After focussing on Esau's line in Gen 36, the narrative returns to Jacob's family, this time, moving on to his son, Joseph. In verse 1, we are told that unlike Esau who settled in Seir, Jacob settled in Canaan, the land of his father's sojournings. Two sons, two places.
Gen 37 introduces us to Joseph, the focus of the narrative from this point onwards. What does the text tell us about Joseph?
- He was a tattletale who told on his brothers to his father (v.2b)
- He was loved by Jacob, because he was the "son of his old age" (v.3). This could mean that he was special because he was borne to Jacob when he was old, or that he was close to him in old age. Jacob's love and favouritism was obvious, for he made Joseph a special coat (v.3b).
- Though he was loved by his father, Joseph was hated by his brothers, to the extent that "they could not speak peacefully to him" (v.4).
- He had a dream, and when he shared the contents of his dream, his brothers hated him even more (v.5)
- He had another dream, and this time, even his father rebuked him (v.9-10).
In our first encounter with Joseph, we realise that he is not the most pleasant person around. Arrogant, proud, attention-seeking. This is Joseph. In these verses too, we realise that the covenant family, the family through which God seeks to carry out his redemption plan, was characterised by favoritism, jealousy and hatred. Conflict was rife. Is this surprising? Do you expect this to be the kind of people that God uses?
Why did God choose Joseph, this daddy's boy, who did not seem to have a very good character? Through verses like Mal 1:2-4, Exo 33:17-19 and Rom 9:13-18, the Bible makes it clear that God gave and chose Joseph not because he deserved it, but because He wants to in his sovereignty. God chose this unlikeable and unloveable person to channel his grace to the world.
How do Joseph’s dreams play out? This dreams seems to carry with it great promise and grandeur, and if we skip to Gen 50, we read of Joseph's rise to power and prominence in Egypt. But if we pause for a moment, what did it take for Joseph to achieve this position of status and power? Years of rejection, years in prison and hardship in Egypt!
Does this sound familiar? The main point of Joseph's story, is not about hoping because things will turn out for the better. It serves to point forward to Jesus Christ! In Ps 89:26-29, we read of all that Christ was promised. In Isa 9:6-7, the "Christmas verses", it is easy to read this with a cute baby in mind and be full of hope. But yet, this child grew up, suffered and went through hell, literally.
As we continue to study the life of Joseph in Genesis, let us not forget God's plan of salvation and redemption for undeserving sinners like you and me, and continue to marvel at his enigmatic providence.