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Genesis 37:12-36 - The Persecution Of Joseph

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I.              The Life of Joseph Part 3: The Persecution of Joseph

Introduction: we all go through different trial and seasons in our lives whether it be financially, physically (being sick), etc. but there is a promise that God gives us that I would like to share with you as study the life of Joseph. 

Paul, writing to Timothy said "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:10-12, NASB95)

Paul also said to those in Corinth that "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NASB95)

Jesus Himself said "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10, NASB95)

A.           The Situation for the Persecution (Genesis 37:12-17).

1.            “Are not your brothers feeding the flocks in Shechem, I will send you to them…”  (v.13).

a)            The Vindication of the Pursuit.

(1)           Some have questioned, and for good reasons, the wisdom of Jacob sending Joseph to check up on his brothers.
(a)           It was a long trip for young Joseph to make by himself.
(b)           Also, the hatred of the brothers for Joseph was very great; and sending Joseph all alone to see them would seem to give them great opportunity to do him harm.
(c)           But the pursuit of Joseph can still be justified; it was needed for the well-being of the family, the flocks, the father, and the (Joseph).
(2)           The well-being of the family: The well-being of Joseph's brothers certainly justified the trip.  They were a messed up bunch of guys and needed to be monitored.
(a)           Therefore, the first reason Jacob gave Joseph for going to Shechem was to "see if it is well with your brothers" (v. 14).
(b)           Jacob was concerned about the brothers, and well he should have been. Not only did their past motivate Jacob to keep a close watch on them, but their present action of going to Shechem would also prompt checking up on them.
(c)           Jacob had a right to be concerned about how his boys were doing and was justified in sending Joseph to check up on them.
(3)           The well-being of the flocks: Jacob's concern included the well-being of his flocks, and so he also told Joseph to see if it was "well with the flocks" (v. 14).
(a)           Jacob had a responsibility to know the condition of his flocks (Prov.27:23).
(b)           In view of that, it is hard to criticize Jacob for wanting to know about his flocks and, therefore, sending Joseph to check up on them.
(4)           The well-being of the Jacob: Jacob's age would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to check up on the family and the flocks himself.
(a)           So he did the logical thing and sent Joseph in his place.  Joseph was physically much more able to travel than Jacob was; therefore, it made sense for Jacob to send Joseph
(5)           The well-being of the Joseph: This duty of checking up on the family and the flocks fit the coat Joseph was given by Jacob.
(a)           Joseph had been chosen by his father as the one to oversee the family.  He was the heir apparent to rule the household.
(b)           The coat made the choice official and, of course, made it known to others.
(c)           Sending Joseph to check up on the family and flocks was good training for Joseph for his eventual leadership in the family.
(d)           This trip could give him good experience which would help him in the future when he would take over the family leadership.


!!! 2.            “I will send them to you…  So he said to him, here I am…”  (v.13).

a)            The Valor of the Pursuit (v.13).

(1)           Joseph was submissive: When Jacob called Joseph to pursue his brothers, Joseph's response was a noble "Here am I" (v. 13).
(a)           The answer indicated Joseph's ready submission to the commands of his father.  He was a good servant, for service begins with submission to the master.
(b)           Christian service begins with submission to Christ.  Few serve well because they will not submit well.  Many who complain of not being used in service have only their lack of submission to blame.

There is a story I read about of a boy who applied for a job.  When he was asked what he could do, he replied, "I can do what I am told to do.”  The boy was hired because he had one of the most important qualifications of all—submission to the boss.

(c)           You, too, will be employed in God's service when you learn to submit to Him.
(2)           Joseph was sacrificial: To do as Jacob told him, Joseph must leave his comfortable home in Hebron and travel sixty miles to Shechem.
(a)           This would require much time, effort, and inconvenience; travel in those days was much more difficult than it is today.
(b)           He would have to give up the comforts and pleasures of his home.  But he was willing to pay the price to perform this service for his father.
(c)           If we are going to do as our heavenly Father orders, we will, like Joseph, have to do some sacrificing, too.  But too often we refuse to serve because we would have to leave the comforts of home.

The writer of Hebrews says about Moses, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin," (Hebrews 11:24-25, NASB95)

(3)           Joseph was steadfast: Joseph stuck to his task even though he ran into some problems.  When he arrived at Shechem, his brothers were not there.  But he did not quit and go home.
(a)           He continued looking for them until he found them in Dothan some twenty miles away.
(b)           This steadfast feature of Joseph's character was one important reason why he ended up on top in spite of the many adversities he experienced.  Joseph never gave up.

