I. JOSEPH WAS A HATED BROTHER. The boy was his father's pet. Very likely he was the perfect picture of Rachel who was gone, and so Jacob saw and loved in him his sainted wife. In token of love his father foolishly gave him a coat of many colours, to which, alas! the colour of blood was soon added. It was for no good reason that his brothers hated him. Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Not that he was a sneaking tell-tale; but he would not do as they did, nor would he hide from his father their evil doings. God means the children of a family to feel bound together by bands that grapple the heart, and to stand true to one another to life's end. Reverence the mighty ties of kindred which God has fashioned. Joseph also teaches you never to make any one your foe without a very good reason. The weakest whom you wrong may one day be your master.
II. JOSEPH WAS A BLAMELESS YOUTH. Though terribly tempted, he never yielded. He was shamefully wronged, yet he was not hardened or soured. His soul was like the oak which is nursed into strength by storms. In his heart, not on it, he wore a talisman that destroyed sin's charms. The heavently plan of his piety disclosed all its beauty, and gave out its sweet odours in the wicked palaces of Potiphar and Pharaoh.
III. JOSEPH WAS A FAMOUS RULER. He entered Egypt as a Hebrew slave, and became its prime minister. He was the hero of his age, the saviour of his country, the most successful man of his day. He became so great because he was so good; he was a noble man because he was a thorough man of God.
IV. JOSEPH WAS A TYPE OF CHRIST. Joseph, like Jesus, was his father's well-beloved son, the best of brothers, yet hated and rejected by his own; was sold from envy for a few pieces of silver, endured a great temptation, yet without sin; was brought into a low estate and falsely condemned; was the greatest of forgivers, the forgiver of his own murderers; and was in all things the son and hope of Israel.
I. As DISTINGUISHED BY HIS EARLY PIETY. His conduct was not back-biting, but a filial confidential report to his father.
1. It showed his love of truth and right. He would not suffer his father to be deceived by a false estimate of the conduct of his sons. He must be made acquainted with the truth, however painful, or be the consequences what they might to all concerned.
2. It showed his unwillingness to be a partaker of other men's sins.
3. It showed a spirit of ready obedience. He knew that a faithful report of the conduct of his brethren was a duty he owed to his father.
II. As MARKED OUT FOR A GREAT DESTINY. III. AS THE OBJECT OF ENVY AND HATRED.
1. Because of his faithful testimony.
2. Because of his father's partiality.
3. Because of the distinction for which God had destined him.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. THE DIVISION FOUND IN JACOB'S FAMILY. Four reasons for this.
1. Jacob's favouritism for Joseph.
2. The scandal-bearing of Joseph.
3. The polygamy of Jacob.
4. The envy of the brothers.
II. JOSEPH'S MISSION TO SHECHEM. Observe here the bloodguiltiness of these brothers; they did not take Joseph's life, but they intended to take it; they were therefore murderers. Let us make a distinction; for when we are told that the thought is as bad as the crime, sometimes we are tempted to argue thus: I have indulged the thought, I will therefore do the deed, it will be no worse. This sophistry can scarcely deceive the heart that uses it; yet, merely to put the thing verbally right, let us strip it of its casuistry. The thought is as bad as the act, because the act would be committed if it could. But if these brethren of Joseph had mourned over and repented of their sin, would we dare to say that the thought would have been as bad as the act? But we do say that the thought in this case was as bad as the act, because it was not restrained or prevented by any regret or repentant feeling; it was merely prevented by the coming in of another passion, it was the triumph of avarice over malice. But all these brothers were not equally guilty. Simeon and Levi and others wished to slay Joseph; Judah proposed his being sold into captivity; while Reuben tried to save him secretly, although he had not courage to save him openly. He proposed that he should be put into the pit, intending to take him out when the others were not by. His conduct in this instance was just in accordance with his character, which seems to have been remarkable for a certain softness. He did not dare to shed his brother's blood, neither did he dare manfully to save him. He was not cruel, simply because he was guilty of a different class of sin. It is well for us, before we take credit to ourselves for being free from that or this sin, to inquire whether it be banished by grace or only by another sin.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
1. We are taught here the evil of favouritism in the family. The balance, as between the different children in the same household, must be held evenly by the parents. No one ought to be the "pet" of either father or mother, for the "pet" is apt to become petted, haughty, and arrogant towards the others; while the showing of constant favour to him alienates the affections of the rest, both from him and from the parents. "Is that you, Pet?" said a father from his bedroom to a little one who stood at the door in the early morning knocking for admission. "No, it isn't Pet, it's only me," replied a sorrowful little voice; and that was the last of "pet" in that family. See what mischief it occasioned here in Jacob's household!
2. We may learn from this narrative how bitter is the antagonism of the wicked to the righteous in the world. The real root of the hatred of Joseph's brethren is to be traced to the fact that he would not consent to be one of them, and join in the doing of things which they knew that their father would condemn. His conscience was tender, his heart was pure, his will was firm. He was a Puritan and they were regardless, and they chose to set down his non-conformity to pride rather than to principle, and persecuted him accordingly. There is an immense amount of petty persecution of this sort going on in all our colleges, commercial establishments, and factories, of which the principals and the great world seldom hear, but which shows us that the human nature of to-day is in its great features identical with that which existed many centuries ago in the family of Jacob. What then? Are the upright to yield? are they to abate their protest? are they to become even as the others? No; for that would be to take the leaven out of the mass; that would be to let evil become triumphant, and so that must never be thought of. Let the persecuted in these ways hold out. Let them neither retaliate, nor recriminate, nor carry evil reports, but let them simply hold on, believing that "he that endureth overcometh."
3. The case of Joseph here brings up the whole question of our responsibility in regard to what we see and hear that is evil in other people. I have come to the conclusion that Joseph was by his father placed in formal charge of his brokers, and that it was is duty to give a truthful report concerning them, even as to-day an overseer is bound in justice to his employer to state precisely the kind of service which those under him are rendering. That is no tale-bearing; that is simple duty. But now, suppose we are invested with no such charge over another, and yet we see him do something that is deplorably wrong, what is our duty in such a case? Are we bound to carry the report to his father or to his employer, or must we leave things alone and let them take their course? The question so put is a delicate one and very difficult to handle. But I think I see two or three things that cast some little light upon it.(1) In the first place we are not bound by any law, human or divine, to act the part of a detective on our neighbour and lay ourselves out for the discovery of that in him which is disreputable or dishonest. We must have detectives in the department of police, and they are very serviceable there; but that every one of us should be closely watching every other to see what evil he can discover in him is intolerable, and we should discourage in all young people every tendency to such peering Paul Pryism.(2) Then, in the second place, when, without any such deliberate inspection on our part, we happen to see that which is wrong, we should, in the way in which we treat the case, make a distinction between a crime and a vice. A crime is that which is a violation of the civil law; a vice is that which, without violating the civil law, is a sin against God. Now suppose that what we see is a crime — the man, let us say, is robbing his employer — then my clear duty, if I would not be a particeps criminis, is to give information to his master, and let him deal with the case as he sees fit. On the other hand, if the evil is a vice — say, for example, sensuality or the like, which does not, directly at least interfere with his efficiency as a servant — then I must deal with himself alone. If he hear me, then I have gained him; but if he refuse to hear me, then I may say to him that, as he has chosen to pay no heed to my expostulation, I shall feel it my duty to inform his father of the matter; and then, having acted out that determination, I may consider that my responsibility in regard to him is at an end, unless, in God's providence, there is given me some other opening through which to approach him.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE OCCUPATION OF HIS EARLY YEARS. Trained from youth to healthy labour and useful employment. Idleness, like pride, was never made for man.
