Joseph the Teen

Posted 7/2/2005 1:08:26 AM

Genesis 37
Joseph's brothers simply did not like him. They had several reasons, just glace down through the headings that follow. He was Dad's pet, gets all the nice clothes, has presumptuous dreams, obeys like a regular goody-two-shoes, and is a tattletale! The Bible doesn't make it clear as to Joseph's attitude toward his brothers, but it is abundantly clear what their attitude toward him is: hate. Either hate because he was doing right, and they weren't, or hate because he was getting it so much better than they, and it just wasn't fair.

Tattletale or Truth-Teller

Given this relationship among the brothers, when 17 year-old Joseph brings back bad reports of his brothers to his father Gen 37:2, this didn't go over well. Whatever they were doing - like neglecting their duties, partying with the locals, swapping dirty jokes, bad-mouthing their dad, complaining about their lot in life - it was obviously not anything Joseph's brothers wanted Dad to hear about. But Dad sure wanted to hear about it, because he sent Joseph specifically to check in on his brothers and the flock, and to report back home as the their condition.

Dad's Favorite
Whether you like it or not, some people simply get along with each other better than others. The same goes for parents and children. Parents love all their children, but often have quite different relationships with each. Remember this family has three moms and twelve sons! Not to mention however many sisters these guys had, this is a big, complicated mess of a family.

Of course, Jacob always loved Rachel the best, and Joseph was Rachel's firstborn son. Joseph was also son number 11, and Jacob is getting pretty old by this point Gen 37:3, and is most likely a grandfather already, doting on Joseph and spoiling him is typical grandfatherly fashion. He even goes to the special trouble of getting a coat custom made for Joseph, perhaps even making it himself Gen 37:3.

Joseph most likely had several dreams Gen 37:8, and just like any annoying little brother, couldn't help but talk about them with his brothers. The couple related here in chapter 37 are clearly prophecies of his future as the head of Egypt, but also clearly infuriated his brothers. After all, this is number 11, for cyring out loud! Don't forget, birth order was incredible important in this day and age. Number 1 was the cheif heir, inheriting the bulk of the estate and wealth from the father. If he didn't make it that far, down the pecking order the inheritance would transfer. For Joseph to be at the top would be inconcievable given 10 older brothers!

Not to mention his second dream also included references to his father and mother would even bow down to him. This is definitely a clear indication of the absoute power he was going to have, and not a literal bowing, since his mother had already passed away in childbirth of Benjamin Gen 35:19.

The dreams seem to be what really got his brother's hatred boiling. When he comes into view as they're pasturing in Dothan, they loathe the coming of "the dreamer."  Gen 37:19.

The Hated Brother
What's a brother to do? By doing his father's bidding and by telling his dreams he has built up a whole bunch of resentment and hatred in his brothers. Why do they hate him so much?

Maybe for the same reason Cain killed Abel, because they saw that they were doing wrong. Nobody likes to be told their mistakes, let alone by their little siblings! Not to mention, Joseph is likely really cramping their style, always hanging around spoiling their fun by letting Jacob know what's going on, and by spouting off with these preposterous dreams of grandeur. Come on, really.

Whatever Joseph's motives were in reporting on his brother's actions, Jacob liked it and wanted more. Gen 27:12-17 records that Jacob sends him off to Shechem to find his brothers. Now, most likely Jacob is living in Hebron, in southern Canaan Gen 35:27. Shechem as the crow flies is about 50 miles away. This wasn't a trip out to the home pasture to find out how things were going. This is a trip that involved days of walking (there isn't any mention of a ride when his brothers accost him in Gen 37:23, but he might have had one) through the hills of Canaan, up and down across the terrain, without any easy valleys to follow.

Then when he finally arrives in Shechem, he finds out his brothers have moved to a different pasture an additional 15 miles away. Off he continues, until he finds his brothers, as his father asked. It wasn't too far, it wasn't too hard, it didn't take to long - it was his task, and he stuck to it until it was done. It ended up taking him to Egypt, where God used him to saved the lives of people across the entire Middle East through a severe famine. He was also the reason the nation of Israel flourished in Egypt, resulting in the great Exodus, plagues, and epic return to Canaan.

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