SOAP Journal – 13 October 2016 (Genesis 37:11)

His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying [in mind].

Genesis 37:11

Joseph is, at this point in the story, around seventeen. He is his father’s favorite and that favoritism causes trouble in the family. Joseph’s brothers cannot even talk with him on friendly terms. To make matters more difficult for Joseph, he has these dreams that he feels the need to talk about with others. I could speculate about why he feels that need, but there is no real point in that speculation. He tells them and his sharing stirs up still more resentment. His second dream even gets Jacob a bit on edge, but this verse tells me that he (Jacob) also took the dream seriously.

The dream that had everyone in a tizzy involved the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing to Joseph. Jacob interprets the dream, so I do not have to wonder why everyone was so upset. The sun is representative of Jacob, the moon of his mother, and the stars of his brothers. Since Rachel — Joseph’s mother — would have been dead once Joseph had eleven brothers, the whole thing feels strange to me. Does mother there refer to Leah or to one of the maids or what? The text is silent, so I will not theorize. Joseph’s brothers are upset that Joseph is having dreams that subordinate them to him. Even Jacob is a bit miffed.

And none of them is in the wrong, here. In the ancient world, the lesser — which was often synonymous with the younger — served the greater — or elder. To bow before someone was a sign of submission and to have one’s own father submit to him … well, that is a stretch even in the modern world. But Jacob keeps mulling this dream over. Dreams were taken seriously, especially when they came from a source such as Joseph. There is nothing in the text to suggest that he was anything but humble. I read the whole dream overshare incident and wonder, but it could just be a desire to understand the dream. I have had some strange dreams in my time and wondered what they were all about. Sometimes I chalk them up to something I ate. Other times, they have helped me puzzle through things. And every once in a while, I have had dreams that told me what was going to happen. Back to Joseph.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. And why should they not be? Their brother is dad’s favorite and he is having these dreams that elevate him above them. They can dismiss these dreams as ego — and they do — but their jealousy makes clear that their apparent dismissal was shallow. Joseph’s father, who had openly rebuked him, kept the saying [in mind]. Jacob kept thinking this thing over. Jacob had more than a few visions and dreams in his time, so it makes perfect sense to me that he would hear a prescient dream and it would still in his mental craw.

There will be times that my brothers — both my blood relatives and the family of faith — will be tempted to be jealous of what God is doing in my life. Likewise, there will be times when I am tempted to be jealous of what God is doing in their lives. I must resist the temptation. Like Joseph, God works things in the lives of all of His children to produce good things for as many as possible.

Father, thank You that You work good things in and through all of Your children. Please make me mindful of this. Please make me like Jacob (in this instance) who kept the thing in mind and focused on trying to understand Your plan and purpose, rather than becoming jealous.

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