II. THE ACCOUNT WHICH HE GAVE TO HIS FATHER OF WHAT HE HAD SEEN WHILE WITH HIS BRETHREN. When open and undisguised sin has actually been committed before our eyes, we are on no account to wink at it. It is a time to speak when, by reporting what is amiss to those who have power to restrain and correct it, we may either put an end to that evil, or bring those to repentance who have committed it. This, however, is both a difficult and painful duty, and it requires much wisdom and grace to perform it aright.
III. ISRAEL'S SPECIAL LOVE FOR JOSEPH.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE SHOWED HIS PARTIALITY. Various ways may be found of showing our approbation of those that are good, without displaying those outward marks of distinction, which are almost certain to provoke the envy of others.
V. THE IMPROPER FEELINGS AWAKENED IN THE BREASTS OF HIS OTHER CHILDREN.
VI. JOSEPH'S REMARKABLE DREAMS. He dreamt of preferment, but not of imprisonment.
1. Joseph, though the object of his father's tenderest love, was not brought up to idleness. The young man who is desirous of rising in the world, should not forget that the world's prizes are for those who win them on the field of toil.
2. It is impossible to determine whether it was Jacob's partiality and Joseph's superior merit which secured for him the office of superintendent of his brethren. Whatever may have secured him the situation, he seems to have proved himself equal to it.
3. Jacob's ill-disguised partiality for the son of endeared Rachel prompted him to an act injurious at once to himself, to Joseph, and to his other children.
(J. S. Van Dyke.)
Homilist.I. This young man was taught to work.
II. He was placed in favourable circumstances.
III. He saw the iniquity of society.
IV. He remained uncontaminated in the midst of evil.
V. He sought to better society:
1. The Church's line is drawn by God's Spirit eminently opposite to the wicked.
2. The Church's generations are best made out from the best of her children.
3. Youth is eminently memorable, when it is sanctified, and gracious.
4. Gracious parents are careful, though never so rich, to bring up their children in honest callings. So Jacob did Joseph, &c.
5. God can preserve some pure, though conversing with wicked brethren, and relations.
6. Gracious dispositions cannot bear or favour the sins of nearest relations.
7. Souls grieved with sins of other relations bring the discovery to such as can amend them (ver. 2.)
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
Feeding the flock. —
I. His feeding his father's flock.
II. His father's great love for him.
III. His brethren's hatred of him.
IV. His keeping company more especially with the humbler children of Israel, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, the two handmaids.
1. The description of the youthful Joseph, as feeding his father's flock, may well remind us of the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who as the good Shepherd laid down His life for the flock of God, and leads His own sheep forth by the still waters of salvation, and makes them to lie down in the wholesome pastures of His Word (Psalm 80; Psalm 95:6, 7; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:22-31; Zechariah 13:7).
2. We are now to consider Joseph as the dearest of his father's sons, as a type of Jesus, the beloved Son of His Eternal Father. Joseph as he grew up was still more endeared to his father. The death of his mother would naturally lead Jacob to centre his affections still more absorbingly upon him. And it appears, that Joseph repaid the old man's warm affections by filial obedience and love. And parents value a dutiful and heavenly-minded child the more, when, like Joseph, he is preserved unpolluted by the bad example of his ungodly brothers. We have in the inspired narrative very early proofs of this partiality of the patriarch. "And he put the two handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost" (Genesis 33:1, 2). But it is time we directed our attention to One greater than Joseph. The love of the Father to the Lord Jesus immeasurably exceeds every love of which we have any experience in our own breasts. It passeth knowledge. Of all the sons of God, Jesus is certainly the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely in the sight of His eternal Father. Jesus is indeed "the only-begotten of the Father," His only-begotten Son. The obedience and love and filial sympathy of the Lord Jesus was, to use the language of men, the solace of Jehovah's heart when grieved with the ingratitude and vileness of the whole human family. He was a perfect Son, and the only perfect Son the world ever beheld. The zeal of His Father's house consumed Him. Throughout His whole life He was, like Joseph, separate from His sinful brethren, and mourned with His Father over their wickedness. The obedience of Christ to His Father was well pleasing to Him, and we are again and again informed throughout the Gospels that the Father delighteth to honour the Son, and viewed every step of His work on earth with the highest satisfaction.
3. His keeping company with the humbler children of his father, the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, the two handmaids. In how much higher a sense must it have been indeed painful in the extreme for the meek and lowly Saviour to live in the polluted atmosphere of our guilty world. What wonderful condescension what humility, that He should stoop from heaven to mingle with vile stoners here! Learn a lesson of forbearance and patience with sinners from our dear Redeemer.
4. And now let us briefly consider the last particular respecting Joseph, mentioned in my text; viz., the envy with which his brethren regarded him. As this envy will come again under our notice as we proceed further into the life of Joseph, we will now simply consider the result of it mentioned in the text: "They could not speak peaceably unto him." The higher a man rises in the estimation and friendship of some, the more he is hated and abhorred by others. The nearer a man lives and the closer a man walks with his heavenly Father, the more will he experience of this world's envy and the anger of the old serpent's seed. If Joseph drinks most fully of the sweets of his father's love, he must also drink most deeply of the bitters of his brethren's hate. If anything could disarm opposition and rob envy of his fang, surely it was the mild meekness and humility of that Man of Sorrows.
Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.
Homilist.I. IT WAS NATURAL.
1. On account of a kindred spirit.
2. On account of pleasant associations.
1. It was revealed for the comfort of Joseph.
2. It was manifested in such a manner that the other children could take offence.
III. IT PRODUCED HATRED.
1. Their hatred took a wrong direction.
2. Their hatred overcame their humanity.
I. PARTIALITY SHOWS WEAKNESS IN THOSE EXERCISING IT.
II. PARTIALITY OFFENDS THOSE OVERLOOKED.
II. PARTIALITY INJURES THE ONE IT IS INTENDED TO BENEFIT.
IV. PARTIALITY LEADS TO ESTRANGEMENT IN THE FAMILY.
V. PARTIALITY RESULTS IN MANY SINS AND MANY SORROWS.
(J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
(Henry M. Grout, D. D.)
A coat of many colours. —
I. OF THE DRESS WHICH EARTHLY PARENTS PREPARE FOR THEIR CHILDREN. Respecting which consider —
1. They toil to procure it, working hard and long.
2. They exercise thought in selecting. Have to consider size, season, material, appearance.
3. They have to inspect it often. How it has been used; how it wears; does it need repair.
4. They have to renew it often. The best will wear out or be out-grown (see 1 Samuel 2:19).
II. OF THE ROBE WHICH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER PREPARES FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.
2. We cannot make, or purchase, soul-clothing. We must receive it as a free gift. Only God can give it (Revelation 3:18).
3. For earnest, persevering, asking — accompanied by watching — we may obtain the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation. This robe Jesus wrought for us.
4. This robe will fit well, look well, wear for ever. It is a white robe. White includes all the colours (explain). Hence it is a coat of many colours.
5. It is a court dress (explain) in which to enter the great King's presence. Learn:(1) Be careful of clothes. Those who cannot earn them may lesson their parent's expenses and labour and anxiety by taking care of them.(2) Keep your soulclothes unspotted from the world. Beware of sin-stains, and of self-righteous cleansing and patching.
(J. C. Gray.)
I. THE MANY-COLOURED COAT, The margin says many "pieces." May have been "many colours" as well. Such coats are not uncommon for young people in the East at this day ("Ranwolf's Travels," pt. I., p. 89), in Syria, Persia, and India. Made probably of strips of variously-coloured cloth. This Jacob gave to Joseph because he was a " son of his old age; " a phrase understood by most to mean that Jacob was an old man when Joseph was born; but which Dr. Jamieson says means that Joseph had — to use a familiar phrase — an old head on young shoulders. This coat maybe regarded —
1. As a gift of affection. It may be questioned how far it was wise to show special love in so marked a manner. Jacob, knowing his other sons, must have been sure that their envy would be excited.
