Let us now examine the mighty acts and miracles of God in the lives of various individuals. The history of the patriarchs has been covered in the series entitled, Great Men of the Old Testament. There is no need to repeat the details in this series. Rather, let us concentrate on specific events in the lives of the patriarchs-those times when God chose to act in a miraculous or mighty manner as He carried out His purpose.
God called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldees and led him to the land of Canaan. He resided there for some time. Eventually a famine set in, and Abraham felt compelled to go to Egypt. We read: “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land” (Gen. 12:10). Abraham knew the reputation of the Egyptians and decided to take no chances.
And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. (Gen. 12:11-13)
A better translation for the word “fair” would be “beautiful.” Sarah was absolutely stunning in beauty, and Abraham knew this. But he did not anticipate what would take place as a result of this half-truth. Sarah was his wife, but she was also his half-sister. “And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels” (Gen. 12:14-16). Adultery is a sin the eyes of God. In effect, Abraham had compromised his wife’s honor for his own safety. This conduct was certainly unbecoming for a man of his stature, but he felt powerless to do anything about it. But God could do something.
“And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife” (Gen. 12:17). It did not take Pharaoh long to figure things out. “And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way” (Gen. 12:18-19). Pharaoh knew adultery was a sin, and knew that the curses that had befallen him were from God. He acted quickly. “And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had” (v. 20). This dramatic intervention on the part of God was due to the trap into which Abraham had fallen. But God was merciful and had other plans in mind for this prophet.
Some years later Abraham repeated the same mistake. He had not yet learned to completely trust God. At this time Abraham was dwelling in the vicinity of Gerar, a city south of Gaza ruled by a Philistine king. “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah” (Gen. 20:2). Again, God was very patient and intervened.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. (Gen. 20:3-7)
This was enough to strike fear in any king. Abimelech acted immediately.
Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. (Gen. 20:8-13)
Abimelech restored Sarah and gave Abraham a number of gifts, including the choice use of the land. “And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee” (Gen. 20:14-15). God then impressed upon Abimelech the regard that should be shown to Abraham. He used Abraham’s prayer to heal Abimelech and his house. “So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife” (vv. 17-18).
This incident, as well as the one in Egypt, demonstrates the power of God as He intervened in the lives of various individuals. Abraham, the friend of God and father of the faithful, was an extremely important figure as God had begun His great purpose of redemption through him (Gen. 22:18).
Next, let us consider Jacob. He was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. By means of subterfuge, the blessing and birthright were passed on to him rather than his older brother Esau. Esau, after Jacob died, intended to kill Jacob for this subterfuge, so Jacob was forced to flee to his relatives in Padanaram. On his journey, he spent a night near the city of Luz.
And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. (Gen. 28:10-15)
Why did God reveal himself to Jacob in this miraculous way? God wanted Jacob to know that He intended to use him for His purpose, just as He had used Isaac and Abraham. The blessings of Abraham (Gen. 22:16-18) were conferred upon Isaac, and then upon Jacob (Gen. 27:28-29; 28:1, 3-4). God wanted Jacob to know there was a responsibility conferred upon him, and that he was a chosen instrument.
Jacob realized this awesome accountability.
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. (Gen. 28:16-22)
Jacob was blessed and protected all his life. Many years later, he conferred these blessings upon his twelve sons. These promises were to be fulfilled in the latter days (Gen. 49:1-28).
Joseph is the last of the patriarchs to be considered in this section. He was one of the younger sons of Jacob and the oldest son of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. At an early age, God gave him revelations in the form of dreams. When he told his brothers, they resented what the dreams implied. Even his father rebuked him, but with reservation (Gen. 37:10). The brothers were so jealous and resentful they wanted to kill him, but instead sold him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt (vv. 25-28). He was purchased by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Joseph was very capable and was soon made the head of Potiphar’s house. But Potiphar’s wife wanted an intimate relationship with him. Joseph refused. She falsely accused him and Joseph was put in prison. Before too long, because of his capability, he was placed in a position of responsibility-the charge of overseeing the prisoners (Gen. 39).
After some time, two prisoners arrived at the prison. They were Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker, and according to Bible commentaries, were under suspicion in a plot to kill the Pharaoh. Joseph looked after them. One night they both dreamed.
And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand. (Gen. 40:5-11)
Neither had the remotest idea what the dreams meant, but Joseph, gifted in the interpretation of dreams, did know. He told the chief butler the meaning.
And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon. When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head. And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee. (Gen. 40:12-19)
Three days later, this is exactly what happened. But did the chief butler remember Joseph to Pharaoh? Hardly. “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Gen. 40:20-23).
For two years more Joseph remained in the prison. Then a dramatic turn of events took place. Pharaoh himself had some disturbing dreams and was deeply troubled. No one could interpret the dreams. Then the chief butler remembered what had happened to him in prison, and he quickly told the Pharaoh.
Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day: Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker: And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged. (Gen. 41:9-13)
Pharaoh knew immediately this was the man he needed to solve the problem. Joseph was sent for. “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:14).
Pharaoh then told Joseph: ” . . . I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Gen. 41:15-16). Notice, Joseph gave God all the credit, and said that God would give Pharaoh peace of mind. After he was told the dream, Joseph replied: ” . . . The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do” (v. 25). Then he interpreted the dream. It revealed that God was about to bring seven years of plenty upon the land of Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. He then advised Pharaoh to prepare for the seven years of famine by storing up grain during the seven years of abundance (vv. 26-37).
And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. (Gen. 41:37-40)
Imagine this. In a few moments of time Joseph went from being a prisoner to being the prime minister of Egypt. “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 41:46). Joseph had been a slave and prisoner for about 15 years. Now only Pharaoh was above him in the Egyptian government. God brought about circumstances for a very important reason. That reason played an important role in what was to follow.
The seven years of famine had a devastating effect on Joseph’s father and brothers. Before too long they were compelled to come to Egypt to purchase food. Joseph knew this effort was vain because the famine would last entirely too long for them to be able to sustain their livelihoods. They made other trips to Egypt and over a period of time Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. They were shocked. Then he said: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5).
Then he instructed them:
Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. (Gen. 45:9-11)
Joseph clearly understood that by God’s miracles-giving him the gift of interpreting dreams and bringing him down to Egypt-he would be able to preserve the entire posterity of Jacob. God’s purpose would continue in Abraham’s descendants.
God encouraged Israel (Jacob) just before he went to Egypt:
And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. (Gen. 46:1-4)
Jacob was assured that Joseph would be by his side when he died in peace and security. We have seen how God performed mighty acts and miracles in the Creation, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. This moving account in the lives of the patriarchs reveals the magnitude of God’s interest and concern even for individuals. It makes plain what He is willing to do as He works out His purpose on this earth.