Genesis 37 Lesson - The Rejection of Joseph & Jesus


Bible Study Series: Joseph, Jesus and You

Genesis 37 Lesson: The Rejection of Joseph & Jesus


by I Gordon


We are about to begin a deep dive into the life of an incredible Old Testament character who literally changed the then-known world. He was a favorite son of his father, known for his multicolored coat, who was once... oh, ok, you've got it already. Was it the coat that gave it away? Or did you cheat and look at the title? Yep, it's Joseph. There is more space given in the book of Genesis to Joseph than any other character and that includes Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 chapters cover Joseph's life so it makes you think "why would the Holy Spirit devote so much time in His word to this man?" Well, the answer is clear.  Did God not say that He is the One who 'declares the end from the beginning'? The end is concealed in the beginning and Genesis, the book of beginnings, points to what is to come. So as we study the life of Joseph, we will be pointed to, and reminded of, the One who more than any other in history, truly changed this world - Jesus! 150 years ago an old wise Brethren writer by the name of Charles Henry Macintosh (or better known by his initials, C.H.M) wrote:

"There is not in scripture a more perfect and beautiful type of Christ than Joseph. Whether we view Christ as the object of the Father's love, the object of the envy of His own, - in His humiliation, sufferings, death exaltation, and glory, in all we have Him strikingly typified by Joseph."
CHM

So as we dive into these chapters in Genesis 37-50 we will concentrate on three main points:

  1. What it means for Joseph - we'll put ourselves in the shoes of Joseph and the other characters in these chapters.
  2. What it means for Jesus - we'll see why Joseph is the greatest type of Jesus in scripture!
  3. What it means for us - there is so much that we can learn for our own walk with God through the stories of Joseph and his family in these last chapters of Genesis.

Simple really - Joseph, Jesus and you! Now these are quite long chunky chapters so we will be grouping them into passages. Let's begin in Genesis 37:

The loved yet rejected son

Gen 37:1-11 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. (2) This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. (4) When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (5) Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. (6) He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: (7) 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." (8) His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. (9) Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." (10) When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" (11) His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

You may have heard the saying 'like father like son' but in the life of Jacob and Joseph I'm not so sure that saying counts! Jacob was a conniver, a trickster, a deceiver. He would get to the top through fair means or foul. With Jacob it is easy to see his flaws and fallen humanity. Yet with Joseph, like Daniel who would come much later, there is nothing bad written in scripture. Nothing. Now he obviously wasn't flawless but that is how he seems. The reason for this of course is that he is a picture of the One who truly was flawless - Jesus!

There is nothing written about Joseph's early life. The story begins with Joseph as a young man, seventeen years old, as he works as a shepherd, tending the flocks. The Bible also introduces pretty quickly that he brought a bad report about some of his brothers. Clearly he wasn't a man-pleaser and spoke the truth which was not well received by his brothers. We see early on that his moral compass pointed north and that he couldn't be bought off. When I was little, and I found out something that my brother had done wrong, he would buy me off with pebbles (m&m-like chocolates) hoping this would stop me saying anything to Mum. It worked! Clearly my moral compass was easily swayed to point south-east when required, and needless to say (knowing my brother growing up), I had a lot of chocolates growing up! 

We also read that Joseph was the one his Father loved. He was special. He was the firstborn of Jacob's beloved Rachel, whom he had waited so long to first marry and then have a child with. So he was his father's favorite. And Jacob, causing jealousy to rise within his family, made this pretty obvious by giving Joseph a special impressive coat that really stood out! But this made life difficult for Joseph. The more he was loved and treated differently by his father, the more his brothers resented it and hated Joseph. In fact the Bible says that his brothers couldn't even say anything nice to him. Imagine being in a family where you are one of 12 sons and your 11 brothers hate your guts. Joseph had to deal with a lot of rejection. And yet he spoke the truth. So when he one day had a dream that essentially said that his brothers would bow down to him, he didn't keep it to himself but told his brothers. Well... you know how that went down! Like a lead balloon resulting in more hatred. But it didn't stop there. He had a second revealing dream and again he didn't shy away but told them again. This time his father rebuked him... but we read that Jacob kept the matter in mind. Jacob probably wanted to keep some harmony in this increasingly bitter household, yet there was something intriguing about these dreams! 

