The Life of Joseph - Lesson 5
Genesis 37:2, 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.
We see by the actions of Joseph and his brothers that Joseph was no doubt alone in this large family.
His father's favoritism of Joseph had contributed to a great divide between Joseph and his brothers.
I believe this was mainly caused because of the lack of character on the part of his brothers.
We are told that Joseph was sent to work with Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher (probably 19 and 20 years old), the four sons of the slave woman wives, Bilhah (Rachels) and Zilpah (Leahs).
It appears that the behavior of the sons of Jacob was wild and lawless, not concerned with their father's wishes or commands.
We have seen the cruelty and deceit of Simeon and Levi in dealing with the Shechemites, the lust of Reuban with the handmaid of Rachel and we will soon see the sins of Judah with regard to Tamar (taw-mawr')
In contrast to this it is also shown that Joseph was strong, prudent, patient, gentle, and affectionate.
These differences between them were predestined to cause an eruption.
And erupt they did for they were shepherding away from parental notice and something took place with Joseph's brothers that was of an evil nature and deserved a report to Jacob.
All evil doings are destined to have light shed on them.
It is a law of God.
It is godly to shed light on evil doings.
The principle that is demonstrated in this account is this:
Those who are faithful in their service will find favor from their master but hatred from individuals who are unfaithful.
In this light we can be sure that peer pressure was applied to Joseph to conform.
It is always applied by those who wish for their deeds to remain in darkness!
We saw this happen this week in national affairs did we not?
Now that they had him away from Jacob's attention they could do what they pleased and vent upon him their hatred.
Joseph could easily have yielded to their pressures and lowered himself to their standards, conforming to their practices, and made himself an accomplice in their evil deeds.
Just go with the flow! Wouldn't that have been the easy way?
But someone had taught him that the easy way was not usually the right way.
I believe that Joseph was designated by Jacob as his representative and was told by his father to bring home a report on the behavior of Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
Jacob knew these boys were wild and rebellious.
Joseph no doubt knew his position as the first son of Rachel, Jacob's favored wife.
Later we see him wearing a coat given by Jacob which promoted that position.
By reporting on his brothers he was simply doing his duty as a loyal son of Jacob.
Can't you hear the threats of his brothers still today as they may have said to Joseph as they came home from feeding the flock:
Listen up kid, just try squealing to the old man about what you've seen and we'll get ya some dark night.
You keep your mouth shut, understand?
Ya go along with us and you'll be alright!
So in spite of tremendous peer pressure to conform, in spite of the threats to conceal, Joseph displayed courage in telling his father of his brothers' evil deeds knowing that this would cause his brothers to hate him the more and may even result in physical injury or death.
So our introduction to Joseph is through an event that reveals his integrity.
Here is a 17 year old young man, a lad, not quite a man, who already had some well grounded convictions concerning integrity and morality and practical godliness.
We see a young man with not only convictions but courage to carry them through regardless of the price.
And his convictions earned him the privilege of being used by God to continue the process where God could make of Israel a great nation.
The Lord will use the one who is faithful in little things to have authority over greater responsibilities.
(Aside: Is there such a thing as a dead end job?)
Did Joseph know that his obedience to his father would earn him the privilege of being sold into slavery to spend years in jail, seemingly forgotten with his life wasted?
No! Regardless of the hatred of his brothers and any consequences resulting from that hatred Joseph kept his faith in the God of his fathers.
Genesis 37:3,4, 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. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Joseph was the first born of Jacob's wife of choice, his favored Rachel.
He was born to Rachel when Jacob was 91 years old and now Jacob was 108 years old.
Joseph was an obedient son, close to his father.
Jacob showed his love to Joseph outwardly which brought out his brethren's hatred the more.
Jacob intended for Joseph to be the chief of the family as first born of Rachel.
The coat singled out Joseph as the one son that had been designated to rule the family and to whom the larger part of the wealth would be given.
In our day it is expected that all children will share equally in a father's inheritance, but in that day it was not so.
The first born son was normally given a double portion and this would have been Reuben, however by Reuben consorting with Bilhah, Reuben had forfeited that right.
Joseph was obviously the appointed heir of Jacob.
This was most likely a contributing reason for getting rid of Joseph by the brothers.
Jealousy of Joseph and his obvious status in the family brought the wrath of his brothers upon him.
Jacob made Joseph a coat with long sleeves and extending down to the ankles.
It was a robe indicating authority and stature.
It was not a garment adapted to work but to supervision.
It designated a superior or overseer.
In that day it even indicated priesthood.
For the father was the priest of the family.
So by this garment Jacob proclaimed loudly that Joseph was his chosen son.
Where else was Jacob to look?
Reuben had sacrificed this position by his lust of Bilhah, Simeon and Levi by their cruelty to the Shechemites.
Joseph stood out without competition for this position.