Joseph: The End

(Please read Genesis 49+50 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I have based the following remarks on the NIV.)

 

Eric Jackson, writing for Forbes magazine three years ago, listed the top 25 regrets people tend to have as they approach the end of life.  I’ve changed the list to make it proactive and positive – how to avoid having regrets at the end of life.

  1. Don’t work so much at the expense of relationships.
  2. Stand up to bullies in school and in life.
  3. Stay in touch with good friends.
  4. Turn off your phone more.
  5. Resolve romantic break-ups with honesty and then move on.
  6. Stop worrying about what others think about you.
  7. Have more confidence in yourself.
  8. Live the life you want to live, not to please others.
  9. Apply for the “dream job” you always wanted.
  10. Don’t take life so seriously.
  11. Go on more trips with family/friends.
  12. Don’t let your marriage break down.
  13. Teach children (especially your own) to do stuff.
  14. Bury the hatchet with a family member or old friend.
  15. Trust that voice in the back of your head.
  16. Ask more questions.
  17. Involve yourself with the good people.
  18. Get that degree (high school or college).
  19. Don’t always make decisions on the basis of practicalities – have faith and take a risk.
  20. Spending more time at special events.
  21. Take care of your health when you still have a choice.
  22. Not having the courage to get up and talk at a funeral or an important event.
  23. Visiting a dying friend before they get sick and die.
  24. Learn another language.
  25. Be a better lover.

(Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/10/18/the-25-biggest-regrets-in-life-what-are-yours/ on 9/25/15.)

Message: Make peace in order to finish strong.

  1. Jacob (aka “Israel”) made peace with his sons and died.

Jacob had already hinted twice that death was near.

– 45:28 = AND ISRAEL SAID, “I’M CONVINCED! MY SON JOSEPH IS STILL ALIVE. I WILL GO AND SEE HIM BEFORE I DIE.”

– 46:30 = ISRAEL SAID TO JOSEPH, “NOW I AM READY TO DIE, SINCE I HAVE SEEN FOR MYSELF THAT YOU ARE STILL ALIVE.”

Still, death was not very near: Jacob and Joseph enjoyed 17 years together before he died. In 47:28 we read, JACOB LIVED IN EGYPT SEVENTEEN YEARS, AND THE YEARS OF HIS LIFE WERE A HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVEN.

The big thing prior to death was for the father to pass along a blessing to his sons. Jacob’s first preparation for death was to gather his sons and pronounced that blessing. It is recorded in detail in chapter 49. First, let’s recall how Jacob had himself deceived his elderly father Isaac several years ago to unlawfully obtain the first-born son’s special blessing way back in chapter 27.

In the case of Jacob’s sons, the blessing didn’t work out as some of them expected. In fact, Reuben (the firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Dan, and Benjamin – were all vilified by Jacob. He didn’t exactly curse them, but his words had the sting of rebuke in them! Watching those eleven knuckleheads grow up together, Jacob obviously knew his sons. With the possible exception of Judah, those who were virtuous received his praise and those who weren’t were blasted by his criticism.

Still, I believe that Jacob addressed his sons in this way to make one final attempt to make peace between them and with them. He hoped to end the sibling rivalry that had previously marked their relationships.

Though they were older, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had been bad actors and did not deserve to be head of the family. Though that role traditionally fell to the eldest, these three were unworthy. So there would be no doubt and no arguments about his wishes, Jacob designated Judah as chief among his brothers. In 49:8 he said, “JUDAH, YOUR BROTHERS WILL PRAISE YOU; YOUR HAND WILL BE ON THE NECK OF YOUR ENEMIES; YOUR FATHER’S SONS WILL BOW DOWN TO YOU.”

Jacob blessed Joseph with the highest praise and affirmed that he was worthy of his father’s richest blessing. In 49:26 he said, “YOUR FATHER’S BLESSINGS ARE GREATER THAN THE BLESSINGS OF THE MOUNTAINS, THAN THE BOUNTY OF THE AGE-OLD HILLS. LET ALL THESE REST ON THE HEAD OF JOSEPH, ON THE BROW OF THE PRINCE AMONG HIS BROTHERS.”

The other preparation Jacob made for death was to hold Joseph to his earlier vow to bury Jacob in Canaan. This vow was sworn in 47:31 = “SWEAR TO ME,” [Jacob] SAID. THEN JOSEPH SWORE TO HIM, AND ISRAEL WORSHIPED AS HE LEANED ON TOP OF HIS STAFF.

Seventeen years later, (48:29-32) Jacob reminded Joseph of this oath and reminded all his sons of where he wanted to be buried.

