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Patience! The life of Joseph

To help children recognize the value of patience.

by Susan MacLean

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To help children recognize the value of patience.

Preparation and materials

  • Picture of fat cows.
  • Picture of thin cows.  


  1. Ask the pupils to tell you things that they have found hard to wait for – birthdays, a family wedding, holidays, the birth of a baby brother or sister.

    Did it ever feel as if these things were never going to happen?
  2. In the Bible, there is a story about a man called Joseph. It’s a long story. Today we are coming in half way through, and catch up with Joseph when he is in prison. He’s been there for years. He must be wondering if he is ever going to get out of there!

    In the prison, Joseph has a friend, who used to be the king’s butler. One day the butler is set free, and he is given his job back. He is once again the king’s butler.

    Two years later, the king has a dream. He dreams that he sees seven fat and beautiful cows eating the grass. Then he sees another seven cows, but they are thin and ugly. The thin and ugly cows stand beside the fat and beautiful cows. Then the thin and ugly cows eat the fat and beautiful cows. (Use pictures to illustrate this.) Then the king has a second dream. This time he dreams that seven thin ears of corn eat up seven fat ears of corn.

    When he wakes up, the king wants to know what these dreams mean but no one can tell him. Suddenly the butler remembers that when he was in prison he had a dream, and when he told it to Joseph, Joseph explained its meaning. So the butler tells the king that there is a prisoner who can interpret dreams.

    At once the king sends for Joseph. The guards quickly go to get him. They wash him and shave him, put clean clothes on him, and put him before the king.

    The king asks Joseph if he can interpret his dreams. Joseph says that he can’t, but God can. So the king tells Joseph all about his dreams. 

    Joseph says that both dreams mean the same thing – God is revealing what he is going to do. Joseph says that the seven fat and beautiful cows represent seven good years with lots of good crops growing. The seven thin and ugly cows represent seven bad years that will follow the seven good years. In the seven bad years no crops will grow. There will be famine in the land.

    God means this to happen and it will happen.

    Joseph tells the king that it will be wise to appoint someone to be in charge of storing the extra food that is grown during the seven good years. Then there will be food to eat during the seven years of bad harvests.

    Who do you think the king chooses? He chooses Joseph! Joseph is to be ruler over all Egypt. Only the king will be greater than Joseph. The king puts a royal ring on Joseph’s finger, gives him fine clothes to wear, and a gold chain to go round his neck. And all the people of Egypt are saved from dying of hunger.
  3. God really was with Joseph. Joseph must have thought he could only dream of a day when he would get out of prison. But not only did he get out of prison, he was given a position of authority in Egypt. His patience paid off!

Time for reflection

Are you feeling impatient about something right now?

It’s hard to wait for things to happen, but we should be patient and wait for the right time. It’s good to be patient as the end result might be worth all the waiting.

Thank you, God, for all you give us.
Help us to be patient,
especially when we are waiting for an exciting time to arrive.  


‘I am planting my feet in the footsteps’ (Come and Praise, 103)

Publication date: November 2012   (Vol.14 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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