The Weight of Dreams: Genesis 37
We looked at waiting in the terms of minutes or a few days, but what about years that turn into a decade or more? Joseph didn’t see it coming, but 13 years would pass between a dream and a critical decision.
In Genesis 37 we meet 17-year old Joseph who worked in the pastures overseeing the flock with his brothers. Joseph enjoyed the added benefit of his father’s (Jacob) favoritism and received a robe of many colors (Genesis 37:3). This robe not only showed Joseph a sign of his father’s affection, but the robe came with a retirement package – labor would not longer be required of the young son or a sign to be a full-heir.
Can you imagine the brothers? I mean really, really, really put yourself in the moment as a quiet observer. One day, you see Joseph in the fields with this brothers working – physical labor providing food, water, shelter, and safety. The next morning while you collect water, you hear Joseph told Jacob about some lackluster shepherding (Genesis 37:2) and everyone wonders what they did. You walk by a few days later, the brothers continue to provide the needs of the flock and Joseph is rocking a new outfit, chillin’ with a mega nice Trust fund.
But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Genesis 37:4ESV, Holy Bible
Is this really surprising? Not to me. I’ve been the receiver of the gift and I’ve been the grumbling brothers. Suffering alone seems unfair. Watching one person not suffer can ravage your thoughts and heart. Joseph’s promotion didn’t come with “we are so happy for you” cake and cards – instead Joseph’s brothers hated him for bringing a bad report and for accepting the position of favorite.
Now, I am an only child but, I’ve been around families with siblings and the next part here… it has me painting a pretty well-known scene. Joseph isn’t dumb…he knows his life is different because of Jacob’s favoritism and his brothers are refusing to speak kindly to him. Again, what’s next doesn’t really surprise me – it sounds perfectly human.
Joseph wakes up from a dream and he makes a choice to tell his angry brothers. A dream which describes bundles of sheaves (such as wheat) gathering around Joseph’s bundle and his brother’s bundles bowing to his. It doesn’t take much to interpret the meaning behind that dream (Genesis 37:5-8) and the brothers weren’t having it.
…So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Genesis 37:8b
Even more. Yikes.
Well, Joseph may not have been clear on the first dream, but the second dream included similar themes with Joseph at the center. Joseph makes another move and again…not surprised. Joseph has learned how to get under the skin of his brothers and I think he enjoys it! So when Joseph has a second dream with a similar meaning, the brothers hate breeds into jealousy (Genesis 37:11). Jacob smacks Joseph on the hand (Genesis 37:10), but not without remembering God and keeping the dream stored in his heart and mind. It reminds me of the parent telling the one son to stop being a pest, all while hoping the bossiness turns him into a future CEO. (I sure need Joseph and his brothers to get along right now, but what if this dream means something big for him…for us?)
Maybe I don’t give Joseph enough benefit of the doubt. He is young, immature, and lacks experiences – he may not realize just how much fuel he continues to add to the fire of division between himself and his brothers. As we all tend to do, the dreams for Joseph turn out exciting and flashy – if he is in charge, he will be in a position of prosperity! Yet, also as we tend to do, he doesn’t consider the time, effort, and transformation required to serve in a position of power and leadership.
In this moment Joseph only knows the love of his father, the hate of his brothers, and the two exciting and prosperous dreams. And then…
- As we move forward through Joseph’s story – think about a dream you had 10-13 years ago? Who did you tell?
- Joseph told the truth (Genesis 37:2) and we begin to see some consequences – do you find yourself keeping the truth to yourself to avoid conflict?
- What were Joseph’s brothers envious of? What or who do you find yourself being envious of?
- Do you think Joseph shared his dreams because he was excited or because he wanted to get a rise out of his brothers? Would you have shared the dreams?