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Joseph dreams of greatness
Scripture in focus: Genesis 37
37:1 > Jacob continues to live in Canaan, at Hebron.
37:2-4 > We meet a 17-year-old Joseph, Jacob’s favorite child thus causing his brothers to resent him. They also view Joseph as a tattler for he carried their evil report their father. In these opening chapters, we can already see that this is a troubled family given that Jacob failed to learn his lesson where favoritism is concerned (25:28). He gave Joseph a coat of multi-colors. This colorful coat or long-sleeved robe or tunic set Joseph apart from his brothers.
37:5-8 > Joseph has his first dream and he told it to his brothers. They hated him even more for they thought he was full of himself. Even if Joseph didn’t understand the dream, they did, knowing that one day, little Joseph would reign over them. It involves sheaves of wheat meaning that his status over his brother will have to do with food as we see in later chapters.
37:9-11 > Yet, Joseph had another dream and he told it to his brothers once again and then his father. “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” The sun was symbolic of his father, the moon his mother and the 11 stars were his brothers. It can also refer to Jesus coming from the Israelite nation (Revelation 12:1).
Jacob scolds Joseph not believing that his own flesh and blood would be elevated above everyone in the family. Yet, Jacob pondered over the meaning of the dream.
Joseph was having these dreams for he was chosen of God and God speaks to some people in dreams. Some dreams are not meant to be told to others and Joseph fell short of wisdom in this area.
37:12-14 > Jacob’s sons fed his flocks in Shechem (50 miles north of Hebron) and they were gone quite some time so Jacob decides to send Joseph to check up on them.
37:15-17 > Joseph encounters a traveler and asks after his brothers and their flocks. The man directs him to Dothan, a place of two wells.
37:18-20 > Joseph’s brothers plot their revenge when they see him coming from a distance. They spitefully call him a “dreamer” and plot to take away his life while concealing the murder. When jealousy surpasses hatred, it can turn into murder. On top of it, they were going to sin further by lying to their father.
Dothan was a plain country located between the hills of Samaria and Mount Carmel, a thriving Canaanite city in Joseph’s day. It was a convenient site for merchants to use as the main trade route on their way to Egypt. Today, the site of the city is marked by Tel Dothan, a mound in the town of Jenin.
Images of Dothan via Google Search
37:21-22 > Reuben was not included in the plot. However, he overheard it and was immediately against it. As the eldest, he felt that it was his duty to deliver Joseph out of the hands of his bloodthirsty brothers. He talked them into sparring Joseph’s life by proposing to throw him into a pit; his intention to rescue Joseph later and bring him back to their father.
37:23-28 > Joseph is stripped of his special coat as soon as he came upon them and cast into an empty waterless pit (Also reference Zechariah 9:11). His brothers might have thought that Joseph was at their mercy, but he was really at God’s mercy. On top of it, they sat down to have a meal while Joseph pleaded for them to let him go (see 42:21). Then, behold! A company of Ishmaelites came into play which would change the course of destiny for Joseph thus fulfilling God’s purpose for him. Had his brothers known that this was God’s will all along, they would’ve probably ignored Reuben and kill Joseph, but they wouldn’t have liked God’s vengeance!
Judah proposes that instead of killing Joseph they sell him to the Ishmaelites. It seems that Leah’s sons (Reuben & Judah) had no intention in killing Joseph, but the sons of the handmaids really wanted to.
And Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver.
37:29-30 > Reuben was absent during the time of the sale. He was horrified to discover that Joseph was gone from the pit. He tore his clothes off as an expression of mourning for he thought Joseph was dead. His grief showed how much he really wanted to rescue Joseph back in verse 22. “whither shall I go?” Reuben is conflicted in his feelings. Should he flee or should he go back home to face his father?
37:31-35 > After telling Reuben what they did with Joseph, the brothers devised a scheme by killing a kid goat and dipping Joseph’s coat in the blood so it’ll look as if Joseph was killed by a wild beast. They send the bloody coat with a messenger to Jacob who confirms that the coat did belong to his favorite son. Heartbroken, Jacob mourns the loss of Joseph for many years refusing to be comforted by his sons and daughters. This was very cruel on behalf of the brothers involved in this scheme.
37:36 > Meanwhile, Joseph ends up in the court of a high Egyptian official by the name of Potiphar.
The story only gets worse.
Before we continue with Joseph’s account in Egypt and how he became great, we come to the Judah-Interlude. We’ll see the wickedness and immorality of Joseph’s elder brother in this chapter as he mistook his own widowed daughter-in-law for a shrine prostitute, has intercourse with her and threatens to burn her alive for prostitution until it is revealed that he was the father of the child she had conceived.
