Joseph Sold Into Slavery, Genesis 37

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

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

Joseph is sent to check on his brothers who were tending flocks. Shechem was about 50 miles north of Hebron.

Joseph is sent to check on his brothers who were tending flocks. Shechem was about 50 miles north of Hebron. . . . Bought as a piece of merchandise, Joseph would probably be chained and forced to walk the 30-day trek across the desert while being treated like baggage. Egypt would be a major culture shock for this young shepherd nomad. Although he would see gorgeous homes, grand pyramids, and witness the world’s most advanced civilization, he would also be thrust into a dark culture of countless gods.

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.

Reflect

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!

 

Jacob’s Children, Genesis 29:31-30:22

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” –Genesis 30:1

With Jacob’s double marriage to Leah and Rachel, the sisters’ jealousy and rivalry isn’t a surprise. Each sister wants what the other has: Leah longs for Jacob’s love. She strives to earn his affection by bearing him children. Rachel already has Jacob’s love, but she envy’s Leah’s ability to bear children.

For all of Leah and Rachel’s efforts in their bitter childbearing race, it is God who opens the womb.

You may read Genesis 29:31-30:22 here: Bible Gateway.

All of the great patriarch’s (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) had wives who struggled conceiving. While Jacob followed Grandpa Abraham’s example of having relations with his maidservant in order to have his own child, Isaac chose another path. Instead of following the legal and culturally accepted practice of having children through his wife’s maidservant, he prayed to God when Rebekah was barren. God eventually answered his prayer and blessed Rebekah with twins.

Jacob’s children

The twelve tribes of Israel descend from a very blended and conflicted family. The following chart shows Jacob’s children in the order they were born.

12_sons_of_jacob-12_tribes_of_israel_chart

Names in the Old Testament

Names in the Old Testament were often given to reflect the situation at the time of birth. Sometimes a person’s name was later changed because his/her name and character didn’t match.

Six of Israel’s tribes descend from Leah. She birthed the following children.

  • Reuben means “see, a son”.
  • Simeon means “hear” or “listen”.
  • Levi means “attached” or “associated”. The royal priesthood descends from Levi’s tribe.
  • Judah means “praise”. The Messiah would come from this tribe.
  • Issachar sounds like the Hebrew word for “reward”.
  • Zebulun probably means “honor”.
  • Leah’s seventh baby was a girl (Dinah).

In Rachel’s frustration of infertility, she adopts her maidservant Bilbah’s babies. Rachel falsely assumes God is pleased with this move. Bilbah birthed two boys.

  • Dan means “He has vindicated me”.
  • Naphtali means “my struggle”.

When Leah isn’t pregnant, she also offers Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah, who births two boys.

  • Gad means “good fortune” or “a troop”.
  • Asher means “happy”.

After 14 years of infertility, Rachel births Joseph. She would also eventually birth Benjamin.

  • Joseph means “may he add”.
  • Benjamin means “son of my right hand”.

Reflect

Although Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, he would have saved his family some grief if he would have considered the long term consequences of taking both Leah and Rachel’s maidservants as concubines. However, the most heated rivalry sparked between Leah and Rachel’s children (and descended tribes).

When Rachel couldn’t bear children she lost sight of Jacob’s commitment to her. Instead of accepting what he had already given her—devoted love—seeds of envy toward Leah took root. Heated competition of who could give Jacob the most children sprouted thorns of disunity among the family.

Rachel’s attempt to earn what Jacob had already given her, (love), paints a bigger picture. Perhaps the following question is what we should ask ourselves: Like Rachel, are we trying to earn God’s love?

Without God’s Word, it’s easy to believe these false ideas: 1) We’re good enough—at least better than many—to earn God’s love; 2) God’s love will never be ours because we can never attain it.

While it’s true that we can’t earn God’s love, we can know His love because He gives it freely. If the Bible only paints one picture, it’s this: God loves us! The vibrancy of His incredible mercy and patience are highlighted throughout His Word. He already took care of the problem that separates us from Him—our sin—when He sacrificed His Son on the cross.

When we accept and embrace God’s love, we are free from striving to earn His approval. We can walk with Him in joy and thankfulness.