Genesis 37:12-36 With blessing and abilities we prosper, but with righteousness and wisdom we rule
Genesis 37:12-36 With blessing and abilities we prosper, but with righteousness and wisdom we rule
Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “I will go.” 14 Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
15 A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, “What are you looking for?” 16 He said, “I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
18 When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer! 20 Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!” 21 But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. 23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; 24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.
25 Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.
29 Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. 30 He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?” 31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; 32 and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” 33 Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 34 So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.
Jacob sent Joseph, the son of his old age to check on his other sons, but never did he expect that he would mourn for 2 decades before seeing Joseph again. Joseph’s brothers had plotted to kill him, but Joseph was saved by Judah who offered a more ethical and profitable solution. Joseph tries to rule by his charisma and abilities, but Judah presides over the crucial moment by his wisdom. In today’s devotion we learn: with blessing and abilities we prosper, but with righteousness and wisdom we rule.
Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.
It has become increasingly obvious that there exists two camps within the household: Jacob and Joseph in one camp, and the brothers in the other. Jacob could not trust his sons for the decisions they made and sought to stalk and control them. Joseph played the favourite son by aligning himself with his father’s every wish. But, Jacob had no idea what his sons were thinking or what they were capable of. Being oblivious to his sons’ intense hatred for Joseph, he sent Joseph after them.
The brothers on the other hand felt that their father could not understand them and sought to free themselves from his control. It will soon be apparent that the major influencer in this other camp is Judah.
There is good reason for Jacob to worry about his sons’ movement towards Shechem. For the massacre at Shechem (which occured two years earlier) was only a recent event. Hence, Jacob out of concern sent Joseph to check on them. Joseph traveled a distance of 80 km from Hebron to Shechem. Missing his brothers, he was redirected to Dothan, another 21 km northwest of Shechem (see the below map).
Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.
The text portrays the majority of the brothers as harbouring such intense hatred for Joseph, that they would not think twice of killing him. Closer observation reveals three characters at play: the opportunist, the majority who opted for murder, and the moderator. Reuben is the opportunist, who in wanting to atone for his misbehaviour with Bilhar plotted to “restore him to his father.” Then, there is Judah, the moderator who skillfully convinced the brothers to take a more ethical and profitable option.
Nevertheless, the brothers’ motive is to prove that his dreams are fictitious: let us see what will become of his dreams! For the dreams are for them what broke the camel’s back. Reuben’s scheme of just dumping Joseph in the pit causes one to wonder what his true intentions are. For he only said they should shed no blood, but without elaborating on the scheme’s intended outcome.
The brothers crossed the rubicon when they assaulted Joseph by stripping him of his tunic and threw him into the pit. From here on, Joseph must be cut off and not be allowed to return to the family. Nevertheless, Reuben’s suggestion had bought Joseph a moment of reprieve while awaiting the Ishmaelites to pass by.
What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?
The appearance of a caravan of Ishmaelites from Gilead gave occasion to fulfil the brothers’ agenda without blood guilt. Judah’s suggestion was effective in averting the murder and his brothers listened to him. Judah’s alternative was welcomed because it bore ethical considerations (he is our brother, our own flesh) and carried some financial benefits. Judah displayed great wisdom in maintaining rapport with his brothers and at the same time steered them out of trouble. He understood what options were available and did not attempt to free Joseph lest he set himself against the majority. Joseph was sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites, which given the circumstances was the best possible outcome.
However, Reuben wandered off after Joseph was dumped into the pit and he knew nothing of the sale. Reuben returned and found his hopes of profiting from his brothers’ misdeeds dashed for Joseph was on his way to Egypt.
Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.
The brothers colluded to deceive their father concerning Joseph’s disappearance. A wild beast has devoured him seemed the perfect story. That said, Jacob was in fact reaping the consequences of his earlier deception of his own father, Isaac. With this, Jacob began his protracted mourning for the son of his old age. Jacob’s intense grief is expressed by his desire to be reunited with his son in Sheol, which is a place of the dead: surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son. Jacob’s refusal to be comforted served as a reminder of where his deepest affections lie, and it also underscores the depth of the brothers’ hypocrisy.