The point here is that Joseph wanted to be buried in the land God had promised to his fathers. His last wish was to be perpetually connected with the land that would be the singular possession of his people. This final request reveals the faith of Jacob, who was utterly assured that God would keep His promise.

Notice the touching but understated way the writer of Genesis describes Jacob’s death (49:33): WHEN JACOB HAD FINISHED GIVING INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS SONS, HE DREW HIS FEET UP INTO THE BED, BREATHED HIS LAST AND WAS GATHERED TO THE HIS PEOPLE. Isn’t that the way all of us would wish to go? Quietly in our bed, with our family gathered around us?

Joseph’s reaction was also touching and obedient to his father’s wishes.

– 50:1 = JOSEPH THREW HIMSELF UPON HIS FATHER AND WEPT OVER HIM AND KISSED HIM.

– It’s interesting how Joseph followed all the Egyptian customs first; he had Jacob’s body embalmed in the Egyptian way (50:2-3). The embalming took A FULL FORTY DAYS and was followed by SEVENTY DAYS of mourning all over Egypt.

– After meeting all the Egyptian customs, Joseph asked pharaoh for permission to bury his father (50:4-6). Notice that Pharaoh did not merely agree to allow this, but – as he had done before – really went the extra mile and sent all of the court of Egypt along with Joseph traveling in the greatest luxury possible (50:7-9).

Then, once the caravan reached the burial site, they followed through with the burial customs of Joseph’s people: the mourners all LAMENTED LOUD AND BITTERLY, observing seven days of mourning before burying Jacob’s body (50:10-14).

  1. Joseph (aka “Zaphenath-Paneah”) made peace with his brothers and died.

One of the absolute truths of human nature is that the motives we attribute to others are a window to our own soul. So when we read about the eleven worrying about Joseph retaliating, it gives us insight into how little their character has changed over the years (50:15). For this reason they…

– Concocted a new lie (50:16-17).

– Humbled themselves before Joseph (50:18). Of course, this action is the fulfillment of the dreams back in chapter 37! Their reaction to the dreams set all these events in motion, then, toward the end, their choice of actions fulfill the dream. That is both irony and providence.

Joseph’s reaction offers more proof of his godly character.

– 50:17 = WHEN THEIR MESSAGE CAME TO HIM, JOSEPH WEPT.

– 50:19-21 = He did everything he could to reassure them that revenge was not on his mind or in his heart. Joseph knew vengeance is best left to God. He also knew that what they did so many years ago was out of evil intent, but God used it to accomplish good. As he had told them seventeen years earlier (45:4-7), God’s purpose was SAVING LIVES. With reassuring and kind words, Joseph urged his brothers not to be afraid of retaliation or anything else. He promised to PROVIDE FOR them and their children.

Three generations later, it came to be time for Joseph to be join his fathers in death (50:22-23). He called the eleven brothers to his side and said two things to them:

– 50:24 = He reminded them of God’s promise that one day God would help the descendants of Jacob leave Egypt. He reassured them that God would take them to the land He had promised their fathers.

– 50:25 = As his father had done before him, Joseph made his brothers promise that when they left Egypt, they would not leave his remains in Egypt, but take them along to be reinterred in the Promised Land. As we observed with Jacob, this is an act of faith on Joseph’s part. Confident God would keep His promise, Joseph wanted his remains to rest where his people would live. He saw their return to Canaan as inevitable

And with these simple words of 50:26, one of the most dramatic accounts in the Bible comes to an end. Notice again the restraint with which Genesis records Joseph’s death: SO JOSEPH DIED AT THE AGE OF A HUNDRED AND TEN. AND AFTER THEY EMBALMED HIM, HE WAS PLACED IN A COFFIN.

This promise was kept in Joshua 24:32 = AND JOSEPH’S BONES, WHICH THE ISRAELITES HAD BROUGHT UP FROM EGYPT, WERE BURIED AT SCHECHEM IN THE TRACT OF LAND THAT JACOB BOUGHT FOR A HUNDRED PIECES OF SILVER FROM THE SONS OF HAMOR, THE FATHER OF SCHECHEM. THIS BECAME AN INHERITANCE OF JOSEPH’S DESCENDANTS.

Old Max had started out as a diamond cutter, and through hard work and good judgment he finally became the owner of a National chain of jewelry stores. He was wealthy indeed.

But now, he lay dying, so he called his wife to his side. “Hannah,” he began, “I always meant to draw up a will but somehow I never got around to it. So pay close to attention to my last wishes.”

