Sheaves of the Field and Stars of the Sky
Introduction: For many, many chapters, Jacob has been the center of focus in the pages of the Bible. As we saw, his life was used in a most dramatic way to reveal what would come about in the future as God unfolds history before our eyes.
We’ve been able to use him as a reference for so many points in history. Some have come to pass and some are yet to happen, but they were laid out for us to see and believe. Now, as suddenly as Abraham and Isaac left the center of focus, Jacob does the same.
Joseph now becomes the focal point of the narrative with a couple of brief interludes concerning Judah, Jacob’s fourth son. But Jacob will mostly be on the sidelines from this point until just prior to his death. The stories and pictures which issue from Joseph’s life are no less wonderful than those which we saw in Jacob.
We’ll not hurry through these coming chapters, and we’ll look for Christ as we go, knowing that He is truly the focus of all of Scripture, as He Himself told us. The name Joseph means, “He shall add.” May these stories about him add to our understanding of God’s beautiful plan of redemption.
Text Verse: For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction. Job 33:14-16
When reading about dreams in the Bible and seeing that they are actually prophecies, we need to be careful to not assume that every dream we have is a prophecy or a vision from God. God’s word is written and we have everything we need in it to understand what He desires from us and for us.
Since the completion of the work of Christ, other than Acts chapter 2, which was spoken to the Jewish people by Peter who is the Apostle to the Jews, dreams as prophetic utterances are never mentioned as being applicable to us. As this is so, we can make the logical assumption that they are not intended as a tool for us during this dispensation of time.
I bring this up because we can lose a foothold on sound Christianity very easily by pursuing dreams or those who have had dreams. We have the Bible, we have God’s revealed word, and that word is all-sufficient for our faith and practice and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Genealogy of Jacob
1 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
In the previous chapter, we saw Esau’s move from Canaan to Seir. This verse then is to remind us that Jacob is the son of promise and the one who has remained in Canaan. Here it says that he “dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger.”
While Esau’s line had moved to and possessed the land where they lived, the son of the promised line is still living as a stranger. It will be several hundred years before the Israelites will possess the land of Canaan as the sons of Esau did in their own land. After the death of Abraham, it was Isaac who was noted, just as Jacob is now –
“And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac dwelt at Beer Lahai Roi.” Genesis 25:11
The Bible is reminding us of who is in the covenant line and that God’s plans are being worked out through this line. These men, dwelling in tents as pilgrims, are noted to show that they were waiting on an eternal inheritance. Hebrews 11 explains it to us –
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (13)
Along with the record of this main line, incidents occur which are selected by God to show us pictures of what will be seen in Christ. The coming chapters dealing with Joseph are no different.
The line of the Messiah comes through Judah, not Joseph. But Joseph’s life will be a rich tapestry of pictures of what God will do in the world through His Son, Jesus. The amazing depth of how the stories in Joseph’s life picture Christ is truly wonderful.
2 This is the history of Jacob.
We now come to the eleventh set of “generations” listed in the Bible. This is the last set in Genesis. But, unlike the other genealogies, no listing of descendants is given.
I see two reasons for this. The first is that the sons of Israel were named just towards the end of chapter 35. The second is that Jacob is the last individual son of promise. From him will come the people of Israel and all 12 sons are included in the covenant.
This history then is less of a list of names followed by historical information, than that of a detailed historical account of what happens to the family all the way through to his death in the land of Egypt. In order, the previous lists of generations were –
The generations of the heavens and the earth (2:4); the generations of Adam (5:1); the generations of Noah (6:9); the generations of the sons of Noah (10:1); the generations of Shem (11:10); the generations of Terah (11:27); the generations of Ishmael (25:12), and the generations of Isaac (25:19). Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. (36:1). The genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. (36:9)
God’s funnel, His line of selected people who would lead to the Messiah, and those who branch off from that line, is coming more and more into focus. Every detail is precise and is relevant.
If all of this meticulous attention is given to get us to the Messiah, then think about how meticulous He is in how He handles your relationship with the Messiah. (DISCUSS)
2 (con’t) Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers.
This story actually begins before some of the details in chapter 35. Isaac’s death has already been recorded, but he will actually be alive for about thirteen more years. Jacob is, at this time about 107 years old and Isaac is about 166 years old. Joseph is 17 and so this is somewhere right around the year 2275 AM.
Throughout the next many chapters, Joseph will be a type of Christ. The number of similarities between the two are so overwhelming that one can come to no other conclusion. The record of his birth and the giving of his name were the first of such pictures.
If you remember His mother was Rachel, meaning “lamb.” The son of a lamb is a lamb and Jesus is called a “the Lamb who was slain” in Revelation 13:8. The giving of the name Joseph came from two words – asaph (to take away) and yoseph, to add.
