Genesis 37:12-22 (The Son is Sent)

Genesis 37:12-22
The Son is Sent

Introduction: Today we’re continuing on with the life of Joseph. Just as God unfolded parts of His plan through stories about Jacob, He is doing the same with Joseph now. Every story contains lessons about how we can and should interact with others. They also continuously show us man’s failures, even the great heroes of the faith that we hold to.

God doesn’t hide or gloss over these things, but rather exposes them for all to see. Every time such a story comes about, along with being appalled at our fallen state, we should marvel at the grace of God who continues to bear with us despite our actions. Today’s story is a perfect example of this.

Jealousy turns to hatred and then hatred turns into a conspiracy to commit murder. If God’s chosen family acts in such a way, can we look in the mirror and claim we are any better? Rather, the recesses of our hearts are deep chambers of wickedness which can overflow at any time if we don’t guard our conduct closely. Let’s endeavor to do just that.

Text Verse: My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path; Proverbs 1:10-15

God warns us to stay away from trouble-makers and those who would entice us to sin. We may have friends or co-workers who have a “plan” which is intended to make us rich or get ahead, but it may involve something contrary to God’s word. If so, there can be no true profit in it. Let’s be careful to adhere to what the Bible says as it is written and intended for our good. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Sent on a Mission

12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

Jacob is, at this time, living in Hebron. During this period, Joseph had his dreams concerning his brothers sheaves bowing down to his sheaf, and then the 12 stars and the sun and moon bowing down to him. At some point after this, his brothers went back to Shechem to feed their flocks.

This is the same place which Jacob bought from Hamor and the same area where they had killed all of the males of the town. Thus, through both purchase and conquest, they owned the entire area. So far they’d been safe since killing the city’s residents, and so they must have felt it was ok to go back to the area now.

Shechem is about 60 miles north of Hebron and traveling at a shepherd’s pace, it would have taken 20 to 30 hours to get there, maybe longer. It would be like us getting up and walking with a flock of animals to Tampa or beyond. That may seem like a long way to go just to feed a bunch of animals, but they must of had a reason. Maybe it hadn’t rained enough in the south for awhile.

The area of Shechem is now, and certainly was then, well watered and so there was probably plenty of food and water for the flocks. Whatever the reason, God used the distance to bring about a chain of events which would lead to the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams.

13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem?

The name “Israel” is mentioned only twice in this chapter. Once it is speaking of his love for Joseph and then this time when he speaks to Joseph directly. Later, when he hears of his son’s supposed death, he will be called Jacob. There is Jacob, the deceiver, who will be deceived, and there is Israel who struggles with God. In this verse, he is Israel.

And so Israel says to Joseph, the beloved son, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem?” A question like this doesn’t mean that either Jacob or Joseph was ignorant of the matter. Rather, it was a way of introducing a line of thought.

It is a rhetorical question like others frequently used throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The question is a statement of fact. Jesus did the same thing when He spoke to people around Him –

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” Luke 12:6

Jesus and the people knew that in fact five sparrows are sold for two copper coins. In the same way, Jacob is preparing Joseph for his direction by asking what is already obvious.

13 (con’t) Come, I will send you to them.”

By introducing his thought as a question, it alleviates any later explanation. Jacob has said where the brothers are and what they’re doing. So all he has to do is give his direction and anticipate the response. We do this all the time in English without realizing it.

When mom walks out to the table with a plate full of yummy pancakes and says, “Who wants pancakes?” she already knows the answer. By asking the question, she has already told what is being served and avoided additional questions and answers. I’m explaining all of this because it bears on what is being pictured.

Jacob is now a picture of God the Father. Joseph, in type, pictures Jesus, beloved of the Father. Joseph is hated by his brothers, something which was specifically noted three times last week – in verses 4, 5, and 8. Jesus, likewise, knew He was to be hated by His brothers.

Jacob didn’t know what Joseph’s brothers would do to him, but the picture is still clear. God the Father, despite knowing what would come about, sent His beloved Son from His heavenly home to the wicked world to seek and save us. The plotting of man and the death of Jesus would eventually save many people alive.

13 (con’t) So he said to him, “Here I am.”

Joseph has been at home while his brothers have been working with the flocks. This tells us that he is certainly the overseer of the brothers. The long, beautiful robe he had wasn’t something one would work in, but rather supervise with. When he goes to Shechem, it will be to check up on the progress and the well-being of his brothers.

It should be noted that as soon as Jacob spoke, Joseph responded, and he did so without hesitation in his words. Rather, he replied, “Here I am.” When God asked for a volunteer from Isaiah, the same thing happened –

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

And in Hebrews 10, quoting the 40th Psalm, Jesus responds in the same manner, something which is actually being pictured in this portion of the life of Joseph –

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’” Hebrews 10:6, 7

Throughout the Bible, there have been many calls by God to His people. Some have answered like Joseph does to Jacob, “Here I am.” Abraham was like this. He was asked to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering and he responded immediately.