Now we said at the start we will look at these chapters with a view to what it means for Joseph, Jesus, and you. So let's look a little closer at the picture we have here for Jesus2.  

Pictures of Jesus - the Rejection
  • Like Joseph, there is little said about Jesus' upbringing.
  • Like Joseph, Jesus was, and is, a Shepherd. But He is THE Shepherd! He is the good Shepherd (John 10:11), the great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20-21) and the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)... and He loves the sheep!
  • Like Joseph, Jesus was the beloved of his Father and the Father even made that loud and clear by speaking it from Heaven! (Matt 3:17)
  • Like Joseph, Jesus spoke the truth and his own brothers hated Him for it (Luke 19:14, John 15:25) 
  • Like Joseph, they hated Jesus because He was special. People were convicted by His words and relationship with His Father and they despised Him for it. (John 7:7)
  • Like Joseph, Jesus knew what it was to be rejected - even by those closest to you. (Isa 53:3)  
  • And like Joseph, Jesus spoke of the future and how He would reign. This was seen as 'blasphemy' and strengthened the intentions of those that hated Him to kill Him. (Matt 26:64, John 18:37)

It should also be noted that Joseph's multicolored coat speaks to the perfect character of Christ in all aspects. Clothing in the Bible speaks of righteousness. And Jesus was clothed in perfection in all ways. He lived and died as the perfect man. Whether we are talking about His courage, His humility, His righteous life... or His wisdom and knowledge,,, or His mercy and grace... or His justice... whatever aspect we look at, it was and is perfect. The Bible tells us to be 'good stewards of the manifold grace of God.' (1Pe 4:10) And this word translated 'manifold' literally means 'many colored'. God's grace upon Jesus was many colored and perfect in all ways.    

Learning from Joseph & Jacob
So what can we take from this passage for our own lives? 
  • Learning from Joseph: When Joseph had his second dream the Bible doesn't say 'Then Joseph had another dream but kept it to himself fearing their reaction.' After the bad reaction to his first dream, it would have been easy for Joseph to just bite his tongue, but it didn't stop him from declaring what he had seen. He didn't even water it down or make it more palatable. He simply spoke what God had shown him. We are called to do the same with God's word. To share what God has shown us, in both love and truth. This also points to the One, Jesus, who did this in everything He said!1
  • We can also learn here from Jacob. When Jacob heard the dream about the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down to Joseph, he immediately knew what it meant saying "Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" Even he was startled and initially rebuked Joseph... but he also kept the matter in his heart. This is a reminder and pointer to Mary who would do the same when she heard the prophecies concerning her new born baby Jesus 
Luk 2:17-19 When they (the shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, (18) and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (19) But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Jacob knew his son was special and that this was from God though he couldn't see how it could ever come about. But he didn't let it go. Often we don't know how something could come about. How could that person be saved? How could that promise of God for my life come true? We just have to hold these things in our hearts, committing them to God and allowing Him to work them out. We need to say to God, 'Father, I don't understand this, I don't from a natural perspective see how this could come about. But you ask me to look with the eyes of faith and that is what I do. I trust, and look to you to work it out, in your ordained time, and I know you will in your perfect way.'