Paul said, "In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy." (1 Corinthians 4:2, NASB95)

(4)           Joseph was (brave, courageous): What courage Joseph would have to have to do as his father asked him to do.  His courage was demonstrated in two ways.  It was demonstrated in where he went and in what he wore.
(a)           The place where he went was where hatred for him was very intense.  Joseph had to go where his brothers were and they hated him.  A brave heart was certainly required to leave the place where love for him was very great and go to the place where hatred for him was very great.
(b)           Also, he wore the coat not because of pride but because it was proper.  The coat represented his position.  What a lesson this is for Christians today.

(i)             Christians ought to dress like Christians and look like Christians.  We should dress like  Christians in 2 aspects of our life:

(a)           The first being our conduct, appearance

(b)           The second being our physical dress.

(c)           Unlike Joseph, many professing Christians cant be recognized even when they are right next to us because the appearance of these professing Christians is so worldly.

(ii)            I am sure Joseph's coat helped his brothers to recognize Joseph even though he was some distance away (v. 18).  May that be said of us!


!! B.           The Scheme in the Persecution (37:18-30).

1.            “When they saw him afar off, they conspired against him to kill him…”  (v.18).

a)            The contemplation in the scheme (v.18).

(1)           Restraining Presence: First of all, the ten brothers are far from their fathers restraining presence.  Look at the difference of conduct between the ten brothers and Joseph:
(a)           The brothers: Earlier the ten brothers would not harm Joseph mainly because of their father’s presence.  Now that their father’s restraining presence is not there, they will cause harm
(b)           Joseph: In chapter 39 of Genesis, Joseph did not have any restraining presence from anyone to stop him from having sex with his boss’s wife:  

But, because of his fear and love for the Lord, he said "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife.  How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9, NKJV)

(i)             Joseph was restrained by his fear and love for God.

Joseph is an example of Psalm 119 that says "I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word" (Psalm 119:101)

Here is a great application for us today, Proverbs 10 says "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19)

(c)           Example of unrestraint (Exodus 32:1-10, 19-25).
(2)           Remaining Thoughts: Their plotting against Joseph was a result of their murderous attitude towards Joseph which already existed in their thoughts. 
(a)           If we are to overcome evil in our own lives, we must start the attack on the evil in our thoughts.  Evil thoughts must be stopped, or they will lead to evil conduct.

All of this is another strong warning in Scripture about our thoughts, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV)

(b)           Proverbs 4:20-27 – we must guard our heart (mind).
(c)           To Hate Our Brother Is To Murder Him In Our Hearts (1Jn3:13-15):

(i)             Though we may not carry out the action, we may wish that the person was dead.  Or, by ignoring another person, we may treat them as if they were dead!  Hatred can be shown passively or actively.

(ii)            John seems to have in mind the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount regarding the true fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:21-22)

(iii)           To live in the practice of murder - or to have a life style of the habitual hatred of our brethren - is a demonstration that we do not have eternal life abiding in us, that we are not born again (Galatians 5:19-21).

(3)           Remember the warfare: Jesus said that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  We need to remember that Satan wants to destroy us but we need to not be ignorant about this.
(a)           Ephesians 6:11 – Because Satan is God’s enemy, he is our enemy, and the only way he can attack God is through us.

(i)             Methodia (schemes), from which comes the English method, carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception (Eph.4:14).

(ii)            The term was often used of a wild animal who cunningly stalked and then unexpectedly pounced on its prey.

Peter exhorts us to "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)

They are the schemes of the deceiver.  Of this fact believers are not ignorant, Paul said “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV)


!!! 2.            “They conspired against him to kill him…”  (v.18).

a)            The cruelty of the scheme (v.18).

(1)           The scheme of persecution against Joseph was a very cruel one, for the goal was to kill Joseph.  
(2)           The cruelty of the scheme was not only in the murderous goal of the scheme, but it is also seen in other deeds involved in persecuting Joseph.
(a)           The cruelty is seen in stripping Joseph of his coat & casting him into a pit to suffer (v. 23, 24) while the older brothers, without conscience, sat down to enjoy a meal (v.25).
(b)           The cruelty is seen in the brothers refusing to listen to Joseph's entreaties for help when he was suffering from their evil to him (Genesis 42:21).
(c)           The cruelty is seen in the selling of Joseph into slavery (v. 28).
(d)           And the cruelty is also seen in the inflicting of great grief upon Jacob their father by taking Joseph away from him and telling them the false story of his death.

