Last week, when we were looking into Joseph's background, we saw that he was born into a family that today surely would be called "dysfunctional." It contained a father who had to flee from his family because he had deceived his father, taken advantage of a brother in a time of his brother's weakness, and then stolen an item of very great material value from his brother. This father had several serious run-ins with his equally deceitful father-in-law; and things became so heated between them that he had to flee from him as well. When his father-in-law pursued and caught up with him, the father-in-law accused that party of stealing from him as well. And, indeed, the charge was true. But the items stolen were never discovered because, during the search, one of Jacob's wives deceived her father.
Now there were four wives in all, in this family—two main ones, who were sisters (which is something that is forbidden in the law that was given through Moses), and two lesser ones, who were drawn into the family's operations in an intimate way because of the almost constant bickering that took place between the two sisters, who were married to the same man. And they were fighting for the affections of this man, the father.
By the time Joseph was born, there were already ten others sons; and they hated him, because the father had the dreadful practice of always favoring one member over the others—thus increasing the tension in a situation that would have been stressful even if he had not played favorites. In addition to that, a few years later two of the sons took the lives of a number of virtually defenseless men during a time when negotiations were going on, because their sister had foolishly gone out of her community to see what the world was like and had gotten herself raped.
The other brothers participated in the mopping up action—after the two had killed a number of people. And, in the wake of the brothers' killing spree, they ran off with sheep, oxen, asses, children, and wives—as the booty taken during that misadventure. The two brothers certainly lost any consideration they might have received when their father distributed the scepter and the birthright promises. The oldest child in the family then proceeded to dishonor his father by accompanying one of his father's lesser wives to bed, where he had intercourse with her. He too, then, lost out of any consideration for receiving the inheritance. (It sounds just like the family you would like to follow around if you were writing the script for "As The World Turns.")
And then came Joseph. There is a curious statement made about Jacob in Genesis 37 that is somewhat obscured in the translation into English. It says there:
Genesis 37:1-3 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
The obscure, or curious, statement pivots on the word "generations" or "genealogy," as it might say in your Bible. Both of them are correct translations; but the word in the Hebrew indicates "history" or "account." Some Bibles translate that as "This is the history (or, the account) of Jacob." The phrase is used a number of times for others; and, after it is used, there immediately follows a rundown of the family and a sketchy outline of a few significant occasions in the family's history.
With Isaac, the phrase is used to indicate the beginning of his dynasty; and that it began with the births of Jacob and Esau "in the land." But with Jacob, all of his children—with the exception of Benjamin—were born outside "the land." They were born in Syria. So, the phrase regarding Jacob and his history is withheld until after he re-entered "the land of inheritance" and actually began living in it. Then, Joseph is named and nobody else. It is as if Jacob's story does not begin until they are "in the land." And then, instead of naming all of the children, only one is named. It is an indication that, even though Jacob remains the head of the family, Joseph—and, we are going to find out, to a lesser extent, Judah—is going to be the moving principle in the following history. So, it is almost as if God says, "Well, here the history of Jacob begins and here the history of Jacob ends." (Not quite, but almost.)
Genesis 15:13-16 Then He [that is, God] said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they shall serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
This is the prophecy that Joseph is going to be used to begin the fulfillment of. So, that is what this story concerns. Joseph is the central character. God's prophecy is the reason these things are going to be occurring. God was beginning, through Joseph, to work out another step in His plan. Among other things, it shows us the extent that God will go in order to give us an illustration of a spiritual principle of very great importance to you and to me; and, that is, that every single one of us is in bondage, in the world. We are a slave, until He moves to free us.
This slavery is spiritual. We may be physically free in the land in which we live, but God is showing us that there is something bigger, something greater, and something more powerful to whom every single one of us is in bondage. And He also shows that there is, overriding that, a great purpose that He is going to put us into, as a part of. It is essential that we begin by understanding that we are in bondage to this one that we cannot see, regardless of where we live.
We have to see what Joseph and his brothers and Jacob went through in the light of the way God looks at the things that occurred.
James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted of God;" for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
Please understand, because if you do not understand this you are not going to get the lesson that is involved here, as it applies to you—to your life. It is good to remember that these people (the principles that are involved in this issue—Joseph, all of his brothers, and Jacob) did not know when they were going through this experience, what they were going through. They did not know what they were going through when they went through it. I mean, they did not know it from God's perspective.