Scripture in focus: Genesis 38
38:1-5 > Judah separates from his brethren, marries a Canaanite woman by the name of Shuah and fathers three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.
38:6-7 > Judah chose a suitable wife for his firstborn, Er. Her name was Tamar (her name signifies a “palm tree”). But Er was exceedingly wicked that God had to strike him dead.
38:8-10 > According to the custom/law of levirate marriage if a man dies before providing heirs, it was the duty of his brother/s to marry his wife and to give her heirs. The child was then considered the son of the brother who died given that the living brother acted in his place. This law was later incorporated in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. But Onan was not down with this for the son was going to be called a son of Er and not his. He didn’t care for Er’s name to be carried on and didn’t care that this applied only for the firstborn. If Onan had no intention to be responsible and had his heart set on his desires (using Tamar for his own sexual gratifications), then he shouldn’t have married her. God also struck him down for his wickedness.
38:11 > Judah unfairly proposes that his widowed daughter-in-law return to her father’s house and wait until Shelah come of age to marry her in order to fulfill the obligation of his late brothers. However, Judah had already lost two sons and he had no intention of giving his third son into marriage to Tamar.
38:12 > Judah’s wife Shuah died. He mourns her loss and when his time of mourning was over, he went to town with his friend, Hirah.
38:13 > Tamar is told that Judah is in Timnath to “sheer his sheep”. In the ancient world, this event (“sheering of sheep”) was associated with festivity and licentious behavior characteristic of pagan fertility-cult practices (bible-studys.org).
38:14-18 > There is no way that Tamar was going to remain childless especially after seeing that Shelah was grown and should be married to her. Na uh! So she sets a trap for Judah by playing the harlot (by wearing the veil suggested prostitution). Judah sees her but doesn’t recognize her. Lust clouds his eyes, they negotiated a price (a young goat) and they had sex and she conceives by him. It’s amazing how Judah told her to remain a widow for years, but shortly after grieving, he’s seeking pleasure from a prostitute.
38:19-23 > Tamar disappears into thin air after the deed was done. Or did she? Tamar made haste back to her father’s house and put back on the garments of her widowhood so no one would suspect a thing. All she had to do now was wait for the birth. Judah sends a friend to pay Tamar and to retrieve the pledge (signet, bracelets, and staff) he left with her, but there was no trace of her so Judah gave up the pledge leaving it with her. If he had only known!
38:24 > When news reached Judah that his daughter-in-law played a harlot, he found it easy to pass judgment on her sin by condemning her to burn. He didn’t stop to think about his very own sins for in his eyes, Tamar had committed adultery and she should pay for her wicked sin.
38:25-26 > Tamar was shrewd. By keeping Judah’s pledge, she easily vindicates herself when she stood in the court. She sent a messenger to Judah with his pledge and just like that, the tables were turned. “She hath been more righteous than I” Judah eventually realized that he was in the wrong for not keeping his word in his refusal to give his son Shelah to Tamar and for committing fornication with her. She was only after what was hers (inheritance rights).
38:27 > Tamar is having twin boys.
38:28-30 > Zarah (meaning “splendor”) stuck out his hand first and the midwife ties a scarlet thread around his wrist that she might know whose hand the firstborn belong to. However, Zarah pulls his hand back and his brother Pharez (meaning “breach”) came out of his mother’s womb as the firstborn. Pharez is listed as an ancestor of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:3 and Luke 3:33. He came into the messianic line which went through Boaz and Ruth and King David (Ruth 4:18-22).
Despite Judah and Tamar’s works, God chose them to be in the line of the Messiah. What beautiful and glorious grace!
Until we all meet again to lift up our Savior, may peace be unto you in Jesus’s Name.
Up next: Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dreams
^ The multi-colored coat signified privilege, favor, and birthright.
^ The Ishmaelites were descendants of Ishmael and of Abraham through Keturah and Midian (25:1-2) and were also known as Midianites. The Ishmaelites traveling to Egypt in 37:25-28 were Arab traders who sold to the Egyptian Pharaohs. The balm was for healing and the spicery and myrrh were sweet smelling perfumes.
^ History timeline puts Joseph’s arrival in Egypt at c.1679BC.
^ Potiphar means “the one whom Ra has given” or “the one who was placed on earth by Ra”. Either way, his unique name meant he belonged to the sun and Ra was Egypt’s sun god.
^ Despite his early failures, Judah rose to a position of leadership later on in life and is even blessed by his father as such a leader among the 12 brothers in 49:8-10. He is the founder of the tribe of Judah and is symbolized as a lion. Later on, Christ is called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
* The Holy Bible
*** Images and GIFs via Google Search