It is possible that a parent feels special love for one of the children; but it is prudence not to make any conspicuous show of it. Jacob, however, showed his special affection for Joseph by making a multicolour garment for him. Without doubt, all other sons of Joseph became envious of him and hated him without any fault from his part (Genesis 37).
Joseph had two dreams. In the first dream he saw his sheaf standing erect and those of his brothers bowing down before it. Later events show how precisely this dream came true. All other brothers had to bow down before Joseph when their sheaves did not have any corn in them ie., when they faced a severe famine in their land and when the store house of Joseph in Egypt was full of corn! In the second dream Joseph saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down before him. It was a clear indication of Joseph’s rising to power and prominence and his parents and brothers paying obeisance to Joseph.
In the Genesis account, Jacob’s dreams were not the manifestation of his hidden ambitions, rather a divine revelation of his destiny. We see how different people responded to dreams of Joseph. Of course, Joseph knew the meaning of his dreams. In feign humility he did not conceal from his family God’s plan for him. His act of revealing the dreams manifest his humble acceptance of God’s plan for him. At the same time, he does not overplay his role in the family. He continues to obey the orders of his father and puts himself in the service of his elder brothers.
But, Joseph’s all step brothers became very envious of him. After all, he is the second youngest in the family. They could not digest the idea of their younger brother rising above them. Joseph’s dream added fuel to the flames of their jealousy already kindled by the favouritism of their father. It is shocking to see how they tried to thwart the divine design about Joseph. When they got an opportunity, they wanted even to kill him. However, their plan to kill him was made innocuous by an unexpected move from the part of Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob. How God found even among Joseph’s bloodthirsty brothers someone to save him! In fact, Reuben, as the eldest of the sons of Jacob, must have been most shocked at the prospect of Joseph ruling them all. However, it was Reuben who planned to save Joseph. According to his suggestion they threw him in a pit. We must pause for a moment to see how hard hearted the brothers of Joseph were. They turned a deaf ear to the helpless cry of Joseph. He must have appealed to his innocence, his love and care for them in coming in search of them, their bond of blood, his fear of death… But nothing could move their stony heart hardened with hatred. And the only fault of Joseph was that he had a different role to play in God’s vision!
Finally, the brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites as a slave. By making him a slave they thought that he would never be able to become a lord. By sending him to a faraway place, they might have wanted to thwart any possibility of his becoming their master.
Joseph’s ill treatment at the hands of his own brothers was the foreshadow of the ill treatment suffered by Jesus from his Jewish brothers, and the foreshadow of the maltreatment of countless innocent victims after him. Although Joseph was the beloved of his father Jacob, he was not spared from hard work. He was sent all alone to Shechem to enquire about the well-being of his brothers. We are immediately reminded of the Father’s sending his beloved Son Jesus to the faraway place of this earth in search of us. When Joseph appeared in the sight of his brothers they conspired to kill him, stripped him, put him in a pit; Judah suggested to sell him for 20 silver coins – all these, similarly came true of Jesus too. At the end of a humiliating phase Joseph was exalted; and so too was Jesus.
Jacob kept the dreams of Joseph in the heart. He pondered it with an open heart. If only we were open to God’s dreams and refrain from persecuting his dreamers…