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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.

10. And his father rebuked him. If Jacob suspected that the dream originated in vain ambition, he rightly rebuked his son; but if he knew that God was the author of the dream, he ought not to have expostulated with him. But that he did know it, may be hence inferred, because he is afterwards said seriously to have considered it. For Moses, making a distinction between him and his sons, says that they breathed nothing but the virus of envy; while he revolved in his own mind what this might mean; which could not have happened, unless he had been affected with reverence. But seeing that a certain religious impression on the subject rested on his mind, how was it that he rebuked his son? This truly was not giving honor to God and to his word. For it ought to have occurred to the mind of Jacob that, although Joseph was under his authority, he yet sustained a prophetic character. It is probable, when he saw his sons so malevolent, that he wished to meet the danger by feigning what he did not feel: for he was not offended at the dream, but he was unwilling to exasperate the minds of those who, on account of their pride, would not bear to be in subjection. Therefore I do not doubt that he feignedly reproved his son, from a desire to appease contention. Nevertheless, this method of pretending to be adverse to the truth, when we are endeavoring to appease the anger of those who rage against it, is by no means approved by God. He ought rather ingenuously to have exhorted his sons not to “kick against the pricks.” Or at least he should have used this moderate address, “If this is a common dream, let it be treated with ridicule rather than with anger; but if it has proceeded from God, it is wicked to speak against it.” It is even possible that the unsuitableness of the dream had struck the mind of the old man. For we know how difficult it is entirely to throw off all sense of superiority. Certainly, though Jacob declines slightly from the right course, yet his piety appears to be of no common order; because his reverence for the oracle so easily prevailed over every other feeling. But the most wicked obstinacy betrays itself in his sons, seeing they break out into greater enmity. For though they despise the dream, yet they are not made angry about nothing. Gladly would they have had their brother as a laughing-stock; but a certain secret sense of the Deity constrains them, so that, with or against their will, they are compelled to feel that there is something authentic in the dream. Meanwhile, a blind ferocity impels them to an unintentional resistance against God. Therefore, that we may be held in obedience to God, let us learn to bring down our high spirits; because the beginning of docility is for men to submit to be brought into order. This obstinacy in the sons of Jacob was most censurable, because they not only rejected the oracle of God through their hatred of subjection, but were hostile to his messenger and herald. How much less excusable, then, will be our hardness, if we do not meekly submit our necks to the yoke of God; since the doctrine of humility, which subdues and even mortifies us, is not only more clearly revealed, but also confirmed by the precious blood of Christ? If, however, we see many refractory persons at this day, who refuse to embrace the gospel, and who perversely rise up against it, let us not be disturbed as by some new thing, seeing that the whole human race is infected with the disease of pride; for by the gospel all the glory of the flesh is reduced to nothing; rather let us know that all remain obstinate, except those who are rendered meek by the subduing influence of the Spirit.

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