Genesis 37


By Rev. Bill Versteeg

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Introduction for the congregation:

This evening I am starting as experiment. Our evening services are understood as a time of ministry also to children who attend Sunday School during the morning service so that they can have the experience of worship with the rest of the congregation. The experiment is this - to make messages that will keep the attention of the children by telling them the stories of scripture. Rather than explaining the rational behind it - let me just do it this evening - and then you are welcome to give me feedback in the next few days. This evening we start Joseph's Story - it is based on Genesis 30 - 37. You are welcome to check that scripture passage (along with others) for accuracy, as long as you leave some room for imagination.

Some children forward (?)

Fighting - always fighting and arguing - when they got out of bed until they went to bed - that was Joseph's family. Let me start Joseph's story by telling you a little bit about his family.

Joseph's father was Jacob(Jacov), also called Israel. Jacov had learned when he was young that he had to fight or work hard or even swindel to get what he wanted in life. He had decieved his older brother out of his inheritance. He had worked hard for his Father in law, Laban, for 7 years to get his wife Rachael - only to get the women he didn't love instead. He had to work another 7 years for Rachael who he loved. He had to fight with God for a blessing.

Fighting was their way of life. Jacob's two wives, Leah and Rachael fought like cats and dogs - and they dragged their servants Zilpah and Bilhah, into the fight by also giving them to Jacov to be his wives. And so in Joseph's home - there were four mothers who fought, who at times hated each other, often manipulated each other, Joseph, and the kids to get their way. This was true when Joseph was very young. That partly changed when Benjamin was born. When Benjamin was born - Rachael, the only wife whom Jacov really loved and Joseph's mother, died while giving birth. With Rachael gone, Jacov spent his energy trying to take care of the two kids who did not have a mom - Joseph, and Benjamin - his last two sons - born to him from Rachael - he loved them and especially Joseph more than the others - and so the fighting continued. Joseph's half brothers hated Joseph, would pick fights with him, they frankly did not want him in the family because he was dad's golden boy, he could do no wrong. He had dad's favour. When dad looked at Joseph, he smiled. When dad looked at his older brothers, it was often with anger.

So Joseph had 11 brothers - the only one he got along with was his younger full brother Benjamin.

Things got worse when Joseph was a teenager. No one likes a tattle tale - but Joseph did it any ways, telling his father what his older brothers were doing wrong when they were taking care of the sheep. Joseph's dad, Jacov got angry at them again - and then of course, the brothers got angrier at Joseph because he had finked on them and they had been caught.

But it was Joseph's coat that did it. All the brothers had was dull grey work cloths, shepherd's cloths - clothing that could get dirty trying to take care of sheep. Clothing that said everything about their future - work hard, be part of the family, be a shepherd - that is your destiny and you will do OK. But Jacov made a special coat for Joseph because he was his favorite son, Dad's pet. This coat had different colors on it - with special buttens - even some jewelry sewn right onto it. It was not a coat to do hard work in, - in that time, it was a coat of royalty, of kings and princes. When Joseph's brother's saw it, they burned with jealousy - not only because Joseph's coat was way nicer than theirs, but because - whenever Joseph was wearing it - he did not have to do any dirty work. While they would all have to work hard for their future - this coat showed them that Dad was going to give to Joseph his future - maybe the whole inheritance. Reuben, Joseph's oldest brother would have been especially jealous - after all, normally, most of the inheritance should have gone to him - this coat seemed to indicate that Joseph was going to get it all.

There was no love lost between these sons. There were no kind words given to Joseph - everything was anger, hatred, jealousy - like their mothers before them.

Family fights though, often have two sides - Joseph added fuel to the fire. He had dreams about being royalty - dreams that his brothers, even his whole family would bow before him, dreams that he freely, even boastfully told his brothers, his family.

"I had a dream - all you guys are going to bow down to me. Isn't that a cool dream?!" And it all seem to fit - after all he had the royal coat. His brothers glared at him in frustration. These dreams even made his father angry. Can you imagine telling your dad that he was going to bend his knee in honour to you?

"Shut up with your stupid dreams!" his brothers said.

"Get a life!"

"Dad - why does Joseph never have to work as hard as we have to?"

"Dad, why didn't you give us a coat like that?"

