In The Beginning: Part IV
by Jackie Alston
"I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
We ended Part III of "In the Beginning" with Jacob and his twin brother Esau meeting face to face after twenty years. What Jacob had feared would be a bloody battle turned out to be, by God's grace, a short, sweet family reunion. Thereafter, the brothers blessed each other and went their separate ways. Esau returned to Edom where he became the Father of the Edomites and Jacob and his family moved on to Succoth.
As I mentioned in Part III, Jacob's family consisted of two wives, Leah and her sister Rachel, whom Jacob loved, and their handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah, and between the four women, Jacob had fathered eleven sons, including Joseph, by his beloved Rachel, and one daughter named Dinah.
Jacob and his family stayed in Succoth for a few years then traveled on into Canaan, the promised land. But instead of Jacob returning to Bethel as he had promised God, he settled down about thirty miles away in Shechem, which turned out to be a tragic mistake. For it was there in Shechem that Dinah caught the eye of the young prince, Shechem.
I tried to imagine how it was for Dinah, living in the house with eleven brothers. She was probably spoiled and very much over-protected. So Dinah longed to be around other girls her age so she innocently started going and mingling with the young women in the city. But on one occasion, Shechem, the son of Hamor lusted after Dinah, and the Scripture says, "He saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah and he loved the damsel." He may have loved her, but he forcibly raped Jacob's only daughter, and when Jacob heard the news, the Scripture says, "He held his peace unto his sons were come out of the field." I'm sure that must have been really hard on Dinah, but back then she had no say-so about anything in her own life.
Since marriages were arranged back in those days, Shechem had asked his father, Hamor to go to Jacob and arrange a marriage. I guess to Shechem, marriage would make everything okay. But when Hamor came to Jacob and his sons, things were not okay. The brothers were grieved and outraged at what had been done to their sister. So Hamor tried to smooth things over by professing his son's love for Dinah, and he invited Jacob's sons to intermarry with his women and become citizens of the land. Then Shechem spoke up and offered to pay whatever price they wanted to let Dinah become his wife.
I know you've all heard the expressions, "Like father, like son", or "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree." Well, deception arose in the hearts of the sons of Jacob. Although they had no intention of giving their sister to Shechem, they lied and said they would if all the men of the city would be circumcised. Of course this pleased Hamor and Shechem, it seemed circumcision was a small price to pay to have the Israelites and all their wealth among them. So all the men of the city were circumcised and Dinah went home with Shechem.
But on the third day, when the men were flat on their backs, too sore to even move, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, came into the city with swords and slaughtered every man there, including Hamor and Shechem. It was a bloody massacre. They took Dinah from Shechem's house, then went back and looted the city. They took all of the Shechemites' wealth, they took their sheep, goats, and cattle, and they took their women and children as slaves. They took everything. It was shameful! But the biggest shame of all was that they had used circumcision, which was God's sacred sign of His covenant with Abraham, as a means of carrying out their evil deed.
When Jacob rebuked his sons, they said, in so many words, "they got what they deserved for treating our sister like a prostitute." They had no conscience, but Jacob worried about the shame and possibility of retaliation. But God used that tragedy at Shechem to get Jacob to fulfill his vow to return to Bethel. The Scripture says, "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God."
Before Jacob left for Bethel, he commanded his family to change clothes and get rid of all the foreign gods and idols they had in their possession. In that way, they would be purified before coming into the presence of God. And when Jacob arrived in Bethel, the first thing he did was build an altar unto God, and God appeared to him and confirmed that his name would be Israel, then God renewed the covenant with Jacob that He had made with Abraham and Isaac.
Just because there is a covenant or an intimate relationship with God doesn't mean that trials and tribulations will bypass you. Oh, you'll get through them, but they won't pass you by. And Jacob, the son of Isaac, went through some trials and tribulations.
As I mentioned in Part III, Jacob's beloved wife Rachel had given him one son, Joseph, and in naming her son, Rachel expressed faith that God would give her another one. And God did, but with it came another trial for Jacob. The Bible doesn't tell us anything about the joy that Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph must have felt during Rachel's pregnancy. The Scripture says, "As they journeyed from Bethel, Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing (for she died) that she called her son Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin." In her dying words, Rachel gave her son a name that meant "son of my sorrow", but Jacob didn't want the child to grow up feeling guilty for his mother's death, so he renamed him, Benjamin, "son of my right hand".