The beloved one betrayed

Gen 37:12-22 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, (13) and Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them." "Very well," he replied. (14) So he said to him, "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, (15) a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, "What are you looking for?" (16) He replied, "I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?" (17) They have moved on from here, the man answered. "I heard them say, 'Let's go to Dothan.' " So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. (18) But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. (19) Here comes that dreamer! they said to each other. (20) 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. (21) When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. (22) Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him. Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

So Joseph is sent by his father Jacob to check on the welfare of his brothers. Put yourself in Joseph's shoes here. He is willing to go and make sure they are well even though though they hated him. As he went out he was probably thinking 'I wonder what type of reception I'll receive?' The brothers are meant to be in Shechem, where previously Jacob had bought some fertile land and built an altar there to God called 'El Elohe Israel' (God, the God of Israel). But they are not where they are meant to be! Thankfully, after doing a few circles in a field, a man appears and takes note of Joseph (and probably pity) and asks him what he is looking for. Now this same man just happened to overhear Joseph's brothers say they were going to Dothan. So off goes Joseph again wondering what reaction he is going to get. And it is fair to say that it is far worse than he feared. Not only do they mock Joseph calling him a dreamer, but between the time that they see Joseph coming and the time he arrives, they have already plotted how they will kill him! And they have thought of everything... in their scheming and conniving, they have even come up with a story they can go home with to tell dad. But there is an objector. Reuben, the firstborn, tries to protect Joseph. Again this pictures the life of Jesus.

Pictures of Jesus - the beloved One betrayed!
  • As Joseph was sent by His Father to seek the welfare of His brethren, so was Jesus. He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel by His Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 12:48-50; 17:21) 
  • As Joseph's brothers were not were they were meant to be, so Jesus' fellow Jews were far from the place that God would have for them.
  • As Joseph was mocked, so was Jesus. The Jews claimed Jesus was performing miracles by Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24) and the Romans mocked His kingly status (Mark 3:22)
  • As Joseph's brother plotted to kill Joseph, so Jesus' Jewish brethren plotted to kill Him (Matt 12:14, 26:4, John 11:53)
  • As Reuben tried to protect Joseph, so some knew not to kill Jesus. Pilate's wife had a dream and told Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus. Pilate himself tried to offer Barabbas instead (Matthew 27:17) 

There is also an interesting phrase used in this passage in Genesis. When Joseph's brothers saw him coming, they said 'come let us kill him'. If you do a search on that phrase it is used in only one other place in the Bible. Jesus used it in His parable of the vineyard where He said:

Mat 21:34-39 "When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. (35) "The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. (36) "Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. (37) "But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' (38) "But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' (39) "They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Being the author of the word, Jesus would have used this phrase on purpose, indicating that He is the One who fulfills that which the life, rejection and betrayal of Joseph pointed to.

Learning from these characters

So what can we learn from here?

  • Jacob - We could learn from Jacob. He sent Joseph to his brothers not even knowing this was directly in the plan of God. And yet this plan would pierce his own heart. God clearly had a purpose for Joseph in all of this, but He also had a plan for Jacob. As He does for you and me. This would begin a testing and very difficult time in the life of Jacob. One that he wouldn't be able to trick and deceive his way out of! Sometimes we get involved in things we cannot foresee - things that are troubling for us, which we would have avoided with greater foresight. But always remember that God has perfect foresight and these trials pass before His eye and were foreseen even before the foundation of the world. 
  • The mystery man - We can learn from this unnamed mystery man who met Joseph. When I read this passage I thought 'why is this man included?' Without this random man seeing Joseph wandering aimlessly in a field, and without this same random man also overhearing his brothers say that they were going to Dothan, Joseph may still be walking in circles in that field! Well, not exactly but he would never have found his brothers. This random guy and what he had to say is critically important to this story. But he is not random. He is the right man at the right time with the right word. It is not luck, nor chance. He is the sovereign appointment of God. He is ordained and used by God. Sometimes when people, even random people, speak a word in season listen carefully for it could well be from God!
  • Joseph's brothers - We can also learn from Joseph's brothers - Ok... so it isn't easy to learn from Joseph's brothers. Well, only in what not to do! Why did they hate Joseph? Because they were jealous. And why were they jealous? Because like it or not, Joseph was special. God was with Joseph. He had a very unique and specific call on his life. God was always going to do big things through this man. But his brothers hated him for it. So what is the lesson? Beware of that green-eyed monster jealousy. It can wreck marriages, turn workplaces into battle zones and split churches. What should we learn? That God is in control. He is the One who exalts one and puts down another. Commit your way unto Him and be thankful for your position - whatever it may be. He can exalt you if needed. Or maybe He will choose to use someone else. That is fine also. In faith... relax. Or in the more Biblical language, 'Be still and know that I am God' (Ps 46:10).

