Summary: The message deals with the context in which Joseph grew up.
Genesis 37 What a family background!!
In Britain there are a couple of TV programs that are called this: One is called “holidays from hell” –explain-. The other is called “neighbors from hell”.
I remember watching a program about a family that was described by their neighbors as a family from Hell. The man and woman who were living together had each been married before one of them a couple of times.
There were several children in the home, with only two of them sharing the same father and mother. The parents were loud and abusive not only to each other but also to others in the street. Every other word they spoke was a swear word.
They were frequently drunk and quite violent. The effect this had upon the children was somewhat predictable. Growing up in such an atmosphere they were very quick to pick up on and copy the character traits of their parents.
They too were cheeky, violent, abusive, using foul language and so on. Their home environment certainly played a significant role in shaping and molding their character and their conduct.
The sins of the parents were reproduced in their children. Modern day Psychologists tell us that we are the product of our upbringing and that our family background and relationships will determine how we will turn out as adults.
That’s why when a person goes for counseling one of the first areas that the counselor will explore will be ones childhood and family background. Now if this is true then we would expect to see this principle being worked out in the life of Joseph.
1) His family background
What was Joseph’s family background like? What were the influences to which he was subjected as he was growing up in his home? And how did those influences affect Joseph in those formative years of his life?
As you study Joseph’s family background you soon discover that it was a seed-bed of deception, of rivalry, of in-fighting, of jealousy, of hatred, of immorality of cruelty and much more besides. It certainly wasn’t the sort of family from which one would have expected such a godly young man as Joseph to emerge.
On the human level the family influences and examples, of parents and of older brothers, that Joseph was exposed to, from his earliest days, were predominantly sinful.
Were it not for the grace of God and the sovereign purpose of God in relation to the life of this young man, those sinful negative influences could so easily have so molded him in his character that he would have turned out to be just as sinful in his attitudes and conduct as the rest of the members of his family.
Let’s have a look then, for a few minutes, at his family background. To say that Joseph’s family was a dysfunctional family is something of an understatement.
One has to go back into the earlier narratives of the book of Genesis to fit the various pieces of the jig-saw of Joseph’s family background together.
And as you pick up the various pieces you discover that one of the pieces of that jig-saw has the word Deception written across it in bold letters, because deception was woven into the very fabric of this familie’s life.
Jacob, Joseph’s father was a deceiver from his earliest days, and he learned the art of deception and was encouraged in the practice of it by his mother Rebekah.
And as you read the history of this family circle you discover one case of deception after another. You recall for example, how encouraged by and conspiring with his mother Rebekah, Jacob deceived his ageing and almost blind father Isaac into bestowing the blessing of the family inheritance upon him instead of his brother Esau who was the rightful heir as the eldest of the two sons. (Gen27).
You remember how as a result of that deception there developed such a hatred towards Jacob on the part of Esau that Esau vowed to kill Jacob.
That led in turn to Rebekah once again demonstrating her lying and deceptive streak by persuading Isaac to send Jacob away to Laban to supposedly look for a wife when in fact the real reason was to save her favorite son’s skin from his brothers murderous intentions. (End of Gen 27).
Then as you follow the story through you discover that Laban, Rebekah’s brother, also manifested this particular personal characteristic of deception, when he deceived Jacob on his wedding night by giving him Leah as his wife, instead of Rachel whom he loved.
I don’t know how Jacob fell for that. My mum always tells me open your eyes very wide before you get married because after that you will have to close them many times.
Then there was further scheming and deception in the business deal that Jacob and Laban struck up over the division of their livestock with each trying to get the better of the other.