Have you ever been betrayed by someone? Has something ever been done to you that hurt so badly you thought you could never forgive that person? Maybe it was a close friend, confidant, or a relative which may have made it all the more difficult to face and endure. This betrayal may have shaken you to the core or you are still reeling from it today. Betrayal is never something anyone wishes upon themselves or their worst enemies. The act of betrayal is defined as giving information about (a person, group, country, etc.) to an enemy. It is the act of hurting someone (who trusts you, such as a friend or relative) by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong. It is probably safe to say that we have all been betrayed or felt betrayed at some point in our lives. I know one thing for certain betrayal hurts and bouncing back from it is very difficult… but doable.
Betrayal is something Joseph understood well. When we read his story it is amazing to see how well Joseph does with the hand he is dealt early in his life. For the remainder of the book of Genesis we will be looking at the life of Joseph. His story is significant to both the history of Israel and for the book of Genesis overall.
We are also told that Joseph was also a dreamer. In the first part of Genesis 37 he dreamed two significant dreams. His interpretations were that his brothers and eventually his father and mother would all bow down before him one day. This was preposterous! This infuriated his brothers even more. Tension was high in the family and this bitter jealousy leads up to what happens next in the text I will speaking on today.
Vs 12: The brothers pastured the sheep in an area near Shechem. This was probably about a 30 to 40 mile hike for them. Shechem is the place where Levi and Simeon massacred the son of Hamor and all the inhabitants. We are not told why they went back there but it seems rather strange they would even go back to this place.
Vs 13: Joseph was not with the brothers. He was a shepherd as well so it is unusual that he would not be with them. Maybe he knew how they felt about him and figured it wouldn’t be wise to be left alone with them.
“Here I am” – These words depict Joseph as an obedient son. He is ready to do what his father asks of him even if he knows that danger could lie ahead.
Vs 14 – 17: Joseph takes the 30 mile trek to where he thought his brothers were. We are told a man found him wandering like a lost sheep. He tells Joseph his brothers went 10 miles north to Dothan.
Vs 18: The brothers saw Joseph from afar. He may have been wearing his cloak. When they saw him they “conspired” or “plotted” to kill him. We now see the true depth of hatred they had for their brother. From what we gather Joseph hadn’t done anything against them that would warrant this type of hatred. It is at this point we are actually given a glimpse into their dark hearts and the wickedness that has taken root. They had murderous intentions. This wasn’t a strong dislike they had it was pure hatred.
In killing Joseph the brother’s figure that if he is dead then there is no way his dreams can come to pass. They were trying to thwart God’s plan by intervening and killing him. They were consumed and controlled by their hatred and this led to their evil plot.
Vs 19 - 20: “Here comes the dreamer” – This was said sarcastically and with disdain. It is apparent that the way this is written the brothers seemed unified (with the exception of Reuben) in their desires to kill Joseph. It wasn’t the idea of just one of them. They plotted to kill him, throw him in a pit and tell their father that a wild animal killed him. Yes, this is certainly a premeditated murder plot. The brother’s never took in to consideration the heartache and sorrow they would cause their father by going through with this act. They were controlled by their evil hearts.
Vs 20 - 22: The eldest brother Reuben was the only one not on board with this plot. He steps in and speaks with authority by telling the brothers that they will not kill him. It is here we are getting a glimpse of compassion from Reuben. He eventually talks them out of murdering Joseph. We do not know Reuben’s motives; he may have been standing in for his brother because he was the eldest and Joseph’s death would have fallen on his shoulders. Basically the death of the favored son would have occurred on his watch. This would have certainly driven a deeper wedge in his relationship with his father. If you recall Reuben isn’t on the best terms with his father. He tells the brothers to put him in the pit but not murder him. He was intending on rescuing him a little later in the day or evening and bring him back safely to his father.
Vs 23 - 24: When Joseph arrives they attacked him, stripped him of his robe and threw him in the pit (an empty and dry water cistern). There are a lot of similarities between Joseph’s and Jesus’ betrayal.
