Genesis 37, Joseph The Son - Part I

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I.              Preface of Joseph.

Introduction: We know that "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  For those who have been Christians for any length of time, may find that the page in their Bible which contains Romans 8:28 may be a little worn, even smudged.  And with good reason.  This great verse is a promise from God that we are not hapless victims of life, at the mercy of fate or chance.  We are not driven along by some blind, impersonal force.

On the contrary, we are the objects of God’s providential care.  We are under His guiding and protecting hand.  The providence of God defined by Berkhof is ‘that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the creator preserves all His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.” 

You remember when Jacob said to his boys “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me” (Gen.42:36).  But the outcome was found in chapter 50 of Genesis, when the family is reunited, Joseph said  "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Genesis 50:20, NKJV)

 So we are faced with this incredible truth that God rules and overrules in all the circumstances of life.  This doctrine is classically expressed in the story of Joseph.  The story of Joseph is a story of jealousy, deceit, slavery, misrepresentation, injustice, rivalry, and forgiveness.  Joseph’s life encompasses all this and much more.  Joseph’s life ought to be for us a story of great encouragement and reassurance as we make our way in the walk of faith, carrying with us the baggage of our past, the fears of our present, and the prospects of our future.

We are sometimes tempted to wonder in the midst of all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of life, “Does God care?  Is God in control?  And if so, what might we expect?  We don’t know if Josephs asked those questions before he was seventeen.  We will see that his early life did include a great amount of turmoil, in large part because his father, Jacobs past was catching up with him.   

Genesis 37–50 (the last main division of the book) records the exciting and true story of Joseph, the eleventh and beloved son of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob.  The drama, color, emotion, suspense, plots, character descriptions, and valuable historical records found in this story are examples of the literary excellence found throughout the Bible, the greatest literary masterpiece of all time. 

The critics would have us believe this story is nothing more than bits of folklore tossed together at random by different authors and contributors.  But such an explanation makes the critics look like intellectual dunces and manifests their deliberate unbelief.  If these critics are right, then the authors who tossed this story together make the greatest writers look like copy boys in comparison; for these so-called contributors of Joseph's story did by accident what the greatest writers in the world have been unable to do intentionally, namely, produce a masterpiece which will endure throughout the ages.

( Why is so much written in the Bible about Joseph)?

At least three reasons may be given.

It is a most vital explanation of circumstances.  Without this record of Joseph we would be greatly puzzled about the circumstances described in the Book of Exodus.

  1. We would not know why Israel was so firmly entrenched in Egypt, how they got there, and why they stayed so long.
  2. We would not know what Exodus meant when it says the persecution of Israel began when a king arose who knew not Joseph (Exodus 1:8).  
  3. Also, later on in Scripture, we would not know why Manasseh and Ephraim were given tribal status in the nation of Israel when they are not the sons of Jacob.
  4. his story explains the circumstances and thus maintains the continuity of the Biblical record—and continuity is an important trademark of the Scriptures.

He is a great example of conduct.  His life is nearly impeccable, and, as a result, gives valuable instruction and encouragement in the matter of God-honoring behavior.

  1. Joseph had such a varied life yet in every situation he shows us how to live uprightly and faithfully for God.
  2. Joseph stands nearly alone in Scripture in his excellent conduct; few men in the Scripture give a great example of godly living as Joseph does.

He is a marvelous exhibit of Christ.  Joseph is in many ways an excellent (many would say type of Christ), and this alone merits much being written about his life.

  1. Christ is the main theme of the Scriptures, and Joseph's story certainly emphasizes this blessed and illuminating truth.
  2. One entire chapter of this book is given completely to showing the many ways Joseph’s life parallels with Christ’s life.
  3. This study on Joseph that we are endeavoring to study is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it will at least whet our appetite to know and to study more about Joseph and to know and to study more of the entire Word of God.

The Age of Joseph (Genesis 37:2)

  1. Joseph the teenager.
  • The inspiring and instructive story of Joseph began when Joseph was seventeen years old.  He was only a teenager, but what a teenager!
  • Character was deeply etched upon his heart, and firm conviction controlled his behavior.  The idea that we cannot expect godliness in young people is not supported by Joseph's life.
  • You do not have to be old, retired, and past you’re prime to have strong character and conviction.

