Genesis 37: Lessons Regarding Jesus From Joseph’s Initial Favored Status and Later Humiliation

Introduction: Genesis Chapter 37 continues the story of the sad moral decline of Jacob’s family. This moral decline was rooted in Jacob’s own deceit and his favoritism toward Rachel and Joseph. Jacob’s failure to react to Dinah’s rape was the final straw that caused the family to splinter. Simeon and Levi then misused God’s name to commit mass murder in the city of Shechem. All of his sons then looted the city and kidnapped the woman and children. Reuben, the firstborn, then showed his contempt for Jacob by sleeping with his concubine Bilhah. Instead of reconciling his family, Jacob poured fuel on the fire by anointing the second youngest Joseph as the future leader of the family. Joseph then sinned by acting with arrogance towards his brothers. Against this backdrop, Jacob’s other sons seethed with envy. They plotted to kill Joseph. Then, out of greed, they sold him into slavery. The family would continue its decline for another 22 years until Joseph reunited the family in Egypt. The events in this story are real. But Joseph’s favored status and his later humiliation foreshadowed Jesus in seven ways.

First, Joseph’s brothers resented him for his anointed status. In a similar way, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day resented Him for the anointed status that the Heavenly Father bestowed upon Him. Second, God gave Joseph a dream that his family would one day bow to him. This would be fulfilled in Egypt. This also foreshadows the day when all of God’s people will bow down to Jesus. Third, God gave Joseph a second dream where all the world bowed to him. This foreshadows the time when all creation will confess Jesus as Lord. Fourth, as his representative, Jacob sent Joseph out to find his missing brothers. As God the Father’s representative, Jesus also came to find the people who were lost to sin. Fifth, out of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him. In a similar way, the religious leaders conspired out of jealousy to kill Jesus. Sixth, out of greed, Joseph was betrayed for a few silver shekels, given to his enemies, and humiliated. In a similar way, Jesus was betrayed for a few silver shekels, given to his enemies, and humiliated. Finally, Joseph would be taken for dead, yet rise again to save his family. Jesus would also be taken for dead. But He would also rise again to save His family of believers.

1. Christ was Hated for the Special Anointing that God the Father Gave Him. Gen. 37:1-4.

  • Joseph’s brothers’ hatred toward him because their father favored him. Jacob favored his now deceased wife Rachel over his other wives. He also favored his two sons through Rachel, Joseph, and Benjamin. This caused the other sons to become jealous and hate the older son Joseph: “1 Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” (Gen. 37:1-4). These events all foreshadowed Christ.

Joseph’s father Jacob gave him a special coat to show his favored status1

  • Jesus was also favored by His Father. Just as Jacob favored Joseph (the man who would bring salvation to the family), God the Father favored Jesus as the man who would bring salvation to His adopted children: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Is. 42:1; Matt. 12:18; 17:5). “This my son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11). “Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”’ (Lk. 9:35). “For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’—” (2 Pet. 1:17). “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” (John 5:20). “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:35). Are you following the Father’s example by giving Jesus your love?

  • Jesus also came and gave a bad report and urged all to repent. In this account, Joseph gave a “bad report” to his father about his brothers’ sins (Gen. 27:2). Jesus also came and gave a bad report of the sins that He observed. Thus, He warned people of their need to repent. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 4:17). “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mk. 1:14-15). Just as there were none who were righteous within Jacob’s family, there are no righteous people outside of Christ. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). Have you responded to Jesus’ bad report by repenting of your sins?

  • Jesus was hated because He exposed sin. Just as the brothers hated Joseph for exposing their sins, people hated Jesus because He exposed their sins. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20).

  • Jesus was also hated by His people out of jealousy. Just as Joseph’s brothers hated him out of jealousy, the religious leaders hated Jesus out of jealousy. “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Is. 53:3). “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11).

  • Jesus will also wear a coat of royalty. Joseph wore a coat of many colors that his father made for him (Gen. 27:3). The coat signaled to his brothers that he was anointed by their father to be the leader of the family. Some commentators believe that Joseph had in fact been appointed the leader at this point. Even in His human form, Jesus’ common garments had enough power to heal a woman of faith from a long-term bleeding disorder (Mk. 6:56). When He comes again, His royal coat will be brightly colored with His blood (Rev. 19:13).