“Yes, Max, I am listening,” Hannah wept. “Whatever you want, it will be done.”

“First of all, the business I leave to Harry.”

“Oh, no, Max, not to Harry!” his wife protested. “With Harry it’s girl-girls-girls! Leave the business better to Jerome. He’s at least reliable and has a good head for figures.”

“Alright, let it be Jerome,” sighed the dying man. “To Harry I leave the stocks and bonds.”

“Better you should leave me the stocks and bonds. I should take care he doesn’t squander it on women or cards.”

“Very well, in your name I leave the securities. And the summer house I leave to our sweet Minnie.”

“Minnie!” exclaimed his wife. “What for what does Minnie need another summer house? Her husband didn’t buy her one last year? Give it to Anna – her husband is a poor man. After all she’s our flesh and blood too.”

“Fine! Anna gets the summer house,” he sighed resignedly. “And to our youngest Abe, I leave the car and the warehouses.”

“But Abe has already 2 cars. What does he need with another one? And he wants to be a musician – what would he do with warehouses? Take my advice and give them to Louis.”

That did it! Old Max had taken all he could of his wife’s interference. Raising himself off the pillow and summoning his last ounce of strength, he snapped, “Hannah, who is dying here – you or me?”

(Retrieved from http://www.greatcleanjokes.com/jokes/death-humor/death-joke/ on 9/25/15.)

Joseph: Reunited

(Please read Genesis 45 and 46 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I have prepared these remarks using the NIV.)

If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice that I’ve hopped over chapters 42-44; Joseph’s intrigues with his brothers.  I confess to being chicken.  I don’t see Joseph’s reason for engaging in these maneuvers, they’re lengthy, repetitive, and they only complicate the story. I encourage you to read them for yourself.  When you can make sense of it, please contact me.

SO.  From confession to an MSN News item dated September 16 2015:

A 103-year-old Georgia woman, banned from the church she’s been attending for over nine decades, is speaking out about her expulsion from her Baptist Church.

“According to reports, Genora Ham Biggs and the Rev. Tim Mattox of Union Grove Baptist Church in Elberton, Ga., have been going back and forth over his preaching, which Biggs calls a ‘holiness style’ that has been adopted at the church since he was hired about six years ago. Biggs says that sort of preaching doesn’t belong in a Baptist church.”

Biggs, who has been attending the church since she was just 11 years old, and who once served as the church secretary, is known by some in the congregation as the “church mother,” while others have dubbed her a “Jezebel.” But a recent letter from the church directed her that she is no longer welcome to worship; she’s been banned from entering the property after being too outspoken.

When Biggs tried to attend the service after receiving the letter, Mattox met her at the door and told her she wasn’t welcome. She pushed in, and Mattox reportedly dismissed the service, sent everyone home and shut off the lights. Biggs was left sitting alone, in the dark, in a church pew.

Biggs told Fox Carolina: “I was shocked. It was not a good feeling. I haven’t seen anything like this before,” she said of the service being canceled outright.  Biggs is receiving widespread support on social media, while the church’s Facebook page has been barraged with damning messages against the actions of the church.

(Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/103-year-old-woman-banned-from-church-lifelong-churchgoer-booted-by-ga-church on 9/17/15.)

It’s bad when the family is fractured.  I think we can agree on a few facts regarding this story: One, we have only heard one side so far.  Two, we do not want the problems of the church being prosecuted in social media.  Three, both sides seem to have forgotten whose church it is.  Four, we need to pray that this church family gets restored; that the conflict gets resolved.

This kind of fractured family is where we began our look into the life of Joseph.  We saw how sibling rivalry ushered in a set of very difficult and even unjust circumstances for Joseph.  Today we find out why.  From Joseph’s own lips we will learn what God was doing throughout all these circumstances, even the mistakes, miscues and outright sins that various people committed.

I pray that after today we’ll be encouraged by the knowledge that God is in control and that He has the power to take what is intended for evil and turn it to good.

MESSAGE: In all circumstances, God is working on our salvation.

  1. Reunited with his brothers, Joseph explained God’s greater purpose (45:1-15).

Whatever motive Joseph had for the two intrigues he perpetrated in chapters 42-44, he abandoned them at the end of chapter 44 and is overcome with emotion at the beginning of chapter 45.  He dismissed his ATTENDANTS, but proceeded to weep so loudly that they overheard his cries AND they felt justified in reporting this to Pharaoh.  Verse three indicates part of the emotion is concern for his father: Joseph wants to know whether he is alive or not.

