Genesis tells the story of God making a covenant relationship with a man named Abram. He was told that he would be the father of many nations even though he and his wife, Sarai, were of old age and had not bore any children of their own. Abram, whom God later changed his name to Abraham, and his wife’s to Sarah, left their homeland and followed God’s instructions in going to the land of Canaan. In keeping with the covenant that He promised Abraham, God continued to bless his descendants – Isaac, Jacob, whom God called Israel, and then his twelve sons with special attention being given to Jacob’s second to last son, Joseph. Genesis 37 gives insight into Jacob’s toiledot (family history) where Joseph’s story is written like that of a short story for the audience to read and understand. In Tremper’s Longman’s book How To Read Genesis, he informs the reader that Joseph was never viewed as a patriarch as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather to the later generations but Joseph was best understood as the connection between the covenant relationship that God made to his ancestors and their stay in Egypt.
-/), whose name means increase in Hebrew, was the firstborn son of Jacob’s second wife, Rachel, whom he deeply loved. Joseph, being an offspring of his affection for Rachel, was dear to Jacob and was favored by him. To show his feelings of admiration toward his son, Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This coat signified honor, esteem, and distinct recognition according to many scholars and theologians. In biblical times, the firstborn son inherited his father’s estate and took over the household management in the event of his death. There were times, however, that God reversed the order of things and gave the birthright to the second born son instead for His divine purposes to be established. Such was done in the case of Jacob and his brother, Esau.
Joseph, being the eleventh son of Jacob, would not have been in any significant role in the family. Nevertheless, there may have been problems with the other sons that Jacob had encountered or foreseen that led him to place Joseph in a leading role where he had to report the brothers’ wrongdoings. Support of this possibility can be found in the previous chapters of Genesis where Jacob’s other sons to revenge after their sister, Dinah, was raped. Joseph’s brothers had seen the favoritism that Jacob showed him and their jealousy and envy may have been brewing for quite some time just waiting for the most opportune moment when they could take their revenge and his dreams did not help.
Joseph was seventeen-years-old but was considered to be a young man of great integrity and character, for his father trusted him enough to seemingly believe the reports that he brought back concerning his brothers. The brothers disliked Joseph for they considered him to be their spy and nemesis. They may have felt that he had no sense of family loyalty to them, so they did not feel obliged to show him any in return. The Bible does not say that Joseph’s report of their behavior was done out of malicious intent but was out of duty and respect to his father. Therefore, when Joseph approached his brothers concerning two dreams that he had been given, they were angered because the dreams led them to believe that they would one day be subservient to him.
Joseph’s first dream depicted sheaves of grain being picked by his brothers but theirs bowed down to his sheaf. On another occasion, he dreamt that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. The brothers showed their disapproval the first time he told them of his dream but they were angered even more when he told them of his second dream. The question may be asked as to why Joseph would divulge such information to them while knowing that they disliked him. Was Joseph doing this to annoy his brothers as some siblings do during sibling rivalry? Was he trying to make them jealous by flaunting his dreams as he wore his special coat? Was Joseph arrogant in his dealings with his brothers even as he did what was right? It could be possible that he may have not understood the dreams completely but longed to be accepted by his brothers and therefore, shared his dreams to attempt at making a connection with them. Whatever his reason was, the plan did not go well but God’s purpose was still accomplished through a dysfunctional family for His divine will.
a.) The Bible says that Joseph was favored by his father more than his other brothers and made him a special type of coat (Genesis 37:3). Jacob set the stage for family dysfunction by not treating the brothers as equals just as his parents had done with him and Esau. He did not try to use discretion in his feelings for Joseph but made it known publicly as to his bias towards them which caused tension in the family.
b.) The brothers saw Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph and they hated him for it (Genesis 37:4). The brothers’ misplaced anger was put on Joseph because of their father’s actions. They did not rightfully understand that their father was the one responsible for the favoritism and not Joseph. Therefore, Joseph may have been the scapegoat for the ill feelings that they may have felt toward their father but did not have the heart to tell him.
c.) Joseph had a dream and told it to his brothers which angered them (Genesis 37:5-6). Joseph was already the recipient of his brothers’ animosity. Therefore, it may not have been wise for him to divulge the contents of his dreams to them while knowing that they did not like him.
d.) Joseph’s first dream detailed him and his brothers picking up sheaves of wheat when his sheaf stood up as theirs bowed before his (Genesis 37:7). This dream was prophetic in that God was showing Joseph that one day, his brothers would come before him during a time when there would not be any grain due to a famine. He nor his brothers knew about the events that would take place in the future, but God was foretelling Joseph’s future.
