(Recommended Reading – Genesis 37 thru 50)
There are so many stories in the Bible where things happen to good people that seem to be bad. But then ironically, the results are good. One of those stories of irony is the one about Joseph.
In Genesis 37:2b we read about how Joseph, as a teenager, was a tattletale. ”..he brought their father a bad report about them.” As a side note to this part of the story, I had never noticed before, although I have read this story dozens of times – it states that Joseph “was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah…” These were actually Joseph’s half-brothers from two of Jacob’s wives – the maidservants of his mother Rachel and her sister Leah. (No mention is made here of his blood brother from Rachel and the half-brothers born of Leah.) Maybe he felt less connected to the others and that is what created the strain between them?
To make matters worse in their household, we see in verse 3 that apparently Jacob (Israel) made it no secret how he loved Joseph more than his brothers, which I strongly suspect would create envy even hatred among the brothers toward Joseph.
Joseph contributed to the strife even more by sharing dreams with them that indicated he would rule over them (verses 5-11.) This will have an important impact later. It would seem to me that Joseph was acting as an overindulged, spoiled young man. First, as a tattletale to get some of his brothers in trouble with their father and secondly, taunting all his brothers with his dreams of ruling over them.
Therefore, it really comes as no surprise when his brothers seize the opportunity to retaliate against him. (Verses 12-36)
When Jacob sent Joseph out to check on his brothers they scheme to get rid of him. Their first plan was to out and out kill him. They specifically state in verse 20b ”…Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” – a sarcastic and hateful indication of how his taunting had affected them. However, Rueben (one of his half-brothers born to Leah) wanted to save him; and, Judah (another of Leah’s sons) is the one that actually convinces them to sell him to the Midianites, rather than kill him. (These two brothers possibly had softer hearts toward him because they were not part of his tale carrying to their father?)
We know that later Joseph’s dreams that he had shared with his family in fact became truth when his brothers traveled to Egypt to buy grain. Genesis 42:6-7a (NLT) “Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them.” Verses 8-9a (NLT) “Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him. And he remembered the dreams he’d had about them many years before…” Later, when his brothers returned for more grain we see in Genesis 43:26-28 (NLT) they once again bowed before him – “When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him. After greeting them, he asked, ‘How is your father, the old man you spoke about? Is he still alive?’ ‘Yes,’ they replied. ‘Our father, your servant, is alive and well.’ And they bowed low again.” But it did not stop there. Again in Genesis 44:14 and 50:18 the brothers are bowing to Joseph. So, as his dreams had foretold, they all did end up bowing to him and he consequently saved all of their lives.
A real story of irony.
But remember, what may seem like irony can really be the plan of God in action.
Watch for next week’s article for more insight about this story.
Written by Karran Martin – January 2019