Joseph, Son of Jacob
The story of Joseph is found in the Book of Genesis, from Genesis 37 though To demonstrate this preference, Jacob gifts Joseph with the famous kitonet. Joseph obtained the birthright in Israel because Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob's first wife, lost the privilege by transgression (1 Chr. –2). Because he was. Joseph is an important figure in the Bible's Book of Genesis. Sold into slavery by his jealous Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, lived in the land of Canaan with ten half-brothers, one full brother, and at least one half-sister. He was Rachel's.
To his great relief, he was seen by the crew and rescued. Once on board, the grateful survivor went to the captain of the ship to express his thanks.
The very thing which seemed to seal the doom of this marooned man was the means of his delivery. What seemed to spell disaster for him became an instrument of his salvation. That is precisely the case with Joseph and Jacob in Genesis A tragic and cruel event occurred which, to Jacob, brought his world to an end.
Life was hardly worth living, he reasoned, because he had lost the one thing which meant the most to him. But in the end, the loss of Joseph for a period of years was the means God employed to save the nation from starvation and, worse yet, from a loss of purity by being absorbed into the culture and religion of the Canaanites.
The emotional intensity of the events of this episode in the life of Jacob and his sons is difficult for us to appreciate. We come to this 37th chapter of Genesis in much the same way as we would watch the video replay of a week-old football game.
We know the outcome of the story. Only in the throes of crisis or tragedy can we fully appreciate what Jacob is experiencing in this chapter.
A Few Observations I have chosen to briefly pass over the details of Genesis 36 because the primary purpose of this chapter has already been realized. You see, the first readers of this chapter were the Israelites who were about to cross over the River Jordan to possess the land of Canaan and to annihilate the Canaanites cf. There were, however, some people who were not to be attacked or annihilated, among whom were the Edomites, the descendants of Esau: That record is the substance of chapter As you can see, this has no direct bearing upon Christians in our age, while it was indispensable for the first readers of this account.
Having said this, I do not wish to leave the impression that there is no value for us in these verses. I would like to suggest two avenues of consideration for us today.
First, I am impressed with the fact that Esau was a very gracious man. While he had in the heat of anger threatened to kill his brother for his deception, he received him warmly Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land away from his brother Jacob.
For their property had become too great for them to live together, and the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. I have maintained that had God elected one or the other of these twins on the basis of likeability He would probably have chosen Esau. At least that is who I would have chosen. While Esau had no regard for spiritual things Genesis Finally, while Esau was rejected on a spiritual plane, he was nonetheless a recipient of the common grace of God.
These are the records of the generations of Jacob. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.
And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. Or are you really going to rule over us? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?
Joseph is certainly the central figure in these chapters, but he is not the only figure. God is forming a nation out of all the sons of Jacob. Generally we tend to think of Joseph as a small lad years of age who is a tattletale on his big brothers.
That is hardly a crime which deserves death, and it does not fit the details of the account. Joseph is not 7 years old, but 17 Now in some senses this is young, but in the Ancient Near East girls of this age were often already married for example, Dinah It is my contention that Joseph was rejected by his brothers because of the authority he exercised over them, even though he was their younger brother.
Seventeen was not necessarily young for such authority, but it was younger than his older brothers, and this was indeed a bitter pill for them to swallow.
Several convincing lines of evidence converge to document this assertion: George Bush, author of the classic commentary on the book of Genesis, strongly holds to the most literal and normal rendering of verse 2, of which he writes, … literally was tending, or acting the shepherd over, his brethren in the flock. However uncouth to our ears the phraseology, this is undoubtedly the exact rendering and the import of the words we take to be that Joseph was charged with the superintendence of his brethren, particularly the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah.
Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph… I Chronicles 5: While it is not until chapter 49 that this transfer is formally stated by Jacob, the sin which precipitated it has already been recorded in Genesis It is not unlikely that Jacob expressed his intentions much sooner than this to his sons and even began to give Joseph preeminence over his brothers by this time.