2. As a reward of merit. Some reward less noticeable would have been better. Joseph was made overseer, or chief shepherd, for such is the meaning of verse 2, and hence it might be also —
3. A badge of office.
II. THE EVIL EFFORT. If Joseph were a mere tale-bearer he would be blamable. But as chief shepherd he was bound to state what was the conduct of his brothers, if they were under-shepherds.
III. THE WONDERFUL DREAMS. Dreams in that age more influential than with us. No sure word of prophecy. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had had wonderful dreams, or rather visions. Such had, doubtless, been often related. Hence these sons of Jacob were prepared to consider dreams with much reverence and awe. But believing them to be Divine messages, they should not have been angry. It is clear that their hearts were not right with God, or they would not have opposed His will. Learn:
1. To guard against the appearance of partiality in our families.
2. God is no respector of persons.
3. To abstain from the appearance of evil, that there be no evil report concerning us.
(J. C. Gray.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
They hated him.1. Choice respects to any, from parents, above all others, usually make such favourites to be envied.
2. Flesh and blood usually hate that which grace affects and loves.
3. Sin, and envy specially, put men out of a capacity of doing duty to relations.
4. Where hearts are full of hatred, mouths speak not peace but bitterness and scorning.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Their privileges. Joseph was envied because his father favoured him. Asaph was "envious at the foolish," when he "saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Psalm 73:3). Against this David warns us — "Fret not thyself because of evil doers" — "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way" (Psalm 37:1-7).
2. Their prospects. Joseph was envied because of the destiny foreshadowed by his dreams. Walter Scott envied his school-fellow the prize he seemed certain to win. This again, how common I Many a boy stands aloof from his comrades, and joins little and without heart in their sports, because he has fixed his hopes — his ambition if you will — on some object to be gained. Now the others will not envy him in the sense of wishing to be as he is; but they resent his presuming to have objects higher than theirs.
3. Their piety. Joseph was envied because he held aloof from his brothers' sins. It is not so now?
men, when they cast Joseph into the pit; but in the sight of God they were chargeable with this crime as soon as they began to hate Joseph; for "he that hateth his brother in his heart is a murderer."
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
Proverbs 27:4). Even a brother is sometimes exposed to its influence. Like the wild tornado which, as it sweeps along, destroys the loveliest flowers, and leaves the garden desolate as the wilderness, it has cut down many a youth of promise, and turned many a peaceful home into a scene of sadness and distress. We may say of it as Seneca says of anger, to which it is intimately allied: that it is a vice decidedly against nature; for it divides instead of joining, and in some measure frustrates the end of Providence in human society. "One man was born to help another; envy makes us destroy one another. Nature unites, envy separates; the one is beneficial, the other mischievous; the one succours even strangers, the other destroys the most intimate friends; the one ventures all to save another, the other ruins himself to undo another."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Joseph dreamed a dream.
Homilist.Destined superiority to brethren and parents is the one grand idea that comes out in the strange visions of the night recorded here.
1. This idea was evidently a Divine communication.
2. This idea was expressed at different periods and in different symbols.
3. This idea was felt by all to have a Divine significance.
I. THE VISIONS OF YOUTH. The young generally create bright visions of the future. This tendency serves —
(1) (2) (3) II. THE JEALOUSIES OF SOCIETY. Jealousy is a passion that springs from the fear of a rival enjoying advantages which we desire for ourselves. 1. It is very general. 2. It is an unhappy feeling. 3. It is unchristian. III. THE DESTINY OF VIRTUE. 1. There is much in a virtuous life itself to ensure advancement. 2. Advancement is pledged by God Himself to a virtuous life.Learn: 1. The fate of eminence. To encounter jealousy. Heed it not. March on. 2. The path of glory. Virtue. The beginning may be difficult, but the end will be everlasting life. (Homilist.)
(2) (3) II. THE JEALOUSIES OF SOCIETY. Jealousy is a passion that springs from the fear of a rival enjoying advantages which we desire for ourselves. 1. It is very general. 2. It is an unhappy feeling. 3. It is unchristian. III. THE DESTINY OF VIRTUE. 1. There is much in a virtuous life itself to ensure advancement. 2. Advancement is pledged by God Himself to a virtuous life.Learn: 1. The fate of eminence. To encounter jealousy. Heed it not. March on. 2. The path of glory. Virtue. The beginning may be difficult, but the end will be everlasting life. (Homilist.)
(3) II. THE JEALOUSIES OF SOCIETY. Jealousy is a passion that springs from the fear of a rival enjoying advantages which we desire for ourselves. 1. It is very general. 2. It is an unhappy feeling. 3. It is unchristian. III. THE DESTINY OF VIRTUE. 1. There is much in a virtuous life itself to ensure advancement. 2. Advancement is pledged by God Himself to a virtuous life.Learn: 1. The fate of eminence. To encounter jealousy. Heed it not. March on. 2. The path of glory. Virtue. The beginning may be difficult, but the end will be everlasting life. (Homilist.)
1. It is very general.
2. It is an unhappy feeling.
3. It is unchristian.
III. THE DESTINY OF VIRTUE.
1. There is much in a virtuous life itself to ensure advancement.
2. Advancement is pledged by God Himself to a virtuous life.Learn:
1. The fate of eminence. To encounter jealousy. Heed it not. March on.
2. The path of glory. Virtue. The beginning may be difficult, but the end will be everlasting life.
I. JOSEPH'S DREAMS.
II. JOSEPH'S DISTRESS.
III. JOSEPH'S DISAPPEARANCE.
1. He was separate by a superior destiny, of which his youthful dreams were permitted to give a dim, indefinite glimpse.
2. He was separate by reason of the fondness of his father for aim, on the one side, and by the envy and enmity of his brethren, on the other.
3. He was separate by the banishment from his home in Canaan to the land of Egypt, where the Midianites sold him to an officer high in the service of the Egyptian king.
4. And over all the chances and changes of his life God ruled. Joseph's history remarkably illustrates Paul's saying in Romans 8:28. Let us remember this, and try from our earliest youth to serve God faithfully, and to suffer our trials patiently, as Joseph did.
(W. S. Smith, B. D.)
1. Good souls whom men hate for their goodness, God chooseth to reveal His mind more graciously to them.
2. God hath by dreams, in time past, revealed His future providences about His Church unto men.
3. Young years, addicted to godliness, are made capable of great and sweet discoveries from God (ver. 5).
4. It is duty to declare God's will revealed concerning His purposes to His Church, though it please not men (ver. 6).
5. Dark, but certain, have been the revelations of God in times past, concerning His providence to His Church (ver. 7, 9).
6. God in bringing about the salvation of His Church, makes parents and brethren stoop to His instruments. Superiors to inferiors.
7. God maketh persons in themselves adverse to His providences, yet to be interpreters of His revelations (ver. 8).
8. The Lord hath usually foretold the salvation and advancement of His Church, but not the way; Joseph dreams not of prisons.
