Let’s briefly look at what we previously learned Canaan represents, then we will proceed with today’s post.
Canaan represents merchant and wealth; a level of spiritual bounty and closeness to God. Canaan represents those times when our spiritual relationship with God equals that of a spouse; a developed relationship where we feel passionately in love with God. – Prayer Communication with God
The Young and Conceited but Sensitive Joseph
We begin this passage when Joseph was 17 years old. At 17, Joseph still had the immaturity of a teenager, possibly even showing some conceitedness as teenage boys can do; but he was also very sensitive. The sages teach that he noticed how Leah’s sons treated the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, because their mothers were handmaids. It is taught that he spent time with these brothers to cheer them up and affirm their mothers’ full status as his father’s wives. This, of course, did not sit well with his other brothers (the sons of Leah). At this point in his life, Joseph was the pesky little brother who received all of their father’s attention and meddled in their affairs.
Think for a moment about our own lives…there have been times that each of us told on someone whether it was because of how they treated us or for their own protection, nonetheless, it did not make them like us.
Joseph played the tattletale. Because of the deepening enmity between the sons of Leah and himself he told his father everything they did; i.e. if he saw them break the commandments of Torah he tattled, he reported to his father how they treated the sons of the handmaids, and when they conducted business with women without proper, modest restraint…he ran to daddy and told on them. These older brothers could not get away with anything. It seemed everything they did Joseph was there, saw it, and told on them! This angered his brothers. They didn’t want to be around him!
The Coat of Many Colors, Prophetic Transference of Spiritual Leadership
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains to us that there are many reasons that Jacob favored his young son.
- Both Jacob and Joseph were born circumcised.
- Both Jacob and Joseph’s mothers had been barren a long period of time.
- Both mothers had had hard labor.
- Both mothers had only two children
- Both were hated by their brothers
- Both their brothers plotted to kill them.
- Both were shepherds
- Both experienced open confrontations
- Both suffered as a result of theft
- Both were blessed with 10 blessings
- Both emigrated from the Land of Israel to a foreign land; married there, and had children there.
- Both were escorted by angels
- Both promoted in status by means of a dream
- Both brought blessings to their father-in-laws household.
- Both emigrated to Egypt.
- Both mitigated the effect of famine
- Both made their families promises to relocate their remains to the Land of Israel
- Both were embalmed
- Remains of both are buried in Israel.
Of course, some of these 19 things have not happened yet, with where we are looking in Scripture, but the sages teach that the resemblance between Jacob and Joseph helped Jacob know that Joseph was to be the next spiritual leader of the family. As we saw in a previous post, Joseph equaled a spark of hope.
Genesis 37:3 “Now Israel…” here, in this passage, Jacob is called Israel. In my previous studies of Jacob, I learned that when we see Jacob called “Jacob” in Scripture, we are seeing his physical, earthly side; and when we see him called “Israel” we get a picture of his spiritual side. Remember, God changed Jacob’s name after he wrestled with Esau, Laban, and the angel. God also changed Abram’s name to Abraham, but after the name change he is only referred to as Abraham. However, Scripture refers to Jacob/Israel as Jacob sometimes and as Israel other times. I find it beneficial to my study to look at these names and what is taking place when they are mentioned.
Genesis 37:3 “…multicolored [varicolored] tunic.” Let’s take these words back to their Hebrew meaning with the help of Strong’s Exhaustive concordance:
Multicolored [varicolored]:6446: properly, the palm (of the hand) or sole (of the foot) (compare 6447); by implication (plural) a long and sleeved tunic (perhaps simply a wide one; from the original sense of the root, i.e. of many breadths):–(divers) colors.
6447: from a root corresponding to 6461; the palm (of the hand, as being spread out):–participle
6461: a prim root; probably to disperse, i.e. (intransitive) disappear:–cease.
