Joseph has dreams of greatness. Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers.
VERSE 1. Jacob lived in the land of his father’s travels, in the land of Canaan.
VERSE 2. This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father.
Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father. Joseph was a tattletale!
VERSE 3. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a tunic of many colors.
Israel loved Joseph more than all his children. Jacob had an obvious favorite among his children.
That always brings pain to all the non-favorites.
VERSE 4. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and couldn’t speak peaceably to him.
they hated him. This is the natural outcome of a parent having an obvious favorite. The non-favorites come to resent the chosen one.
The philosopher René Girard wrote extensively about that. He called it mimetic rivalry.
This dream begins to be fulfilled in Genesis chapter 42:
Genesis 42:9. Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land.”
VERSE 6. He said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:
VERSE 7. for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves came around, and bowed down to my sheaf.”
VERSE 8. His brothers asked him, “Will you indeed reign over us? Will you indeed have dominion over us?” They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words.
VERSE 9. He dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed yet another dream: and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.”
He dreamed yet another dream. Joseph had two separate dreams with similar messages.
That adds credibility to their message.
VERSE 10. He told it to his father and to his brothers. His father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves down to the earth before you?”
VERSE 11. His brothers envied him, but his father kept this saying in mind.
VERSE 12. His brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
VERSE 13. Israel said to Joseph, “Aren’t your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” He said to him, “Here I am.”
VERSE 14. He said to him, “Go now, see whether it is well with your brothers, and well with the flock; and bring me word again.” So he sent him out of the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
VERSE 15. A certain man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field. The man asked him, “What are you looking for?”
VERSE 16. He said, “I am looking for my brothers. Tell me, please, where they are feeding the flock.”
VERSE 17. The man said, “They have left here, for I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ” Joseph went after his brothers, and found them in Dothan.
VERSE 18. They saw him afar off, and before he came near to them, they conspired against him to kill him.
they conspired against him to kill him. This is the ultimate expression of mimetic rivalry: murder.
We saw another instance of mimetic rivalry in Genesis 4, where Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Genesis 4:8. Cain said to Abel, his brother, “Let’s go into the field.” While they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.
VERSE 19. They said to one another, “Behold, this dreamer comes.
VERSE 20. Come now therefore, and let’s kill him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, ‘An evil animal has devoured him.’ We will see what will become of his dreams.”
VERSE 21. Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand, and said, “Let’s not take his life.”
VERSE 22. Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father.
VERSE 23. When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him;
VERSE 24. and they took him, and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty. There was no water in it.
VERSE 25. They sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
In the beginning, when we humans walked in the Garden of Eden, what did the LORD God command us to eat? The Bible’s answer may surprise you. Read more »
They sat down to eat. They had just conspired to commit murder. They threw their brother down a deep pit. And now they eat a meal.
One would imagine that their stomachs would be too upset to be able to digest a meal.
bread. The Hebrew word is לֶחֶם֒ (“le·ḥem”). It means bread.
In the Garden of Eden, humans were fruitarians. They ate fruit.
After they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they were permitted to add herbs. So their diet was fruit and herbs.
But in the case of Joseph’s brothers, they are eating bread. They have fully transitioned from hunter-gatherer foods to neolithic foods.
In Genesis chapter 3, the eating of bread is included as part of the curse:
Genesis 3:19. You will eat bread by the sweat of your face until you return to the ground, for you were taken out of it. For you are dust, and you shall return to dust.”
VERSE 26. Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
VERSE 27. Come, and let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not let our hand be on him; for he is our brother, our flesh.” His brothers listened to him.
let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites. Joseph’s brothers conspire to sell him into slavery.
This is the first instance of God’s people participating in the heinous practice of human slavery.
Joseph’s brothers are despicable people.
VERSE 28. Midianites who were merchants passed by, and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The merchants brought Joseph into Egypt.
VERSE 29. Reuben returned to the pit, and saw that Joseph wasn’t in the pit; and he tore his clothes.
VERSE 30. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The child is no more; and I, where will I go?”
VERSE 31. They took Joseph’s tunic, and killed a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood.
VERSE 32. They took the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, “We have found this. Examine it, now, and see if it is your son’s tunic or not.”
VERSE 33. He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s tunic. An evil animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.”
Joseph’s brothers are despicable people. They present their venerable father with this terrible lie.
VERSE 34. Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
VERSE 35. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, “For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” His father wept for him.
Sheol. This was considered the place of the dead.
VERSE 36. The Midianites sold him into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard.
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