In the previous lesson, we studied the inharmonious relationship between Joseph and his brothers. The passage continues to show how the brothers conspired against Joseph and finally sold him. From the latter-part of this passage, we can learn how the protection of God and His plan are evidently woven into the challenges and the downturns of Joseph’s life.
Did You Know...?
- Shechem (37:12) is the modern Nâblous, in the plain of Muknah, which belonged to Jacob partly by purchase (Gen 33:19) and partly by conquest (Gen 34:27). [ref]
- Valley of Hebron (37:14) distances about sixty miles from Shechem, around three or four days of hiking. [ref]
- Dothan (37:17) or the modern day Tell-Dotha, is another twenty miles further north again—another day’s hiking. [ref]
- “This dreamer” (37:19): The expression can be translated literally in Hebrew as “the ruler of dreams” or “the master of dreams.”
- Pit (37:24) or cistern was either a natural receptacle or one dug out to catch rainwater.
The book of the prophet Jeremiah gives us an example of how the enemies of the prophet imprisoned him in a cistern (NKJV: dungeon), expecting him to starve to death (Jer 38:9).
- Ishmaelites – Midianites (37:25, 28, 36): The term “Ishmaelites” and “Midianites” were overlapping in Genesis 37, indicating that both of them were the same group (Gen 39:1). Midianites was a term designated for a group of different ethnic peoples because they were mentioned living in diverse areas such as: northwest Arabia, Sinai, Canaan, and the Transjordan.
In addition, the term “Medanites” was also used to refer to the “Midianites.” The Medanites were descendants of Medan, a brother of Midian, both of whom were sons of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:1-4). Thus, the Arabian merchants were interchangeably called Ishmaelites (Gen 37:27), Midianites (Gen 37:28) and the Medanites (Gen 37:36). Bound together by their similar occupation as travelling merchants, the interchanging use of both terms in Genesis 37 indicated that the owner of the caravan were Ishmaelites and the company attending it were Midianites or Medanites. [ref]
- Spices (37:25) was the gum tragacanth of Syria or storax, the resinous exudation of the styrax officinale, which abounds in Palestine and the East. [ref] In Hebrew, the word “spices” comes from the verb “to break, to grind,” signifying a pounding, breaking in pieces. Thus, the result of the pulverization was an aromatic powder.
- Balm (37:25) was mentioned as one of the most precious fruits of Canaan (Gen 43:11). The word “balm” was derived from Hebrew verb “to flow, to run” or literally “an outflowing, out-dropping.” The balm mentioned in Genesis 37 was distilled from a tree or fruits growing in Gilead, [ref] and highly recognized for its healing properties (Jer 8:22, 46:11).
- Myrrh (37:25) can be referred to as ladanum, an odoriferous gum formed upon the leaves of the cistus-rose, a shrub growing in Arabia, Syria and Palestine. [ref]
- “Carry them down to Egypt” (37:25): At that time, the land of the Pharaohs was the main nation of important commerce for world’s merchandise. [ref]
- “What profit is there” (37:26): The term “profit” in Hebrew often bears the negative connotation of greed and dishonest gain (Ex 18:21; Prov 15:27).
- Twenty shekels (37:28): The typical sale price for a slave in the early second millennium was twenty shekels of silver. [ref] Moreover, the book of Leviticus described that twenty shekels was the valuation offerings of a young male between five to twenty years old (Lev 27:5).
- A wild beast (37:33): One of the risks of being a shepherd and a traveler in the wild was to encounter a wild beast (Lev 26:6; Ezek 14:15, 21).
- “He mourned for many days” (37:34): The term “mourn” in Hebrew typically describes mourning for the dead, which is often accompanied by emotional and physical demonstrations, such as weeping, fasting, wearing sackclothes, removal of cosmetics, heaping up dirt and ashes, and tearing of garments (2 Sam 14:2; Neh 1:4; Est 4:3; Jer 6:26; Ezek 24:17). Customarily, a period of mourning would be appointed (Gen 27:41, 50:4; Deut 34:8) but Jacob’s words showed that his sorrow was without end until his death.