Jesus was, according to the Apostle Paul, the one who took away the reproach of the law and added gentiles to His fold. Now this son will continue to be used an incredible amount of times to prefigure the Jesus. This verse is the first of them. He is feeding the flock with his brothers; he is a shepherd. Thus he pictures the Lord who said, “I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11
2 (con’t)And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives;
The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah were Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. There is speculation about why he is with these four, but what is implied is that he is the one in superintendence over them. He is their chief shepherd, a term used of Jesus in 1 Peter 5:4.
If you remember what the two maids pictured, then you might see why this verse is included. They picture the exiles of the people of Israel, and therefore the sons are sons of exile – disobedient sons.
2 (con’t) and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.
As the faithful steward over God’s house, Jesus is the One who handles the affairs of his people. Joseph brought a bad report of the sons of the two wives to his father and Jesus is the Lord who brought the bad report of the disobedient sons of Israel to God the Father, resulting in their exiles.
Look at the symbolism so far in just one verse about Joseph. There is so much more ahead as his life will be unfolded before us in a beautiful picture of the true Shepherd and Overseer, Jesus.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age.
The name Jacob is used three times in this chapter. The name Israel is used twice. Both times Israel is used, it is in connection with Joseph. Here it says Israel loved Joseph more than all his children. And the reason is given, “he was the son of his old age.”
Most people take this to mean that Jacob had Joseph when he was old, but he had Benjamin after Joseph, so this doesn’t make sense. The term in Hebrew is ben zequnim hu. Literally translated, it says “son of old age to him.” This then probably would be a phrase meaning, “a wise son.”
It’s not speaking of Jacob’s advanced physical age, but Joseph’s advanced mental age. Joseph had wisdom and understanding beyond his 17 years and Jacob loved him for this quality. God has many “sons” listed in the Bible in various contexts, but there is One that He loves above all others, His only begotten – Jesus.
This love is seen and noted throughout the New Testament, starting right at Matthew 3:17 –
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'”
The wisdom of Joseph pictures the greater wisdom of Jesus, noted in many passages, such as this one in Isaiah –
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2
So here in this verse we have a beautiful picture of Christ, the Son of Father and yet, the Ancient of Days – a title given about Christ in Daniel chapter 7. This Ancient Son, filled with wisdom from eternity past, is loved above all others by His Father, just as Joseph, this wise son, is loved above all his brothers.
3 (con’t) Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
This special tunic is called in Hebrew ketonet passim. The term comes from a word which means, properly, the palm of the hand or sole of the foot. By implication, because of the plural form, it would cover the whole body, reaching to both the hands and the feet. What is implied is that Joseph, wearing such a garment, would be an overseer, not one doing manual labor.
The garment is usually translated as a coat of many colors. However, its stripes either varied in weaving or varied in color, but it’s not really certain which. This term is used only one other time in the Bible, in 2 Samuel 13:18 when referring to the robes of the daughters of King David –
“Now she had on a robe of many colors, for the king’s virgin daughters wore such apparel. And his servant put her out and bolted the door behind her.”
The beautifully ornate robe of Joseph reflects the same type of garment worn by the Lord. It is His human body, filled with and adorned with the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Joseph’s garment would have been a symbol of his beloved status and his place of authority.
Jesus’ life and actions, as guided by the Spirit, filled those same roles. The reason I’m being so detailed in this is because if this coat is speaking of Jesus’ spiritual graces, then the connection can be drawn directly to us.
I just showed you that the only other time this type of garment is mentioned is for that of the virgin daughters of King David. David, like Joseph, pictures Jesus. The symbolism that we can draw from this is found in 2 Corinthians 11. There Paul writes this –
“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2-4)
In other words, the same graces of the Spirit which adorn Jesus are to adorn us as well. We, like the virgin daughters of the King, are to be ready to be presented to our groom, Christ Jesus. Our religion and the gospel we adhere to is to be pure and undefiled.
Finally, the symbolism of the full body garment follows through even into heaven itself. Now, we see it realized in its fullness in the garments worn by Jesus in His heavenly dwelling. This is openly noted in Revelation 1:12, 13 –
“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
Joseph is the father’s favorite, but not of his brothers. The hatred has nothing to do with the bad report mentioned earlier. This verse is talking about all the brothers. Without a true cause, but merely out of jealousy because “their father loved him more,” they couldn’t even speak peaceably to him.
In Hebrew, the normal greeting is shalom lekha – peace to you. This is the greeting they failed to even utter to their brother. In Hebrew it says, v’lo yakhelu da’bero l’shalom (44). It’s not that they couldn’t speak peacefully to him so much as they couldn’t speak peace to him. In reality, they wished him harm.