With brothers like these, who needs enemies! 

Gen 37:23-31 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe--the richly ornamented robe he was wearing-- (24) and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. (25) As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. (26) Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? (27) Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed. (28) So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. (29) When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. (30) He went back to his brothers and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?" (31) Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 

Now put yourself in Joseph's shoes once again. You see your brothers in the distance and as you walk you are thinking to yourself 'will I get a smile? I'd be happy just with a smile.' Instead of a friendly greeting, you are stripped of your robe (the symbol of your father's love for you) and thrown into an empty cistern. You are a long way from home and no one is coming to help you. Captured and held captive by your own brothers, you then have to listen while they discuss what they will do with you over dinner. 'Shall we kill him? Shall we sell him?'3 Eventually, they settle on selling you to a group of Ishmaelites for a whopping 20 shekels of silver - the price of a common slave.    

Pictures of Jesus - the Rejected One
  • As Joseph was stripped of his robe, so was Jesus. Jesus was physically stripped of His clothing, being crucified naked. This was, supposedly, the end of the greatest life that has ever been lived and Jesus left nothing. No houses, no fields, no cattle. Even the donkey He rode into Jerusalem was borrowed. And He died, literally not even having the shirt on His back. But Joseph's coat also spoke of something deeper. It spoke of his special beloved status with his father Jacob. Jesus also had that relationship and special status severed on the cross. So much so that He would cry out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
  • As Judah took the lead in betraying and selling Joseph (37:26–27) just as it was Judas that betrayed Jesus.
  • As Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver, the price of a slave at that time, so Jesus would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. It is with the greatest of sarcasm that the Lord says through the Prophet Zechariah:
    Zec 11:13 And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"--the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.
  • And as an elaborate deception was hatched by Joseph's brothers to deceive their own father, so there were lots of lies and deception even by the highest involved in Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
Learning from rejection

The biggest theme coming through this chapter is rejection. Clearly this is not a new thing but unfortunately this is rife in the current age. Kids can be rejected by one or more parents. They are ridiculed and rejected amongst their classmates at school. The weakest are picked on and bullied. For those a little older, we have established a cancel culture through social media. Say or do something unapproved of and your job, community standing and even friendships can be canceled. Rejected. Wiped away. Gone. It is not easy navigating through life at the best of times, but it has become so much more perilous it seems in the age of social media. And we can only imagine the rejection, disbelief and deep sense of betrayal Joseph experienced knowing that his own brothers desired to kill him. 

But always remember that even the King of Kings was rejected. Jesus knew all about rejection. Imagine what Jesus thought when he was despised, hated and rejected by those that He sought to help. They hated his words that He would reign over them. The religious Jews hated the fact that He didn't pander to them. His fellow synagogue members tried to throw Him off a cliff because He said He fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2. Truly, as scripture says 'He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.' (Isa 53:3) Yet God turned it all around and the stone rejected by the builders has become the chief cornerstone! (Acts 4:11) So if you are struggling with rejection, remember Jesus, and remember that God can turn things around bringing eternal positives out of temporal negatives.

The trickster gets tricked!

Gen 37:32-36 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe." (33) He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces." (34) Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. (35) All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him. (36) Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.

Finally, look at the hearts of Joseph's brothers. They are willing to go home to their father and lie repeatedly as they make up a story about their brother being killed. They are willing to watch on as their father Jacob suffers incredible grief and agony, refusing to be comforted, while they know it is all because of their lies and wicked actions. And they are willing to keep playing this elaborate deceptive game (for what will be the next 20 years), adding lie upon lie, lest they be found out and the truth revealed! Oh the wicked human heart! But God will certainly have a future plan for these boys that may just involve them getting trapped in their own trickery!

