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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 colors.
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.
This family dynamic sounds familiar, does it not? We have seen it
before, in Isaac and Rebekah’s home. Favoritism is a very bad thing.
You will remember that the Scripture said … Isaac loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob.
And, in the end, their home was literally torn apart by their
partiality. Now, we see that the practice has carried over to the Jacob
and Rachel home, as well. The hands down favorite son of Jacob was
Rachel’s boy, Joseph. This would become the impetus for all the "bad
blood" that was to follow.
Additional fuel to the fire came about when Joseph brought a bad report
to his father about the poor work habits of his four half-brothers Dan,
Naphtali, Gad and Asher. Then, to top it all off, Jacob gave a beautiful new, many-colored coat to
Joseph. It made Joseph to stand out like a sore thumb in the eyes of
his brothers. That was the last straw and the end result was that Jacob’s other sons hated Joseph and could not speak peaceably to him. They didn’t care for this kid one bit. In fact, they couldn’t even bring themselves to speak civilly 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.'
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?' And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the
matter in mind.
During this time in human history, God often communicated through
dreams. These dreams were vivid, awesome and unforgettable. Joseph
received two such dreams, but what they conveyed was destined to be
greatly resented by his family. To complicate matters, Joseph was only
seventeen years old at the time and the pronouncements of
seventeen-year olds are frequently considered immature, self-centered
and naive. However, Joseph was being none of these things when he told
his dreams to his family. Nevertheless, they took them badly. It really
rankled them that his dreams clearly
proclaiming that Jacob and Rachel and all of their children would one
day be under Joseph’s authority ... even bowing down to him, no less!
The dreams, however, being from God, would be fulfilled to the letter.
Israel (Jacob) himself had experienced such dreams. So, although he
didn’t like what he heard, he took note and did not forget what Joseph
had told them.
Then his brothers went to feed their
father's flock in Shechem. And Israel
said to Joseph,
'Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send
you to them.' So he said to him, 'Here I am.' Then he said to him, 'Please go and see if it is well with your
brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.'
So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem. Now
a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And
the man asked him, saying, 'What are you seeking?' So he said, 'I am
seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their
flocks.' And the man said, 'They have departed from here, for I heard
them say, "Let us go to Dothan."' So
Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.
This reminds me of that scripture that says, The steps of a good man
are ordered of the Lord
(Ps. 37:23). Young Joseph was just out there in the fields, wandering
around aimlessly, not knowing where to look, and then, seemingly out of
nowhere, there was a man who saw his predicament and pointed out the
way for him. Some would call this coincidence. Others would say it was
just dumb luck. However, for the child of God, it is never either one
of those things, aye? Never has been. Never will be.
Now when they saw him afar off, even
before he came near them, they
conspired against him to kill him.
Then they said to one another, 'Look, this dreamer is coming! Come
therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall
say, "Some wild beast has devoured him." We shall see what will become
of his dreams!' But Reuben heard it,
and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, 'Let us not kill
him.' And Reuben said to them, 'Shed no blood, but cast him into this
pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him'; that he
might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.
What an awful moment this was for the family of Israel! When hatred and
jealousy reign in the hearts of men and women, all to often ... murder
is invited in. This is what makes us humans such dangerous creatures.
As sinners, each and every one of us possess the potential for the most
heinous of acts. No? Take care. The scripture says … If any man thinks he
stands, let him take heed lest he fall (I Cor. 10:12).
Now Reuben, the eldest son, overheard his brothers’ wicked plot and attempted to intervened for Joseph. He suggested, No, let's not kill him ourselves. Let's just throw him in a pit and leave him there to die. His argument was … If we do it that way, technically, his blood won’t be on our hands! The brothers liked Reuben’s idea and went for it. In reality, however, Reuben intended to save Joseph
from the pit and take him back home to his father, Israel. Now, up to
this point, we’ve read some bad things about Reuben. For instance, in
the last chapter we read how he deliberately had sex with his father’s
concubine, Bilhah ... probably, to eliminate the last vestige of
influence of Rachael from Israel's thinking. Anyway, in planning to
rescue of his little brother here, he is definitely doing a good thing.
