Genesis 36–39: Cloaks & Lies

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 10: Monday

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.
Genesis 37:3–4

Monday’s Bible reading of Genesis 36–39, finishes the record of Esau and his descendants (the names in chapter 37, include some of Israel’s future enemies) and introduces the story of the life of Joseph, the first-born son of Rachel, the wife whom Jacob loved.

Although Joseph was Rachel’s first child, he was Jacob’s eleventh son. His ten older brothers had lived with the love and favoritism shown to Joseph’s mother, and they had to live with the love and favoritism shown to Joseph. They brimmed with hatred and jealousy to the point of murder. Joseph would have died without the intervention of the oldest son, Reuben, who realized the gravity and impact of their intention. Judah’s suggestion that Joseph be sold as a slave let him off the hook being guilty of killing his brother while showing no concern for Joseph’s welfare or regard for whether or not any stranger might kill him. The brothers’ duplicity in reporting Joseph’s supposed death to their father revealed they had little desire to face him with the truth. I have to wonder if they had realized the extent to which this news would devastate their father.

Whatever Jacob’s shortcomings with his other sons (and they seem to have been quite extensive, given the character the older brothers exhibited), with Joseph he must have provided, not only love, but training and teaching about God. Joseph’s reaction to adversity and temptation reveal his knowledge of God and his character. In Egypt, because God prospered Joseph, as a slave he became a steward with great responsibility and authority, and he proved himself faithful to his master, Potiphar, and righteous before God as he refused to sin in the face of persistent effort by Potiphar’s wife to ensnare him into committing adultery with her.

My former pastor, Mike Braun, conjectured that Potiphar’s rage might not have been against Joseph, but against his wife. Her accusations forced his hand to do something, but Potiphar may have accurately assessed her character and that of Joseph, and guessing the truth of the situation, chose to have Joseph imprisoned rather than executed, which would have been the more likely punishment for a slave’s attempted rape of the wife of a high-ranking official.

Joseph was so young—in his upper teens—to experience the full fury of the murderous hatred of his brothers, to be separated from his father who loved him so, and then to turn around and find that despite his good stewardship for Potiphar he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Yet in all this, far from home with no one he knew around him, he acted with responsibility and faithfulness before God. Joseph was tried in the extreme—even for an adult, much less for a young man—and found true. That’s why he has always been one of my favorite people in the Bible.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Joseph’s Coat Brought to Jacob: Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari, Public Domain.
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife: Guido Reni, Public Domain.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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