Sabbath, April 23, 2016

“Jacob’s sons were shepherds, and fed their flocks where they could find the best pastures. In traveling from place to place with their cattle, they often wandered quite a distance from their father’s house, so that they did not see their father for several months at a time. In his anxiety for them, he sent Joseph to see if they were all well. With the true interest of a brother, Joseph searched for his brethren, where his father supposed he would find them, but they were not there. A certain man found him wandering in the field in search of his brethren, and directed him to Dothan. This was a long journey for Joseph. But he cheerfully performed it, because he loved his brethren, and also wished to relieve the anxiety of his father.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 139, 140.

Difficulties among brothers

1. What was Joseph’s responsibility in his parents’ home? What is related about him and the behavior of his brothers?

Genesis 37:2 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.

“… Joseph, whose rare personal beauty seemed but to reflect an inward beauty of mind and heart. Pure, active, and joyous, the lad gave evidence also of moral earnestness and firmness. He listened to his father’s instructions, and loved to obey God. The qualities that afterward distinguished him in Egypt–gentleness, fidelity, and truthfulness–were already manifest in his daily life. His mother being dead, his affections clung the more closely to the father, and Jacob’s heart was bound up in this child of his old age.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 209.

2. What is known about the brothers’ relationship with Joseph? Can we say that the latter was to blame for this situation?

Genesis 37:3, 4 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 colours. 4And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

“But even this affection was to become a cause of trouble and sorrow. Jacob unwisely manifested his preference for Joseph, and this excited the jealousy of his other sons. As Joseph witnessed the evil conduct of his brothers, he was greatly troubled; he ventured gently to remonstrate with them, but only aroused still further their hatred and resentment. He could not endure to see them sinning against God, and he laid the matter before his father, hoping that his authority might lead them to reform.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 209.

Divine dreams and their meaning

3. Did Joseph’s brothers have a good understanding of the dream that he told them? What feelings did they have toward him? How did the situation become even worse after the second dream?

Genesis 37:5-11 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7For, 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. 8And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9And 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. 10And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. 

Acts 7:9, first part And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt:…

“Their malice was still further increased as the boy one day told them of a dream that he had had….

“ ‘Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?’ exclaimed his brothers in envious anger.

“Soon he had another dream, of similar import, which he also related: ‘Behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.’ This dream was interpreted as readily as the first. The father, who was present, spoke reprovingly–‘What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?’ Notwithstanding the apparent severity of his words, Jacob believed that the Lord was revealing the future to Joseph.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 209, 210.

A long search for his brothers

4. Although he had to travel alone for a very long distance, was Joseph willing to obey his father’s instructions to go and see how his brothers were doing? Knowing his brothers’ feelings, did he object to carrying out his father’s desire?

Genesis 37:13, 14 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy 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.

“With a joyful heart, Joseph parted from his father, neither the aged man nor the youth dreaming of what would happen before they should meet again. When, after his long and solitary journey, Joseph arrived at Shechem, his brothers and their flocks were not to be found.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 210. 

5. After walking at least fifty miles from the valley of Hebron to Shechem, did he find his brothers where he expected? As he was tired and wandering in the fields without result, what did a man ask him? What was his affectionate answer?

Genesis 37:15, 16 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 

“Upon inquiring for them, he was directed to Dothan. He had already traveled more than fifty miles, and now an additional distance of fifteen lay before him, but he hastened on, forgetting his weariness in the thought of relieving the anxiety of his father, and meeting the brothers, whom, despite their unkindness, he still loved.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 210.

6. Was he willing to go even further to find them in Dothan, or did he abandon the search? After such a long walk and his great joy at finding them, how was he received by his brothers?

Genesis 37:17, 18 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. 18And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

“His brothers saw him approaching; but no thought of the long journey he had made to meet them, of his weariness and hunger, of his claims upon their hospitality and brotherly love, softened the bitterness of their hatred. The sight of the coat, the token of their father’s love, filled them with frenzy. ‘Behold, this dreamer cometh,’ they cried in mockery. Envy and revenge, long secretly cherished, now controlled them.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 210, 211.

An example worthy of imitation

7. Similarly, who took a very dangerous journey to look for His brothers, knowing full well how He would be received? If we appreciate the character and searching love of Joseph and Jesus, what should we do in like manner?

Luke 19:10; 15:4-7 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost…. 15:4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 

“Joseph illustrates Christ. Jesus came to His own, but His own received Him not. He was rejected and despised, because His acts were righteous, and His consistent, self-denying life was a continual rebuke upon those who professed piety, but whose lives were corrupt. Joseph’s integrity and virtue were fiercely assailed, and she who would lead him astray could not prevail, therefore her hatred was strong against the virtue and integrity which she could not corrupt, and she testified falsely against him. The innocent suffered because of his righteousness. He was cast into prison because of his virtue. Joseph was sold to his enemies by his own brethren for a small sum of money. The Son of God was sold to His bitterest enemies by one of His own disciples.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1096.

For further study

Ezekiel 34:11, 12

Isaiah 40:11

Jeremiah 23:3

Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 138, 139

“But Joseph was faithful to God, and his fidelity was a constant testimony to the true faith. It was to quench this light that Satan worked through the envy of Joseph’s brothers to cause him to be sold as a slave in a heathen land. God overruled events, however, so that the knowledge of Himself should be given to the people of Egypt.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 332.

Did I do my best?

One morning, word came that a steamer was in distress on the lake. Students from the Bible college hurried down to the shore. There they saw the “Lady Elgin” not only in distress, but breaking to pieces under the power of the storm. Men and women were in danger of being lost. Among the rescue crew were two brothers from Iowa. One of them stripped off all his extra clothing, swam to the ship and brought one passenger to the shore. He went again and brought another, and then another, and another until there were eight or nine people standing on the shore of Lake Michigan whom he had rescued. He was severely affected by the cold.

As he stood there trembling in front of a log fire that had been kindled, he looked out over the lake and saw another man in peril. He said, “I must go again.”

The people gathered around him, saying, “It does not mean rescue for him for you to go; it means loss of life to you.” But he broke through the crowd and plunged once more into the icy waters and brought a tenth, an eleventh, and a twelfth to shore. With serious risk to himself and a sincere interest for others’ lives, this was repeated until 17 people were rescued from death.

Later, as he stood exhausted in his room, he was still asking himself: Did I do my best? I am afraid I did not! He was thinking about those who were lost. Do we feel the same interest for others? Are we like Jesus and this young man–looking for our brother, longing for his salvation? Let us become conscious of the help that people need and that we are called to give. –Adapted from G.B. Thompson, Soul Winning, pp. 7-9.