I wrote a short post the other day over my Bible study on Genesis 37:1-4. Yesterday, my study covered the rest of Genesis 37, and I’m afraid the situation for Joseph has gone from bad to worse. In the first 4 verses it says that, because their father showed obvious favoritism for Joseph (he even gave him a nice, colorful tunic), his brothers “hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” That is definitely bad – I have had people who hated me and couldn’t speak a kind word to me, and I can say from experience that it feels bad. But Joseph didn’t go making things better for himself. In the rest of chapter 37 it tells of how Joseph would have dreams and would tell his brothers and father about them, and they would interpret the dreams to mean that Joseph was saying that they would all bow down to him (never a good way to make a good impression). So to shorten the story, Joseph ends up getting sent to his brothers while they are out with the flocks, and his brothers see him coming. They plot to kill him and throw him in a pit, but Reuben (the oldest) talks them out of it. Instead, he says they should just throw him in the pit without killing him, and he plans to go back later and save him. Well, they do throw him in the pit, but before Reuben can save Joseph, Judah (another one of the brothers) sees some Ishmaelite merchants coming up and has the bright idea that instead of killing him, they should sell Joseph to the merchants as a slave (“after all,” he says, “he is our own flesh and blood!” – such a great brother). So they do this, and they take his pretty tunic and dip it in blood and take it back to their father to make him think that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
There are a couple of things that stand out to me in the story. The first is the part that Reuben played in it. Reuben is the firstborn son of Jacob, and he has already messed up his life by sleeping with one of his father’s concubines. In Genesis 35:22 it says “While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.” Isreal, of course, being Jacob. Later, when it comes time for Jacob to bless his sons, he says to Reuben: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” (Genesis 49:3-4). So how did a guy who would sleep with one of his father’s wives (technically, concubine, but in God’s eyes I think if Jacob was sleeping with her, she was his wife) go from being a nasty pervert to his half-brother’s champion? I really don’t know! Matthew Henry’s commentary on this topic brought up a good point – “Reuben had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born; yet he proves his best friend.”
The other thing that stood out for me didn’t come to me until after I read Matthew Henry’s commentary on this chapter. The story of Joseph is a great example of a foreshadowing event of Christ’s story. As Henry puts it “Joseph was a type of Christ; for though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world (his brothers), yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us in great humility and love. He came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him…” I absolutely love how the Old Testament foreshadows the coming of Christ. It proves to me that there is a God whose perfect plan has always been in place since the beginning. The unity of the Bible is one of the greatest faith-builders for me, and this story has contributed to that for me.