For their part, the eleven brothers are confused and slow to understand.  In their defense, keep in mind this is a sudden and dramatic change.  Previously, the Egyptian official before them – now claiming to be their brother – had accused them of spying and thievery.  The passage of years and wearing the garb of a different culture no doubt changed Joseph’s appearance: he had to call them to have a closer look and see who he really was.

This is one of the more dramatic scenes of the Bible but the emotion is very understated.  The writer does not want us to miss the point in all the drama.

Joseph explained the point of it all is that God was at work all the time. He stated God’s will succinctly: “IT WAS TO SAVE LIVES THAT GOD SENT ME AHEAD OF YOU.”  Though the brothers’ intentions and actions were evil, God’s will was done.  This truth is the key to the Joseph narrative; God is in control in ALL circumstances.

This fact would be of international consequence. Countless people would be saved. But, as we see later in the passage, Joseph and Pharaoh would see to it that God’s will was on a personal scale too, and Joseph’s family would be saved.  Starting with the dreams and continuing with all the exceptional events of Joseph’s life, he was being prepared and placed by God where God wanted him to be.

The scene ends with the brothers being reconciled: hugging, kissing, and talking to one another (45:14-15).  When they parted company, Joseph gave them a bit of brotherly and friendly advice: “DON’T QUARREL ON THE WAY!”  This implies their reconciliation is complete and the relationship is restored.

  1. Pharaoh blessed the reunion with extra provision for Joseph’s family (45:16-24).

The text implies that Joseph and Pharaoh came up with the same idea independent of one another: to bring his father’s household to Egypt, where they could be cared for throughout the remaining years of the famine.  Pharaoh was especially generous; “I WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST OF THE LAND OF EGYPT AND YOU CAN ENJOY THE FAT OF THE LAND.”

Given the circumstances, Egypt was the best place for Israel & his family to be.  It’s said at least three times in this chapter to make it obvious; God worked to save His people.  Historically, we know that the sons of Jacob did prosper in Egypt.  They grew to be a great and numerous people.  You could say that Egypt provided a safe place in which the people of God could prosper.

Here’s an important truth, folks; God’s will is always what’s best for you.  In the short term, it may present difficulties, but it always ends up being for our good.

3. Joseph was reunited w/ Jacob(45:25-46:34)

You can understand how Jacob, who had been so heartbroken at the news of Joseph’s death so many years ago, might be STUNNED to hear that he was alive after all.  The word for STUNNED literally means that Jacob’s “heart grew numb.”

Jacob the Deceiver could hardly believe that he had been deceived all these years.  How could he admit such a thing, even to himself?   More likely, I think, was that the news was too good to be true.  The shock and surprise were too great to easily overcome.

What convinced him were the carts full of food and provisions that Pharaoh and Joseph had ordered as gifts to the family.  Joseph’s survival and exaltation to a place of authority in Egypt – the whole improbable tale – must be true, for it explained the evidence of his eyes.

In contrast to his “numbed heart,” the evidence before Jacob’s eyes REVIVED his SPIRIT and he exclaimed, “I’M CONVINCED! MY SON JOSEPH IS STILL ALIVE.  I WILL GO AND SEE HIM BEFORE I DIE.”  The generosity of Pharaoh REVIVED Jacob.  As we know, acts of kindness can renew a human heart.

Having made his decision to believe Joseph was alive, Jacob/Israel set out for Egypt.  At one of the caravan’s stops, he worshipped God.  Notice Jacob acted FIRST.  He acted on faith and THEN God sent a vision that affirmed his decision.

God told him, “DO NOT BE AFRAID.”  How often do we read THAT in Scripture?  And yet, how often do we allow ourselves to be bound by fear?  The LORD encouraged Jacob in four other ways:

– By reminding him of the promise first made to his grand-father, Abraham; “I WILL MAKE YOU INTO A GREAT NATION.”  This would happen in Egypt.

– By promising to be with him; “I WILL GO DOWN TO EGYPT WITH YOU.”

– By promising to bring the nation of Israel out of Egypt; “I WILL BRING YOU BACK AGAIN.”  In Genesis 15:13-14, God told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves for 400 years, but they would come out of it endowed with great wealth.

– On a personal level, promising Jacob that he would be with Joseph until the day he died; “JOSEPH’S OWN HAND WILL CLOSE YOUR EYES.”  They wouldn’t be separated again, as Joseph’s hand would be the one to close Jacob’s eyelids after he died.  This may sound like a strange way of phrasing a promise, but from Jacob’s own words, all he wanted was to see Joseph again before he died.

“When you’re in church, should you leave your cell phone in your pocket or purse? Or can you take it out to look up Bible verses or take notes?

