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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter THIRTY SEVEN


Contributing commentaries by pastors Sonny Islas, Albert Lopez and James Fire


GENESIS 37 – by James Fire; for the Facebook video teaching go here.

Introduction: We have seen it with Abraham, we have seen it with Isaac – and now we are seeing it continue with Jacob: family favorites! In Jacob’s case, his favorite was Joseph, the son of his dearly beloved – not Leah, but Rachel. 

When cycles of sin are repeated from one generation to the next in families, they seem to become more pronounced. Alcoholism in the first generation may be bad, but the second generation very often becomes worse, and the third generation even more so.

In this case however, Jacob’s sons, representing the fourth generation do something even worse than what their Uncle Esau intended; Esau intended on and threatened to kill their Dad, Jacob – but here we see the sons of Jacob are plotting to kill their half-brother Joseph and would have done so if Reuben and Judah didn’t intervene.

They are plotting evil against their half-brother Joseph.
Among those who would intend evil against you, the one at the top of the list is the devil: he wants to steal from you, he wants to destroy you, he wants to kill you (JOHN 10:10). Others in the world despise those of us who live godly in Christ Jesus (2 TIM 3:12) and we find ourselves often persecuted in some way.

Know for certain that what everyone who intends evil and harm on you, the LORD certainly will turn it around for good.
This is a lesson that Joseph learned after this long, long trial that begins here and continues for what would be a few chapters for us, but two very long years for him!
The conclusion of this evil plot by Joseph’s brothers is understood by Joseph as part of the Sovereign plan of GOD Almighty!

GENESIS 50:20
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Joseph had an exercise of faith; this was a killer work-out like no other! This was not merely a race – certainly not a sprint, but a marathon! 
The LORD in His infinite wisdom knows how long each trial we go through must last, and each trial we go through seems to last a bit longer or a bit more intensely, than the ones before. Here we have this young 17-year-old boy who gets sold into slavery after first being threatened by his brothers who are intent on taking his life (imagine having family, your own flesh and blood hate you so much, that they want to kill you, literally), and he finds himself a long way from home, among foreigners, and sold into slavery.

How’s that for a trial? How’d you like that one? Would you pick this one for yourself – I sure wouldn’t. Yet the LORD, Who knows us better than we know ourselves, knows exactly what sort of trial we need, when we need it, and how long it needs to last, in order to accomplish His plan, His design, His ministry that He intends on performing through our lives – all as a result of building Christ-like character in us, without which, it would all be for nothing.

Trials allow GOD’s Spirit Who dwells in us, to do a work in us that would otherwise not come about. That work is building the character of Christ in us: His humility and humbleness, His gentleness, His goodness and grace. Not only do we see these things develop in the life of Joseph, but among all the saints in the Bible, it’s Joseph that we see the most parallels with the person of JESUS.
That’s not a coincidence!

GENESIS 37:1-2
1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 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

Jacob is the legitimate heir of all the promises that GOD gave to Abraham and Isaac, and the LORD’s promises are always “yes and amen” (2 COR 1:20). Yet for all that, he is still living just as Abraham and Isaac did – as strangers, foreigners, aliens; because the ultimate fulfilment of GOD’s promises to Israel won’t happen until the Messiah comes and reigns on Earth, with a resurrected Abraham, Isaac and Jacob inheriting the fullness of these blessed promises that GOD made by covenant with Abraham (GEN 15:9); see the study for GEN Ch. 15 here. Certainly GOD’s promises are realized in the nation of Israel as we’ll read about later in the Old Testament; but the full extent of those promises, GOD waits until the return of the Messiah-King for that occasion!

It’s the same with us: we are pilgrims and foreigners in this world; this isn’t our home, but we are heading that way, and desire to walk in holiness, rejoicing that we are free from the spiritual darkness that enslaved us!
1 PETER 2:9-129 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Joseph has only one full-blooded brother, who was also a son of Rachel; all of the other brothers are what we would call, stepbrothers, all with Jacob as their father, but with different mothers. In this case, he is with the sons of Jacob’s wives’ handmaidens: Bilhah and Zilpah. Once he returns home, he tells his father all about what his stepbrothers were up to, telling him all about their “mischief with slanderous intent”, which is what “evil report” means in the Hebrew. Young Joseph was tattling on his older brothers! What the old King James calls a tale-bearer:
PROVERBS 18:8The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

GENESIS 37:3-5
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. 4 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. 5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

Parents often are sentimental about their youngest, because they are the last – there will be no more children after them. All of the blessings and joys of seeing a child grow and flourish are over with, once they become an adult. For this reason, Jacob favored Joseph, though there is also little Benjamin – and both of these boys are the sons of Rachel, that Jacob loved more than Leah – and these two handmaidens.

Because of the fact that Jacob loved Joseph more than all of his other sons, Jacob’s other sons hated Joseph.
I have no doubts that these step-brothers understood that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and that he certainly loved her more than Bilhah and Zilpah, these hand-maidens of Rachel and Leah; talk about your second class citizens – what sort of damage does this cause among family? We witness the sort of damage by the thoughts, intents and actions of these men!

