Episode 20 – Joseph, From Prison to Palace

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 41 verses 1 to 43

Joseph – From Prison to Palace

One day, King Pharaoh had a troubling dream!

As Pharaoh slept he saw seven fat and healthy cows come up out of the river Nile. These cows were some of the finest he had even seen. But as he watched, seven more cows came up out of the river. These cows were thin and gaunt, the most ugly and starved cows in all Egypt. Then, the seven thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat, healthy cows – and yet they remained as thin and ugly as they had been before!

At this point Pharaoh woke from his dream, but before long he fell asleep once more. And as he slept – again he started to dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk. The grain was plump and healthy – but as he watched, out of the same stalk came seven withered and shrivelled heads of grain that ate up the seven plump and healthy heads of grain and yet remained as withered and shrivelled as they’d been before. (PAUSE)

The next morning Pharaoh called for all his wise men and magicians. ‘Come and tell me what this dream means,’ he told them. ‘Because I know that it is important.’ But none of his wise men or magicians could explain the dream to Pharaoh; they did not know what it meant. (P)

It was at this point that the royal cupbearer raised his shamed head to speak and told Pharaoh about me, Joseph. ‘Your majesty, today I have been reminded of my terrible failure,’ he said. ‘Two years ago, your majesty may remember that you became angry with the chief baker and myself and had us sent to prison. While we were there, we both had a dream that we knew had a meaning. There’s a young man named Joseph kept in the jail, and we both told him our dreams. This young man explained to us what our dreams meant. And just as he predicted, I was restored to my position as chief cupbearer, and the chief baker was executed.’

When Pharaoh heard this, he immediately sent for me. Guards raced to the jail to find me, they hurried me out of prison, gave me a quick shave, a change of clothes and before I knew what was happening I was standing before Pharaoh, the ruler of all Egypt! (PAUSE)

Looking me over he said, ‘Last night I had a dream and none of these men can explain its meaning to me. I have been told you can explain dreams, that is why I have sent for you.’

‘It is beyond my power to explain dreams your majesty,’ I answered him. ‘But God will tell you what you need to know.’

Then Pharaoh told me of his dream about the seven fat cows and the seven thin ones, about the seven plump heads of grain and the seven shrivelled heads of grain. – The Lord was good to me and helped me understand what the dreams meant.

‘Both of these dreams mean the same thing,’ I started. ‘The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both mean seven years of wonderful harvests, bumper crops and prosperity. But the seven thin cows and the seven withered heads of grain mean seven years of famine!’

‘God has shown you what He is about to do. For the next seven years there will be wonderful harvests throughout the land of Egypt – a time of great prosperity. But once those seven years are over, there will come seven years of terrible famine throughout the land. The famine will be so bad that it will not only wipe away all the prosperity of the good years, but will be so strong than even the memory of the good years will be forgotten.’

‘And the reason you have been shown this dream twice is to confirm that the matter has been decided by God and He will make these events happen soon.’

As well as being able to understand the dreams, and explain to Pharaoh all they meant, the Lord also helped me to know what should be done to save the people from the famine. So I continued speaking. ‘Your majesty, my suggestion is this. Put the wisest man in all Egypt in charge of a project that will be nationwide. Appoint officials across the land to collect one fifth of all the crops during the years of plenty. Have this extra food stored in royal grain houses so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. If you do not do this, then disaster will strike and all the people will die!’

 Pharaoh and his officials, magicians and wise men welcomed my advice. And as they discussed who should be appointed to lead such a project, Pharaoh spoke up. ‘Who could do a better job than Joseph? He has shown himself to be a man filled with the Spirit of God.’ Then turning to me he said, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in all Egypt. I hereby appoint you to be in charge of this project. Only I, Pharaoh, will have a rank higher than yours.’

And that’s how I came to be in this place, with the power I have. Pharaoh put me in charge of the entire land of Egypt. He put his own signet ring on my finger as a sign of his authority and power. He dressed me in beautiful clothes and put the royal chain around me neck! He gave me a wife, and he gave me the chariot of the second-in-command of all Egypt so that wherever I go – people run before my chariot shouting, ‘kneel down’.

For the last seven years I have collected one fifth of the harvest from all the people, everywhere in the land. This food has been stored in royal storehouses ready for the time of famine that has now come. For just as I explained, this year, the eighth year, crops have failed all over the land and far beyond, for the famine has begun.