“Almost all Americans (96%) believe that using a cell phone in church is generally unacceptable, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. In fact, worship services are the most frowned-upon setting to use a cell phone, followed closely by movie theaters and meetings.

“However, half of Americans who use their mobile device during worship services find their phones are an easy way to look up scriptures and songs. About 40 percent said using mobile and internet technology can help messages of hope and inspiration reach more people, as well as can make personal faith more accessible to those with disabilities.  Christianity Today has noted how many millennials use their cell phones to fact check their pastor’s sermon.”

(Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/

september/sunday-morning-where-should-cell-phone-be-church-etiquette.html on 9/17/15.)

I am convinced that electronics will never take the place of face-to-face personal conversation.  I know that problems get resolved and relationships restored when people talk and listen.  I believe that even though God can redeem t worst circumstances, He prefers that we love one another first & work together to overcome obstacles to our relationships with one another.  In all circumstances, God is working on our salvation.  He expects us to join Him in that work.

Joseph: Sibling Rivalry (Part Two)

(Please read Genesis 37:12-36.)

Message: Family relationships need MORE grace, not less.

The Birth Order Effect

“The one thing you can bet your paycheck on is the firstborn and second-born in any given family are going to be different,” says Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has studied birth order since 1967 and author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (Revell). But how is it that a gregarious comedian and a reclusive, introspective thinker can be so different yet share the same genes? Psychologists like Leman believe the secret to sibling personality differences lies in birth order — whether you’re a first-, middle-, last-born, or only child — and how parents treat their child because of it.

Birth Order + Parenting = Behavior

Simply by virtue of being a couple’s first child, a firstborn will naturally be a sort of experiment for the new parents, a mixture of instinct and trial-and-error. Perhaps this will cause the parents to become by-the-book caregivers who are extremely attentive, stringent with rules, and overly neurotic about the minutiae.

In contrast, if the couple decides to have a second child, they might raise their second-born with less of an iron first due to their experiences raising their firstborn. They might also be less attentive to the second-born since there’s another child competing for attention, and they probably will be less inclined to impulsively dial 911 every time the child breaks a sweat.

Firstborn: As the leader of the pack, firstborns often tend to be:

Reliable

Conscientious

Structured

Cautious

Controlling

Achievers

Middle Child: In general, middle children tend to possess the following characteristics:

People-pleasers

Somewhat rebellious

Thrives on friendships

Has large social circle

Peacemaker

Last Born

Youngest children tend to be the most free-spirited due to their parents’ increasingly laissez-faire attitude towards parenting the second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) time around. The baby of the family tends to be:

Fun-loving

Uncomplicated

Manipulative

Outgoing

Attention-seeker

Self-centered

(Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/baby/development/social/birth-order-and-personality/ on 8/7/15.)

While Joseph wasn’t exactly the baby of the family, he held the last-born spot several years before the “Oops! Baby” Benjamin was born.  Does this description sound like Joseph?

(NOTE: See Part One for main points one and two.)

3. The consequences of sibling rivalry (37:12-36).

     Consequence #1 = Vengeful brothers.

Joseph’s father Jacob (aka Israel) did not discipline Joseph for tale-bearing, but used him to check up on his brothers (12-14). Why would Jacob do this if his sons weren’t men of questionable character?  Doesn’t this action show there were already divisions in the family?

The fact that they were not where he expected them to be may justify Jacob’s use of Joseph as a spy (15-17).  They may have been in Dothan goofing off or carrying out some scheme they wanted to keep secret.  Chapter 38 shows Judah running off and making deals of his own.  This may be additional justification of Jacob’s suspicions.

Still I wonder at the lack of wisdom Jacob shows in sending Joseph out like this.  Surely he knew the brothers hated Joseph.  He should’ve been able to guess that they would know Joseph was there as a spy and would mistreat him in some way.  Even if he refused to believe they’d really harm Joseph, he should’ve seen the threat of some type of harm and preserved his favorite son from ten bullies.

If it seems I’m being hard on Jacob, let’s remember a couple things. First, “Jacob” literally means “heel-grabber.”  That is a description of what happened at his birth but is also a euphemism for “deceiver.”  His character is expressed in his name.  Second, the last dozen chapters of Genesis have demonstrated his cleverness in outfoxing his father, brother, and father-in-law among others.  He was the guy who wrestled all night with God!

Where has this guy gone?  Has age consumed him?

It seems most likely to me that Jacob sent Joseph on this errand wearing the coat to demonstrate Joseph’s authority over his brothers.

He wanted to believe that they would respect his decision to promote Joseph over them, but they weren’t that kind of men.