Paul exhorted Timothy by saying,* "Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers" (1Tim. 4:12).

Jesus said in Matthew 18 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 18:10)

Listen to how Paul speaks of Timothy in 1Cor.16 "Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am…”  "So let no one despise him.  But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren." (1 Corinthians 16:10-11, NASB95)

He tells him in 2Tim to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB95)

Paul also exhorts Timothy to "Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  (2 Timothy 2:22, NASB95)

  • Not only is it possible to live godly at an early age, as Joseph's life attests; but it also saves one from much loss.  The earlier one begins to live for God, the fewer years will be wasted.

The appearances of Joseph.

  1. We first meet Joseph in (Gen.30:22–24).  There Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel, bore his favorite son, Joseph.  Rachel had been barren for many years.
  • She had watched in envy and despair as Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah bore sons to Jacob.
  • Ten sons in all had been born before Joseph.  But finally Joseph was born and much to the rejoicing of Rachel.  Rachel's barrenness was only in numbers, not in quality.  Man emphasizes numbers but God specializes in quality, quality is character.
  • The second appearance of Joseph is in (Gen.33:2).  Esau and four hundred men were approaching the camp of Jacob. 
  • To protect the camp from possible attack by Esau, Jacob divided his family into groups.  Placed in the group at the end, where protection was the greatest, were Rachel and Joseph.
  • They were Jacob's most prized possessions, and so he gave them premium protection.  
  • Our most valuable possessions, whether we realize it or not, are our character and our spiritual blessings.  We must constantly keep guard of our character.

Paul told Timothy “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."  (2 Timothy 1:14, NASB95)

Keeping watch of our character will enable us to say as Paul "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7, NKJV)

Character and spiritual blessing must be given the best protection we can possibly give them.  We must treat them like Jacob treated Rachel and Joseph.

  1. The third appearance of Joseph is prior to the 37th chapter of Genesis (Gen.33:7).
  • Rachel and Joseph are brought forward to meet Esau, and they bow in respectful greeting to Esau.
  • Joseph had been taught good manners, and he exhibited them in this incident.  Many young people, and many adults also, could learn from this example.  
  • The fourth and final mention of Joseph is simply the listing of his name in (Gen.35.24).
  • Joseph is listed with his only younger brother Benjamin.  
  • What a sad day it was in Joseph's young life when she died.  Rachel’s death helped Joseph to learn that godliness does not exempt one from earthly trials and sorrows.

The experiences of Joseph as a child.

Joseph had some other experiences in his youth that also taught this lesson.

the hurried flight of Jacob and his family from Laban (Gen.31:1-7, 20-32)… 

Sometime after Joseph was born, Jacob decided it was time to go back home and face his brother Esau in Canaan. We don’t know how old Joseph was at this time – maybe six or seven years old.  If so, he was old enough to take in is father’s announcement “we’re moving back to Canaan.”  Joseph is going to have a lot of tearing away in his life – many times when he didn’t get to say goodbye.

  • the fear which came to the home when they heard that Esau was coming to meet them (Gen.33:1-11)
  • Again, Joseph may not have grasped the whole picture, but he knew something was wrong and his father was afraid. 
  • the troubling sight of his father limping into camp one morning at Penuel (Gen.32:22-32)
  • As we mentioned earlier, Jacob divided his family and possessions and sent then on ahead. 
  • Separated from his family and his possessions, he encountered God in a surprising, personal necessary way. It was a spiritual high water mark for Jacob.  However, trial often follows closely on the heels of triumph.  Blessings are often followed quickly by battle.
  • The blessings are to equip us for the battle, the triumphs are to strengthen us for the trial.  So "do not be surprised or discouraged if a time of fiery trial should follow a season of unusual blessing.
  • the bloody ordeal of Shechem all had to leave deep and painful impressions upon Joseph's young heart as did the death of his mother (Gen.34:1-7)
  • Sexual immorality is the bad passion here.  Scripture thoroughly condemns sexual immorality. 
  • Rape was the specific sex act that was the primary cause of the brutal massacre of the city of Shechem.  It was a forced sexual experience for Dinah. 
  • This sex act "was done against a young and comparatively helpless girl whom circumstances had placed within his [Shechem's] power.

