Last week we began looking at the life of Joseph. And while he’s a fairly well-known character of the Bible, he’s not really famous because of anything he did. Not like David who is famous for killing Goliath or Noah who built the ark or Joshua who conquered Jericho. Even though Joseph did some notable things, none of those accomplishments were really his claim to fame. Instead, Joseph’s fame mostly came because of something he owned. Something that he was given.
And of course, you guys remember what that was… the coat of many colours or as some translations put it, a beautiful robe.
Joseph was given this beautiful robe by his father, Jacob, and it wasn’t just so that Joseph could look good. It wasn’t just a fashion statement – but rather it was a symbol of the high position and privilege that Joseph enjoyed in the sight of his father.
You’ll remember that Joseph, while younger than his ten older brothers, was the first-born of Jacob’s second (and favorite) wife, Rachel.
It’s a pretty messy family tree, but Jacob had married two sisters as well as their two servants. These two sisters lived in perpetual jealousy of one another because Jacob very clearly loved Rachel (the younger sister), and really only married Leah because he had been tricked by his father-in-law. (It’s a really weird story…)
But in order to try to win Jacob’s love now, these two sisters basically competed with each other by having children – both of them giving their servants to Jacob as additional wives in order to have more kids. So between these four wives, Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter. Joseph was child #10, but he was the first child that Jacob had with Rachel.
Because of this, Jacob loved Joseph far more than any of his other children – and they knew it. It was no secret. In fact, this beautiful robe – the coat of many colours – that Jacob gave to Joseph shouted out just how much higher on the totem pole Joseph was as compared to his brothers.
You see, this robe could be compared to a kingly robe – it wasn’t the sort of clothing that you would wear to go work on the family farm. This was more the clothing of upper management. Jacob gave this to Joseph to elevate him above his brothers – to show the world, really, that Joseph was indeed his favourite and most beloved son.
And of course, this favouritism in the family – evident both with Jacob’s wives as well as their children, couldn’t help but make for some very unpleasant family dynamics. Multiple times we are told that Joseph’s brothers hated him. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
This hatred was further compounded by Joseph’s dreams. You’ll remember that he had two dreams. In the first dream, he was out in the field with his brothers – gathering up bundles of grain – when suddenly, his bundle of grain stood up and all his brother’s bundles came and bowed dow before his bundle.
If that wasn’t enough to make his brothers upset, in the second dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars (representing his father, mother, and his eleven brothers) all bowed down to Joseph.
It seemed pretty clear to everyone that these dreams were insinuating, (that Joseph’s family would one day bow down to him) but it was much less clear how, or if, this would actually become reality.
Joseph’s brothers refused to believe that they would one day bow down to Joseph – and they hated him all the more because of these dreams. Joseph’s father seemed to balk at the idea as well, but he at least considered what these dreams could mean.
And that’s about where we left off last week – with Joseph’s brothers hating him because he was the favorite child, and then hating him more when he got that beautiful robe, and then hating him even more when he had those dreams.
And you know, for a family that would one day grow to be God’s special people – the nation of Israel – this family was pretty messed up. And maybe even that is an encouragement to you this morning. Perhaps you can relate to being in a messed up family – but take heart – if God can do great things with this family – He can do some pretty awesome stuff in yours!
But let’s continue on today see what happens next in this messed up family. We’re going to pick it up in Genesis chapter 37, starting today at verse 12.