This makes more sense because wanting to kill him over a coat has always seemed a petty and effeminate motivation for their fratricidal anger. This is important: the brother’s jealousy was not over the coat itself, but what the coat represented: Jacob’s having put Joseph in authority over them.  This was pride talking, and guys have been known to commit murder over nothing more important than pride.

This also fits with Joseph’s dreams.  They predicted his supremacy over his brothers and they saw Joseph’s promotion to “supervisor” as a step toward making those dreams a reality.

Notice that before Joseph has even caught up with them, the brothers are plotting to KILL HIM (18-22)!  However you explain it, this shows the depth of their motive.

“HERE COMES THAT DREAMER!” they say.  In the Hebrew this literally means “master of dreams.” Later they add, “THEN WE’LL SEE WHAT COMES OF HIS DREAMS.”  Both statements imply that their motive is jealousy and the focus is on the dreams, not the coat.  The irony is that God will use their actions to bring about the fulfillment of his dreams!

The brothers weren’t thinking clearly or never were good planners.  In any event, their initial plan was simple; kill Joseph, dispose of the body in a place no one will look for it (in a CISTERN; dried-out well) and make up an excuse for dad.

Consequence #2 = A Lost son.

As Joseph arrived, they set upon their brother violently (23-24). This may have appeased their anger a bit, but gave them an appetite – they sat down to eat!  During dinner an improvement to their plan presented itself (25-30 & 36).  Opportunity knocked and some pagans were on the other side of the door: a caravan of Ishmaelites (descendants of Abraham’s illegitimate son Ishmael) who were from Midian (MIDIANITES) inspired a decision to do some business.

The sale price of their brother was TWENTY SHEKELS OF SILVER. According to the price of silver at 10:00 am on 8/7/15, this was just $148.40.  But – as I’m sure these guys reasoned – it’s more money than they had before and it spares them of having guilty blood on their hands.

These Midianites were slave traders, not keepers and once they arrived in Egypt, they sold Joseph to an Egyptian named Potiphar (cf 39:1).  He was an officer of some standing in Pharaoh’s court.

In all of this, a couple of the brothers distinguish themselves:

– Reuben distinguished himself as the best of the bad guys by trying to trick his brothers and rescue Joseph later (21-22 & 29-30).  He doesn’t have the courage or caring to stop them from attacking Joseph, but he does save his life.

– Judah shows himself as the most self-interested by trying to make money with his brother (26-27).  However, this may have been the only way he could think of sparing Joseph’s life.

Later, in chapter 49, Jacob called his sons to him just before he died for the traditional time of blessing.  What he says about each of his sons is telling: he cursed Reuben (49:3-4) the “nice guy” and blessed Judah (49:8-12) the scoundrel!  In fact, Judah is the ancestor of King David and of Jesus Christ! This seems odd, but it was Judah’s action that saved Joseph and got him to Egypt, advancing the plan of God.

Consequence #3 = A Grieving father.

Their conspiracy develops their plan further to deceive their father (31-32).  The coat that had become the symbol of their father’s favoritism became the prop that averted suspicion from them.  Knowing the Joseph would not willingly surrender the coat, Jacob assumes the worst and accepts the brothers’ story.

Thereby, Jacob the Deceiver is thoroughly fooled and falls into deep grief (33-35).  He tore off his clothes and put on the clothes of mourning.  SACKCLOTH was like burlap; rough, abrasive and cheaply made, wearing it was a sign of deep sorrow.

Jacob mourned for SEVERAL DAYS, refusing all attempts by the family to comfort him.  He WEPT and said that mourning was his way of joining Joseph in the grave.

Sibling rivalry is considered to be quite healthy and very normal, even in adulthood. William Hansen, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, argues that its actually inevitable once that second sibling enters the family. “The oldest is suddenly shifted to the sidelines,” he explains. “It can be hard when the new one shows up and everyone is paying attention to her. That can set the stage for a lifetime of ill feelings.”

It is when the rivalry turns into envy it brings out the absolute worst in people, says Karen Doherty, co-author of the new book Sibling Rivalry: Seven Simple Solutions. “Sibling envy is like a festering wound and it sours our relationships to the point where we can’t bear the idea of our siblings being successful, or even happy, and instead take pleasure in their failures.”

But if siblings go down completely different career paths can they really compare themselves to each other? Apparently, yes they can. In some families career choices are very much impacted by the professional path the sibling has gone down.

(Retrieved from http://www.thegrindstone.com/2011/10/31/career-management/does-sibling-rivalry-give-you-more-career-drive-644/#ixzz3i4GBkgNN on 8/6/15.)

