Joseph’s Birth and Early Years
“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
“And she conceived, and bore a son; and said, God has taken away my reproach:
“And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son” (Gen. 30:22-24).
ULTIMATELY GOD ANSWERED RACHEL’S petition and opened her womb.
As stated, she named her son Joseph, which means “He shall add.” In effect, this was a prophecy referring to the birth of another son, who, in fact, would be Benjamin.
It seems by now that Rachel had advanced somewhat in the Spirit and had forsaken human devices, such as resorting to mandrakes. She now evidenced a complete dependence on the sovereign grace of the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Concerning this, Stanley Horton says of her: “When God remembers, it does not mean that He had forgotten. Rather it means that it was God’s time and He actively entered the situation to do something about it. This intervention was to answer Rachel’s prayers that He had been listening to the entire time of Leah’s childbearing years. God, not the mandrakes, made it possible for Rachel to have a son. Barrenness was considered a disgrace. Now that disgrace was removed by the birth of a son. But she was not satisfied, since Leah had six sons. So she named the boy Joseph, meaning ‘He shall add,’ and she asked for another son. Unfortunately the fulfillment of that prayer would cause her death (Gen. 35:16-19).”
Very little is said about Joseph regarding his upbringing.
When Jacob was to meet Esau, Joseph was mentioned. Concerning that time, the Scripture says, “And he (Jacob) put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
“And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
“And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Gen. 33:2-4).
This occasioned Jacob with his family and herds coming back to the Promised Land. He had been away for more than 20 years. How old that Joseph was at this time, we aren’t told; however, he was probably not much more than 4 or 5 years old. We now pick up with the account of his life when he was 17 years old as given to us in the Word of God.
The Scripture says: “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
“These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report” (Gen. 37:1-2).
Verse 2 sets Joseph forward as a shepherd 17 years of age. It is believed that his mother Rachel was still living but died within the year. It must be remembered that these accounts are not necessarily given in chronological order.
The story that is about to unfold before us is at least one of the most remarkable and one of the most powerful in the entirety of the Scriptures, and in history for that matter. It is a powerful testimony to the inspiration of the Word of God, for no man either before or after the writing of the New Testament could have composed such a story. As stated, it is one of the most remarkable in history.
Evidently Jacob’s vast herds were divided into at least two flocks and perhaps even more. Joseph was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, while the sons of Leah were evidently shepherding the other flock.
We aren’t told exactly what the evil report was that Joseph related to his father, but it probably had to do with the immoral Canaanite practices in which his brothers were participating. There is some indication that he had first spoken to them about these practices, but that only aroused resentment against him in their hearts. While these men were in the covenant, so to speak, they were actually not a part of the covenant. In other words, they knew about God, but they really didn’t know God.
THE COAT OF COLORS
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors” (Gen. 37:3).
If it is to be noticed, the Holy Spirit used here the name Israel, signifying that what was done here regarding Joseph was totally of the Lord. Many have claimed that Jacob caused this problem among his sons by favoring Joseph. That’s not true!
The love expressed here had to do with the Lord laying His hand on Joseph, while Jacob’s other sons had rejected the Lord. Even though Jacob loved all of his sons, his love for Joseph had to do with the will of God. While he was his youngest (Benjamin having not yet been born), still, that was not the primary reason.
Because of sin on the part of his other sons, there was no fellowship between Jacob and these sons. In fact, there couldn’t be any fellowship, as would be obvious. There was fellowship with Joseph because of the touch of God on his life, and above all, his love for God.
The coat of many colors holds a special meaning. It was to be worn by the one who was to have the birthright, normally the firstborn. However, as it had been with Jacob and Esau, the firstborn, who was Reuben, would not have this position of leadership. The Holy Spirit proclaimed that it should go to Joseph. When Jacob left this mortal coil, Joseph, in essence, was to be the high priest of the family, which the following years graphically proved to be the case!
Jacob didn’t want to make the mistake his father Isaac had made. Isaac didn’t want to give the birthright to Jacob even though the Lord had made it very plain at the birth of the two boys that this was to be the case. Jacob coming by that position as a result of Isaac’s procrastination was fraught with difficulties and problems. Jacob was determined that this would not be the case with his actions. The moment the Lord told him that Joseph was to be the one, however that happened, Jacob immediately proclaimed his position by making Joseph this many-colored coat, which he would wear at certain times. As we shall see, none of this sat well at all with his brothers.
“And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (Gen. 37:4).
This perfectly epitomizes Christ, of whom Joseph was one of the most remarkable types found in the Word of God. God loved His Son and showed it greatly by lavishing upon Him all the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, the Jews, who were His brethren, so to speak, hated Him.
So, what we see here regarding this scenario is a perfect picture of Christ. This hatred - and hatred it is - follows down in the church regarding the same principles. What do I mean by that?
Those on whom the Lord has laid His hand will ultimately be hated by the church. As we have previously stated, this small family, which actually constituted the church of its day, had little trouble with its surrounding neighbors, although they were heathen. The greatest problems came from within, even as we are studying here. It is the same with the modern church. The hatred and animosity little comes from without, but rather from within.