Others have lingered, like Lot before the destruction of Sodom where it says he hesitated. Some have partly obeyed, like Saul. This cost him the kingship. Others have tried to deflect the calling through excuse, like Moses. All this did was to kindle the Lord’s wrath. And Jonah, Jonah tried to run away and hide from the Lord.

If you’re a faithful Christian, then God has certainly called you at one time or another, and He will do so again. There are many answers we could give – “Just a minute Lord”, “I’m busy Lord”, “I’m afraid Lord”, whatever.

But the response He will be pleased with is, “Yes Lord, here I am.” Keep this in mind as you are led to respond to the Lord’s call in your life. Be ready and willing to step up and accept that His will is always the right path.

14 Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.”

In Hebrew Jacob says, lekh na re’eh eth shalom, “go see if there is peace.” (2:29). Jacob is looking to make sure that the family is ok and that the flocks are ok. If so, he was to bring back the news. Again, this shows that Jacob had assigned Joseph as the overseer.

The sons of Israel are in the place where they had killed the entire town. Because of where they were, Jacob may have wondered if everything was ok with them. But there is more to it than that because he also mentions the flocks.

He obviously would know that if the brothers were ok that the flocks should be ok too, unless the brothers weren’t properly tending to the flocks. And so here we see that the chief shepherd isn’t only to be concerned with the shepherds, but the flocks too.

In other words, Joseph’s responsibility is for even the weakest of the sheep. This is beautifully realized in Jesus. To get a full appreciation of this, take time today to read Ezekiel chapter 34.

In that passage you’ll see how the Lord watches over and judges the shepherds of the flocks to ensure that the whole flock is safe. Joseph here, and the Lord in Ezekiel, are both seen fulfilled in Jesus’ work in the New Testament, especially in John 10 –

I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

14 (con’t) So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.

Jacob and Joseph have been in the Valley of Hebron. The term is emek hevron. The idea of a valley is a place of depth and the meaning of Hevron is that of conjoining or attachment. I would suggest that this name is included in this verse to give us an insight into the incarnation of Christ.

It is the only time in the Bible the term, the Valley of Hebron or emek hevron, is used. Any other time, only the name Hebron is given. I would submit, without trying to overreach here, that this is specifically named to show us that from this place of depth comes the conjoining of God and man in the Person of Jesus.

Joseph is being sent out of the Valley of Hebron; Jesus was sent from the unsearchable counsels of God. The root for the word “valley” which is the same in spelling, but with a different pronunciation is used in this manner in Psalm 92:5 –

“O Lord, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.”

And so I see that emek hevron has been included by God to picture the coming Savior, Jesus. As Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

The valley of Hebron, the depth of the conjoining is, in other words, the uniting of the wisdom of God with humanity; the incarnation.

II. Two Wells

15 Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?”

Here is Joseph, having arrived at his father’s field in Shechem, and his brothers aren’t there. As he wandered the area, a man asked him what he’s seeking. There is dispute over who this person was. He’s not named or identified, so all we have is speculation.

Whoever he is, the Lord had him there when Joseph’s brothers were there, and he has him there now to ensure that Joseph would be led to them. Here again is a picture of Jesus. Joseph is seeking the lost just as Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

The brothers may not have felt lost, but to Joseph they were. That is the important thing that we need to see. The leaders of Israel certainly didn’t think they were lost, nor did they think they were misleading their flock, but they were. Jesus was sent to fix this.

16 So he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.

Joseph, not sure where his brothers are asks the man where they have gone. His question is ephoh hem ro’im (2:56) “Where are they pasturing.” In essence, “If they’re not here feeding the flocks, then where have they gone?”

Let’s think this through. The brothers were to have been in Shechem, which is where their father was told they would be. The concept of feeding the flocks in the Bible translates directly into the concept of proper teaching of the word.

One of the Bible’s explicit examples of this is found in 1 Peter 5 and is beautifully reflected in what we see in this picture of Joseph and his brothers –

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (2-4)

Keep thinking of who each represents. The sons of Israel picture the leaders of the tribes. The flocks represent the multitudes. Joseph is going to check on the shepherds and their flocks, just as God sent Jesus to check on the leaders of the flocks and the condition of those flocks.

But Joseph’s brothers have diverted from where they said they would be. They are lost to Joseph; a keen parallel to the state of Israel, as well as the church anytime that the leaders stray.

17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’”

Dothan is a location about 12 miles due north of Shechem. Unlike many names of people and places in the Bible, there is little disagreement about the meaning of the name of Dothan. It means “two wells.”

