Light for the Last Days

Family issues, monogamy, and God’s will


Now I want to look particularly at the subject of the relationship between Joseph and his brothers, so we’re going to read pretty quickly through story of Genesis. I won’t read all of it, but I’m going to start from Genesis chapter 37 and verse 1:

Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colours. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”

10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Genesis 37.1-11

So, let’s just set the scene. About the relationship between Joseph and his brothers, obviously there’s a problem with the brothers. In fact, if you look at this slide which shows you the relationship between Jacob and his four different women through whom he had children,

his favourite wife Rachel who had Joseph and Benjamin and his first wife (who was his less favourite wife) Leah through whom Jacob had Ruben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, and later Issachar and Zebulon. And the two maids: Zilpah with whom he had Gad and Asher as well as Rachel’s maid Bilah through whom he had get Dan and Naphtali.

So, is there a problem there? If you look at God’s order in the beginning, it was for one man and one wife to have their children: ‘monogamy’ we call it.

We have here one man and four different women through whom he had children; one of whom he loves, one of whom he doesn’t love, and two of whom are sort of extras.

So, what’s going to happen? Is that the one who is of the child of the one who’s loved the wife who’s loved is going to be the favoured son, isn’t he? And that is Joseph.

You also notice that there is only one daughter, and perhaps with 12 boys and only 1 girl there’s not much civilizing female influence there. But that’s how it is, and it’s a kind of quite a dysfunctional family.

If you look at the story, what had happened was that Jacob has returned with his wives and sons from Syria after he had fled there escaping his brother Esau because he’d basically taken the birthright and the blessing from Esau and Esau wanted to kill him. So Jacob went away and spent 21 years away due to this quarrel.

27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”

32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”

33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.”

So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 25.27-34

This meant that now the blessing would be given to Jacob not Esau, which in turn meant that the Covenant going through Abraham and Isaac would go to Jacob not Esau, and to Jacob’s sons, the 12 sons of Israel, not to the sons of Esau.

And through the Covenant was going to come the Torah and also, ultimately, the Messiah.

So this blessing was very important, and Jacob had returned from Syria crossing over into the Promised Land, meeting the Lord on the way and, by the time we get to chapter 37, some quite severe problems had arisen in the family.

First of all, Jacob’s favourite wife Rachel had died on the way to Bethlehem and, as a result of this, Joseph is left without without a mother.

Ruben, Jacob’s eldest son, has been disgraced in an incident where he goes into Bilah, in other words, has sexual relationships with her who was Rachel’s maid and the mother of Dan and Naftali. As a result of this, Ruben loses his birthright as the eldest son.

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel, so that the genealogy is not listed according to the birthright;

1 Chronicles 5.1

The next 2 sons, Simeon and Levi, have both shown themselves to be cruel and deceitful in an incident following the rape of Dinah by Shechem (the son of Hamor the Hivite – Genesis 34) which they avenge by killing all the males (including Shechem and Hamor) and taking plunder from the their city.

25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out.

Genesis 34:25-26

Finally, in Chapter 38, you have an incident where Judah, the 4th son of Jacob, defiles himself when he impregnates Tamar his daughter-in-law thinking she is a prostitute.

24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.”

So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

25 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.”

26 So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.

Genesis 38.24-26

You might think, ‘what are these stories doing in the Bible?’

Well the Bible tells it like it is, and It tells you about the sins of people. It’s pretty clear that there’s quite a bit of sin in Jacob’s family.

Tony Pearce

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