Bible Discussion — Genesis 37-39

May 9, 2007, 11:30 am; posted by
Filed under Bible, Chloe, David, Job, Josh J, MC-B, Steve, Tom  | 5 Comments

This week, Bweinh.com looks at the next three chapters of the Bible, Genesis 37-39.

Previously in Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26 | 27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36

 
INTRODUCTION:
Rev. Tate:
The Rev. Barry Joe Tate is a graduate of Aurora University, proud father of five and the first to ever submit a Bweinh!tribution via fax. He makes his home in Benson, VT.

Jesus bore testimony to God’s ability to fix times and epochs by His own authority, and the Father declares, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned it, so it will stand . . . For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” Our passage is an illustration of these truths and a commentary on them.

David:
In this section the story of Joseph, “him that was separate from his brethren,” and the story of Judah, Tamar and the scarlet thread of redemption are shared.

Job:
Finally a clear hero emerges. In Joseph we see a man not doomed to the actions or attitudes of his father, and not prone to the pervasive evil that surrounds him. Patient, wise, generous, forgiving but unrelenting, Joseph is a man who attracts an audience by performing for an audience of One.

MC-B:
Yes! I remember this one!

Of course, I’d always thought it was written in the form of a musical:

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Steve:
Joseph never would have found his brothers that fateful day if it hadn’t been for that “certain man” who found him wandering in the field. What was that guy doing? Why did he care about a wandering teenager with a colorful coat? And how were the brothers able to eat after tossing Joseph down in the pit?

Chloe:
I had noticed this before, but I wanted to point it out — Reuben, despite his previous sin against his father (sleeping with his concubine), has a good heart. He tries his best to rescue his brother, and when he fails, he takes the blame on himself. Good man.

Josh:
After Jacob’s sons misled him to believe Joseph was dead (without ever actually saying it — the family tradition of elaborate deception lives on!), they then came to comfort him during his mourning. This has to be one of the most hollow gestures recorded in Scripture.

Rev. Tate:
37:8 reveals that his brothers hated Joseph for his dreams as well as for his words. When they heard the dreams, their hearts witnessed to them that the words were from God, so mixed in with hatred for Joseph was a hatred for God’s will. This insight is underscored when they boast, “let us see what will become of his dreams.”

MC-B:
According to the version I’m using, Joseph’s brothers only started plotting to kill him when they saw him in the distance. Murder of a family member wouldn’t seem to be something you do on a whim (even if you can see for miles, it’s still a pretty quick decision), but then I’ve never done it so I really can’t say.

Tom:
Joseph went from a brother in Dothan to a slave in Egypt in one verse.

Job:
The writer notes Joseph was sold by the Midianites, then tells us he was sold to Potiphar by the Ishmaelites. Since both were sons of Abraham by women other than Sarah, perhaps the Israelites couldn’t effectively discern between the sons of Midian and Ishmael — or perhaps the caravan was so intertwined that either definition would do.

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
MC-B: Spices, Balm and Myrrh
Steve: Longing Eyes
Job: You Actually Rule
Chloe: Scarlet Thread
David: Signet
Rev. Tate: Favor
Josh: Well-Built and Handsome

 
STORY IT REMINDS YOU OF:
Steve:
Judah sounds like a Ferengi — “what profit is there if we kill our brother?” Let’s sell him and make some cash instead!

MC-B:
Siblings fighting because each thinks that the parents favor the other? How about every household on earth with two or more children?

Tom:
The Duke lacrosse allegations and The Shawshank Redemption.

Rev. Tate:
The decision first to kill and then sell Joseph as a way to thwart his dreams reminds me of the wisdom learned by Job. “I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.”

Josh:
My sister used to have a song she loved — referring to her other brother, I assure you — with the lyrics, “brother for sale, only fifty cents.” My mother was not amused. I guess she thought we could get more.

David:
“…Joseph went in to the house to do his business.” When Tom Lynch and I worked together he made me laugh by doing an imitation of his mother letting the dog out to “do his business” when he was a kid. When I had to teach on this section in adult Sunday School, it provided a few unexplained bouts of laughter between the two of us.

Job:
Joseph being sold to Egypt reminds me very much of Boston’s “Curse of the Bambino,” from selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. And the bricks made and employed by the Hebrews later would amount, effectively, to be the “house that Joseph built.”

 
DEEP THEOLOGICAL MEANING:
David:
I read an article called “The Scarlet Thread of Redemption,” that drew its name from the story of Perez and Zerah, and traced the lineage of Christ through the Bible. God chose the son of an illicit relationship here, just as he did later with Solomon (Bathsheba’s son) to fill in the lineage of Jesus. He also included Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabite — of whose nation no person was to be admitted to the congregation, down to the 10th generation. Yet David (4th generation) sat in the Holy of Holies and spoke with God in a way even the priests could not. God uses things that are not, yea, things that are despised, to bring to naught the things that are mighty.