Had Jacob’s sons been indifferent about their father, if they didn’t have a love for Jacob, then they wouldn’t have had cause to hate Joseph. But love unrequited – that is, a love given but not returned, leads to deep hurt, anger, resentment and hatred. Had Jacob followed the LORD’s example, Who loves all of His children equally, without partiality, there would have never been a problem.

I’ve said it before, we are all GOD’s favorites! His relationship with us individually is so special, intimate and unique, it’s as though each and every one of us is His favorite! Likewise is our love for one another to be without partiality (1 TIM 5:21).

Yet Jacob’s favor of Joseph above all of his brothers was so obvious that he made Joseph a special garment – a coat of many colors. Dye in those days was expensive, especially brightly colored dye that is of high quality. Cheap dye would run and fade from clothing in no time; the best stuff would last, and no doubt this coat was very expensive, an emblem of esteem by Jacob, but one of envy among Joseph’s older brothers! They couldn’t help but retort to anything Joseph said with biting and cruel remarks: they couldn’t “speak peaceably to him”.

Again, this is a type for Christ, for just as Joseph had a beautiful garment that none of the other brothers possessed, likewise Christ has the beautiful garment of salvation, the robe of righteousness, the very holiness of GOD that was visible for all to see, including the corrupt and religious leaders of His day, of whom the LORD said, that they are like “white washed sepulchers, beautiful on the outside but inside full of corruption” (MATT 23:27), and they hated Him for it!
JOHN 8:39-40, 45-4639 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

GENESIS 37:6-8
6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Now this young man, something of a goody-two shoes, who tattles on his brothers, is also a bit naïve I think – because of the hateful treatment from his brothers, he should’ve kept his dreams to himself, but he doesn’t! He lets them be known to them and they hated him all the more for it. Joseph was making a bad situation, much, much worse!

Joseph relates this dream: they were out in the field working, and binding sheaves of grain, that is, taking the stalks of grain and binding them into bundles. Joseph’s sheaf rises up from the ground, standing upright while all the sheaves of his brothers fell down in a worshipful position. The meaning is obvious: Joseph would become preeminent among his brothers that would submit themselves to him. How do you suppose that went over with his brothers?!

GENESIS 37:9-11
9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Joseph must’ve thought that “if a little is good, then more is better!” because he just doesn’t quit; only in this second dream, it’s not just his brothers involved, but his father and mother as well! This is interesting in the fact that Rachel, Joseph’s mother is already dead – she died giving birth to Benjamin back in GENESIS 35. How could she then be involved in this dream, bowing down to Joseph along with Jacob and his other brothers? Well it could be referring to Leah, and probably this is so, but there is another thought here:

These dreams are prophetic, and because Joseph is a type of Christ, it shows that Israel will one day bow before Y’shua Who is the Messiah. Just as Joseph is despised at this point but will in the future be held in reverence by his family when he becomes the highest authority in Egypt after Pharaoh himself, Christ was also despised by the nation upon His first advent, but we know that in the future, at His second advent, He will be revered and worshiped and loved by His people!
ISAIAH 53:3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
ZECHARIAH 12:1010 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
ROMANS 11:26-2726 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

The reaction of these two dreams is that his brothers continued to envy and hate him, and while initially Jacob was offended by the second dream, he came to ‘file it away’ for further consideration. He “observed the saying”, it says.

Do we see what Joseph describes in this second dream elsewhere? We do indeed, in Revelation: what’s seen there has been misinterpreted for some hundreds of years as the church, but as we can see from our text in Genesis, it’s easily understood as Israel, and in Revelation we see twelve, not eleven stars, because Joseph is among them, as well as Jacob as the sun and Rachel as the moon. 
REVELATION 12:1-5And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
This woman gives birth to a child who will rule all nations with a rod of iron, but in the meantime is seated at the right hand of the Father – and we know Who that is, don’t we?

GENESIS 37:12-14
12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So, he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

I wonder if Joseph left Dad to go visit his brothers in his special coat of many colors? I think every time they saw this kid in that coat, their resentment and hatred only grew; it was a constant reminder that “Dad loves him more than he loves us”. 

This is truly as the Father loves us who are His children, we who are dressed in the robes of righteousness and the garment of salvation. We are His children by the grace of GOD, the salvation through Christ that we by faith have believed. The world outside doesn’t know this love – it’s true that “GOD so loved the world” – and Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross is evidence of that awesome, incredible love; but those who don’t know Christ haven’t experienced the love that GOD has for His own adopted children – not until they receive Christ, and then they know and understand this love!

GENESIS 37:15-17
15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren and found them in Dothan.

