Jacob: 19. Jacob and Joseph

Genesis 37  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
All thoughtful readers will understand why the purpose in hand excludes dwelling on Gen. 36 Jacob has nothing to do with the chapter. It has its own important place of sketching the earthly lot of Esau. Indirectly however it is instructive, as showing that which is natural first coming into power, afterward what is spiritual. The family of promise remain shepherds and herdmen, wandering here and there, without the land and within it, and even grievously oppressed; while the generations of Edom rise rapidly into importance, away from Canaan, in Mount Seir. The posterity of Edom claim soon the distinction of chiefs. “These are the dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, duke Korah, duke Gatam, duke Amalek. These are the dukes that came of Eliphaz, in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. And these are the sons of Reuel Esau's son; duke Nahath, duke Terah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah. These are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife. And these are the sons of Oholibamah Esau's wife: duke Jeusb, duke Jaalam, duke Korah. These are the dukes that came of Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau's wife. These are the sons of Esau, and these are their dukes: the same is Edom” (36:15-19).
Others, too, posed as grandees, the sons of Seir the Horite or cave-dweller, the inhabitant of the land, summarized in vers. 29, 30: “these are the dukes that came of the Horites: duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan. These are the dukes that came of the Horites according to their dukes in the land of Seir.”
Nor was this the acme of their development. “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” No less than eight kings are successively traced from Bela to Hadar, though it is carefully said that we have Esau's dukes again (vers. 40-43); and so we hear in the song of Moses (Ex. 15:1515Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. (Exodus 15:15)), but “the king” in the later history.
Even in chapter 37 it is much more the history of Joseph that now begins, typifying the Lord in humiliation, and how He fared at the hands of His brethren according to the flesh. Our present task is to mark Jacob in it.
“And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. These [are] Jacob's generations. Joseph, [being] seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and he [was] a lad (or, doing service) with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's
wives; and Joseph brought their evil report to his (or, their) father. And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he [was] son of his old age; and he gave him a coat of many colors. And his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren; and they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told [it] to his brethren; and they hated him yet more. And he said to them, Hear, pray, this dream which I have dreamed. And, behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the midst of the field; and, behold, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about and bowed down to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Wilt thou indeed reign over us? or wilt thou indeed rule over us? And they hated him yet more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream and told [it] to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to me. And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren. And his father rebuked him, and said to him, What [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall indeed I and thy mother and thy brethren come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father kept the saying” (vers. 1-11).
We leave the early piety of Joseph till its own season, and the divine communications with which he was favored even as a youth. But it falls within Jacob's history to note the special affection which bound Joseph to him, and the dress of honor which was to play a heartless and cruel part toward their father in the unscrupulous revenge on Joseph with which they answered all. Jacob, though moved by the singular honor implied in the second dream, could not but treasure up its as yet dim import. Joseph's simplicity and candor, for there was an absence of all presumption, only kindled more fiercely the spite of his brethren, which soon found occasion to vent itself in outrageous malice. How like the way of the Jews with Him who was long after to be the blessed Antitype!
“And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed [the flock] in Shechem? Come, that I may send thee to them. And he said to him, Here [am] I (or, Behold me). And he said to him, Go, pray, see after thy brethren's welfare and the flocks' welfare; and bring me word again. And he sent him out of the vale of Hebron; and he came to Shechem. And a man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, pray, where they feed. And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went to his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And they saw him afar off, and before he came near to them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another [lit. a man to his brother], Behold, this master of dreams cometh. And now come, and let us slay him, and cast him into one of the pits; and we will say, An evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard, and delivered him out of their hands, and said, Let us not take his life. And Reuben said to them, Shed no blood: cast him into this pit that [is] in the wilderness; but lay no hand upon him (in order that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father). And it came to pass, when Joseph was come to his brethren, that they stript Joseph of his coat, the coat of the colors that [was] on him; and they took him and cast him into the pit; and the pit [was] empty: [there was] no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes, and looked, and, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead; and their camels bore tragacanth and balsam and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said to his brethren, What profit [is it] if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he [is] our brother, our flesh. And his brethren hearkened. And there passed by Midianitish men, merchants; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver [pieces]; and they brought Joseph into Egypt. And Reuben returned to the pit; and, behold, Joseph [was] not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned to his brethren and said, The child [is] not; and I, whither shall I go? And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a buck of the goats and dipped the coat in the blood, and they sent the coat of the colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, This have we found: know now whether it [be] thy son's coat or not. And he knew it, and said, [It is] my son's coat: an evil beast hath devoured him; surely Joseph is torn in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons rose up, and all his daughters, to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, For I will go down to my son into Sheol mourning. And his father wept for him. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt to Potiphar, chamberlain of Pharaoh, captain of the guard” (vers. 12-36).
Jacob had yet much to learn experimentally of God as well as of himself, even though then he was disposed to have his idols. His most recent lesson was in Rachel's death, his new one prolonged it every way in Joseph her firstborn, his most loved son, not dead, it is true, as he feared, but only at length found to be risen into that exalted seat of honor which disconcerted even him when first announced. Like the Lord was Joseph in his measure, a vessel of divine wisdom in humiliation deepening into the shadow of death, rejected and scorned most by his brethren, and sold to the Gentiles: the very errand of love on which his father sent him to them furnished the opportunity for wreaking their hatred on his lowly and blameless head. How little his envious brethren could anticipate that in the approaching hour of the earth's need and distress he alone was to bear up the pillars, and deliver from death not the chosen family alone but the world of that day, and turn by his wisdom a tribulation so deep and widespread into the greater glory of the sovereign power which exalted him! More than this, as we learn later on, his brethren were to be brought down to true self-judgment and have their hearts opened to grace when he should lead them into the truth, and at last make himself known to them as their savior, the savior of the world too in the figure, he once humbled to the uttermost, and then highly exalted, entirely outside and above Jewish limits. But we forbear to anticipate more, even of what the history of Jacob makes known necessarily.