Sunday School Lesson: September 13, 2020

Unit I: Struggles With Love

 Lesson Topic: ‘Love versus Bitterness’

 Printed Passage: Genesis 41: 25-33; 37-40; 50-52


Key Verse:  Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” (Genesis 41:39-40 NIV)

Lesson Aim:

  1.  Discover how Joseph’s love for God and faithfulness helped him find success in Egypt.
  2.  Aspire to remain steadfast in love and obedience to God when facing extreme hardships.
  3.  Celebrate God’s providential care in times of suffering.

 Material is taken from:

Faith Pathway Teacher’s Guide, Townsend Press Sunday School Commentary, The KJV Bible, NIV Bible.


Chapter 41 forms a turning point in the life of Joseph and shows us how he rose to become the second in power over all of Egypt.   As we learned in last Sunday’s lesson, his story began with the revelation he received in a dream of rulership one day.  However, his brothers did not believe that Joseph would actually rule over them (Genesis 37).  In today’s lesson, although many years later, we see the evolution and fulfillment of that initial dream in this account of Joseph’s coming to power in Egypt through the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41).  Up to this point, Joseph’s life seemed to have fallen into hopelessness.   The parental favoritism of his father Jacob had brought about bitterness, anger, and hatred of his siblings.  In addition, Joseph’s youthful arrogance only served to make matters worse. As a result, he had experienced cruelty at the hands of his brothers and was sold into slavery, and he was presumed dead by the people who loved him.  In later years he was imprisoned on false allegations by the wife of his master, Potiphar (Genesis 39). 

For two years, he was forgotten by the cupbearer of the Pharaoh, who was the very person he helped by interpreting the meaning of his and the baker’s dreams who were imprisoned with him.  His life seemed to be doomed; however, God’s guiding hand was at work in Joseph’s unfolding destiny.  His life can be described in two words: humiliation and exaltation.  What is now realized is that it was a process through which he had to go. 

Our lesson focus is centered around bitterness, which is the result of three basic emotions: disgust, sadness, and surprise from the perceptions of or from the reality of unfair treatment.  When left unchecked, it can lead to resentment, hatred, and can morph into acts of violence.   Joseph experienced some of his lowest times and could have sunk into despair and bitterness, but when he sought to help others and give God credit, he was granted power and honor.  Bitterness can only be eliminated and replaced with love that is visibly demonstrated from a heart that has been transformed by the Grace of God. 

Joseph learned humility, care, and compassion for others and about the power of God.  These were attributes or qualities he would need to fulfill God’s will for his life.  He becomes the conduit whom God had preordained to save His chosen people and to open the revelation of His faithfulness and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Divine Revelation (Genesis 41: 25-33 NIV):

25.  Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

26.  “The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.

27.  “The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind:  They are seven years of famine.

28.  “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.

29.  “Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt,

30.  “But seven years of famine will follow them.  Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.

31. “The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows will be so severe.

32.  “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

33.  “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.”

God disturbed the sleep of the mighty Pharaoh with dreams he did not understand nor that his magicians and wise men could interpret.  These dreams jolted the memory of the cupbearer who had forgotten about his promise to Joseph, and he recalled Joseph’s ministry to him and its positive outcome.  Two years had passed since Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker while they were in prison.  And, at the suggestion of the cupbearer, Pharaoh sent for Joseph as the one who could provide the solution for his perplexing dreams. I t was by the power of God that eventually got Joseph released from prison.  God’s power was at work in men who did not know Him and used them for the good of His chosen vessel. 

Joseph’s trials, tribulations, and humiliating experiences had taught him to depend on God and walk obediently with Him.  He acknowledged Him as the source of wisdom, power, and knowledge and explained to Pharaoh that in his dreams, God had shown him what the next fourteen years had in store for the nation of Egypt.  God would bring about seven years of great abundance, which would be followed by seven years of famine.  Joseph was led to provide wise counsel concerning how to prepare for and how to endure these future events.  God’s power was identified as the source throughout Joseph’s explanation.  He had matured into a true servant of God and had an uncompromising desire to acknowledge and proclaim God’s power to unbelievers and was ready to be used by God to save His chosen people.  God has a way of leading and guiding us through the pitfalls of life.  Having shared the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph advised the king to appoint a man to set over the land of Egypt to oversee the harvest of the plenteous years against the years of want and anguish.  The advice he gave was based on the hard-won experienced and managerial skills he developed while working in Potiphar’s house in which he had been elevated to a high position prior to his incarceration.