- Grave (37:35): In Hebrew the word is “Sheol,” which can literally be translated as “to go down” or “to sink.” The Hebrew word “Sheol” signifies the hollow place, the place of departed spirits or the unseen world (Greek-Septuagint: Hades) (2 Sam 12:23).
- Potiphar (37:36) in Egyptian language literally means “the one given or sent by Re (the Sun-Deity).” [ref]
- An officer of Pharaoh (37:36): The phrase in Greek-Septuagint can literally be translated as “a eunuch of Pharaoh.” In addition, the word “officer” in Hebrew can be used interchangeably with the word “eunuch” (Isa 56:3, 4; Est 2:3, 14, 15, 4:5).
- A captain of the guard (37:36): The expression can literally be translated in Hebrew as “a captain of the royal slaughterers” or “a chief officer of the executioners.” Such a similar title “a captain of the guard” with the authority to policing operations of a military nature is also identified in the Scriptures with the Babylonian Nebuzaradan (2 Kgs 25:8; Jer 39:9) and Arioch (Dan 2:14).
How did the stripping of Joseph’s tunic of many colors affected the life of Joseph, his brothers and Jacob? And what are the teachings which we can learn from them? The life of Joseph;Hide Answer
When Joseph arrived at Dothan to meet his brothers, they stripped him of his tunic and cast him into a pit (Gen 37:23-24). Later, the brothers sold him as a slave (Gen 37:28). At this moment, the stripping of Joseph’s tunic represented Joseph’s life transformation from a favored son at home into a slave in a foreign nation. At home, the tunic of many colors represented Joseph’s comfort zone, protection and honored status as a favored son. But now, in the pit and without his tunic, Joseph had lost his sense of protection, comfort and most importantly his honored status. Now, Joseph was vulnerable and could not rely on the protection of his father anymore.
The teaching that we can learn from the affected-life of Joseph;Hide Answer
Once Joseph was stripped of his tunic, cast into a pit and sold as a slave, he must have felt that his dream had turned into a nightmare. At this point in time, Joseph had not realized the purpose of God in his life. Similarly, when we experience a downturn in our life, we may feel that our guided and protected life has turned into a nightmare. In such a condition, we can reflect back at what the writer of the book of Job explained, ”Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). The writer of the book of Job narrated how Job, the man of God, suffered a series of great calamities over and over in his life. Yet, through it all, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:22). In other words, when Job was in his downturn, not only did he accept his ill-fate, he also upheld his faithfulness to God. Therefore, even in adversity, we should not lose heart. Instead, we should remain faithful because the Lord will still be with us, in good times or in adversity.
The life of Joseph’s brothers;Hide Answer
On one hand, Joseph’s tunic of many colors proved to be a hindrance for the brothers of Joseph. Though the brothers were born before Joseph, they could not overcome the fact that Joseph was highly favored by their father, Jacob (Gen 37:3). The tunic of many colors was like a sore in their eyes, reminding them of how unfavored they were in the eyes of Jacob, their father. Even in Joseph’s absence, Jacob still said, “It is my son’s tunic” (Gen 37:33), indirectly emphasizing Joseph’s acknowledged sonship status in front of his other sons and disregarding the other sons’ hurt feelings. On the other hand, Joseph’s tunic of many colors served as a witness and a testimony to the brothers’ evil scheme. After the brothers had cast Joseph into the pit (Gen 37:24), they dipped the tunic in the blood of a goat-kid, as if Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild beast (Gen 37:31-32). The bloody tunic itself became a proof of the brothers’ lie toward Jacob, their father, and their evil scheme against Joseph, their brother.
The teaching that we can learn from the affected-life of the brothers;Hide Answer
The actions of Joseph’s brothers serve as a warning for us. Each of our action, whether we realize it or not, will have a larger implication toward other people. In the example of Gen 37, by dipping Joseph’s tunic in the blood of a kid-goat, the brothers had greatly hurt the feeling of their father. When they lied to their father, Jacob, they did not expect that Jacob’s grief was inconsolable (Gen 37:35). In other words, if their father, Jacob, had died of a broken heart, the brothers would have been deemed responsible for their father’s death. Furthermore, in the example of Gen 42, by ignoring Joseph’s plea inside the pit and “the anguish of his soul” (Gen 42:21), the brothers had hurt and terrified Joseph to his soul and tore his heart. The brothers’ action reflected their selfishness and indifference toward Joseph, their own flesh and blood.
