A King Which Knew Not Joseph

“Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.” (Exodus 1:1)

Flipping through the pages of the Old Testament, it is interesting to note how many books begin with the word “now” or “and.” Exodus is among them. Whether translated as “now” or “and”, the Hebrew term is identical. It is actually a single pen-stroke representing a conjunction which denotes a continuation of thought. It ties together something that has already been said with something which follows. Although using such a conjunction as the first word in a new book would seem, at first glance, very unusual, it tells us something very remarkable about the Bible. The Bible is a Book of books, and though each book tells a different part of the overall story, they are each but a continuation of that story; a link joining the events already told with those to come.

As such, Exodus picks up right where Genesis left off. Genesis ended with Joseph being laid to rest in a coffin in Egypt, Exodus opens with the death of Joseph and everyone else in that generation (1:6). Many of the events which God revealed in Genesis are now fulfilled in Exodus. The affliction of the descendants of Abraham that God told him would come in Genesis 15 is precisely the condition wherein we find them in Exodus 1. The promise made to Jacob that his descendants would become a great nation in the land of Egypt (Gen. 46:3) finds fulfillment in Exodus 1:7. The family of Israel, the subject of the final chapters of Genesis, is now the Nation of Israel — the subject of most of the remainder of the Old Testament.

From the chain of events spanning more than four centuries, we are given but a single sentence of explanation concerning how a nation which had been rescued from the brink of starvation by Joseph could so easily come to persecute his descendants. “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).  How is it that a man who had been so revered and adored by a people end up having his descendants despised by the same? They knew nothing of him. He had been utterly forgotten. The man who had been second only to Pharaoh himself was now less than a footnote in their history — his name was not even remembered among the Egyptians.

What a lesson to those whose loftiest goal in life is to leave a mark on this world! So many people can think of no greater accomplishment than to have their name remembered and memorialized. Though a few names survive the passage of time, most do not. Even within families, names of those living just three or four generations prior are seldom remembered, much less anything they have accomplished. It is a sad truth that even the noblest of deeds and greatest of achievements rarely outlive the people who witnessed them first-hand.

It is, therefore, all the more ironic that Joseph, a man whose legacy lives on more than three millenia later, was forgotten by a Pharaoh whose proper name is not even given in the Text of Scripture. The king who came from a dynasty known for its opulent monument building — a dynasty of rulers who did all within their power to ensure that the world would never forget them — is himself but a footnote in history. His name is not even mentioned though the children of Jacob are all listed by name. The legacy of the sons of a shepherd has outlived that of an emperor.

We spend so much of our time invested in the pursuits and business of this world. We desperately try to make an impact by pouring ourselves into the affairs of this life. But only what is done for the Lord and in His name will survive into the world to come. God never forgot Joseph because he was faithful to Him. The kings and rulers of this world may not know your name, but if you belong to Christ, then the King of kings does. And that is what ultimately matters.

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11 responses

  1. Loren,

    How very true!…. It’s as Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.”….. Everyone’s fame and fortune is nothing but vanity….. It’s such a waste to strive for things in this world — and far beyond awesome to realize that our Savior calls us by name and knows our every thought and movement….. Even though we are so insignificant, He holds us dear. :)

    Margaret

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  2. Loren, As I read this I thought about how the name of Jesus has survived for over 2,000 years as well, though there are many who have tried in vain to stamp it out! What and who God wants remembered will be remembered; what and who man wants remembered for his own sake will be forgotten or relegated to a footnote in history. Peace, Linda

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  3. Finding so much comfort and joy tonight in the fact that the King of kings knows my name . . .and that’s all that really matters. :) Beautiful insight and message! We can all be known by Him! Thank you for uplifting us and the name of Jesus today! :) deb

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  4. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Tim. 6:7)

    Great comment, Margaret :) I often think about that verse from Job and this one from 1 Timothy when I see these people in my daily life and on T.V. whose sole purpose in life is fame and fortune. What a tragic waste of a life! But, as you said, how awesome it is to think that our Savior has His eyes on every thing we do! Nothing we do for Him will ever be forgotten :) “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”….yet He loves us so much that He knows the very hairs of our head….wow!

    Thanks, Margaret, I pray that all is going well for you. God bless you!

    Loren

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  5. Amen to that, Linda :)

    Getting into this study of Exodus, I have been reflecting on the rise and fall of the great Egyptian Empire. The grandeur of the Pyramids, the glory of the Sphinx, the might of that kingdom that at one time stretched far beyond the shores of the Nile and reached out across most of the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean. What happened to this glorious empire? And then we read a passage in the Book of Isaiah and we discover that it was the judgment of God that overhtrew Egypt (Isa. 19). We see in that chapter that God has a future plan for Egypt, but it will be on His terms, not man’s.

    On the other hand, the name of Jesus has survived every effort to wipe it out. Your comment remided me of the poem “One Solitary Life.” You may have heard it before, but it definitely deserves to be repeated. Thanks again for the great comments, Linda, God bless you:

    “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
    He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

    While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

    Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

    I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

    *This essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).

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  6. Loren, I have actually heard that poem read by Johnny Cash. I think it is on one of my Christmas CDs. It is a wonderful poem. Peace, Linda

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  7. That is awesome, Deb :) For the Lord Jesus Christ to know us…what higher ambition could anyone have?

    Thank you so much, Deb, for the encouragement. Thank you for lifting His name with me. May our Lord richly bless you, my friend :)

    Loren

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  8. I think that is the first version I heard of this poem, as well. I will have to go get the CD!

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  9. Thanks Loren

    Righteousness like filthy rags; Grass that withers in the evening; Dust …. What is the sum of man without a God-centered outlook? Zilch. Dung.

    Unless life is lived to the honour and glory of our Lord, said life is lived in vain. Great men and women have come and gone. Centuries of scribes and scholars have put thoughts on paper but the name of the Lord has survived them all.

    Name dropping can get me through many doors but if I don’t know the owner of the ‘Name above all names’, I’m not worth being known. The thing created cannot be greater than the Creator of the thing. I’m thankful no other name is exalted above His!

    Blessings
    ann

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  10. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor. 3:11-13)

    How many works of our own hands will end up being burned away because they were not laid on the Foundation of Jesus Christ? Only what is done for Him will remain. Great comments, Ann, I love the way you put this! “Name dropping can get me through many doors but if I don’t know the owner of the ‘Name above all names’, I’m not worth being known.” Amen to that!

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  11. Brilliance for free; your parents must be a sweeeathrt and a certified genius.

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