Of our Saviour it is prophetically stated in Psalm 69:4, “They that hated me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty.” These are the words of David, and they do describe correctly the situation in his life. In the day of shadows, and long before Christ appeared in our flesh, what He would endure was typically endured by those of His children who in special measures represented Him. David did in his office of being king over Israel, even as Christ is King of His Church.
But we can go back further in the day of shadows and see this same truth, as to its principle, experienced by Joseph among his brothers in that one family of Jacob, whose life we have been treating. Joseph did not have as many brethren as the hairs of his head to hate him; but they were mighty enemies and hated him wrongfully. And even the first three verses describe so clearly his ordeal, “Save me, O God; for the waters are come into my soul. I sink in deep mire: I am come into deep waters, where floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.”
Now it is true that we read in Genesis 39:24, “And they took him (Joseph) and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.” But note that David in Psalm, 69 is speaking of his soul, not his body, having waters come into it, of his soul sinking in deep mire, and waters which overflow his soul. Joseph was literally cast into a pit by the hatred of his brethren. And that did cause his soul to sink into mire and waters of grief and anguish. We may believe that he cried until weariness overtook him; and his throat was dry of the crying, while he waited for his God.
And what added to all his grief was the fact that he was hated without a cause, and wrongfully for that reason. Note the fact that Christ, speaking through David inPsalm 69:4 declares that they hated him wrongfully. This ought to alert us to the fact that there was a cause for the hatred of Christ’s enemies, and for the hatred of Joseph’s brothers. As far as Joseph is concerned we can list four main reasons for the hatred of his brothers. His father, Jacob, foolishly and wrongfully showed favouritism to this oldest son of his beloved and now departed wife. Reuben was his firstborn; but he disqualified himself, in showing that he was “unstable as water,” to follow Jacob as head of the covenant family and to receive the birthright, that is, the right to be the spiritual head of the family and tribe, of the descendants in that family. Jacob, following his flesh, does not confer this right upon the son born to him just after Reuben, namely, Simeon, but passes by all the sons of Leah and of her handmaid and confers the right to Joseph, justifying himself with the thought that this is his firstborn, his firstborn of Rachel whom he loved so deeply. It may be pointed out that Simeon and Levi also disqualified themselves by their murder of the Shechemites. But that left Judah as next in line (of whom Christ was born and is The Possessor of the Birthright).
Jacob did choose Joseph and showed it by that “coat of many colours” which he gave him. A more literal translation would be a coat of many pieces; and this causing of Joseph to appear before the eyes of his brothers as set apart from them, as preferred before them and elevated above them, leads one to translate a princely coat, a coat that designated him as prince, as the one appointed to receive the birthright. This irritated the other brothers, the sons of Leah and of her handmaid. We read in Genesis 37:4, “And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” And again in verse 5, after he had received dreams from God, “and they hated him yet the more.” There is a growing hatred which is becoming fiercer and fiercer as time passes.
These dreams were the second cause for this hatred. His brothers did not mind that he dreamed, nor even that he told them his dreams. But the fact that in his dreams God revealed that they would all serve him and bow down before him infuriated them to no end. Even his father, though he loved Joseph, became angry at this thought and “rebuked him and said,…shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down our selves to thee to the earth?” We read then in verse 11, “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.”
A third cause for this hatred, which chronologically arose before he received these dreams, was that Joseph brought to his father the evil report of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, the maids of Rachel and of Leah. He did not simply bring an evil report, that is, a report that these sons had sinned grossly, but he told his father what an evil reputation these sons had acquired, what a name of evil they had attached to them, and of which Jacob had as yet no knowledge back home in his tent. What they did is not stated, but adultery and fornication suggest themselves in a situation such as this.
The fourth cause for their hatred is theological. God in His sovereign grace is behind all this history, as Joseph himself points out fourteen years later—or at least toward the end of the seven years of famine—”But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” For the salvation of the church and the fulfillment of all His covenant promises God planned this whole history and executed it in His sovereign grace.