e.) Joseph’s brothers asked him if he dared to think that one day he would rule over them (Genesis 37:8). The brothers had the interpretation of the dream and yet, their hatred for him blinded them to its prophetic revelation. The dream did foretell that they would one day be under his authority, but they nor Joseph could have ever imagined what would befall them all.
f.) Joseph told his brothers about another dream that he had when the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. This time, however, he included his father in on the details (Genesis 37:9-10). Joseph obviously did not learn anything the first time when his dream was unwelcomed by his brothers. When he told his father about the dream, even Jacob seemed to have had his doubts. The sun and moon were a representation of his parents and the eleven stars were his brothers. God promised Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham, that his descendants would be a plentiful as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). For God to use the sun, moon, and stars in Joseph’s dream to speak to him can be seen as God’s reminder of His covenant with Abraham which would be fulfilled through the sons of Jacob. Jacob seemingly did not understand that God was speaking to Joseph through his dreams and rebuked him because of them.
g.) Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and were, therefore, jealous of a dream (Genesis 37:11). God was the One who had given Joseph the dreams and yet, the brothers were jealous. Their feelings were once again displaced for if they had understood where the dreams had come from, they may not have been so quick as to take out their frustrations on Joseph and Jacob would have known that God had a special plan for his son that would save their entire family and descendants to come.
In understanding Joseph’s story, there are several lessons that can be learned and applied in the believer’s life that can help when facing some of life’s challenges.
a.) Family dysfunction can pass from generation to generation if past mistakes are not understood and corrected. As in the case of Jacob, he did not learn from the favoritism that caused a major split between himself and Esau. His father, Isaac, favored Esau while he was his mother, Rebecca’s favorite. Jacob had to go on the flee in fear for his life because of the favoritism and deception that was in the family. Parents should be mindful of not treating one child more special than the other if they have more than one. This often leads to feelings of bitterness and resentment long after the parents may be deceased and will continue unless the trend is broken. [The Bible says, “For God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11).]
b.) Resentment and anger can cause a person to scapegoat an innocent person. There are many people who live life in a ball of anger because of something someone did to hurt them in their past. They walk through life hating the world as their anger is displaced on the innocent. Joseph’s brothers were angry at him because of their father’s actions. Sometimes people need therapy to overcome hurts before they victimize someone in an attempt to release their bottled-up feelings. There is nothing wrong with asking God for help as wounds from the past be able to heal. [The Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).]
c.) It is not wise to tell everyone about your dreams. Joseph did not use discernment in dealing with his brothers. Due to the dislike that his brothers had for him, it was not wise to tell them of his dreams which gave them more ammunition to hate him even more. Everyone is not for you nor has your best interest at heart. Therefore, when God gives you a dream, you must be careful of who you share that dream with unless He gives you the green light and/or it’s someone that He has sent into your life who you can trust. Even though Joseph did not know the full interpretation of his dream, he told it to those who would never be supportive of his elevation. Just because people are blood-related do not mean that they are for you. Just because someone calls you friend does not mean that they support you. Many people have been jealous of others’ dreams, so wisdom is needed when sharing. [The Bible says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).] God can work through any situation regardless of how dysfunctional it seems. God used the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers to propel him into his destiny. It may not have been ideal for Joseph at the time, but the God-ordained outcome was a continuation in fulfillment of the promise He made to Abraham and an elevation for Joseph after all the hardships he experienced in his life. Sometimes God has to break us before He makes us into the vessel that He would have us to be as only a Potter can. [The Bible says, ““Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)]
 Gen. 12:1-3 (New International Version).
 Gen. 12:5 (New International Version).
 Tremper Longman, How to Read Genesis (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 149-151.
 Longman, Read Genesis, 149-150.
 Strong's Concordance, "Strong's Hebrew: 3130. יוֹסֵף (Yoseph) -- "he Increases," a Son of Jacob, Also the Name of Several Israelites," Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages, accessed September 11, 2018, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3130.htm.
. Longman, Read Genesis, 149-150.
 John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002), 662-663.
 Gen. 25:21-26 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:2 (New International Version).
 Gen. 34 (New International Version).
 Walton, Commentary, 692.
 Ibid., 692-693.
 Gen. 37:5-9 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:3 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:4 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:5-6 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:7 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:8 (New International Version).
 Gen. 15:5 (New International Version).
 Gen. 37:11 (New International Version).
 Rom. 2:11 (English Standard Version).
 Eph. 4:26-27 (English Standard Version).
 Phil. 1:9-10 (English Standard Version).
 Jer. 32:27 (English Standard Version).