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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.

35. And all his sons and daughters rose up. The burden of his grief is more clearly expressed by the circumstance that all his sons and daughters meet together to comfort him. For by the term “rose up,” is implied a common deliberation, they having agreed to come together, because necessity urged them. But hence it appears how vast is the innate dissimulation of men. The sons of Jacob assume a character by no means suitable to them; and perform an office of piety, from which their minds are most alien. If they had had respect unto God, they would have acknowledged their fault, and though no remedy might have been found for their evil, yet repentance would have brought forth some fruit; but now they are satisfied with a vanity as empty as the wind. By this example we are taught how carefully we ought to avoid dissimulation, which continually implicates men in new snares.

But he refused to be comforted. It may be asked, whether Jacob had entirely cast off the virtue of patience: for so much the language seems to mean. Besides, he sins more grievously, because he, knowingly and voluntarily, indulges in grief: for this is as if he would purposely augment his sorrow, which is to rebel against God. But I suppose his refusal to be restricted to that alleviation of grief which man might offer. For nothing is more unreasonable than that a holy man, who, all his life had borne the yoke of God with such meekness of disposition, should now, like an unbroken horse, bite his bridle; in order that, by nourishing his grief, he might confirm himself in unsubdued impetuosity. I therefore do not doubt that he was willing now to submit himself unto the Lord, though he rejects human consolations. He seems also angrily to chide his sons, whose envy and malevolence towards Joseph he knew, as if he would upbraid them by declaring that he esteemed this one son more than all the rest: since he rather desires to be with him, dead in the grave, than to enjoy the society of ten living sons whom he had yet remaining; for I except little Benjamin. I do not, however, here excuse that excess of grief which I have lately condemned. And certainly heproves himself to be overwhelmed with sadness, in speaking of the grave, as if the sons of God did not pass through death to a better life. And hence we learn the blindness of immoderate grief, which almost quenches the light of faith in the saints; so much the more diligent, then, ought we to be in our endeavor to restrain it. Job greatly excelled in piety; yet we see, after he had been oppressed by the magnitude of his grief, in what a profane manner he mixes men with beasts in death. If the angelic minds of holy men were thus darkened by sadness, how much deeper gloom will rest upon us, unless God, by the shining of his word and Spirit, should scatter it, and we also, with suitable anxiety, meet the temptation, before it overwhelms us? The principal mitigation of sorrow is the consolation of the future life; to which whosoever applies himself, need not fear lest he should be absorbed by excess of grief. Now though the immoderate sorrow of Jacob is not to be approved; yet the special design of Moses was, to set a mark of infamy on that iron hardness which cruelly reigned in the hearts of his sons. They saw that, if their father should miserably perish, consumed with grief, they would be the cause of it; in short, they saw that he was already dying through their wickedness. If they are not able to heal the wound, why, at least, do they not attempt to alleviate his pain? Therefore they are exceedingly cruel, seeing that they have not sufficient care of their father’s life, to cause them to drop a single word in mitigation of his sorrow, when it was in their power to do so.

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