Joseph, the Favored Son
"Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him" (Gen. 37:1-4).

Jacob grew up in a family where there was favoritism, and such did not turn out to be a good thing. Evidently, he has not learned from his past since he gives special treatment to his own son Joseph. His brothers take notice of this and despise Joseph, always speaking unkindly to him. Although it is traditionally taught that Joseph received a coat of many colors from his father, this may not be completely accurate. He certainly received some sort of long-sleeved coat, but whether it had many colors or not is uncertain in the Hebrew text. Most likely it was a garment more suitable for overseeing than it was for hard physical labor, since this is the position Jacob reserved for his favored son.

"Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, 'Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 'There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.' And his brothers said to him, 'Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?' So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words" (Gen. 37:5-8).

With Joseph at 17 years of age, many of his older brothers would have been in their early 20s. They did not like the special treatment their father gave to Joseph or the special role he gave him (i.e., bringing back reports concerning the older brothers to Israel). They particularly rejected him for his dreams he shared with them--dreams wherein he ruled over them. As Joseph's life unfolds during the remaining chapters of Genesis, it is easy to see his faithfulness to God. He was a very godly man. However, on this occasion at least, he may have lacked good judgment. What purpose was served by announcing dreams of this nature to those who already hated him? Surely Joseph could perceive that he was agitating his ten older half-brothers, yet he continued sharing his dreams of dominion over his family. Did Joseph's pride contribute toward causing his upcoming struggles?

"Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, 'Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.' So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to earth before you?' And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind" (Gen. 37:9-11). Another of Joseph's dreams is shared with his family. His brothers envied him and his father rebuked him (though he did reflect upon the matter). As stated above, perhaps Joseph would have been better off keeping these dreams to himself. On the other hand, however, the rest of his life shows the fulfillment of these dreams! His brothers would bow down to him. Thus, these dreams seem to have their origin with God; they would come true! Perhaps God wanted them shared by Joseph. Regardless, his dreams would get him in serious trouble with his brothers, which we will consider in our next lesson.