Genesis – First, God
No one likes a tattletale. No one. We don’t like it in the work place, at home, on the playground, and especially in our family. It seems the younger kid in the family uses tattling to gain recognition and power withing the family dynamics. On the playground the tattler is usually the kid pushed away because he/she isn’t worthy of playing their game for some unknown reason. In the workplace the tattler is the one who is manipulating the boss for advancement by putting others down, jealous of the success coworkers are having.
A boss, parent, teacher and others who show favoritism to a child/coworker/sibling/church attender develops this human into a hated snitch. Jealousy of the favored flourishes and grows rapidly like a cancer. A wise parent, boss, or teacher does not foster tattling in others. Instead they stay on top of the behaviors of others by being present and involved, not relying on the words of the tattler to give you updates or “situational reports”.
Jacob, not trusting the behaviors of his blended family members relies on Joseph to tell him when the brothers get out of line or as in the military, “sit-reps”. He is even rewarded for it with fancy clothes! No one likes a tattler! In the case of young Joseph, being favored by Jacob, now creates a jealousy that is out of control. His half brothers want to kill him.
God protected him from death by giving the brothers a softer heart who merely thrown him down a well and then later decide to make a little money and sell him as a slave to be taken to a faraway country. Okay, that’s better. Wait, what?!
Genesis 37, The Message
Meanwhile Jacob had settled down where his father had lived, the land of Canaan.
Joseph and His Brothers
2 This is the story of Jacob. The story continues with Joseph, seventeen years old at the time, helping out his brothers in herding the flocks. These were his half brothers actually, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought his father bad reports on them.
3-4 Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.
5-7 Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said, “Listen to this dream I had. We were all out in the field gathering bundles of wheat. All of a sudden my bundle stood straight up and your bundles circled around it and bowed down to mine.”
8 His brothers said, “So! You’re going to rule us? You’re going to boss us around?” And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.
9 He had another dream and told this one also to his brothers: “I dreamed another dream—the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to me!”
10-11 When he told it to his father and brothers, his father reprimanded him: “What’s with all this dreaming? Am I and your mother and your brothers all supposed to bow down to you?” Now his brothers were really jealous; but his father brooded over the whole business.
12-13 His brothers had gone off to Shechem where they were pasturing their father’s flocks. Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are with flocks in Shechem. Come, I want to send you to them.”
Joseph said, “I’m ready.”
14 He said, “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are doing and bring me back a report.” He sent him off from the valley of Hebron to Shechem.
15 A man met him as he was wandering through the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 “I’m trying to find my brothers. Do you have any idea where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 The man said, “They’ve left here, but I overheard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph took off, tracked his brothers down, and found them in Dothan.
18-20 They spotted him off in the distance. By the time he got to them they had cooked up a plot to kill him. The brothers were saying, “Here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these old cisterns; we can say that a vicious animal ate him up. We’ll see what his dreams amount to.”
21-22 Reuben heard the brothers talking and intervened to save him, “We’re not going to kill him. No murder. Go ahead and throw him in this cistern out here in the wild, but don’t hurt him.” Reuben planned to go back later and get him out and take him back to his father.
23-24 When Joseph reached his brothers, they ripped off the fancy coat he was wearing, grabbed him, and threw him into a cistern. The cistern was dry; there wasn’t any water in it.
25-27 Then they sat down to eat their supper. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way from Gilead, their camels loaded with spices, ointments, and perfumes to sell in Egypt. Judah said, “Brothers, what are we going to get out of killing our brother and concealing the evidence? Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let’s not kill him—he is, after all, our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 By that time the Midianite traders were passing by. His brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites who took Joseph with them down to Egypt.
29-30 Later Reuben came back and went to the cistern—no Joseph! He ripped his clothes in despair. Beside himself, he went to his brothers. “The boy’s gone! What am I going to do!”
31-32 They took Joseph’s coat, butchered a goat, and dipped the coat in the blood. They took the fancy coat back to their father and said, “We found this. Look it over—do you think this is your son’s coat?”
33 He recognized it at once. “My son’s coat—a wild animal has eaten him. Joseph torn limb from limb!”
34-35 Jacob tore his clothes in grief, dressed in rough burlap, and mourned his son a long, long time. His sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he refused their comfort. “I’ll go to the grave mourning my son.” Oh, how his father wept for him.
36 In Egypt the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, manager of his household affairs.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
The chief actor in the Jacob section of Genesis will be Joseph, who is mentioned twice as many times as is his father in the next fourteen chapters. Jacob won’t be ignored, but it’s Joseph who will occupy center stage.
This is a fascinating story involving a doting father, a pampered son, some jealous brothers, a conniving wife, and an international food crisis. It is the story that novels and plays are built upon. But it is so much more. When we go deeper, we will discover a story abounding with profound theological implications. The hand of God is evident in every scene, ruling and overruling the decisions people make, and in the end, God builds a hero, saves a family, and creates a nation that will bring blessing to the whole world.
Yes, behind this story is the heart of the covenant-making God, who always keeps His promises. It is and always will be about God, our Father. Hold this in mind as we read and meditate on the story of God in Jacob’s family.
KEEP THIS IN MIND…
As Christian believers, there’s another level to the story, for Joseph is one of the richest illustrations of Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament. Joseph is like Jesus in that he was beloved by his father and obedient to his will; hated and rejected by his own brethren and sold as a slave; falsely accused and unjustly punished; finally elevated from the place of suffering to a powerful throne, thus saving his people from death. The major difference, of course, is that Joseph, human, was only reported to be dead, while Jesus Christ, Son of God, did give His life on the cross and was raised from the dead in order to save us.
Genesis 37 unfolds the destructive dynamics of a family that knew the true and living God and yet sinned against Him and each other by what they said and did. The presence of Joseph in the home didn’t create problems so much as reveal them. Consider the destructive forces at work in this family, forces that God in His grace overruled for their good. Where sin abounded, grace abounded more (Rom. 5:20).
What are destructive forces at work in our families?
Who are we blaming?
What are we doing about those forces aimed at destroying our beloved relationships?
Are we allowing God to rule or the evil one?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Sometimes, nearly always, Your Word is personal. Continue to do your work in us until we reflect you. Your love, mercy and grace abounds. Thank you for your patience with us. Transform us from the inside out. May our story reflect your story of abounding grace.
In Jesus Name, Amen