Further, it was done in violation of the laws of hospitality, which required him to protect, rather than to injure, a stranger's good name" God intended the sex act to be an act of love between a husband and wife; but when sex is taken out of the marriage, it becomes an act of cruelty instead of an act of love.

Paul said "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;" (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NASB95)

He also said in 1 Corinthinans to "Flee immorality.  Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

God was putting Joseph through a school of preparation for service—a school in with rough training.  Joseph was going to have to learn how to weep and how to deal with pain. 

it is obvious from the history of Joseph's life that these trials of his early life helped to build in him the character and faith he had. We must not allow our circumstances and disappointments to become the excuse for the choices we make in life.  God is greater than all of that, and He can bring beauty out of ashes.

  • Jacob, Joseph’s father, was not a good model of integrity.
  • He did poorly when it came to decisiveness.
  • He was slow when it came to action.
  • He tended to avoid issues rather than face them.
  • But God hose to use this imperfect father to raise the boy He had chosen to redeem His people from famine through his experiences in Egypt. 

What about us who are parents?

  • What is the legacy we are leaving?
  • What stories will our children tell?
  • When they stand and gaze at our tombstone, what then?
  • Be encouraged that out of the chaos of Joseph’s background came a man God used as a stirring example of His grace.
  • In this study in which we see Joseph primarily in the position of a son, we will consider Joseph's purity (Gen.37:2), privileges (Gen.37:3–11), pursuit (Gen.37:12–17), and persecution (Gen.37:18–36).

The Purity of Joseph (Genesis 37:2).

One of the first things we learn about Joseph in the Bible is his purity. His purity brought him much blessing and honor from God, but it also brought him much trouble and suffering from his enemies. Purity always does this to a person.  It promotes the finest of blessings but it also provokes the foulest of buffetings. Those ho would live the noble life of purity must not let the buffetings detract them from pursuit of the blessings, however.

“Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father…”  (Gen.37:2).

The Validity of Joseph's Report.

The report Joseph brought back, I believe referred to all ten of the older brothers.  In Genesis we read of such things as…

  • murder (Genesis 34:25), incest (Genesis 35:22), hatred (Genesis 37:4), envy (Genesis 37:11), selling of Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37:28),
  • lying (Genesis 37:31–33), and immorality (Genesis 38:12–18) by these brothers all of which shows the bent to evil that existed among all ten of Joseph's older brothers.
  • Therefore, an evil report of all of these men is not unexpected, hard to believe, or difficult to validate.

Some accuse Joseph of gossip when he reported the evil of his brothers to his father.  This however, was not the case at all. So how do we know that it was not talebearing or gossip or some other form of indiscreet and unjustified talk? To answer that question, we ask three other questions: to whom did Joseph speak?  what did Joseph speak?  and why did Joseph speak?

To whom did Joseph speak?  "Joseph brought a bad report about them to their father" (v. 2).

Jacob needed to know about the evil of his boys, and this was the very person to whom Joseph reported.  One commentator said, "Jacob had a right to know and Joseph would have been wrong if he had not told him the truth about his brothers." Talebearers, however, are always telling the wrong person.  Often their wrong is not in what they say but to whom they say it.It makes a great deal of difference whom you tell.  It can either stop evil or spread evil.  Talebearers have a habit of telling evil things only to those who will spread evil.

Talebearing or gossip, is forbidden, we read in Leviticus 19, "You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.”  (Leviticus 19:16, NASB95)

Gossip is a cause of friction, Proverbs 16 says "A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”  (Proverbs 16:28, NASB95)

It is also destructive, Paul wrote to Timothy speaking about younger woman "At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention." (1Tim.5:13)

Scripture warns against associating with gossipers: "He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip."  (Proverbs 20:19, NASB95)

Don’t go around revealing secrets of others "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter." (Proverbs 11:13, NASB95)

What did Joseph speak?  He spoke the truth.

We have already noted how evil his brothers were, and so what Joseph reported was not inconsistent with the facts. But in contrast to Joseph, talebearers are not careful about the facts.  Limiting talebearers to telling only the facts would quickly diminish their zeal for speaking

Why did Joseph speak?  He had two excellent reasons for reporting the evil of his brothers. 

First: he was obligated to his father – As a keeper of his father's flocks, Joseph (along with his ten older brothers) was obligated to keep his father informed as to the condition of the flocks and of the situation in the field.

