Food for Thinking Jehovah's Witnesses
“‘But you are seeking great things for yourself. Stop seeking such things. For I am about to bring a calamity on all flesh,’ declares Jehovah, ‘and wherever you may go, I will grant you your life as a spoil.’”
Disclaimer: this site does not claim to hold the truth. The reader should be able to exercise good judgment, carefully examining the Scriptures as to whether these things are so. (Acts 17:11)
Joseph, a Model of Christ

When a Christian has doubts about a course of action, he sometimes finds it appropriate to ask himself the following question: what would Christ have done if he was in my shoes? And often the answer is spontaneous and then that person makes the right decision. Christ is obviously the example to follow, but someone might object that Jesus being a perfect man, things were therefore much easier for him.

Although this is not true - Jesus had the free choice of his actions and he could have succumbed to the incessant temptations of Satan - other righteous men can serve as an example.

Spontaneously, God’s servants who come to our minds are undoubtedly Job, Abraham or Jacob. About Job, God says that there was no one like him on the earth. Abraham is called God’s own friend, which is one of the greatest distinctions1.

We may be less inclined to think of Joseph, the son of Jacob whom he had by Rachel. Yet let us examine the following facts: of the sixty-six or so pages of Genesis as we find it in one of the editions of the New World Translation, about twenty are devoted to Joseph. Let's put it next to the space occupied to describe the creation (one and a half pages) and the antediluvian events (six and a half pages), and we understand the importance that is given to this man in the Holy Scriptures2.

What makes this man so remarkable that about a third of the first book of the Bible is focused on him?

Joseph, a man without fault

Joseph shares a point with few other biblical characters: he seems to perform only righteous deeds. Of course, this is not the case, he bore the weight of sin, like all of us, but these were certainly so benign that they were not even worth talking about. Whatever were his errors, they were eclipsed by his excellent conduct. And yet, if there is a quality that differentiates the Bible from other writings of antiquity, it is his honesty when it comes to reporting the faults of the servants of God.

Thus, the sins of David are not hidden. He was an adulteress, a murderer, and because of his vanity, thousands of Israelites died. Moses was, according to the biblical account, the most humble of men, but his anger on one occasion cost him the privilege of entering the promised land. Abraham was righteous, but when God told him to go to Canaan, he stopped in the land of his ancestors in Haran and did not leave until fifteen years later, at the death of his father. (Acts 7:1-4) When a famine occurred in Canaan, the land that God had promised him and ordered him to stay in, he went to Egypt. There, fearing for his life, he was led to lie by pretending that his wife was his sister. This indicated a lack of trust in Jehovah because he had the promise that his descendants would inherit the land. It was not possible for him to perish because of the famine or the hand of Pharaoh. But he did not learn the lesson because he repeated the same error later on and even his son Isaac fell into that same trap of man's fear in spite of the fact that the divine promise has been reiterated3. Jacob, to whom the birthright had been promised, obtained it by a subterfuge pretending to be his brother instead of waiting for God. He tolerated the idols in his family until Jehovah asked him to go to Bethel4. His passivity also cost the honour of his daughter, who had become accustomed to frequenting the pagan girls of the country where they lived.

It seems that this family heritage does not rub off on Joseph. And yet, from a human point of view, he would have had enough to be embittered, even angry at his own family and even with God himself.

At the age of seventeen, his jealous brothers yield him to a caravan of merchants who sell him in Egypt to a court official named Potiphar. It is remarkable that Joseph did not seek to flee, but on the contrary he was so trustworthy that his master put him above the whole household. The story tells us that Potiphar himself was blessed by Jehovah because of Joseph and that his business prospered. But Joseph took no advantage of the situation. We sometimes hear reports of trusted men who were not so in the final analysis and who misappropriated funds from their employer. Joseph, meanwhile, was an honest and hard worker. He was not doing the bare minimum, saying that in any case he would not be paid more, as we can hear from some employees. And if, as we are told, Jehovah made him succeed, it is undoubtedly because he confided in him and asked him wisdom in the decisions he had to make.

