Saturday, January 29, 2011

Genesis 37 - Joseph's Dreams and Journey

LINK: Genesis 37


BACKGROUND/REFLECTION

Life Through Joseph's Eyes
He wasn't sure what was causing all the commotion. The boy was young and often would be the last to know in his large family of twelve children. His brothers weren't very nice. They always called him a 'daddy's boy.' It was no use trying to find out what was really going on from them. His father was rounding up the camels and shouting orders right and left. He noticed his father was limping. It must be because of what happened last night. There was so much noise that the little boy could hardly sleep. After the family had crossed the Jabbok, his father wrestled with a man till dawn. He worried about his father's limp. It just seemed to be one hard thing after another for his father. He had just seen his grandfather pursue his father in anger, and now his father was limping. On top of all of this, there was a large band of Bedouin warriors approaching them with their spears and lances glittering in the sunlight. Strangely enough, although the boy saw fear in his father's face, he saw his father as he had never seen him before; as if his father had seen God face to face. He wondered what really happened last night with that man by the river.
They mounted the camels and father instructed him and his mother to go to the back behind his older siblings. "I wonder what is happening?" thought the little boy. His mother held him tightly. Up ahead, he could see the men coming closer to his father. He prayed God would keep his father safe. Then, he heard weeping and celebrating. The next thing he knew he was bowing down before a man they called his Uncle Esau. He had heard of him, but he knew that his father had feared him. There was happiness and good will wished to this enemy who was now a beloved brother. Something profound had happened that day. His father would never be the same again. The little boy was tired. Today had been far more exhausting then any six year old could handle. So, he slept in the place of booths that night, happy that his father was safe from all harm.
I wrote this narrative to meditate on what that experience must have been like for Joseph and how it might have shaped him and the man he would later become. It was the introduction to a paper I wrote about Joseph in Bible school.

In the next two weeks, we will be reading and doing a character study on Joseph. 

Character is defined as "the aggregate of moral qualities, ethical standards, and principles that form the individual nature of some person" (Random House Dictionary). Joseph was a man of Christlike character, even though he was born more than 1800 years before the time of Christ. Because of the similarities between Joseph and Jesus, we will also be looking at the strange and mysterious parallels between the life and character of Joseph and Jesus Christ. 


Type is defined as:
 A pre-ordained representative relationship which certain persons, events, and institutions of the Old Testament bear to corresponding persons, events, and institutions in the New.

(Bernard Ramm, Protestant Interpretation, p. 208-209, quoting Terry quoting Joseph Muenscher, “On Types and the Typical Interpretation of Scripture, ”American Biblical Repository, (Jan 1841): 108)

Joseph is an Old Testament personage who has many characteristics and life parallels to Jesus. Although there is no mention of this parallel in the Word of God, these parallels are noteworthy.

We can learn so many lessons from Joseph's life. He incarnated the truth and Chuck Swindoll sums it up well:
Abstract truth seems sterile and difficult to grasp if it stands alone--but when we see it illustrated in a life, it's amazing how clearly it emerges and how attainable it becomes. This, of course, is the genius behind any biography.
Joseph is a classic example. He embodies some of the most significant truth in all of Scripture. Although a man just like us, Joseph blazes a new trail through a jungle of mistreatment, false accusations, undeserved punishment, and gross misunderstanding. He exemplifies forgiveness, freedom from bitterness, and an unbelievably positive attitude toward those who had done him harm. From one episode to the next, you will literally shake your head in amazement. 
   That's the way it is when mere humanity incarnates divine truth. My prayer is that this principle will not stop with Joseph. 
(Joseph: From Pit to Pinnacle, Introduction)
It is my prayer too!!!! May we learn and apply what we learn from his Godward focused life.

Genesis 37

We know very little from the early events of Joseph's life except where he was placed in the "line up" of the children when going to meet Esau. We might conclude that Jacob placed a high priority on protecting Joseph's life when Esau approached (33:2) because Jacob put Joseph and Rachel in the very back of the pack.

In addition, we learn that "Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age" (37:3). Because Joseph was the son of Jacob's old age, he probably saw a very different man in his formative years than his siblings had seen. His brothers saw more of Jacob, the "cunning self-helpful supplanter," than Israel, the "prince of God" (The Bible History Old Testament by Alfred Edersheim, p. 135). Joseph saw more of the man who was consecrated to God by his experiences with Laban, his physical and spiritual breaking with the "man" at Peniel, and his final reconciliation with Esau.

Also, he probably saw a more stable and loving relationship between his mother, Rachel, and father even though she did die when he was young. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and Leah was unloved (Genesis 29:30-31). One cannot help but think what kind of negative influence Leah and Jacob's marriage had on their children. Proverbs 30:21-23 says that one of the four things that the earth quakes under is an "unloved woman when she gets a husband."

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

One parallel between Joseph and Jesus is that both births were miraculous (obviously Jesus' birth was much more miraculous than Joseph's though). In Genesis 30:22, we read that "God opened her womb." In both cases, God moved by bringing a child into the world that would change the course of history in a miraculous way.

Another parallel is that they were both beloved sons. Jesus is referred to as the "beloved Son" in Luke 3:22. Similarly, we know that "Israel loved Joseph more than all his brothers" (37:3). (The difference, in this case, was that Jesus was God's only son and Joseph had other brothers. Favoritism breeds jealousy and bitter feelings in families and should be avoided at all cost!)


Another parallel between Joseph and Jesus is that both were mistreated by their brethren. We will get more into this as our reading of the life of Joseph continues.

FUN FACTS

Shechem


Distance from Hebron to Shechem = 60 miles

Remember that Shechem is where Dinah was raped and Simeon and Levi slaughtered the male inhabitants.

Dothan

Distance from Shechem to Dothan = 15 miles
Distance from Hebron to Dothan = 75 miles
It is 60 miles north of Jerusalem
It is 13 miles north of Samaria

It was on one of the north-south trade routes that ran from Damascus to Egypt

APPLICATION

You might want to continue with your "Journal of God" as you study Joseph's life.

It also might help to start a list of things in Joseph's character worth emulating.

One more thing: do you show favoritism toward any of your children? Talk to God about that one!

PRAYER

Lord, help us to really learn what You want us to learn as we study Joseph's life. We know that the Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our life. Lord, please change us and mold our character as we meditate in Your Word. We pray this in Jesus' name. AMEN.
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