Lesson 38: Genesis 44–46
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“Lesson 38: Genesis 44–46,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 38,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 38

Genesis 44–46


To prevent his brothers from returning to Canaan, Joseph accused Benjamin of being a thief. Judah offered himself as Joseph’s servant in exchange for Benjamin’s freedom. After hearing Judah express concern for their father, Jacob, who would be devastated if Benjamin did not return home, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers and forgave them for what they had done to him. Joseph and Pharaoh then sent the brothers back to Canaan to move their father, Jacob, and his household to Egypt.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 44

Joseph arranges to stop the return of his brethren to Canaan by accusing Benjamin of theft

Write the following questions on the board: What do I need to repent of? How do I repent?

Ask students to silently ponder both questions. Invite them to look for insights into what we must do to repent of our sins as they study the actions of Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 44.

Remind students that in Genesis 42–43 they read about how Joseph’s older brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during a famine but did not recognize him. Joseph recognized them, and he questioned them about their family under the pretext of accusing them of being a group of spies. By imprisoning Simeon, Joseph forced his other brothers into a situation where they would need to bring his younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt. When the brothers returned for more grain, they brought Benjamin with them.

Explain that as his brothers were preparing to return to Canaan the second time, Joseph devised a plan that would prevent them from leaving Egypt. Invite one or more students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 44:1–14. Ask the class to follow along and visualize in their minds what was happening.

  • According to verse 9, what did the brothers say they would accept as consequences if one of them was found with the silver cup?

Invite another student to read Genesis 44:16–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Judah said about their predicament.

  • In verse 16, what do you think Judah meant when he said, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants”?

  • According to verse 17, what did Joseph propose doing with Benjamin?

Summarize Genesis 44:18–29 by explaining that Judah told Joseph how worried their father Jacob was about letting his youngest son, Benjamin, go to Egypt for fear of losing him like he had lost another son—Joseph.

Invite a student to read Genesis 44:30–31 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Judah said would happen to Jacob if Benjamin did not return. Ask them to report what they find.

Invite a student to read Genesis 44:32–34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Judah was willing to do for Benjamin. (To help students understand these verses, you may need to explain that a surety is similar to a guarantee.)

  • What was Judah willing to do so that Benjamin could go free?

  • How does Judah’s behavior in these verses compare with how he and his brothers dealt with Joseph in Genesis 37?

  • How does Judah’s behavior in these verses show that his heart had changed? (Help students recognize that Judah’s willingness to acknowledge his iniquity [verse 16] and to be enslaved in place of his younger brother shows how dramatically he had changed.)

Explain that while we may not know how completely repentant Judah and his brothers were from this account, from Judah’s example we can learn a valuable truth regarding repentance for our own sins. Write the following on the board: Sincere repentance includes …

Invite students to complete the doctrinal statement using what they have learned from Judah’s example. Although they may phrase it differently, students should identify a doctrine similar to the following: Sincere repentance includes acknowledging our wrongs, turning away from sinful actions, and having our heart changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

  • Why do you think change is a part of repentance?

Invite students to think of people they know who have been willing to make significant changes to their behaviors and attitudes in order to repent. Encourage students to think about any attitudes or behaviors that Heavenly Father would like them to change. Invite them to record in their personal journals how they will do this.

Genesis 45:1–15

Joseph makes himself known to his brothers

Fill a glass jar three-fourths full of rice or wheat, place a ping-pong ball on top, and then place the lid on the jar. Explain to the students that the ping-pong ball represents them, and the rice or wheat represents trials and difficulties they face today in their homes, school, or community. Tip the jar upside down so the ping-pong ball is now buried by the rice, and invite students to describe some of these trials or difficulties. After students respond, shake the jar up and down until the ping-pong ball rises to the top. Invite students to think of a principle that this illustration could teach about the life of Joseph and that could help them know how to rise above their own trials and discouragements.

Invite two students to take turns reading Genesis 45:1–4 aloud. Invite half of the class to follow along and consider what Joseph might have been thinking and feeling. Invite the other half to imagine what the brothers might have been thinking and feeling.

  • After hearing Judah express his concern for his father and brother Benjamin, what do you think Joseph may have thought and felt as he decided to reveal his identity to his brothers?

  • Verse 3 indicates that Joseph’s brothers “were troubled” when Joseph told them who he was. What thoughts and feelings might Joseph’s brothers have had when they learned that this Egyptian ruler was really their brother?

Divide the class into groups of three or four students, and invite each group to list the trials and difficulties Joseph had experienced throughout his life. After a few minutes, invite the groups to share their answers and write them on the board. (Their answers might include the following: his brothers hated him, his brothers threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery, he was separated from his parents, he was tempted to be immoral, he was falsely accused, and he was kept in prison for years.)

Invite students to read Genesis 45:5–11 silently, looking for Joseph’s perspective about his trials. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What did Joseph understand about his trials? (Help students understand that Joseph recognized God’s hand in his life.)

