Growing up listening to Bible stories, this one is easy to reminisce about. I can almost remember my young mind imagining this story unfolding. From the colorful description of his vestments, to his dreams, and the horror of the thought of being sold into slavery by my own siblings, it really left a mark on my young mind.
Jacob (they are still referring to him as Jacob despite two separate and different incidents where Yahweh and Elohim have told Jacob he will now be called Israel) resides in Canaan, probably near his brother Esau, but far enough away that both can comfortably set their flocks out to pasture without conflict.
Joseph (son of Rachel) was a teenager and was feeding flock with his brothers from Bilhah (Dan and Naphtali) and Zilpah (Gad and Asher).
Genesis 37:2 … Joseph, being 17 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.
What evil report? Not sure if there is any significance but he is mentioned being with all the children of Jacob’s wives handmaids (though they are called his wives in this verse). Will these sons of handmaids have a different destiny than the sons of Rachel and Leah?
37:3 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.
Now we see him referred to as Israel (note that in verse 1 he was called Jacob, why the sudden distinction?) Not only that, wasn’t Benjamin, the youngest of the 12 sons, another son of his old age, being younger than Joseph?
Not sure if this also refers to the “evil report” earlier mentioned, but the author notes that because Joseph is his father’s favorite, they were jealous of him and could not speak “peacefully” unto him.
The next stage of events:
- Joseph tells them of a dream he had where each one was a sheave, and his sheave stood tallest and their sheaves bowed to his.
- His brother’s hated him more
- Joseph tells them of a second dream where the sun, the moon, and “the eleven stars” (representing his brothers) all bowed to him
- Is “the” eleven stars a constellation? Star grouping? Zodiacal reference?
- Israel later applies the sun to himself, the moon to Joseph’s mom, and he becomes angry with Joseph
- Regardless, Isaac’s response to the 2nd dream doesn’t seem to be as bad as his brothers (verse 11)
After the dream, we know the brother’s are even more angry than before. Isaac sends Joseph off to check on his brothers tending flock, so he leaves the vale of Hebron and searches for them in Shechem. Along the way he meets a man who tells him his brothers moved on to Dothan.
The next stage of events:
- The brothers see him coming and conspire to kill him, calling him “the dreamer”
- Plan was to slay him, throw him in a pit, and blame an “evil beast”
- Are we talking a wild animal or is this referring to something supernatural
- Are there good and evil beasts?
- Reuben, the eldest, talks them out of spilling blood but recommends just throwing him in a pit.
- Reuben’s plan was keep Joseph away from them, so that he could eventually return Joseph to Israel
- When Joseph meets his brothers, they strip him of his coat and throw him in an empty pit, with no water
- Judah reiterates Reuben’s idea of not spilling blood, but in a not much less merciful act, proposes selling Joseph to a group of Ishmaelites they see on their way to Egypt for trade
- I think this is important because it indicates a trade route already in existence between Canaan and Egypt, which the archaeological record should prove and could provide more background on the cultures at the time
- Ishmael was their uncle, so in effect these were the 1st cousins/relatives or to the sons of Jacob
- Before they could work this out, a group of Midianites found Joseph, rescued him from the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites
- Price: 20 shekels of silver (will this be significant later?)
- Note that Midian was another of Abraham’s sons (from one of his many concubines that he cast off)
- So we have one set of cousins (Ishmaelites) ending up with Joseph after being sold by another set of cousins (Midianites) after his own brothers wanted to sell him
- Is there more allegory to this story? More research is needed and I will add to this post if I find more info
- Reuben discovers Joseph is no longer in the pit, probably doesn’t know he ended up with the Ishmaelites anyways, and the brothers take Joseph’s coat, dip it in goat’s blood, and return to their father with the bad news
- Isaac takes the news poorly and becomes inconsolable
- Joseph was sold to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharoah, captain of the guard in Egypt
Observations: A very wicked act by the sons of Isaac towards their own kin, because of a set of dreams. To be sure, Joseph was boastful, but growing up with brothers, it was par for the course. Let’s review the wickedness:
- Brother’s are jealous towards Joseph and intend to act out
- Initial intention is to kill him
- Plan is then to sell him
- When they realized the screwed up, rather than stop the deception they increase it by lying to their father about what happened
- Their father believes Joseph is dead, when in fact he is alive and simply missing
- The sons put even more despair into their father’s heart
- The sons made no mention of FINDING Joseph but focused on executing the overall deception
- Possible despite their sorrow, they were glad Joseph was out of the picture?
- Israel says he will go to the grave mourning his son’s death
- Obviously his brother’s heard this, yet the did not go back on their lie
- Seems they were willing to let their father suffer with this sorrow until the day of his death when they know Joseph could very well be alive
Of note: no mention of these evil deeds being at the hand or influence of the Devil/Satan. In fact, no mention of the interceding hand of Yahweh or God Elohim. Just a bunch of humans performing evil on their own.