Rev. Tate:
In Genesis 49:10, God foreordains that the ruler’s staff would not depart from Judah until it reached the One to whom it belongs, yet the Bible records repeated efforts to prevent that staff from reaching Jesus. Onan wasting his seed on the ground can be understood in that light. The attempt by Athalia to destroy “all the royal seed” would have ended the royal line of Judah, but the story of how God preserved the line is thrilling. The Midianites represent Satan’s desire to prevent fulfillment of God’s purposes by brute force. And of course, there’s Herod, who sought to kill Jesus by slaying “all male children” in the Bethlehem area. But while he raged, Anna was fasting and praying in the temple, and there was born to Mary and Joseph, both of Judah’s royal line, a King in whose reign the ruler’s staff came to rest and remain.

Josh:
Some may point to Onan’s death as biblical condemnation of birth control, but I don’t think that’s accurate. Onan’s sin was not the physical act of spilling his semen, but his failure to provide for his brother’s widow. As a childless widow, Tamar was in particular need, and it was Onan’s family duty to provide for her, but he was selfish and only concerned with his line, content to leave Tamar desolate. There was an additional callousness in taking Tamar as his wife, taking her into his bed, then depriving her in that manner. How we treat one another, particularly those in need of our help, is important to God.

Steve:
This whole section and the ones around it are filled with stories of promised and undeserved redemption — for Judah, Tamar, and the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery.

Chloe:
The world is intent on making Joseph’s life miserable. But God is intent on making Joseph’s life blessed. Throughout these chapters, Joseph’s integrity and devotion to God is evident. God doesn’t prevent bad things from happening to him exactly, but He does work through the circumstances that come about as a result of others’ sin. It’s been said time and again, but it bears repeating — God is always there, and He is always taking care of us.

 
RANDOM THOUGHT:
Chloe:
Tamar’s birth doesn’t sound like it was an easy one. Considering the times, I can’t help but wonder how she possibly could have survived it.

Steve:
So, um, Judah fathered a child with Tamar, and he never recognized her during the whole, uh, process?

Rev. Tate:
Sometimes the dreams we hate are our own. We fight God’s plan for our lives.

MC-B:
Did Joseph wear that richly ornamented robe all the time? It can’t look or smell that great after being in the sun, rain and wind so long, and that’s not even considering the sweat.

Josh:
As an older sibling, I can definitely relate to Joseph’s brothers’ hard feelings. The perception of favoritism, the tattling, the sense of entitlement — that’s what younger siblings are all about. Thankfully, nothing in this account reminds me of the way I responded growing up.

David:
In our day Joseph could have been cleared by DNA testing. It would have taken a lot longer but he could have been cleared.

Job:
Not the least bit timid, I’d wager this wasn’t Potiphar’s wife’s first time fishing.

 
WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS PASSAGE:
Tom:
In the person of Reuben, trying to save his brother’s life.

MC-B:
In Luke, Jesus said that families would turn against each other, and part of the reason for this infighting is probably disagreement about God’s plans. In this selection, God had very specific plans for Joseph which his brothers didn’t agree with, and it led them to turn against each other. Joseph’s perseverance under these circumstances is also very similar to the ways in which Jesus held out love and affection for a world that hated Him.

Josh, Steve:
Strangely enough, a look at the genealogy of Jesus reveals the encounter between Judah and Tamar. Jesus was truly human, right down to the sordid family history.

David:
Joseph was sent by his father to check on his jealous brethren who have been put over the flock. His reports were not favorable. His death was plotted by the jealous brethren and, although the death plot was not carried out, he was sold for 20 pieces of silver — plus his brethren don’t realize until much later that it was all God’s plan to save them. Sounds a lot like Jesus to me.

Rev. Tate:
The term “varicolored” in 37:3, 23, and 32 literally means “flat,” indicating a robe that reaches to the hand and foot, a symbol of complete dominion. It prefigures the robe of Christ in Revelation 1:13. Compare 37:23 with Mark 15:24, and 37:28 with Matthew 26:15.

 
VERSE TO REMEMBER:
Chloe:
39:20-21 — Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Steve:
39:12 — [S]he caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

Tom:
37:19 — Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!”

Josh, MC-B:
39:23 — The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

Job:
39:10 — And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

 
PORTION YOU WOULD MOST LIKE EXPLAINED IN HEAVEN:
Job:
The worst in me would like to know how Er was put to death.

Tom:
What did Judah’s son Er do to deserve death, considering what his forefathers got away with?

