Joseph of Egypt - Bible study ideas

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Statue of a nobleman from ancient Egypt

Joseph's story

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

  Art: Potiphar's Wife
Famous paintin
gs of the seduction

Scroll of the Bible

The Bible text

Child slave working in a mine

Slavery in Bible times

Seductive woman: Claudette Colbert

Potiphar's Wife
Bored, lonely, lascivious

Newly opened flowers

Young people in the Bible

Jacob, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo

Jacob, Joseph's father

Young Middle Eastern woman preparing for her wedding

Rachel, Joseph's mother





Bible text for Joseph's story 

Painting of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Famous paintings of 
Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

From the movie Ben Hur, galley scene

In Ben Hur a Jewish prince unjustly enslaved survives adversity and makes good - 
just as Joseph did


Activities for individuals or groups

Slaves and the Law

Make a search for ancient laws governing the treatment of slaves, for example in

  • Deuteronomy 23:15-20 on fugitive slaves

  • The Code of Hammurabi

Does this match up with the way slaves are presented in Hollywood films, for example in Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments
Do Hollywood films match up with Joseph's treatment or his position as estate manager in the house of Potiphar?

Movies about 'fighting back'

Can you name the movies?

Can you see a connection with Joseph's story?

GladiatorThe Pursuit of Happyness
North by NorthwestBen HurMetropolis

Answers HERE (see 'Joseph of Egypt')  

Can you think of others?

Slavery then and now: a debate  

Still from the film 'Metropolis' showing slave-workers

Still from the film 'Metropolis', showing worker/slaves going in and out of their workplace

Topic: That wage slavery in the modern world is the same as slavery in past ages.

  • Divide into two sides.

  • Decide which side will support the proposal and which will oppose it.

  • In small groups on each side, draw up a list of at least three points to support your argument.

  • Share the points between groups, and decide which points should be argued most strongly.

  • Nominate the people who will speak, and a chairperson.

  • Team members meet and prepare their arguments.

  • Go over the rules for a debate, what may or may not be said and done.

  • Conduct the debate.

  • Hold a debriefing/discussion.


In depth study of one person's story


Choose one of the people in Joseph's story and develop a presentation about them.
The presentation should include

  •  a supporting image/picture/painting of each person

  •  a map of Israel showing the cities and areas where the story took place.

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, Philipp Veit

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, Philipp Veit

You may call up other websites to support your ideas.

In your presentation, answer the following questions:

1. What are the main events of the person's life? Tell the story.

2. What were their main qualities? What made them stand out from the crowd?

3. What obstacles did they face? Did they overcome them, or go with the flow? Explain.

4. How did they use their abilities to do God’s work?  

5. Which part of their story appeals to you most? Why?

You must include three short quotations from the Bible texts to illustrate the points you are making. 


Extra reading

'Particularly in Genesis 39-42, Egyptian life and institutions are described in astonishing detail and color. The narrator relishes reporting the exotic customs of the Egyptian court to entertain and instuct his readers. Clearly he was someone well informed about Egypt. Indeed, according to Vergote, he must have had experience living in Egypt, for his knowledge extends to the smallest details (Vergote, Joseph en Égypte, p209). 

Mural from the Tomb of Nebamun, an Egyptian offical and grain collector in about 1,500BC - approximately the time that Joseph was in Egypt

Mural from the Tomb of Nebamun, an Egyptian offical and grain collector in about 1,500BC - about the time Joseph was in Egypt

The names of people in the story, Potiphar, Asenath, Zaphenath-Paneah are well-known Egyptian names. 

The rise of Semites to high positions in the Egyptian court is well attested. The description of Joseph's investiture corresponds well with Egyptian paintings of such ceremonies. 

The dreams are full of authentic Egyptian color; their importance and that of official dream interpreters are also true to life. 

The comments on land tenure in Egypt, that all land except for the priests' holdings was held by the Pharaoh, is also an apt generalization. 

Finally, the mummification of Jacob and Joseph is typtically Egyptian; and Joseph's age at death, 110, was the ideal span of life in ancient Egypt.'
(Quoted from World Bible Commentary: Genesis 16-50, Gordon Wenham, p.xxvi)

Focus questions for the story of Joseph

Jacob and the Coat of Joseph, Ford Maddox Brown

Jacob and the Coat of Joseph, Ford Maddox Brown

1. Go to Bible Text for David's story, and choose one episode from Joseph's life. Read the story in your Bible, then spend some time thinking about it.
2. In the story, who speaks and who listens? Who acts? Who gets what they want? If you were in the story, which person would you want to be friends with? Which person would you want to avoid?
3. What is God's interaction with the main characters? What does this tell you about the narrator's image of God? Do you agree with this image?
4. What is happening on either side of the story, in the chapters before and after it? Does this help you understand what is happening?
5. The narrator has chosen to tell some things and leave other things out. What has been left out of the story that you would like to know?
6. Are these types of people still present in the world? Does it remind you of some aspect of your own story?

Extra Websites

Potiphar's Wife as one of the Top Ten Bad Women of the Bible
Bible Bad Women

Slavery in the Bible, with a case study of Joseph
Bible Slavery

Famous paintings of the seduction 
Bible Art: Potiphar's Wife

Stories of Joseph's parents
Bible People: Jacob

Bible Women: Rachel

Bored, lonely, lascivious
Potiphar's Wife


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