The brothers dipped the tunic in blood for their own benefit. They wanted to cover their evil scheme against Joseph and let their father continue to believe that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Satisfying their own interest for a revenge against the dreamer, the brothers heartlessly mistreated and sold their own little brother. Likewise, in his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul admonished the believers that nothing should be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, one should esteem others better than oneself. Moreover, one should look out not only for one’s own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4). Thus, from the example of Joseph’s brothers and the admonishment of the apostle Paul, we learn that decisions which we make based on our self-interest or conceit, whether at home, at work or at church, will not only hurt our relationship with others but also will hurt the feelings of the people around us.
The life of Jacob;Hide Answer
When Jacob put the tunic of many colors on Joseph, his highly favored son, Jacob’s own pride was also reflected through the ornamented tunic—the pride of having a son in his old age (Gen 37:3). But that pride quickly vanished when the tunic returned to Jacob, soaked in blood (Gen 37:31). The pride of Jacob had turned into a sense of regret and mourning, wishing that he should not have sent his favorite son into his own demise. In the hands of Jacob, the tunic which used to bring happiness to him now became a daily reminder of his anguish.
The teaching which we can learn from the affected-life of Jacob;Hide Answer
Jacob mourned greatly in daily anguish for his son, Joseph. But he did not know that his son was still alive. This was the irony of Jacob. He was tricked and lied to by his own sons. This event reminds us of Jacob’s previous acts of tricking his father, Isaac (Gen 27:24) and his brother, Esau (Gen 25:29-31). The one who tricked others was now being tricked by his own sons. The writer of the book of Job reminded us, ”Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8). Here, the message from the book of Job and the examples of Jacob serve as a lesson for us today. We will reap what we have sown. In terms of family, children will behave according to how their parents behaved. Our children will learn and follow from our footsteps, bad or good. Therefore, it is essential to remind ourselves of the way we conduct ourselves, especially in front of our children.
Describe the faithfulness and the diligence of Joseph as Jacob’s son.Hide Answer
The faithfulness and the diligence of Joseph could be seen through his actions when he was requested by his father, Jacob, to search for his brothers. Though Joseph knew that his brothers hated, envied and could not speak peaceably to him (Gen 37:4, 8, 11), Joseph still listened to his father’s request to look for them (Gen 37:13-14). Just because the brothers hated Joseph, it did not mean Joseph neglected them. The book of Genesis 37 explained further the diligence of Joseph in searching for his brothers. Jacob specifically told Joseph to go to Shechem for his brothers (Gen 37:14). When Joseph learned that the brothers had gone to Dothan instead (Gen 37:17), Joseph could have just returned home and could have given the report to his father of their well-being. But Joseph took a step further, after knowing that his brothers had gone to Dothan, Joseph went after them and found them (Gen 37:17). Joseph persevered and determined to meet his brothers to know their well-being in person.
Compare and contrast the sincerity of Joseph’s diligence in finding his brothers with the indifference of the hireling in the Lord Jesus’ illustration of a good shepherd in John 10.Hide Answer
On one hand, though Joseph’s brothers hated him, he persevered in finding them. Joseph was faithful in his assignment and he did not give up searching until he could find them and physically saw that they were well (Gen 37:16-17). Although the journey was dangerous due to encounters with wild beasts (Gen 37:33), Joseph was willing to take a step further to risk his life for the sake of obeying his father’s command and finding his brothers.
On the other hand, the Lord Jesus’ illustration of a hireling gave a strong contrast to what Joseph had done to his brothers. The gospel of John 10 described the carelessness of the hireling. He was being indifferent toward his sheep because he did not own them (Jn 10:12). Furthermore, the hireling only cared for his safety. When the wolf was coming, the hireling rather than staying to protect the sheep, he fled to save his life (Jn 10:13). The hireling, described by the gospel of John, he was not only selfish by thinking only for his own safety, he was also apathetic and showed no concern for the sheep. Let alone taking an extra step, the hireling even failed to perform his duty to protect the sheep and was not faithful in his work.