9. Carnal relations are apt to hate and envy their very brother, when God sets him up above them.
10. The way and means of comfort which man despiseth, God useth yet to do them good who hate it. So here.
11. Gracious souls that wait for the Church's delivery may yet have regret against the means discovered (ver. 10).
12. Grace in those souls checks their regret, and makes them observe, and keep God's discoveries to them (ver. 11).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. OBSERVE THE RAW MATERIAL OF THESE DREAMS. Every part of the history proceeds in a manner the most natural. It was the season of summer, and Joseph had been sharing with his brethren the labours of the harvest-field; for in Syria corn comes to maturity much earlier than in England. Overwearied with the excitements of the harvest, what more natural than that a busy imagination would weave into his dreams the stirring scenes in which he had just played a part? Touching the second dream, we must remember that, in the East the vocation of shepherds require their presence, in turn, during the hours of night, when wild beasts seek their prey. In that translucent atmosphere, and amid those cloudless skies, the lamps of heaven gleam with a brilliance unknown in Western climes. Again, by the natural processes of human thought, such a scene would furnish fit elements for the young man's dreams. Even nature moulds a man.
II. OBSERVE THE ARTIFICER OF THESE DREAMS. Not only does mystery appertain to heavenly things, there is mystery unfathomed within ourselves. Who can expound to us the philosophy of our dreams, yet these are full of significance. Aspirations, ambitions, projects, which during the day were kept in reserve, locked in secret by the monarch Will, now freely disport themselves, and the man's real self is seen in the mirror of his dreams. The prospect of eminence and rule rose before his eye, awake or asleep, like a glittering imperial crown, until that which at first was a vague possibility grew into a mental certainty. The conviction was rooting itself that he was to be a king.
III. OBSERVE THE OVER-RULING PURPOSE OF GOD. Although Joseph was conscious that he was free to choose his own course in life, free to frame ambitions, yet he was free only within certain limits, within a fitting circle: choice and will could act. Nevertheless the will of God encompassed and controlled the whole. There is no such thing as fatalism. We are moulding our own destiny, both temporal and eternal. We can catch at times a whispering of God's voice even in our dreams.
(J. D. Davies, M. A.)
His brethren went to feed their father's flock.
They conspired against him to slay him.I. AN EXAMPLE OF THE RAPIDLY DOWNWARD COURSE OF EVIL.
II. AN EXAMPLE. OF THE BOLD DARING OF SINNERS.
III. AN EXAMPLE OF GUILT INCURRED EVEN WHERE PURPOSE HAS NOT RIPENED INTO ACT.
IV. AN EXAMPLE OF DEGREES OF GUILTINESS EVEN AMONG THOSE WHO HAVE LENT THEMSELVES TO ONE DESIGN.
(T. H. Leale)
HomilistI. MAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF JEALOUSY.
1. Jealousy leads a man to slander.
2. Jealousy leads to falsehood.
3. Jealousy hardens the heart.
4. Jealousy leads to crime.
II. MAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MERCY.
1. The merciful are in the minority.
2. The merciful lose sight of self.
3. The merciful are always ready to assist others.
1. The sight of the righteous, whom the wicked hate, is an occasion of working mischief and evil to them.
2. The looks of the wicked is for the mischief of those good souls, who look and seek for their peace.
3. Subtlety and conspiracy for death is the wicked's practice against innocent gracious souls (ver. 18).
4. The wicked encourage each other in evil matters to committing them.
5. Vile persons jeer and scorn the revelations of God under terms of contempt. Dreamer (ver. 19).
6. Sinners persecute the saints for God's revelations to them.
7. Providence suffers sinners to breathe death and destruction to saints, when they effect it not.
8. Murderers themselves are ashamed to own blood-guiltiness, therefore seek to hide it.
9. Brother's blood is not pitied with men of sin.
10. Evil men design to frustrate the counsels and revelation of God by their crafty and cruel practices (ver. 20).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. In evil counsels against the saints, God overpowers the heart of some to frustrate bloody designs of others.
2. God makes evil projected against His servants to come to the cognizance of those that shall defeat it.
3. Deliverance is effected sometimes for the saints by such as hate them enough.
4. Providence causeth the counsel of one evil man to prevail against others, for His saint's good (ver. 21).
5. God puts an awe upon some to counsel others not to shed blood.
6. Pretence of a worse death providence ordereth to be made by men to save His from death wholly.
7. Fratricide is made horried to evil men by God for saving His own.
8. Respect to paternal honour may sway with men of bad resolutions, to abstain from evil and offering violence to a brother (ver. 21, 22).
(G. Hughes, B. D)
1. Under Providence innocent souls come in their integrity into the hands of spoilers.
2. Simple, honest hearts, may think of coming to brethren when it is to cruel destroyers.
3. Unnatural treacherous dealers stick not to take a garment from a brother.
4. Garments of pleasure may expose men to envy and spoil by wicked hands (ver. 23).
5. Violent hands are soon layed even upon an innocent brother by envious and enraged spirits.
6. Brethren degenerate into spoilers, stick not at it to bury an innocent brother alive.
7. God emptieth the pits of water where He will not have His innocents perish.
8. Dry pits of trouble are in God's Use, tokens of deliverance. Joseph shall come out (ver. 24).
(G. Hughes, B. D)
imprisoned within it to extricate himself without assistance. These cisterns are now all cracked and useless; they are, however, the most undoubted evidences that exist of handiwork of the inhabitants in ancient times."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. The Scriptures expressly prohibit envy (Proverbs 3:31; Proverbs 23:17). God prohibits envy, then, because it is rebellion against His just authority, an insult to His honour, and a denial of His attributes of wisdom and justice and truth. It is also a passion which is infinitely removed from His own pure nature. God prohibits it also because it cannot exist with peace and happiness. Where envy enters happiness departs. Like the buckets of a well, they cannot both descend into the depths of the human heart together. The absence of envy is spoken of in Scripture as a mark of a renewed mind, the characteristic of a soul born of God (Titus 3:3).
II. The Lord has, however, given us something more than precepts against envy in His word. To prohibit it ought to be enough, and it will be enough with the child of God to make him loathe and abhor a thing so detestable in the sight of his heavenly Father. The Lord has added to these precepts many most instructive illustrations of the pernicious effects of this base passion. He points us to the fugitive Cain, as he rushes from His presence, his brow stamped with the brand of infamy, and his hand steeped in the life-blood of his righteous brother, and He says, "Behold the effects of envy." He points us to the distracted family of Jacob in their rival tents, Rachel envying Leah her children, and Leah envying Rachel the first place in their husband's affections, and He says, "Behold the misery and torment produced by envy." To what a fiend does envy reduce the man! These unnatural children appear to have had no more compassion for their father than for Joseph; perhaps they even secretly enjoyed the thought of disappointing and grieving him by dashing to the ground all his hopes of his favorite son's advancement. "Let us kill him," say they, "and then he cannot rule over us." And is there nothing, in this conspiracy of his brethren against Joseph, to remind us of a similar conspiracy against God's beloved Son? Joseph was here in the strictest sense a type of Christ. Envy endangered His life at its first commencement, and the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem may teach us how a man may become envious at the predicted royalties of an infant, as well as at the actual prosperity of those of riper years. His own brethren after the flesh in his after life conspired against Him, and why? Envy was at the root of all their conspiracies. They treated His claim to the Messiahship as a dream. And in their treatment of Jesus they discovered as strong a hatred of His Father, whom they also called their Father, as did Joseph's brethren towards their father. So evident was this that Jesus Himself says of them," Now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father (John 15:24). There is one more point which makes the type perfect. The steps the brethren of Joseph took to prevent his exaltation over them, actually helped forward the very thing they wished to prevent; so inscrutable are the ways of God in His providence, "He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him." The same was the ease with Jesus. God permitted His enemies to go just far enough to accomplish His purposes and to defeat their own. By crucifying Jesus the Jews effectually fulfilled His most ardent wishes, and promoted the benefit and advancement of believers which they meant to hinder.