Likewise, the Jews around Jesus, His own brothers of the flesh, hated him and couldn’t speak peace to Him. Instead, their words were harmful and they plotted His death at every turn. This is perfectly realized in Jesus. John 15:25 is a good example of this –
But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’
In their hatred of Jesus, they didn’t just fail to speak peacefully to Him, they failed to speak peace to Him. They intended and they followed through with harm towards Him. As we’ll see, the hatred, and the harm which follows to Joseph, will be used by God for the sake of all of Jacob’s home.
The same is true with Jesus. The people intended Him harm and they went through with their intentions, but this was known by God and it was used by Him for all people everywhere. Out of tragedy, God can weave a beautifully joyous tapestry.
This thought is seen in John chapter 11 –
49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
These type of lessons from Joseph’s life should give us the same type of comfort in our own trials. When we think everything is out of control, this is when God shines through all the more brightly. LIFE APPLICATION
II. Joseph’s First Dream
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.
Verses 5 through 8 form what is known as a chiasm. This is a pattern which says something and then turns around and says the same thing in the opposite direction. These are literary devices which tell us something that God intends for us to see. I found this chiasm while preparing this sermon and I’ll show it to you so you can see how it works –
Genesis 37:5-8 – Joseph’s Dream
Israel Bows to the King (08/26/13)
a. Concerning Joseph’s dream spoken to his brothers
b. they hated him even more
c. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have
dreamed: (giving of the dream)
x. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then
behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and
indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down
to my sheaf.”
c. And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over
us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?”
(explanation of the dream)
b. they hated him even more
a. Concerning his dreams and his words to his brothers
This particular chiasm is showing us that even though he was already hated, it is his rule and authority which is what they truly resent. As he pictures Jesus, what we see is painfully clear. The tribes of Israel, represented by these sons, wanted nothing to do with their God-ordained King.
It will take many years and painful lessons for them to come to the point where they acknowledge him as their leader and bow down to him. The same is true with Jesus.
6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:
He now tells them the dream and their hostility towards him will only grow because of it. The anger though is less because of how the message is received than what the message says. And this same thing will follow through the entire Bible.
When prophets speak, they are hated for the message itself, not because of how they received it – be it in a dream, a vision, or God speaking directly to them. They are hated for the words they turn around and tell to the people. Read the book of Jeremiah just once and you’ll see this time and again.
What God reveals is far more offensive to those who hate Him than how He reveals it. This is true with what we would call His natural revelation through creation. We’re happy with what He has created, but we hate what it tells us, and so we make stuff like evolution up to hide our faces from the reality we see.
It is true with His special revelation which came through prophets and the Bible. People say they love the Bible and they love Jesus all the time, but they pick and choose the parts of the Bible they like or don’t like, including the words of Jesus, because they actually hate what the overall message says.
Churches dedicate monuments of ostentation to the very thing they hate. Professors spend years in education first learning and then teaching Bible disciplines while at the same time dismissing the words they teach. Jacob’s brothers hated both the message and him because of the message. How accurately he pictures Jesus here.
7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
This dream is so obvious that anyone reading it, even for the first time, should be able to see what is being said. Verse 5 says that he told the dream to his brothers, meaning all of them.
Joseph says, v’hineh (behold!) There are the 12 sons of Israel, binding sheaves in the field. He then repeats his exclamation v’hineh! Something big and important happened. “My sheaf arose and stood up.” And then again, v’hineh! Something marvelous occurs. “Your sheaves stood all around mine and bowed down to my sheaf.”
Joseph, one of twelve brothers, will rise to an exalted position as the second highest ruler in Egypt and all of his brothers will bow down to him. This will be literally fulfilled in Genesis 44:14.
God is showing them now of the future and what will happen to each of them directly, but He is showing their posterity what will happen in its ultimate fulfillment when Israel as a nation bows before the Son of Judah and the Son of David. They will finally, as a people bow down to Him as their rightful Leader.
Even the Jews know that this passage is speaking of the Messiah. One ancient Jewish book, Raya Mehimna in Zohar, records that Joseph’s sheaf is to be interpreted as the Messiah. If this is so, and it is, then this is explicitly realized in Philippians 2:10, 11 –
…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“Every knee” includes every Jewish knee as well as every gentile knee. The nations will behold the Messiah and bow.
8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
This is the second verse that says they “hated him even more” It proves this is an anchor in the chiasm which started in verse 5. The hatred is highlighted by the brothers, but it is the result of the rule which would be imposed on them. “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you have dominion over us?”
The question will be answered someday when they bow to Joseph, but it is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. When His conception was announced to Mary, Gabriel spoke these words to her –
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
His reign was prophesied by Gabriel and His dominion is confirmed by Peter. In His first letter to the Jewish believers, he says this – “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” Amen. 5:11 LIFE APPLICATION (It’s all about Jesus)
III. Joseph’s Second Dream
9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
Once again, Joseph has a dream which is as plain to understand as one could be. The second dream resembles the first, and in the Bible, when things are repeated, the second occurrence is given to confirm the first. The symbolism of the 11 stars is the same as the 11 sheaves. They are the 11 brothers of Joseph.