GENESIS 37:18-20
18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

Can you hear the resentment, how they despise this young man? “Behold this dreamer is coming!” And they have every intention of killing this innocent person; it’s not Joseph’s fault that their Dad showed him favor over the others. Once again, we can see how favoritism can destroy a family – or a church! 
1 JOHN 4:10-12 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

And just as they conspired to kill Joseph, likewise the Sanhedrin during the days of the LORD’s earthly ministry conspired to kill Him, and for very similar reasons: Christ could boast of a unique love that the Father has for Him that none of the religious ever experienced!
These brothers were intent on stopping these dreams from being fulfilled, and we can certainly see how Satan was using this to his advantage, because he is always intent on preventing the saints from following after GOD’s will and seeing His Word fulfilled in their lives. 

We know that he used people to try and accomplish his purposes and rebel against the Messiah’s authority (consider the LORD Jesus’ parable in LUKE 19:14 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.”). In our text, we see the same attitude from Joseph’s brothers, who refused to accept his dream that he would rule over them. The devil (which means “adversary”) as we well know, did everything he could to stop the mission of Christ, and utterly, absolutely failed in every respect and so did Joseph’s brother’s plan – in fact, it was because they sold him into slavery that the dream was ensured to be fulfilled! Do you see the marvelous, awesome sovereignty of GOD’s plan? 

Satan no doubt thought it was a victory when Christ was crucified and died – but he was the unwitting tool in the hand of GOD that saw the very fulfillment of prophecy that the LORD intended!

GENESIS 37:21-22
21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

As you may remember, Reuben and Levi got into a lot of hot water with Dad when they slew all the men of the Canaanite people called the Hivites for what was done by one of their own in the rape of Dinah, Reuben’s and Levi’s sister (GEN 34); see the study of Chapter 34 here. No doubt he didn’t want to add Joseph’s death to the list of his wrongs! He tries to placate his brothers by saying we’ll abandon him in a nearby pit (presumably to die, but not at their own hand in bloodshed) but in reality, he planned on rescuing the lad when the others weren’t looking and bring Joseph back to Jacob.

GENESIS 37:23-25
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; 24 And they took him and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. 25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

Christ Himself was willingly stripped of His manifest glory that would have readily identified Him as GOD made flesh, but instead He laid aside His glory so that to the casual observer, He was a mere man. And this man hung on the cross for our sins in utter humiliation.
The emblem of Jacob’s favor upon Joseph was taken away, now he appears as just a young punk, bratty kid whose days are numbered.
Joseph was humiliated by the treatment of his brothers and was thrown into a pit, just as Christ was laid in the tomb, having borne the sins of the world.

Interesting that Joseph’s brothers, after the young man was thrown into the pit, sit down to eat bread – I see hints of the LORD’s Last Supper here, where Christ ate bread with his disciples before He took upon the cross and the tomb.

And these Ishmeelites who end up buying Joseph to later be sold into slavery, what sort of spice are they carrying among all the other spices? Myrrh – an embalming spice, again, more hints of the sacrifice of Christ and His subsequent time in the tomb, anointed with myrrh…

GENESIS 37:26-27
26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Judah here seems to express something of the same sentiment as Reuben, not willing to slay his own ‘flesh and blood’ and instead persuades his brothers to sell him in an utter act of betrayal, just as Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ and ‘sold Him’ to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver. Incidentally, remember that Judas is the New Testament rendering for ‘Judah’. Two different men of the same name guilty of betraying innocent men, Joseph and the LORD Jesus. Who is he then sold to but the Ishmeelites, the descendants of Ishmael, who was as you recall, a work of the flesh by Abraham and Hagar.

A lesson for us: any work of the flesh, when we are not operating in the Spirit, will have consequences; in some cases, long term consequences. Here we’re seeing that the fourth generation after Abraham’s mistake is suffering consequences – namely, Joseph.

GENESIS 37:28-29
28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. 29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

Christ was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, Joseph for twenty; silver Levitically speaking is the precious metal representing redemption in the trespass offering (LEV 5:15). 
Reuben is genuinely grieved at the absence of Joseph in the pit (he rents his clothes) – he wanted to deliver him, but apparently he was elsewhere when this transaction took place between his brothers and the Ishmeelites.

Just as Joseph entered into Egypt (by type, Egypt is a type for the fallen world under Satan) in a humbled state and humiliation, so Christ likewise entered this fallen world in a state of humility as a man.

GENESIS 37:30-35
30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31 And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no. 33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

When Reuben says, “Where shall I go?” he’s basically is saying “what am I going to tell Dad?!” The conspiracy goes further when they decide to take a slain kid, a baby goat, and with the blood stain Joseph’s coat and use it as evidence to show that Joseph was dead, and Jacob believed the lie. 

GENESIS 37:36
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.

A high-ranking officer in Pharaoh’s court decides to purchase this slave named Joseph – and the young man becomes the property of this Egyptian, to do with as Potiphar, the captain of the guard, pleases. This will be significant in a couple chapters from now when Joseph encounters the lustful wife of Potiphar.

For an excellent treatment on the life of Joseph within the context of history, visit BIBLE ARCHEAOLOGY and this six part series:

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