Examine these causes for the hatred against Joseph, and you will find that it was without a righteous cause, that he was hated wrongfully, even as Jesus was, of Whom Joseph in this instance was a picture. The shadow of the cross is here in this day of shadows when Joseph’s enemies are mighty to have power to sell him into Egypt. Was Joseph to blame for the fact that his father favoured him and foolishly and wrongfully set him above his brethren? Had they disagreed with their father and complained to him, it would have been a different matter. But so the sinner works, and so hatred develops. Genesis 37:4 points out that they saw clearly that Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved them, and, because of the hatred that this produced, could not speak peaceably unto him. They did speak. They snarled. They ridiculed. They called him names and sneered at him. But they could not speak peaceably. Not a word is said about them speaking about this to their father, nor even of asking for an explanation. Scripture gives an explanation: “Because he was the son of his old age.” Could Joseph help that? Must they take it out on Joseph?
Reporting the evil name they had made for themselves infuriated the sons of the two concubines. But was it because Joseph was a tattletale? Or was it because the report that he gave was true, and they did not want their father to know of their wickedness? There is nothing to indicate that Joseph was concerned with anything less than to seek to have their evil brought to an end, and to have them saved from this great wickedness. What is there to prevent believing—because they could not speak peaceably to him—that they sent him home, and he had to explain to his father why he could not work with these brothers any longer? And is it a reason to hate one when that one seeks to turn you away from sin? Individuals, families, and churches do not like to have their sins exposed, because they do not want to be separated from them; and then they hate those who expose. And let it be stated that Joseph was not backbiting, very surely not slandering. For he went to the authorities with his report; and he is his brother’s keeper.
And those dreams were God-given prophetic dreams which had to be related to the church of that day. Here Scripture speaks of envy, which is a blood brother of murder, and a frequent motive for murder. They sinned, not Joseph. They resisted God’s word. Even Jacob after rebuking Joseph, relented and, we read, “observed the saying.” It began to dawn on him that these were no mere dreams but messages from God, prophetic dreams that had meaning for God’s Church. And should we get angry or be jealous and filled with envy at what God does and says to us? Was this not certainly hating Joseph wrongfully, yea sinfully? One can hate wrongfully because one has been given the wrong information. Joseph’s brothers hated him sinfully. Being due to envy, which the Heidelberg Catechism correctly calls a cause of murder, this hatred is sinful. It is not the hatred of which the psalmist speaks when in Psalm 139:21 he writes, “Do not I hate them O Lord, that hate Thee, and am I not grieved with those that rise up against Thee?” This hatred of Joseph’s brothers was a hatred of God rather than a hatred of God’s enemies. They hated God’s prophet. They hated God for being ready to exalt Joseph above them.
But we miss the whole import of the incident unless we see Christ and His cross in this bit of history out of the day of shadows. He is the One Who was hated without a good cause, was hated wrongfully. He was hated because God loved Him, and exalted Him above all His brethren. In fact He was more vehemently hated by blood brothers than by the Gentiles whom these blood brothers moved to give them the right to crucify Him. And it is because we, His friends and disciples, are loved by God and by Him that we are wrongfully hated by the world. It is not because we have actually harmed and molested the world. It is because God has set us aside as the members of the body of Christ, and because of His wonderful promises to us that we are hated by the world. It is because He has clothed us with the robes of righteousness of Christ and set us apart as the heirs of the new creation that we are hated. No, they do not want such robes themselves, and they do not want to enter into that kingdom of righteousness and of heavenly virtues. But they hate us because the love of God upon us is manifest in that He has made us spiritually like unto His Son. THAT is the evidence of God’s love upon us-not that we have beautiful clothes, homes, good health and can sing in the night. The things of this world are not the church’s in such abundance as to cause the world to envy and hate us. The spiritual treasures of God’s love; the fact that “The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself” (Psalm 4:3) makes the ungodly hate us. Basically it is hatred of God that makes them hate those that God chose to be like Himself, even as Joseph’s brothers hated him because of what his father did in giving that princely coat. As we pointed out it was Jacob’s deed that made them hate Joseph.
Because Christ spoke of their evil report, they gnashed on Him with their teeth. Because He exposed their evil hearts, they exposed the evil of hatred against God in their hearts and sought to silence His damning testimony concerning themselves. It made them cry, “Away with Him!”
It was because He brought them God’s word and in it presented Himself as the Prince of peace Whose name is also the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful Saviour before Whose feet all knees shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to the glory of the Father.
But those that hate Him without a cause are more than the hairs of His head because in the ultimate sense God sovereignly decreed that they would bring Him to His cross that we might know His love so richly and fully. He must go into the pit, the miry clay, with floods of waters over His soul in hell; and there He cried out of being forsaken of the Father Whom He loved. But it was all that we might know His love.