MC-B:
I’d like a little more detail on some of these conversations. The siblings’ conversation about killing Joseph is one example; Potiphar’s wife’s attempt at seduction is another. Also, I want some backstory! What exactly did Joseph and Jacob do to earn Joseph the hatred of his brothers?

Josh:
What on earth made Reuben think it would be a good idea to wander away while Joseph was in the cistern? Where exactly did he go?

Steve:
Hey Joe, what did you think was going to happen when you started talking about your crazy dreams? Knowing a thing or two about relations in large families, I have a really hard time believing his eagerness to share was entirely free from a desire to irritate his brothers.

Chloe:
In Joseph’s dream, the sun and the moon bow down to him. But by that time Rachel was dead, so who was the moon?

 
LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
MC-B:
Regardless of the circumstances, God wants us to persevere. Following God’s will is rarely easy; Jesus told us at the outset that the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life. However, whether on Earth or in Heaven, we shall reap the rewards of our loving service to our Father.

Rev. Tate:
We often fail to recognize Satan at work in our circumstances until after we’ve been robbed. When the response of Jacob’s sons to their circumstances was to hate Joseph, then hate him “even more,” it should have tipped them off that their responses were not godly, Satan was in the picture, and a course change was needed. Instead they chose a course of action out of their hatred and later came to regret it with tears. Jealousy would not allow them to submit to the good will of God for them — to bow down to Joseph.

Even now, if the Arab states would submit to God’s will for Esau, to serve Jacob and walk accordingly, God would bless them beyond our ability to imagine, living hate-free itself being an unspeakable joy. Throughout the Middle East, however, Satan is at work to steal that blessing. James also began by taking offense at his brother Jesus, but later became his “bondservant,” and called Him “Lord.” Today the book he wrote is used by God to minister life to multitudes around the world.

Steve:
Every aspect of our life is not like a movie, even when we fear God and obey his commands. All that Joseph touched prospered, but let’s not forget he was sent to PRISON unjustly, to serve hard time. All things will work together for our good, but sometimes it takes more work than others.

Josh:
Sometimes doing the right thing will result in things getting worse rather than better for us in the near term. Sometimes doing the wrong thing can seem so easy and risk-free. But if we are faithful to God, He is that much more faithful to us, even — maybe especially — in the worst of times.

David:
In the story of Tamar and Judah, more immorality led to the birth of Perez and Zerah, but Perez was chosen to be in the lineage of Christ. It is easy for us to look on in self-righteous disgust at the sins they committed as God’s people, but as Paul points out, “where no law is there is no transgression.” The law (through Moses) would not come for another 400 years. You cannot fall short of what hasn’t been revealed. I doubt that we, without written divine standards, could have lived any better.

Tom:
Don’t wear breakaway garments, and if you do, take them when you run away.

 
GENERAL RESPONSE TO THE PASSAGE:
Josh:
Judah certainly proved unworthy of his status as founder of the kingly tribe. First he spearheaded the movement to sell Joseph into slavery. Then he married a Canaanite woman, raised sons so ungodly they were struck down, and mistreated Tamar.

Job:
If God were a corporation, his HR person would’ve given up coffee for Kaopectate long ago. Serving Him can result in tremendous trials, shame, and often death. The training is rigorous and if He loves you, you actually get even harsher training. You are told beforehand that taking the job will make you persecuted by many and hated by most, and like Joseph, you may have to spend years wallowing in the mailroom before any hint of a promotion. But while there are very few earthly benefits, you should see the 401(k).

MC-B:
I really enjoy this story; it has all the makings of a good movie with a sufficient number of uplifting messages thrown in to make us all feel good after exiting the theater, even if we do throw away all that now-cold leftover popcorn.

 
CONCLUSION:
Rev. Tate:
The appearance that Joseph’s imprisonment had nullified and thwarted the plans prophesied in his dreams were false. Time showed it to be a lie.

Job:
We’ve all met someone like Joseph. Someone who inexorably excels, is infuriatingly godly, and often stands above reproach to the point that they can pass judgment on us. Like Joseph’s brothers, we seek to avoid these people at all costs sometimes — preferring a walk less well-lit by those as incandescent as Joseph.


Comments

5 Comments to “Bible Discussion — Genesis 37-39”

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  4. Alex on January 9th, 2008 1:39 pm

    What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher’s interpretation of the story? (here: samsonblinded.org/blog/genesis-37.htm ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I’d like to hear other opinions.

  5. Steve on January 9th, 2008 1:55 pm

    I left a comment there. I don’t see that argument as literal; I see it as completely extra-textual. You can make a text mean anything if you (a) read it with your own preconceived notions of what it should mean and (b) ignore the parts of it that directly refute your theories. That’s what Shoher did in that post. The chapter SAYS Joseph’s brothers sold him.

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