We are reading a section of Scripture many have known since childhood. For those who grew up going to a church, you remember the flannel graphs, VBS skits and crafts about the man with a coat of many colors. Many of you can recite these stories by heart. Of course, my goal is to peel back the flannel board to reveal the depths of these narratives. Believe me, these chapters are rich with treasures to be discovered. This is much more than a children’s story. It is a literary masterpiece filled with suspense to the last chapter. It peels back layers to give us greater understanding of the Creator we discovered on page one.
Many believe this is a story about Joseph. While Joseph is a major player, so is his brother Judah. In fact, as we race to find the conclusion of this amazing book, we are left wondering who will come out on top, so to speak. Will it be Joseph, which we easily assume, or Judah who will be given the blessing to carry on the Seed of the Messiah. The all too familiar dreams of Joseph are foreshadowing, not only about his amazing future, but even bigger things for Judah. We will explore this thought next week.
Joseph’s fancy coat is the center of the opening chapter (Gen. 37). It was a symbol of Jacob’s love and favoritism of the child born of his favorite wife Rachel. This, of course, didn’t sit very well with his half-brothers. So the coat represents the issue at hand which sets off a chain of events.
Genesis 37:3-4, Now Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons because Joseph was a son [born to him] in his old age, and he made a robe of many colors for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peacefully to him. (emphasis mine)
Genesis 37:23, When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off his robe, the robe of many colors that he had on. (emphasis mine)
Genesis 37:31, So they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a young goat, and dipped the robe in its blood. They sent the robe of many colors to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it. Is it your son’s robe or not?” His father recognized it. “It is my son’s robe…” (emphasis mine)
As we have seen throughout Genesis, this narrative is filled with various plays on words and role reversals.
- We will hear often of “good” and “bad/evil” (37:2; 44:4). The major theme is how the brothers meant their actions as evil but God used it for good (50:2).
- Joseph finds his brothers in Dothan (37:17) and his brothers will find Joseph in Egypt (42-44).
- Joseph’s brothers saw him in the distance and plotted to kill him (37:18). Later on it is Joseph who saw his brothers and made plans that seemed as if he was going to kill them (42:7ff).
- When Jacob was deceived into believing Joseph was dead, he said, “I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” (37:35) In the end, Jacob goes down to Egypt (where Joseph resides) where he will die (50:29-33).
- The brothers deception lead to Jacob tearing his clothes (37:34), as Joseph’s deception lead to his brothers tearing their clothes (44:13) in grief.
- The brothers sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt (37:28; 39:1), so Joseph devised a plan that made the brothers believe they had become the slaves of Joseph to Egypt(44:9ff).
- The brothers did not believe Joseph would reign over them (37:8) and later Joseph reminded them he is in fact ruling over them (45:8).
- Abraham left Ur and journeyed to Canaan (12:4-5) and Jacob left the land of Canaan and journeyed to Egypt (46:5-7).
- Joseph was sold into slavery for 20 pieces of silver (37:28) and Joseph sells the land of Egypt into slavery (47:19-20, 25) for all the silver in the land (47:14).
Something else I’ve learned – the significance of TWO. I’m not even sure what it means other than a literary device of emphasis.
- Joseph has two dreams (Gen. 37); two Egyptian officials have dreams (Gen. 40); two years later Pharaoh has two dreams (Gen. 41).
- Repeating of nearly every major event – once by the writer and the other by a character in the story (i.e., the dreams in Gen. 40-41).
- The Ishmaelites and Midianites were part of Joseph being sold into slavery (Gen. 37:25-28).
- Twins were born to Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38:27).
- The double themes of twos: good and evil (50:2); life and death (37-50).
- The 12 sons of Jacob are divided into two groups: the sons of Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin) and the sons of Leah (the other 10 brothers).
- The two plans of Joseph (42:16, 19).
- The sons of Jacob made two trips to Egypt to buy grain (42).
You get the idea. But of all of the set of twos, focus on the theme of good and evil, along with life and death. Ask yourself, what am I learning about God? By the way, shocker, those themes are the same ones found in Genesis 1-3. Why? What is the author trying to tell us?
*All Scripture quotations come from Holman Christian Standard Bible
*Blog resource: The Pentateuch As Narrative by John H. Sailhamer