Now, how does James 1:13-14 apply to that? How did this thing begin? This whole adventure began because of sin. God did not make these people sin the sins that precipitated these events. God does not tempt people. He does not force people to live by faith either. Instead, what this shows is how God is able to turn bad attitudes, and foolish choices, and even heinous sins of people involved, into a result that is beneficial to everybody concerned. It is beneficial to God's plan and also to peoples' well being, even though it may be very difficult while they are experiencing it.
Even when the incident was over, and Israel and all of his family was safely ensconced in Egypt and protected from the effects of the famine, neither Jacob nor Joseph understood the spiritual implications of what the family had gone through. They saw the physical implications, but God's larger, spiritual purpose was beyond them.
We can understand, because we can look back on it, but if you had been in the position they were in and went through the experience as they were going through it, you would not have understood either. But we find at least one person who went through this experience by faith.
Both Joseph and Jacob believed the promises of God. I mean, this is at the end of the experience. And they believed that Joseph had been used by God. They believed that they had been the recipients of a gracious gift of God; and they knew, they (Jacob and Joseph) believed that the family would return to Canaan, because they knew the promise that God had given to Abraham just a few years before. But they still did not fully and clearly see the totality of what God had worked through them.
To me, it is incredible that God is able to use people as He did here—using Jacob's entire family, developing their character, correcting and punishing, bringing about repentance, and producing vital lessons for others (like you and me), things that we can learn from—and yet never take away a person's free moral agency.
Did you know that if God takes away someone's free moral agency, then He would have no basis for judging? How could He praise? It takes judgment to praise. It takes evaluation to praise. How could He praise and give reward, or blame? You can only blame somebody if they, personally, are accountable. How can God give either praise (and reward) or blame (and punishment) if He had—by using His greater power—merely made people do things over which they had no control?
They were not puppets on a string, and neither are we. They could not be judged, because they would not have been responsible for their actions. God would have been responsible. But God holds us responsible for our actions. Now turn with me to II Corinthians 5, and beginning in verse 9. Paul writes to these people—and to you and me:
II Corinthians 5:9-10 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Do you see? Judgment is being discussed here. And Paul is saying that we need to turn our full attention to doing everything we possibly can, while we are alive, while we are "in the body"—do what we can to please Jesus Christ, because we are going to be held accountable. We are going to be judged because of, or on the basis of, the choices which we make. So, we have to answer for those things.
We find, a little bit further, verse 14:
II Corinthians 5:14-16 For the love of Christ compels us [that is, it gives us impetus]; because we judge thus, that if One died for all [that is, Christ], then all died [that is, in sin]; and He died for all, that those [those of us who have been cleansed by His blood] who [Let us change it to "We".] live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore from now on, we regard no man according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know we Him thus no longer [that is, in that way].
So we turn our attention to the choices, and the reasons and motivations of why we make the choices that we do. I believe that one of the reasons the story of Joseph is in the Bible is not just because he was used of God to fulfill a major portion of a great promise. But because here was a man who had an extremely high batting average when it came to making the right choices. And he did not make the choices because he was lucky. Joseph considered his options, and he deliberately made the right choices, regardless of the consequences to himself.
If we had no free moral agency, judgment by God would be totally unfair. But God is not unfair. And He judges according to His law.
Let me put forth one more thing here, which is very important to our attitude in regards to making choices. That is (in this section here in II Corinthians 5, and most specifically in verse 10), that the scriptures do not look at our appearing before Christ's judgment seat with dread. Going before a judgment seat tends to put us in fear and dread, does it not? Even now, we wonder whether we please Jesus Christ. But understand this: the Scriptures do not look upon this as something to dread, but rather as a very great privilege that we have. The rest of the world has not been given this privilege yet—to be judged of God. Now when does our judgment take place?
