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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 3, 2016

Genesis 37:1:25

  1. We will now transition from Jacob’s story to his son Joseph. This will take up the last quarter of the book of Genesis. Moses spends much time on this because this explains how the Children of Israel ended up in Egypt and why they are returning back to this land. As the children of Israel were leaving Egypt, I am sure some asked why are we going to this land. This part of the book of Genesis begins to answer those questions. God only intended for the Children of Israel to stay in Egypt for a season. God allowed their situation to become harsh so that they would want to leave. Brothers and sisters some places are only seasonal, and God will sometimes make things uncomfortable so you will want to leave. Moses, inspired by the Lord is showing the Israelites their history. It is important to know your history. The Israelites needed to know their past so they could walk into their future.

  2. Verses 1-4. We are told that Jacob stayed in the land of Canaan and his sons were shepherding flocks. We are quickly introduced to Joseph who is 17 at the time. Joseph is tending his father's flock “with his brothers,” the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah (i.e., Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, Gen. 35:25-26). The text says that Joseph brought a bad report to his father concerning his brothers. The reference to the “bad report” is not very specific. This is to help us see that Joseph was not well liked by his brothers. We don't have any reason to think that Joseph lied about this report. From further readings about Joseph he seems to be a person who was a stickler for excellence. His brothers however didn't like his detail oriented perspective. It is tough to take criticism, especially when it is true. We know Jacob had a penchant for details especially when it came to his flock. He probably saw the same thing in Joseph. In his admiration of his son, he did something that we must be careful of, and that is partiality or favoritism. The text says that Joseph made his dad feel young because Joseph was born in his old age, but joseph wasn't the youngest, Benjamin was. It seems like Jacob admired Joseph's business acumen. The only problem with this is that he is falling into the same trap that his parents did with him and Esau. Favoritism damaged his relationship with his brother and it will do the same here. Jacob decided to give his son a fabulous coat. A coat that he could wear all the time that highlighted that he was favored by his father. It was a garment that distinguished its wearer as a person of special distinction, who was not required to do the ordinary work of laborers. It marked Joseph as a “white collar worker,” while his brothers were mere “blue collar workers.” Joseph's brothers hated this garment and what it symbolized, for their first act of violence was to strip his coat from him (37:23). Nothing was wrong with the coat, except no one else received a coat, and that made his brother's jealous. His brothers were so jealous they would not speak to him. Now they could have asked what could they do to get a coat, but no one did. Instead of being jealous ask what you can do to get the same. Favoritism breeds jealousy.

  3. Verses 5-11. Moses must now answer the question of how Joseph ended up in Egypt. in the next few verse we will see how this all starts. Joseph has a series of dreams where the point of the dream was that at some point in the future his brothers and his parents would have to reverence him as their superior. Joseph has two dreams in this section. Dreams in the Joseph narrative come in pairs (Gen 40-41) to show that the matter is firmly decided by God and will come quickly (see 41:32). An isolated dream might be misinterpreted. Two dreams with the same meaning confirm the interpretation. Joseph's first dream involves sheaves, which subtly points to his future role in overseeing all of Egypt's grain distribution. Amazingly, 23 years later, in fulfillment of Joseph's dream, all eleven of his brothers would bow themselves in submission to Joseph, on at least five different occasions (42:6-7; 43:26, 28; 44:14-16; 50:18). Joseph's second dream is far more graphic. It involves celestial imagery bowing down to him. It doesn't take a scholar to interpret this dream! All of Joseph’s brothers interpret his dream accurately. Basically he was saying he would be greater than his father and mother. There seems to be both faith and foolishness resident in Joseph sharing his dreams. Since God intervened in Joseph's life and he shared his dreams with his family, there is evidence of faith. Joseph took God's revelation that involved other people and shared it with them. He is being faithful to God's initiative to reveal the future to his brothers. By boldly relating his dreams to his family, he demonstrates his faith that God revealed these dreams to him. Yet most Bible students argue that Joseph is guilty of outright foolishness and even sinful boasting. Joseph would have been wise to share his dreams with his dad, receive confirmation from him, and then decide whether or not to share them with his brothers. Both of these suggestions seem to carry some weight. God used Joseph’s boasting and his brother's jealousy to accomplish his goal of getting Joseph to Egypt.

  4. Verses 12-17. It was not uncommon for shepherds to lead their flocks many miles from home in search of pasture. Shechem was about 50 miles north of Hebron. Jacob owned land there, but most likely didn't want his boys there nor his flocks. He had fled that area years before when his boys killed many people there. Is Shechem a nice town? No! Are Jacob’s sons nice boys? No! Whatever is going on in Shechem is not good! Yet, willingly Joseph obeys his father's commission. The boys aren't even there. We learn that the boys had traveled 15 miles north of Shechem to “Dothan.” Clearly, the brothers didn't want to be followed. They were likely not doing what they were supposed to do. Why does Jacob send his beloved son to check on his brothers? There's a clue in 37:14: Jacob wanted Joseph to check on “the welfare of the flock.” Apparently, Jacob still struggles with greed. He wants to make sure that his wealth continues (30:43). His sons have strayed like he did. Jacob took his flocks toward Shechem, and now his boys do the same except they go even further.

  5. Verses 18-20. When Joseph reaches his brothers. Suddenly the narrative is given from the brothers’ perspective. Can't you hear the sarcasm in their voices? The brothers saw Joseph coming. They hated him. They ridiculed him. They decided to kill him. Nothing good can ever come from plotting to kill another person. And yet the brothers are plotting to kill Joseph. They concoct a story to explain his disappearance. The brothers revealed the real reason for wanting to murder him. They say, “We shall then see what will become of his dreams.”

  6. Verses 21-25. Reuben was the oldest. He was the firstborn. He was the decision-maker in the family. He was apparently not part of the family group that was plotting to kill Joseph. That consisted probably of sons Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher--the four sons against whom Joseph brought a bad report (37:2). If you recall from 35:22, Reuben committed incest with his father's concubine, Bilhah, stripping himself of the privileges of the first-born son. But despite his previous failure, he still felt the weight of responsibility and was compelled to do what he could to rescue his brother. But instead of simply standing up to his brothers and saying, “This is wrong! We can't do this!” he tries a subtle approach by appealing to the logic and advantage of not shedding Joseph's blood. He planned to free Joseph later and restore him to his father (37:22), perhaps as a way to get back on his dad's good side (after sleeping with his concubine). Once Joseph was in the pit, Reuben went off, perhaps to check on the flocks. The other brothers decided to have lunch after they put Joseph in the pit. They are ruthless and cold. All they care about is their stomach. There is no sense of guilt, no remorse, not even a loss of appetite. The next time the brothers would eat a meal in Joseph’s presence he would sit at the head table (43:32-34).

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