Acts 7:9
The connection of the people of God with the land of Egypt is profoundly interesting, and suggests valuable lessons for all time. We are reminded by the text of -

I. THE UNDULATORY CHARACTER OF OUR HUMAN LIFE. This in the eventful experiences of Joseph (vers. 9, 10). First rejoicing in his father's peculiar favor, then sold into Egyptian slavery, then rising to a position of trust in the house of his master, then cast into prison, then raised to the premiership; up on the height of comfort, down into the depth of misfortune, up again on the crest of honor, then down again into the trough of shame, etc. So with Israel the man and Israel the people (vers. 11-19). The patriarch at first in a position of relief and advantage, then in one of distress and disadvantage; the nation falling into the dark gulf of bitter bondage until raised up "with a strong hand and stretched out arm into liberty. Thus is it with men and with nations. With none does the course of things prove to be a straight line, either of ascent or of descent. It is always undulatory. Light and shadow, sweetness and bitterness, hope and fear, joy and sorrow, alternate from the cradle to the grave.

II. THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. How clearly Joseph felt that his distresses had been overruled by the Divine hand, we know (Genesis 50:20). We can also see how the descent into Egypt and even the long slavery in that land of bondage were a discipline which wrought ultimate good, of the most solid and enduring kind, to Israel. By the sufferings which they endured together in those broiling brickfields, under those cruel taskmasters, and to which in happier times their sons looked back with such intense emotion; by the marvelous deliverances which they experienced together in the land of the enemy and in the "great and terrible wilderness," and of which their descendants sang with such reverence and such rapture; - by these common sufferings and common mercies they were welded together as a nation, they became rich in those national memories which are a people's strength, they became a country for which, through many a succeeding century, patriots would cheerfully risk all their hopes and proudly lay down their lives. We learn these lessons.

1. Be prepared for coming changes in circumstance. No man has a right to feel secure in anything but in a wise and holy character, in that which makes him ready for any event that may happen. At any hour human prosperity may pass into adversity, joy into sorrow, honor into shame; or at any hour straitness may be exchanged for abundance, lowliness for elevation, gloom for gladness. We all urgently need the fixed principles, the rest in God, the attachment to things eternal and Divine, the heritage in the heavenly future, which will keep us calm in the most agitating vicissitudes of earthly fortune.

2. Trust God when things are at their worst. In the first days of Egyptian slavery, and still more in Potiphar's prison, things must have looked dark indeed to Joseph. "But God was with him" (vers. 9, 10). It was a terrible time, too, for the children of Israel when the king "which knew not Joseph" dealt subtly with and, evil entreated them, slaying their young children at their birth (vers. 18, 19); but God saw their affliction (vers. 34, 35; Exodus 3:7), and was preparing to send the deliverer in due time. And to the upright in any scene of disappointment and distress there will arise "light in the darkness" (Psalm 112:4). Trust and wait; the longest and severest storm will pass, and the sun shine again on the waters of life.

3. Realize that God has large and long purposes in view. Jacob died far off from the promised land, but his bones were to rest there in due course, and there his children were to have a goodly heritage. It matters little what happens to us as individuals; enough if we are taking a humble share in working out his great and beneficent designs. - C.

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was with him.
This picture of patriarchal life is not a flattering one, and was "written for our learning." Jacob, by no means a model son, was not a model parent, and was blind to the evils of parental favouritism so signally illustrated in his early history. There can be no doubt that his conspicuous preference for Joseph was the root, if not the immediate occasion, of the "envy" of the text. Joseph's brethren, however, stand in a worse light. No one, much less a brother, should suffer for the faults of others. Even supposing that parental affection was having an ill effect on their young relative, fraternal influence ought have done much to check it; and brotherly chivalry should have suggested a less drastic course than that which they pursued. Note —

I. THEIR MOTIVE — "envy."

1. Its ultimate cause. Occasioned by Jacob's partiality, it grew to portentous proportions by Joseph's dreams. No doubt Joseph was very foolish to tell them his dreams, knowing, as he must have done, their attitude towards him, and, as he might have guessed, the motive which they would impute to him. Even Jacob protested against the dream which indicated that "sun and moon" as well as "the eleven stars" would have to bow down to the young dreamer. Hence Joseph has been credited with egregious vanity; but there is nothing in the narrative which is inconsistent with childish simplicity.