I Peter 4:17 For the time has come [It is right now.] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
So, our judgment is taking place right now. Let us tie this together with the story of Jacob and Joseph and Judah and you. In this same book of 1 Peter, it says:
I Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts [because we have choices to make in regards to this. And so he is saying, "Don't make a choice that is based upon covetousness."] which war against the soul. [You know, in war you have very great opportunity to be killed.] having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they shall observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
The word that I want you to focus on right now is "visitation." Do you know what it means? It means "to look over, inspect, consider, examine." What was happening to these people to whom Peter was writing? They were being persecuted—persecuted by their friends, family, and people in their neighborhoods, people in their city. Brethren, persecutors are not going to glorify God while they hate God and while they are persecuting His representatives (that is, His Christians).
Were Joseph's brothers glorifying God while they were doing what they were doing to Joseph? Joseph was God's chosen representative, or instrument, for delivering Jacob's family into a physical salvation, into Egypt. When did Joseph's brothers glorify God? They were going to glorify God in the day of their visitation. That is, when they were called into judgment. Joseph's brothers were called into judgment when they had to face Joseph as Prime Minister of Egypt and when they had to face the fact of their heinous crime against him and against God.
"The day of visitation" is the day in which people are judged. And so these persecutors are not going to glorify God until it is their time to be looked over, inspected, examined, evaluated, judged. How do you fit into this scenario? In the same way Joseph did. Please do not separate yourself from this story. It is not just a story about Joseph. It is also a story about you and me, because we are going to be saviors before very long, and we are going to help save people from their sins in the day of their visitation. We are being prepared for that right now. There is much to learn from what Joseph had to go through as the result of the persecution of his brothers.
Now, turn with me to Romans 8. While you are reading this with me, again, think of yourself, think of Joseph, and think of Jesus Christ too.
Romans 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Was Joseph charged? Are Christians charged? Who are they charged by? The word here indicates somebody called to account for what they are. They are being charged, not by Jesus Christ in this case. They are being charged by the world, and therefore persecuted.
Romans 8:34a Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died. . .
What is Paul saying here? He is saying, "Look fellows, brethren. To whom do you have to give account? Is it to your persecutors? Or, is it to Jesus Christ?"
Romans 8:34b-35 . . . and furthermore, is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Do you think those things went through Joseph's head when he was thrown in the pit, when he was taken into slavery, when he was bought as a common slave, when he was put into jail? "I'm innocent!"—he had every right to say.
Romans 8:36-39 As it is written, "For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is good to remember these things that we have just gone through. That now is our time of visitation. The very people that we live before, in the midst of (our friends, our relatives, our neighbors), the time of their visitation is yet to come—the time when they are going to be looked over, evaluated, considered, examined. And they may be giving us a very hard time because of the things that we believe, because we are different. It is good to remember this when you are going through some perplexing trial—that there is very much more to it than meets the eye.
Even as with Joseph, there was very much more than met his eye, on the surface. These people did not know what they were going through until most of it was over. Now, what you and I go through may not be of the magnitude of this event involving Joseph; but, in like manner, it may have very much to do with future things involving your family. Now, let us go back to Genesis 37. It says in verse 3:
Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children. . .
It was Jacob's favoritism of Joseph that is the blunder that sets off the chain of events that God used to fulfill His prophecy there in Genesis the 15th chapter. The coat that Jacob gave Joseph is, to the brothers, the hated symbol of Jacob's neglectful treatment of them. The word "coat," or "tunic," or "robe" (as it is translated) appears only in one other context in the entirety of the Bible. That is in II Samuel 13:18-19. There the word is translated to indicate clothing worn by the king's daughter—that is, David's daughter, Tamar, most specifically, in this case. Now the brothers of Joseph understood, or looked up, or interpreted "the coat" as being a flaunting of Jacob's attitude toward them. It was like rubbing salt in the wound.
I do not think that Jacob deliberately set out to incite the brothers to envy and hatred, but his whole life shows a man giving single-minded devotion to one goal, or to one purpose. We also find that he was a very competitive person, wanting to be Number One. When Rachel died, he transferred the majority of his affection and attention to Joseph, and appears to have striven to make Joseph into Jacob's vision of what he thought he should be. (It is what psychologists today call a parent who is reliving his life through the child. Like a stage mother or a father trying to create a super athlete the father dreamed of being but never became.)
The real, real problem was the polygamy. I think that this was responsible for creating families, or cliques, within what should have been a single family. And, in this particular family, the rivalries were exceptionally intense.