Tunic [coat] 3801: from an unused root meaning to cover; a shirt:– coat, garment, robe, (Compare 3802)
3802: from an unused root meaning to clothe; the shoulder (proper, i.e. upper end of the arm, as being the spot where the garments hang); figuratively, side-piece or lateral projection of anything:–arm, corner, shoulder (-piece), side, undersetter.
From the coat of many colors we learn that Joseph will take upon his shoulders the responsibility of caring for his family. He will be the hand God chooses to rescue them from famine in their land. This garment that Israel made for Joseph is, in a sense, Jacob placing the spiritual leadership of the family on the shoulders of Joseph.
Israel giving this coat of many colors to Joseph only intensified the brother’s jealousy towards him, Genesis 37:4 “…so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.”
A Dreamer’s Dream
Genesis 37:6-7 He said to them, Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
Joseph’s brothers already despised him, and then he goes and has this dream….This was like pouring gasoline on a fire. It proved to kindle their hatred towards him even more! They felt Joseph had devised a plan to rule over them, and had put this plan to work even in his youth by tattling to their father about everything!
Genesis 37:8 “…So they hated him even more for his dreams and his words.” In their minds, his plans were in action, now he was dreaming dreams (visualizing them bowing to him) and conceited or bold enough to tell them about it!
Genesis 37:9-11 Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
Well, now this little dreamer has gone and done it! How could he possibly believe that his parents and his brothers would bow down to him? His brothers had no intention of bowing to him. This dream, again, increased their jealousy and great disdain towards him. It was more than they could bear to continue to hear! But, Israel, he was a prophetic man whom God had spoken to in dreams before. He held this dream in his memory. He remembered the promises God had made to Abraham and Isaac, and to himself, Jacob. He recognized this as a prophetic dream and held on to it.
Joseph Leaves the Land
“…I will go.” These three little words have significant meaning. “I will go,” when God tested Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac, Abraham went. When Rebekah was asked about going with Eliezer to marry Isaac she replied, “I will go.” Here, we have Israel (Jacob’s spiritual side) asking Joseph to go to Shechem to check on his brothers and the flocks, and Jacob responds, “I will go.” Joseph made a choice to go. He implemented his free will to do as his father asked him.
Joseph found his way to Shechem and he was wandering in the field. Genesis 37:15 “A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, what are you looking for?” Have you, like Joseph, ever found yourself wandering around “in the field,” asking God what you are to do or where you are to go? Jacob’s brothers were not there, they had left. Yet,this “stranger” who found him knew what direction they had taken and pointed him there.
The Evil Plot
Joseph indeed found his brothers in Dothan just as the stranger told him he would. They were doing well, but they were devising a scheme to get rid of their problems. They would have killed him too, except Reuben interceded for Joseph. He knew better than to have his brother’s blood on his hands. So, they tossed him in a pit with no water which was filled with scorpions and snakes (per the sages).
Judah encouraged his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites in order to prevent the death of Joseph. Reuben did not know of their plan to sell Joseph, and when he returned to the pit and Joseph was gone, he tore his clothes. The sages teach that Reuben believed he would be held responsible for the demise of Joseph because he was the first-born.
Scripture tells us that they sold him for 20 shekels of silver. What does this tell? If we think back to Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech we will remember that it was with silver that Abimelech restored Sarah to her position as Abraham’s wife! So, this 20 shekels of silver should point us towards a redemption taking place or soon to take place.
In the meantime, a caravan of Midianite merchants also passed by. The brothers hauled Joseph up from the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The Ishmaelites in turn sold Joseph to the Midianites, and they brought Joseph to Egypt.
29 The next day, Reuben returned. When Reuben went back to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he rent his clothes.
30 He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone! And I—where can I go to avoid witnessing our father’s grief? He will certainly hold me responsible for his disappearance.”
31 They took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a young goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. Since the blood of young goats is similar in color to human blood, in doing so, they hoped to make their father think that Joseph had been killed and devoured by some wild animal.
