Genesis 37:5-6

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 12 December 2020


The Menace of Moral Compromise

5 And 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 the covenant.

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.

Barukh Hashem

Copyright 2020 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.