Chapter 37 begins the final section of the Book of Genesis. Having moved from Abraham, to Isaac, and then to Jacob; we now have before us the life of the final patriarch: Joseph. The story of Joseph’s life is an utterly fascinating biography in and of itself, but it becomes even more remarkable when we begin to compare elements of it with the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The parallels between the two lives and the symbolism from Joseph’s story which point directly to our Lord are staggering.
Joseph is a savior, he is a redeemer, he is a deliverer. He is all of these things, yet only in part. Joseph extends mercy to those who have shown him none, he provides life for those who are at the point of death. The lives of his brothers and even his own father will eventually be in Joseph’s hand. He is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, but not a duplicate — as indeed no one ever could be. He saves his family from starvation, but not from their sins; he delivers them from a great famine in Canaan, but does not deliver them again to the Land of Promise; he offers the redemption of their bodies from the horrible fate of dying from hunger, yet he himself eventually succumbs to death, as all men must, and leaves instructions for his own bones to be returned to the land of Canaan at the Exodus (Gen. 50:25). Joseph is, after all, human — a servant of the Lord — and he does as all good servants of the Lord in pointing out that it is by the hand of God that ultimate Salvation, Deliverance, and Redemption are achieved (Gen. 50:24).
But let us begin at the very beginning of Joseph’s story. Before Joseph reigned as the “Prime Minister” of Egypt, he was just a young, wide-eyed boy who tended to his father’s sheep. But even at the beginning, the parallels between his and the Lord Jesus’ life begin to manifest.
“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.” (Genesis 37:3)
Both Jesus and Joseph were loved by their fathers. Jacob had a special place in his heart for Joseph because he was the first-born son of Rachel, Jacob’s dearest love. With Rachel now passed away, it is easy to imagine how much Jacob doted on Joseph and Benjamin. There also seems to be a purity and innocence in Joseph that further endeared him to his father’s heart. What we have read about the older sons of Jacob thus far (not to mention what follows in this chapter) leaves little to admire about their behavior. From the fornication of Reuben with his father’s concubine to the blood-thirsty vengeance of Levi and Simeon, we see that these are definitely men of the flesh. But Joseph is honest, Joseph is pure. He reports to his father the misdeeds of his brethren as he works beside them (Gen. 37:2). It seems that he was a faithful steward of his father’s possessions while his brothers were not.
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20)
“And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Genesis 37:4)
There is an innate tendency within the flesh to hate and despise those who are pure, those who are holy, those who behave righteously. And there is always a hatred from those who are rejected toward those who are approved. As Cain despised Abel, so Joseph’s brothers despised him. Jacob adorned his beloved son in a special garment, a coat of many colors. Doubtless this ever-present reminder of their father’s unveiled favoritism further inflamed their rage toward Joseph.
“And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” (Mark 6:2-3)
“And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.” (Genesis 37:5)
So often there is a feeling of resentment toward those through whom God works in a special or unusual way. Especially by those most familiar with that person. What is so special about them that God would choose to impart Divine wisdom or enable them to prophesy? Why would the Lord choose to gift them in a particular way? It is easy to accept that God would bestow a special gift upon a mysterious stranger from afar, but those in our own family? Those who live in our own town; people we have known our whole life? The brothers of Joseph had to have been wondering what was so remarkable about their little brother that God would raise him to rule over them all. Thus they hated him all the more.