Cultural Catwalk: Joseph, the Dreamer (Genesis, Chapter 37)
In the beginning of Joseph’s story, it is astounding to see the similarities to our present day cultural catwalk—sibling rivalry, parent favoring a child, lying to a parent, refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions. Perhaps, our observation of this particular cultural catwalk is that of selfishness.
Before we delve into this dramatic story, a bit of back-story will bring us clarity to Joseph’s beginnings as one of the twelve sons of Jacob.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the three patriarchs of the ancient world—laid the cultural catwalk of faith for the nation of Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, two with his first wife, Zilpah (Leah’s maidservant, substitute wife), six with his second wife Leah, two with his third wife, Rachel, and two with Bilhah (Rachel’s maidservant, substitute wife). These twelve eventually became the twelve tribes of Israel.
Joseph, Rachel and Jacob’s son, was the epitome of faithfulness, truth, honor, and morality. Furthermore, his story gives meaning to our own lives, because it shows how God masterfully uses people to accomplish his eternal plans for all of humanity.
By the time Joseph was born, God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel, because on his trip to meet with his estranged brother, Esau, he wrestled with God until sunrise and won. His name became Israel, because he had struggled “with God and men and overcame them (read more…).
Because Joseph was born to Israel in his old age, he favored Joseph over all his other sons:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. (Genesis 37:3 KJV)
At seventeen, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers who were at least fifteen to twenty years older. However, his brothers held contempt for Joseph and hated him because of his young age, and because they realized that Joseph was their father’s favorite.
While working in the fields, Joseph had a dream and told his brothers about it:
He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it (vs 6-7).
Although most of us aren’t able to interpret dreams, Joseph has provided us with certain metaphorical details in his dream description. How would you interpret Joseph’s dream? Share your interpretation in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
Regardless, Joseph’s brothers were incensed, because Joseph had the chutzpah to tell them about it, and they didn’t appreciate their interpretation of the dream. After his second dream, he told his brothers and parents about it, but Jacob rebuked him and his brothers were more jealous of him.
Soon after, Jacob sent Joseph into the fields to “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me” (37:14), and when he found them near Dothan, they saw him coming toward them, and plotted against him:
“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams” (vs 19-20).
Joseph’s brothers took all his clothes off and threw him into a cistern (reservoir or pit for collecting water), but when they discovered that the cistern was empty, and saw a passing caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt they decided to sell Joseph to a Midianite merchant for only twenty shekels (approximately $400.00).
After Joseph departed, his brothers devised a scheme to trick their father.
… [the brothers] got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe. He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces” (vs. 31-33).
Meanwhile, after arriving in Egypt, the Midian merchant sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials.
Next week: Joseph in Egypt