This dreamer. —
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
Methodist, Gee. Smith, of Coalville, says: — "One night, in the summer of 1868, I had a remarkable dream, which, strange to say, was repeated three nights in succession. Thousands of poor little children clustered round me, with looks and cries which pierced my soul. I was toiling to drag them to the top of a mountain. Just as I was giving up the struggle, Mr. Gladstone joined in my effort, and just as we both were giving up, our good and noble Queen come to the rescue, and we landed them all at the top. A similar dream occurred during the early part of my canal crusade."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
We will say, some evil beast hath devoured him.
I. THAT WICKED MEN DARE NOT TRUST EACH OTHER TO EXPLAIN THINGS, BUT MUST AGREE TO FALSIFY AND DECEIVE. "We will say."
II. THAT IT IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF WICKED MEN TO LAY THE BLAME OF THEIR SINS UPON OTHERS. "We will say, a wild beast," etc. From the very first it was so. Adam struck upon that mean device, and threw the blame of his sin upon his wife: "The woman that Thou gavest me." I know of no instance in the Bible that so clearly indicates the strength of the tendency as this. Some blame one thing or person, and some another; but, like Joseph's brethren, they know there is no "wild beast," and they must sooner or later confess their sins and say, "We are verily guilty."
III. THAT WICKED MEN FEEL THERE IS A TIME COMING WHEN THEY MUST MAKE OUT A CASE — MUST TELL HOW THINGS HAPPENED, "We will say, an evil beast," etc.
I. THE VICTIM. Joseph. What were his crimes?
1. He had done his duty as superintendent of the shepherds; even though it must have been painful to him to convey bad tidings about his brethren, and painful to grieve his father's mind by doing so. Yet he only discharged the duty of his office. The fault was theirs, not his.
2. He had been marked as his father's special favourite and confidant. But they should have tried to be more worthy of trust themselves.
3. He had been favoured with wonderful dreams, in which their future subordinate relation was clearly indicated.
II. THE PLOTTERS.
1. Ten against one. Cowardice of this. Combination of thought and strength for a wicked purpose.
2. Ten brothers against one brother. Fratricical struggles the worst of all. Of all relatives, such near ones as these should agree.
3. Ten men, and brothers, against a youthful brother. Might and numbers are not always a proof of right (once all the world was against our elder Brother).
4. Ten wicked men against one good man. "Though hand join in hand, wickedness shall not go unpunished."
5. Ten sons against a father. In plotting against Joseph they were fighting against Jacob. Those who oppose Jesus are rebelling against God.
III. THE PLOT.
1. The opportunity.
(1) (2) (3) 2. The conspiracy. "The dreamer cometh." All agree on one point. Joseph to be put out of the way. First resolve to kill him and tell a lie to hide the crime (ver. 20). Reuben intercedes, intending to rescue him (ver. 22). They agree to this, thinking he would die of starvation. Thus they would not shed his blood, and yet would take his life. They strip off his offending coat. Approach of the merchants. Judah would make a profit by the transaction. He little thought of the great profit his wickedness would yield (see Genesis 45:7, 8). Joseph is sold. Imagine his cries and tears, &c. (see Genesis 42:21). The remorse of Reuben, and the joy of the rest. 3. The consequences. One sin leads to another. They must resort to lying, &c. The trouble that comes upon Jacob (vers. 34, 35). Learn: I. Innocent people are often surrounded by evil (Jo. 16:33). II. Virtue and truth to be pursued, notwithstanding danger. III. One sin leads to another. Ultimate concealment impossible. IV. God makes the wrath of man to praise Him. V. Jesus has saved us from going down into the pit, and has redeemed us from bondage. (J. C. Gray.)
(2) (3) 2. The conspiracy. "The dreamer cometh." All agree on one point. Joseph to be put out of the way. First resolve to kill him and tell a lie to hide the crime (ver. 20). Reuben intercedes, intending to rescue him (ver. 22). They agree to this, thinking he would die of starvation. Thus they would not shed his blood, and yet would take his life. They strip off his offending coat. Approach of the merchants. Judah would make a profit by the transaction. He little thought of the great profit his wickedness would yield (see Genesis 45:7, 8). Joseph is sold. Imagine his cries and tears, &c. (see Genesis 42:21). The remorse of Reuben, and the joy of the rest. 3. The consequences. One sin leads to another. They must resort to lying, &c. The trouble that comes upon Jacob (vers. 34, 35). Learn: I. Innocent people are often surrounded by evil (Jo. 16:33). II. Virtue and truth to be pursued, notwithstanding danger. III. One sin leads to another. Ultimate concealment impossible. IV. God makes the wrath of man to praise Him. V. Jesus has saved us from going down into the pit, and has redeemed us from bondage. (J. C. Gray.)
(3) 2. The conspiracy. "The dreamer cometh." All agree on one point. Joseph to be put out of the way. First resolve to kill him and tell a lie to hide the crime (ver. 20). Reuben intercedes, intending to rescue him (ver. 22). They agree to this, thinking he would die of starvation. Thus they would not shed his blood, and yet would take his life. They strip off his offending coat. Approach of the merchants. Judah would make a profit by the transaction. He little thought of the great profit his wickedness would yield (see Genesis 45:7, 8). Joseph is sold. Imagine his cries and tears, &c. (see Genesis 42:21). The remorse of Reuben, and the joy of the rest. 3. The consequences. One sin leads to another. They must resort to lying, &c. The trouble that comes upon Jacob (vers. 34, 35). Learn: I. Innocent people are often surrounded by evil (Jo. 16:33). II. Virtue and truth to be pursued, notwithstanding danger. III. One sin leads to another. Ultimate concealment impossible. IV. God makes the wrath of man to praise Him. V. Jesus has saved us from going down into the pit, and has redeemed us from bondage. (J. C. Gray.)
I. Innocent people are often surrounded by evil (Jo. 16:33).
II. Virtue and truth to be pursued, notwithstanding danger.
III. One sin leads to another. Ultimate concealment impossible.
IV. God makes the wrath of man to praise Him.
V. Jesus has saved us from going down into the pit, and has redeemed us from bondage.
(J. C. Gray.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
they happen to be easy.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Psalm 22:1, 2). Pity from man He did not expect, and if His Father had but been near Him, He felt that He could brave every danger and endure every pain. Nay, that suffering would have lost all its sting, and sorrow its misery. But the bitter and the agonizing thing was to feel that He was alone — literally alone in His unparalleled sufferings. He had come to them on a better errand than Joseph's, and with a message of mercy from abetter than any earthly father. One would think that a herald from so august a court, and bearing so welcome a message, would have been hailed with acclamations of delight by the Jewish people. That people had long been looking anxiously for their long-promised Messiah. His deportment was far more lovely and prepossessing than Joseph's — His innocency of life and warmth of brotherly affection far exceeded Joseph's — He was the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. He pleaded with the Jews with a depth of pathos never equalled. Have you ever envied Christ? Do you envy Him His right to the throne of your heart, and have you usurped it, and seated yourself in that throne? There is such a thing, too, as envying the Lord Jesus, in the persons of His happy and highly-favoured followers. Let us cheerfully share our blessings with every afflicted Joseph who is east into the pit of adversity.
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(J. Parker. D. D.)
A company of Ishmaelites.1. Providence can make eyes to see, and such objects to be presented, which may occasion diversion of evil plots against the saints.
2. God orders travellers, and trades, and journies, to serve His own ends to His servants.
3. Accidental events to men are settled providences unto the servants of God.
4. Trade from land to land, about proper fruits of the respective countries, hath been, of old, ordered by Providence, for common advantage God allows and commends it (Genesis 49:13).