What can we learn from the contrast between Joseph’s sincerity and diligence with the hireling’s duplicity and negligence?Hide Answer
The contrast of Joseph’s sincerity with the hireling’s duplicity serves as a warning for us today. As workers of God, we ought not to be behave like hirelings who only seek personal interest and only perform the work as merely a duty-to-be-done. We ought to be good shepherds of God who love our fellow brothers and sisters with a sincere heart. When there is a problem at hand, instead of just handing it over to someone else, we ought to be willing to go into the front line, take the blame and help to solve the problem. Instead of negligently avoiding problems at hand, as true workers of God, we need to take a full responsibility and sincerely complete the duty and its related problems.
Compare Joseph’s “Here I am” phrase with the prophet Isaiah’s in Isa 6:8. How were they similar?Hide Answer
When Israel intended to send Joseph to his brothers in Shechem, Joseph responded by saying, “Here I am” (Gen 37:13). Similarly, when the Lord asked the prophet whom should be sent before Him, the prophet replied by saying, “Here I am” (Isa 6:8). Both replies showed their sense of commission. Joseph and the prophet Isaiah actively responded to the request and they had the initiative to perform the needed request.
What can we learn about the sense of commission from Joseph’s and the prophet Isaiah’s “Here I am” phrase?Hide Answer
From the phrase of Joseph and the prophet Isaiah, we can learn several things. First, the obedience toward the commission. Although the request of Israel in Gen 37:12 and the request of the Lord in Isa 6:8 were in the form of a question, the request was given by one with a higher status than Joseph and the prophet. Therefore, the request itself can be considered as a command. In addition, the gospel of Matthew shows us how the Lord Jesus encourages his disciples to pray to the Lord to send out laborers into His harvest (Mt 9:38). Thus, when the Lord intends to send His laborers into His harvest, as His workers, we need to obey such a request.
Second, the initiative to respond to the urgency of the commission. Instead of telling his father to send the servants to search for the brothers, Joseph showed initiative to obey and follow his father’s command. Likewise, the prophet Isaiah did not tell the Lord to find other servants to do His bidding, but he willingly committed to be sent before Him. In the gospel of Matthew, the Lord reminds His disciples and the readers that the harvest is truly plentiful but the laborers are few (Mt 9:37). Upon hearing such words, we should be pricked to the heart to realize that the harvest of the Lord is the responsibility of the laborers, us, and not other people. Thus, we should take the initiative to willingly respond to the calling of the Lord to labor for the harvest.
What was the scheme of the brothers when they saw Joseph afar off? And why would they devise such a scheme?Hide Answer
When the brothers saw Joseph afar off, they conspired against him to kill him (Gen 37:18). They devised such a scheme to challenge whether Joseph’s dreams would come to fruition after they had killed him (Gen 37:19-20). In other words, they devised such a scheme to mock Joseph and his dreams. The brothers of Joseph were godless. Just like Cain who killed Abel in his anger (Gen 4:6-8), the brothers of Joseph had killed Shechem and “all the males” of the city in their anger and hatred (Gen 34:7, 25-26, 31). And now, they were willing to do as they pleased by conspiring to kill Joseph out of their hatred against him.
Compare the difference between the brothers’ stare at Joseph from afar off with the father’s stare at the prodigal son from afar off.Hide Answer
In Genesis 37:18, the brothers stared to conspire, to do something evil to Joseph. All the hatred and envy were focused into the stare of the intent to kill. On the other hand, in the gospel of Luke 15:20-24, the father’s stare was filled with compassion, kindness, joy and forgiveness. Although the brothers in Gen 37 and the father in Lk 15 performed a contrasting action, yet the contents of their heart and the meaning behind their stare was completely different.
