Gleanings In Genesis

41. Joseph Betrayed By His Brethren


Genesis 37

"And his brethren went to feed their father's flock In Shechem. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I" (Gen. 37:12, 13).

12. Joseph sent forth by his father. The verses just quoted above introduce to us the second of these marvelous typical scenes in which Joseph shadows forth the Lord Jesus. Here the brethren of Joseph are seen away from their father. Jacob says to his beloved son, "Come, and I will send thee unto them." How this reveals the heart of Jacob to us. He was not indifferent to their welfare. Absent from the father's house as they were, Jacob is concerned for the welfare of these brethren of Joseph. He, therefore, proposes to send his well beloved son on an errand of mercy, seeking their good. And is it not beautiful to mark the promptness of Joseph's response! There was no hesitancy, no unwillingness, no proffering of excuses, but a blessed readiness to do his father's will, "Here am I."

One cannot read of what passed here between Jacob and Joseph without seeing that behind the historical narrative we are carried back to a point before time began, into the eternal counsels of the Godhead, and that we are permitted to learn something of what passed between the Father and the Son in the remote past. As the Lord God with Divine omniscience foresaw the fall of man, and the alienation of the race from Himself, out of the marvelous grace of His heart, He proposed that His beloved Son should go forth on a mission of mercy, seeking those who were away from the Father's House. Hence we read so often of the Son being sent by the Father, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). And blessed it is to know that the Beloved of the Father came forth on His errand of love, freely, willingly, gladly. Like Joseph, He, too, promptly responded, "Here am I." As it is written of Him in Hebrews 10:7, "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God."

13. Joseph seeks the welfare of his brethren. "And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks, and bring me word again" (Gen. 37:14). Joseph could not have been ignorant of his brethren's "envy"; he must have known how they "hated" him; and in view of this, one had not been surprised to find him unwilling to depart on such a thankless errand. But with gracious magnanimity and filial fear he stood ready to depart on the proposed mission.

Two things are to be particularly observed here as bringing out the striking accuracy of this type: First, Joseph is sent forth with a definite object before him—to seek his brethren. When we turn to the Gospels we find the correspondence is perfect. When the Beloved of the Father visited this world, His earthly mission was restricted to His brethren according to the flesh. As we read in John 1:11, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not": His "own" here refers to His own people, the Jews. Again, in Matthew 15:24, it is recorded that the Lord Jesus Himself expressly declared, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." And again, in Romans 15:8, we are told, "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a Minister of the Circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers."

In the second place, observe the character of Joseph's mission: said Jacob," Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren." He was sent not to censure them, but to inquire after their welfare. So, again, it was with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we read in John 3:17, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."

14. Joseph was sent forth from the vale of Hebron: "So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem" (Gen. 37:14). There is no line in this lovely picture, drawn by the Spirit of God, which is without its own distinctive significance. We quote here from the well chosen words of Mr. C. Knapp: "Hebron means fellowship or communion. The vale suggests quiet peacefulness and rest. It was intended, I believe, to point them forward (and point us back) to the fellowship of the Son with the Father in heaven's eternal calm and peace previous to His entrance, at His incarnation, into this scene of sin and toil and sorrow'' (A Fruitful Bough).

The peaceful vale of Hebron, then, was the place where Joseph dwelt in happy fellowship with his father; there he was at home, known, loved, understood. But from this he was sent to a place characterized by strife and blood-shed-ding, unto those who appreciated him not, yea, to those who envied and hated him. Faintly but accurately this tells of the love-passing-knowledge which caused the Lord of Glory to leave His Home above and descend to a hostile realm where they hated Him without a cause.

15. Joseph came to Shechem (Gen. 37:14). The word "Shechem" means "Shoulder," being taken from "the position of the place on the ‘saddle' or ‘shoulder' of the heights which divide the waters there that flow to the Mediterranean on the west and to the Jordan on the east" (Smith's Bible Dictionary). The meaning of this name conforms strictly to the Antitype. The "shoulder" speaks of burden-bearing and suggests the thought of service and subjection. The moral meaning of the term is Divinely defined for us in this very book of Genesis—"and bowed his shoulder to bear and become a servant unto tribute" (Gen. 49:15). How striking it is to read, then, that on leaving his father in the vale of Hebron, Joseph came to Shechem. How marvelously this foreshadowed the place which the Lord of Glory took! Leaving His peaceful place on high, and coming down to this scene of sin and suffering. He took the Servant's place, the place of submission and subjection. As we read in Philippians 2:6, 7, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant." And again in Galatians 4:4, "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." Verily, "Shechem" was the place that the Beloved of the Father came to.