And that is my story, a story of how God used the anger and hatred of my brothers to bring me to Egypt. How he even let me be accused of trying to hurt Potiphar’s wife, and let me go to jail – because only then would I be ready to organise such a work as this, one that will save many lives.

Episode 18 – A Coat for Joseph

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 37

A Coat for Joseph

My name is Joseph and in all Egypt, there is no man with more power than me, except King Pharaoh himself. Wherever I travel men run before my chariot telling the people to kneel before me. On my hand, I have the signet ring of King Pharaoh and the royal chain rests around my neck.

To see me now in my fine clothes and with such power and authority, maybe you would think that I was born for such a position – that I am the son of an Egyptian nobleman. But then you would look at the colour of my skin and listen to the accent in my voice and wonder – ‘Who is this man? For surely he is not Egyptian. How did he come to have so much power and authority in Egypt?’ (PAUSE)

I was born to my father Jacob in his old age, and my mother, Rachel, was the only one of his four wives that my father truly loved. As a young man, I would go with my older brothers as they went to look after the flocks and herds, and like a fool I loved to get them into trouble with my father. Whatever they did, no matter how small, I would tell my father all about it. And so my brothers learned to hate me.

But still I tormented them even further, telling them of my dreams. In one such dream I saw my brothers and I working in the fields tying up large bundles of grain. My bundle stood up in the middle of all the others, and their bundles bowed low before mine. If I had been a wiser youth I would have kept my dream to myself, but like the fool I was – I ran to tell them, only making their anger towards me worse. ‘What are you saying dreamer?’ they shouted. ‘That someday we’ll all bow down before you? Not in this life!’ And they hated me even more.

But my greatest folly was to show my brothers just how much more my father loved me than any of them. Perhaps my father was not wise when one day he gave me a coat so beautiful that it was fit for a prince! Never had our father given any of my older brothers such a gift, how it must have hurt them to know that he loved me so much more than he loved them! But again, if I had been wiser, I would have thanked my father and hidden the coat away to make sure that my brothers were not hurt even more deeply by the constant reminder of seeing me in that coat. But I was too proud, too proud and stupid to hide the coat away. Instead, I would wear it at every opportunity, constantly showing my brothers that our father loved me the most – and that he didn’t love them as he ought.

What a horrid boy I must have seemed to my brothers. Was it any wonder that they learned to hate me so much? That they couldn’t stand the sight of me and wanted nothing to do with me? But such hatred can never lead to good – except in the hands of God alone.

One day our father called me to see him. He told me that my brothers had been gone some time, looking after our flocks near a place called Shechem. ‘Go and see how your brothers are doing Joseph,’ he said. ‘And then come back and give me a report.’

‘Of course father,’ I replied. ‘I’m ready to go.’ So I put on my wonderful coat and set out to find my brothers. But when I got to Shechem, my brothers were nowhere to be seen. A man saw me wandering in a field looking for them and told me that he had heard them saying they would move on to Dothan – and so I followed them there.

With my coat on, my brothers could see me coming from a great distance, and their hearts fell! ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they spat out. ‘I can’t stand him anymore!’ said one of them. ‘Come on let’s kill him and be rid of him once and for all. We can tell our father that a wild animal got him!’ But Reuben, one of my brothers, did not want to see me dead, so instead he said. ‘Let’s not kill him. Why should we have his blood on our hands? Look, there’s that empty water storage pit over there. Why don’t we throw him in the pit and leave the rest to nature! That way, he’ll die without us having to touch him.’ Reuben, however, planned to come back later and rescue me from the pit and take me to our father.

But as I approached them I knew nothing of their evil plans, and instead of greeting me, they grabbed hold of me, stripped me of my coat and threw me into the pit. Happy to leave me to die!

My brothers then sat down to eat a meal, and, while they ate, they saw a caravan of traders making their way to Egypt. Then Judah, another one of my brothers said, ‘Why don’t we make some money out of Joseph instead of killing him? If we kill him, all we’ll get is a guilty conscience! Why don’t we sell him as a slave to those traders going down to Egypt?’ So when the traders came by, my brothers dragged me up from the pit. At first I hoped it was the end of a terrible joke, but as they mercilessly sold me to the traders – for twenty pieces of silver, I knew my life would never be the same again.