  • Although God had a right to favor Jesus, Jacob had no right to favor one son over others. Although Joseph’s favored status foreshadowed Jesus, that did not justify Jacob’s favoritism. Jesus was God the Father’s only son (John 1:18; 3:16). By contrast, Joseph was one of 12 sons. By favoring one son, Jacob created resentment within the family. Jacob never loved Leah or her children. When Jacob felt that he was about to be attacked by Esau and his 400 men, he showed a disregard for Bilhah, Zilpah, Leah, and their children by placing them in front of Rachel and Joseph to protect them in the event of a family massacre: “He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.” (Gen. 33:2). When Dinah the daughter of Leah was raped, he also showed no emotion and did nothing to free her (Gen. 34:5-7). Jacob had experienced the pain of watching his father Isaac favor Esau over him. He then saw Esau’s grudge after Isaac blessed him: “So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”’ (Gen. 27:41). Jacob knew better than to favor one child over others.

2. Christ is the Messiah and the King of the Jews. Gen. 37:5-8.

  • Joseph’s first dream of ruling over the 12 tribes. At age 17, God gave Joseph a prophetic dream that he would rule over his brothers. This caused his brothers to hate him even more: “Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” (Gen. 37:5-8). In his dream, Joseph was the sheaf that stood erect. His brothers were the sheaves that bowed to him.

Joseph’s dream of sheaves of wheat bowing to him2

  • Jesus will one day become King of all the Jews. Just as Joseph would become the leader of the 12 tribes, Jesus became the leader of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus agreed with Pontius Pilote that He was “King of the Jews.” (Matt. 27:11; Mk. 15:2; Lk. 23:3). All four gospels record that the Romans prophetically then wrote that Jesus was the “King of the Jews” at the cross (Matt. 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk. 23:38; John 19:19). After His resurrection, the 11 remaining disciples (like Joseph’s eleven brothers) bowed to Him (Matt. 28:16-17). Eventually, all the tribes will bow to Him: ‘“For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things.”’ (Ezek. 20:40). “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.” (Ezek. 37:24). “From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.” (Ps. 78:71). “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Is. 40:11).

3. Christ is Also the King of Kings, Ruler Over All of Creation. Gen. 37:9-11.

  • Joseph’s second dream of rule over the nations. God also gave Joseph a second dream to confirm and expand upon the first. In his second dream, all the nations bowed down to Joseph. This caused his brothers to be filled with even greater jealousy: “Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ 10 He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?’ 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.” (Gen. 37:9-11). The second dream confirmed the first dream. The family interpreted the sun, moon, and eleven stars as representative of his father, his mother and his eleven brothers (Gen. 37:10). At this time, Rachel had passed away (Gen. 35:19). The famous Jewish commentator Rashi argues that Jacob rejected the dream for this reason. Others believe that the moon represented Bilhah, Rachael’s maidservant, who most likely raised Joseph and Benjamin after Rachel’s death. Although Jacob initially rebuked Joseph, he then “kept the saying in mind.” (Gen. 37:11). Jacob was no stranger to prophecy. He realized that the dream would ultimately fulfill Isaac’s blessing to him of his brother and nations bowing to him and his descendants: “May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.” (Gen. 27:29).

Lucas van Leyden 1494 – 1533 (Joseph tells his dreams to Jacob) (engraving 1512)3

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) “Joseph tells his dreams to Jacob” (painting 1633)4

  • Jesus will one day also be exalted above all the nations. Just as all the nations would eventually bow down to Joseph, all the nations will eventually bow down to Jesus as the King of Kings. Joseph’s second prophecy is directly connected to Christ in the book of Revelation: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;” (Rev. 12:1). “For it is written, ‘As I live, Says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’” (Rom. 14:11; Is. 45:23; Phil. 2:11). “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” (Ps. 86:9). “And let all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him.” (Ps. 72:11). “The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham, for the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.” (Ps. 47:9). ‘“And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the LORD.” (Is. 66:23). ‘“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”’ (Rev. 15:4). Jesus may be your Savior. But is He also your Lord?

  • Where Joseph sinned and differed from Jesus. Joseph foreshadowed Jesus. But he was not Jesus. He was a man of great honesty and moral virtue. But he was still a flawed sinner. The potter would still have to mold him by taking everything from him before he would be ready to be a servant leader. While Joseph accurately recounted what God showed him, he gave no credit to God. He also failed to show compassion toward his brothers. He further recounted God’s revelation knowing that he was going to antagonize his brothers. Believers should never speak God’s Word to hurt others. Instead, believers must speak the Word out of love to restore others: “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Eph. 4:15). God should also receive the credit for all your blessings. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Ja. 1:17).

