Chapters 12 through 50 of Genesis tell the story of Abraham and his family. This story begins with God making some big promises to Abraham: Abraham will inherit the land of Canaan (15:7, 18–21), he will be the father of a great nation (12:2), and people from many nations will be blessed through him (12:3). No one, including Abraham, could have predicted how these promises were to be fulfilled. Surprises abound at every turn. The story of Joseph is how some of these promises begin to be fulfilled.
Our introduction to Joseph gives us several reasons for why his brothers came to hate him. After working all day with them in the fields, Joseph returned home and “brought their father a bad report about them” (v. 2). And Joseph was his father’s favorite, which was neither a hidden nor a discreet favoritism but was flaunted through the gift of an ornate robe (v. 3). We have a picture of a coddled son who enjoys tattling on his older brothers. This tense situation deteriorated even further when Joseph recounted his dreams.
In Joseph’s first dream, his brothers bow down to him, and in his second dream his parents also bow before him. This disturbs even his father, who rebukes him (v. 10). The narrator does not say whether or not these dreams are from God, but like Jacob we should “keep the matter in mind” as we read the rest of Joseph’s story (v. 11).
How could God fulfill His promises to Abraham through parental favoritism and sibling rivalry? Often we see in Scripture how God fulfills His promises in surprising ways using unlikely people. Joseph’s journey would transform him and show us the remarkable ways God works to carry out His will.
Joseph and his clan do not offer the most flattering portrait of a healthy and loving family. But God used them in profound ways to further His plan in the world. No matter what family dysfunction you might have inherited, God can also use you! Take a few minutes and thank God for His generosity and patience in working with us.