  • When the Bible warns against evil speaking, as in James 4:11, it does not mean we are never to expose or denounce evil.  Rather, it teaches us not to speak in an unfactual or prejudicial manner.
  • The same lesson is taught by the frequently misunderstood and misused text of Matthew 7:1 which says, "Judge not, so that you will not be judged.”  These two verses from James and Matthew do not teach us to never speak out against evil.  Rather, they exhort us to be careful that we are discreet and honest when denouncing evil.

Second: he was opposed to evil Joseph reported the evil of his brothers to his father because Joseph was himself opposed to evil. 

Joseph's character was of such excellent quality he would not tolerate evil. 

  • Proverbs 8 says "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate."  (Proverbs 8:13, NASB95)
  • If you love the Lord, then Psalm 97 is for you, it says "Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 97:10, NASB95)
  • One of the ways to hate evil is to follow Psalm 101 that says "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me."  (Psalm 101:3, NASB95)

Joseph was one who hated evil but there are those who will not protest against evil, but they will speak it fervently. There are those who will speak evil of others in order to gain personal advantage.  Joseph was not that way. 


Speaking Out Against Evil.

1 Samuel 2:22 – Example of not* speaking out against evil.  God dealt harshly with Eli for living in the sin of not restraining his children from wickedness!

  • Both sons were killed in one day, and Eli himself died a violent death.  The ark was taken into captivity (chapter 4).
  • Eli’s house was cursed forever; God Himself swore that the iniquity in Eli’s house would never be purged by sacrifice and offerings (3:13–14).
  • The priesthood was taken from Eli and given to another line.  And there never again was an old man in Eli’s family (2:31).

The Virtue of Joseph's Conduct.

“On the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers…” (Gen.49:26).

  1. Joseph's conduct was signally different from his brothers.
  • He stood apart from his brothers in so many notably ways.
  • Though Joseph worked alongside his brothers in the fields with the flocks in those early years of his life, he did not participate with his brothers in their evil (Prov.1:10-16).
  • He refused to go along with the crowd.  He stood alone because he would stand aright.  Joseph demonstrated that we do not have to be and do as others.
  • Peer pressure to conform may be great, and no one will experience more peer pressure than Joseph did.  

But peer pressure is not the standard by which we determine our conduct.  The Word of God is!  Dare to be pure.  Dare to live as the Word says and not as the world says.

The person who lives as the Word says and not as the world says

  • Can say that, when heats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  
  • …he can say with David, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8),
  • ...nd he can say as Caleb did when he was eighty-five years old, “I followed the Lord my God fully” (Josh.14:8).
  • Joshua exhorted the people by saying"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  (Joshua 24:15, NKJV)

Living like this is seldom popular, as Joseph discovered; but it is always right, and that is what really matters anyway. Our attitude to live like Joseph did is affected by the intensity of our relationship with God. The Lord Jesus demands total commitment to Him:

  • Jesus stresses complete dedication to Him, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  (John 12:25, NKJV)
  • Jesus said that He is to be the Supreme love of our life "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:37-39, NKJV)
  • Paul said that the world is spiritually dead to him and he is dead to the world "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world "  (Galatians 6:14, NASB95)

We need more men like Joseph, whose keynote of character and life is purity.  As in his case, it would benefit nations, save multitudes, and glorify God. The example of Daniel (Dan.1:8; 2:14-28, 46-49; 3:12-18; 6:1-10, 18-23).

The Preference for Joseph (Genesis 37:3)

“Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, he was the son of his old age…”  (Gen.37:3).

(1)           The cause of Jacob's preferential love for Joseph was Joseph's character.  But this is not what the text seems to state.
          The text says that Joseph ("was the son of his old age").  The lack of understanding of this text has resulted in much criticism of Jacob.
          He has been criticized for showing favoritism and foolishness in his preferential love for Joseph.
          The favoritism criticism says Jacob was guilty of loving one of his children more than the others.  We would call this favoritism and favoritism is truly wrong.
  • Favoritism – Although I don’t believe that the phrase “son of his old age” is referring to favoritism specifically, which we will talk about in a moment, but I do want to touch on the subject of favoritism.