Vs 25 - 28: One would think Joseph would have been pleading with his brothers while in the pit (or maybe he remained silent) to rescue him but they paid no mind to him and they sat down to eat. They went on as if nothing happened… business as usual.
Eventually a caravan of Ishmaelites heading to Egypt came upon them and Judah came up with the idea of selling Joseph to them. He convinced the brothers to sell him for a profit. They paid 20 shekels of silver for Joseph. This was a pretty nice price for the brothers to split. It was here that the brothers thought they could solve their problem. Sell the brother and make a hefty profit and the brother will be gone out of their lives forever thus the dream would never be fulfilled. Unbeknownst to them they were actually helping Joseph fulfill the dream.
Vs 29: Reuben was not present for the transaction because when he returned the deal was done. He tore his clothes (a sign of deep sadness). His sadness was not so much because Joseph was gone but because now he would have to worry about facing his father with this news.
Vs 30 – 35: They still stuck with the wild animal story. They dipped the cloak in goat’s blood (Something had to die and blood still needed to be spilled) and brought it back to Jacob. The brothers tell their fabricated story to their father and he responds by tearing his clothes and mourned the death of his son. The sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he refused. He told them his mourning would last a lifetime. It was common to grieve for 1 week. Occasionally one would grieve for a month. Jacob informs his family he would never stop grieving. “Now I shall go down to Sheol”. Sheol was the place of the dead. It was believed to be where the spirits of the departed went and would continue on in a state of unhappy existence forever.
Vs 36: The Midianites (Ishmaelites) sold Joseph to Potiphar and thus Joseph’s journey continues and begins…
Genesis 37 is one of many depressing chapters in the Bible. We certainly see the ugly side of God’s chosen people. We see that these individuals, these brothers who should have a genuine love and affection fro one another were far… VERY FAR from perfect and yet God still used these people for his plan. In this passage we see the true core of the sinful human heart. Some observations I have found remind me of why we need a Savior. Here is what I believe Genesis 37 shows us about the human heart and the sovereignty of God.
- The Nature of the Heart – Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden we see that the heart at its core is wicked. From the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God the heart became wicked and deceitful. Since the fall that the heart of humanity is bent towards disobedience, chaos, and kinds of sin. Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Certainly not me. I do not understand why some people (or myself for that matter) do the evil things they do. When sin entered the world it attacked the heart of humanity like a cancer.
- Acting on the Heart – The sinful heart is wicked and eventually your heart will reveal who you are. Maybe it will be through your words. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Maybe it will be through actions. He also says in Luke Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” People can try and put on a mask to hide behind true identity but eventually their hearts will reveal what they are really like at the core. When sin is allowed to reign in the heart it will be a matter of time before one will act on his the evil that dwells in it.
However all is not lost. God declares in Ezekiel 36:26 when speaking to Israel that a day is coming (for us has come) when His Spirit will fall on his people and take the hard stone of a heart (sinful and rebellious heart) and replace it with a heart of flesh (a new heart that beats in tune with God). It is through Jesus that our wicked and sinful hearts can be transformed into new hearts that are knit to his and submitted to him.
- God can turn anything around for his good – I know I am jumping ahead here but this is something that we need to be reminded of almost weekly. I think it is safe to say that if anyone would be justified in being bitter it would be Joseph. However we see that God has Joseph’s heart. He trusts God. He knows the dreams he had will come to pass. This is not to say that it was easy. I am sure he had moments of doubt. We do see many chapters later when Joseph says, “What you intended for harm God meant it for good.” God can turn any situation for the His good thus he can take any heart and make it new.
So in this account of Joseph it may seem as though things don’t look so good for this young man. Maybe you are reading this today and you feel as though you are in a pit like Joseph. Take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The pit is not a fun place. However it was a place where Joseph could do nothing but depend on God.
Maybe you don’t feel so much like Joseph but you may feel more like the brothers as you harbor anger, bitterness, jealousy or any other issue in your heart. I am here to tell you that Jesus has come to transform hearts. It is in Jesus that we are able to lay all of our sins upon him. If your heart is not right with God today I want to implore you to allow Jesus to work on you and transform your heart it into a heart that beats in tune with His. He is in the transformation business.