From Prison to the Palace (Genesis 41: 37-40 NIV):

37.  The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.

38.  So Pharaoh asked him, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

39.  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.

40.  You shall be in charge of  my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

Pharaoh was pleased not only with the interpretation of his dreams but with Joseph.  Therefore, Joseph was selected for the position of second in command.  The spiritual application of Joseph’s appointment shows three distinct implications: →1.) Pharaoh‘s acknowledgment of Joseph’s God as the source of his wise counsel, →2.) The faithfulness in what may appear to be small things can lead to greater responsibilities in God’s kingdom work. →And 3.) Yielding to the transformative power of God changes selfishness to selfless service for the good of others.  Joseph’s prison to place experience was divinely orchestrated for his good, for God’s glory, and for the salvation of many lives.

A New Outlook (Genesis 41: 50-52 NIV):

50.  Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

51.  Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”

52.  The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

God’s power and presence are transforming.  Joseph’s divine appointment in Egypt was not only a blessing but also revealed the inner transformation that had taken place in his life because of his maturing relationship with God.  The long years of discipline and frustration, heartache, and pain had been designed to prepare him to be elevated to the highest civil position in the land.  He was given an Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah and a wife from a prestigious Egyptian family, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, Priest of On.   She bore him two sons who were given Hebrew names, and the themes of forgetfulness and fruitfulness are highlighted.  The firstborn was named Manasseh (“he causes to forget) because God had made Joseph forget all his previous loneliness and misery.  The second son was named ‘Ephraim,” meaning double fruit because God had made Joseph fruitful in the land of distress.  He had matured to the point that he acknowledged God’s care and love for him.  In our own strength, we cannot overcome bitterness or display God’s love toward those who have hurt us.  Thus, we should seek the filling of the Holy Spirit and allow God to reveal His will in our lives. 

Storms will come, but those same storms can lead to seasons of refreshment and renewed vigor in our lives.  We live in the hope that the struggles we encounter in life will not have a lasting effect on our lives. But rather, just as the scripture tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, that same God has promised to be with us.  The Townsend Press Commentary includes this insightful segment in its closing prayer: “Help us ever to trust in the power of love, and do not let us be defined by the challenges and pitfalls of life.” Amen!

The Townsend Press Commentary:

What Do You Think?

  • How can we remain open to receiving understanding and insight like Joseph?
  • What experiences have you had or observed of God’s Miraculously reversing negative beginnings into positive endings?
  • How do you openly declare your thankfulness for God’s blessings.

Your World!

  • Our world is characterized by hate and intentional acts of violence that cause people to be bitter and angry.  This week, spend time in prayer for God’s love to be demonstrated in practical ways toward those suffering because humankind’s inhumanity toward humankind.  Choose to be His instrument to show how love and forgiveness supersede betterness and hate.


  • If you have experienced hurt and anger because of what others have done to you, seek the filling of  the Holy Spirit and allow God to reveal His will for you.  Often, He allows and then uses adverse circumstances to mature us so He can use us to bless the lives of others.
  • Lfe  circumstances can cloud our vision, and cloudy vision can cause us to miss the hand of God moving in our lives.  No matter what things look like, trust God.  There are times in our lives when we feel we can’t “catch a break.”  But we should take a page from Joseph’s book and be certain that God would never leave us in the midst of our troubles, no matter how things may appear.
  • Just as Joseph’s love for and faithfulness to God helped him to be successful in Egypt, as believers, our love for and faithfulness to God will help us live our lives successfully.


  1. To whom did Joseph’s give credit for the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams?
  2. How had Joseph’s inner character change?
  3. What else did God give Joseph the understanding to do?
  4. How did Joseph’s response to Pharaoh honor God?
  5. What does the name in which Joseph give his first son reflect about his attitude toward his past?

Have a Blessed week, and stay safe!