Summary: Joseph had it all - favored by his father, in a position of power - yet God moved him out of the place of having it all to having nothing. What does that teach us?
Sometimes when we think about the patriarchs and the leaders of the tribes of Israel they take on sort of a patina glow – a sort of holiness – like they were not quite human. But here in chapters 37 and 38 we see the very human nature of Jacob’s twelve sons. We see the dirt swept under the carpet come out (like the time I replaced my carpet with hardwood flooring and saw the ugly smelly mess that had been hidden all those years).
In our lives it gives us insight into dealing with our own relationships, jealousies, anger, and hypocrisy – showing us how not to behave – and we see hints of real character and the transformation that comes with a relationship with God. We also see the Lord once again protect the Messianic line that is in danger of being snuffed out.
Year: 1,998 BC
Verses 1 – 2
Although it says “this is the account of Jacob” in reality the rest of the book (with the exception of chapter 38) is really about Joseph.
Joseph is 17 years old – almost the youngest. Bringing a “bad report” would have really stung the older brothers. If you had younger brothers or sisters you likely encountered a similar thing: “I’m going to tell Daddy what you did” says the younger sibling.
It doesn’t say if the other sons of Israel were doing anything wrong – but we do know from Joseph’s character later on that brutal honesty and integrity were hallmarks of his life.
Be that as it may – we also find out that Joseph had a ready listening ear in Jacob:
Verses 3 – 4
Apparently Jacob’s love for Rachael has been transferred in favoritism towards Joseph. As parents we often tried to make sure our kids knew we loved each one of them equally – but here Jacob doesn’t try to hide it at all – giving Joseph a “coat of many colors.” This figures prominently into the story.
Even before the dreams that Joseph is so famous for – we hear that the other boys hate him. It says they “could not speak a kind word to him.” This meant they wouldn’t even greet him (shalom). Imagine your own brothers just pretending you aren’t even there!
Isn’t it amazing how much trouble honesty can get you in? You’d think God would just take it easy on Joseph – he’s already got enough trouble – but then he brings these dreams which just inflame the boys even more!
It reminds me of Jesus.
Mark 14:61-64 Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." 63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
Sometimes you just have to stick to the truth, even if you know it is leading you down a path that will get you into more trouble than you are already in. Now that doesn’t mean to be rude about it – but I think sometimes we hold back when someone has baited the hook – and we don’t really witness as to who we are in Christ. Word to the wise.
Verses 5 – 8
Joseph seems so innocent in this. It’s like he wakes up and can’t wait to share this dream with the others. Had he a sense of what they meant he might have kept quiet. Had he been of any other kind of character (ie: arrogant) he would have spread it abroad with satisfaction and glee. But he just shares it – as if everyone would marvel at what God was doing.
I think the marvelous innocence of young faith too often gets trounced by us old and crotchety Christians. A young believer experiences the love and forgiveness of God and they want to shout it from the rooftops. We say to ourselves – “just wait till they get trounced by the enemy a few times.” Perhaps we are too quick to squelch young faith.
Anyway – the brothers hate Joseph all the more – but it’s not over yet!
Verses 9 – 11
The stars, of course, are the other brothers – and the moon and sun are Jacob and Rachel. Even Jacob rebukes Joseph for presumption – but doesn’t dismiss it outright.
Reminds me of Mary – in Luke 2 the shepherds said all kinds of things about her son – she “treasured” them in her heart. Perhaps Jacob knows there is some hidden truth to this, but isn’t sure what it is yet.