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Favoritism and Jealousy — Genesis Chapter 37

This blog post will cover the devotionals #156-159 for Genesis Chapter 37.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[156] Genesis 37:1-4

Jacob was living in Canaan and Joseph was seventeen years old. He was feeding the flock with his brothers (the sons of Jacob’s concubines) and returned to his father with a report. They were often doing things that were ungodly, acting out of jealousy, etc. Though being younger, Joseph was troubled by his brothers’ sinful ways, and often tried to encourage them gently to abandon that path. It was in vain—as it only made them hate him more. Since he couldn’t handle watching them go against God, he came to share his concerns with his father—hoping Jacob's authority might have more effect over them than Joseph ever could. Jacob tried to reach them in a way that would avoid angering them further. He didn’t speak harshly, but instead expressed his care for them with deep emotion. He begged them to respect his gray hair, not disgrace his name, and most importantly, not dishonor God by disregarding His guidelines. They were ashamed that they’d been found out, and acted repentant, but they were merely hiding their actual feelings, which were now even more bitter for having been exposed. Unlike his brothers, Joseph loved obeying God’s commands and gladly listened to his father’s counsel. He was gentle, faithful, and true. These traits would later serve well during his time in Egypt. Due to his beautiful character, as well as the fact that he was the son of Jacob’s old age (Jacob could probably relate to how Abraham felt about Isaac), Jacob clearly favored Joseph over all the other children. I’m sure that Joseph being Rachel’s son made him even more special to Jacob as well, and once she was gone—they became that much more connected. Jacob wanted to do something special for Joseph, so he made him a beautiful, colorful coat. This tunic was the type that people of distinction would wear. Thus, even outside their previous suspicions, this made it very hard for his brothers to ignore the fact that Jacob favored Joseph. It was a lovely gift, but incredibly unwise of the father. Jacob’s lack of judgment brought trouble. The elder sons believed he was subtly trying to overlook them and give Joseph the privileges of the birthright instead. Then, to make matters worse (as we’ll see in devotional #157), Joseph would share some dreams that would only seem to confirm their fears and excite their jealousy.

[157] Genesis 37:5-11

Joseph wasn’t of the character to cause trouble. His heart was pure, joyful, and active. He was a beautiful youth, both inside and out. He demonstrated that he was both morally firm and earnest. Thus, when he was given two dreams which seemed incredibly significant, he wanted to share them with his family. He didn’t know they were symbolic prophecies of what’d happen in the future. “We were binding sheaves in the field, and lo and behold, my sheaf rose up and stood upright, and your sheaves stood around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to me.” Both the dreams were depicting the same situation. Both times, he shared the dreams with his family, and they all gave negative responses. His father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will I, and your mother, and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the ground to you?” Though his rebuke seemed severe, Jacob pondered Joseph’s words, and believed that God was indeed revealing the future to Joseph. It probably felt very familiar to his own story of how God had revealed that he’d rule over his older brother. His brothers exclaimed, “Will you indeed reign over us, or will you indeed have dominion over us?” As Joseph stood there sharing, his lovely face lighted up with the Spirit of inspiration. His brothers were jealous but couldn’t withhold their admiration. Yet, they didn’t abandon their evil ways, and naturally hated the purity of their younger brother that reproved them. Cain’s spirit was likewise triggering them in their hearts.