How’s this for a family of business?  Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison and her little sister Maggie Wilderotter runs Frontier Communications, a multi-billion-dollar communications company.

Their father was an AT&T exec who made her produce a business plan in order to get a bicycle. He told her, “Kids today have too much time, too much money and no responsibility. You’re going to have no time, no money and a lot of responsibility.”

One family solution was a “job jar,” in which each daughter’s chores would go. The girls could negotiate and barter their chores, but they all had to be completed by the end of the week. Morrison says her dad “would talk about the family as a team and everybody had to pull their weight.” That’s pretty cool — but also super-intense. But I guess you don’t produce a family of executives without a little intensity.

Morrison learned about the importance of relationship-building, a skill she neglected early in her career because she was so focused on numbers and results. A mentor pulled her aside and set her straight, telling her that she had to invest time in building relationships with her team. “I had been so conscious about being a working mother, of time spent on the job to deliver results and time spent at home to make sure the kids were OK, that I interpreted time spent building relationships as fooling around as opposed to, no, that’s serious business,” she explains. “That was a huge ‘aha.’”

(Retrieved from http://www.thegrindstone.com/2012/05/08/mentors/denise-morrison-maggie-wilderotter-sisters-ceos-family-926/#ixzz3i4HJjNAn on 8/6/15.)

Similarly, my prayer is that this first lesson from the life of Joseph imparts to us a sense of the sacredness of family relationships and the desire to do all we can to strengthen the ties that bind us to those closest to us.

Joseph: Sibling Rivalry (Part One)

(Please read Genesis 37:1-11.  My remarks are based on a study of the NIV.)

Message: Family relationships need MORE grace, not less.

The book of Genesis is a record of sibling rivalries, with the winner always being the younger brother!

– The sons of Adam, Cain and Abel.

– The sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.

– The sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob.

– The sons of Jacob, the eleven vs. Joseph. To the best of my knowledge, the only one of the four rivalries to be retold in a major Broadway production is Joseph.  In fact, I had a bit part – Levi, one of the eleven brothers – in a community theater production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

According to our modern-day oracle Wikipedia, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical or operetta with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was the first Lloyd Webber and Rice musical to be performed publicly.

The show has little spoken dialogue; it is completely sung-through. Its family-friendly storyline, universal themes and catchy music have resulted in numerous productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; according to the Really Useful Group, by 2008 more than 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups had successfully put on productions.

(Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_and_the_Amazing_Technicolor_Dreamcoat on 7/31/15.)

1. The setting (37:1-2).

     Verse one is actually the conclusion of chapter 36; the end of the spotlight being on Jacob’s story. Like his ancestors, he lived in Canaan, but as a sojourner, not as a permanent resident.  He did not own any of the land on which he lived and worked (see Hebrews 11:3).  The story of Joseph is the beginning of the transition from Canaan to Egypt.  It’s titled, THE ACCOUNT OF JACOB.  Actually, it’s more about Joseph.

What do we know about Joseph?

– Though he’s referred to as A YOUNG MAN in this passage, Joseph wasn’t a kid: 17 years old was five years past the age of manhood.  He was NOT the “baby of the family,” Benjamin was born after him. So why did the writer refer to him in this way? This reference may imply immaturity.  His actions in chapter 37 are typical of an immature guy.

– His father had 2 wives and had fathered some of his 13+ children by means of his wives’ handmaids.

– He kept the family trade: a shepherd.

 2. The causes of sibling rivalry (37:1-11).

     The first involved Joseph: Being a tattletale (v. 2).  We’re not given the details of this incident, but we don’t need them to get the point is that Joseph’s reporting it to Jacob gave Joseph’s brothers reason to dislike him.

Tale-bearing is condemned in Scripture as a sin of the tongue, a variation on the sin of gossip.  For one example among many, I offer Proverbs 20:19: A GOSSIP BETRAYS A CONFIDENCE; SO AVOID A MAN WHO TALKS TOO MUCH.  The person who is guilty of being a tattle-tale is motivated by a desire to get someone else in trouble.  Being a tattle-tale has a divisive effect on relationships.

One aspect of godliness is the ability to mind your own business. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; MAKE IT YOUR AMBITION TO LEAD A QUIET LIFE, TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND TO WORK WITH YOUR HANDS, JUST AS WE TOLD YOU, SO THAT YOUR DAILY LIFE MAY WIN THE RESPECT OF OUTSIDERS AND SO THAT YOU WILL NOT BE DEPENDENT ON ANYBODY.