Shakespeare said, The evil men do lives on but the good is oft interred with their bones. That quote brings Reuben comes to my mind.
So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his
brothers, that they stripped Joseph
of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took
him and cast him into a pit.
And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. And they sat down to
eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a
company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing
spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. So
Judah said to his brothers, 'What profit is there if we kill our
brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the
Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother
and our flesh.' And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders
passed by; so the brothers pulled
Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the
Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
There was not an ounce of mercy in these brothers of Joseph. Even
though they could hear their little brother's cries, they simply went
about eating supper as usual. While they were eating, a caravan of
Ishmaelites came by, heading down to Egypt to trade. This gave Judah an
idea. Hey, we could get some money
for Joseph. Let's sell the little brat! He will be a slave for the rest
of his life, we’ll get some money and we will not be guilty of killing
our brother! It was the best idea yet, and the brothers quickly
agreed, knowing full well that they were condemning Joseph to a form of
living death. Shortly after, another caravan came by, and pulling Joseph out of the pit, they sold him fortwenty shekels of silver.
Before we move on, let's explore a question here. Where do you think
God was in all of this? Shouldn't he have stepped in and protected
Joseph? Wasn't he aware of what was going on? The answer is, God was in
perfect control of the whole situation. In fact, this was part of God's
plan to get his people into Egypt, and then, to deliver them out of Egypt ... 400 years later ... with great power and glory. Years later, Joseph would tell his brothers … You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Dear Saint, we must not be too quick to judge God for the circumstances
of our lives. Our God is sovereign and all wise and he knows what he is
doing. He has his own ways and his own purposes in your life and mine.
So, no matter what the circumstances, we can always count on his
direction and care. As you have it in Romans 8:28,
And we know that all things work together for good to those
who love God, to those who are the called according to His
And again, in Ephesians
In Him also we have
obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of
Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will...
Question is ... Can you and I trust
him for the things that happen in our life? The answer is, Yes, absolutely! In
fact, I believe that is just what Joseph did. There is not one recorded
word in the Bible of Joseph ever complaining … or doubting … or blaming
God for what happened to him. Oh, that you and I could trust God with
such unwavering faith, aye?
Trust in the LORD with
all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your
ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed
Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes.
And he returned to his brothers and said, 'The lad is no more; and I,
where shall I go?' So they took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the
goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. Then they sent the tunic of
many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, 'We have
found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?' And he
recognized it and said, 'It is my son's tunic. A wild beast has
devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.' Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth
on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his
sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he
said, 'For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.' Thus
his father wept for him. Now the
Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and
captain of the guard.
Reuben was not present when his brothers sold Joseph to the
Midianites. He had planned to rescue him. When he found out that it was
too late, he was in great despair. Also, he feared what his father
would do to him because he, being the oldest, would be held
responsible. So, he and his brothers devised a plan. It was quite
clever, actually. They took and dipped Joseph's beautiful new coat of
many colors in some goat blood and tore it up and then, when they got
back home, they showed it to Jacob. They told him they found it that
way. Jacob then assumed the boy had been killed by wild animals. Their
plan worked, but Jacob was inconsolable. Joseph was Jacob’s first born
son, by his beloved and now deceased wife, Rebekah. Nothing could have
happened in Jacob's life that could have been worse than losing this
boy. It was an irony that Jacob, who tricked his own father with a baby
goat skin, was now, himself, tricked by the blood of a baby goat! What
do you make of that? Might it be a fulfillment of the scripture that
says … for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Galatians 6:7b)?
Let’s step aside here for a moment. You know, it is not
good for a child of God to be inconsolable after the death of a loved
one. It presents a picture to the world of the hopelessness that only
those who have no hope should exhibit. As you have it in First Thessalonians 4:13,
But I do not want you to
be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest
you sorrow as others who have no hope.