Further details seem to demonstrate this. Furthermore, this coat indicated more than preference; it symbolized preeminence and superiority of rank. No one really knows exactly what this coat looked like. While there is considerable conjecture on this matter of the coat, one thing is certain.
There it is employed for the coat which was worn by Tamar, the daughter of David. While other things may have been symbolized by this garment such as virginitythe coat was an evidence of royalty. A footnote on verse 2 in the margin of the Berkeley Version 27 suggests that the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah would be less disciplined since they were the sons of pagan mothers, while Leah and Rachel would reflect the relatively more godly training of Laban.
There is little doubt that both Bilhah and Zilpah would be on a socially lower plane than Leah and Rachel since the former were mere concubines, while the latter were full-fledged wives. This social stratification would naturally be reflected in the sons of these women, and so it is not difficult to believe that Jacob would have put Joseph in charge of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah.
Joseph at 17 was no tattletale. This can hardly be the case. When Jacob asked Joseph to go to Shechem to check up on his sons and on his flocks verseshe was not sending Joseph around the corner to spy upon and then tattle on his brothers.
It was 50 miles or more to Shechem and about 70 miles to Dothan! Since Shechem had been the scene of the slaughter of the men of that city years before It was the kind of responsibility that he would give only to one who had proven his capabilities as a leader. A sensitive and potentially dangerous mission would not be given to a son without reliability and authority.
And when the plot to kill him is first conceived, the dreams are a prominent part of their hostility and motivation: Idle or fanciful dreams provide an occasion only for laughter. Under most circumstances the worst that might be considered would be that Joseph needed to be put into a padded cell for his own protection.
Joseph, I have maintained, was rejected by his brethren because they deeply resented the authority his father had granted him over them, especially when they reasoned that it should be theirs.
Was this not the very root reason for the rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders of His day? When Jesus taught the people, the response of the masses was significant: The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes Matthew 7: All of these lines of evidence lead me to the same conclusion: Joseph was rejected by his brethren because he, the youngest of these men save Benjamin, of coursewas placed in a position of authority over them.Joseph And His Brothers, Jacob Goes To Egypt
Now it was only a matter of time and opportunity. That opportunity finally arrived when Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem. Come, and I will send you to them. Since Jacob had purchased land there But there was always the danger of some angry relative of one of those Shechemites who were killed or captured seeking vengeance. This seems to be what Joseph was sent to look into. Only a man with proven skill and wisdom would ever be sent to handle a task as sensitive and volatile as this.
Joseph wandered about the fields of Shechem in search of his brothers. Not willing to give up his search and return to his father without completing his task, Joseph went on to Dothan. While at a considerable distance Joseph was recognized by his brothers. They immediately conspired in a violent and daring plot which would rid them once and for all of their brother: When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.
So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it Genesis It may also have been that coat which triggered the pent-up feelings of jealousy and hostility toward the beloved son of their father.
They saw the great distance from their father and the remoteness of this spot as the ideal opportunity to do away with the threat which Joseph posed. The opportunity for a perfect alibi was also at hand, for wild animals were a threat to life and limb in the open field.
Only a bloody robe need be presented to Jacob. His imagination would take care of the rest. Reuben had good reason to hate his brother, for it was Joseph who would obtain the birthright that could have belonged to him.
But it seems that Reuben feared facing his father more than he hated Joseph. He was still the oldest of the family. Whether or not he had the rights of the first-born, he was still saddled with the responsibilities. I must admit, however, that I would not have wanted to stand up against these fellows either.
They were mean, really mean. The slaughter of the Shechemites was only one evidence of their brutal natures. Reuben therefore suggests that they kill Joseph without the shedding of blood.
Throw the boy in a cistern and let nature do him in. The idea had some definite advantages, and so the plan was agreed to. When Joseph arrived, his reception was far from friendly. They tore off his coat, the symbol of all that they rejected, and threw the defenseless young man into a pit. It is significant that this pit was empty, for normally it would have contained water. Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.
Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. Having thrown Joseph into the pit, they sat down to eat a meal. There is no loss of appetite, no sense of guilt or remorse.
