It is understandable, though not excusable, that Jacob would favor Joseph. Joseph was the son he had long sought from the wife he truly loved born in a time of great adversity in his life. But that special favor bestowed on Joseph served only to alienate him from his brothers. Of all people, Jacob should have understood that favoritism in the family by the parents can only lead to hurt feelings and betrayal.
The jealousy his brothers felt toward him was aggravated by Joseph’s own actions, albeit unintentionally. Besides the coat of many colors–which may have signified to them that their father had greater hopes for his favored son than just being well dressed–his report to their father of their evil actions further strained their weakened feelings of brotherly love. Then, his repeating his God-inspired dreams agitated his brothers’ feelings to the breaking point.
But in these things Joseph does not appear to have been malicious. When he brought back the evil report to their father he was simply relating the truth. When he repeated the inspired dreams, he was speaking only what God had revealed, not trying to goad his brethren. But sometimes, the truth is not easily accepted. Sometimes the truth even hurts. Paul had to ask the Galatians Christians, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). Even our Lord said that the world hated Him because He testified that it’s works were evil (John 7:7).
As Joseph was coming to his brethren, they colluded how they might take his life. How lonely and tragic it must be to have your own brethren despise you so much they want to kill you, especially when you have done nothing amiss. The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but Joseph must have heard their very hateful remarks as they forcefully stripped him of his robe and cast him into a pit. What kind of jealousy can lead to this kind of treatment? They were so calloused that they then sat down to eat (Gen. 37:25).
Our Lord must have felt so very alone when He came unto His own and they received Him not. Indeed, not only did they not receive Him but actively sought His destruction (e.g., John 7:1). He was scourged, mocked, had a crown of thorns crushed on His head, smitten with their hands, humiliated, despised and rejected of men, bruised, and spit upon. Even while in the last, agonizing moments on the cross, the crowds jeered Him. His loneliness was manifested when He cried out upon the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). All for simply speaking the truth.
Joseph faced many temptations and trials in his life and he persevered through each of them. Surely nothing could have been harder on his faith in God than having his brethren reject him and seek his death or sell him. But he also faced the temptation with Potiphar’s wife. He faced the temptation of being thrown into prison for something he did not do. He faced the trial of seemingly haven been forgotten about in prison. But through it all Joseph kept his faith in Jehovah and he kept his life pure. I know of no negative thing that is written about Joseph.
Through these series of humbling incidents, Joseph went from the pit to power. He was sold and imprisoned but was ultimately raised to be second only to Pharaoh over Egypt (Gen. 41:40,41). How like our Lord Who was rejected but then exalted by the Father to His own right hand. The life of Jesus was truly pure for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Joseph’s trust in God is clear all the way through the account of his life. In the end, after all is said and done, while his brothers cower in fear for any retaliation Joseph might take, Joseph humbly forgives them all. Just as our Lord said while on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”(Luke 24:34). Joseph saw his life in terms of God’s providence. While his brothers “thought evil against” him, Joseph said “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20).
The life of Joseph, and hopefully ours, is one of purity, perseverance and and trust on God’s providence.
Eric L. Padgett