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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.

18. And when they saw him afar off. Here again Moses, so far from sparing the fame of his own family by adulation, brands its chiefs with a mark of eternal infamy, and exposes them to the hatred and execration of all nations. If, at any time, among heathens, a brother murdered his brother, such impiety was treated with the utmost severity in tragedies, that it might not pass into an example for imitation. But in profane history no such thing is found, as that nine brethren should conspire together for the destruction of an innocent youth, and, like wild beasts, should pounce upon him with bloody hands. Therefore a horrible, and even diabolical fury, took possession of the sons of Jacob, when, having cast aside the sense of nature, they were thus prepared cruelly to rage against their own blood.

But, in addition to this wickedness, Moses condemns their impious contempt of God, Behold this master of dreams. For why do they insult the unhappy youth, except because he had been called by the celestial oracle to an unexpected dignity? Besides, in this manner, they themselves proclaim their own baseness more publicly than any one could do, who should purposely undertake severely to chastise them. They confess that the cause why they persecuted their brother was his having dreamed; as if truly this ass an inexpiable offense; but if they are indignant at his dreams, why do they not rather wage war with God? For Joseph deemed it necessary to receive, as a precious deposit, what had been divinely revealed unto him. But because they did not dare directly to assail God, they wrap themselves in clouds, that, losing sight of God, they may vent their fury against their brother. If such blindness seized upon the patriarchs, what shall become of the reprobates, whom obstinate malice drives along, so that they do not hesitate to resist God even to the last? And we see that they willingly disturb and excite themselves, as often as they are offended with the threatenings and chastisements of God, and rise up against his ministers for the sake of taking vengeance. The same thing, indeed, would at times happen to us all, unless God should put on his bridle to render us submissive. With respect to Joseph, the special favor of God was manifested to him, and he was raised to the highest dignity; but only in a dream, which is ridiculed by the wicked scorn of his brethren. To this is also added a conspiracy, so that he narrowly escaped death. Thus the promise of God, which had exalted him to honor, almost plunges him into the grave. We, also, who have received the gratuitous adoption of God amidst many sorrows, experience the same thing. For, from the time that Christ gathers us into his flock, God permits us to be cast down in various ways, so that we seem nearer hell than heaven. Therefore, let the example of Joseph be fixed in our minds, that we be not disquieted when many crosses spring forth to us from the root of God’s favor. For I have before showed, and the thing itself clearly testifies, that in Joseph was adumbrated, what was afterwards more fully exhibited in Christ, the Head of the Church, in order that each member may form itself to the imitation of his example.

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