Favoritism is forbidden in scripture :

  • Deuteronomy 21 says "Suppose a man has two wives, but he loves one and not the other, and both have given him sons. And suppose the firstborn son is the son of the wife he does not love. When the man divides his inheritance, he may not give the larger inheritance to his younger son, the son of the wife he loves, as if he were the firstborn son. He must recognize the rights of his oldest son, the son of the wife he does not love, by giving him a double portion. He is the first son of his father’s virility, and the rights of the firstborn belong to him." (Deuteronomy 21:15-17, NLT)
  • Don’t ever compare a child with his siblings.  You’ll discourage him, make him angry, and break his spirit.
  • Don’t say things such as “Why can’t you be bright like your sister?
  • You always get C’s and she gets A’s” or “I never have to tell him twice to do anything” or “Why don’t you act like your brother?”
  • or “I only wanted two kids; why did you have to come along?”

If you want to destroy your child, just make him feel inferior to everyone else in the family. You can test for this problem easily: ask your children how they feel about each other, and find out if they have preferences toward each other.  If they do, they’ve probably picked them up from you. Jacob was a product of favoritism, therefore he should have learned (Gen.27:6-17). Favoritism or partiality discriminates (James 2:1-9.

The Meaning of the Preference.

The phrase "son of his old age" in our text does not refer to how old Jacob was in years but to how mature Joseph was in behavior.

  • Jamieson says this phrase is a "Hebrew phrase for 'a wise son,' one who possessed observation and wisdom above his years—an old head on young shoulders."
  • Matthew Poole speaks likewise.  He says, "The ancient translations, Chaldee, Persian, Arabic, and Samaritan, render the words thus, a wise or prudent son; old age being oft mentioned as a token of prudence; one born old, one wise above his years, one that had a grey head, as we say, upon green shoulders."

Joseph's wisdom is especially evidenced in his holy character.  

Wisdom is indeed evidenced in character as is seen in "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov.9:10), and "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil" (Prov.8:13).

If it was simply Jacob's old age at the birth of a son that determined who was the favorite and got the most love, then Benjamin, not Joseph, should be the most loved. Benjamin was born when Jacob was probably over 100, whereas Joseph was born when Jacob was 91. Furthermore, with the first eleven sons of Jacob all being born within a period of six years, it hardly seems logical that Joseph would be considered a son of Jacob's old age more than the other sons, some who were born very close to Joseph's birth. So it seems that the text is saying that character, not chronology, determined Jacob's preference for Joseph.

The Privileges of Joseph (Genesis 37:3).

"Joseph made him a tunic of many colors…”  (Gen37:3).

The Vesture (coat).

The description of the coat:

(a)           These words are a translation of two Hebrew words “kethoneth passim”.  Kethoneth means coat, tunic or robe; passim means ankles or wrists.

The two words together mean a long-sleeved coat, or tunic reaching to the ankles. The significance of the coat. It signified rank.  It indicated that the wearer was an overseer or master. By giving this coat to Joseph, Jacob plainly indicated that Joseph was to have the privileged position of preeminence over his brothers in the family's administration.

The qualifications for the coat:

These would vary from family to family, but normally one must at least be the firstborn to be given such a coat.  Joseph, of course, was not the firstborn. Then why was he given the coat instead of Reuben, the firstborn, or one of the other older sons of Jacob?  The answer is found in the purity of Joseph.  He had character but his older brothers did not. Reuben, through incest, had forfeited his rightful place as the firstborn.  The other nine were no better.  Jacob could not trust them either. God, like Jacob, also places purity as the first and foremost qualification for the privilege of high service in His family.  1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 emphasize this fact.

Talent is useful, longevity and seniority have their place, and popularity does gain votes in church elections. But God says character is the prime qualification for church office

The Gospel in the coat.

(a)           The believer is given, because of his salvation, a robe of righteousness from the heavenly Father.

  • Isaiah 61:10 says, "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61:10, NASB95)
  • This robe, like Joseph's, is truly a beautiful coat; in fact, no coat is so beautiful; for it is a robe of righteousness and, therefore, has the "beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:2).
  • This robe, like Joseph's, exempts the believer from labor but not from service (Matthew 11:28–30).
  • And as Joseph's robe speaks of rank, so does this robe; for we are a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), and we shall rule and reign with Christ in the millennium (Revelation 20:6).  The robe of righteousness attires us appropriately for the position we gain through Jesus Christ in our salvation.

Do you have the proper robe (Matt.22:1-14).

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