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Joseph Dreams of Greatness


Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

5 Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, 15and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, 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 agreed. 28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. 30He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?” 31Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. 32They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him. 36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

25. And they sat down to eat bread. This was an astonishing barbarity, that they could quietly feast, while, in intention, they were guilty of their brother’s death: for, had there been one drop of humanity in their souls, they would at least have felt some inward compunctions; yea, commonly, the very worst men are afraid after the commission of a crime. Since the patriarchs fell into such a state of insensibility, let us learn, from their example, to fear lest, by the righteous anger of God, the same lethargy should seize upon our senses. Meanwhile, it is proper to consider the admirable progress of God’s counsel. Joseph had already passed through a double death: and now, as if by a third death, he is, beyond all expectation, rescued from the grave. For what was it less than death, to be sold as a slave to foreigners? Indeed his condition was rendered worse by the chance; because Reuben, secretly drawing him out of the pit, would have brought him back to his father: whereas now he is dragged to a distant part of the earth, without hope of return. But this was a secret turn, by which God had determined to raise him on high. And at length, he shows by the event, how much better it was that Joseph should be led far away from his own family, than that he should remain in safety at home. Moreover, the speech of Judah, by which he persuades his brethren to sell Joseph, has somewhat more reason. For he ingenuously confesses that they would be guilty of homicide, if they suffered him to perish in the pit. What gain shall we make, he says, if his blood be covered; for our hands will nevertheless be polluted with blood. By this time their fury was in some degree abated, so that they listened to more humane counsel; for though it was outrageous perfidy to sell their brother to strangers; yet it was something to send him away alive, that, at least, he might be nourished as a slave. We see, therefore, that the diabolical flame of madness, with which they had all burned, was abating, when they acknowledged that they could profit nothing by hiding their crime from the eyes of men; because homicide must of necessity come into view before God. For at first, they absolved themselves from guilt, as if no Judge sat in heaven. But now the sense of nature, which the cruelty of hatred had before benumbed, begins to exert its power. And certainly, even in the reprobate, who seem entirely to have cast off humanity, time shows that some residue of it remains. When wicked and violent affections rage, their tumultuous fervor hinders nature from acting its part. But no minds are so stupid, that a consideration of their own wickedness will not sometimes fill them with remorse: for, in order that men may come inexcusable to the judgment-seat of God, it is necessary that they should first be condemned by themselves. They who are capable of cure, and whom the Lord leads to repentance, differ from the reprobates in this, that while the latter obstinately conceal the knowledge of their crimes, the former gradually return from the indulgence of sin, to obey the voice of reason. Moreover, what Judah here declares concerning his brother, the Lord, by the prophet, extends to the whole human race. Whenever, therefore, depraved lust impels to unjust violence, or any other injury, let us remember this sacred bond by which the whole of society is bound together, in order that it may restrain us from evil doings. For man cannot injure men, but he becomes an enemy to his own flesh, and violates and perverts the whole order of nature.

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