Genesis 50:20

ESV 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.
NIV You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
NASB As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive.
CSB You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result--the survival of many people.
NLT You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
KJV But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

What does Genesis 50:20 mean?

The statement made here brilliantly summarizes the difference between God allowing something, God deliberately causing something, and God "doing nothing" in response to human needs. Even when human beings try to do evil—and even when they succeed—God is still able to use those efforts to accomplish a greater good. This landmark verse makes no excuse for human sin, while emphasizing that events we cannot understand are still part of God's greater plan (Romans 8:28).

In the previous verse, Joseph tried to calm his brothers' fear that he would revenge on them (Genesis 50:15–18). He had already forgiven, already submitted vengeance to God, and already accepted that he was not in any position to question God's choices (Genesis 50:19).

Joseph does not downplay what they did to him. Selling him into slavery as a teenage boy was evil (Genesis 37:26–28), and they meant it for evil—there was no good intention behind their act. They know full well they are guilty of that (Genesis 42:21–22). As he has done before (Genesis 45:5–7), Joseph insists that God's power and God's plan for His people is more powerful than the ability of mere human beings to do evil to each other. He is convinced that not only was God ultimately responsible for allowing the evil act to happen, but He also mysteriously built it into a larger plan to save His people—and many others—from the ravages of a deadly drought.

Without his thirteen years of suffering (Genesis 37:2; 41:46), Joseph would not have been gifted with eighty years of immense power and prestige (Genesis 41:46; 50:26). Joseph even named his two eldest sons in recognition of this (Genesis 41:50–52). Both during and after his hard times, Joseph always maintained faith that God was in control.

To the modern world, this is a startling and unusual perspective. And yet, it's how God asks Christians to view our lives, as well. Romans 8:28 insists that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." As Joseph's example clearly shows, this is not a promise that evil will never happen to God's people. Rather, it is assurance that He still cares for us (Romans 8:31) and that nothing will separate us from His love for us in Christ (Romans 8:34–38).
What is the Gospel?
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