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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Joseph's Dreams (Genesis 37:1-11)

Chapter 37 of Genesis begins to focus on the life of Joseph. Often the only detail that some can recall from this chapter is the assumption that Joseph was behaving wrongly when he reported the behaviour of his brothers to his father. I am not sure that he was doing wrong in doing so. After all, they were grown men. I suspect that Jacob was concerned about their behaviour because they had the potential for behaving badly, as the incident in Shechem, recorded in the previous chapter, reveals.

We are told two details about Joseph and they can be summarised as (1) what his father did for him and (2) what God did for him. His father made him a special coat. It was no ordinary coat because it roused the hostility of his brothers. The coat probably signified that Jacob regarded Joseph as his heir (he was the oldest son of Rachel, Jacob's preferred wife, and he did inherit a double portion through his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh). I suspect this is what the writer means when he says that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers. Reuben, the eldest son, had forfeited his right to the birthright by an appalling sin (Gen. 35:22; 49:3-4).

The other detail is that God spoke through Joseph by sending him dreams in which his family members acknowledged his authority in a very public way. His brothers regarded his dreams with jealousy (which suggests they suspected he was privileged), but his father while surprised did not forget them. They do not seem to have realised then that God was speaking through Joseph. Of course, we know that he was and we also know that many twists and turns would occur before God's prophetic word was fulfilled.

There are two lessons we can think about. The first is that Joseph's experience here is a picture of what Jesus would experience. Jesus too was hated because he was the Father's heir. The second is that, while God's promises are sure, a long time may pass before they are fulfilled.

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