When the brothers saw Joseph, they saw him with the stare of judgment. They mercilessly judged him because of his dreams and his father’s favoritism for him (Gen 37:3, 8). Once the Lord Jesus admonished us that whoever was angry with his brother without a cause should be in danger of the judgment (Mt 5:22). Moreover, the Lord Jesus continued how one should consider the plank in one’s own eye before one looked at the speck in the eye of one’s brother (Mt 7:3). In other words, we ought to restrain ourselves from hastily condemning others, for we, too, are at fault before the Lord. We should rather give the right of judgment to God. The example of the brothers’ stare against Joseph warns us not to be a hypocrite who judges others but fails to realize our own wrongdoings.
Furthermore, the gospel of Luke narrated the illustration of the father’s stare toward his prodigal son. When the father saw his son, the father felt compassionate toward him. Not only did the father feel joyful, he also forgave the son’s wrongdoings and accepted his son’s repentance (Lk 15:20-24). The Lord Jesus once said in the gospel of Matthew that if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us (Mt 6:14). In addition, the apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians that if we sacrifice what we have yet we have no love, it profits us nothing (1Cor 13:3). Thus, it is useless to sacrifice our ego to forgive someone when our heart is still filled with hatred.
Seeing the connection between the brothers’ hatred and their conspiracy to kill Joseph, what can we learn about the danger of hatred and the result it can unleash? See Mt 5:21-22.Hide Answer
The hatred of the brothers was accumulated to the point that it became a conspiracy to kill. The example of the brothers’ hatred and its unleashed result serves as a warning for us. In the gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus warns us that one who is angry with his brother without a case will be facing a similar danger of judgment as one who murders (Mt 5:21-22). While an accumulated anger gives rise to hatred, a heap up hatred will give result to murder. Thus, the gospel of Matthew reminds us that one who accumulates one’s anger will face the danger of judgment from the Lord.
How were the deeds of Joseph’s brothers in Gen 37:18-20 considered as an act against God’s divine will?Hide Answer
The deeds of the brothers toward Joseph in Gen 37:18-20 could be considered as an act against God’s divine will. The examples of the people in the Scriptures showed how they did not take lightly the dreams which they received. The Scriptures revealed how God frequently used dreams to communicate His will to His people, such as the dreams of Jacob, their father (Gen 28:12, 31:10), the dream of Laban, their grandfather (Gen 31:24) and the dream of Abimelech, during the time of their great-grandfather, Abraham (Gen 20:3-7).
On the other hand, the actions of the brothers of Joseph revealed that they took lightly the dreams of Joseph because of their godlessness. The deeds of their lives had reflected how the brothers of Joseph did not fear God. For example, Simeon and Levi tricked and killed the people of Shechem (Gen 34:13-29), Reuben slept with his stepmother (Gen 35:22), Judah married a Canaanite woman (Gen 38:2) and he picked up a “harlot” (Gen 38:15-18). The brothers of Joseph did as they pleased and lived by their own code of conduct. Therefore, in hearing their little brother, Joseph, who excitedly claimed through his dreams that he would one day “reign over” and “have dominion over” the brothers (Gen 37:8), the brothers of Joseph were willing to do whatever it took to prove that Joseph was wrong; even to the point of the willingless to rid Joseph out of their lives by conspiring “to kill him” (Gen 37:18) and finally selling him “to the Ishmaelites” (Gen 37:27). The brothers of Joseph’s godlessness had blinded their spiritual eyes to see that Joseph’s dreams and their message were indeed from God. Through their godless acts against Joseph, the brothers inadvertently and unknowingly had rebelled against God, the One who gave the divine message to Joseph.
Compare the deeds of Joseph’s brothers with the warning of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38-39. What teaching can we learn from such a comparison?Hide Answer
Although Joseph’s dreams were of a divine origin, the brothers of Joseph who did not fear God tried to fight His divine will. Once, in the book of Acts, the teacher of the law, Gamaliel, warned the Jews to keep away from the apostles and let them alone. The teacher Gamaliel added, if the apostles’ work was of men, then it would come to nothing. But if theirs was of God, the Jews could not overthrow it lest they were found to fight against God (Acts 5:38-39).
