Joseph and Fruit Bearing

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.)”
—Genesis 49:22-24

THE SCRIPTURES FREQUENTLY refer to things of nature as illustrations of spiritual truths. For our encouragement, let our thoughts for awhile be among the trees and boughs, the wells and springs which are so often seen to be the emblems of spiritual life and growth. David speaks, in Psalm 1, of a righteous man as “a tree planted by the rivers of water.” (vs. 3) Jesus said in John 15, “I am the true vine, … ye are the branches.” (vss. 1,5) Genesis speaks of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:17) Revelation 22:2 speaks of “the tree of life,” and of those having a right to its fruit. We also read of the palm tree; the cedars of Lebanon; the olive and fig trees, and many others which are used in the Scriptures as symbols of various characteristics of men and nations.


Jacob, at the end of his days, called for his sons, that before his departure he might confer blessings upon them and give them certain warnings. Through his long experience he had closely observed the peculiar and varying characteristics of his family, which, of course, is quite natural for parents to do. He was probably able to determine measurably the course each would take in life, and consequently the results which would follow the fruitage of their lives.

Jacob’s strong faith and hope in the promises of God would encourage him to anticipate their fulfillment in, and upon, his twelve sons. He sought to confer his blessings and counsel upon them as indicated by the Lord’s guidance. Thus he encouraged them to look for the fulfillment of those treasured promises made to him, and to his father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham, that through the “seed” all the nations of the earth would be blessed.—Gen. 12:2,3; 22:18

Undoubtedly the spirit of prophecy was with Jacob, enabling him to make such statements of his sons as recorded in Genesis 49, which years after were fulfilled in the various tribes of Israel. The complete fulfillment of the greatest promise to Father Abraham is yet future. Of Joseph, Jacob declared he was a ‘fruitful bough,’ fruitful in the faith, in confidence of his God; and in the promises of God to the fathers. Joseph was truly a fruitful bough in the family tree, in his services to them and in his administrative office as ruler of Egypt under Pharaoh.


The glory of a fruit-bearing tree is its seasonable fruit—ripened in its rightful season. Fruit artificially ripened is not long-keeping. Fruit ripened out of season is often insipid and tasteless. How like ourselves in seeking to produce fruitage of character acceptable to God in our own power of restraint or self-control! Fruitage acceptable to God is the outgrowth of submission to his will. He works in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure”—by discipline and through our sincerity—until we become “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Phil. 2:13; 1:11

Joseph seems to have manifested a pleasing disposition, generally favorable to all. Tactful, uncomplaining under the most trying experiences, he seems to have borne fruit in his contact and dutiful obligations and service to, and for, others. Perhaps we would be strengthened in these privileges if we observed more closely Paul’s exhortation, “Be instant in season, [and] out of season,” in our zeal and love for the Lord and his kingdom.—II Tim. 4:2

Joseph was fruitful in his character and deportment in the prison life with the baker, butler, and jailer; and was quickly raised to authority above other prisoners. (Gen. 39:21-23; 40:1-23) When imprisoned he might have been justifiably sour or indignant, but retained sweetness and helpfulness to those about him. Think of his integrity, his honor, his humility, when accosted by Potiphar’s wife. “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9) If we could think of our omissions and commissions as against God rather than against ourselves or others, what a power for overcoming! No one lives to himself, and the influence of Joseph’s life was a torch of light and life to others.

Jesus said, for our benefit, our encouragement, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Jesus also confirmed the need of consistency of character in righteousness. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”—Matt. 7:16-20


Three things are especially necessary to successful fruit bearing. First, the condition of the tree and its source of life, or nutriment; second, the elements; third, the time. All who accept the life of faith find similar necessary steps to observe. First, one’s heart condition before God, and the source of spiritual food, or nutriment, to give and sustain faith; second, the varied experiences of daily life; and third, patient waiting, trusting, confidence, and perseverance.

Joseph was a fruitful bough, or branch, by a well. Another reason for the fruitfulness of a tree and its boughs is the position of its roots. The roots typify our faith. Where faith is firmly rooted in the Word of God, and in Christ, growth, foliage, and fruit are certain. A living faith in the Word of God is a wellspring of life.

The resources of mighty oceans feed the wellsprings of the earth. Joseph drew his sustaining power, his encouragement in enduring faith and comfort, from One mightier than oceans; and not alone from life’s experiences, as Jesus reminded his disciples and ourselves, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”—John 6:63

Joseph would appreciate that the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob, were for future fulfillment and accordingly would treasure them. He would perceive something of the extent to which these promises reached—to all the families of the earth, outside and beyond Israel. Joseph would muse over, and meditate upon, their outworking upon nations and men, much more so than others of his family. They would satisfy his mind and heart, and would be to him a glorious hope of life and prosperity, and their fulfillment he would continually seek to visualize. All this is implied in his request that his bones be taken out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham and his father Jacob. (Gen. 50:25) Joseph would be included in the apostle’s remarks. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”—Heb. 11:13

The meditation of Joseph on the promises of God is substantiated by his remarks to his brethren when disclosing to them that he was their brother whom they sold into the hands of the Ishmaelites. He said, “Be not grieved, … that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5) Such an assertion could come only from a heart strongly convinced of God’s overruling providence and a faith firmly rooted in, and grasping tenaciously, the promises of God. Thus we are reminded that our faith must be firmly embedded in Christ Jesus and sustained by the Word of God—the water of Truth—and so take the same stand of righteousness by faith as did Joseph.

