Genesis 37 & 39
To start out today’s reading we see the narrative shift to Joseph and will remain with him until the end of Genesis. Joseph is 17 when his story begins, and he starts out here on a bad foot. The first thing we’re told is that he’s out in the field with some of his brothers and it seems like he comes back home and snitches on them about something. Nothing will turn people against you quicker than being a tattletale, although major things should be brought to a parent’s attention, because it doesn’t even say what the issue here was, it makes me believe he was just telling on his brothers for even petty things.
Also, Jacob hasn’t come to the realization yet that playing favorites causes resentment and hatred among siblings. His two wives, who were also sisters, had a lifelong rivalry because of Rachel being Jacob’s obvious favorite. Now he’s causing the same division among his sons.
So we begin with a late teen Joseph, whom Jacob loves more than anyone else, but everyone else hates him. Adding insult to injury, Jacob gives Joseph and multicolored robe, and extravagant piece of clothing for a Bronze Age shepherd.
Then Joseph has a dream where sheaves of grain bow to one, and he interprets that as his brothers bowing to him. And what does Joseph do next? He goes and tells all these people that hate him “hey you guys will bow to me one day.” There’s no indication that he’s being prideful or trying to goad them with this revelation, because he seems like a genuinely good person, I just think this shows he’s still just a kid. Because someone a little older and wiser might stop and think that they’re only going to hate you more if you reveal this to them.
Then Joseph has another dream, and this time it’s not just his brothers bowing, but also his dad and his dad’s wives too. Jacob kept these things in his heart, just like Saint Luke says about the blessed mother’s own recollections.
Now the brothers head up to Shechem to pasture their flock, but Joseph is still at home I’m Hebron. Did they leave him behind because they don’t want anything to do with him? It’s possible. His father sends him to go find them and check in on them, but when he approached they decide they’re going to kill him.
A couple of the brothers are against the murder plot so they convince the others to sell him into slavery, and so Joseph goes down to Egypt in chains. They take his multicolored robe and dip it in blood and present it to their father as proof that his favorite son is dead. This is the second time that Joseph’s own deception of his father has come back at him full circle.
In chapter 39 Joseph has been sold to a high ranking officer in pharaoh’s court, named Potiphar. We are told that God is with Joseph and he prospers in all he does, and so Potiphar has entrusted to Joseph care of the entire household, and he has proven himself a good steward. But his master’s wife seen that Joseph is “handsome and good looking” and so she tries to seduce him. He rebuffs all of her advances and he “wouldn’t listen to her, lie with her or be with her” he avoided her at all costs, and this is an example of how we should treat sin and the near occasion of sin. Too often do we negotiate with our temptations and our particular weaknesses, we entertain the idea and play devils advocate in our minds. But this isn’t how we should treat temptation, no matter what it is, we should avoid it like Joseph avoids Potiphar’s wife.
Probably mad at his avoidance of her, and still desiring to seduce him, she takes advantage of a moment when no other servant is in the house and she grabs Joseph and demands he lay with her. But Joseph shakes loose and runs out of the house, with her still holding his tunic. He runs away naked rather than even argue with his temptress. Such was the righteousness of Joseph that he gave up everything that he had earned from his master rather than do what was evil.
When her husband came home she told her tale and Joseph was thrown into prison. This is a much lighter punishment than one would expect a slave to receive if accused of attempted rape. It makes me believe that Potiphar didn’t fully buy her story.
While I’m prison, Joseph is put in a supervisory position like he was in Potiphar’s house, because God was with him even in his lowest point.
In Mathew 15 we hear Jesus call out the Pharisees for placing their traditions over and above the Law of Moses. Often times we hear people put down traditions, as if the New Testament speaks out against all traditions, while the word used here for tradition and the word Saint Paul uses in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that is sometimes translated as “traditions” and sometimes as “teachings” are the same word.
Neither Jesus nor Paul are against traditions, which are just teachings that are passed on, they’re against traditions that violate to scriptures. You see, the Pharisees had a tradition where they could pledge their estate to the temple and then they’d be freed from financially supporting their elderly parents. The hitch here was that the pledged money remained in their control for life, so they appeared to be making pious financial sacrifices but really gave nothing. This fake piety was what Jesus was condemning.
This is why He rolls right into a mini discourse on defilement. They were more concerned about ceremonial uncleanliness, while their motivations were themselves unclean. In John’s gospel the high priests and Sanhedrin are knowingly conspiring to have an innocent man put to death, but they wouldn’t step foot into the pretorium for fear of being ceremonially unclean for the Passover, all the while they were unaware that they’d already defiled their hearts.
After this sparing match with the Pharisees, we move up the cost to what is now Lebanon. While Jesus and the disciples were in Tyre and Sidon they were approached by a Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter. He replies with what seems like a cold, and almost mean hearted reply. He says He came for the lost sheep of Israel and shouldn’t throw their bread to the dogs, but the woman is undeterred.
As a gentile she has no right to claim here, and is persistent in begging for the mercy of God and the gift of healing that Jesus is giving. He keeps saying no for a couple reasons, one being that it shows the disciples what persistent faith looks like, and the other is to draw that faith out into the open. Sometimes it take us being knocked down to really get on our knees and pray