Although the account of his birth is in Genesis 30, he plays a minor role as the “favorite wife’s son” until we get to chapter 37. Now he comes to center-stage, the main character until the end of the book. His mother has already died in childbirth, bearing Jacob’s only full brother, Benjamin.
Now a teen-ager, with possibly the characteristics of a teen, he brings a bad report back to his father about the shortcomings of his half-brothers. It may have endeared him to his father, but certainly didn’t help his relationship with his brothers. Strike one.
Then Israel/Jacob made him a special coat which caused his brothers to envy him, and was a sure sign of his father’s favoritism. It says, “His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” Strike two.
Then the dreams started coming, and with the distorted wisdom of a teen, Joseph could not keep his mouth shut. I can’t blame him – it would be pretty mind-blowing to have these kinds of dreams. But he didn’t have the filter to not hear what he was saying to the people who would be most affected. Not once, but twice! Even his father objected to the idea that he would someday bow down to his son. “So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words” until they plotted how to kill him. Strike three.
Jealousy, envy that seems reasonable when things are “not fair,” has a way of growing within us.
So when Israel sent Joseph to report on his brothers again, the brothers were not keen on being tattled on again. Joseph was tenacious to find his brothers and report to his father. After all, he was his father’s favorite son.
But his brother’s had other ideas, little schemes hatched in over active minds looking for revenge. I’m sure Joseph, in his naivety, had no idea of what lay before him as he walked into the trap which enfolded. First the plot to kill him; then the plan to enslave him – after all, then it wouldn’t be murder, the brothers reassured themselves, each one making compromises in their hearts.
Reality hit when they told their lie to their father, who “tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him. “
We learned later this scene ripped at the heart of the boys. Sworn to a pledge of silence, no one dared to tell the truth. After all, if slavery happened to Joseph, what would happen to them if they told? The watched, day after day, their father in distress, blaming himself for sending Joseph to find the flock, depressed year after year, until the truth would be known.
We all have secrets…things we have done we don’t want others to know about. And we cover those little secrets the best we can…for years. Oh, we may have never sold a brother into slavery, but we may have talked behind their back, been a little jealous, didn’t defend them when others talked about them?
Years later, God turned their sin into good years later. Joseph learned lessons through suffering. The brothers had their lives and hearts changed. God used Joseph to provide food for Israel’s family.
Our sin cannot thwart the good God wants to do in, through, and around us…