Thursday, July 26, 2012

XXI - Chapter 37 - Joseph the Dreamer

You might remember that in my post on July 20th, I made the statement that Joseph was the most powerful human being in the History of civilization.  I will qualify that in detail as we look at the life of Joseph in the next few postings.  But briefly, Joseph was granted control of the ancient world's supply of food.  He was actually the one man that decided who would receive food and who would not.  Gingas Khan, Nepoleon, Hannibal, and Hitler had no power and authority that could be compared to that which God gave to Joseph.  And Joseph performed that position of authority well.  I believe that Joseph was prepared for such a position of authority because he first mastered humility and servitude.  I am convinced that this is the way God wants us to prepare ourselves for positions of authority.  We'll see all of this in our study of this magnificent patriarch.

Chapter 37  -  Jacob had settled with his family in the land of Canaan.  Jacob grew his estated and raised his family in this area of Canaan, close to where his father Isaac made his home.

Vs 2 begins the account of Joseph, who was Jacob's favorite (we've already learned how damaging parental favoritism can be).  This time, the results are even more damaging.  Joseph was 17 years old, and was tending flocks with his brothers who were sons of Bilhah and Zilpah.  The brothers who were sons of Leah were in a different location.  Joseph made problems for himself because he was a tattletale.  Jacob added to that problem by allowing Joseph to tattle on his brothers.  Vs 3 tells us that Jacob favored Joseph.  This was due to the fact that Joseph was born in Jacob's old age, but also because Joseph and Benjamin were sons born to Rachel, the love of Jacob's life.  Jacob made no
secret of his favoritism toward Joseph.  He made Joseph the famed "coat of many colors".  This coat (robe) would probably be a garment that was to be worn over other clothes and went to the ankels, such as the ourter garments worn by princes of that time period.  This colorful, full-bodied garment was a billboard and a constant reminder that Joseph was his father's favorite.  The Scripture makes it very clear that Joseph's brothers were jealous and hated him.  I submit that Joseph didn't have a clue as to the impact that Jacob's favoritism was making in the minds and hearts of his brothers.  Their hatred for him was so severe that they "could not speak a kind word to him".   I'll go so far as to say that favoritism is a sin.  Parents beware.  This instance of it will cause brothers to plot one's murder.
Vs 5-8  -  To makes matters even worse in the brothers' relationship, Joseph had a dream, and he was too young and immature to know that he should keep it to himself.  He dreamed that all of them were harvesting in the field and his brothers' sheaves of grain would bow down to Joseph's sheaf.  His brothers had the proper interpretation of this dream and it angered all of them.  Although they
knew what the dream meant, they did not know it was a prophetic dream.

Vs 9 - Joseph had another dream.  He told this one to his brothers in the presence of his father.  He said that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars would bow down to him.  His father Jacob immediately rebuked him.  This dream suggested that not only his brothers, but also his father and mother would bow down to him.  This angered his brothers even more and at the end of vs 11 it seems that Jacob was sobered by this, thinking deeply about the this stange dream.  I think that Jacob started to suspect that these were indeed prophetic dreams.

Vss 12-->  Jacob had sent his brothers to Shechem to graze the flocks.  {Shechem was about fifty miles from Hebron where their home was.  Sheep must be moved constantly to new grazing locations.  Unlike cattle, which graze on the grass and surface foliage, sheep tear the plants up by the roots, leaving the ground barren for a number of months.  Therefore, sending a flock fifty miles away was not unusual.}  Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers and report back to Jacob.  This situation making Joseph the messenger only adds to his being placed in a different status than his brothers.  When Joseph reached Shechem he learned that his brothers had moved the flock another 15 miles north to Dothan.  So Joseph continued on toward Dothan.  Vs 18 says his brothers recognized him coming from far away (probably because of that coat he was wearing).  And they plotted to kill him and throw him into a cistern to hide the body.  Cisterns were broad and shallow wells used to collect and hold rain water.  Vs 21 - But Reuben (the oldest and probably the leader) talks them out of killing him before they throw him in a cistern.   {Reuben secretly planned to return later to rescue Joseph}  In vs 25 they see a caravan of Ismaelites on their way to Egypt.  {Dothan was in the
trading lane that was used when carrying goods back and forth between Macedonia and Egypt.}  When Judah saw the caravan he sugested they sell Joseph as a slave to the Ishmaelites, knowing that these men would further sell Joseph as a slave in Egypt, making him disappear forever.  So they sold Joseph for twenty shekels of silver.  I'm not certain where Reuben was during this time, but he was not present when this happened.  Reuben later returned to the cistern to rescue Joseph, but it was empty.  Reuben tore his clothes.  This was a sign of grief and sorrow.

Meanwhile, the other brothers continued in their plot to kill Joseph and cover themselves from suspicion or blame.  In order to accomplish this, they must decieve their father into not only thinking Joseph was dead, but make it such that Jacob would not send out a hunting party to find Joseph.  So they put blood all over Joseph's coat and took it to their father Jacob, which would prove to Jacob that a wild animal killed and devoured Joseph, his favorite son.  When you think about it, this was disrespectfully cruel to their father, knowing his feelings for Joseph.  It says Jacob put on sackcloth and mourned many days, refusing to be comforted.  Sackcloth was a scratchy burlap type of material, very uncomfortable as an inner garment.

So Joseph is in the hands of the Ismaelite merchants.  It says in vs 36 that they sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Paraoh's officials, the captain of the guard.

In the next post we'll look at chapter 38, which detours our story of Jacob, and tells of Joseph's brother Judah and and how he got outsmarted by Tamar.  

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