One thing I’ve noticed with the stories in The Bible, is that the writers tend to make the stories of characters they weren’t positively disposed to, short. It doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad, sometimes it’s probably because such characters weren’t considered by the writers to have lived lives from which some lessons could be drawn. Hence, you’d find that a Methuselah who is said to have lived so long, had nothing but a few verses devoted to him. It is also why Esau and his descendants get short stories about them (and most times only in relation to Jacob and/or his descendants), and a summarization of all that’s about that lineage in a genealogy. However, when it’s about a much loved character, especially those who played some role in the making of Israel, they hardly ever tire to ink volumes.
The character whose life became the focus of Genesis chapter 37, appears to me like one that is much loved of the writers, and I doubt you’d feel otherwise, should you be one of them, as I have been since I first heard the story of this character. Indeed, the fact that I’d read his story, watched several movies dedicated to him, has not in the slightest killed my interest in the story of Joseph. Born to Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel, his story starts as a seventeen year old boy, loved the most by his father “because he was the son of his old age” (v.3). A “coat of many colours” must have been either very expensive or rare to have in those days, that it was a big deal for Jacob to get one for his beloved son Joseph, enough to get particular mention in that passage of The Bible, so much so that it contributed to the hatred Joseph endured from his brothers, not the least because he “brought the evil report of them to their father” (v.2), of course, coupled with the original fact of their father’s exceptional love for him, leading to them never having any course to speak peaceably to and with him.
Sadly, to this day, many parents either intentionally or not, encourage sibling rivalries by showing preference for one or more kids, over their siblings, the consequences of which often outlive them. Families have been wiped out in latter generations by reason of issues related to sibling rivalries, and it is unfortunate that Jacob having witnessed what it caused between him and his brother Esau, could go on to visit such on his children just because besides Joseph and Benjamin, the others were born by women he had no love for. It is very likely that Joseph noticed what was going on, and would’ve milked the situation to his advantage at every given opportunity, sometimes in anticipation of a reward from his father for snitching on his brothers, for instance.
The life altering incident in the life of Joseph came in the form of dreams. At first, it was about him and his brothers “binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold your sheaves came round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf” (v.7). Joseph’s brothers who while Joseph didn’t have outrageous dreams had no love lost for him, became further infuriated when he told them the dream. The asked him what he thought of it, if really he would rule over them. As if the injury wasn’t bad enough, Joseph proceeded to salt the sore, when he told members of his family his second dream, where “the sun and the moon and eleven stars made obeisance to (him)” (v.9). If Jacob couldn’t be bothered by the first dream, this one which seemed to feature him did, and though he rebuked Joseph for it, we are not told that his attitude towards him changed, which made his brothers envy him more.
Once when his brothers had gone out with the flock to Shechem, and Jacob sent Joseph to “… go now, see whether it is well with your brethren, and well with the flock, and bring me word again” (v.14). Joseph left for Shechem, but did not find his brothers there, he was found by a certain man, who told him he overheard his brothers saying they were going to Dothan. Joseph thereafter made for Dothan, where he eventually found his brothers, who seeing him from afar, conspired amongst themselves to kill him, saying “… behold, this dreamer comes,… let us kill him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, an evil beast has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams” (v.20), which is why sometimes we must be weary of whom we share not just our dreams with, but our aims and aspirations. Joseph in this respect, was young and naive.
Not all ten of Joseph’s brothers (by other mothers) wanted him dead though. Reuben, thinking to save Joseph later, probably after nerves have calmed, suggested that they “cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness” (v.22). So, once Joseph came to them, they stripped him of his coat of many colours, and threw him into the pit. The verses following this suggests that after Joseph was cast into a pit, his brothers moved away from the spot, to another where they could observe from afar, to eat. It was while they were in this new location, that they saw “a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt” (v.25). Judah on sighting these Ishmaelites, suggested that rather than kill their brother, why not sell him to the Ishmaelites, seeing as Joseph was their flesh and blood.
But before they could reach the Ishmaelites, some Midianites who were passing near the pit were Joseph was thrown, saw him, and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph into Egypt” (v.28). I must confess that it was not until late last year that I came to the understanding that it wasn’t Joseph’s brothers that sold him into slavery, to the Ishmaelites. Interestingly, nothing changed in the wordings of the verses, from the way I read them before, and how it is today. It only proves that often times we go into the Bible, with our own narration, and regardless of how it is written, we leave with our narratives. If Reuben hadn’t dissuaded his brothers from their very evil plot of killing Joseph immediately the latter arrived, there would be no saving him. He was right to think that with the passage of time his brothers would change their mind, unfortunately they only changed their mind to consider the lesser evil of selling their brother into slavery.
The Midianites beat them to their plan however, in selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, who “brought Joseph into Egypt” (v.28), for what will be the beginning of another chapter of his life. Elvis Usanga it was, while preaching would remind us, that once there’s a prophecy of a good thing coming to someone, the one should brace himself for a hard time to follow immediately before the fulfilment of the prophecy. I think he must’ve gotten the backing for that thinking from the story of Joseph, and I have also found that to contain some element of truth from what I’ve experienced severally. It is why I never break sweat over untoward events in my life, as much as I temper my celebrations following positive outcomes. Once Joseph received revelations of him becoming great, his life almost immediately turned upside down, as not only his brothers schemed to knock him off, but several others with whom his paths crossed did not do him any favours either. Methinks Joseph may not have offered any resistance to been sold, as he may have figured that he would be safer in the hands of strangers than with his brothers, whom he might have gleaned wanted him dead. If he believed his dream to be true, and to come to pass, he would’ve taken consolation from the fact that all that is happening is just a prelude to what will eventually be, concerning him, and I think if we also know our end, our present untoward circumstances will scare us less.
BIBLE STORIES (50): JOSEPH’S DREAMS https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/bible-stories-50-josephs-dreams/
Published by m'khail madukovich