Jacob has settled down with his family in the place his family settled twice already; Hebron. His sons have grown strong and are working his flocks. Joseph is his eyes and ears as well as his look to the future.
We are introduced to the fact that Joseph is 17 when this portion of Jacob’s life is in play. We have no firm date as to when Jacob and company moved to Hebron but his sons were old enough to pasture the flocks about 50 miles away from home. With sheep this is probably many days journey but a man could walk it in a couple of days if necessary. Joseph would be Jacob’s eyes and ears on the brothers who were so far away.
Joseph is truthful, responsible, and open with his family. He tells it like it is. He is also Jacob’s favorite son. We are told he is the favorite “because he was the son of his old age” (verse 3b). (I have a question here but I’m going to hold onto it for a little bit.) And Joseph was treated as such. I’m going to go so far as to say ‘Joseph could do no wrong’ in his father’s eyes. This seems to be a typical experience for a favored child.
Joseph was helping pasture the sheep with some of his brothers. I’m wondering if this flock was closer to home. I would not be surprised to find that Jacob had several flocks spread out over the territory as his herds were significant enough that he couldn’t dwell together with his brother Esau. Bilhah and Zilpah’s sons were tending this flock. This would include Dan and Naphtali (Bilhah’s sons) and Gad and Asher (Zilpah’s sons). Leah’s sons are not mentioned in this group.
Whatever was going on in this group was disturbing to Joseph. Enough so that he told his father about it. This makes Joseph either a tattle tale who brings EVERYTHING to dad or an egregious issue that had to be brought up for the safety of the sheep. As a ‘favorite son’ it could have been even their attitude towards him. We are not told what it was. Whatever it was, Jacob was disturbed by it.
Joseph’s brothers saw how Jacob treated him compared to them. As I stated earlier, Joseph could do no wrong. Add to that the special things Jacob did for Joseph, like making him a beautiful coat. NONE of the other sons received this kind of garment. It flaunted his ‘specialness’ in their faces every day. If this wasn’t bad enough, Joseph had to share his dreams with his brothers.
We are not told if Joseph was sharing dreams with his family much earlier and having them come true. I would think probably so because his father took his dreams to heart. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Joseph had been sharing his dreams with his family for some time.
Jacob probably thought nothing strange about Joseph’s dream of all his brothers bowing down to him because Jacob had already placed Joseph in his heart over them. But when Joseph shared his dream about the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing down to him, Jacob got concerned. “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” (verse 10b). Was this Joseph becoming arrogant because of his treatment of him as the favorite? Or was something greater in the works here? Jacob knew about dreams and how powerful they could be when they were from God. He had experienced visions from God himself in this form so he couldn’t just toss Joseph’s words away as arrogance. He pondered them in his mind and heart instead.
The hatred between Joseph’s brothers and himself was LONG in the making. It didn’t just start with the “bad report” over the sheep. It had been building ALL his life. The little things kept adding up. The bigger ones piled on too so that, by the time he was 17, his brothers truly hated him. I can hear their teeth grind every time they have to look at him or interact with him.
Why didn’t Jacob see this? We are told that his brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (verse 6b). They had no kind words for Joseph. NOTHING he did to help out made any difference. And he didn’t try and win them over either. Was he oblivious to their feelings towards him? Why would he share his two dreams with them, KNOWING how they hated him?
I believe Joseph was very excited by these dreams and felt he HAD to share them or he would burst! He wasn’t lording it over them but he also wasn’t using caution with their feelings. He didn’t take to heart how his words could impact their feeling towards him. But then if he was compelled by God to share these dreams, nothing else would have mattered. They needed this information for later, whether they liked it or not. I’m SURE when the time came they remembered Joseph’s dreams as well as he did. But for now his words stoked the fires of hatred in their hearts.
Ok, back to the question I was thinking about earlier. I know it’s a rabbit trail but here goes anyway. We are told that Joseph is favored because he was the son of Jacob’s old age. But Benjamin came even later in Jacob’s old age. Why was he not the favorite? Joseph was the first son of Rachel, whom he loved the most. Was that the real reason for the favoritism? Benjamin’s birth brought with it Rachel’s death. Did Jacob hold some anger in his heart towards Benjamin for this? Or was Benjamin maybe too young to be given the evidence of “favored son” status? I have a feeling that came about after Joseph was “killed by a wild animal.”
Father God, thank You that You cared enough about this family’s future to share what was to come with them. I would say I wish the brother’s attitudes towards him would have been different but then their actions were necessary too in saving this family. Was there no other way than hate??? But then again Jesus needed the hate to get Him to the cross. Funny how You can lead us with even anger to where we need to be in Your will. Thank You that I am NEVER too far from You that You can’t reach me. Thank You that I am always in Your hands no matter how it looks on the outside!