I think that there is no doubt, though, that Joseph was a cut above his brothers in virtually every way—spiritually, morally, intellectually, and ethically as well. When he spent time with them, working together, there were two different approaches to the way things were being done. The story later shows that Joseph approached and performed his responsibilities with a wise, diligent, and, indeed, a brilliant way that was pleasing to his employers. Even in his youth, I think that he was beginning to show the qualities that employers would later find so pleasing.
And I think we can only assume that the other sons he was with at this time approached things more with a typical youthful carelessness—like "Nah, what does it matter? Out of sight out of mind. What does Dad care? He's not here to look at it. We'll just do it our way." I mean, that would be, I think, maybe a minor thing.
So Joseph, besides being their father's favorite, was also apparently a goody-two-shoes, who was a drag on their normal approach to doing things. And when he told Jacob of what, and the way, they were doing things, it intensified their hatred of him.
It would be very easy for us to yield to the temptation to conclude that Joseph was just another spoiled brat tattletale. But I want you to consider something before you really, firmly, reach that conclusion—in light of what is revealed about the brothers' attitude and character a little bit earlier and a little bit later. Two of the brothers had already taken the lives of men in what gives every appearance of being a stab-in-the-back ambush—a sucker punch, you might say—that resulted in the deaths of at least two men, and the implication is a great deal more.
They did this when the others (I am talking about in Shechem) were at a very decided disadvantage. So they were not, at all, put off by the idea of fair play, of being just and equal. They lived by the rule that "all's fair in love and war." It did not matter. And then the other brothers participated in the mop-up action, making off with a good deal of the wealth of the people who were ambushed. Consider that into the character of these people who are now envious and hating of Joseph. And then, of course, they later sold their own brother into slavery and deceived their aged father—inflicting him with a great deal of emotional pain.
Now, contrast that with what the Bible later reveals about Joseph's character. The contrast is pretty clear, and maybe, just maybe, Joseph's being a tattletale was justified—because maybe there was more to this incident than meets the eye. Was Joseph justified in doing what he did?
Turn with me to Leviticus 5. I want you to note, as we turn there, that God did not say what Joseph did was bad. The brothers interpreted it that way.
Leviticus 5:1 If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.
Do you know what that law says? This law is the principle upon which the being of an accomplice—before or after the fact—of a crime is based. Does he not say that if you have been a witness to something, and you hear it, and you do not report it, you bear your sin? Now most of us have little or no problem reporting a crime, or being a witness in a trial, of someone that we do not know or that we might only know in a passing way. You know, people fear turning somebody else in. In order to circumvent this fear, the police have telephone numbers that citizens can call, in order to turn somebody else in and at the same time remain anonymous.
But, if being a witness involves something that is much more personal—that is, somebody close (a brother, a sister, a cousin, a parent, a child, maybe a little bit more distant relative, or maybe somebody in the neighborhood, or the next neighborhood over; but it is somebody that you know a little bit more closely)—it becomes much more emotionally difficult to turn somebody else in and to be witness against them in their trial.
Consider this in the case of Joseph and his brothers. They are right in the same family. Now hardly anybody wants to be "the bad guy." And the way the brothers looked at what Joseph did, he was the bad guy, because he told their father of something evil that they had done.
This particular thing is very difficult today because liberal Protestantism has taught our culture here in the United States that we are to be very tolerant. "Don't set yourself up as a judge of your brother," we are told. That is almost a total misunderstanding of the biblical principles. This is a little bit off the subject, but do you realize that the police would hardly ever catch anybody if citizens did not report things that they saw? So, if they did not, crime would be so rampant—it is almost unimaginable. The fear of being witnessed, and reported, and caught is a major factor in holding crime in check.
Now, as to understanding this verse (Leviticus 5:1), please do not focus on the illustration that is given—that is, hearing somebody swearing. This is used only to give an example of one being a witness to something that may even be quite privately done. That is the kind of atmosphere most crimes are committed in, is it not? In the dark, where people think that nobody is watching them. If people think that somebody is watching them, they are much less likely to do the evil things that they do. And so God is saying that it is the duty of a person to report wrongdoing, and if the person does not, then he bears sin with them. He is an accomplice to what they have done.