5. The same place may be aimed at by God and men, but upon several accounts (ver. 25).
6. Providence toucheth hearts as well as eyes of sinners to defeat cruel designs against His.
7. One spoiler may be wrought upon by God to cause others to desist from cruelty.
8. Thoughts of the unprofitableness of sin is a forcing means to avoid it.
9. Murder and concealment of blood bring no advantage to sinners (ver. 26.)
10. Hypocrites may judge there is no profit in one sin, but some in another.
11. Hypocrites may dissuade men from one sin, but incite them to others, Come, &c.
12. Malice of formalists to sincere Christians sticks not to sell them to bitter enemies of the Church.
13. God makes natural relation and motions to flesh sometimes to keep persons from cruelty.
14. God causeth the counsel of one conspirator to defeat the rest, and makes them concur to His ends (ver. 27).
15. Providence offers opportunity to sinners for doing their will, that His may be done.
16. Murderers are made deliverers by God at His pleasure and in His measure.
17. The most innocent souls may be sold for slaves when aimed by God to be lords.
18. A small price do wicked men put upon the best of God's servants, nay on His Son.
19. Gracious souls, surprised by the wicked in their honest ways, may be carried whither they would not.
20. Ishmaelites may carry innocents to Egypt for their ends, but God orders them thither for His own. So God maketh use of sinners. They bring him to make gain of him, God sends him to save and gain others.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
(J. Parker D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; and they brought Joseph into Egypt.I. A FAMILY FEUD THE FOUNDATION OF A NATIONAL CALAMITY. Bondage for four hundred years.
II. A DESPISED CLASS BECOMES THE INSTRUMENT OF GOD'S PROVIDENCES AND JUDGMENTS. Ishmaelites: the slave-traders of their day.
III. THE COMFORT OF DEATH FOR PERSONAL LOSS AND AWAKENED JUDGMENTS (ver. 35).
(W. R. Campbell.)
1. The narrative shows one of the not uncommon ways which God takes to prepare men for usefulness and blessing. The pathway to any eminence in usefulness, virtue, or joy, is commonly rugged. Muscular strength comes of abundant toil, mental vigour of hard study, moral force of temptation and discipline. It is by fire that gold is separated from its dross, and iron hardened into steel. Even the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering. One cannot guess of how many noble lives the secret, if disclosed, would be found in some great trial. An Arab once bemoaned his fate thus: "Alas, I fear that God doth not remember me. I have no trials, nothing but ease and enjoyment." You cannot make a great life out of sunshine alone. Nor need one lose heart if his whole earthly course seems to be under a cloud. As the discipline of youth may be for riper years, so that of one's whole earthly career is for the ages beyond.
2. Again, the narrative shows how responsible parents are for the conduct and welfare of their children. One of the gravest errors in family training is that favouritism of which Jacob was guilty. On the one hand it engenders weak and offensive pride; on the other, angry and bitter resentment. Dissension is inevitable.
3. Here, again, we are impressed with the danger of sin in thought and feeling. Apparently, the criminal deed of Joseph's brethren was wholly unpremeditated. It was an unhappy moment's impulse. It has been said that "with one bound a soul sometimes overleaps all blessed restraints; we flee into crime as if the dogs of sinful desire were upon us." We rush to deeds of which at other moments we thought ourselves incapable. The petted feeling grows to be so completely master, that we obey it when obedience has ceased to be a pleasure. Some of the world's greatest criminals were not only sweet in childhood, but apparently amiable in youth. Let us never forget the tendency of sin to grow, and that as imperceptibly as does the plant or tree. It is also to be remembered that the guilt centres in the disposition rather than in the act. "God sees hearts as we do faces." "The powder that is explosive and the powder that explodes do not differ." "He that hateth his brother is a murderer."
4. Yet again, we here learn something of the unmixed wickedness of the particular sin of envy. It is the opposite of that "charity out of a pure heart," which, while it rejoices over a brother's or sister's good fortune, is itself thereby enriched; of that spirit which makes all another's gains its own, which is the richer for its neighbour's riches, the gladder for its brother's gladness. As love is of heaven, envy is of hell.
5. Briefly, at least, we must notice the illustration we here have of the bitter outcome of sin.(1) One part of this is a sort of necessity for more sin. No sooner is the heartless deed of Joseph's brethren done than they begin to add other sins for its concealment.(2) But the full outcome of sin in-eludes also much sorrrow. Witness the entreaties and tears of the lad Joseph; the distress of Reuben; the perplexity and fears of all. The comfortless, bereaved father is overwhelmed.
6. For God's children, the culminating lesson of this fragment of history is one of patience and trust in life's darkest hours.
(H. M. Grout, D. D.)
I. This narrative may remind us of THE UNCERTAINTIES THAT CHARACTERIZE OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE. It is "the unexpected that happens." The lesson is, that we should be ever ready to respond to the call of God, and should take short views of things by living, as nearly as possible, a day at a time.
II. We may see from this narrative that THE BEGINNING OF SIN IS LIKE THE LETTING OUT OF WATER. What began in envy leads to murder, and that again gives birth to falsehood. Sin thus multiplies as rapidly as the Colorado beetle, and no matter what may be the first one, you may always call its name Gad, for you may surely say, "a troop cometh." Therefore, if we would successfully resist it, we must withstand its beginnings. Especially is this true of envy, which is purely soul-sin — the hatred of a man for the good that is in him. Envy must be supplanted by the love of Christ.
III. We may learn that IN SEEKING TO DEFEAT GOD'S PURPOSES WE ARE ALL THE WHILE UNCONSCIOUSLY HELPING ON THEIR FULFILMENT. We cannot explain the " law" of it, but we clearly see the fact. Oh the marvellous wisdom of that providence of God which thus, without doing violence to the will of any human being, lays all their actions under tribute for the furtherance of its designs! And what is the use of a man trying to thwart God's purposes when, whether he will or not, everything he does only helps them forward? Surely it is better far to acquiesce in them, and find our happiness in the doing of His will!
IV. I note from this narrative that WE NO NOT GET RID OF A RESPONSIBILITY BY PUTTING IT OUT OF SIGHT.
V. THERE IS A RETRIBUTIVE ELEMENT IN OUR TROUBLES. Jacob, who deceived his father Isaac, is now deceived by his own children. One of his "chickens" came home "to roost," and very bitter was the experience.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
American Sunday School Times.I. JOSEPH ABUSED.
1. Stripped of his raiment (ver. 23).
2. Taken by force (ver. 24).
3. Cast into a pit (ver. 24).
(1) (2) II. JOSEPH SOLE. 1. The ready purchasers (ver. 25). 2. The mercenary plea (vers. 26, 27). 3. The paltry price. III. JOSEPH MOURNED. 1. Cruel deception (ver. 33). 2. Pitiable woe (ver. 34). 3. Inconsolable sorrow (ver. 35). (American Sunday School Times.)
(2) II. JOSEPH SOLE. 1. The ready purchasers (ver. 25). 2. The mercenary plea (vers. 26, 27). 3. The paltry price. III. JOSEPH MOURNED. 1. Cruel deception (ver. 33). 2. Pitiable woe (ver. 34). 3. Inconsolable sorrow (ver. 35). (American Sunday School Times.)
II. JOSEPH SOLE.
1. The ready purchasers (ver. 25).
2. The mercenary plea (vers. 26, 27).
3. The paltry price.
III. JOSEPH MOURNED.
1. Cruel deception (ver. 33).
2. Pitiable woe (ver. 34).
3. Inconsolable sorrow (ver. 35).
(American Sunday School Times.)
I. THE BROAD TEACHING OF THE WHOLE STORY IS, THAT GOD WORKS OUT HIS GREAT PURPOSES THROUGH EVEN THE CRIMES OF UNCONSCIOUS As. As coral insects work, not knowing the plan of their reef, still less the fair vegetation and smiling homes which it will one day carry, but blindly building from the material supplied by the ocean a barrier against it; so even evildoers are carrying on God's plan, and sin is made to counterwork itself, and be the black channel through which the flashing water of life pours.