Moreover, is it not significant that Shechem has been mentioned before in the Genesis narrative—see Genesis 34:25-30—especially when we note what occurred there. Shechem was the p]ace of sin and sorrow, of evil passions and blood-shedding. Little wonder that Jacob was anxious about his sons in such a place, and that he sent Joseph to them there to inquire after their welfare. And how what we read of in Genesis 34 well depicts in terse but solemn summary the history of this earth. How aptly and how accurately the scene there portrayed exhibited the character of the place into which the Lord Jesus came. The place which lie took was that of the Servant; the scene into which He came was one of sin and strife and suffering.

16. Joseph now became a Wanderer in the field. "And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him: saying, What seekest thou? And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks" (Gen. 37:15, 16). In His interpretation of the Parable of the Tares, the Lord Jesus said, "the field is the world" (Matthew 13:38). Like Joseph, the Beloved of the Father became a Wanderer, a homeless Stranger in this world. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had their nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay his head. What a touching word is that in John's Gospel, "And every man went unto his own house: Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives" (John 7:53; 8:1). Every other man had his own house to which he could go, but the Lord Jesus, the homeless Wanderer here, must retire to the bleak mountain side. O my soul, bow in wonderment before that matchless grace which causes thy Savior who, though lie was rich, yet He for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich!

17. Joseph seeks until he finds his brethren. "And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren and found them in Dotham" (Gen. 37:17). When Joseph arrived at Shechem he found his brethren gone; they were not there. "Now is his chance to return to Hebron if his heart is not wholly in his mission, Here he has given him a good excuse for turning back and giving up the undertaking. But no; he has no thought of turning back, or giving up the work given him of his father to do" (Mr. K). Thus it was with that blessed One whom Joseph foreshadowed. From start to finish we find Him prompted by unswerving devotion to His Father and unwearied love toward His lost sheep, continuing the painful search until He found them. No seeming failure in His mission, no lack of appreciation in those to whom He ministered, daunted Him. Man might despise and reject Him, those nearest might deem Him "beside Himself"; Peter might cry, "Spare Thyself," yet none of these things turned Him aside from going about His Father's business! A work had been given Him to do, and He would not rest till it was "finished."

"And Joseph went after his brethren." How these words gather up into a brief sentence the whole story recorded in the four Gospels! As the Redeemer went about from place to place, one end only was in view—He was going after His brethren. He enters the synagogue and reads from the prophet Isaiah, and with what object? That His brethren might be reached. He walks by the Sea of Galilee, seeking out those who should walk with Him for a season. He must needs go through Samaria we read; and why? Be cause there were some of His "brethren" in that place. Yes, the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. And, my Christian reader, of what do these words remind you, "Joseph went after his brethren?" Ah, how patiently and untiringly that One of whom Joseph was but a type "went after" you! How many years His unwearied love pursued you; pursued you over the mountains of unbelief and across the precipices of sin! All praise to His marvelous grace.

"And found them in Dothan." Dr. Haldeman tells us that "Dothan" signifies "Law or Custom." "And it was there Jesus found His brethren, dwelling under the bondage of the Law, and slaves to mere religious formalism." Yes, the Law of Jehovah had degenerated into the "customs" of the Pharisees, "Laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the traditions of men" (Mark 9:8), was our Lord's charge against them.

18. Joseph conspired against. "And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him" (Gen. 37:18). The hatred of the brethren found opportunity in the love that sought them. It is striking to notice how that a conspiracy was formed against Joseph "before he drew near unto them." How this reminds us of what happened during the days of our Savior's infancy. No sooner was He born into this world than the enmity of the carnal mind against God displayed itself! A horrible "conspiracy" was hatched by Herod in the attempt to slay the newly born Savior. This was in the days when He was "afar off." Thirty years before He presented Himself publicly to the Jews. The same thing is found again and again during the days of His public ministry. "Then the Pharisees went out and held a council again Him, how they might destroy Him" (Matthew 12:14), may be cited as a sample.