Knowing this, the sun and the moon can be interpreted as well. They are his father and mother. Rachel is already dead, and so Leah, being Jacob’s wife, must be that mother now. And this then fits the pattern of Jesus and the symbolism of the Bible.
The sun isn’t representing God as Jesus’ Father. Rather it is representing the tribe of Judah, from who Jesus issues. And the moon is ultimately fulfilled in who Leah pictures, the law. In the psalms, Judah is said to be the lawgiver. The symbolism is perfectly clear here. All the tribes of Israel and the law, which was what established them as a people, will all bow to Jesus.
10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
This dream was told to Jacob as well as the brothers this time, which tells that he now understood exactly what was intended by the dream. And Jacob understood it as well, asking “Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
Jacob is incredulous, and it’s reflected in his response. But the answer is found in the Bible itself. And the answer is “No.” There is no record of Jacob bowing to Joseph. It would be a stretch to find this dream’s fulfillment in him in any way at all.
In the end, this second dream can be, and is, only fulfilled in Jesus. The nation of Israel, and the law which was issued to them, is the only reasonable explanation to what has been seen in Joseph’s second dream. Thus, there is a literal and spiritual fulfillment of the first dream, and a spiritual fulfillment in the second. But both are realized in Jesus in the ultimate sense.
11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
This final verse of today will show us in the coming verses that envy can only lead to trouble. However, our trouble can be used by God in ways that are more marvelous than we might imagine. The terrible ordeal that Joseph will face because of his brother’s envy will be used by God at the Exodus to show forth His glory in a way which has been remembered for close to 4000 years.
Another group, at a different time, was consumed with envy as well, and they committed the single most horrific act in human history. And yet, out of this came an even greater demonstration of God’s glory.
The exodus of Egypt never would have occurred if Joseph wasn’t first sold by his brothers. And our exodus from sin and bondage could never have come about unless Christ was crucified. And His cross also came about by the consuming envy of His own brothers. We read about it in Matthew 27 –
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
In the end, Jesus’ brothers handed Him over, and it was out of envy. But this, despite being horrific, brought about the greatest event in all of human history.
Jesus Christ died, not for His own sins – for He had none, but for the sins of the world. I’d like just another moment to explain how this is relevant to you and how you also can become a part of God’s glorious and unfolding plan…
Closing Verse: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”Romans 14:10, 11
Next Week: Genesis 37:12-22 (The Son is Sent) (93rd Genesis Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
A Dreamer of Dreams
Now Jacob dwelt in the land
Where his father was a stranger
In the land of Canaan, a place of safety
He lived without fear of danger
This is the history of Jacob
Joseph, being seventeen years of age
Was feeding the flock with his brothers
When soon his life would turn another page
And the lad was with his kin
The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah his father’s wives
And Joseph brought a bad report along with him
Of them to his father about the conduct of their lives
Now Israel loved Joseph more…
Than all his children that he had
Because he was the son of his old age
And he made his father’s heart so glad
Also a tunic of many colors for him he made
Yes, Joseph of all the sons was handsomely arrayed
But when his brothers saw this thing
That their father loved him more
Than all his brothers, they hated him
And could not speak peaceably to him, only words so sore
Now Joseph had a dream
And to his brothers he told it
And they hated him even more
It gave them quite a fit
So he said to them, as he confidently beamed
“Please hear this dream which I have dreamed…
There we were, all of us – you and I
We were binding sheaves in the field
Then behold, my sheaf arose in my mind’s eye
And also stood upright as my dream revealed
And indeed your sheaves stood all around
And bowed down to my sheaf, right to the ground
And his brothers said to him thus
“Shall you indeed over us reign?
Or shall you have dominion over us?”
Let’s not hear this kind of thing again
So they hated him even more
For his dreams and for his words
Which really made them sore
Then he dreamed still another dream
And told it to his brothers
And said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream
I wonder if I’ll have any others?
And this time, the sun and the moon
And the eleven stars bowed down to me
Will this happen someday soon?
What can the meaning of these dreams be?
So he told it to his father and his brothers, you know
And his father rebuked him and said to him, is it really so?
“What is this dream that you have dreamed?
Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed
Come to bow down to the earth before you?”
Has this thing been decreed?
And his brothers envied him as you might expect
But his father kept the matter in mind
These dreams were given so that we could recollect
That God knew before, the things He had designed
God spoke through dreams and through prophets too
Giving wise instruction which will carry us through
These words are recorded now in the Bible for us to heed
To teach valuable lessons to each and every one
So let us pay attention, to His word giving heed
This wondrous word which tells us of His Son
Hold fast, stand strong, and fix your eyes on Jesus
As we await that glorious day when He will return for us
Hallelujah and Amen…