I want you to see how strong this sense of personal responsibility is in the Bible. It is a responsibility both to God and to the community; and, in this case, the community is the church—which Mr. Armstrong used to tell us is the Kingdom of God in embryo. Now, why have a law like this? Well, it is because of the principle that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. And if crime, or sin, is not stopped at its source quickly, it is going to spread. If one sees something being done (that is a sin or a crime), God holds the witness responsible for doing what he can to stop it. At least, it can be reported to authorities.
In many cases, let us say "in the church", the best thing to do (the appropriate thing to do) is to go directly to the person, in a spirit of humility, who has sinned. Now let us go back to I Timothy 5. This is something that is directed at someone like me [a minister].
I Timothy 5:22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure.
That is not a disjointed, disconnected thought (that the apostle Paul says). The ordination of a person is directly connected to that person being, or perhaps becoming, a sinner. This is a warning to the minister—the one who does the ordaining—who allows another minister to bring the ministry into disrepute, through ordaining a rascal into office. Paul's warning to Timothy is that, if he (Timothy) allows this to occur without thorough examination of the man who is to be ordained, then he will not be totally separated from the rascal's sin—because he has allowed him [the rascal] to come into office in the first place.
So it is a warning to the ministry to deal decisively with another minister who has gone astray, and especially so if one of us has been involved in the ordination of such a person, or maybe made the recommendation that they should be ordained.
Now we know that there comes the time when each person is held accountable for his own sins. But I am telling you this so that you will understand how strongly and powerfully God views the "connectedness" that there is between all of us. We are a body, and there is a responsibility.
II John 10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
How about those apples? Everybody in the congregation has a responsibility to God in regard to this. Now John is not writing here of your ordinary Joe church member who has left the fellowship for whatever reason. And he is not talking about your neighbor, who might be a religious person but of a false god. He is speaking here of false prophets, of deceivers, of antichrists. He is talking about people who are out to destroy the truth. Sometimes that can be your neighbor. So Paul says that if we are hospitable to these people and give them comfort, then we become accomplices in their evil deeds. That is pretty stringent, is it not? (I did not write that.)
Back to Genesis 37. Now, what do you think about what Joseph did? That puts a different light on it, does it not? It begins to look, to me, like Joseph had some pretty good spiritual training—or some teaching that was on a very high level for somebody seventeen years old. And so he did what he was responsible before God to do, and what happened? It backfired on him. It only made his brothers hate him more. Is that not natural?
The two spirits in this world are at war with one another! Whenever the Spirit of God does something right, the spirit of the world hates it. So do not expect the world to pat you on the back for doing things right. Remember Jesus' warning that whenever all men speak well of you, then you had better take warning because it is very likely that you are probably friends with the world rather than friends with God.
You can see that at a very early age Joseph was showing inclinations that he was going to put God, and God's Word, and God's laws (which he was taught) before anything else—even the friendship of his own brothers. Can you see what is happening? Joseph is rapidly becoming a stumbling block to his brothers. Not because he is evil, but because he is good and they were being condemned by it. When that happens, the natural thing is for human nature to persecute the good.
Is that beginning to teach you something about Christ? Feed Christ into that, instead of Joseph. Christ was killed because He was a good man. He condemned people by His righteousness, by His holiness, by His goodness, and people could not stand the comparison. "Oh yes," they would say, "He's a good man. He goes around doing good things." But they could not stand what He stood for, even though they liked Him. So Christ Himself said that He was going to be a stumbling block for many. ("The stone which the builders rejected is become a stumbling block.")
That is what was happening with Joseph.
Genesis 37:4 But when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
They could not even give him the time of day, even with his own family. They could not say something to him that would be the equivalent of "Good morning" or "Good day." And you know what they did? Unwittingly, they drove the father and son even closer together.
Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
If sinners allure you, if sinners persuade you, or if they try to seduce you—the warning is, "Don't allow yourself to be open to these things." Now, in the case of young people especially, I might add here, peer pressure is very difficult to resist. I read recently that a survey of teens revealed that what their peers said and did had greater influence with them than their parents, because they want to be accepted.