3.            “They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer…”  (v.19).

a)            The contempt in the scheme (v.19).

(1)           First, they mocked the proclaimer of Divine truth.  They called Joseph a "dreamer" (v. 19).
(a)           Those who proclaim the revealed truth of God will discover that the world will often speak very scornfully of them.  
(b)           Joseph declared his dreams, which were revelations of Divine truth; then he experienced mockery.  
(c)           Also Elisha was called "bald head" (2 Kings 2:23), Elijah was called the troubler of Israel (1 Kings 18:17), Christ was said to be a blasphemer (John 10:36), and Paul was called "mad" (Acts 26:24) by the world.
(2)           Second, they mocked the precepts of Divine truth.  The ten older brothers called Divine truth "his dreams" (v. 20).
(a)           It is true that they were Joseph's dreams; but they were more than that!  They were Divine revelations.
(b)           Every age hears this criticism of Divine truth. As an example, the Bible is often discredited as being nothing but myths of men.
(3)           They thought their scheme could derail Divine predictions.  They were not the first nor will they be the last who think they can prevent the fulfillment of Divine predictions.
(a)           The enemy will plot and plan, but God's Word shall prevail.  Mockers will come and go, "but the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

4.            “Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands…”  (v.20).

a)            The contesting of the scheme (v.20-25).

(1)           The ten brothers were not united in their desire to murder Joseph.  There was a division among them about whether or not to kill Joseph.
(2)           While Reuben was able to stop the killing, he was not able to stop the selling of Joseph which led to Joseph's slavery in Egypt.


!!! 5.            “Then they sat down to eat a meal…”  (v.25a).

a)            The coldhearted brothers (v.25).

(1)           What does it take to spoil your appetite?  Some people can eat like horses all the time. 
(2)           But most people have faced occasions when their emotions were so overwhelming they said, “I just can’t eat right now, maybe later.”
(3)           The meals held after a funeral is so helpful for the people who have come from a distance, and they are an opportunity for fellowship.  But usually something is the same: 
(a)           The widow or widower doesn’t usually eat much.
(b)           But when we see men who can tear the clothes off the back of their brother and throw him down into a hole, leave him there to die and then turn around and say, “Please pass the ketchup for the fries” is clear that we are plumbing the depths of depravity.  

6.            What profit is it if we slay our brother?  Come, let us sell him…”  (v.26-30).

a)            The changing of the scheme (v.26-28).

(1)           The original plan of the persecution scheme was to slay Joseph.  But the scheme was changed to sell Joseph.  What caused the change?
(a)           Money to Judah, money looked better than murder (v.27-28).  

(i)             It was not morals that caused Judah to not murder, but it was money.  Judah's motivation for not murdering Joseph was no compliment of his character.

(ii)            The same was true of the other brothers whom Judah talked with about changing the scheme (Reuben was absent at the time).

(iii)           So the brothers realized that by killing Joseph they wouldn’t really gain much.  So they pulled him out of the hole and sold him for twenty shekels. 

(iv)          Think about this: I think it would be hard to imagine that they enjoyed whatever it was they bought with the money. 

(v)           Motivation determines the character of our conduct.

(a)           Some people do not do some forms of evil because they think they will be caught or there is no monetary value in it.  That’s not character.

(b)           Check your motivation.  Why do you not do evil deeds?  Is it because you think you will be caught or because you want to live holy?

(c)           Is it because you see no material gain in it or because God's Word commands you not to do the evil?

(d)           Is it because it may hinder a promotion at work or because the precepts of God forbid the evil?

(e)           How you answer those questions reveals much about your character.

7.            “Reuben returned to the pit, Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes…”  (v.29)

a)            Reuben was shaken.

(1)           Reuben soon returned from taking care of the flocks, and when he did, he was shaken.  Joseph was gone, sold as a slave and being taken down to Egypt. 
(2)           He was the oldest son; therefore, he would be held responsible by Jacob. What could he do?  How could he break the news to his father?
(3)           Thought 1. Joseph’s brothers rejected him because they were filled with hostility against him.  Bitterness and hostility often seep into families.  When they do, rejection soon follows.
(a)           How many husbands and wives are bitter toward one another?  How many feel rejected because of the bitterness and hostility?
(b)           How many children are bitter against parents and parents against a child?
(c)           How many of us reject one another because of bitterness and hostility? Our homes and societies are divided because of bitterness:

Paul exhorted the husbands to "Love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”  (Colossians 3:19, NKJV)

He exhorted the Ephesians to "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32, NKJV)

C.           The Story About the Persecution (37:31-36).

1.            “They took Joseph’s tunic, dipped it in blood, and brought it to their father…”  (v.31-32).  

a)            The dishonesty of the story.