II. THE POISONOUS FRUIT OF BROTHERLY HATRED. The swift passage of the purely spiritual sin of jealous envy into the murderous act, as soon as opportunity offered, teaches the short path which connects the inmost passions with the grossest outward deeds. Like Jonah's gourd, the smallest seed of hate needs bat an hour or two of favouring weather to become a great tree, with all obscene and blood-seeking birds croaking in its branches. "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." Therefore the solemn need for guarding the heart from the beginnings of envy, and for walking in love. The clumsy contrivance for murder without criminality, which Reuben suggested, is an instance of the shallow pretexts with which the sophistry of sin fools men before they have done the wrong thing. The mask generally tumbles off very soon after. The bait is useless when the hook is well in the fish's gills. "Don't let us kill him. Let us put him into a cistern. He cannot climb up its bottle-shaped, smooth sides. But that is not our fault. Nobody will ever hear his muffled cries from its depths. But there will be no blood on our hands." It was not the first time, nor is it the last, that men have tried to blink their responsibility for the consequences which they hoped would come of their crimes. Such excuses seem sound when we are being tempted; but, as soon as the rush of passion is past, they are found to be worthless. Like some cheap castings, they are only meant to be seen in front, where they are rounded and burnished. Get behind them, and you find them hollow. "They sat down to eat bread." Thomas Fuller pithily says: "With what heart could they say grace, either before or after meat?" What a grim meal! And what an indication of their rude natures, seared consciences, and deadened affections!
III. The ill-omened meal is interrupted by the sudden appearance, so picturesquely described, of THE CARAVAN OF ISHMAELITES WITH THEIR LOANED CAMELS. Dothan was on or near the great trade route to Egypt, where luxury, as well as the custom of embalming, opened a profitable market for spices. The traders would probably not be particular as to the sort of merchandize they picked up on their road, and such an" unconsidered trifle " as a slave or two would be neither here nor there. This opportune advent of the caravan sets a thought buzzing in Judah's brain, which brings out a new phase of the crime. Hatred darkening to murder is bad enough; but hatred which has also aa eye to business, and makes a profit out of a brother, is a shade or two blacker, because it means cold-blooded calculation and selfish advantage instead of raging passion.
IV. Leaving Joseph to pursue his sad journey, our narrative introduces for the first time REUBEN, whose counsel, as the verses before our lesson tell us, it had been to cast the poor lad into the cistern. His motive had been altogether good; he wished to save life, and, as soon as the others were out of the way, to bring Joseph up again and get him safely back to Jacob (Genesis 42:22). Well meant and kindly motived as his action was — and self-sacrificing too, if, as is probable, Joseph was his destined successor in the forfeited birthright — his scheme breaks down, as attempts to mitigate evil by compliance and to make compromises with sinners usually do. The only one of the whole family who had some virtue in him, was too timid to take up a position of uncompromising condemnation. He thought it more politic to go part of the way, and to trust to being able to prevent the worst. That is always a dangerous experiment. It is often tried still; it never answers. Let a man stand to his guns, and speak out the condemnation that is in his heart; otherwise he will be sure to go farther than he meant, he will lose all right of remonstrance, and will generally find that the more daring sinners have made his well-meant schemes to avert the mischief impossible.
V. THE CRUEL TRICK BY WHICH JACOB WAS DECEIVED is perhaps the most heartless bit of the whole heartless crime. It canto as near an insult as possible. It was maliciously meant. The snarl about the coat, the studied use of "thy son" as if they disowned the brotherhood, the unfeeling harshness of choosing such a way of telling their lie — all were meant to give the maximum of pain, and betray their savage hatred of father and son, and its causes.
VI. AND WHAT OF THE POOR OLD FATHER? His grief is unworthy of God's wrestler. It is not the part of a devout believer in God's providence to refuse to be comforted. There was no religious submission in his passionate sorrow. How unlike the quiet resignation which should have marked the recognition that the God who had been his guide was working here too! No doubt the hypocritical condolences of his children were as vinegar upon nitre. No doubt the loss of Joseph had taken away the one gentle and true son on whom his loneliness rested since his Rachel's death, while he found no solace in the wild, passionate men who called him "father," and brought him no " honour." But still his grief is beyond the measure which a true faith in God would have warranted; and we cannot but see that the dark picture which we have just been looking at gets no lighter or brighter tints from the demeanour of Jacob.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. A BEAUTIFUL IDEAL OF WHAT A YOUNG CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE.
1. Having no fellowship with that which is evil.
2. As loved of the good.
II. THE SAD EXPERIENCES THROUGH WHICH MANY A CONSISTENT YOUNG CHRISTIAN PASSES.
1. Joseph was hated of his brothers because their father loved him.
2. Joseph was cruelly treated by his brothers.
3. There are lighter and darker shades among the wicked.
III. THE SORROW WHICH CRUEL TREATMENT CAUSES,
IV. THE TENDER PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS SEEN IN THE DISPOSAL OF JOSEPH IN EGYPT.
1. His promotion in Potiphar's house proves this.
2. That he reached the rulership of Egypt through his experiences in Potiphar's house, proves it. Lessons: The permissions of God are full of mystery, but also full of grace.
2. The story of Joseph proves the possibility of youthful piety, and that Christian character may glow in adversity.
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. WE SEE HERE INNOCENCE PROVOKING MALICE TO VILER DEEDS. Without question, the presence of a righteous man brings to light the baseness of the wicked. Just as the summer sun quickens the growth of noxious weeds, and makes the stench of a foetid sewer still more odious; so the influence of a saintly character exasperates base men to do their worst. The presence of the Son of God on earth provoked Satan to put out prodigious efforts of malice. To a vitiated palate even food will produce vomiting. The beneficent errand of Joseph obtained only opprobrium and ill.nature. "Behold," said they, "this dreamer cometh." Then this was the worst thing malice could lay to his charge. In this respect also Joseph was a type of Jesus Christ. The only accusation men could prefer against either was that he had aspired to be a king. Yet this was not merely a prophetic assertion; it was a divinely appointed office; it was a certain destiny. The righteous man must inevitably rule.
II. WE SEE HERE WICKEDNESS RAPIDLY MATURING ITS FRUITS.
1. Sin is a hardening and a blinding process. It treats its victims as the Philistines treated Samson — puts out their eyes. They saw not Joseph as a brother; they saw him only as a dreamer. They saw only the gain of twenty dollars — about a dollar a piece; they were blind to the tremendous loss.
2. Under favourable circumstances sin speedily develops. Hatred soon grew into murderous conspiracy, into rude violence, into lying, deceit, avarice, fraud; into base traffic of a brother's flesh — the sum of all villainies. In the fields of nature some plants will bear ten thousand seeds; but this plant of sin is yet more prolific in effects.
3. Yet sin is temporarily checked by a sense of responsibility. Reuben alone of the eleven sought the deliverance of Joseph.
4. Sin defeats its own ends. When the innocent lad was led away an abject slave, had they baffled his dreams? They had helped the business forward.
III. WE SEE HERE THAT HARD SERVICE IS THE WAY TO SOVEREIGNTY. There is great truth in the maxim that "he would rule, must first learn to serve." Napoleon I. rose to sovereignty because he served well in the lowest ranks of the French army. Jesus Christ is enthroned in the hearts of myriads because He has served them so faithfully and so generously. It is a law in mechanics that in proportion as a free body is forced downward, will it rise upward when the force is withdrawn. Nature helps a rebound.
(J. Dickerson Davies,M. A.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
Leviticus 27:5); so nearly had human beings kept the same value for centuries.
(C. Geikie, D. D.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
Vers, 29, 30.