“And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
“And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
“For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
“And his brethren said to him, Shall you indeed reign over us? or shall you indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Gen. 37:5-8).
The Lord revealed the future to Joseph in a dream. While the dream definitely referred to him, with it ultimately being fulfilled, it more so referred to Christ and Israel. He told his brothers the truth, and they hated him even more. Thus it was with Joseph’s great Antitype. He bore witness to the truth, and his testimony to the truth was answered on man’s part by the Cross.
The mention of Joseph’s mother in Verse 10 is thought by some to be a mistake in the sacred text, with Rachel already being dead. However, she was still living at the time and died shortly afterward. As stated, these accounts are not necessarily given in chronological order.
By looking at these dreams from the natural viewpoint, many have suggested that it was prideful arrogance that had Joseph to relate these dreams to his brothers. However, it was not done in pride since there is no reason to suppose that Joseph as yet understood the celestial origin of his dreams, much less what they meant.
A TYPE OF CHRIST
Concerning this, The Pulpit Commentary says: “He related this in the simplicity of his heart and in doing so he was also guided, unconsciously it may be, but still really, by an overruling providence, who made use of the very telling of the dream as a step toward its fulfillment.”
The Pulpit Commentary continues, “In the absence of information to the contrary, we are warranted in believing that there was nothing either sinful or offensive in Joseph’s spirit or manner in making known his dreams. That which appears to have excited the hostility of his brethren was not the mode of their communication, but the character of their contents.”
In fact, due to the principle of Joseph being a type of Christ and, without a doubt, the most powerful type in the Old Testament, no sin whatsoever is recorded as it regards this brother. While he very definitely did commit sins at times simply because the Scripture says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” still, these sins were not recorded because of his place and position. To be sure, if what Joseph did in relating these dreams was wrong, the Holy Spirit would have said so or else ignored the incident.
While the dream definitely had to do with Joseph, as we shall see, Joseph’s life and experiences far more portrayed Christ. Concerning the dream, while his brothers would definitely bow down to him, the greater meaning has to do with the time that is coming when Israel will bow down to Christ. This will take place immediately after the second coming. That is by far the greater meaning and that which the Holy Spirit intends to present.
The hatred that Joseph’s brethren exhibited toward him represents the Jews in Christ’s day. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” He had “no form nor comeliness” in their eyes. They would not own Him as the Son of God or as the King of Israel. Their eyes were not open to behold “His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” They would not have Him. They hated Him.
“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
“And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to you to the earth?
“And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying” (Gen. 37:9-11).
As it regards Joseph, we see that in no wise did he relax his testimony in consequence of his brothers’ refusal of his first dream. He dreamed another dream and told it, as well, to his brethren and his father.
This was simple testimony founded upon divine revelation, but it was testimony that brought Joseph down to the pit. Had he kept back his testimony or taken off part of its edge and power, he might have spared himself, but no, he told them the truth, and, therefore, they hated him even more.
THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST
Concerning this, C. H. Mackintosh said: “Thus was it with Joseph’s great Antitype. He bore witness to the truth — He witnessed a good confession — He kept back nothing — He could only speak of the truth because He was Truth, and His testimony to the truth was answered, on man’s part by the Cross, the vinegar, the soldier’s spear.
“The testimony of Christ too, was connected with the deepest, fullest, richest grace. He not only came as ‘The Truth,’ but also as the perfect expression of all the love of the Father’s heart: ‘grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ He was the full disclosure to man of what God was, and was the full disclosure to God of what man ought to have been, but was not; hence man was left entirely without excuse. He came and showed God to man, and man hated God with a perfect hatred. The fullest exhibition of divine love was answered by the fullest exhibition of human hatred. This is seen in the Cross; and we have it touchingly foreshadowed at the pit into which Joseph was cast by his brethren.”
THE SENDING OF JOSEPH
“And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
“And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not your brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send you unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
“And he said to him, Go, I pray you, see whether it is well with your brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem” (Gen. 37:12-14).
Joseph was given more revelation through another dream. Little did all of these men know, even Joseph or his father, as to how important this revelation actually was.
In these dreams, the Holy Spirit portrayed Israel’s acceptance of Christ when, in fact, at the time the dream was given, there was no Israel, at least as far as a nation was concerned.
The short phrase, Here am I, in reply to Jacob’s request of Joseph, foreshadows the statement of Christ, “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me.
“I delight to do Your will, O My God: Yes, Your law is within My heart” (Ps. 40:7-8).
The conspiracy against Joseph to murder him foreshadowed the conspiracy of the religious leaders of Israel to murder Christ.
Jacob sending Joseph to his brethren in order to find out how they were doing proves that he did not understand at all the depths of their hatred for Joseph. However, all of this foreshadowed God sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to the nation of Israel, even as Israel was raised up for this very purpose. The difference is, whereas Jacob was ignorant of the degree of hatred evidenced against Joseph, God was not ignorant at all but knew totally of the hatred on the part of Israel that would be evidenced toward Christ. Nevertheless, this did not deter Him at all!