There is certainly nothing wrong with sorrow and tears over the
death of a loved one. But we believers are not to carry on like those
who have no hope. Our sorrow should be less and of shorter duration
than the ungodly. After all, we know
the truth about death and about Heaven and the resurrection and the
world to come and we know exactly where our loved ones went when they
died. David's grief over the death of his baby, recorded
in Second Samuel 12, is a good case in point. After the baby
died, David’s servants were shocked when David shed his clothes of
mourning, washed up and called for something to eat. When asked about
it, David replied,
While the child was
alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD
will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead;
why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return
to me. II Samuel 12:22-23
Jacob didn't do very well in this department. The loss of his
favorite son struck deep and, in his mind, it was irreversibly
horrendous. He said, I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.
The chapter ends by informing us that Joseph arrived in Egypt and was sold into the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of Pharaoh's guard. Young Joseph's ordeal had just begun.
It came to pass at that
time that Judah departed from his
brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah.
And Judah saw there a daughter
of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua,
and he married her and went in to her.
So she conceived and bore a son, and
he called his name Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and
she called his name Onan. And
she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she
bore him. Then Judah took a wife for
Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in
the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.
And Judah said to Onan, 'Go in to your brother's wife and marry her,
and raise up an heir to your brother.' But Onan knew that the heir
would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother's
wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his
brother. And the thing which he did
displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.
Here at the beginning of chapter 38, we come to an entirely different
story that, seemingly, is just stuck in here in the middle of the story of
Joseph. At first glance, it appears to be totally unrelated. However,
it is of great importance and, chronologically, it fits here. That’s
because, at the very same time that Joseph was settling into Potiphar’s
household in Egypt, a very important event was taking place back home
in Canaan. It was an event that would affect Messiah’s line and it
involved Joseph's big brother, Judah. It
is the story of the birth of Perez.
Perez would become a direct link in the line that would lead to the
birth of Christ Jesus. He is listed in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1:3...
And Judas (Judah) begat Phares (Perez) and Zara of Thamar; and Phares
begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
Now Hirah, the Adullamite, was Judah's friend. And, while hanging
out with Hirah, Judah saw a Canaanite girl that he really took a fancy
to and, subsequently, he married her. The fruit of their union was
three children. The first two, turned out to be wicked to the core and
ended up being killed by the Lord. Now, when the Word of God says
someone was wicked, you can take it to the bank ... they were WICKED!
The Bible tells us that the Lord does not take any pleasure in the
death of the wicked, by the way (Ezek. 33:11). So, we can rest assured
that Judah’s sons, Er and Onan, truly needed killing.
Now, Er left behind a wife named Tamar.
And it was the custom, later incorporated into the Law (Deuteronomy
25:5), that if a woman was widowed and her husband had a living brother
… that brother was obligated to marry his brother’s widow and have a
child by her so that the deceased brother’s name could be carried on.
When Er was killed by the Lord, his brother Onan inherited that
responsibility. He was supposed to take Tamar in and he was to give her
a baby. However, when Onan was having sex with Tamar, he disobediently
ejaculated on the ground rather than to allow his brother's widow the
opportunity to have an heir to carry on his brother’s name. His
stubborn rebellion in this duty brought God’s judgment on him as well,
and he too was killed by the Lord. We should not be shocked by these
frank statements in the Bible, by the way. This is history. It is
related to us, just as it actually happened. I, for one, am glad that
the Bible consistently gives us all the facts … straight up, no holds
barred. It pulls no punches when it speaks to the facts of history or
the condition of sinners or what they did or what God did. Its faithful
words are a blessing to everyone who loves the truth.
Then Judah said to Tamar
his daughter-in-law, 'Remain a widow
in your father's house till my son Shelah is grown.'
For he said, 'Lest he also die like his brothers.' And Tamar went and
dwelt in her father's house. Now in the process of time the daughter of
Shua, Judah's wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his
sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his
friend Hirah the Adullamite.
