Genesis 37:1-36

January 15, 2014 Genesis shows us the lives of many of the Israelite fathers. We’ve gone from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and now we’ll see Joseph. But it’s important to remember that none of these are the main character. If we look at the Bible as a whole then we know that the Main Character is Jesus Christ, and all these genealogies and types culminate in Him. That’s especially important to remember in Genesis 37 because God is never mentioned though He’s obviously present. Everything in this story is directed by Him in order to fulfill the promise made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all the rest: there will be a Redeemer and a blessed people. The Redeemer and the people will suffer and sometimes feel abandoned but all things work together for their good. I can’t think of a more evangelistic and hopeful book and chapter than Genesis 37. It begins with a contrast against Esau: And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. Esau had settled in the land of Seir. He joined with the kings there and had much success, but he had to leave the Promised Land to do it. Jacob however dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger. He continued to live in the place where he had no permanent dwelling because this was the place God had promised. My mind goes to Hebrews 11 where we read that “By faith [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).

These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Here’s the first strike against Joseph. They were doing something wrong and Joseph told on them for it. Don’t mistake this as a little thing. The light reveals wicked deeds so evil men hate the light.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. 4And when his

brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. Here’s the second strike against Joseph. Not only did Jacob love him more, he made a coat to show it. The blatant favoritism made the brothers hate him more than they can stand. They can’t even speak peaceably to him.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. Here’s the third strike and the one that makes them try to kill him.
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And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. They hate him for having the dream and they hate him for telling them about it. How can he, one of the youngest brothers, rule over them? He’s nothing more than a shepherd.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. He has a second dream (which he later tells Pharaoh is confirmation that a dream will come true; Gen. 41:32), and this time he also tells his father. Jacob initially rebuked him, but he was no stranger to dreams and being at odds with family. He “observed” the saying and stored it away in the back of mind. He’ll have to watch and see if this thing really is from God or not.

And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

Don’t forget what Simeon and Levi did to the Shechemites. This was a dangerous place for them to be because any of the surrounding people might know who they are and seek revenge on them.


And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. 18And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. They recognize him from a distance (probably because of his coat) and make a plan to kill him and throw his body into a pit. They ’ll cover it up by saying a wild animal ate him and then they won’t have to hear any more of his dreams.

And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. For whatever reason Reuben doesn’t want Joseph’s blood on his hands. He suggests throwing him into the pit for a while and then coming back to get him later. This will teach Joseph a lesson but it won’t kill him. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 24And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. 25And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. 26And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. It’s baffling that they can sit down to eat; it’s even more so that they can say “let us sell him” and “he is our brother and our flesh” in the same sentence. The reason

they decide not to kill him is because he’s their brother? But slavery is ok? It seems hypocritical and the real motivation is revealed when Judah says, “What profit is it if we slay our brother”.

Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. It’s easy from here to remember the rest of the story and not live in the moment. But Joseph’s life must have felt over. No matter what happens at this point, whether he lives or dies, is irrelevant. He’s a slave. No more coat. No more Jacob. No more Promised Land. No more family. The only thing he has now is his dreams.

And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 30And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. 33And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. 36And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard. The brothers tell a lie and let Jacob draw his own conclusion. He mourns and refuses comfort and I wonder if they weren’t all secretly winking at each other and very relieved to have Joseph gone. Everyone’s lives (for now) have changed for better or worse and they go on without even noticing the hand of God. But we know the rest of the story. Now let’s draw some application: #1- God works even when His hand is imperceptible. How could Joseph have known God was with him in the well? His only promise was in the form of two dreams and those dreams were the reason he was in the well! Why didn’t God show Himself? Why didn’t He stop the brothers? Why didn’t He give them dreams? But these questions are all answered, aren ’t they? God did reveal the truth to the brothers. At some point God did show Himself to Joseph. God did stop the murder.

And He did stop the slavery. He did everything He had promised even though He seemed to be doing nothing in the moment. And we have to learn to see life that way. Are we blessed? Have we defeated death? Are we forgiven of every sin? Will we prevail over every enemy? The answer may seem right now as a no. We live in decaying bodies, we’re mocked and abused, and we constantly rebel. But in Christ we live. In Christ we prevail. In Christ we are blessed and one day He’s coming to reveal His work for the whole world to see. Everything will be made plain and the righteous will enter in while the wicked are cast into the Lake of Fire. #2- God intentionally causes His servants to experience pain. For Joseph this pain was necessary to bring him to the place of power in Egypt. For the Christian, suffering is guaranteed for a similar reason. Think about these verses: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:16-18). Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mt. 5:10-16). Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 8For we would not, brethren, have

you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us (II Cor. 1:3-10). Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified (I Pt. 4:12-14). It’s not untrue or uncommon to say that God is with us in our sufferings but it ’s equally true that those same sufferings are intentional. It’s through suffering on earth that we’re identified with Christ. The wicked hate the light so we are a light to the world. We are the salt of the earth. Those verses aren ’t a warning against losing your saltiness; they reveal the reason that we’re allowed to suffer such hatred. What good is salt that doesn’t have a taste? What good is a light that’s hidden? What good is a witness who doesn’t speak? God therefore puts His words in our mouths and the wicked men reveal their true natures and despise us. But this they have also done to our Teacher and we are not above Him. If they hated Him they will hate us also, and so we rejoice knowing the glory that ’s to be revealed is far greater. We rejoice knowing if we share in His sufferings we will also share in His reward. #3- God uses evil works to complete His plan. The efforts to prevent Joseph’s rule only led to it. His brothers harassed him, mocked him, assaulted him, and even sold him into slavery but they actually caused the dreams to come true. We need to understand that what we see as a catastrophe is part of God’s design. He is far more than aware and far more than merely able to help us: these things are right on schedule and none of them are without His consent. May we learn, like Joseph, to say, “What you meant for evil God meant for good. ” May we be content to live by faith and not by sight and may we bless the name of the Lord.

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