4. Christ Came to Earth in Search of His Lost Sheep, Aided by the Spirit. Gen. 37:12-17.

  • Joseph’s search for his brothers. Acting as Jacob’s representative in his advanced age, Joseph searched Shechem and then Dothan for his missing brothers. An unknown man (who foreshadowed the Spirit), guided him to his missing brothers: “12 Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.’ And he said to him, ‘I will go.’ 14 Then he said to him, ‘Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ 16 He said, ‘I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.’ 17 Then the man said, ‘They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.” (Gen. 37:12-17). Jacob sent Joseph out from Hebron. This symbolized a messenger being sent out from God’s house. David would first establish his rule there (2 Sam. 2:1-4). Joseph went out to Shechem to look for his brothers. It was there where his brothers sinned by murdering the people of Shechem and by stealing their property, wives, and children (Gen. 34:25-29). Centuries later, Jeroboam began his rebellion there against the monarchy established by David (1 Kgs. 12:1-25).

  • Like Joseph, Jesus came for those lost to sin. Joseph responded promptly to His father’s request with the words “I will go.” (Gen. 37:13). Just as Joseph went out to find his lost brothers, Jesus went out to find His people who were lost to sin: “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matt. 15:24). “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lk. 19:10). “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.” (Ezek. 34:12). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17). He went out knowing that His mission would result in His humiliation and then His brutal death at the cross (Matt. 16:21).

  • Jesus also wants you to help find the lost. The great leaders of the Bible all promptly responded to God’s calling. When God called to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Samuel, each responded with the identical words “Here I am.” (Gen. 22:1, 11 [Abraham] 31:11; 46:2; [Jacob / Israel] Ex. 3:4; [Moses] 1 Sam. 3:4 [Samuel]). When God later called out looking for someone to be His messenger, Isaiah, he responded: ‘“Here am I. Send me!’” (Is. 6:8(b)). Jesus also called upon His disciples to look for the lost sheep of Israel: “but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 10:6-7). He also wants you to proclaim the good news and disciple others (Matt. 28:16-20). Will you also respond “Here am I. Send me?”

  • As he did for Joseph, the Holy Spirit will also guide you. When Joseph could not find his brothers, an unidentified “man” guided him (Gen. 37:15-15). Some Jews believe that the man was an angel (Gen. Rab. 84.14). The Helper will also guide you when you serve Jesus by looking for His lost sheep (John 14:26; 15:26). “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide your path? (Ps. 119:105: Ja. 1:5).

5. Out of Jealousy, the Jews Conspired to Kill Jesus. Gen. 37:18-20.

  • The brothers’ plot to kill Joseph. When the brothers saw Joseph approaching, they plotted out of jealousy and hatred to kill him: “18 When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 19 They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer! 20 Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!’” (Gen. 37:18-20). “For even your brothers and the household of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you, even they have cried aloud after you. Do not believe them, although they may say nice things to you.” (Jer. 12:6). “My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which vanish,” (Job 6:15). “I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother’s sons.” (Ps. 69:8).

  • Jesus’ people also conspired to kill Him. Just as Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him out of jealousy, Jesus’ people also conspired to kill Him out of jealousy: “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:33; Matt. 16:21; Lk. 9:22). “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (Matt. 12:14; Mk. 14:1).

6. Jesus Was Betrayed, Given to His Enemies and Humiliated. Gen. 37:21-28.

  • The brothers sell Joseph into slavery. The firstborn Reuben convinced the brothers not to kill Joseph. They instead sold him into slavery: “21 But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, ‘Let us not take his life.’ 22 Reuben further said to them, ‘Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. 23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; 24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come and 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 listened to him. 28 Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.” (Gen. 37:21-28). Reuben most likely carried guilt from his shame in defiling his father’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). But his later actions establish that his motive was to restore his name. When he later found that his brothers had sold Joseph, he stayed silent to protect his name. He was born to lead. But sin had compromised his ability to lead others. If you are sinning, others will be less likely to respect you when you try to lead. They will call you a hypocrite. The brothers thought they could avoid the guilt of murder under the law given to Noah by letting Joseph starve to death in an empty cistern (Gen. 9:6). They acted like the Pharisees who twisted the meaning of the law in Jesus’ day. Centuries later, the Jews would also try to kill God’s prophet Jeremiah by placing him in an empty cistern (Jer. 38:9). It was only Judah’s geed that saved Joseph. Like Judas, Judah betrayed Joseph for a few silver shekels. Jesus later clarified that a person who hates has already committed murder in His eyes (Matt. 5:21-3). Do you hold hatred toward any person who has wronged you?