19. Joseph's words disbelieved. "And they said one to another, Behold this dreamer cometh. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, and east him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams" (Gen. 37:19, 20). The prophetic announcement of Joseph seemed unto his brethren as idle tales. They not only hated him, but they refused to believe what he had said. Their skepticism comes out plainly in the wicked proposal, "Let us slay him . . . and we shall see what will become of his dreams." Thus it was with the Christ of God. After He had been nailed to the cross, "they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyed the temple and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise, also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, And we will believe Him "—which was an admission that they did not believe. The Jews believed Him not. His teaching was nothing more to them than empty dreams. So, too, after His death and burial. "The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure" (Matthew 27). When the stone was sealed and the watch was set, the skeptical Pharisees were but saying in effect, "We shall see what will become of His dreams."

And is it any different now in modern Christendom? How do men and women today treat the words of the Faithful and True Witness? Do those who listen to the Gospel give credence to what they hear? Do they set to their seal that God is true? Do they really believe as true the Lord's own words, "He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18)? Ah, unsaved reader, dost thou believe that, that even now the condemnation of a Holy God is resting upon thee? You do not have to wait until the last great day; you do not have to wait until the judgment of the great white throne. No; God's condemnation rest upon thee now. Unspeakably solemn is this. And there is but one way of deliverance. There was but one way of escape for Noah and his family from the flood, and that was to seek refuge in the Ark. And there is but one way of escape from God's condemnation for you, and that is, to flee to Christ, who was Himself condemned in the stead of all who believe on Him. Again: He who was truth incarnate declared, "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). O unsaved friend, if you really believed these words of Him who cannot lie you would not delay another moment. You would not dare to procrastinate any longer. Even now, you would east yourself at His feet, just as you are, as a poor needy and guilty sinner, receiving Him by faith as your own Savior. Treat not, we beseech you, these words of the Son of God as idle tales, but believe them to the saving of your soul.

20. Joseph is insulted. "And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him" (Gen. 37:23). How this brings out the wicked hatred of these men for the one who had come seeking only their welfare. Like beasts of prey they immediately spring upon him. It was not enough to injure him; they must insult him too. They put him to an open shame by stripping him of his coat of many colors. And how solemnly this agrees with the Antitype. In a similar manner the Lord of Glory was dealt with. He, too, was insulted, and put to shame: "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him" (Matthew 27:27, 28). The same horrible ignominy is witnessed again at the Cross: "Then the soldiers when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments" (John 19:23).

21. Joseph is cast into a pit. "And they took him, and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty, there was no water in it" (Gen. 37:24). We quote now from Dr. Haldeman: "The pit wherein is no water, is another name for Hades, the underworld, the abode of the disembodied dead: of all the dead before the resurrection of Christ. ‘The pit wherein is no water' (Zech. 9:11). ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth' (Matthew 12:40). It was here our Lord, as to His Soul, abode between death and resurrection."

22. Joseph was taken out of the pit, alive, in his body. "And they lifted up Joseph out of the pit" (Gen. 37:28). "The actual order of the occurrence is that Joseph was first east into the pit and then sold; but the moral order of the type is not deranged by the fact; it is in the light of the Anti-typical history that we make the type to be verified, as well as to verify it. The lifting out of the pit is one of those Divine anticipations of the resurrection scattered all through the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi" (Dr. H.).

23. Joseph's brethren mingle Hypocrisy with their Hatred. "And they sat down to eat bread . . . And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh" (Gen. 37:27). First, notice the opening words of verse 25, "And they sat down to eat bread," and this, while Joseph was helpless in the pit! How this reminds us of Matthew 27:35, 36—"And they crucified Him . . .. And sitting down they watched Him there!"

But mark now this hypocrisy: "Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him." The parallel to this is found in John 18: "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment; and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled" (v. 28). Such deceptions will men practice upon themselves. And again, how remarkable, in this connection, are the words found in John 18:31: "Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him and judge Him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death!"

24. Joseph is sold. "They drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites" (Gen. 37:28). Is it not exceedingly striking to note that from among the twelve sons of Jacob Judah should be the one to make this horrible bargain, just as from the twelve apostles Judas (the Anglecized form of the Greek equivalent) was the one to sell the Lord!

25. Joseph's blood-sprinkled coat is presented to his father. "And they took Joseph's coat and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; and they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father." "The anticipation of the type is self evident. The blood of Jesus Christ as the blood of a scapegoat, a sin offering, was presented to the Father" (Dr. H).. In our next, D. V., we shall consider Joseph in Egypt.


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