And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near to them, they conspired against him to slay him.…
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. —
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.