  • Jesus’ enemies cast lots for His garments. Before throwing him in the pit, the brothers took Joseph’s coat (Gen. 37:23). By Jewish tradition, the brothers cast lots for the coat: “they cast lots over it, as to who should carry it to their father. The lot fell to Judah.” (Genesis Rabbah 84:8; quoted in First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Vayeshev, (2016) p. 183). This foreshadowed how Jesus’ enemies cast lots for His garments. “So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be’; this was to fulfill the Scripture: ‘They divided My outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”’ (John 19:24; Ps. 22:18).

  • Like Joseph, Jesus’ enemies feasted while he was in the pit. After throwing Joseph into the pit, the brothers callously ate the food that Joseph brought from their father (Gen. 37:25). This foreshadowed the Passover feast at Jesus’ death. On the 14th day of Nisan, the Passover lamb was slaughtered in the ninth hour (3:00 pm), counting from 6:00 am (Num. 28:16; Lev. 23:5; Ex. 12:6). On the 14th day of the ninth hour of this same month Jesus also died (Matt. 27:45-50; 28:1; Mark 15:29; John 2:19). Like Joseph’s brothers, the entire assembly participated in the sacrifice of the innocent lamb: “. . . . then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” (Ex. 12:6). The “people of the community of Israel” were to slaughter the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:46). Jesus was also put to death by the people of the community of Israel: “Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Crucify Him!’” (Matt. 27:22). The Jews were also commanded to eat the Passover sacrifice without delay (Ex. 12:10-11). The Jews noted that while the brothers ate the bread that Joseph gave them, Joseph would later bring bread to the known world of that area (Gen. Rab. 84.17). In a similar way, Jesus’ sacrifice would provide the bread of life that would allow all across the world to survive (John 6:35).

Joseph’s brothers cast him into a pit5

  • Jesus was given to His enemies and humiliated. Just as Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and humiliated him, Jesus was also given over to His enemies and humiliated: “Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, to the despised One, to the One abhorred by the nation, to the Servant of rulers, ‘Kings will see and arise, princes will also bow down, because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.” (Is. 49:7). “Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.” (Ps. 31:11). “You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You.” (Ps. 69:19; 22:6).

Joseph is sold into slavery6

  • Jesus was also betrayed by one for money. Judah sold Joseph into slavery for a mere 20 silver shekels (Gen. 37:26-27). In a similar way, Judas betrayed Jesus for a mere 30 silver shekels. “Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.’” (Matt. 26:14-15). The collective betrayal price was 50 silver shekels. In the Bible, 50 is the number of divine revelation. It was a 50-day march between Egypt and Mount Horeb where the Jews went to receive the Ten Commandments. It was also a 50-day wait between Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus reveals that He was betrayed for money to give you riches in Him that are beyond comparison.

7. Jesus Would Be Taken For Dead, Yet Rise Again to Save His People. Gen. 37:29-36.

  • The sons’ deceit in claiming Joseph’s death to their father. In the same way that Jacob had deceived his father with an animal skin, Jacob’s sons used a goat to deceive him into believing that his son had died: “29 Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. 30 He returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?’ 31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; 32 and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, ‘We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.’ 33 Then he examined it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!’ 34 So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, 'Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.” (Gen. 37:29-36). Jacob’s sons sold Joseph to the Midianites. Midian was the fourth son of Abraham through his concubine Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2). Midianite women later seduced a large number of Jews to worship their god Baal through temple prostitution (Nu. 31:1-54). During the time of the judges when Israel turned away from God, He allowed the Midianites to pillage the Promised Land for the Jews’ food resources for seven years (Jdgs. 6:1-6). They were real people. Yet, they also symbolized the flesh, which seeks to enslave you.

Diego Rodríguez da Silva y Velázquez (1599 – 1660) “Joseph's Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob” (painting 1630)7

Arent de Gelder (1645 – 1727) “Joseph's bloodstained coat is shown to Jacob” (1662)8

  • Reuben’s discovery of Joseph’s empty pit after three days also foreshadowed Jesus. By Jewish tradition, Joseph remained in the pit for three days until he was taken away (Testament of Zebulun 6:4; First Fruits of Zion p. 181). Jesus also remained in the pit for three days until His Resurrection. When Reuben returned, he found Joseph’s pit to be empty (Gen. 37:29). On the Sunday following Jesus’ death, Mary Magdalene came to His tomb and found the stone rolled away and His body was missing (Lk. 24:1-3; John 20:1). The disciples John and Peter then ran to the tomb and also found it empty (Lk. 24:5-6).

