Bible Readings for February 4th
In Genesis 37, we meet Joseph, the final main figure of Genesis. Although Joseph will be misunderstood and hated and rejected by his brothers, he nevertheless plays a key role in bringing the chosen family to Egypt (which sets up the story of Moses and God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt in Exodus), and it is through Joseph that God will preserve the entire world through one of the worst famines in all of history.
Our first impression of Joseph is somewhat startling, because Joseph sounds a bit like an entitled, bratty kid who tattles on his brothers (Gen. 37:2) and who foolishly makes bragging claims about his own superiority over his brothers. Compounded with the fact that Jacob clearly favored Joseph over all his brothers by giving him a beautiful coat (Gen. 37:4), we think to ourselves, “It’s no wonder that the rest of Israel’s sons hate Joseph!”
But in fact, that isn’t a very accurate evaluation of what we read in Genesis 37. Allen Ross carefully weighs this text, demonstrating how the “bad report” Joseph brings about his brothers is, in fact, a demonstration of Joseph’s faithfulness to his father, no matter what consequences it might bring for him. Furthermore, Joseph’s dreams weren’t opportunities for Joseph to boast to his brothers; rather, they were prophetic revelation from Almighty God himself, and Joseph would have been obligated to share the contents of those dreams.1 Jacob certainly should have considered the way that his favoritism would have negatively affected his other sons since he too was nearly the victim of his father Isaac’s favoritism toward Esau, but Joseph wasn’t to blame for that.
The picture we get from this opening story of Joseph, then, isn’t one of a foolish, arrogant child who gets what he deserves when he is sold into slavery. Rather, we see that Joseph is a faithful, innocent son and that Joseph’s brothers act wickedly in rejecting him and shedding his blood (figuratively speaking). Things will get worse for Joseph before they get better, but this initial presentation of Joseph is important for establishing his own character as well as the baseline for his brothers’ character.
This story is primarily important, however, because we see in Joseph a glimpse into who Jesus will ultimately be. Despite the fact that God had chosen to exalt Joseph above his brothers here in Genesis, his fellow Israelites nevertheless reject him and try to kill him. Ultimately, through Joseph’s faithfulness in spite of his persecution and mistreatment, God will save the whole world.
As we read over the next couple of weeks, pay attention to the way that, in Joseph, a picture of Jesus Christ will slowly unfold and develop. We are meant to see throughout the whole Old Testament a growing picture of what God’s Messiah will eventually look like in this world, and Joseph is a huge clue toward establishing that picture.
1 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 597–601.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.