Jesus assures us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (chap. 4:14) We should always seek to draw water from “the wells of salvation.”—Isa. 12:3


Joseph was a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall, suggesting unlimited growth. Imagine a fruit tree by a well with roots reaching down into its bed. A well gets its water not from the surface only; it does not depend entirely on rain. Its main resources are from underground streams.

Joseph lived daily by a wellspring, which to him was life indeed. He could say, like David, “All my springs are in thee.” (Ps. 87:7) Joseph’s constant faith, manifested in so many of his experiences, beautifully illustrates for us our spiritual life and growth as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. Only as we abide in him by faith, and in meditation on his Word and life, can we grow spiritually and produce the fruit our Heavenly Father expects to find in us. Such fruit will honor him, as Jesus disclosed to his disciples, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.”—John 15:1-8

Let us ever remember that our life as New Creatures in Christ is first internal, not external. Our spiritual life does not first consist in ordinances or activities. The Scriptures say, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) Justifying faith is more than an intellectual conviction of Truth. The Apostle James said, “Devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19) Justifying faith is an operation of the heart, which represents a man’s affections.


Spiritual life consists not in outward institutions, but in internal affections. Our spiritual life being within is beautifully illustrated in the palm tree. Its life is in the heart, or center of the trunk, from the roots, not between the bark and the tree trunk, which is usually the case. (Ps. 92:12-14) The center root runs to a spring. You cannot kill the palm tree unless you get at its heart, or center. That faith which justifies or assures one of righteousness; the faith that brings a conviction that a seal has been made, a covenant agreed upon, and gives one a deep sense of peace and rest as well as fellowship with God, is an operation of one’s heart.

The Apostle Paul says, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) Paul’s enumeration of the fruit of the Spirit does not mention a single action, but merely a series of internal emotions—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”—Gal. 5:22,23


It is true that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) The head, or intelligence, will teach that “the just shall live by faith.” (Heb. 10:38) The heart, of necessity, imbibes the spiritual truths of the Word of God. The life of faith is an individual matter. It is far more than an acceptance of doctrine which we consider scriptural and therefore true. It is the assimilation of that which we have proved to be the Truth, so that its principles become our principles, and its promises become our inspiration.

It is manifest that the fruitage acceptable to God emanates from Christ Jesus and his Word. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.”—I John 2:5

Living, active faith in God and his Word is a virtue of the heart. The Apostle Paul explains that it is the power that worketh in us both “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:10) “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”—Col. 3:3


It is the fruitage of growth in spiritual powers that we are exhorted to produce by wholehearted submission and obedience to God. Through the Lord’s grace and Holy Spirit, begotten within, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds. We are transformed. (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) It is those virtues, that are the product of the Holy Spirit within us, that will enable us to manifest the fruitage that God is looking for in us as followers of his dear Son—fruitful branches of the true vine. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels [a heart] of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. … And above all these things put on love.”—Col. 3:12-14

Fruitage of character is developed amid the trials and antagonisms of daily life, especially so as the roots of faith and hope are well embedded in the wellspring, Christ. We can discern this worked out in varying particulars. Think of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) Who are the meek? Where is meekness seen? When is there scope for manifesting meekness? Only in circumstances of irritation and provocation. There is no experience for meekness in a hermitage where the will is never thwarted, or where there are none of the jars and collisions of daily life. There is no manifestation of meekness without antagonism.

The apostle exhorts to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities [that is, the great Adversary, the god of this world], against powers [the emissaries of Satan with powers to oppose, deceive, and discourage the church of Christ], against the rulers of the darkness of this world [those human agents with overriding influence against all goodness and righteousness], against spiritual wickedness in high places.”—Eph. 6:11-17; Col. 2:3; Eph. 4:26,27,32

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Mercy is not merely goodness or forgiveness, but goodness in the face of demerit. God is merciful. The Lord is longsuffering and of great mercy, “forgiving iniquity and transgression,” “abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exod. 34:6,7) “Be ye therefore merciful,” says Jesus, “as your Father also is merciful.”—Luke 6:36

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) This implies the loss of conceit with one’s own strength, goodness, and wisdom, to feel that apart from God’s grace we are nothing. It is to realize that our best resolves are like stubble. The Apostle Paul confesses, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”—Rom. 7:18

This is the grace—‘poor in spirit’—that lays at the foundation of all other graces and which is matured and confirmed as we meet the antagonisms of our daily life in the overcoming spirit. The apostle says, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”—Rom. 8:36,37


Joseph was truly an example of faith, and a faithful bough in all his experiences through life—a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches (extension of trial and persecution) ran over the wall (radiated light and truth to others). “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow [power of service] … [was] made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.—Gen. 49:23,24

The secret of our quest is fruitage in Christ. It is not merely the blossoms of profession or confession that we are Christ’s. It begins with faith in his redeeming sacrifice on our behalf, and sincerity fostered with an honest heart. It continues with a desire to be like him in all his virtues.

Jesus was ever seeking to make these matters clear to his disciples; to earnest inquirers such as Nicodemus; to the rich young ruler; to scribes and Pharisees; and to all receiving his words of life. To Nicodemus he said, Ye must be “born again.” (John 3:3) To the young man running to him and saying, What must I do? Jesus said, If you are sincere in your inquiry, go sell all that you have, dispose of that, and then “follow me.”—Matt. 19:21

Life is more than meat. Life is more than nutriment for the body, and the body more than raiment. The vessel containing life, the inner self, or heart, emotions, is to be cherished more than outward adornment. Let us “labour not for the meat which perisheth,” but for that which abideth unto eternal life.—John 6:27; I John 2:3-6; John 15:9-12; Eph. 4:31,32; Heb. 13:20,21

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”—John 15:8

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