  • Like Joseph, Jesus’ escape from the pit brought good news to the world. Joseph did not see the hand of God at the time his brothers betrayed him. Indeed, the brothers later confessed that Joseph pleaded for his life while they callously ate the meal that he brought them: “Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.”’ (Gen. 42:21). By contrast, Jesus offered no defense when he was led to the slaughter. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Is. 53:7; Mk. 14:61). Joseph’s first report regarding his brothers was bad. (Gen. 27:2). Yet, in Joseph’s final report, He revealed God’s plan to save Jacob’s family and many others through their evil acts. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 50:29). Jesus likewise died to bring good news to all who believe.

  • Like Joseph, Jesus had to suffer for God’s plan to be revealed. Joseph would suffer many years as God molded him and prepared him for the great task that awaited him. His suffering allowed the family to be reunited and healed. It also brought food to a region that otherwise would have starved. Jesus’ suffering also served a purpose. He suffered so that you won’t have to: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24). Likewise, you should count it a joy when He uses your suffering to mold you. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Ja. 1:2). Do you complain about your trials?

  • The goat blood foreshadowed Jesus’ sin offering with His blood. The brothers dipped Joseph’s coat in goat blood to deceive Jacob (Gen. 37:31). In the Bible, the goat was a symbol of sin. During Yom Kippur, the sins of the people were cast upon two goats. One was killed, and the other was sent out with the nation's sins into the world (Lev. 16:8-22). Like Joseph’s coat, the sins of the world were cast onto Jesus. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). He also came to take away your sins: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (John 1:29). Like Joseph’s garment, Jesus’ garments in heaven are dripped in blood. “He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God.” (Rev. 19:13).

  • Jacob reaped the fruit of his own deceit. Jacob used goatskins to deceive his father Isaac (Gen. 27:14-16). In the same way, his children used clothes and the blood from a goat to deceive Jacob (Gen. 37:31). He reaped the fruit of his own deceit (Gal. 6:7). Your sins will not cause you to lose your salvation. But there are still consequences for sin. God transformed Jacob and called him Israel (Gen. 35:10). Yet, his family suffered many years for his mistakes and his favoritism. Are you doing things that might punish your children?

  • God can use your mistakes for His glory. Some might find no redeeming value in Jacob’s family. But God can use even a mistake for His glory (Rom. 8:28). If Christ had not died for our sins, there would have been no way for you to have eternal life. Joseph’s sacrifice was also necessary to save his family and the line leading to Jesus. “We can thank God for His great plan. If Joseph’s brothers never sell him to the Midianites, then Joseph never goes to Egypt. If Joseph never goes to Egypt, he never is sold to Potiphar. If he is never sold to Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape. If Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape, then he is never put in prison. If he is never put in prison, he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh. If he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh, he never interprets their dreams. If he never interprets their dreams, he never gets to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. If he never gets to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, he never is made prime minister. If he is never made prime minister, he never wisely administrates for the severe famine coming upon the region. If he never wisely administers for the severe famine coming upon the region, then his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine. If his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine, the Messiah can’t come forth from a dead family. If the Messiah can’t come forth, then Jesus never came. If Jesus never came, you are dead in your sins and without hope in this world.” (David Guzik on Gen. 37).9

  • God’s grace in using Judah to be the line leading to the Messiah. As stated above, Rueben lost his first-born status after he slept with Abraham’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). The second and third sons, Simeon and Levi, also lost their chance to be the first-born of the family by their brutal murder of the people Shechem in God’s name, their refusal to repent and their disrespect of their father (Gen. 34:25-29). The first-born status then fell to Judah. Yet, Judah showed himself in this chapter and in the next chapter to be unworthy of this honor. None of the brothers deserved to be the founding members of the nations of Israel. It was only by God’s mercy and grace that God selected them. This should also give you hope. If God can use flawed sinners like the family of Jacob to be His chosen people, He can use you as well. Are you allowing your past sins to be an excuse from serving Him? Likewise, if someone has repented of their sins, are you judging them and holding them back?