“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.” 

Genesis 50:20


God’s Book is unique. 

Here is a Book that tells of the people of God, but it tells all! Do you know of any book written by men that does not gloss over the faults of its heroes, and paints in dark colors the evil of villains? 

And the answer is: No! There is no such book. No, not even in the church of God. 

The plainest example I can think of is the memoriams of departed ministers. How faithful and zealous, how industrious and saintly are all those men! What wonderful testimonies we read of our dead ministers! 

But God is different. Yes, He tells us that the names of the twelve patriarchs are written on the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and the new earth. But He also tells us some pretty evil things about those men. He tells of their envy; wrath, fornication, hatred and murder. 

They thought evil against (of all persons) Joseph!

I like to talk of that a little. And also of the wonder of God’s salvation, indeed: they thought evil, but, with respect to the same matter, God meant it unto good. 

Salvation thru crime!

What an unsavory picture we receive of the household of Jacob! 

I hesitated when I wrote household of Jacob. You note that I wrote in the singular: household. Perhaps I should have said: households, that is, the plural. And if I did that, the mess we find in Canaan does not deserve the name household. Such are the evils of polygamy: that is the evil of having many wives. 

Jacob had really only one legitimate wife: Leah. And I receive the impression that she was also the best of the four. And Jacob seems to have realized it. Although he loved Rachel more than any of the other women, he buries Leah in the cave of Machpelah, while Rachel is buried, so to speak by the roadside.

At any rate, this polygamy was the source of many of Jacob’s troubles and Joseph’s sufferings. 

There were really four households. Each set of children was partial to their own mother. This polygamy set up families within the family. And it made enemies of brothers. 

And what shall I say of the suffering of the women? Jealousy and envy was the order of the day and night. 

Then there was the partiality of Jacob, both as to his wives and children. He was partial to Rachel, and to her son Joseph. 

One of my sources puts it this way: His partiality wrought like yeast upon the passions of the wild sons of the handmaidens, and his polygamy fostered the sour hatred among his generations. 

Therefore, when you read of the hatred, jealousy and envy of the patriarchs be sure and blame much of it on Jacob’s sins. 

But again, God works out His glorious purposes, even through the crimes and the sins of His own children.

The brethren of Joseph become conspirators. They hate him. And much of their hatred is also because of Joseph’s piety. I do not know of a more attractive figure among the youths of Scripture. 

And when they see the partiality of Jacob for this despised lad they hate him the more. 

At last their opportunity arrives. They are far from home in Dothan. And Joseph is sent after them to inquire after their estate. 

He is still a long way off; but they recognize him, perhaps, by the many colored coat. 

And to show how much they hated him, we read that as soon as they saw him they conspired to slay him. “We will slay him; we will cast him in some pit; we will say to his father: “some evil beast has devoured him.” 

They also are envious. 

“Behold, this dreamer cometh.” 

As though Joseph could help it when God chose him to become an agent of revelation. They really accuse God who gave the dreams. And, I think that they realized that he was worthy, sharpening their envy and jealousy. 

They also are mockers. 

“And we will see what will become of his dreams!”

Dangerous talk! They really talk about, and mock the Word of God in dreams.

They become also murderers. 

First in conspiracy. 

Then in word: let us slay him! 

Third in their counsel: let us cast him in a pit, and then he will starve. 

Finally, in that they sentence him to a slow death of slavery. 

They also are cruel. 

They strip him of the hated coat, and Joseph is the object of shame. Then they cast him in a pit. And although he cries pitifully from out of the pit: (see Gen. 42:21) “they sat down to eat bread.” What refined cruelty! 

But God had in mind some good thing: be patient!

Look a little while at the innocent object of all this crime, will you? 

Yes, he is the innocent object. 

Jacob was partial: Joseph could not help that. 

Jacob gave him that dreadful coat, the visible token of his foolish love for Joseph.

God gave Joseph the dreams: he could not help it that God chose him and not Reuben or Simeon.

Jacob sent him north from the valley of Hebron to Shechem. 

In all his life he was a very obedient son. Oh, for more Joseph’s! 

He was in this last case very anxious to discharge a duty. When Jacob called him he said: Here! (That is the rendering in the Hebrew). 

Inquires when he cannot find his brethren in Shechem. And when he receives the information he plods on to Dothan. 

Moreover, he is on a journey of benevolence. He is the spokesman of an anxious father. And we may believe that he shared the anxiety for their welfare. 

And so we find the lad far from home. 

And because of that he begins his long, long trail of suffering. 

Ridicule is the first thing he receives: here we have the master of dreams! 

Shame is next: they strip him. 

Pain and anguish, and in such degree that many years later Reuben recalls it: “we saw the anguish of his soul, when he, besought us, and we would not hear.” Gen. 42:21

In the Dutch we read: when he begged us for mercy. 

Can you not see the scene? It is heart rending. And I think he suffered more just because he was such a good, tender, God-fearing lad. The more tender-hearted you are, the more you suffer when you are maltreated. 

Watch the patriarchs! They sat down to eat bread. But the muffled cries of Joseph reach them at their banquet: Dear brethren, dear brethren, Judah, Reuben, oh help me, help me! 

Finally, he suffers the worst of all: he is sold to the Ishmaelites: And soon he will be on the way to Egypt, wicked Egypt. 

Judah is going to make money of a bad thing. After all, business is business. Judah sounds merciful: What profit is it if we slay our brother . . ., but wait, he continues: Come, let us sell him! 

Do not slay him . . . let us sell him. 

Don’t you see that instead of mercy, you find greater cruelty? Slavery is worse than death. 

There goes Joseph: every step brings him closer to the hateful, wicked, filthy Egyptians and farther away from father’s embrace at home. 

Oh, I must not think of the tears and heart rending suffering of the lad. At the mercy of the wicked. And a great and a long silence as far as beautiful speech is concerned. That you find only in the church. But he became the great exile. And for many, many years. 

At home we see the hypocrites. Joseph is dead as far as his home and father is concerned. 

Look, there is another color added to the many in his coat. The red of the blood of the goat. But Joseph is dead. 

His brothers continue on their crooked pathway. They lie and deceive. They feign and dissimulate: they mourned with Jacob!

What picture of crime and wickedness!

But wait! God will speak, and clarify everything. 

On the one hand we see Joseph in agony and fetters? Jacob in tears and disconsolate, the brethren in murderous guilt. A sorry spectacle indeed. 

But in heaven there is peace, And heaven’s God is Sovereign over all. 

God is working out His purposes, even suing the crimes of men, both the elect and the reprobates.

And how Joseph knew this; how Joseph understood the counsel and the works of God! Later, much later, when the patriarchs bow before him in Egypt, and when they are afraid of him, thinking that he will avenge himself on them, he says: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” 

Two things are outstanding in this little speech, and a third must be added as a warning. 

First, how gracious is Joseph! How sweet is his regenerated soul and heart. Imagine: he says that to Judah who had held the 20 pieces of silver and divided them among the brethren. He makes light of their sin: do not be angry with yourselves! Forsooth! What would you have done if you had this chance?

Second, he exalts God! This is the greatest thing. Through it all God had in mind to benefit Jacob and the patriarchs. And it is God’s wondrous irony, born of everlasting love, that he brings untold and everlasting salvation through our sinning. (The Cross!) 

And here is the warning: do not say now: let us sin so that God’s salvation be enhanced! 

For that is of the devil. 

No, but here is the lesson of this beautiful and touching story: live, suffer, weep, and confess and sing like Joseph. 

Oh, for more Josephs!