(1)           First, it was misleading:  The story was a huge lie.  Joseph had not been killed, but Jacob's sons wanted Jacob to believe that.  To tell this misleading story required the sons to go to a lot of trouble.  Nelsons Bible Dictionary says:
(a)           a lie is any statement or act designed to deceive another person.
(b)           the motivation for most lying is a desire either to hurt the one against whom the lie is directed (Gen. 3:1–13; Rom. 3:13) or to protect oneself, usually out of fear or pride (Matt. 26:69–75; Acts 5:1–11).
(c)           lying is condemned in the Bible (Ex. 20:16; Eph. 4:25).  

The Lord says "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. " (Exodus 20:16)

Paul exhorts those in Ephesus by saying "Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:25)

(d)           lying is wrong because it is contrary to the nature of God (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18)
(e)           lying is wrong because it shows that a person is not in touch with reality:

Speaking about the ungodly and unrighteous, Paul said they have "exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen." (Romans 1:25, NKJV)

We can be deceived about our walk with the Lord to the point John says we are liars: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:6, NKJV)

(f)            on the other hand, it is possible to be truthful with the intention of hurting another person.  The Bible teaches believers to be truthful in love (Eph. 4:25).
(2)           Second, it was mean: This story emphasizes how mean Joseph's older brothers were to their father Jacob.  
(a)           Not only would they deprive Jacob of fellowship with his beloved son, but they would tell him a story that would break his heart about Joseph.
(b)           Both by words and deeds they would break Jacob's heart.  And the meanness of the story is increased by the fact that it was their father who they were wanting to mislead.
(3)           Third, the important lesson: The deed was done and now the brothers had to go home and face there father with the bloody cost and letting Jacob draw the obvious conclusion.
(a)           It is virtually impossible to commit just one sin.  One sin guards another to guard it from detection. 
(b)           How many more lies do you think the brothers had to tell over the next 2 decades to keep up the sham? 
(c)           Jacob must have grilled these guys and how many other family members and friends asked them to recount the story?
(d)           You can be sure that when you sin, you will sin again especially in the area of lying!


!!!! b)            The reception of the story (v.33-35).

c)            The comforting of Jacob (v.35).

(1)           The deceitfulness of the 10 brothers is manifested in their efforts to comfort Jacob.
(2)           There were some genuine efforts to comfort Jacob:
(a)           his daughters and daughters-in-law were not in on the plot to hurt Joseph, and so their efforts in comforting Jacob would be sincere.
(3)           But the comforting efforts of Jacob's ten older sons were utterly despicable.
(a)           What wicked men they were.  They knew what had happened to Joseph and they knew they had made Jacob believe something that was not the truth, yet they try to comfort him.
(b)           These 10 brothers remind us of apostate ministers who try to comfort souls about the eternal life but at the same time discredit the Gospel of Jesus Christ and deny hell and eternal judgment for sin.
(4)           The God of all comfort (2Cor.1:3).

d)            The reaping in the story.

(1)           The deception by Jacob's older sons about Joseph's whereabouts is a very forceful lesson on sowing and reaping.
(2)           Some years earlier Jacob did a most evil deed by beguiling his father in trying to obtain the patriarchal blessing (Genesis 27).
(3)           This deed is now mirrored to him by his evil sons. What he sowed he reaped. We see this clearly by comparing four details of Jacob's evil deed of beguiling his father with four details of the evil deed of Jacob's ten oldest sons in beguiling Jacob.
(a)           In the sinful deed of Jacob, he

(i)             lied to his father,

(ii)            lied about his father's favorite son Esau,

(iii)           used a coat of his father's favorite son to help in the deception, and

(iv)          killed some goats to also help accomplish the deed of deception.

(b)           In the sinful deed of Jacob's sons, they

(i)             lied to him their father,

(ii)            lied about his favorite son Joseph,

(iii)           used a coat of his favorite son to help in the deception, and

(iv)          killed a goat to also help accomplish the deed of deception.

(4)           Jacob certainly reaped what he sowed, and note that you reap more than you sow (which is the law of harvest in anything you plant), for Jacob was only one son lying to his father, but he had ten sons come home to lie to him.

Truly "God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

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