Reuben hadn’t been there when the others sold me to the traders, and later, when he came back to pull me out and take me back to my father, he found I was gone and tore his clothes in frustration and sadness. Then my brothers took my coat, tore it and dipped it in animal blood. They took it back to my father and asked him, ‘Is this the coat you gave Joseph? We found it like this in a field.’

My father recognised it at once and assumed a wild animal had killed me. He mourned deeply for my death. But even in his deep – deep sadness, not one of my brothers told him the truth. (PAUSE) To him, I was dead. (PAUSE)

Some time later I arrived in Egypt and was sold as a slave in the slave market. But God was still with me, and I was sold to Potiphar, the captain of the palace guard, an important official in the palace of Pharaoh. (PAUSE)

Episode 15 – Jacobs dream

tale2tell original Bible Stories series – Old Testament

Based on Genesis chapter 27 verse 42 to chapter 29 verse 1

Jacob’s dream

The sounds of the night drew ever closer as Jacob hurried to light his campfire. This was a good place to set up camp, but now that he was alone – he heard things he’d never noticed before, the noises of the night, menacing and frightening.

As the fire crackled and spat into life, Jacob threw on some more wood and then lay down, pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders. And resting his head on a long flat stone, he thought back once again over the last few days, days that had turned his life upside down and led him to this lonely place.

‘It’s all Esau’s fault,’ thought Jacob. ‘He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten! And anyway, how was I supposed to know he’d be such a sore loser? (P) I knew he’d be upset, but I never thought he’d want to murder me! All I did was.. Well, what I had to do – to get what was mine. (P) Ok – I did use tricks and deception to get that blessing – but they shouldn’t have tried to take it away from me … I bought it off Esau fair and square – for a bowl of stew!’

Jacob rolled onto his side and stared into the fire. Had it been worth it? Had it really been worth it? All that trickery and deceit? What had it got him? Oh yes, he’d well and truly beaten his brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright and stealing the blessing … but what good was that now? Because as soon as Rebekah, his mother, had found out about Esau’s murderous thoughts – she’d worked out a plan to get Jacob out of harm’s way.

‘Oh Isaac,’ Rebekah had said to the boys’ father. ‘Esau’s married a couple of these local girls who don’t know God and won’t worship Him. I just can’t cope with the idea of Jacob doing the same. Please, can’t we send him away to my family, to find a nice young wife from amongst my relatives?’

And for now her scheming had worked. His father Isaac had called him into his tent and told him to go to his uncle Laban’s house and marry one of Laban’s daughters. And so he’d left with his father’s blessing and very little else! (PAUSE)

Jacob sighed deeply, the flames of the fire flickering in his breath.

And now he was here, miles away from the home he loved, with almost nothing except the clothes on his back to call his own.  It was the first time he’d ever felt truly alone.

Sleep came easily as Jacob was tired from all his travelling, but this was to be no ordinary night.

As Jacob slept he started to dream – a dream sent from God. (P) And as he dreamt he saw a stairway with one end on the earth and the other in heaven. And as he looked at the stairway, he saw the angels of God moving up and down between heaven and earth.

As his eyes followed the stairway to the top, there – above it all – was the Lord God Himself. And He was speaking to Jacob.

‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and of your father Isaac. This ground that you lie on belongs to you, for I will give it to you and your descendents. And your descendents will be so numerous, that just like the dust of the earth, no one will be able to count them. And they will fill this land from east to west and north to south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendents. (P) And what’s more, I Myself will be with you. I will protect you wherever you go. And the day will come when I will bring you safely back to this land, for I will be constantly with you until I have given you all that I have promised.’

And then Jacob woke up, terrified at what he’d seen! (WHISPERED) ‘This place! The Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it! It’s an awesome place – nothing less than the very house of God – the gateway to heaven!’

Very early the next morning Jacob got up and took hold of the stone he’d used for a pillow the night before. He took the stone and stood it upright, as a memorial stone to remember what had happened to him. Then, with the stone standing on its end, he poured some olive oil over it. And he named the place – Bethel, which means ‘House of God’.

And then he said, ‘If God is going to be with me and protect me on this journey, and give me enough food and clothing … and, if He’ll bring me safely back to my father, then I will make the Lord – my God and this memorial pillar will be a place for worshipping Him, and I’ll give Him ten percent of everything He gives me.

He’d felt alone, but God had shown him he wasn’t. So, with the promises of God ringing in his ears, and a new certainty that God was with him, Jacob hurried on with his journey to the lands of the east.