  • According to verse 8, who did Joseph say sent him to Egypt?

  • What advice might Joseph give today to someone experiencing trials or difficulties in life? (Students’ answers may include something similar to the following principle: If we are faithful, God can direct our lives and help us make trials become blessings for ourselves and others.)

Invite students to share experiences in which God has directed the course of their lives (or the lives of people they know) and helped them make trials or difficulties become blessings. Remind students not to share experiences that are too private or personal.

  • What has helped you remain faithful to God during the trials you have experienced in your life?

You may wish to share how you have seen this principle in your own life. Encourage students to look for God’s hand in their lives and to see how He can help us turn challenges to our benefit and the benefit of others.

Remind students that Joseph’s brothers “were troubled at his presence” (Genesis 45:3) when they discovered who he was.

  • Why would the brothers have felt troubled?

Invite a student to read Genesis 45:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Joseph helped ease their concerns. Ask students to report what they find.

  • How do you think Joseph and his brothers felt at this time?

  • What can we learn from Joseph’s response to his brothers and the joy he experienced as a result? (Among other things, students may identify the following principle: Forgiving those who have wronged us helps us experience healing and peace.)

To help students better understand this truth, consider sharing the account of Christopher Williams. Explain that while Christopher was driving home one night, his car was struck by a drunk teenage driver, killing his pregnant wife and two of his children. President James E. Faust of the First Presidency referred to this experience in a general conference talk. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud. Ask the class to listen for why it is important to forgive those who have wronged us.

Faust, James E.

“When a car crashed into Bishop Christopher Williams’s vehicle, he had a decision to make, and it was to ‘unconditionally forgive’ the driver who had caused the accident so that the healing process could take place unhampered” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).

Invite students to think about someone who may have hurt or wronged them. Ask them to consider what they can do to forgive so that they and others can experience greater healing and joy.

Genesis 45:16–28

Joseph’s brothers return to Canaan and tell Jacob that Joseph is alive

Summarize Genesis 45:16–28 by explaining that when Pharaoh heard about Joseph’s family, he sent Joseph’s brothers back to Canaan with wagons loaded with food and gifts and invited Jacob’s family to come to Egypt. When the brothers arrived home in Canaan, they told Jacob that Joseph was alive and in Egypt. At first Jacob did not believe them, but when he saw the wagons, he said, “Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:28).

Genesis 46

Jacob and his family go to Egypt, where Jacob is reunited with his son Joseph

Summarize Genesis 46:1–28 by explaining that Jacob took all of his family and their possessions and traveled to Egypt. On the way, the Lord spoke to Jacob in a vision and told him not to fear settling his family in Egypt because He would be with him and would make of him a great nation.

Invite a student to read Genesis 46:29–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and imagine the tender reunion between Joseph and his father, Jacob.

  • Both Jacob and Joseph had likely thought that they would never see each other again in this life. How might their reunion have strengthened their trust in God and His plan for their lives?

Conclude by inviting one or two students to share what they learned today that was meaningful to them and why it was important to them.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 44:32–34. Sincere repentance includes striving to change

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Repentance means striving to change. … Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 39).

Genesis 45:1–9, 14–15. Forgiving those who have wronged us helps us experience healing and peace

President James E. Faust of the First Presidency talked about how justice and consequences are related to forgiveness and peace. In the following statement he referred to the tragedy that occurred when Bishop Christopher Williams’s car was struck by a drunk teenage driver, killing his pregnant wife and two of his children:

“Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.

“Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic. …

“… Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts. …

“Of course, society needs to be protected from hardened criminals, because mercy cannot rob justice [see Alma 42:25]. Bishop Williams addressed this concept so well when he said, ‘Forgiveness is a source of power. But it does not relieve us of consequences’ [in Deseret Morning News, Feb. 13, 2007, A8]. When tragedy strikes, we should not respond by seeking personal revenge but rather let justice take its course and then let go. It is not easy to let go and empty our hearts of festering resentment. The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive ‘those who trespass against us’ [Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:13] even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 68–69).

President Faust also addressed suffering from injustices that we don’t understand at the moment:

“All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured. President Howard W. Hunter said that ‘God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see’ [“The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 60]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” 68).

Genesis 45:5–8. When we are faithful, God will make all things work together for our good

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught how the Lord used the evil designs of Joseph’s brothers to give Joseph amazing opportunities:

“You must trust the Lord; if you are righteous, his purposes will be served. Joseph in Egypt did just that, having many opportunities to become bitter over the way he was mistreated. He not only rose above his difficulties, but lifted others, feeding millions of starving people. Even though his brothers had intended to do evil to Joseph, the Lord used those evil designs to give Joseph opportunities far beyond his boyhood dreams!” (“I Am But a Lad,” New Era, May 1981, 5).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught about not getting discouraged when facing difficulties. He once counseled his cousin George A. Smith:

“Never be discouraged. … If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top” (in John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith: An American Prophet [1933], 9).