Before we get better acquainted with Joseph, let's take a quick glance at some background information. It will help if you remember that his biography falls neatly into three distinct segments.
Birth to Seventeen Years (Genesis 30:24–37:2). During this time Joseph's family was in transition—everyone was unsettled, on the move. A low-level antagonism was brewing as his family clashed and argued in jealousy and hatred.
Seventeen to Thirty Years (Genesis 37:2–41:46). This second segment occurs as Joseph reaches young manhood. It seems as though his life becomes out of control. Enslavement, unfair accusation, and imprisonment assault him.
Thirty Years to Death (Genesis 41:46–50:26). Joseph's last eighty years are years of prosperity and reward under God's blessing. He had the classic opportunity to get even with his brothers, to ruin them forever, but he refused. Instead he blessed, protected, and forgave.
God constantly uses the lives of Bible characters to teach us, to encourage us, to warn us. Who can forget the impact of the truths lived out in the lives of David and Esther, of Moses and Elijah, of Peter and Paul? It's impossible to leave truth in the theoretical realm when you see it revealed in the lives of real-life men and women. That is what these divinely inspired biographies do; they distill truth and weave it into the fabric of everyday living. God's training manual is full of lives that inspire and instruct.
Romans 15:4 states, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (emphasis added). This reference to "earlier times" encompasses all the truths written in the Old Testament. And if I read this verse correctly, there are two basic reasons God has allowed us to have the Old Testament available for study and application: first, for present instruction, and second, for future hope. God has given us this information so that our minds can learn the truth about Him and about life, and so that we will be encouraged to persevere in the future.