Samuel Emadi wrote a piece on the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Sometimes we read that story and zero in on a few ideas about innocent suffering or the sovereignty of God. But Emadi does a great job examining the full narrative and following its train of thought.
Moses gives Joseph more time in Genesis than he does any other character—a striking fact given the significance of Genesis’s other main characters: Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This prominence is even more striking considering the apparent insignificance of Joseph in the rest of Scripture.
What then do we make of the Joseph story? Why is it so prominent in Genesis?
Many Christians fail to notice how Joseph’s story contributes to the Genesis narrative and to redemptive history in general. Within Reformed circles, preachers often use Joseph merely to illustrate how divine sovereignty and human responsibility intersect, focusing almost exclusively on Genesis 50:20: “What you meant for evil God meant for good.” Certainly, we are meant to read Joseph’s life in light of this verse. God’s sovereignty is a major theme in Genesis 37–50, and Joseph himself intends for us to interpret his life in light of God’s providence (cf. Gen. 45:1–9).
But reducing the story to an illustration for the doctrine of compatibilism misses the rich contribution Joseph’s life makes to the storyline of Scripture. God’s sovereignty figures largely in the Joseph story because God wants us to see how he puts himself in impossible situations and yet finds a way to keep his covenant promises. Joseph highlights how God’s providence secures God’s promises.
In this light, we can see how Joseph uniquely contributes to Scripture’s opening book.