Here’s a free youth group lesson on Joseph.

Big Idea: God doesn’t always work the way we expect, but He can be trusted.

Bible: Genesis 37:1-36; 39:1-6

Topics: Jealousy, Compassion, Persistence & Sibling Rivalry

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Note: This lesson is designed to be used in a small group setting as a Bible study.


Joseph is one of the more well-known figures in the Old Testament, partly because of his significant role in the history of the family of Israel and partly because of pop culture like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a musical based on Joseph’s life that has been performed by over 20,000 schools and community groups.

Joseph’s story is one of the most epic journeys in all of the Old Testament! 


[Use the following questions to get students thinking and ready to dive into this study of the life of Joseph.]

Discussion Questions

  1. If a movie was made about you and your family, what would be a funny story/experience that would make for a good scene? What would be a serious one?
  2. What do you already know or think you know about Joseph – not Jesus’ earthly father, but the man from the book of Genesis? (Already confused?)
  3. What are you hoping to learn from this study?

Read Genesis 37:1-4 (New Living Translation) – Joseph’s Dreams

1 So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived as a foreigner.

2 This is the account of Jacob and his family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.

3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe.

4 But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

We open up with Joseph’s father settling his family in Canaan.

Then, we quickly learn that Joseph modeled faithfulness and integrity by reporting to his father whatever bad things his brothers were doing.

We also learn that Joseph was the favorite of Jacob, so much so that Joseph receives a beautiful robe.

To us, that’s just a piece of clothing.

But it was a symbolic gesture that represented Jacob’s plans to give Joseph the largest portion of his inheritance when he died.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe a time you saw issues between siblings in your family or a friend’s family, especially if it appeared or really was true that one or more parents favored one child more than the others.
  2. Why is it hard to do as Joseph did and report on the bad things our peers are doing?
  3. In verse four, we see that Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy got to a point where they couldn’t even speak kind words to him, and they were described as “hating” him. How does jealousy between siblings affect a family as a whole?
  4. It might be easy at this point to feel bad for Joseph and be mad at his brothers. But if we are honest, we all deal with jealousy. How has this temptation been a challenge for you?

Read Genesis 37:5-12 (New Living Translation) – Joseph’s Dreams

5 One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever.

6 “Listen to this dream,” he said.

7 “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

8 His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

9 Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”

11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.

12 Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem.

I’m going to guess that at least a few of you have had some strange dreams and told your family or friends about them.

However, nowadays, when someone tells you about a dream, you don’t usually think much of it.

In Joseph’s day, a dream, especially similar dreams in sets of two, meant that this was divine communication, or God sharing something important that was to be taken seriously.

We can see this in how Jacob responds to hearing the second dream.

Yet when these dreams cause the brothers to hate Joseph more, Jacob wonders what these dreams really mean.

 Discussion Questions

  1. Give a short summary of one of the strangest dreams you remember.
  2. In Joseph’s excitement, he shares his dreams with his family, yet the results are negative instead of positive. Describe a time your family or friends did not respond how you expected to what you shared with them.
  3. If you honestly don’t know the rest of what happens to Joseph, and dreams were communication from God, what do you expect will happen next to make these dreams come true? (If you know, don’t spoil it.)
  4. Which adult(s) in your life can be like Joseph’s father – someone who can think through what you have to say and be happy for you, even wondering what God might do? (No matter what it means for them…)

Read Genesis 37:18-28 (New Living Translation) – Joseph Sold into Slavery

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.

19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said.

20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.

22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing.

24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.

27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed.

28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

These are much more than “normal” sibling issues.

Joseph’s brothers really did plan to kill him!

But Reuben has compassion and finds a way to save Joseph’s life without being obvious to his brothers with his backup plan.

I’m not sure why Reuben wasn’t around when the Ishmaelite traders came through.

In just a few verses, Joseph went from favorite son to a murder target to a slave taken off into exile in Egypt.

If you think you’ve had a bad day, you can be sure Joseph had it worse!

Discussion Questions

  1. Contrast the hatred and jealousy of most of Joseph’s brothers with the compassion and courage of Reuben.
  2. How have you had to stand up for what was right, like Reuben, even when everyone around you was making the wrong or foolish choice?
  3. Does this story seem to be going the way you expected after hearing about Joseph’s two dreams? Why or why not?
  4. We know from studying Scripture that God has worked all kinds of good through bad people and bad situations. If you put yourself in Joseph’s place, or in a modern-day version of this story, what thoughts and emotions would he be experiencing that would make that truth difficult to remember? Describe a situation where you forgot about God’s hope, power, and presence because you were so focused on the bad situation or the people around you.

Read Genesis 37:36; 39:1-6 (New Living Translation) 

37:36 Meanwhile, the Midianite traders arrived in Egypt, where they sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was captain of the palace guard.

39:1 When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

2 The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.

3 Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.

4 This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned.

5 From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the LORD began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished.

6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!

Just as the story seems to be coming to a disappointing ending, there is a glimmer of hope.

These first verses of chapter 39 seem to point back to the dreams Joseph had earlier in chapter 37.

Maybe things really will work out after all.

Except… why would Joseph’s brothers and family bow down to him when he is all the way in Egypt, a totally different country?

Again… if you know the rest of the story, don’t spoil it for others.

And actually, if you do know the rest of the story, imagine that you didn’t.

What would you learn or believe about God if this section of Genesis was all you had?

 Discussion Questions

  1. Even though Joseph was in exile – not living in his homeland – he found success as a slave to the captain of the guard for Pharaoh. He would have been treated more like an employee than how we typically think of slaves from the American 18th or 19th centuries. However, he still persisted and worked hard even in a bad situation. How does his example inspire you?
  2. It appears that Joseph worked hard for Potiphar instead of revolting, resisting, or trying to escape. How does this challenge our normal expectations for a “hero” in a story like this?
  3. God didn’t help Joseph escape his situation. He made His presence known in how He helped Joseph while he stayed in that situation. What does this teach you about God? What questions does this bring to mind for you about God?
  4. Living in exile is a metaphor sometimes used to describe Christians. Like Joseph, we are not truly home here on this earth. Heaven is our true home. How can you take what you have learned about Joseph so far and work that into how you live your life as a Christian in exile?

End Lesson

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  1. Pastor Abigail Tembenu
    • August 18, 2023

    I like the teachings and lam going to teach our youth Today on 19 at church we are having youth meeting

  2. Hleziphi Mbeje
    • February 3, 2024

    Wow this is a very good and helpful lesson. That will help us all because what Joseph experienced is what we deal with in our everyday life. So thank you so much for such a good lesson.

  3. Pastor Allan Bani
    • March 21, 2024

    So blessed reading through the study of Joseph. We can have powerful dreams that we might think people around us will appreciate with us but it turns out another way. I believe it is because when we go through tough times, it built us up solid and narrow our focus to see correctly the direction God wants for us.


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