Some time later, this handsome young man attracted the attention of his master's wife, who entreated him every day to lie down with her. No law had been issued by Jehovah until then prohibiting this kind of practice and yet Joseph's answer was: how could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God? What worried him was not what men thought, but rather what God thought. Sometimes we could say that there is no clear command in the Bible to forbid us to do this or that action. But if we are attuned to God’s thinking, even in the absence of law we will know what to do. We will not want to commit badness and sin against God. - Genesis 39:9

Despite his firm position, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and his angry master had him locked up in prison. Let's still note something interesting: what was the punishment for the rapists at the time? Not prison but death. In this case, why did not Potiphar use his right to put Joseph to death, but on the contrary did he gave him over to the prison? Certainly because of the confidence Joseph had gained from him. Do we think this man did not know his wife? The verse says that his anger blazed. But we are not told with whom he was angry. Could it be that, not being able to publicly accuse his wife of lies and to save Joseph (as well as his own reputation), he decided to lock him up? After all, better jail than death! On the other hand, if Joseph had not been a faithful slave, having his master's interests at heart, would he have spared his life? What would have happened if he had been a nonchalant, even dishonest and slacker slave?

At this point in Joseph's life, we might think that he is boiling with anger or he is succumbing to depression. Here is a righteous man, serving God, trusting him completely and ending up in prison under false accusation! How many of us would have blamed God or would have lost faith, or even denied his very existence? But not Joseph. He allowed himself to be led by Jehovah. He endeavoured to make his condition of prisoner as useful and pleasant as possible, provided that a stay in prison could be pleasant. As a reward Jehovah was with Joseph and he found favour in the eyes of the chief officer of the prison. Like Potiphar, he left all the prisoners in his hands. In short, he received the same responsibilities as before. In no case did he accuse God of his situation or resent him. - see Job 1:22

Another trait that emerges from Joseph's life story in prison is his empathy. When the chief baker and the chief cupbearer eventually end up in jail, he noticed their sadness. It goes without saying that sadness is obligatory when one is suddenly deprived of one's freedom, but it is another type of gloominess that he noted. It is obvious that Joseph did not just take care of the material needs of the prisoners, but he was interested in them. How many prison guards would notice a change of mood in an inmate? Only someone who by nature is interested in others, a caring and compassionate person. It must have been a balm for the heart to have a fellow captive such as Joseph.

Again, he was rewarded for his attitude. Oh, not right immediately; he had to wait two long years. But the day came when he was received by Pharaoh who raised him to the rank of leading main over his kingdom, the second after him5.

Have we never noticed that some people, when promoted to an important position, within a company for example, completely change their behaviour? Some become arrogant, tyrannical and often take advantage of the situation to make their own interests. If we were to find ourselves in this situation, how profitable would it be to use Joseph as an example?

A model of Christ

Joseph is an excellent model of Jesus who has been "exalted to a superior position". Just as Pharaoh gave him a glorious name and ordained that he be recognised as governor of Egypt, so too "God the Father gave him the name that is above every other name so that every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord". (Philippians 2:9-11, Genesis 41:43-45) Joseph did not seek to usurp the throne of Pharaoh. Yet he could have been tempted to. Maybe someone will even have suggested it to him. After all, did not he save the people from famine? And the people are quick to bring to power the one who feeds him. - John 6:10-15

Consider how God taught obedience to Joseph. He was Jacob's favorite son and enjoyed privileges in the house that his brothers did not have. These, jealous, got rid of him. For Jacob, his son was dead. It was a humiliation for Joseph but he did "all things free from murmuring and arguments". (Philippians 2:14) This reminds us that Christ himself humbled himself by taking a slave’s form and became obedient. Jesus "gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God". – Philippians 2:6-8

Consequently, just as we have always obeyed, let us keep working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who for the sake of his good pleasure energises us, giving us both the desire and the power to act. Let us keep doing all things free from murmuring and arguments, so that we may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom we are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life. – Philippians 2:12-16


1 But we have the opportunity to be sons of God and be part of his family. (back)

2 Sixteen pages relate the actions of Abraham, eight revolve around Isaac and about seventeen tell the life of Jacob, some pages being common with his son. (back)

3 This in no way detracts from the integrity of these men or from the extraordinary faith they subsequently manifested. On the contrary, it proves that Jehovah shapes us or polishes us to make the best of us. (back)

4 Note that he did not destroy the idols but simply bury them. (back)

5 It may sound unusual that Joseph was raised to such a position by the pharaoh who did not even know him. Nevertheless, by doing so Pharaoh was relieved of all responsibility if things took a bad turn, for example if the prophecy did not come true. Everything would fall on Joseph's head. (back)

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