As we learn in John chapter 4 the piece of land where they were in Shechem contained Jacob’s well, but Dothan has two wells. As wells in the Bible picture the place where one’s life-spring is derived, the picture we’re to learn from this is that the sons of Israel thought they would fare better with two wells for their flocks. What could that mean?

If we look at this in a spiritual sense then, it is exactly what is seen throughout the span of the nation of Israel and even the church. God’s people trade the true waters of life for false waters, or mix the two rather than sticking to the one true Source of their existence. This is explained quite clearly to us in Jeremiah 2:13 –

“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.

There are pits which can hold water and there are those which cannot. There are wells which nourish and there are those which disappoint. In the end, only the fountain of living waters will do. Someone has to lead the flocks and someone has to seek the lost.

The people of Jeremiah’s time, as well as at Jesus’ time, had forsaken the true water of life and had hewn for themselves broken cisterns. This is what we are told again and again and again in the Bible – to stand on the word of God and never mix in anything which could defile that, nor are we to turn to another well in hopes of being refreshed.

The well is the place of spiritual nourishment and the true well is found only in Christ. And Christ is only properly revealed in the Bible.

17 (con’t) So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

Instead of turning back home to his father, Joseph went on to Dothan in order to find his brothers and he found them there. Instead of turning away from His wayward people who had added every type of legalism and error into God’s law, Jesus proceeded onward to His own brothers where He found them… in the place of two wells.

III. The Lord of Dreams

18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him.

Even from a long distance, the brothers knew who Joseph was. Probably, above all they could tell because of his ornate coat. But his manner of walking, his stature, and how he carried himself told them as well. The same is true with Jesus. In John chapter 3 it says this about the leaders of Israel and their perception of Jesus –

“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” John 3:2

Like Nicodemus, they actually knew they were dealing with a representative from God when they saw Jesus, even if they didn’t fully understand it. But just as the brothers of Joseph conspired against him, the leaders of Israel likewise conspired against Jesus. The son and father relationship is seen in both Joseph and in this verse from John 5 about Jesus –

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. John 5:18

Again, as seen in Matthew 26, the leaders of Israel conspired against Jesus, just as the brothers are conspiring against Joseph –

Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. (3, 4)

19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!

The book of Matthew is 28 chapters long and each of those chapters has one or several links, or hidden connections, to the first 28 books of the Bible. In Genesis, there are no less than four of these links. One of them is in the dreams of Joseph.

In Genesis, Joseph the son of Jacob, is shown to have dreams. In Matthew 1, Joseph the legal father of Jesus was given dreams as well. There is a difference here though. The dreams of Joseph, the father of Jesus, were intended to save Jesus, but the dreams of Joseph here were used as an excuse to kill him.

But, as God often does, these intentions will be turned around in order to save the people of Israel, just as happened with the dreams of Joseph in Matthew. In this verse, Joseph is called ba’al ha’khalomowt (3:20) a lord of dreams.

They are using it as a term of derision. Dreams, if prophetic, could only come from God and so they are deriding him as blasphemous. Clearly, though intended as a derogatory title, God intends for us to see Jesus in this as well. Jesus is the true Lord of dreams.

Throughout the Bible, Jehovah is the one who directs man’s dreams, both in the giving and interpretation of them. And so even though the title is meant one way when spoken by his brothers about Joseph, it is intended – in its fullest sense – in another way when picturing Christ.

20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit;

At Dothan, the place of the two pits, the brothers intend to kill Joseph and cast him into one of the pits. The word for “pit” here is the Hebrew word bowr. It is used symbolically in the Bible for the place where the dead go. There is Sheol, the place of the dead, but there is also the pit. This is seen, for example, in Psalm 30 –

O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3

In the brother’s hatred of Joseph, they have gone so far as to contemplate murder. The parallel with Jesus is obvious. And this brings up a point that every one of us should think about. These brothers have been stewing over this for some time and in a place many miles from home.

The fact is that none of us are above committing a crime of one sort or another, even going as far as murder. How we handle life’s temptations and trials is up to each of us and the way that we will keep ourselves from these things is to hand them over to the Lord.

Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God and our hearts are open and they’re exposed before Him. If we can remember this, it will help us in any situation. When we’re anxious, we’ll have the knowledge that He is there with us.

When we’re facing sickness, we can remind ourselves that He directs our health, from the day we were born until the day we die. And when we are filled with anger, jealousy, or bitterness, all we really need is to hand it over to Him. Whatever the situation, let go of your pride and humble yourself before the Lord. That’s what Peter tells to do,

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6, 7

20 (con’t) and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”

Jealousy, murder, conspiracy, and lying in one verse. Not only do they hate Joseph, but they had no regard at all for their father. All they could think of was doing away with Joseph. As was the case with chapter 34 in the incident with their sister Dinah, the Lord is never mentioned in this entire chapter. Not in general and not specifically. He is entirely left out of the picture.

