“Issues of Love”

Sunday School with Pastor Theodis Acklin

Scriptural text: Genesis 37

God at Work through a Family Torn by Hatred and Alienation (Gen. 37:2-4).

Genesis 37 is a sad commentary on Jacob’s dysfunctional family, in which ten sons plot to kill Joseph, their half-brother, eventually sell him, and then lie to their father. However Genesis 37 is a commentary on God’s grace and sovereign will.

The twelve sons of Jacob were the offspring of four mothers. The rivalry between Jacob’s two wives and two concubines caused such a dissention within the family. Joseph, along with his younger brother, Benjamin, were the only children of Rachel, Jacob’s favored wife. Eight of Jacob’s sons were the sons of Jacob’s unloved wife, Leah, and her handmaid, Zilpah. It was all too apparent to these older brothers that Jacob loved Joseph – the son of “his old age” – more than all of them combined (Gen. 37:3,4), and for this reason they hated Joseph.There were other contributing factors that fueled the hatred of these older brothers for Joseph. Jacob was complicit with the older brothers for hating Joseph. Jacob (Israel) unwisely used this 17 year-old boy to spy on his other brothers and had Joseph to report to him privately (37:2, 13-14). Jacob also gave Joseph a multi-colored tunic, which was a symbol of his power and precedence over his brothers (37:3).                                                                                                        

When Dreams Cause Division among Loved Ones (Gen. 37:5-11).

Joseph was unwise in the way that he related to his brothers. This may have been because Joseph was naïve because of his youth, but his brothers were greatly angered by his reports of his two dreams, both of which symbolized his authority over them, and even over their parents. Eventually, Joseph’s brothers could not speak to him in a civil manner. As it turns out, Joseph’s brothers had moved to Dothan, nearly 20 miles further to the north and thus that much more distant from Joseph’s watchful eye. Providentially, a man saw Joseph wandering about in the fields around Shechem. He just happened to overhear Joseph’s brothers saying that they were moving on to Dothan; so Joseph set out to find them. When his brothers looked and saw him approaching from a distance, there was no question who it was. They had plenty time to agree among themselves that it was their golden opportunity to get rid of him. At least some of the brothers wanted to kill Joseph and end it then and there.

What Happens when Hate Wins (Gen. 37:23-24).

In the absence of common sense, feelings of resentment and anger can fester. The thing the brothers saw as representing their father’s favoritism-Joseph’s coat of many colors-is the thing they stripped from him first. In the absence of familial love and a generous concern for the welfare of one another, the brothers sit and have a meal near the pit in which young Joseph is intended to die. Hatred has no shame and knows no bounds.

What the Brothers Intended for Evil, God Intended for Good (Gen. 37:28).

The older brother concocted a plan to keep Joseph from being murdered by his brothers. Joseph is lifted out of the pit and sold to a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt for twenty pieces of silver. They then took Joseph’s coat f many colors and dipped it in goat’s blood to deceive their father, intending to tell him that Joseph was killed by a wild beast.

Later in the story, it is revealed that God has not been absent from these activities, even though up to this point God’s name has not been mentioned. God is at work even through the worst pain and betrayal this family inflicted on one another. When human love cannot find a way to reconcile, God’s love will.