37 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
“Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
(Genesis 37:1-36 NIV)
In our last time together, we looked in Chapter 36 at the family tree of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. In today’s passage, we’ll begin looking at the family tree of Jacob, with the first story about Joseph, Jacob’s son by Rachel.
At this point, Jacob had returned to Canaan and was living in the area where his father Isaac had lived (v. 1). The spotlight turns from Jacob to his son Joseph.
Verse 3 says that Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children, as he was the son of his old age. Joseph was also the son of Rachel, who was Jacob’s favorite wife. We see this in Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel over Leah (Genesis 29:30). Jacob made no effort to conceal his favoritism toward Joseph, and made a special coat for him (v. 3).
Verse 2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old, and he had brought a bad report about his brothers to his father Jacob. Nobody likes a tattle-tale, his brothers least of all.
Pouring fuel on the fire, Joseph proceeded to tell his brothers and father about two dreams where they all bowed down to him. Even Joseph’s father Jacob thought the dreams were too much and rebuked him for sharing.
Despite all this open hatred toward Joseph, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers again (v. 14). Joseph dutifully went off to find his brothers as they tended their father’s animals.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming (easy to spot in his multi-colored coat), they plotted to murder him (v. 18). The oldest brother, Reuben, stepped in and told the other brothers that they could not kill him; instead, they were to put Joseph in a dry pit so he could not run back to their father. Reuben intended to go back and rescue Joseph and safely return him to his father’s home.
While Reuben was away, the other brothers decided to sell Joseph to a band of traveling Ishmaelite merchants on their way to Egypt to sell their products. When Reuben returned, however, there was no rescuing of Joseph from the pit – he was gone!
Rather than chase after the Ishmaelite traders and rescue their brother, they opted to cover up their sin and make the evidence look like Joseph was eaten by a wild beast. When the brothers brought Joseph’s special coat to Jacob, the brothers’ plan seemed to work – Jacob immediately went to the worst-case scenario and mourned for many days, refusing to be consoled by anyone, even his children.
But the Lord was watching out for Joseph, and put him under the care of Potiphar, the Egyptian Pharoah’s head bodyguard.
Despite what life throws at us, God can redeem any situation or hardship. We’ll see more of what God is up to as we work through the rest of the book of Genesis.