It is also interesting to look at how Jacob, who had his own skills in deception, was deceived in the same way. 

"Let's pause and take another look at this. They killed a kid of the goats and used that blood on the coat. Does this matter of deceiving a father with a goat remind us of something we've heard before? Remember that when Rebekah and Jacob were conniving, they used a kid for the savory meat dish, and they took the skin of the goat and put it on the hands and arms of Jacob to deceive his father. Now the brothers of Joseph are using the blood of a goat to deceive their father, who is none other than Jacob himself. They hand the coat to him and say, "Do you recognize it? We just found it up there in the mountains. It looks like a wild beast must have got to him." Old Jacob came to the conclusion that his son Joseph had been killed. Notice this very carefully. Jacob is deceived in exactly the same way that he had deceived. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal_6:7)—not something else, not something similar, but the same thing. This man Jacob did some bad sowing. He used deception, and now that he is a father, he is deceived in the identical way that he had deceived his own father years before."
J. Vernon McGee

As this story concerning Joseph plays out, there will be a strong sub-story playing out in the heart and life of Jacob. God is going to do an incredible work in the life of His aged-servant. And it will require some strong breaking before the rebuilding and remolding begins!  

Conclusion

So, what have we seen? In all of these events, in the wicked deception of the brothers, in the grief of their father Jacob, in the fearful future of a young Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers... it is all under the watchful eye and hand of God. He allows man in their free will to work their evil plans while still controlling the long term outcomes for His purposes. While this is but the start of the story, we see that divine providence is at work as God governs and works his mysterious ways in all wisdom! 

So the plan of God goes on. As His work does in our life. God plays the long game but works things out for our good. 

And as we will see for this story, God has a plan for Jacob, for Joseph and his brothers. It is a plan for their individual lives but also one that points prophetically to Jesus' first coming (as we have seen) and also His second coming (as we shall see). Yes it even speaks to the events of our day right now as we'll see in the lessons in the life of Joseph still to come!

So for now, our friend Joseph stands hated, rejected, betrayed, sold and alone in a foreign country. Yet he is not alone for God is with him. And what God will do with this boy is incredible! 

God bless!



FOOTNOTES 

  1. "This was simple testimony founded upon divine revelation; but it was testimony which brought Joseph down to the pit. Had he kept back his testimony, or taken off ought of its edge and power, he might have spared himself; but no; he told them the truth, and therefore they hated him. Thus was it with Joseph's great Antitype. He bore witness to the truth - He witnessed a good confession He kept back nothing - He could only speak the truth because He was the truth, and His testimony to the truth was answered, on man's part, by the cross, the vinegar, the soldier's spear. The testimony of Christ, too, was connected with the deepest, fullest, richest grace. He not only came as "the truth," but also as the perfect expression of all the love of the Father's heart:" grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." He was the full disclosure to man of what God was. Hence man was left entirely without excuse. He came and showed God to man, and man hated God with a perfect hatred. The fullest exhibition of divine love was answered by the fullest exhibition of human hatred. This is seen in the cross; and we have it touchingly foreshadowed at the pit into which Joseph was cast by his brethren."
    CHM

  2. To quote CHM again...

    "He was the object of his father's love, and the subject of very high destinies, and inasmuch as the hearts of his brothers were not in communion with these things, they hated him. They had no fellowship in the father's love. They would not yield to the thought of Joseph's exaltation. In all this they represent the Jews in Christ's day. He came to His own and his own received him not." He had "no form nor comeliness in their eyes."
    CHM

  3. At the time of writing there are still 100+ Israeli hostages taken captive by Hamas into Gaza. I can't even begin to imagine how incredibly frightening that would be. Yet we hear so little about them for the world's focus is on criticizing Israel's response. It is pretty simple. If you don't want a war, don't start a war. Israel didn't start this war. Hamas did. But this too will be used by God to reshape the Middle East and prepare the key players for the big moves that must take place in the last days as prophecy foretells.