2. Its evil. Apart from its consequences, envy is the greatest curse with which a man can be afflicted. It is not hard to read between the lines and see the misery of the eleven patriarchs as they brooded over their brother's offence and plotted his ruin. We see the evil of it nowadays in the wretchedness of the men who nurse revenge, or who are covetous of their neighbours' talents, position, or wealth.

II. THEIR ACT. There are no lengths to which envy will not go.

1. They plotted Joseph's murder, and how many men's reputation, fortune, or even life, have been murdered through envy! And they were guilty of it inasmuch as it was in their heart.

2. Reuben's timely interposition gave their rage time to cool, and Judah's cool calculation saw ultimately a personal advantage in sparing their brother's life. Envy at white heat studies only revenge regardless of consequences; envy with a dash of reason in it plots for one's own advantage at another's expense. Hence they argued, "What is the use of killing him when sparing him means money." So they sold him into Egypt. Not that their hard hearts were in the least softened, for they knew that in all human probability he was going into a life that was worse than death.

III. THEIR FRUSTRATION. "But" — what a turn this little word gives for better or for worse I If we read something good about a man the conjunction prepares us for the inevitable detraction which follows. Naaman was a great man, "but he was a leper." The word, however, gives a bright turn sometimes to history, as in the text.

1. Joseph was delivered out of all his afflictions.

2. He was made governor over all Egypt. The opposite of all they intended came to pass. How often are the designs of envy thus frustrated, and the evil passion smothered by what it hoped to consume!


1. They became dependents on their evil-intreated brother. Imagine the situation. They were now begging bread of the lad whom they thought to murder; the eleven stars were prostrate before the star they thought to eclipse. Many other envious men have been brought into the same situation.

2. Joseph overwhelmed them with his forgiveness and generosity; showing the other side of revenge, and the proper attribute of the Christian towards those who envy him. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him," etc.Learn —

1. How uncalculated forces in human life may operate to the dismay of the wicked and to the frustration of evil plans. The patriarchs, like all persecutors, left God out of their calculations.

2. How the very means employed to afflict the righteous may be the very instruments of their prosperity. Had Joseph not been sold to the Ishmaelites he had never been governor of Egypt.

3. How what is intended for the destruction of one may be the salvation of many! Had Joseph not been sold into Egypt, Egypt might not have had its bounteous harvest, and Joseph and his whole family might have perished.

(J. W. Burn.)

We shall find it in Cain, the proto-murderer, who slew his brother at the instigation of envy. We shall find it in the dark and gloomy and revengeful spirit of Saul, who, under the influence of envy, plotted for years the slaughter of David. We shall find it in the king of Israel, when he pined for the vineyard of Naboth, and shed his blood to gain it. Yea, it was envy that perpetrated that most atrocious crime ever planned in hell or executed on earth, on which the sun refused to look, and at which Nature gave signs of abhorrence by the rending of the rocks: I mean the crucifixion of Christ; for the Evangelist tells us that for envy the Jews delivered our Lord.

(J. A. James.)

As a shadow accompanies those that walk in the sun, so envy is a constant companion of those that excel others. As there is no shadow where there is no sun, so there is no envy where there is no prosperity. The infatuated Caligula slew his brother because he was a beautiful young man. Mutius, a citizen of Rome, was noted to be of such an envious and malevolent disposition, that Publius, one day, observing him to be very sad, said, "Either some great evil has happened to Mutius, or some great good to another." "Dionysius the tyrant," says Plutarch, "out of envy, punished Philoxenius the musician because he could sing, and Plato the philosopher because he could dispute better than himself." Cambyses killed his brother Smerdis because he could draw a stronger bow than himself or any of his party.