The brothers realized that in time, one or more of them might come to regret their actions and be moved to tell Jacob the truth, and that this would discredit the others (who had not yet regretted or summoned the courage to act on their regret) in Jacob’s estimation. In order to prevent this, they made a pact among themselves not to reveal the truth to their father until they all agreed that it was time to do so. Furthermore, in order to prevent any of them from convincing the others to reveal the truth to Jacob before they all would agree to do so, they further agreed to wait for a sign from God that this time had come.34~The Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Coat of Many Colors Returns to Jacob
The brothers were reluctant to show Jacob the coat themselves. They sent off the fine woolen robe via an emissary and it was brought to their father. They said, via their emissary, “We found this; please identify it. Is it your son’s robe or not?”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn to pieces!” With these words, he unwittingly prophesied that Joseph would be attacked by a “wild beast” of a person, as indeed occurred when the wife of the person to whom he was eventually sold attempted to seduce him.35
34 Jacob rent his clothes, put on sackcloth around his waist as a symbol of mourning, and mourned for his son unabatedly for many days, i.e., for the next twenty-two years (2216-2238). In this way, God arranged for Jacob to atone for the twenty-two-years in which he did not honor his own parents by attending to their needs while he was away from them in Laban’s household and tarried on his return journey (2185-2207).
35 All his sons and daughters attempted to console him, but he refused to be comforted, saying, “No, I will never be comforted; I will go down to the grave in mourning for my son.” And indeed, Jacob’s grief did not abate with time, as is usually the case, because God made it part of human nature for people to eventually stop grieving over their dead relatives—but Joseph was not dead.” Furthermore,” Jacob said, “now that my son has died, I know that when I die, I will descend to Purgatory, for God informed me that if none of my sons die during my lifetime, that will be a sign for me that I have fulfilled my purpose in life by fathering the chosen family, and thus I will not need to undergo any purification in Purgatory. For this I also mourn.” Since a sad or troubled person cannot experience Divine inspiration, Jacob had no Divine inspiration during the twenty-two years he mourned for Joseph.36 Inwardly, Jacob suspected Judah of killing Joseph.37
Although the brothers did not tell their grandfather Isaac that they in fact had sold Joseph, he understood prophetically that his grandson was still alive. Seeing that God had not told Jacob that Joseph was still alive, Isaac understood that He did not want him to know, so he did not tell him, either. Nonetheless, witnessing his son’s suffering, Jacob’s father Isaac wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Medanites (i.e., Midianites38) had sold Joseph to the government of Egypt, specifically, to Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and chief of his butchers (see Figure 45).~The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Nuggets of Gold
When Jacob returned to Canaan, the land his father had sojourned in, he thought that he would live out the rest of his years peacefully in his homeland; but this yearning for comfort was premature. God reminded him that we must face the challenges that accompany our Divine calling in all our lives.
Joseph was most loved by his father. He had prophetic dreams of his brothers and parents bowing before him, and he finds himself first thrown into a waterless pit and then sold for 20 shekels of silver. These events were some of the challenges that had to take place for his Divine calling in life.
God gives us dreams. Maybe you have had a vision of working in a ministry, maybe as a pastor, praise team leader, helping others in some major way. Do not be discouraged by the challenges you face. These challenges will strengthen you, strengthen your relationship with God, and improve your ministry beyond your dreams. Hold on to your dreams. Trust God. He provided you with the dream and He is faithful to see it through to fruition.
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we see the dreams that you have given us. Often when the challenges come we begin to doubt that those dreams were from you. We do not see the big picture as you do. So, I ask you, to help us hold onto these dreams. Remind us that you provided them and you will make a way for them to come true. Show us the actions we need to take and guide our steps. Allow us to feel your presence with us as we face these challenges. May each step in this journey bring blessings and praise and glory to you! Thank you for providing us with dreams, for standing with us,and guiding us each step of the way. In Jesus name. Amen.