Joseph and the New King

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  He said to his people, “Look the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.  Come let us deal shrewdly with them or they will increase in the event of war join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land. — Exodus 1:8-10

Joseph was well known in Egypt and made good deals for his people with the Egyptian kings.  But then, after Joseph was gone and a new king came to power, all the old arrangements were off.  The old king, who knew Joseph, did not find the Israelite people threatening.  Not so, with the new king.  He feared them and feared that they were getting too large in number.  So the new king tightened the screws, and made slaves out of them, ever increasing their oppression.

The collapse of the old arrangements had terrible consequences for the people of Israel.  It set off a sequence of problems that were not solved for generations.

The problem of old arrangements falling apart is a very common human experience.  You have a favorite company that comes under new management, and you have to reset all the ways you relate to them.  There is a new political leader elected and all the old ways you valued are changed.  You lose a key partner in a work project and must make significant adjustments to the change.

When people familiar with this Bible passage run into a situation like this, they say “There arose a new king who did not know Joseph.”

There are at least two lessons to learn from this story — the first is the hard fact that sometimes old arrangements change and it is disruptive.  The second is that God can be trusted. Like in the time of the Exodus, he provides a stability even in new times “when a new king doesn’t know Joseph.”

Prayer Focus:  God’s continued presence.

Prayer: For your presence in times of old and new times we give you thanks, O God.  For your abiding presence we give you thanks.  Amen