I can't begin to imagine how hard it was for Jacob to bury his beloved, Rachel. But the Scripture says, "And Rachel was buried in the way to Ephrath and Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." Although the Bible didn't tell us much about Rachel, her character lived on long after her death in the life of her noble son, Joseph. For Joseph's great reverence for God speaks of the godly training he received from his loving mother, Rachel.
If mourning the death of Rachel, and raising a motherless baby wasn't enough, Jacob had to deal with another trial that the Bible mentions only briefly. Reuben, Jacob's oldest son raped Bilhah, his father's concubine. Jacob later cursed Reuben and because of his adulterous sin, Reuben forfeited his birthright. So the right to the royal scepter passed from Reuben to Judah, and praise be to God, through the tribe of Judah came the Messiah.
After many trials and tribulations, Jacob finally came home to his father, Isaac, where he stayed until Isaac died at one hundred and eighty years old. And the Scripture tells us that Esau came and helped Jacob bury their father. After this, Esau pretty much dropped out of the record because the chosen line did not continue through him, and Jacob's story begins to end as his favorite son takes center stage at the age of seventeen.
Before getting into the narrative of Joseph, I must say that Joseph was one of the most beautiful, most perfect "types of Christ" in all of the Old Testament. As his story unfolds, I pray that you will take notice that like Christ, Joseph (1) was the beloved son of his father (2) was despised by his brothers (3) was sold for a measly amount of silver (4) resisted temptation (5) was falsely accused and unjustly punished, but through it all (6) he was exalted and became the savior of the world. But, Joseph had to go through the servant role first. And that began in the fields with him serving under his older brothers.
At seventeen, Joseph was already concerned about true worship of God and moral values so he reported to his father about his brothers' participation in the evil Canaanite practices. Of course that made the brothers angry, but their anger turned into hatred with Jacob's obvious preference for Joseph. The Scripture says, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours." This coat was a long-sleeved, richly decorated, colorful tunic that reached down to the ankles, it was so unlike the plain, sleeveless, short tunics his brothers wore. And wearing a tunic like that, Joseph couldn't work in the field anymore so he was kept home. You would think that Jacob, who had lived in fear of his own brother for twenty years, would do nothing to cause animosity between these brothers, but he fed their anger by his foolish actions.
Now if Jacob's actions weren't bad enough, things got worse. The Scripture says, "And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words." Joseph received two dreams that predicted his rule over his brothers, and even over Jacob and Leah. But instead of Joseph quietly seeking to understand the dreams, he got the big head and started flaunting them to his family. Joseph was so immature that he didn't even think about the hurt he was causing his brothers. But soon after, the brothers went to Shechem to feed their father's flock. And not realizing the depths of his older sons' hatred, Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem to check on them.
When Joseph arrived in Shechem, he was told he could find his brothers in Dothan. The brothers saw Joseph from afar off, and seeing that fancy coat only reminded them of their father's favoritism and Joseph's "bow down to me" dreams, so that plotted to kill him. But Reuben stopped them from shedding Joseph's blood, and they all agreed to cast him into a pit in the wilderness. As soon as Joseph neared his brothers, they stripped him of his coat and threw him into the pit. Then they sat down to eat and they turned a deaf ear to Joseph's plea to let him live. While the cold-hearted brothers were eating, a band of Ismeelites came passing through on their way to Egypt, and while Reuben was away, Judah convinced the others to sell Joseph. And the Scripture says, "They drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt."
When Reuben returned, he was terrified to find Joseph gone from the pit, but the brothers explained to him that Joseph had been sold, not killed. Then deception arose in the hearts of the sons of Jacob again. The brothers slaughtered a goat and dipped Joseph's coat in the blood and sent it to their father to identify it. And of course, poor Jacob came to the conclusion that an evil beast had killed his son, just as the brothers intended. Then the Scripture says, "And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sack-cloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted: and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him."
Although it's sad, it's quite ironic that a goat was used in Jacob's deception of his father, and a goat was used by his sons deception of him. But while Jacob was being deceived, Joseph was being sold unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah's and captain of the guard. What the brothers meant for evil, God turned into good. Even though Joseph was enslaved, he was right where God wanted him to be. Jacob's favorite son was now on his way from pit to palace and from rags to riches. Glory Be to God!!!
I chose to end Part IV at this point, primarily because Joseph's narrative is interrupted at this point. In Part V, we'll learn about the shameful sin of Judah, and the magnificent grace of God. We'll also see how Joseph fulfills those other similarities of Christ, ultimately becoming the savior of the world. Until next time, may God bless you and keep you. In Jesus name, AMEN.
Providence Family Ministries