Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 12 December 2020
The Menace of Moral Compromise
Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated
him even more. 6 He said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have
dreamed; 7 And behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold,
my sheaf rose up and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered
around and bowed down to my sheaf." 8 Then his brothers said to him,
"Shall you indeed reign over us? Or are you really going to have
dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for
his words." (Gen 37:5-8 BR)
NOTE: For additional
information on the story of Joseph see my article
Joseph: Savior in Egypt.
The text for today
introduces the first of two dreams Joseph experienced that predicted the
future. His brothers stated the obvious meaning of the first dream. He would
rule over them. The dream says nothing about Egypt and the brothers'
interpretation likely assumed that Joseph would try to assume the rights of
the firstborn. The second dream in verses 9 to 11 depicted the sun, moon and
eleven stars bowing down to Joseph, which implied being given even greater
power than first-born rights. His father Jacob was shocked by the obvious
meaning of the dream, but considered it closely because he had received
revelation through dreams.
To understand why the
brothers should hate Joseph even more after hearing the dreams we must
consider two important events that preceded the dreams. And, in this
back-story I believe is a parallel situation to Hanukkah.
Verse 2 tells us that Joseph
shepherded flocks with the four sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Then the verse
says that Joseph brought a report to his father of evil committed by his
brothers. Most Bible versions and commentators interpret the report as being
about the sons of the concubine wives. However, Rashi attributes the evil
report as concerning the sons of Leah. The three oldest sons of Leah had
previously committed grievous sins. Simeon and Levi had murdered all the
males in Shechem as revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah (Gen 34:25),
and Reuben had lain with his father's concubine-wife Bilhah (Gen 35:22).
The tragedy of Jacob's
family was not his favoritism of Joseph but the abandonment of obedience of
the commandments of God by the sons of Leah. Abraham had been commended for
keeping the commandments of God, but now his great grandsons have decided
they can ignore God's rules. Joseph stands in sharp contrast by his godly
character. Unfortunately, Joseph is sometimes defamed by commentators as a
spoiled brat who gossiped about his brothers. That is not the story of
Joseph. The truth is that Jacob's family had been infected with a serious
spiritual deficiency. The sons of Leah acted as if they could inherit the
covenantal promises while at the same time rejecting the moral foundation of
Verse 3 says that Jacob
loved Joseph more than his other sons and for good reason. As recognition of
his esteem Jacob gave Joseph a special tunic, the kind that was normally
worn by princes and nobles. This gift signaled Jacob's intent to treat
Joseph as if he were the first-born. These two events resulted in Joseph
being hated by his brothers. Thus, hearing the dreams became the trigger for
greater hatred and motivation for decisive action to make sure that Joseph
would never have such power over them. So, the brothers, apparently led by
the sons of Leah, first conspired to kill Joseph, and then finally agreed to
sell him into slavery.
The sin of putting personal
desires ahead of God's will as exhibited by Joseph's brothers repeatedly
plagued the nation of Israel for centuries and eventually led to their exile
in Babylon. After the return to the land spiritual danger arose again when
the infamous King Antiochus forced Greek culture on Judea, desecrated the
temple and demanded the Jews forget the laws of their God. Many Jews compromised
their values to get along, but other Jews determined to stay faithful to
God's commandments. In fact, it was during the days of the Maccabees that
the term "Judaism" was coined to refer to a way of life devoted to
observance of Torah commandments.
This conflict of values tore
at the heart of Jewish culture. Fortunately, the warriors of righteousness
led a successful rebellion against the tyranny of Antiochus. After the
temple and the sacred flame were restored, the festival of dedication was
established to give thanks annually for God's deliverance. Today Jewish
custom stresses the miraculous military victory and miraculous supply of
oil. I would say that greater than these miracles is the legacy of righteous
Jews who stood faithful to God's Word in tough times.
The Body of Messiah today
faces the same menace of compromise. Those who seek to live godly in Yeshua
are ridiculed in pop culture. We face pressures from various institutions
and groups to revise our religious convictions. Let us not be among those
that fall away from the faith for the sake of social approval. Rather, let
us choose to pattern our lives according to the godly examples of Joseph and
the Maccabees and rededicate ourselves to being lights of the Messiah in
this dark world.
Copyright © 2020 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.