And it was told Tamar, saying, 'Look, your father-in-law is going up to
Timnah to shear his sheep.' So she took off her widow's garments,
covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open
place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was
not given to him as a wife.
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had
covered her face. Then he turned to her by the way, and said, 'Please
let me come in to you'; for he did not know that she was his
daughter-in-law. So she said, 'What will you give me, that you may come
in to me?' And he said, 'I will send a young goat from the flock.' So
she said, 'Will you give me a pledge till you send it?' Then he said,
'What pledge shall I give you?' So she said, 'Your signet and cord, and
your staff that is in your hand.' Then he gave them to her, and went in
to her, and she conceived by him.
Having lost Onan, Tamar was now promised to a third brother and son of Judah. His name was Shelah. Problem was he was too young, at that time, to marry. Shelah? Reminds me of that Johnny Cash’s song, A Boy Named Sue!
(ha) Sorry. I just couldn't resist. Anyway, Judah asked Tamar to wait
until Shelah was mature enough for marriage. However, when that day
came, he backed out of the deal and didn’t give Tamar to Shelah after
all. In retaliation, Tamar put together a scheme to trick Judah, himself, into having sex with her
… pretending that she was a harlot. Prostitutes, in those days, dressed
opposite to what prostitutes do in our day. Apparently, a harlot back
then was recognized by the fact that she covered herself up, rather
than the reverse. So, Judah did not recognize her. In the negotiations
for her services, it was agreed that the act would be worth a young goat from Judah's flock and that he would leave the pledge with her of his signet, cord and staff
… until the goat had been delivered by Judah’s servants. Then, they had
sex and, as a result, Tamar became pregnant and was vindicated of
Judah's neglect to give her to his now grown son, Shelah. In addition,
to protect herself, she didn't wait for the goat to arrive but,
instead, just kept Judah's pledges.
Why is this story here? It is because Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah. Jesus would one day come through Pharez, Judah’s son, by Tamar.
The line continues on down through Boaz, by Ruth, to Obed and then to
Jesse and then King David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel. A sordid
account? Yes. But, it certainly accentuates the fact that Jesus was
truly one of us, does it not? He came to associate with sinners and
even became sin for us ... though he, himself, knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (II
Cor. 5:21). This account gives us a small taste of what it must have
been like for him to stoop down to our level. And I, for one, am surely
thankful that he did, aren't you? Jesus said,
But go and learn what
this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to
call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Matthew 9:13
So she arose and went
away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.
And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite,
to receive his pledge from the woman's hand, but he did not find her.
Then he asked the men of that place, saying, 'Where is the harlot who was openly by the
And they said, 'There was no harlot in this place.' So he returned to
Judah and said, 'I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said
there was no harlot in this place.' Then Judah said, 'Let her take them
for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have
not found her.' 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!' 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.' 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.
When Judah learned what had actually happened, he agreed that he had
been justly rebuked and that Tamar had been right in the action she had
taken. Therefore, she was rescued and vindicated and a very fascinating
twist in the Messianic line was written into history.
Now it came to pass, at
the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it
was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the
midwife took a scarlet thread and
bound it on his hand, saying, 'This one came out first.'
Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out
unexpectedly; and she said, 'How did you break through? This breach be
upon you!' Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came
out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.
As it turns out, Tamar had twins but, during the birth process, Zerah stuck his hand out first and the midwife tied a scarlet thread
around it thinking that that baby would be the firstborn. The scarlet
thread was the midwife's system of insuring that, during the births of
multiples, the firstborn would not be mixed up with its siblings. As it
turned out, however, it was Perez who
actually came out first and was the firstborn ... negating the
midwife's system. Obviously, this was from the Lord and was an
unmistakable statement about which child the Lord had chosen to be an
ancient progenitor of Christ. Perez's genealogy is also given in Ruth 4:18-22,
Now this is the genealogy
of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot
Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon
begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.