Summary: God is aware of our sufferings and He’s able to help us in them but even more: He’s designed them and intentionally given them to us. These little things are always right on schedule and are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us!
Genesis shows us the lives of many of the Israelite fathers. We’ve gone from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and now we’ll see Joseph. But it’s important to remember that none of these are the main character. If we look at the Bible as a whole then we know that the Main Character is Jesus Christ, and all these genealogies and types culminate in Him. That’s especially important to remember in Genesis 37 because God is never mentioned though He’s obviously present.
Everything in this story is directed by Him in order to fulfill the promise made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all the rest: there will be a Redeemer and a blessed people. The Redeemer and the people will suffer and sometimes feel abandoned but all things work together for their good. I can’t think of a more evangelistic and hopeful book and chapter than Genesis 37.
It begins with a contrast against Esau:
And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
Esau had settled in the land of Seir. He joined with the kings there and had much success, but he had to leave the Promised Land to do it. Jacob however dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger. He continued to live in the place where he had no permanent dwelling because this was the place God had promised. My mind goes to Hebrews 11 where we read that “By faith [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).
2These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Here’s the first strike against Joseph. They were doing something wrong and Joseph told on them for it. Don’t mistake this as a little thing. The light reveals wicked deeds so evil men hate the light.
3Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. 4And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Here’s the second strike against Joseph. Not only did Jacob love him more, he made a coat to show it. The blatant favoritism made the brothers hate him more than they can stand. They can’t even speak peaceably to him.
5And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
Here’s the third strike and the one that makes them try to kill him.
6And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
They hate him for having the dream and they hate him for telling them about it. How can he, one of the youngest brothers, rule over them? He’s nothing more than a shepherd.
9And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
He has a second dream (which he later tells Pharaoh is confirmation that a dream will come true; Gen. 41:32), and this time he also tells his father. Jacob initially rebuked him, but he was no stranger to dreams and being at odds with family. He “observed” the saying and stored it away in the back of mind. He’ll have to watch and see if this thing really is from God or not.
12And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
Don’t forget what Simeon and Levi did to the Shechemites. This was a dangerous place for them to be because any of the surrounding people might know who they are and seek revenge on them.