[158] Genesis 37:12-24

Jacob’s sons were often gone months at a time tending to the flocks. As they moved around, they struggled to find a place to pasture the animals. They decided to return to the land Jacob bought in Shechem (where Dinah was defiled, and they murdered the men of the city).They were gone there for so long that Jacob started to get concerned when he hadn’t heard from them. He thought about the violence his sons had committed there and feared that the people might have gotten their revenge. Jacob did care about his older sons and wanted to be relieved of his concern—so he decided to send Joseph to find out about their well-being. As God had commissioned Isaiah to take a message out in Isaiah 6:8, “…Whom will I send, and who will go for Us?” and he responded, “Here I am; send me”, Jacob said, “Go…I will send you unto them,” and Joseph replied, “Here I am.” Despite the way that Joseph’s brothers treated him, he loved them very much and he was looking forward to seeing them and relieving his father’s concerns. He never could’ve imagined that, when he left his father on his errand, it’d be a much longer journey than either of them expected. He didn’t know that they wouldn’t see each other again for many years or that it’d be the consequence of his brothers’ terrible actions. He traveled over fifty miles to Shechem, only to find that they’d gone fifteen miles further in Dothan. Though weary, he pushed forward out of the joy of his heart until he finally found them. As soon as he'd located his brothers from a little distance, they saw and plotted to kill him. They knew how far he’d traveled. They knew he’d be hungry and weary. They knew he trusted them to treat him with hospitality and love. Yet, their hateful hearts weren't softened by any of that. Furthermore, just the sight of their father’s gifted coat sent them into madness. They said, mockingly, “Look, the dreamer is coming. Let us kill him, and throw him into some pit, and we will say, ‘Some evil beast has devoured him’: and we will see what becomes of his dreams.” Reuben immediately stepped in to calm the situation, saying, “Let us not kill him…shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand on him.” He said this to get Joseph out of danger, and he’d return secretly and retrieve Joseph to return him to Jacob. Ill-advisedly though, Reuben disappeared. He wasn’t there to see or prevent what was about to happen, and he’d be greatly distraught for it. He left because he was afraid they might catch on to his real plan and then it'd fail. Unfortunately, it failed anyway. Back at home, Jacob was clueless to the feelings that his older sons held towards Joseph. Just as they’d concealed their plans to kill the men of Shechem from their father, they also concealed their hatred of his beloved son. He never would’ve sent Joseph to them if he’d known he couldn’t trust them with him. Once Joseph reached them—he was excited to be greeted by them and told them why he was there—but was scared upon seeing the evil glances they gave him. They didn’t respond to what he said, but immediately grabbed him and stripped off his colorful coat. They scolded him for his attempts to get them to stop their evil ways and called him a hypocrite. Satan was controlling their minds and tongues. How they provoked and threatened him showed him that their intentions truly were ill, and he desperately pleaded for his life. They reprimanded him for the dreams he’d had and accused him of using them to lift himself up in Jacob’s mind and get him to prefer him over them. Joseph’s brothers gratified themselves thinking they were doing what was necessary to prevent Joseph’s crazy dreams from being fulfilled, but they forgot that God was in control and would cause their cruel actions against Joseph to be exactly what’d fulfill the very same dreams they tried to thwart.

[159] Genesis 37:25-36

After Joseph’s brothers had thrown him in the pit, they sat down to eat. Joseph was in the pit after his long journey, and they didn’t even give him a chance to eat or rest. He’d slowly die of starvation in there, and Judah was troubled by the thought. He’d been part of the satanic frenzy, but he, along with a few of the others, started to feel uncomfortable. They weren’t satisfied with him dying as they expected they’d be. He was the first to reveal his feelings (and was the one that suggested something other than killing or leaving him to die). Some of them pitied Joseph when he begged for compassion, but they were scared the rest would ridicule them. As they were there eating, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. They had camels and were on their way to Egypt with spices and other goods. The merchants inspired an idea in Judah—if they were going to sell things to Egypt, why not people? He said to his brothers, “How will we profit by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not put our hand upon him—because he is our brother and flesh.” This contented his brothers. They’d gain something from it, be rid of him, and still be innocent of his blood. As the merchants were passing by, they pulled Joseph out of the pit. As soon as Joseph saw the merchants, his doom became dreadfully clear to him. He would’ve rather died than become a slave. He begged again, and while some pitied him, they realized that they couldn’t turn back now—Joseph would undoubtedly tell Jacob, and they’d be in a bad way. They sold him to the heathen people and were rid of him. The merchants took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar—one of Pharaoh’s officers, and the captain of the guard. Note that they sold him for a mere twenty pieces of silver. How similar is this to how Jesus was betrayed by his own disciple, Judas, for just thirty pieces of silver? In both situations, the betrayed men’s hard fate would eventually become their betrayers’ saving grace. After Joseph was gone, Reuben returned to retrieve him from the pit, and was extremely upset to find him gone. When he found his brothers, he said, “The child is no more, and I, where will I go?” Once they told him what they’d done, he had no choice but to join in their deception. They killed a young goat and put its blood on Joseph’s beautiful tunic and took it to their father. They told him that they’d found it in the fields and wanted him to determine if it was his son’s coat or not. He said that it was, and that an evil beast must have devoured him, and Joseph would undoubtedly be torn to pieces. This was the story they’d originally planned to tell him, but they didn’t have to say anything—their lie about finding the tunic and their trickery in putting blood on it was enough to let him make his own assumption. However, they hadn’t anticipated the horrible reaction that they were about to witness. They caused a much deeper anguish than expected that just wrenched Jacob’s heart, and none of them could comfort him. He mourned for days, claiming he’d die of his grief. His sons were absolutely terrified about what they’d actually done, and though the knowledge of their guilt was incredible even for themselves, they had to hide it for dread of how Jacob would handle the same information.

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