As the joys of the happy increase, the sorrows of the envious multiply. As a ship tossed with continual waves, so the envious is always in trouble of mind, repining at the success of others.


The adder and the toad have deadly poison in them, which hurt others, but not themselves; but envy is so deadly, that it killeth him that hath it, and others also. The envious man frets and pines away when others do well. He cannot eat or sleep quietly, unless some mischief falls on the person he envies.


I remember reading somewhere in a Grecian story of a man who killed himself through envy. His fellow citizens had reared a statue to one of their number who was a celebrated victor in the public games. So strong was the feeling of envy which this incited in the breast of one of the hero's rivals, that he went forth every night, in order, if possible, to destroy that monument. After repeated efforts he moved it from its pedestal, and it fell, and in its fall it crushed him. An unintentional symbolic act was this, showing the suicidal action of envy on the soul. It is ever an element of misery, a burning coal which "comes hissing hot from hell."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Envy, like the worm, never runs but to the fairest fruit: like a cunning bloodhound, it singles out the fattest deer in the flock. Abraham's riches were the Philistines' envy; and Jacob's blessing bred Esau's hatred.

(J. Beaumont.)

Envy is a weed that grows in all soils and climates, and is no less luxuriant in the country than in the court; is not confined to any rank of men or extent of fortune, but rages in the breasts of all degrees. Alexander was not prouder than Diogenes; and it may be, if we would endeavour to surprise it in its most gaudy dress and attire, and in the exercise of its full empire and tyranny, we should find it in schoolmasters and scholars, or in some country lady, or the knight her husband; all which ranks of people more despise their neighbours than all the degrees of honour in which courts abound; and it rages as much in a sordid, affected dress as in all the silks and embroideries which the excess of the age and the folly of youth delight to be adorned with.

(Lord Clarendon.)

The benevolent have the advantage of the envious, even in this present life; for the .envious is tormented not only by all the ill that befalls himself, but by all the good that happens to another: whereas the benevolent man is the better prepared to bear his own calamities unruffled, from the complacency and serenity he has secured from contemplating the prosperity of all around him.


Biblical Museum.

1. Their causes.

(1)The envy of the patriarchs.

(2)The desires of Potiphar's wife.

(3)The forgetfulness of the cupbearer.

2. In what they consisted.

(1)Incivilities of his brethren.

(2)Loss of liberty.

(3)Exile from home.

(4)False accusation and imprisonment.


1. God was with him.

2. God delivered him out of all his afflictions.

3. God gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh.

4. Pharaoh made him governor, etc.

(Biblical Museum.)


1. He was hated by his brethren.

2. He was sold as a slave.

II. IN THE BEAUTY OF HIS CHARACTER. This is seen clearly in every recorded incident of his life, but especially —

1. In the manner in which he resisted temptation.

2. In the spirit of forgiveness he manifested.


1. His counsel was wise (Genesis 41:33-40; Genesis 45:24).

2. Wise because God directed. Joseph, like Daniel, taught of God. So of Jesus we read, "Never man spake," etc. (John 7:46). "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom" (Colossians 2:3). "I counsel thee buy of Me," etc. (Revelation 3:18).


1. From famine and death.

2. For Jew and Gentile, for his brethren, also for Egyptians and all countries round Egypt (Genesis 41:56, 57).


1. It was obtained through humility and fidelity.

2. It was acknowledged even by his foes. So Christ is exalted (Philippians 2:5-11).

(F. Joseph.)

Preacher's Monthly.

1. His father's beloved son, but his brethren's derision and offence.

2. Conscious from childhood of future greatness, only attained by suffering.

3. He was hated by his own; sold into the hands of sinners; falsely accused, and unjustly condemned.


1. Crowned with honour after trial, shame, and suffering

2. Placed for a blessing over a famishing people.

3. Recognised with trembling by those who once denied and persecuted him.

4. Rewarding with favour and kindness those who did him evil.

(Preacher's Monthly.)

