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Nov 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 17, 2013 – Genesis 37

Sawing the Branch On Which We’re Sitting

Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob.
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Billhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.
Now Israel loved Jacob more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. 
Genesis 37:1-4

INTRO: We have seen that genealogies (“generations”) mark the major divisions of Genesis

Now we have come to the last division of the book
– it moves from the story of Jacob to Joseph’s story
• this becomes immediately clear in verse 2, “Joseph, when seventeen . . . etc.”

The story

Joseph behaves like the spoiled, favored child
– these children feel they have a privileged relationship with the parent
• closer to mom and dad than the other siblings
• they stand more on the side of the parents than with brothers or sisters
○ this is evidenced in Joseph bringing his father the “bad report” — tattling on his brothers
– rather than hide his favoritism, Jacob indulged it
• he had a special robe made for Joseph
○ later, this type of garment would signify royalty — status and wealth
• my two-year old grandson, Indy, was given a Spider-Man costume last spring
○ he wore it everywhere and all the time — and when he wore it, he was Spider-Man
○ no doubt, Joseph did the same with his high-class robe
Jacob’s excessive love evoked the opposite feeling toward Joseph in his sons

Joseph had a dream, but not enough sense to keep it to himself
– he was in a field with his brothers, collecting and bailing wheat
• his sheaf of wheat “rose up” and theirs bowed down to it
○ the dream spoke for itself; there was no need for interpretation
○ his brothers not only hated him, but their hatred was intensifying, “even more”
– this scene is cluttered with the word “dream” (twelve times in seven verses)
• not “had a dream,” but “dreamed a dream”
• the first half of Joseph’s life will be shaped by dreams
• they will carry him from being the favored child of Jacob to the favored adviser to Pharaoh, king of Egypt
○ the three sets of the dreams that direct his life come in pairs – the next one in this first pair:
– from terrestrial symbols to celestial symbols
• this one earned him a rebuke from his father
• yet, while brothers were jealous, his father made note of it

Both Jacob and Joseph seem very naive
– it’s like they live in a world of their own
• they’re oblivious to the searing tension in the background
– so it was, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers
• Joseph’s immaturity and inexperience in the real world vividly comes out
• brothers weren’t where they were supposed to be, so he was at a loss as to what he should do
○ a “man” found him wandering in the open fields and redirected him

Before Joseph reached them, his brothers spotted him
– perhaps it was his robe they recognized from a distance
• it was certainly a symbol of their jealousy and hatred
○ “Look, it’s the dream Master!”
• as he approached, they were already plotting his death
○ their first plan, was to kill him and throw him an empty cistern or pit
○ but Reuben intervened
– They assaulted Joseph, tore off his robe, and tossed him in a deep pit
• the storyteller makes a point of telling us there was no water in the pit
○ meanwhile, “they “sat down to eat a meal”
• it takes a lot of hatred to be that cruel to someone
– seeing a caravan cross the valley gave Judah an idea
• plan ‘B’ — they sold Joseph to traders on their way to Egypt

Reuben discovered Joseph wasn’t in the pit
– it isn’t that he was concerned for Joseph, but for himself, “as for me, where am I to go?” (v. 30)
– they soaked Joseph’s robe in goat blood, sent to Jacob
• notice how they used clothing to deceive Jacob
• just as he had used his brother’s clothing to deceive his father
○ a clothing theme appears here: Reuben tore his robe, then Jacob tore his robe and replaced it with sackcloth
– this not the last time Joseph’s own clothes will be used deceitfully against him

Their deception worked perfectly
– Jacob assumed exactly what they intended
• he mourned for Joseph “many days” – an excessive period
• his children and their families tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted
○ he said he would go to his grave mourning for Joseph

Joseph appears briefly in the last scene, leaving us with a cliffhanger
– he is in Egypt where he was sold to a powerful official

Emotions run high in this chapter

Every action of every character is motivated by emotion
– and every action damages someone or something
– two weeks ago I observed that the inner dynamics of Jacob’s relationships were centrifugal
• they sabotaged his relationships or caused them to fly apart
• these inner dynamics are radically illustrated in this chapter in the form of negative emotions

  1. 1. Arrogance – Joseph’s attitude: superior, entitled, self-righteous (e.g., his “bad report” on his brothers)
  2. Favoritism – Jacob’s unfair bias destroyed his other sons’ relationship with Joseph
  3. Hatred
  4. Self-centeredness – Joseph assumed his father and brothers would be as interest in his grandiose dreams as he was
  5. Anger – resentment, rage, open hostility
  6. Fear – Reuben’s fear for himself
  7. Despair – Jacob gave up finding joy anywhere else than in his lost son

What’s the purpose of a story like this being in Bible?

One purpose for it, is to enlighten us
– we also have our negative emotions and we hang on to them
• we confuse them for reality
○ we think we can’t live without them
• but these destructive psychological forces can ruin us and our closest relationships
– “emotion” – a motion outward, agitation (stirred up)
• what is stirred up? Inner feelings (psychological feelings)
– “negative” emotions are emotions that do not add value to our thoughts, perspective, or experience of life
• “negative” implies absence – something is missing — like -1
○ something has been take away
○ for example: goodness, health, beauty, and peace

The emotional mind affects the rational mind
– our perspective, reasoning, the value we place on people and things, our attitude
• emotions shape our personality – they shape the quality of life
• emotions influence our behavior
○ note the relationship of negative emotions to speech in this chapter: “bad report,” “could not speak,” “let us kill him,” “dream master”
○ Joseph’s brothers could not even say his name!
– the destruction of negative emotions is personal (poison to the person who has them) and relational

CONC: In his Sermon On Mt. Jesus took on negative emotions

In several examples, he worked backward from the behavior to the negative emotion that inspires it
– murder motivated by anger, adultery motivated by lust, and taking an “eye for an eye” motivated by hate
– he also addresses egoism (showboating), greed, anxiety, and judgmental attitudes
• Jesus demonstrates and stresses the importance of taking negative emotions seriously

But because it is Jesus who brings these things to our attention, we are not alone
– he never leaves us on our own
• if there is something he wants from us, then he is willing to work with us to produce it
– therefore, each negative emotion can be a door to Jesus

With Jesus–his teaching, example, and abiding presence–we can nurture positive emotions
– these will not only work in the opposite direction of negative emotions
–i.e., heal our souls and create healthy and strong relational bonds with others–
• but they also work as spiritual antioxidants, making us better people
and better prepared for a closer relationship with our Father and with his Son

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