Jacob’s Story: Part 1, Gen. 36-37

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Jacob's Story

What they intended for evil, the LORD intended for good… for the saving of many lives.
-Gen. 50:20

After my father Isaac died, my brother Esau and I concluded that it would be best for all if we maintained some distance between us. For one thing, our flocks and herds had grown so big that there literally wasn’t enough local grazing area for their combined numbers. But it also made sense in light of our historical animosities.

Esau was content with the land he had located in Seir, an area east of the Dead Sea and a little south of Canaan in modern Jordan. He had made an accommodation with the Horites, a people who also lived there, and was able to find sufficient pastureland for his own animals as well as the share of my father’s herds he had inherited. Later, because of Esau’s nickname (Edom, or Red to you) as well as the color of the sandstone cliffs and canyons along its eastern border, that country became known as Edom.

Esau had acquired three wives who bore him just two sons, but their offspring grew into a sizable nation that overtime was frequently contentious toward the offspring of my 12 sons, no doubt inspired by the unresolved conflict between my brother and me.

As for me, I settled in the land the LORD had first promised to my grandfather Abraham, then to my father Isaac and finally to me. We prospered there and lived an enjoyable life, except for the jealousy that arose from time to time among my sons. You remember that Rachel was the woman I truly loved, but because of my father-in-law’s trickery, I wound up with her sister Leah as well along with their two handmaids. The 12 sons these four women bore me were always jockeying for position as my favorite, but I must confess that the firstborn of my beloved Rachel, Joseph, was closest to my heart.

I guess since Rachel was the only wife I sought, and the only woman I loved, I naturally favored Joseph, in many ways treating him as my only beloved son even though he was number 11 in the chronology, ahead of only Benjamin, Rachel’s other son.

For his part, Joseph didn’t help matters, going around in that special robe I had the weavers make for him. It was patterned after one a king would wear and was seamless; a very expensive method of weaving that meant the entire robe came from a single piece of cloth. With the special ornamentation, I had them weave into the material, it was about as fine a garment as you could find in my day, sort of like an Armani suit might be for you.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, he started having these dreams that he couldn’t resist telling us about. In each one, it was clear that he was the high and mighty one and we were all peons. In one, my 12 sons were all out binding up sheaves of grain when suddenly his sheaf rose and stood upright while his brothers’ sheaves bowed down before it. In another, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were paying homage to him. That one even got to me, but as we’ll see these dreams were prophetic in ways we couldn’t begin to understand. In fact for you prophecy-buffs, the story I’m going to tell about my son Joseph contains many incidents that show how closely his life parallels and predicts the life of the Messiah. See if you can find them.

Of course, his brothers never understood any of this. To them, he was a cocky little kid who seemed to delight in keeping them stirred up, and one day they found a way to put him in his place for good. Or so they thought.

There was quite an age range among my sons since they were born over a period of about 30 years. One day when Joseph was about seventeen and some of the older ones were away with the flocks locating new pastureland, I sent Joseph to find them so he could report to me on how they were making out. We thought they were near Shechem, but it turns out they had gone to Dotham.

When the brothers saw Joseph coming they conspired to kill him but Reuben, the oldest, convinced them to simply throw him into an empty cistern they had found nearby instead. He figured he could rescue Joseph later and see that no harm came to him. The others agreed so that’s what they did. But while Reuben was off somewhere, Judah convinced them to sell Joseph to a passing Midianite caravan. They got 20 pieces of silver for him, which was the amount a boy who has been dedicated to the LORD was worth, and dipped his special robe into some goat’s blood to make it look like Joseph had been attacked and killed by a wild animal.

When Reuben came back and found Joseph missing, he was fit to be tied. Like I said, he was the oldest and therefore the responsible one. But it was too late now. They brought me the robe, and of course I recognized it immediately, broke down and wept. To me, my beloved son was dead. The grief I felt was so intense I felt like dying myself. Maybe then I could see Joseph again.

But though I wouldn’t know this for many years, Joseph was alive in Egypt, sold into slavery. And through a set of circumstances no one could predict we would meet again, bowing before him as all his dreams came true. More next time.