Pharaoh... made him governor
He exchanges a captive's chain for ornaments of gold; the prison, garb for courtly vesture; the narrow walls of a jail for crowded streets, through which, amid acclaims that rend the skies, he is borne in a royal chariot. He was Potiphar's slave; he has become Potiphar's lord. He begged favours of a butler; the proudest princes of Egypt now live in his smiles, and tremble at his frown.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren
There is a plain parallel between Joseph and Jesus, his brethren and ourselves. Certain classes of real seekers do not at once find peace: they go to Jesus after a fashion, and return from Him as they went. Our fear is that they may grow indifferent or despairing. Our hope is that they will go again, and before long discover the great secret, and find food for their souls. To this end we would follow the track of Joseph's story, and use it as an allegory for the benefit of the seeker.

I. THERE IS A SOMETHING WHICH YOU DO NOT KNOW. The sons of Israel did not know Joseph. Like them —

1. You have no idea of who and what Jesus is. Power and pity blend in Him. He is far more than He seems.

2. You view Him only as great, lordly, unapproachable; a great and stern governor and tax-master.

3. You do not know that He is your brother, one with you in nature, relationship, and love.

4. You cannot conceive how He loves; He yearns to make Himself known; His heart is swollen big with compassion.

5. You cannot guess what He will do for you: all that He is and has shall be at your disposal. Picture the Israelitish shepherds in the presence of the exalted Egyptian prince, as he stands veiled in mystery, girded with power, and surrounded with honour. Little could they imagine that this was Joseph their brother.

II. THERE IS A REASON WHY AT YOUR FIRST GOING YOU HAVE NOT LEARNED THIS. Joseph was not made known to his brethren on their first journey, nor have you yet found out Jesus so as to know His love.

1. You have not looked for Him. The sons of Jacob went to Egypt for corn, not for a brother. You are looking for comfort, etc., not for the Saviour.

2. You have not yet felt your sin against Jesus, and He would bring you to repentence, even as Joseph brought his brethren to confess their great wrong.

3. You have not gone with your whole force. As the brothers left Benjamin at home, so have you left some faculty or capacity dormant, or chill, in your seeking for grace.

4. You have a larger blessing through the delay; and the Lord Jesus will in the most seasonable hour reveal Himself, as Joseph did. Till then He refrains.

III. THERE IS GREAT HOPE IN TOUR GOING AGAIN TO HIM. Joseph's brethren made a great discovery the second time; you are in similar circumstances to them. Go a second time; for —

1. You must go or perish. There was corn only in Egypt; and there is salvation only in Christ.

2. Others have gone and speeded. All nations went to Egypt, and none were refused. Has Jesus cast out one?

3. You have lingered too long already, even as did Israel's sons.

4. A welcome awaits you. Joseph longed to see his brethren, and Jesus longs to see you.

IV. THERE ARE FORECASTS OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU GO. The story lends itself to prophecy. As the sons of Israel fared with Joseph, so shall you fare with Jesus.

1. You will tremble in His presence.

2. He will bid you draw near.

3. He will comfort you by revealing Himself to you.

4. He will bless and enrich you and send you home rejoicing, to fetch all your family to Him.

5. He will rule all the world for your sake, and you shall be with Him, and be nourished by Him.Conclusion:

1. Let us hasten to go to our Saviour the second time.

2. Surely this is the season, for the Holy Ghost saith "to-day."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

All his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. — Seventy is given as the number, including Jacob, Joseph, and his two sons, in Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22. Here, however, Stephen had the authority of the LXX. of Genesis 46:27, which gives the number at seventy-five and makes it up by inserting the son and grandson of Manasseh, two sons and a grandson of Ephraim. With them it was probably an editorial correction based upon Numbers 26:27. Stephen, as an Hellenistic Jew, naturally accepted, without caring to investigate, the number which he found in the Greek version.

(Dean Plumptre.)

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