A Spiritual Compass: Joseph I

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37 through 47 (less chapter 38) is one of the transformation of a spoiled brat into a ruler of Egypt, and savior of his people.  The setting of this character is a dysfunctional family (as nearly every family in Scripture seems to be).  The background to Joseph’s family includes his father stealing the family blessing from his brother, the murder of the men of Shechem by Levi and Simeon, and the eldest, Reuben, slept with his father’s concubine.  Jacob’s wives and their handmaids were the four mothers of Jacob’s twelve, and they didn’t get along.  The household was a mess, much like ours.

Into this messed up family comes Joseph.  He tattles on his brothers, receives preferential treatment by his father (an expensive cloak), and his brothers cannot speak to him in peace.  There is strife already between the kids, and the parents, Joseph, and his brothers are complicent in the problems.  Into this boiling pot, God delivers two dreams to Joseph.  Of course, Joseph shares the dreams, they will also get his brothers going.

He can’t really control how Jacob treats him, and what kid wouldn’t like the attention?  And he can’t really control how his brothers treat him, and what kid would like that?  All your older brothers get to do stuff, and you don’t.  They won’t talk to you peaceably.  They obviously don’t like Joseph, so, Joseph goes with it.  He doesn’t care that they don’t like him, he figures, with how dad feels about him, he’s invulnerable.  Only he’s not.

In the first dream, the twelve, including Joseph, are “bringing in the sheaves”, when Joseph’s stands erect, and the others gather around and bow down to it.  In the second, the sun and moon, and eleven stars all bow down to him.  This one, even his father doesn’t like, but he’s thoughtful about it.  How could his brothers accept such a “dream” from this brother?  But they do have a plan to keep it from happening.

Jacob sends Joseph to Shechem because his brothers have the flocks there.  Only they don’t.  Joseph can’t find them among the hills around Shechem.  He’s found wandering the fields by some guy who tells him they’ve moved to Dothan.  So off goes Joseph to Dothan.  A long way off his brothers see him and plot.

The first idea is to kill him and blame it on a wild beast.  Reuben talks them out of that, saying they should simply throw him in a pit rather than shed his blood.  He wants to use Joseph to get back in daddy’s good graces.  When Joseph arrives, they take his cloak and throw him into the pit.  Then they sit down to a meal.  We’re not told where Reuben went, but he’s not around for the arrival of the caravan of “desert folk” to Egypt with smelly gum, balm, and burial deodorant.

The brothers figure it makes more sense to profit from Joseph at least rather than simply let him die.  So, they sell him as a slave to the caravan for 20 shekels of silver.  When Reuben comes back, he discovers Joseph gone, and is all upset; his plan is ruined.  They opt to take the cloak and dip it in goat blood, tear it up, and give that to their father.  When Jacob inspects the coat, he assumes his son has been devoured by beasts, and mourns inconsolably for Joseph.

So, the choices made by the father brought strife between brothers.  The choices of Joseph exacerbated the strife.  The brothers chose to “unbrother” Joseph, and sold him into slavery.  Then they chose to let Jacob believe he was dead.  This dysfunctional family functioned to intensify their own pain.  Yet, in this account, Yahweh is the One using them to provide for their survival.

Either the plan of Yahweh was to use their dysfunction all along, or He simply used whatever their dysfunction led them to do in His plan.  Either way, their dysfunction was never enough to thwart the direction of Yahweh.  That’s comforting.  Problem families are now more the norm than the exception.  Yet, whatever the dysfunction, our Master still uses such families in His plans.  None are so bad they can’t be used.

That’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see of God through yours?

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