With blessing and abilities we prosper, but with righteousness and wisdom we rule
Joseph stood for what is right by distancing himself from his brothers. But Judah chose to remain in their midst in order to influence them towards what is good. Joseph’s methods utilised command and control through his father’s authority. Not only was it ineffective, it incited irreparable rift and hatred. While Joseph provided physical sustenance for Israel at a time of famine, Judah sustained Israel by holding the family together by his wisdom and righteous presence. Judah’s virtues and contribution was aptly exhibited in Jacob’s last blessing:
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you...
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Genesis 49:8-10
Because of Judah’s wisdom and righteousness, his descendants were divinely ordained to rule (in a fuller sense) the kingdom of God. In comparison, Joseph’s blessing is focused on fruitfulness, abilities, and earthly blessing:
“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a spring;
Its branches run over a wall.
23 “The archers bitterly attacked him,
And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his bow remained firm,
And his arms were agile,…
And by the Almighty who blesses you
With blessings of heaven above,…
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. Genesis 49:22-26
While Joseph stands by what is true, Judah stands by what is wise. While the family bow down to Joseph by virtue of his earthly authority, the family submit to Judah because of his spiritual authority. Joseph thrives by his gifts and youthful charisma, Judah thrives by wisdom and righteousness. Many prospered by virtue of their gifts and abilities, but those who excel in righteousness and wisdom rule the world.
A nation or descendant’s longevity is tied not to the promise of blessing but to righteousness and wisdom. Biblical history shows us that Egypt began to turn against Israel after Joseph passed on. Subsequently, all that was acquired in Egypt was lost. And the kingdom of Israel which comprises the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) were summarily conquered by Assyria in 723 BC. But as for the tribe of Judah, they continued to thrive and brought forth Jesus, the Lion of Judah, Ruler of the world (see Revelations 5:5).
Therefore, as believers, we must build the future of our family, our church and nation by instilling wisdom and righteousness in the young. Only then, can we see enduring prosperity and longevity for future generations. Nevertheless, many choose to capitalise on their children’s gifts and abilities but neglect the weightier matters of wisdom and righteousness. Human ability is limited against the onslaught of the unknown and material wealth does not endure. Still, many continue in the pursuit of blessing and abilities. However, those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3. In the same token, Proverbs 3:13-14 says,
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
1. Do you feel an overwhelming sense of disgust when you face people whose ways you find objectionable? And you are accustomed to immediately distance yourself from them. It is commendable to flee in the presence of evil, but it is wise to be humble, to be a friend so that you may win them over. Nevertheless, we must not judge people by their external appearance or habits for God looks at the heart. Jesus saw the Jewish leaders as deplorable but the “sinners” and tax collectors as friends. Therefore, let us humble ourselves and be a friend to all without judging. Perhaps, you can win them over and at the same time learn something from them.
2. Are you constantly preoccupied with disciplining yourself and your children so that you may gather much wealth and move up the ranks of society? The apostle Paul taught,
Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Bodily discipline prepares us to prosper in this present life. But the profit that comes from godly discipline is infinitely greater, both for this present life and the life to come. Therefore, focus on the discipline of godliness and wisdom, both for yourself and for your children. How do we practice godly discipline?
- Meditate on the word daily
- Practice self-reflection and deal with your weaknesses by the power that comes from the blood of Christ
- Keep your inner world in check and constantly reorder it
- In the manner that Christ forgave the sins of the world, forgive those who has sinned against you and always do good.
- Always give thanks for all that has happened
Dear Lord, I desire wisdom and righteousness more than material blessing and abilities. Open my mind to receive your truth and my heart to receive your goodness. Imbue me with wisdom, humility and patience so that I may be a blessing to all that you have called. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.