The second involved Jacob: Showing favoritism (vs. 3-4).  The text says that Jacob (aka Israel) LOVED JOSEPH MORE THAN ANY OF HIS OTHER SONS.

There were two reasons for Jacob’s favoritism.  In v. 2 it is written; BECAUSE HE HAD BEEN BORN TO HIM IN HIS OLD AGE.  Actually, Jacob was more middle-aged when Joseph was born and Benjamin was the last child Jacob had with Rachel.  So what does this mean?

– In 44:20 the same phrase used of Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother.

– Perhaps it refers to Jacob’s temperament; Joseph was born at time when Jacob was of a more “grandfatherly” bent.

While there is no excuse for favoritism, the other reason Jacob felt it was because Joseph’s mother was Rachel, the love of Jacob’s life.  In 29:30; Jacob LOVED RACHEL MORE THAN LEAH.  Joseph must have reminded Jacob of his beloved wife in some special way.

One of the ways Jacob demonstrated his favoritism of Joseph was in buying him an expensive gift: a RICHLY ORNAMENTED ROBE.  The Hebrew means “a coat of extended length;” it reached to the hands and feet.

– The idea that it was multicolored is found only in the earliest versions of the Bible.

– The only other place i/t Bible this term is used is in 2 Samuel 13:18-19 in reference to the KIND OF GARMENT THE VIRGIN DAUGHTERS OF THE KING WORE.  This is not the garment of a working man, but someone of privilege and authority.  The brothers may have seen this as their father’s way of setting Joseph above them, that he was promoting Joseph!

– The point is that the garment was extravagant and left the others feeling unloved in comparison.  This preferential treatment made Joseph’s brothers jealous. The coat became the focus of their anger with Joseph, one of the most important props in the entire story of the Bible.

The third was on Joseph: boasting about his dreams (vs. 5-11). We need to remember that people in this time took dreams very seriously and had no trouble believing them to be communications from God

This made Joseph’s dreams feel threatening.

There were two dreams, variations on a theme, both of them ending with Joseph’s brothers bowing down to him.  That Joseph had 2 dreams may be significant.  In chapter 41, after Joseph had been in prison for TWO years, the king of Egypt had TWO dreams that lead Joseph’s release and rise in power.  In Genesis 41:32 Joseph explained the reason for God supplying two dreams; “THE REASON THE DREAM WAS GIVEN TO PHARAOH IN TWO FORMS IS THAT THE MATTER HAS BEEN FIRMLY DECIDED BY GOD AND GOD WILL DO IT SOON.”

Verse five makes the point that Joseph’s boasting was part of the reason his brothers hated him: JOSEPH HAD A DREAM, AND WHEN HE TOLD IT TO HIS BROTHERS, THEY HATED HIM ALL THE MORE.  The brothers were angry that Joseph had two such dreams and that he rubbed their faces in it.  Perhaps their actions were motivated, in part, to make sure that Joseph’s dreams did NOT come true.

As we know, the dreams did come true; the brothers bowed down to Joseph on four different occasions; GNS 42:6; 43:26; 44:14; 50:18. In v. 9 of that chapter, Joseph then remembered the two dreams that started all this.

When Joseph boasted to his brothers about the first dream, their angry reaction was predictable and understandable; “DO YOU INTEND TO REIGN OVER US?  WILL YOU ACTUALLY RULE US?” (37:5-8).  Verse eleven reports that the brothers were also JEALOUS of Joseph.

After the second dream of this type, Joseph boasted to his father (37:9-11).  He probably expected a more approving reaction than what he got; “WHAT IS THIS DREAM YOU HAD? WILL YOUR MOTHER AND I AND YOUR BROTHERS ACTUALLY COME AND BOW DOWN TO THE GROUND BEFORE YOU?” Jacob retored.  It sounds as if Jacob had also taken this personally.  As it turned out, Rachel was dead and the text never tells us that Jacob bowed to Joseph, so the SUN AND MOON part did not apply to Jacob and Rachel.  We are left to wonder who was indicated by these symbols.

Jacob, having been the schemer all his life, was more thoughtful than his sons: he KEPT THE MATTER IN MIND.  That being the case, it seems strange how he never questioned the brother’s story of how Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

K.A. Kitchen, writing in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, summarized the story of Joseph in this way:

“The story of Joseph is the story of a spoiled child and dreamer, sold into Egyptian slavery by jealous brothers, subjected to ups and downs, culminating in his becoming real ruler of that ancient land, and divinely placed there, to save his people and countless others in dire need from famine.”  (ISBE, Vol. 2, p. 1126.)