Genesis 37: Jacob and His Brothers
Jacob had come back to live in the land of Canaan. He bought a piece of ground near Shechem. He did not live there long, but moved southward. Near Bethlehem, Benjamin was born and his mother Rachel died. You pass still by the roadside a little building called Rachel's tomb. Jacob went on to Hebron, where his old father Isaac was living, and he still lived there after Isaac's death. (Gen. 35:27-29)
How many sons had Jacob? There were ten older brothers and Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph was now seventeen years old. The older brothers were shepherds, and Joseph was sometimes with them. He brought to his father report of their wrong doings. They hated Joseph, too, because his father loved him best of all his sons and made him a beautiful coat of many colors, or as some understand it to mean, a long garment with sleeves. Joseph also had dreams, which he told his brethren, and they hated him for these. What were his dreams? (Gen. 37:5-11) Do you see why these dreams made the brothers hate Joseph more?
The brothers had gone to feed the flock in Shechem. We think of the meadow which Jacob bought, where he dug his well near Shechem, when he came from Haran. Jacob sent Joseph to see how it was with the brothers and with the flock. He came to this meadow, which they all knew so well, and expected to find his brothers there. But they were not there; they had gone to Dothan. This was another meadow farther on. Joseph went on and found them there. But now is the sad part of the story. The brothers thought of killing Joseph, but Reuben and Judah had kinder thoughts, and Joseph was put into an empty cistern in the ground where sometimes there was water. Then men came with camels, with loads of different sorts of gum from Gilead, the country beyond Jordan, going to carry it down to Egypt, where it would bring a good price. The traders are called Midianites and Ishmaelites, wandering people like the Bedouins of today. The brothers sold Joseph to these men for twenty pieces of silver, to be taken down to Egypt as a slave. The brothers remembered afterward how Joseph had besought them, but they would not hear. (Gen. 40:21)
Then comes the saddest part of the story, how they took Joseph's coat and stained it with the blood of a kid and brought it to their old father. He knew the coat and said, "It is my son's coat. An evil beast hath devoured him." So his father wept for him. We will go next time to Egypt, the country to which Joseph was taken.
We must get acquainted with the lovely meadow which Jacob came to "before," that is, "to the east of" Shechem. Will someone look up a few verses for us? Gen. 33:19 tells us that Jacob bought the piece of ground from the native people of the land. Jacob speaks in one place of taking the land by his sword and bow (Gen. 48:21, 22) and it may be that after buying he had to defend his rights. Our story today adds interest to this piece of ground. Later Jacob made a special gift of it to Joseph, before his death. The bones of Joseph were buried there when the people came from Egypt. (Josh. 24:32) We are reminded of this by a little building in the meadow still called Joseph's tomb. This is the parcel of ground and this is Jacob's well, where the Lord rested and talked with the woman of Samaria. (John 4:5, 6)
Where was Jacob now living? The words "the generations of Jacob," mean the story of his family, especially of Joseph. How old was Joseph now? What reasons are given why Joseph was hated by his older brothers? Will someone tell us the two dreams?
Follow Joseph on his errand, by the help of a little map. Remember what we have learned about this lovely meadow near Shechem, where Joseph came looking for his brothers and the sheep. Follow on the map to Dothan. This is a little plain almost a part of the great plain of Esdraelon, lying lower than Shechem and on the route followed by travelers and traders coming from the east through the plain of Esdraelon and crossing to the seashore on their way to Egypt.
What evil thought did the brothers have when they saw Joseph coming? What advice was given by Reuben and what by Judah? The traders who now came with their camels and loads of gums from Gilead, called both Ishmaelites and Midianites, were simple people, not so evil-minded as Joseph's brothers. The brothers sold Joseph to them. What report did they bring to their old father? How bitterly he grieved!
1. Where had Abraham first camped in the land, and Jacob, after coming from Haran?
2. Where did Joseph look for his brethren? Where did he find them?
3. How many brothers had Joseph? Who were some of them?
4. Why did Joseph's brethren hate him? Can you tell the two dreams?
5. By whom was Joseph saved and carried into Egypt? Read Gen. 42:21.
It is beautiful in a simple way to recognize Joseph as a type of the Lord. The Lord came seeking for the flock, but it had been led away by unfaithful shepherds. People hated the Lord and tried to kill Him, because He told them of His Divinity. So the brethren hated Joseph for his dreams in which they bowed down to him. You think of the Lord when you read how Joseph was sold for money and his coat was dipped in blood, and again when you read how Joseph in Egypt, while unknown by his brethren, loved them and preserved their lives. (A. 4669)
Many times in the Gospels the Lord's garments are types of the words and acts in which He clothed and expressed His love. You have in mind the swaddling clothes, the healing of some who touched His garment's hem, the parting of His garments at the cross. The same thing had been represented long before the Lord's coming by the beautiful garments made for Aaron and by Joseph's coat. The many colors suggest the infinite adaptations of the Lord's truth and love to people of many kinds. If we think of a long garment, compare the garment down to the foot in Rev. 1:13, the Lord's truth brought down to the simple minds of human beings. The dipping of the coat in blood as proof that Joseph was dead represents the perversion of the Lord's Word to confirm the denial of His Divinity. (A. 4677, 4768)
The plain of Shechem was a beautiful upland meadow in the heart of the land, Abram's first home and Jacob's on coming from the east. It represents a childlike state of charity, content with simple knowledge of doctrine. The low-lying plain of Dothan represents a more external state in which charity is forgotten and particulars of doctrine, here of false doctrine, are made important. (A. 1440, 1441, 4716, 4720)
Ishmaelites from Gilead took Joseph when his brethren despised him. So gentile people, and many of them from that same country beyond Jordan, received the Lord in their simple way when He was rejected by the Jews. "By Joseph's brethren are represented they within the church who have confirmed themselves against the Divine truth, but by the Ishmaelites are represented they who are in simple good." (A. 4747)
So far we have thought in a general way of Joseph as a type of the Lord. We must think what special phase or element in the Lord's life and in our lives Joseph represents. As the truth represented by Jacob is worked out in life, earlier and more external developments are represented by his older sons. The most spiritual developments come last, represented by Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of Israel's old age and dearest to him. They represent, in the church and in us, an interior acknowledgment of the Divinity of the Lord, Joseph the loving perception of His Divinity and Benjamin the understanding of it. Joseph among his brethren in the land of Canaan represents this perception of the Lord's Divinity as a real and living power in life, such as it was with the first Christians. Joseph is sold into Egypt when all perception of the Lord's Divinity is lost and it becomes a mere matter of knowledge and history, still a most precious knowledge as we shall see when we follow the story of Joseph in Egypt. There is promise of the return to a living perception of the Lord's Divineness in the return of Joseph's bones from Egypt and their burial in the field of Shechem. (A. 3969, 4727, 4788)
What in our Lord's own life would seem to be analogous to the experience of the church which we have just noted? Were there for Him times when He had a living perception of His oneness with the Father, and times when it was not a living perception but He must rest on faith and upon the promises of Scripture?