All Joseph had to do was to be "a good guy" (one of the group)—to become like them, to allow his desire to be accepted, to allure or persuade him into doing things and into having the same kind of attitudes as they did. Yeah, join them in their surly and devious and violent ways, and the pressure would have been all gone. But Joseph had something very powerful going for him, and it is something that already has been mentioned very frequently. I am absolutely certain that it enabled him to stay the course and at the same time it brought pain, separation, and alienation from his brothers. Do you know what it was? He had the love of his father.
Do you see the parallel with Jesus Christ developing? Though despised and rejected of men, He stayed the course because of His Father's love—and because, above all things, He wanted to please His Father.
Now, in Joseph's life, God intervened and He actually intensified the feelings all around. Things were going to get worse before they got better.
Genesis 37:5-11 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, 'Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: "There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even the more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The meaning of both dreams is the same, but the second goes beyond the first in its grandeur of the symbols and the inclusion of the father and the mother in obeisance to Joseph. And, again, we have no mention of Joseph's attitude in the telling of the dreams.
It is interesting to me that the Bible shows that Joseph, who later became renowned as the interpreter of dreams, did not interpret these dreams. His brothers interpreted the first one; Jacob the second. The combination of the brothers' clearly-shown attitude, and the fact that no mention is made of Joseph's attitude, and that the others interpreted the dreams, leads me to conclude that Joseph just blurted the dreams out, as almost any youngster would have done.
How many times have you had an arresting dream, and then at the breakfast table (or something), you announced it to the whole family? "I had a dream last night; and you know what I saw in that dream?" Everybody does those things, without a sense of embarrassment or trying to get anything from it. It was just something that was really arresting, and maybe disturbing, and maybe we did wonder what it meant.
I think that Joseph might have just blurted it out, enthusiastically, like any kid would have done—because it really made an impression on him. It was, apparently, exceptionally vivid. But, just like what he did with his father a little bit earlier—in telling his father of the evil that his other sons had done—this one only served to backfire on him and brought even more intense hatred against him. Their interpretation was that the dreams revealed that he was going to rule over them. That was already of great concern in their lives, because each one of them wanted to be first in line for the inheritance. And so the dreams served to intensify their feelings of rivalry. The dreams, to them, pointed to the supremacy of Joseph and the implied royalty. (They were going to bow down, and that is what you do to royalty.) So the brothers, out of their envy, could see nothing in Joseph but overweening pride and ambition.
Even Jacob gave him a sharp rebuke. But it does say something about Jacob that is interesting: his father observed the saying. He remembered, or he tucked it into the back of his mind. It was something that he continued to think about and wondered if maybe, perhaps, there was something here that needed to be paid attention to.
You know it says that in regard to other people who were favored by God in some way. For example, in Luke the second chapter, it says it twice about Mary. When Jesus was born and these people began showing up where Jesus was being kept, it says that Mary kept these things in her mind. Then, later in the chapter, when Jesus was in Jerusalem and He was asking questions and answering questions, again it says that she tucked these things into her mind, because she was trying to understand a fuller meaning behind what these things might mean.
So the brothers' reply, or their interpretation, was emotional. It was hasty, and it was completely carnal. Jacob's, though, was at least the product of a mind that showed some measure of humility and faith. And he was learning to allow for God's hand in the affairs of men and God's right to choose whom He will to do things.
Now why the two dreams, that were virtually the same? Do you remember, a little bit later in the story, that the baker and the butler each had dreams that were very similar in their construction? And then two years later, the Pharaoh also had two dreams that were very similar in construction, and that they, too, came one right after the other. Well we find out the answer in Genesis 41 where Joseph (now the interpreter of dreams) says:
Genesis 41:32 And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
Now when Joseph had his dreams, I am sure that he did not understand a great deal. But quite a number of years had gone by—thirteen, to be exact—and time, experience, maturity, and revelation had taught him a great deal. The doubling of dreams was God's way of emphasizing. He was emphasizing that the process leading to the dreams' fulfillment was going to be occurring very quickly. So Joseph is saying that the matter is already settled in God's mind, and nothing we can do can turn it aside. So we had better get humping, post haste—right away.
Now before we go into another portion of Joseph's experiences and their meaning to us, we will break it off for today and pick up the story later.