And there is no pity, for they eat their meal probably well within hearing of the cries that were continuing to come from the bottom of the pit. While they were eating, a caravan of Ishmaelites approached them on their way to Egypt from Gilead verse Rather than leaving Joseph to die of starvation and exposure, why not sell him into slavery to these traders?
This would dispose of their problem, avoid the messy matter of murder, and get rid of any evidence of wrongdoing. Perhaps most appealing, it would provide them with a profit. While Reuben sought to return Joseph to his father, Judah is not said to have any such intention. While slavery may seem to be a more humane fate than death, some who lived in such a state of slavery might challenge this fact.
Selling a brother as a slave was hardly more commendable than putting him to death. In the end, Joseph was sold to the Midianite 30 traders for twenty shekels of silver, the price which Moses later fixed for a young slave boy Leviticus Reuben had been gone during the time his brothers sold Joseph to the traders. Very likely this was to distract their attention from Joseph in the hope of their leaving him quickly, so that he could return to rescue Joseph.
What a shock it must have been for him to return to the dry cistern and find Joseph gone. Reuben, as the oldest son, is the one who must face his father, and that to him is not a very pleasant thought. There is no gentle approach, no careful preparation for the tragic news, only the crude act of sending the bloody coat to him and letting him draw the desired conclusion. It was a heartless deed, but one that accurately depicted their spiritual condition at the time.
Like most of us, Jacob jumped to a conclusion, assuming the very worst had happened: A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces! Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And it was covered with blood. Such a blood-stained garment without a body led Jacob to the conclusion his sons desired: Joseph must have been attacked and devoured by a wild animal. Perhaps the brothers of Joseph prided themselves in the fact that they never said Joseph was dead.
Jacob seemed to have handled the death of Deborah There was no way that his children could comfort him. How hypocritical these efforts must have been anyway. Life for Jacob seemed hardly worth living any longer. The only thing Jacob could look forward to was the grave.
For many years Jacob would live with the lie that his son was dead. In one sense believing this was a gracious thing. Can you imagine the mental torment it would have been for Jacob to know what was actually happening to his son?
When he returned, the Vizier took Simeon and bound him as a hostage. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph had also returned their money to their money sacks.
What is the story of Joseph and his brothers?
They also discovered that all of their money sacks still had money in them, and they were dismayed. Then they informed their father that the Vizier demanded that Benjamin be brought before him to demonstrate that they were honest men. Jacob became greatly distressed feeling that they treated him badly.
After they had consumed all of the grain that they brought back from Egypt, Jacob told his sons to go back to Egypt for more grain.
With Reuben and Judah's persistence, they persuaded their father to let Benjamin join them for fear of Egyptian retribution. Sophia Church in OhridMacedonia Upon their return to Egypt, the brothers were received by the steward of the house of Joseph. When they were brought to Joseph's house, they were apprehensive about the returned money in their money sacks.
They thought that the missed transaction would somehow be used against them as way to induct them as slaves and confiscate their possessions.
Joseph and His Brothers
So they immediately informed the steward of what had transpired to get a feel of the situation. The steward put them at ease, telling them not to worry about the money, and brought out their brother Simeon. Then he brought the brothers into the house of Joseph and received them hospitably. When the Vizier Joseph appeared, they gave him gifts from their father. Joseph saw and inquired of Benjamin and was overcome by emotion but did not show it. He withdrew to his chambers and wept.
When he regained control of himself, he returned and ordered a meal to be served. The Egyptians would not dine with Hebrews at the same table, as doing so was considered loathsome, so the sons of Israel were served at a separate table. The money they brought was double what they had from the first trip.
Deceptively, Joseph also ordered that his silver cup be put in Benjamin's sack. The following morning the brothers began their journey back to Canaan. Joseph ordered the steward to go after the brothers and question them about the "missing" silver cup.
When the steward caught up with the brothers, he seized them and searched their sacks. The steward found the cup in Benjamin's sack just as he had planted it the night before.