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Genesis 50:20 Tanach (Tanakh, Hebrew Bible, Judaica Press) “Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.”
Genesis 50:20 Old Testament (ESV: English Standard Version)“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
What Joseph said to his brothers in this verse is incredible! Let us first notice what Joseph did not say. Joseph did not say “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God used it for good.” He also did not say “As for you, you meant evil against me, but I overcame it for good.”
Instead, Joseph saw God working through his brothers’ sin and evil, cruel intentions. God worked through the evil, sinful, cruelty of his brothers to bring about Joseph’s triumph in Egypt and the saving of many lives through the famine.
Joseph saw God at work in everything! God’s hand moved and guided every aspect of Joseph’s life, and Joseph trusted this, even when in the natural, to his regular earthly human eyes, ears, and mind, things seemed terrible, horrific, alarming.
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good describes attributes of God, His providence and His sovereignty. Regardless of the intention of people be it good or bad, God will bring about His own ultimate end. Always. What God means to happen, will ultimately happen. Always. God is always in control.
There is a powerful distinction between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will. God’s perfect will is unchangeable. It is with His permissive will, or the various things that He allows into our lives which He uses to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives, and the big picture far beyond us.
It is our reaction to things allowed by God’s permissive will that enables us to begin seeing His perfect will, at least in the small picture, for us. It is in these moments as we pray and walk, we are matured, developed, deepened. It is good. It is beautiful. Yes, it is also challenging and can be painful. Then again, if we want to become physically fit, it is challenging and can be painful. We have work out our muscles. No different in the spiritual realm!
As Genesis 50 unfolds we see how Joseph treated his brothers with mercy, loving kindness, undeserved favor (grace.) But wait a second, read back to Genesis 37. How does mercy, loving kindness and grace become cultivated in the heart of one so cruelly treated?
The answer is found in Joseph’s theology (what one believes about God.)
Joseph had a clear understanding that what his brothers did to him was completely and thoroughly evil. However, Joseph also had the clear understanding that although they meant it for evil, God meant it for good. He may or may not have been able to see that good at the time the cruelty was occurring, but he knew God (not just knew of God, but truly knew who God is; character attributes.)
Joseph had a clear understanding that God was at work and God is in control. God can always be trusted for the outcome, again, no matter what we see or experience here on earth. The theology of the sovereign (ultimate, supreme, unrestricted, unlimited) purpose and providence of God (protective care, timely preparation) is what generated the attitude of Joseph’s heart and allowed him to respond to his brothers as he did.
God used Joseph’s suffering and his subsequent circumstances to accomplish His own sovereign purposes in a huge way. God had a plan for the world. To fulfill that, God had a plan for the nation Israel. However, to fulfill that, God had a plan for Joseph. All was tied together. God used Joseph, to preserve a people, so there would be a nation called Israel, the nation from whom the prophets would come. The nation who would be given the Scriptures, the nation from whom the Messiah would come, the nation through whom the world would be blessed. (Links to Tanakh Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:1-18; Genesis 46:3; and here is the entire block of these scriptures in the Old Testament.)
The English word “gospel” comes from two old English words, “god spell” meaning “good news“, or, as it is sometimes used, “glad tidings“. This is the translation of the Greek word “enaggelion” or “evangelion“.
In the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh [Tanach], Old Testament), the word “besorah” is used, and in English is translated as, yes, the same as “gospel”… “good news” or “tidings.”
Gospel is a proclamation of good news, either oral or written, typically announcing a positive event of public importance, such as victory in battle, the accession of a king, the death of an enemy.
Interesting to note that the Hebrew Bible includes small portions in Aramaic, written and printed in Aramaic square-script, which was adopted as the Hebrew alphabet after the Babylonian exile. Also, by the time of the New Testament, many Jews didn’t even speak Hebrew anymore. Rome had conquered Greece, and the influence of Greek culture had saturated the empire.
NOW, before you assert that the word “gospel” (again, which means “good news”) has connotations from the New Testament that are NOT for Jews, let us take a look in our Hebrew Bible at the usage of the word “besorah”(which again, also means “good news”).
Originally, the word “besorah” was used to describe the report of victory in battle ( 2 Samuel 4:10 ). As the Israelites believed God was actively involved in their lives (including battles and wars) it evolved in it’s connotation. To proclaim the good news of Israel’s success in battle was to proclaim God’s triumph over God’s enemies. Believing credit for the victory belonged to God, the Israelites’ proclamation of the good news of victory was, in fact, proclamation about God.
The transition from the use of “besorah” in a military setting, to its use in a personal context, is pretty basic. If Israel proclaimed good news when God delivered the nation from its enemies, individuals would also want to proclaim good news when God delivered them from personal distress (Psalm 40:10). The nation’s victories in war and a person’s individual victories both called for the announcement of what God had done.
The Book of Isaiah marks the full development of the term within the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh [Tanach], Old Testament). By this time the word is most often used to describe the anticipated deliverance and salvation which would come from the hand of God when the long awaited Messiah appeared to deliver Israel (Isaiah 52:7). The military-political and personal connotations of the word were fully united in the hope of a Deliverer who would both triumph over the earthly enemies of God’s people and usher in a new age of salvation. The arrival of this Messiah would be good news.
In the Hebrew Bible, the verb form of “besorah” dominates in usage. A noun derived from the verb does appear on occasion, but the vast majority of references are to the verb itself.
Besorah or good news/tidings is made in the following places (please note, this list is for the usage of the word, not necessarily to imply that the news was actually good for the Israelites): 1 Samuel 4:17, 1 Samuel 31:9, 2 Samuel 4:10, 2 Samuel 18:19-20, 26, 31, 1 Kings 1:42, 1 Chronicles 10:9, 1 Chronicles 16:23, Psalm 40:10 Tanakh; 40:9 OT, Psalm 68:12 Tanakh; 68:11 OT, Psalm 96:2, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 41:27, Isaiah 52:7, Isaiah 60:6, Isaiah 61:1, Jeremiah 20:15, Nahum 2:1 Tanakh, 1:15 OT.
Delving even deeper “besorah” is from the root “basar”. The intensive form “bissier” means to bring (good) news. (In grammar, an intensive word form is one which denotes stronger, more forceful, or more concentrated action relative to the root on which the intensive is built).
“Basar” means “to bear tidings” and “basar” also means “flesh”. “Basar” meaning “flesh” occurs before Adam sinned. Adam already was flesh and bone. (Genesis 2:21).
Then in Genesis 2:23-24 “And man said, ‘This time, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ishah (woman) because this one was taken from ish (man). Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’”
English “Gospel”; Greek “enaggelion” or “evangelion”; Hebrew “besorah”. Word study is so fascinating!
Let us consider for a moment that the English word “Gospel” states that the proclamation of good news is “they shall be one flesh.” God’s Gospel states the very way that we become connected with Him, with nothing separating us, ever. That is Good News!