The example of Joseph’s brothers and the warning of the teacher Gamaliel serve as a lesson for us today. In life, whether in our family, at work or at church, we may disagree with a certain outcome or certain established rules. But we should remember the advice of the teacher Gamaliel: While the work of men will be futile, the work of God will come to fruition. Therefore, let us not hastily judge or disagree with a certain outcome or a rule, but rather we should observe it until the result can be seen whether it is futile or it comes to fruition.
Reuben was able to thwart the brothers’ murder conspiracy against Joseph because of several reasons. First, as a firstborn son, Reuben carried certain privileges over the rest of the brothers. According to the Scriptures, not only does the firstborn son receive a “double portion” (Deut 21:17) but also “shall be stronger than the other” (Gen 25:23) and will “be master over [his] brethren” (Gen 27:29). Moreover, according to the example of the book of
, the firstborn son carried a ruling authority from his father. When Reuben commanded his brothers not “to kill [Joseph]” and not “to lay a hand on him” (Gen 37:21-22), he did it with the authority of a firstborn son of the family, the ruling voice of their father and the master of them. Second, Reuben loved his little brother, Joseph. The writer of the book of Genesis emphasized that Reuben intended to “deliver [Joseph] out of [the brothers’] hands” and planned to “bring [Joseph] back to his father” (Gen 37:22). It was Reuben’s love toward Joseph that compelled him to exert and to confirm his ruling authority as the firstborn son not “to lay a hand on [Joseph].”
Even though the brothers only said to one another, conspired their murder scheme against Joseph, Reuben happened to hear their conspiracy. As the firstborn son, he quickly instructed his brothers not to kill Joseph and shed no blood (Gen 37:21-22). The brothers heeded the words of Reuben because the warning echoed how Cain shed the blood of Abel, his brothers (Gen 4:10). And because of the murder, the Lord cursed Cain from the earth (Gen 4:11-12). In addition, the warning of Reuben emphasized the previous command of the Lord in regards to murder. Once the Lord commanded Noah that whoever shed a man’s blood then by man his blood should be shed, for the Lord had stressed that man was made in the image of God (Gen 9:6). The brothers of Joseph heeded the warning of Reuben because they knew that those who willfully and purposely shed a man’s blood, then they would have to face the judgment of God.
In Gen 37:24-25, how were the actions of the brothers of Joseph toward Joseph ruthless?Hide Answer
The deeds which the brothers had done to Joseph were considered ruthless. After they stripped him of his tunic, they cast him into an empty pit. The book of Genesis narrated further how Joseph was pleading in anguish with the brothers, while he was in the pit. But the brothers felt no guilt and they refused to hear his brother’s anguish (Gen 42:21). Though the brothers decided not to kill Joseph, they did not plan on letting him go. In addition, the brothers’ heart had turned callous and without mercy. While Joseph was pleading in anguish, the brothers were able to sit down and eat (Gen 37:24-25). Their heart was completely merciless and pitiless that they planned on letting Joseph in the pit by himself, starving to his death.
In the gospel of Matthew, Judas Iscariot, one of the Lord’s apostles, was willing to deliver His teacher to the chief priests for the sake of thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:14-15). The gospel also emphasized that Judas sought an opportunity to betray the Lord after he accepted the deal of the chief priests (Mt. 26:16). Similarly, Judah was willing to exchange his flesh and his blood for the sake of profit, in the form of twenty shekels of silver (Gen 37:26-27). After Judah saw “a company of Ishmaelites” (Gen 37:25-26), he made the proposal to sell Joseph (Gen 37:27).
How do we know that the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite merchants was part of the guidance of God?Hide Answer
The selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite-merchants was a part of God’s guidance. After Joseph was stripped of his tunic and cast into a pit (Gen 37:23-24), the brothers intended to make him starve to his death. But it happened that they saw the merchants and they decided to sell Joseph. It was through the selling that Joseph was able to arrive in Egypt. The writer of the book of Genesis narrated how Joseph was sold for the purpose of preserving the life of Israel and his family. The Lord had prepared to send Joseph before his family to become the ruler throughout all the land of Egypt, to preserve their posterity (Gen 45:5-8). Though the brothers had meant the selling for evil purpose to eliminate Joseph, the dreamer, God changed it for good, in order to bring providence to Israel and his whole household (Gen 50:19-21).
