Jacob’s first born son from his favored wife Rachel, Joseph was also favored by Jacob. So here is where the real rivalry between the brothers accelerates, at seventeen years old Joseph was with Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, some of his older brothers tending sheep. Joseph, being young and spoiled, came home after work bringing a bad report about his brothers to his father, as though the older boys don’t know how to tend sheep and only Joseph does. Jacob then, unaware of the animosity between the boys, had a varied colored special coat made only for Joseph. Another slight for the older sons, who see the favoring for Joseph, and it builds into hatred now. Then Joseph has two dreams where the brothers sheaves of wheat bow down to his, and where eleven stars in the sky, along with the sun and the moon bow down to him. The first dream concerned his brothers, the second included Mom and Dad, which brought a rebuke from Jacob.
All the older sons are now some distance away tending the sheep and Joseph has been left at home. Jacob then sends Joe to check on their welfare, at Shechem, and to report back. The boys had moved on to better pasture, and Joe is found wandering in the fields at Shechem, and a stranger finds him and sends him in the right direction. From a distance the brothers recognize that obnoxious coat coming their way, and refer to Joseph as ‘that dreamer.’ Now the hatred starts to be revealed, it may have been latent before, but now it is in full view. “Let’s kill him,”one brother says, “a wild beast did it, we’ll tell our father,” another chimes in, “then we’ll see who bows to whom.” The oldest brother, Rueben steps in though with a plan to only scare Joseph, “Shed no blood, we’ll throw him into a pit, but do him no harm,” and secretly planned to rescue the lad. Before it could be fully realized, Judah steps in with another idea to profit from this, for if Joseph is now allowed to go home he will surely tell all that has happened. So when some Midianite caravans come by they sell Joseph to them as a slave, then go home to tell their tale of his demise to their father Jacob. Of course Jacob is devastated and the liars try to comfort him, but Jacob refused to be comforted, and post-prophetically describes his soul being lost, also, in the ‘pit,’ Sheol.
Meanwhile God has a plan for Joseph and he is taken to Egypt, and sold as a slave to the Pharaohs’ captain, Potiphar.
As posh American Christians, we don’t understand how bad things can happen to good people. After all, doesn’t God love us more that everyone else, and even me more than you? Scripture reveals the ugly truth that all mankind is universally the same: sinful, jealous, proud, lustful, vengeful, arrogant, selfish. So where are these good people? Genesis 49 reveals the traits of Jacob’s sons; Reuban is a leader, yet without any control of his passions; Simeon and Levi let anger control them, and are violent; Judah has been chosen as the one from which the Scepter of Israel comes, the Lion from the tribe of Judah is to come, yet he, himself drinks too much; Zebulun is a sailor and fisherman, who is a haven for all ships; Issachar is a laborer who is willing to work night and day to get what he wants; Dan is a judge who sees danger and warns his people of a wrong path that they are on; Gad is a victim of evil intent, yet he never quits, he never falls prey to victimhood ; Asher lives a life of luxury ; Naphtali is a poet, consumed with beauty, and an eye for detail; Joseph bears fruit, enemies attack relentlessly, yet he never wavers, the God of Jacob, the Mighty One will never forsake him, he is completely distinguished among the sons of Jacob; Benjamin is savvy in business, as a wolf who stalks his prey, and conquers readily.
To some degree these son’s of Jacob are typical of all mankind. On this earth, because of the sinful nature of man, little evil that comes our way is undeserved. It is by the Grace of God that we have any blessings of good at all. Our salvation is all provided by grace, any love that we know comes from God, our provision comes from God, any protection, any comfort, any strength, any foresight, any beauty. Calamity, and tragedy are all allowed by God to strengthen us, to test us, and also any luxury, or prosperity is allowed by God to strengthen and test us. How we respond is directly indicative of our faith in, and love of Jehovah, through Jesus Christ our Savior.