Destined to Lead—Joseph’s Dreams of Leadership Genesis 37:2-11
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
The History of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
The 12 tribes of Israel were the family groups descended from the biblical patriarch Jacob. The tribes are important because God worked through the tribes to fulfill His promises—especially the promise of bringing from the tribe of Judah, Jesus the Savior, the Lion of Judah behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Revelation 5:5). The 12 sons of Jacob were offspring of two of his wives and two concubines. The promises to Abraham of a land, people, and blessing would be passed onto these family groups. The future nation of Israel would be identified by these 12 sons of Jacob.
Joseph’s Leadership Over the Family Genesis 37
Joseph is Destined to Lead Genesis 37:2-11
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives—The beginning of the story portrays Joseph as a faithful young son. The occasion for this portrayal is Joseph keeping his father’s flocks along with some of his brothers Dan and Naphtali, and Gad and Asher.
· And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. —Joseph delivered a report of their evil deeds to Jacob. This is the first glimpse of the evil activity of Joseph’s brothers. This ‘bad report’ implies the brothers, particularly Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher in this instance, were participating in some serious wicked behavior.
PT—Such a report would not be popular and before the story gets very far, the brother’s evil will be turned upon Joseph. On the one hand, Joseph is being faithful to his father. On the other hand, he will suffer at the hand of his brothers for being a sort of tattletale because they take the evil lightly.
An Application—Joseph was faithful to his father in little things, even though unpopular—and so he will eventually be given authority over greater things. Those who would be leaders must prove faithful in the smaller responsibilities.
Verse 3—The statement brings forward a motif that played an important role in the family of Isaac—parental favoritism. Jacob surely knew what that had done to him and his brother Esau, and to his own family. But now he showers affection on Rachel’s son Joseph. Favoritism had a long history in Jacob’s family (Isaac’s preference for Esau, Rebekah’s for Jacob, and Jacob’s preference for Rachel). In every case it created major problems. Leah was unloved, and her sons hated (cf. 29:31, 33).
· Son of his old age means wise son, or son of wisdom. Joseph was old for his years; he had the wisdom of age in his youth. Joseph was born when Jacob was 91 years old, but he was not Jacob’s youngest son. Benjamin, one of Joseph’s brothers, was younger than he.
· —Jacob’s love was expressed in giving Joseph a distinctive tunic. Rather than the traditional understanding of a ‘coat of many colors’, it most likely described a sleeved coat that reached to the wrists and ankles. In any case, this tunic set Joseph apart from the rest of the clan as the favored one.
PT—One would think that Jacob would have remembered his own childhood and early days of marriage what a display of favoritism would do to his family. It had separated him from his mother, and now it would separate him from Joseph. His decision doomed his family to the same strife he had experienced in his father’s household.
Verse 4——Joseph’s brothers observed exactly what was going on between Jacob and Joseph. What they knew was that Joseph was their father’s personal favorite.
· —The key idea of the dream is that the brother’s symbols in the dream bowed down to Joseph, showing an act of submission. The report is vivid stood erect… and bowed down making the report both striking and animated.
Verse 8—TIt is as if Joseph’s brothers said, “You don’t really think you will rule over us, do you? You don’t really think you will have dominion over us, do you?”
· The dream bothered them, as well as his telling them.
Verse 9—Since it is a second dream, God, with the repetition, is underlining His choice of Joseph.
Jacob took note of these revelations but resented the possibility that his son might be in a position of authority over him. At first he reacted strongly, rebuking his son. The question of who should rule can be offensive to others, even to those closest to you.
· The question expressed Jacob’s dismay at what he perceived to be Joseph’s audacity.
· It is as if Jacob said, “You don’t really think we will come…to bow down…do you?”
God chooses faithful, righteous individuals for positions of leadership, but those chosen may experience the jealous hatred of their brethren. Many people today also are offended by God’s election of some to special prominence and usefulness. The choice of Joseph marked a change from the normal societal order, but did not differ from previous narratives in which the younger son was made lord over his older brother.
An Application—When God works out His plan for us it may often cause problems for others and for us to have to manage in order to participate in that plan. You just might get sold into slavery.
Verse 11—Joseph’s brothers were already , but this made it even worse. Such jealousy easily leads to action, as the next episode in the story shows. Yet dreams were considered a form of revelation, and their jealousy was not only of the favoritism of their father, but of the dreams.
PT—His brothers hated Joseph before he ever had a vision (37:4). When he had the dreams, he simply made them known. Should we not make known the Word of God as we learn it? We know little about Joseph’s maturity or motives at this time, so there is no point in guessing. What we do know is he was (1) truthful, (2) honest, (3) obedient to his father (verse 13), and (4) he made known the Word of God, and he did that even when it caused him to be rebuked by his father and hated even more by his brothers. We should not go about preaching to everybody. But there are many significant occasions where we should make known the Word of God to those close to us, even if it affects our social standings with those people.
An Application—God will choose a faithful, righteous person for a position of leadership and influence in spite of the jealousy of others around him. Chosen leaders must discharge their duties faithfully. Those who must submit even if they feel more qualified must not become jealous nor let jealousy turn into cruel hatred.
Implications for the 12 Tribes
· That the 12 tribes would learn that God had chosen Joseph to be elevated so as to rule over his brothers.
· That like the original brothers, their posterity could create conflict due to envy and hatred based upon the tension created by the positioning of the tribes in the land.
· That God would continue to sovereignly select faithful righteous leaders amongst the tribes who would lead honorably in accord with God’s commands. The people must not set themselves against them, whether judges, priests, kings, or prophets.
· That there would be no place in leadership for such uncontrollable hatred and envy as noted amongst the tribal family of Jacob. However, leaders will unfortunately often face such opposition.
Application—God is in charge of elevating those whom he chooses for whatever purposes he has for that choice. It is a reminder that our God is orchestrating outcomes that we may not understand but require that we not set ourselves against them by jealousy, anger, or disrespect.
PT—The 12 tribes would observe that God was governing the affairs of the tribes as he did the original brothers to fulfill His promises to them. That would require faith in God’s sovereign choices for the tribes and their nation.
PT—Matthew 2:13-15 tells us that Jesus’ own exodus from Egypt fulfills , He remained there until the death of Herod. to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son", identifying Jesus with Israel, God’s people.
Third, the 12 tribes would have to dispossess the Canaanites before possessing the land themselves. They would have to fight to possess their possession.
· Joseph would gain prominence in the family due to his being the firstborn and favorite son of Rachel, the wife Jacob loved.
· Jacob’s favoritism would provoke the jealousy of Joseph’s brother and the dreams God gave him would verify Joseph’s prominence amongst the brothers.
· This would lead to the next drama in the history of the patriarchal brothers—Josephs sold into slavery.