"It's not fair!" Those were the words heard again and again in Joseph's family - more than just a game - Joseph's family was not fair - and that's all that Joseph's brothers saw. They did not see their father's grief over a wife he loved. They did not see the unfairness that their father had experienced. They only saw things from their perspective - and to them Joseph was the problem!

The fighting went on and on, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

One day, Jacob asked Joseph to look up his brothers in the field where they were tending sheep near a place called Shechem - close to 60 kilometers away. Joseph wanted to go. A few days of traveling by himself were always fun (he had no car). Besides, he wanted to be part of the family. And while his brothers seemed to hate him so much, he wanted just for them to like him a little bit. So he gladly went with his colourful coat out to Shechem to see how they were doing. When he got to Shechem - the brothers were not where they were supposed to be. He learned from a stranger that they had gone 18 kilometers further near a place called Dothan.

Very few people had a coat like Joseph - and so his brothers saw him coming from a long ways away.

"Here comes the dreamer!" they said to each other. They were still steaming about the way Joseph had told them his dreams - and so they started plotting how they might kill him. And the plot came easily. Kill him and throw him in a cistern and tell dad that a ferocious animal had him for supper. Dad didn't know they were in Dothan - so they would easily get away with it. Dad would never find him. Reuben, the oldest, came to Joseph's defense.

"Let's not kill him. Just throw him in a cistern. Teach him a lesson. Just don't kill him."

There were good qualities in Joseph's brothers, despite all the fighting. And Reuben, maybe knowing that his future inheritance hinged on his father's blessing was interested in pleasing his father, even by saving Joseph.

When Joseph finally came to where they were - they grabbed him by surprise, ripped off his coat and threw him into an empty cistern.

Joseph first was confused.

What did they do that for? What have I done to deserve this?

"Common you guys, get me out of here."

But reasoning soon turned to pleading.

"Please, please get me out of here."

And then cries...

"Help! Help!"

His brothers, sick of his whining choose to ignore him and went for supper - they didn't see themselves as ferocious animals while they ate. Reuben, the one who had defended him went off to do an errand in Dothan. Joseph was left all alone, by himself, in a hole in the ground. He had no way of getting out.

Well - not quite all alone. There was someone else there. God was watching what was going on. God, the one who was writing Joseph's story was planning something - Joseph did not know what it was, neither did his brothers, nor did his dad. But God knew - and God can use even evil, even hatred between brothers for his own purposes.

Just as they were eating their supper, Joseph's brothers saw a long row of camels in the distance, carrying loads of spices and perfumes on their back - on a long journey all the way to Egypt. And Joseph's brother Judah came up with an idea on how to make money - sell this pain in the neck brother as a slave to these Midianite salesmen who were on their way to Egypt. An easy buck - plus they would not be killing their brother.

They finally threw a rope down to Joseph and pulled him out. Joseph was hoping this was the end to their mean ways of treating him - but to his surprise there was a bunch of camels there - and the second he was out of the cistern, his hands were tied up, and chains placed on his feet - and he was ordered by a man whom he had never met to start walking - his brothers had sold him as a slave for these salesman.

"What are you guys doing? Get these off of me - you're my brothers!"

With hatred in their eyes - they said

"Let's see what comes of your dreams now!"

And with that, the rope around his hands jerked. Joseph, without his precious coat, had to follow the stinking camel barefoot - a slave to be sold to somebody - he did not know who.

His brothers took his coat, soaked it in blood and brought it to their father - who came to the conclusion that ferocious animals had devoured his favorite son (little did he know the ferocious animals brought the coat to him) - he grieved, and grieved for all his looses - for his son Joseph, for his wife Rachael, for his loves lost. His sons tried to make him feel better but it would not work. He had lost his son. Jacob, the deceiver was deceived.

As Joseph plodded along the hot desert sands - his brothers good-bye rang through his head "Let's see what comes of your dreams now- dreamer?"

What would come of his dreams - it seemed nothing. Slaves had no rights. And if a slave tried to escape, he would be killed. Nothing could come of his dreams ...- except maybe if your dreams come from God.

When he got to Egypt - an important man named Potiphar bought him as a slave - and potiphar worked for the Pharoah, the king of Eygpt.

"Let's see what comes of your dreams now - dreamer?"

"Let's see what comes of your dreams now - dreamer?"

Next time we will start seeing what came from Joseph's dreams.

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