize Christ as Lord.

The name Joseph means "He shall add."  This name is significant, for Christ

is adding many more to his Church, and He shall add the Jews as well.  Our

Puritan forefathers believed this and prayed to that end.  May we all pray

for the salvation of Israel, as Paul the apostle did.  But can we be

effective witnesses in a sinful world if we are not like Joseph in his

purity of character, in rejecting the sex sins of our day?  Let us uphold

God's standards of purity so that the Lord may use us powerfully in a lost

world, just as God used Joseph.

Discussion Questions

1.  Why did Joseph's brothers hate him?  Why did the Jewish leaders hate

Jesus?  (see Matthew 27:18)

2.  Why do you think jacob hose Joseph to be considered the "firstborn"?

How did Joseph compare to the actual first-, second-- and third-born?

3.  What were Joseph's dreams about?  Did Jesus ever prophesy anything to

the Jews about himself like this?  (See Matthew 26:64John 8:56-59)

4.  What did Joseph's brothers do to get rid of Him?  What did the Jews do

to get rid of Jesus?

5.  How did Joseph become a witness to God's authority while in Egypt?

6.  What did Joseph do when Potiphar's wife grabbed his cloak?  Do you think

Joseph may have planned this action ahead of time?

What this the wisest course of action, or or do you think he should have

notified Potiphar abut his wife when she first started pursuing him?

7.  Why did Joseph get put in prison?  Would you consider this to be


Was Jesus ever lied about?  If you have ever been lied about, how did it

make you feel?

Why would Potiphar believe his wife?

8.  How did God eventually vindicate Joseph?

9.  How would this story have been different if he'd succumbed to Potiphar's


10.  What is "free sex" (or "free love") as the hippies of the 1970's called


11.  Why is "free sex" not really free?

12.  How do you think Joseph would behave if he became "Joe College" today?

13.  What made Martin Luther different from most of the other aspiring

priests of his day?

What might his father have had to do with this?

14.  How was Billy Graham different from many evangelists who have fallen by

the wayside due to sex sin?

15.  How can the story of Joseph give us hope for the future?  What is the

significance of Joseph's name?

Dig Deeper

  1. 1. Read Genesis 37:1-11.  How old was Joseph?  In what ways was Joseph like many teenagers today?

  2. 2.Read Genesis 37:12-16.  Based on where the brothers were grazing their flocks, why would Jacob be concerned for their welfare?  (Refer back to the story on Dinah.)

  3. 3.Read Genesis 37:17-36.  Which brother suggested throwing Joseph into the cistern without first killing him and what was the reason for his suggestion?

Which brother suggested selling Joseph as a slave?  (20 pieces of silver was the value of a growing boy between the ages of 5 and 20.  Leviticus 27:4-5)  Which disciple of Jesus “sold” him for the price of a slave?  (Judah and Judas are the same name; both mean “praise.”  From the name “Judah” we get the word “Jew” and Jews are descendants of Judah.)  How did Jacob react to his sons’ deception?  When had Jacob been deceived before?  (Genesis 29:25) Had Jacob ever deceived anyone?  (Genesis 27:18-27).  Why should we be careful about deceiving others?  (2 Timothy 3:13) How do we know from this passage that Jacob had other daughters besides Dinah?  (These could possibly have been daughters-in-law as well.) 

  1. 4. Read Genesis 39:1-6.  How is Joseph described in this passage?  How many times is the LORD mentioned here and what part is the LORD taking?

  2. 5.Read Genesis 39:7-20.  How persistent is Potiphar’s wife?  Why did Joseph refuse her?  What might a spiritual reason be for her persistence?  (Proverbs 6:26)

  3. 6. Read Genesis 39:20-23.  How did the LORD show He was with Joseph in prison?

  4. 7.Read Genesis chapter 40.  How did Joseph serve as a witness to God here? What favor did Joseph as of the cupbearer?  Why do you think the cupbearer forgot him? 

  5. 8.Read Genesis 41: 1-32.  How did Joseph serve as God’s witness here?

  6. 9.Read Genesis 41:33-40.  How did Joseph show wisdom?  How do  we know that Pharoah recognized God’s part in this?

  7. 10. Read Genesis 41: 41-45.  How did Pharoah honor Joseph?  The Egyptian name that Pharoah gave Joseph means “God speaks and lives.”  Do you think Pharoah considered this a fitting name for Joseph? 

  8. 11.  Read Genesis 41:46.  How old was Joseph when he became governor of Egypt?  How old was Jesus when He began His earthly ministry?  Luke 3:23.

  9. 12. Read Genesis 41:46-57.  Jesus called Himself “the bread of life” for the world.  In what ways was Joseph like “the bread of life” to  the suffering world of his day? Note:  This part of Joseph’s life is symbolic of the part of Jesus’ reign as King of Kings over the Gentile nations in this very era of world history.

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MORE TO COME...Still building on this one.

The story of Joseph is in Genesis 37-50.  If you go to this link, just continue to click the > to go to further chapters.

Martin Luther whose 95 Theses started the greatest revival in Church history in 1517 practiced sexual purity in a corrupt culture. 

Evangelist Billy Graham was the most famous preacher of the 20th century, preaching to millions around the world and influencing world leaders.  He always practiced sexual purity during his lifetime.

Joseph is given special honor by his father, provoking his older brothers to jealousy and murderous hatred.

Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave and he is taken to Egypt.

Though Joseph served as a slave, then a prisoner, God brought him up to become Governor of Egypt and thereby saved the lives of his father and the very brothers who had betrayed him.  Purity paved the way to greatness.  Acting otherwise may have caused his destruction.