Reuben returned. —
1. Under the wise providence of God, helpers may come too late to so save oppressed.
2. Creatures as they intend, so may they do their utmost to save, when God will not have it so.
3. The pit, under God's disposal, giveth up to sale, when it is intended unto freedom.
4. Nature is apt to be passionate to rending cloths upon disappointments (ver. 29).
5. Brotherly affection disappointed, though not true, will make one fall upon disappointers with indignation.
6. Passiom may make men judge that not to be, which is, and so may make mourners.
7. Natural affection may put men to their wits' end upon disappointments, and fears of worse events (ver. 30).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Hypocrisy may admit trouble in some evil, but conspires wilfully to do other. Reuben with them.
2. The coat of innocency may be made a cloak to cover cruelty.
3. Cruelty makes use of policy to hide itself from discovery. Kid's blood for man's.
4. Sinners' subtlety sometimes to put it off from themselves, makes evil worse than it is. Blood without blood (ver. 31.)
5. Beastly acting sinners use, to turn over their sins to beasts (so if the word be striking through).
6. The guilty have their harbingers, to conceal sin more cunningly.
7. Sin makes men shameless to bring the tokens of their wickedness to plead for them.
8. Sellers of brethren make not much to do that, which may kill their fathers.
9. Sinners use to make their refuge in lies, and so add sin to sin.
10. Impudent sinners, though they be conscious, yet make things doubtful unto others (ver. 32).
11. Good men may be deceived by sinners, upon that which they know.
12. Gracious souls may be too credulous toward the wicked, who speaks falsely to them.
13. Over much credulity makes men receive that which afterwards they find false (ver. 33).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. THE HABIT IS DEPENDENT ON PREDISPOSITION. The sanguine are "without doubt" of success, where the cautious are "without doubt" of disaster. The despondent regard the world through darkened spectacles. It is no wonder that their prospects seem gloomy.
II. THE HABIT IS ENCOURAGED BY APPEARANCES. To Jacob appearances were sadly significant. What more evidence could be wanted? We should remember that all appearances may be against the true facts.
III. THE HABIT LEADS TO GREVIOUS MISTAKES. Jacob's verdict was "without doubt." Nevertheless, it was a wrong verdict. We talk of the evil of doubt. There are evils of positiveness.
IV. THE HABIT IS POSITIVELY MISCHIEVOUS. It causes distress when we are needlessly positive of a painful surmise. It does more harm. It paralyses our efforts to better a gloomy state of affairs.
V. THE HABIT MAY BE A PUNISHMENT OF FORMER UNTRUTHFULNESS. In his youth Jacob deceived his father; in his old age Jacob was deceived by his sons. He was cunning and wily. Yet he was over-reached, and suffered from the trickery of others. Worldly acuteness is no security against deception in matters that lie nearest to our heart. The fox may be out witted, while the lamb is spared in its simplicity. Application: See how the coprinciples work in various directions.
1. Domestic anxiety. Parents are often inclined to dread the worst of absent children lost to sight, and perhaps unheard of for years. Yet they may be as safe and prosperous as Joseph became.
2. Prospects for life.
3. Our spiritual condition.
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
He refused to be comforted.
1. Thus there is one kind of consolation, the least adroit, it may be, but not the least common, which practically consists in a disparagement of the suffering. This sort of comfort fails in both the essentials. First, it is unsympathizing; and secondly, it is unreal. A man could not thus speak who felt with you. This man is just getting rid of an irksome duty. He does not enter into your ease. Thus the comfort lacks sympathy, and must be refused. But it lacks reality too. It is not true that you exaggerate. Your pain is painful.
2. There is another kind of consolation, of which the characteristic is that it deals largely in false promises. The physician, conjured to be true, looks the patient in the face, and says she thing that is not. "He sees nothing to make him anxious. You may live for years." He tells the next person he meets that you are a doomed man. You are anxious — you have cause to be so — about professional success. You confide your misgiving, your apprehension, your mortification, to your friend. To save himself, or to save you, a moment's pain, he assures you that you are mistaken. "The next turn of fortune's wheel will be in your favour. He has reason to hope, he almost knows, that your name stands next for an appointment." To a third person he says plainly that you are a failure, that you have not a chance. Worse still is it, when the soul is the subject.
3. There is a still larger class of consolations which have this for their feature, that they use true words but apply them falsely. In mere carelessness, in worse than carelessness, in headlong headstrong presumption, a man has incurred a terrible, perhaps fatal, accident. There is instantly a chorus of comforters, it is the will of God. Worse than this: a son has been the plague of his home, the scourge of mother and sister, the ill example, the guide into all mischief, of brothers and schoolfellows! no change, save from worse to worse, comes over his youth; all manner of sin and wickedness is his sport and his occupation; at last he commits a crime, brings shame upon his name, reduces his family to misery and destitution — who cannot anticipate, even then, a view of the terrible history, which shall lightly and confidently bring into it, if not for the sinner yet for the sufferers, the hand and counsel of God; bidding them believe that the whole aspect of it, for them at least, is one of blessing and hope and fatherly love? And so, when at last the grave closes over one whose whole life has been a denial and defiance of the Bible, whose last breath may have been the repudiation, not only of clergyman or sacrament, but of prayer, and of Christ, and of immortality itself; there are those who can see in all this nothing more than an idiosyncrasy or a misfortune, and who, not contented (as all ought to be) with silence and sorrow, with refraining from cruel judgments and ill-omened words, are ready to offer to the survivors the most cheerful and confident of consolations, as if over a deathbed of sweet hope, crowning a life of consistent, of Christ-like devotion. Brethren, the sight and the touch of suffering is keen and sensitive; and it must revolt against all this as an offensive obstrusion of an unreal and impertinent consolation. That which we could not say without cruelty in the individual instance, or in the house darkened by the calamity itself, we can say and we ought to say in general terms, while it may yet be for the admonition of men whose day of grace is not ended. Truth is not always comfort. We cannot always with propriety say in the moment of sorrow the word which nevertheless may be the true one, about the healing power of time, or the reparative processes of reviving interests and affections. But this has no exception; comfort cannot be without truth. Sympathy itself is dead, being alone. Let us who would be "sons of consolation," take good heed to our truthfulness. This estimate of life and the Bible will alter the language of our consolations. It will make them entirely real, and in the same degree strongly supporting. We shall ask no man to call evil good, or to write sweet for bitter. When some terrible thing happens, and we are called to minister, we shall say, "Alas, my brother!" Let us sit and weep together over the mighty power of evil. Oh, how necessary was the Gospel! Oh, how intelligible has become the Cross! Oh, how desirable that last revelation — death and hell cast into the lake of fire — the tabernacle of God come down to earth, and tears wiped from off all faces! And then, although we cannot offer the false consolation, which confounds light and darkness, receives with an impartial and indifferent complaisance alike the good and the evil, sees a God (so called) equally in both and in neither, and encourages an easy, trivial, light-hearted passage, through a world "neither clear nor dark," into another world, itself neither day nor night; yet we shall at least have realized God in His holiness, Christ in His necessity, life in its seriousness, heaven in its glory; we shall at least have renounced for ever that vile flattery which barters truth for a smile — that ignoble traggicing in great names, of which the Nemesis is the forfeiture of great realities. And the moral of it all is weighty and legible. If the battle is so sore around and within us; if good and evil are not words but things; if Christ and Satan are not phantoms but persons; if we must have a side, though we know it not, and he that is not with Christ must be against Him — let us be serious. The mere use of true words will help us.
I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. —
I. IT WAS DEEP AND OVERWHELMING.
II. IT WAS INCONSOLABLE.
III. IT CAST HIM UPON THE FUTURE.
(T. H. Leade.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.).