Here comes that dreamer! . . . . Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams!” –Genesis 37:19-20
While chapter 36 depicts Esau’s descendants as mighty kings and chieftains, Jacob’s descendants continue to struggle. Fast forward 400 years from Jacob’s day and Israel is enslaved under Egypt’s harsh rule until they escape under Moses’ leadership. And while Edom—an established nation—has power to refuse their “brother” Israel passage through their land, Israel still has no claim in land ownership.
The last 14 chapters of Genesis (37-50) primarily focuses on Joseph, the obvious favorite son of Jacob (and firstborn of Rachel). In fact, the story of Joseph comprises one fourth of the entire book of Genesis. However, a few references of Jacob’s other 11 sons are also mentioned.
You may read Genesis 37 here: Bible Gateway.
Seventeen year-old Joseph probably held his head high and maybe walked with a strut. Not only did he have insight into God’s plans for his future, but he also was Jacob’s favorite as signified by the richly ornamented robe given to him. This only further fueled the fire of rivalry with his 10 older brothers. For they were constantly reminded that they didn’t measure up in their father’s eyes. Not like golden boy, Joseph.
If that weren’t bad enough, Joseph told his brothers of his dreams.
Joseph’s dreams always come in pairs, (perhaps for confirmation). His first dream involves sheaves. These symbolize his future role in overseeing the grain distribution in Egypt. The second dream involves the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing down to him. The fulfillment of these dreams happen 23 years later when all 11 brothers submit to Joseph at least five different times (46:6-7; 43:26, 28; 44:14-16; 50:18).
Maybe Joseph shared his dreams in faith. However, the boys didn’t take the dreams lightly. And they hate him all the more.
Joseph’s Brothers Conspire
In their jealousy, Joseph’s brothers conspire to kill Joseph. (This probably involves Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher whom Joseph gives a bad report in verse 2.) But Reuben the first-born advocates for Joseph: “Why kill him? Let’s just throw him into a well!” (What a thoughtful guy!)
Although his plan was to rescue Joseph, Reuben’s concern appears to be more about himself if his brother is killed, rather than concerned for Joseph’s fate (vs. 29-30).
Judah also persuades the guys not to kill Joseph. Instead, why not make some money and let someone else do the dirty work?
So after ripping off Joseph’s robe and throwing him into a dry well, they drag him back out and sell him to some traveling Ishmaelite merchants. (Nice brothers!)
But God is in control of Joseph’s life.
Joseph ends up being sold to one of Pharoah’s officials, Potiphar, captain of the guard. And where most would fail, Joseph survives. When we continue his saga, we’ll see that with his knowledge of God—sculpted by pain—Joseph adds quiet wisdom to his confidence.
Meanwhile, Jacob (though blessed by God) meets up with his previous trail of deceit. But this time his sons deceive him into thinking that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. In his grief, he refuses any comfort.
Favoritism seems to be a theme in Jacob’s family history. Isaac favored Esau. Rebekah preferred Jacob. Jacob desired Rachel. And in Jacob’s old age, Joseph is the apple of his eye.
Favoritism breeds rivalry and division. Feelings about a child may be difficult to change. But as parents and grandparents, we can change our actions of giving special treatment to one over another.
The time to deal with jealousy is when we find ourselves keeping score with what others have.
Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy over a robe and anger over a couple of dreams grew into a blinding monstrous rage. Worried about carrying the guilt of Joseph’s death, they chose the lesser of two evils by selling him as a slave instead. Although they avoided murder, their action was still wrong.
When faced with problem solving, let’s first ask, “Is this right?”
Have a great weekend!