The covenant children of the covenant line of God have completely failed to meet their responsibilities as the covenant people. Again, as the Bible notes often, it is a picture of the people of Israel. They are either striving with God, for God, or – as in this case, striving with God, against Him.

The sons of Israel here are reflective of the elders of Israel mentioned in the first few verses of the 2nd Psalm –

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

The brothers plotted their deed against the favorite son of their father. They wanted to cast off his rule and his authority just as the leaders of Israel did to the Lord, the favorite Son of the Father. In both cases though, God’s plan would prevail.

What was intended for evil turned out so beautifully, that people still marvel over His glorious work thousands of years later. Jacob’s family will be saved from famine and death, and a world full of people will be saved from hell.

21 But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.”

The Bible doesn’t specifically tell why Reuben protested the plan, but scholars generally attribute it to his heart being more tender than the other brothers. Rather, the explanation is hinted at in Genesis 42. When they stand in Joseph’s presence in Egypt, not knowing it is him, Reuben will say this –

“Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.” Genesis 42:22

This was what God spoke to Noah about 600 years earlier –

Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man. Genesis 9:5, 6

Even if God is left out of this chapter explicitly, He is there implicitly, both in the direction of the events and in the conscience of Reuben which is based on the law of shedding man’s blood.

22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.

Reuben was no stranger to wrongdoing. Back in chapter 35, he slept with his father’s wife Bilhah. But he knew there was a line which should never be crossed, and that line was murder. He’d seen it in his two younger brothers, Simeon and Levi, when they killed the males of Shechem.

Because of what he did with Bilhah, he may already have known that Jacob wouldn’t give him the birthright. And the same is true with Simeon and Levi. However, by rescuing Joseph, he may have hoped to regain his father’s favor after what he had done.

Whether that is the case or not, he intended to keep Joseph alive and have him returned home safely. We have to leave the story off here today and we will pick it up again next week. As you can see, it’s all pointing to Jesus. Every word, every title, every single thing that happens is recorded for this purpose – that God might reveal His Son to us so that we might hear the word and believe.

If God put so much care into His word, taking thousands of years to bring it to us, how much does He truly care about you! If you’ve not made a commitment to this precious Lord who came to bring you new life, please give me a moment to give you the simple way that you too can receive His pardon and restore you to His Father…

Closing Verse: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1

Next Week: Genesis 37:23-36 (In and Out of the Pit of Despair) (94th 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.

Sending out the Son

Joseph’s brothers went to feed
In Shechem, their father’s flock
And Israel said to Joseph, “Please take heed
Listen, while to you I talk

Are not your brothers this very day
Feeding the flock in Shechem?
Come, I will send you out their way
So he said to him, “Here I am.”

Then he said to him, “Please go and see
If it is well with your brothers, the flocks too
And then bring back word to me
This is the thing that I ask of you

So of out of the Valley of Hebron he was sent
And Joseph headed for Shechem as he went

Now a certain man found him, maybe praying
And there he was in the field, wandering
And the man asked him, saying,
“What are you seeking? Or what are you pondering?

So he said, “I am seeking my brothers here today
Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks”
Can you say?

And the man said, “They have departed from here,
For I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan,
That’s kind of near

So Joseph, after his brothers, off he went
And found them in Dothan right where he was sent

Now when they saw him afar off still
Even before he came too near
They conspired against him to kill
For God’s law they showed no fear

Then they said each to one another
“Look, this dreamer is headed our way!
Therefore, let us now kill Joseph our brother
And cast him into some pit this very day

And we shall say, ‘He was devoured by some wild beast
What will become of his dreams when his life has ceased?

But Reuben heard it, the thing they said
And he delivered him out of their hands
And spoke, “Let us not his blood shed
He was not in favor of their plans

And Reuben said to them in his address
“Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit
Which is out here in wilderness
And do not lay a hand on him; do not do it

He said this that he might deliver him out of their hands
And bring him back to his father, stopping their evil plans

Another conspiracy took place in the Bible’s pages
And it led to the highlight of God’s great plan
Which was prophesied for many ages…

Israel’s leaders and Roman officials as well
Crucified Jesus on a tree at Calvary
But in truth, the Bible has more of the story to tell
He died for the sins of people like you and me

God knew that without the cross we simply had no chance
And that the devil would eternally reign over us
But because of it we are freed from hell’s dark expanse
And brought into the wondrous light of our Lord, Christ Jesus

And so may we with hearts of grateful praise
And voices of song to our God employ
Yes, to our Lord Jesus let us eternally raise
A triumphant shout overflowing with joy

Hallelujah and Amen…

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