If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, let me tell you something: not all of God’s people are wise, and some aren’t even very polite. Is that good? No. But does God use not-so-amazing personality types to do amazing things? You bet.
In this story there is a father who plays favorites, a youngest son who seems like quite the braggart, and a bunch of brothers who are so unhappy the both of them that they are willing to kill one and lie to the other about it. Do you know what the primary theme of this passage is? Hope. That sounds pretty crazy, I agree, but it’s true. The hope introduced here is not found in any of these people–it’s found in their God. Oh, and for the record, I am not asserting that all of those murderous brothers are people of God, at least not yet.
Before things get really ugly (and, you should know, they are going to get a whole lot uglier as we read more in the days to come*), Joseph is given a dream that foreshadows his life. However, the dream is a metaphor, so most of the people (i.e., the brothers) who hear about it don’t see it as the beacon of hope that it is, so they become resolved to make sure it never comes to pass. And that wasn’t an accident, or even coincidence. God does what He does to bring about His ultimate purposes. Humans, shortsighted as we are, see that “A” leads to “B”, and if we don’t like the way things are going, we are ready to turn things in another direction–our own way. We often fail to sit tight and wait to see what God might bring about with steps “C,” “D,” E, ” etc. And God doesn’t mind if we’re upset and seek answers. He might not give the answers we want, but there is always a dialog to be had. When we listen as well as speak, He sometimes even shows us rays of hope, like the unlikely “ray of hope” that Jacob’s dreams were. They didn’t seem to offer hope to Joseph’s father or brothers at that moment, but within a few years, if only they could think back upon them, they would have offered much hope in a very dark time.
*The first part of this text can be found below, but for the rest of the story, read Genesis chapters 39-46. I will address the rest of the text on this blog in the days to come, but this is a gripping story, and I don’t want to hold you back if you are reading this for the first time.
“Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob.
“Jacob, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. and he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
“Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.’ His brothers said to him, ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
“Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, ‘Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your bother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?’ And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
“Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? come, I will send you to them.’ and he said to him, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.’ so he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. And a man found him wandering in t he fields. and the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said,. ‘Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ And the man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
“They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.’ But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ And Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this [it here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him’ – that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
“then they sat down to eat. and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
“When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes and returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?’ Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. and they sent the rove of many colors and brought it to their father and said, ‘This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.’ And he identified it and said, ‘It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal had devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.’ Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, the captain of the guard.” – Genesis 37:1-36