This is a story about how Jacob sinned by playing favorites with his children, and Joseph was molded unwittingly by his father into a spoiled selfish Papa’s boy, who earned the hatred of his brothers. It is also a story about how all things work together for good in the hands of God and how God used this situation to fulfill his prophecy to Abraham that his descendants would be afflicted in Egypt for 400 years.
First Joseph was imprisoned wrongfully and humbled for seven years, transforming him from a spoiled child into a man of character fit to rule a kingdom. While his imprisonment was wrongful it was necessary for his character development.
That is the key lesson of Job; that God performs his will for his greater purposes even though sometimes it may appear to us that we suffer wrongly. The reason why the “righteous” suffer, is to prune them, build them and perfect them; so that they become MORE righteous and bear much fruit, John 15.
This whole situation in which Joseph appears to suffer wrongfully and then Israel suffers wrongfully as slaves in Egypt, and then God himself hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he could afflict Egypt; was to establish the lesson and allegory for us about the slavery of sin and the deliverance from Egypt by God, of physical Israel as a lesson for us about God’s deliverance and the need to faithfully follow the whole Word of God by spiritual Israel. It is also a lesson that God is the Master Potter who uses his tools as he sees fit, to form us into the beings he desires.
As you read these things please consider this lesson on the greatness and incredible wisdom of God, and how God works things out to fulfill his own purposes in spite of the failings and desires of men.
The story of Joseph begins with his reporting on his brothers to Israel [Jacob]. This added to the natural animosity against him for being his father’s favorite and Papa’s boy.
This family rivalry goes back to Laban and his substituting Leah for Jacob’s beloved Rachel. Rachel had only two sons and after her death Jacob loved her first born Joseph, as he had loved Rachel.
This playing of favorites among his sons brought about a deep family rivalry which God used to fulfill his prophecy to Abraham that his family would be afflicted for 400 years in Egypt.
Genesis 37:1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Israel made Joseph a multi colored coat in a time when dyes and colors were rare and expensive; and did not honor his other sons in this way, playing favorites.
37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
This favoritism by Israel for Joseph above his other sons, produced a natural strife in the family and a strong upset between Joseph and his brothers.
37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Then Joseph had a dream that he was exalted above his whole family; which of course added to the anger of his brothers. The dream was fulfilled in Egypt but Joseph did not keep his mouth shut and so offended his brothers all the more.
37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
When told the dream the brothers and parents well knew its meaning.
37:6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 37:7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
37:8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
Joseph had a second dream with the same meaning as the first and did not have the good sense to keep his mouth shut.
37:9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
37:10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 37:11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed [thought about the dream] the saying.
37:12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
Israel sent Joseph for news from his sons and flocks.
37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 37:14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 37:16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 37:17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
The son’s of Israel then decided to do away with this arrogant little Papa’s boy who had vexed them all his life.
37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Then Reuben the first born, insisted that they only teach Joseph a lesson and not kill him.
37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
Reuben counselled them to cast Joseph into a pit, that Reuben might secretly return later and save Joseph. In doing this he showed promise as a good man, yet his adultery with his father’s concubine was evil; and this confusion of character was later mentioned in the prophecy about Reuben.
37:22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
When Joseph came they took off his coat which they hated as the symbol of their father’s favoritism and cast Joseph into a pit [perhaps a dry well].
37:23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
Then Judah suggested that they sell their brother Joseph as a slave to be taken to Egypt. In this Judah sought profit but he also sought to save the lads life and to deliver themselves from the wrath of their father, if Joseph should escape and relate the story to Israel.
37:25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. 37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver and was taken to Egypt.
37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
When Reuben returned he was greatly vexed for his brother Joseph and for his father Israel.
37:29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 37:30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
The brothers then decided to claim that Joseph was dead.
37:31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 37:32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. 37:33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
Jacob was devastated; for his son, his firstborn son by his beloved deceased Rachel, was thought dead.
37:34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
Here Jacob is said to have daughters in the plural as well as sons.
37:35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
Joseph was sold to a senior official in the court of the king.
37:36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
Judah and the royal line; Judah marries a Canaanite.
Genesis 38:1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 38:2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 38:3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 38:4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. 38:5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
Judah has three sons by Shuah; Er, Onan and Shelah.
Judah then gave his son Er; Tamar to wife; but Er was a wicked man and God killed him.
38:6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 38:7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
Then Judah called on Onan to raise up a son for his dead brother in Liverate Marriage.
38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
Onan knowing that any child would be considered his brother’s and not his, obeyed his father and took her but withdrew in birth control, spilling his seed to avoid impregnating her. He took Tamar under false pretenses and defrauded her and his brother of a son.
Taking ones brother’s wife is forbidden except it be to raise up a son for the childless dead. Therefore Christ killed this man for his sin against his brother and his brother’s wife.
38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
Then Judah feared for the life of his remaining son Shelah and kept Tamer as a widow refusing to give her a husband.
38:11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.
Over time Judah’s wife Shuah died and Judah sought comfort and visited his friend.
38:12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
Tamar was told and she went to meet Judah because Judah’s son was older and able to marry her and give her a son and he was not given to her.
38:13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath [Timnah of Esau of Gen 36] to shear his sheep. 38:14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
Judah seeks consolation because of the death of his wife and takes Tamar for a harlot. She demands a token of his pledge until lambing time, when she should receive a kid as her gift.
38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. 38:16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 38:17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? 38:18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
Tamar was no real professional harlot and did what she did for the sake of a child by the family of Judah. She returned home and had no other.
38:19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
Judah sought to pay his pledge but the woman was not found.
38:20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. 38:21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. 38:22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. 38:23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
Judah is told three months after that Tamar was pregnant and said that she should be brought to him to be burned in the fire. So we see that Tamar took a considerable risk and did this neither for money nor for lust.
38:24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
Tamar then gives her evidence of the tokens left to her by Judah.
38:25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.
Judah acknowledged her and his sin in withholding his son from her, and he kept himself from her from that time, having produced a son for his dead firstborn son Er.
38:26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
As Jacob and Esau were twins, the second being born before the first; so Tamar also had twins, the second being born before the first.
38:27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 38:28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
38:29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. 38:30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.