When the brothers were eating and while Joseph was starving in the pit, Reuben was not mentioned to be among them (Gen 37:25). Reuben was supposed to be the deliverer of Joseph from the hands of the brothers. But in Joseph’s anguish and distress (Gen 37:21), Reuben was not present. By the time Reuben made up his mind to deliver Joseph, it was already too late. Since the brothers had already sold Joseph to the Ishmaelite merchants, Reuben could only bemoan his own hesitation and procrastination.
What can we learn from Reuben’s absence? See Ezr 10:4-5.Hide Answer
Reuben delayed and hesitated to deliver Joseph from the hands of his brothers, disregarding his responsibility to bring back Joseph to his father. Reuben’s absence among the brothers revealed his lack of urgency to commit to his responsibility as the firstborn son. Once, the writer of the book of Ezra reminded the reader of the importance in fulfilling our responsibility. The book of Ezra described how the Israelites had trespassed against God by taking pagan wives. Although the prophet Ezra, the priests and the Levites did not do such a thing, the prophet still reminded all Israel that the trespass became their responsibility (Ezr 10:4-5). Similarly, the example of Reuben and the example of the prophet Ezra teach us the consequence of avoiding a responsibility and how one should learn to take a responsibility for the greater good. For example, at church, it is tempting to avoid a certain responsibility for the sake of our own comfort, especially if we are not directly responsible for the problem at hand. But learning to take the responsibility for the greater good of the members means setting ourselves as an example to the rest of the brothers and sisters at church and showing our faithfulness to serve God beyond our assigned duty.
How was Reuben’s phrase “where shall I go” in Gen 37:30 reflect his feelings of fear and regret?Hide Answer
Reuben’s phrase “where shall I go” in Gen 37:30 reflected his feeling of fear and regret. The phrase “where shall I go” showed Reuben’s fear to face his father. Before the incident of Joseph, Reuben had already lost his firstborn status because of his act in dishonoring his father’s bed with Bilhah (Gen 35:22, 49:4). Now, as the eldest son in the family, Reuben did not have the courage to face Jacob to tell him about Joseph’s fate. The phrase “where shall I go” reflected his sense of desperation. Furthermore, the phrase also reflected Reuben’s regret. Initially Reuben planned to deliver Joseph and to bring him back to Jacob. But he failed because of his timidity to exert a firm instruction and of his hesitation and delay to act quickly. If only he would be firm in his command and hastily performed his plan, he would not need to feel uncomfortable facing his father.
How can the name”Jacob” and “Israel” be used interchangeably in Gen 37?Hide Answer
The name “Jacob” and “Israel” can be used interchangeably in the narrative of Joseph when referring to the person. When referring to the genealogy, the account referred the name “Jacob” (Gen 37:2). The narrative later used “Israel” in referring to Jacob’s interaction with his son, Joseph (Gen 37:3, 13). At the end of the passage, the account used the name “Jacob,” describing Jacob’s grief and pain of losing Joseph (Gen 37:34).
What can we learn from the interchangeable use of “Jacob” and “Israel”?Hide Answer
From the interchangeable use of “Jacob” and “Israel,” we can learn about one’s personal weakness and one’s spiritual struggle. Though the name “Jacob” means “grasps the heel” (Gen 25:26) or “supplanter” (Gen 27:36) and the name “Israel” means “struggler with God” (Gen 32:28); it does not necessarily mean that the name “Jacob” portrays only the human weakness of Jacob and the name “Israel” portrays only the spiritual side of Jacob. In the book of Genesis 37:3, the writer used the name “Israel” to portray Jacob’s weakness in showing his favoritism to Joseph. In conclusion, the interchangeable use of the name “Jacob” and “Israel” shows Jacob’s spiritual struggle in understanding and accepting the will of God and Jacob’s personal weakness to maintain a harmonious relationship among his sons. Likewise, as Christians, we have our spiritual struggle in accepting the trials of our life and we have to deal with our personal weaknesses when it is easier to rely on our personal strength rather than waiting for God’s providence.