Did Joseph forget about his suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Joseph does manage to escape prison when he’s thrown in by impressing the Pharaoh by interpreting his dream. The Pharaoh places Joseph second in command in Egypt and gives him a wife. Joseph has two sons through her and the oldest is named Manasseh while the youngest is named Ephraim.
Ephraim refers to being fruitful. We can understand that. Joseph is having a very fruitful time in Egypt. However, the name Manasseh is given because Joseph says that he has forgotten the suffering that he went through. He had forgotten his trouble and his father’s household.
Had he? When Joseph’s brothers show up not too far down the road, Joseph does remember them. He knows about them. If he’s able to talk about his father’s household, surely he hadn’t forgotten about his father’s household. Besides that, Joseph should have good memories of his Dad who favored him.
It’s my contention that sometimes when the Bible uses the word forget or remember, it doesn’t mean what we often think it means. In the flood, it says God remembered Noah. It’s not that God is looking down at the flood and sees that ark floating and thinks “Noah! I forgot all about Him!” Instead, it means that God returned his focus to Noah.
If that’s what it means to remember, then that would mean that Joseph had a new focus in life. He was not thinking about what happened growing up and how his brothers mistreated him and all the time he spent in prison. Instead, he was focusing on the future.
Joseph had come to see that God was with him in everything regardless of how his life was going. One day he’s in prison and has been forgotten by everyone. The next day, he’s the second in command in Egypt. The reader knows that God has been with Joseph granting him favor in the eyes of all who see him the whole time, but Joseph does not have that outside perspective. He is living the story that we are the spectators of.
Joseph having children is a sign to him that things are working out. God has allowed him the honor of having a family and having descendants. These are things he would have missed out on also if he had not been faithful in the house of Potiphar.
Speaking personally on this, divorce has been the worst event I have ever gone through. Something that has kept me going is a saying that I have heard before and I don’t remember where, but it’s that the best revenge is a life well-lived. I have decided I don’t want to be a victim of my past. I want to rise above. When I go to work, I try to see it as just a stepping stone. It is one spot on my journey and somehow it will lead to another and God has me here for a reason just like he had Joseph in prison for a reason that he didn’t understand.
After all, picture if Joseph had never been sold into slavery and then never been picked by Potiphar and then never thrown into prison. He would never have been made known to Pharaoh. He would never have led Egypt and the world would have suffered a famine. Joseph could have died anyway then. Every step of his suffering was used by God.
Joseph no longer had his focus on the past. He was looking to the future. Paul said the same in Philippians 3. He was forgetting what was behind and looking to what was ahead. (Ironically, what was behind him was pretty good actually. It just didn’t compete with Christ.) Maybe we should all do the same.
It’s something that keeps me going in this.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)