When Joseph's brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, &c. Picturesque scene is the encampment of Jacob. How well the dark camel-hair tents harmonize with the general character of the spots in which they are pitched. Peace and purity should dwell there. Ten men of the tribe of Jacob are most depraved, but their characters only threw into brighter prominence that of Joseph. It is probable that Jacob gave greater attention to the training of Joseph than to that of his brethren. He showed favoritism also. His act of giving him a garb of varied color may not altogether have been so foolish and weak as sometimes it has been supposed to be. It was simply an ordinary Eastern way of indicating that Joseph was to be the future leader and sheik of the encampment. Think of Joseph's home life, and learn -
I. THAT AT HOME WE SHOULD, LIKE JOSEPH, LEARN TO PREPARE FOR FUTURE LIFE. Doubtless Jacob would tell Joseph of the promises of God to Abraham, of the tradition of the Deluge and the Fall; probably also of his own fleeing from home, and his dream in the desert, when he saw "the great altar-stair sloping through darkness up to God," and the angels ascending and descending. Joseph always afterwards has great faith in dreams. No book had he. The Bible was not written. Traditions and oral teaching formed his mental training.
II. AT HOME WE SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE SOME EMPLOYMENT. His father loved him too dearly to allow him to grow up in habits of idleness. He learned to handle the crook and to become a faithful messenger. No work is to be despised, for all may be a preparation for future usefulness.
III. AT HOME WE SHOULD NOT WILLINGLY BE WITNESSES OF WRONGDOING. The lives of Joseph's brethren were sinful, and their doings deceitful. Some things he is obliged to know about of which it is dangerous to keep silence. The welfare of the whole tribe was being risked by the elder brothers, and Joseph, fearing that, tells his father, or seeks counsel that he may be strengthened to resist evil influence.
IV. AT HOME WE MAY HAVE GLOWING VISIONS OF THE FUTURE. The two dreams concerning the sheaves, and the sun and moon and stars, brought hate from his brethren, but they had an influence on Joseph's after life. They were remarkably fulfilled. We all have some such visions. We build "castles in the air." The stern realities of life tone down our dreams. It is well to have some such dreams. Without them few make any advance in life. We are not to be like mere senseless stones, but growing plants. Better is it to bear fruit than to wait to become only the sport of circumstances. - H.
"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" (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."
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.
Notice now what are the three things for which we are prone to envy others.
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?
The happiness of other men is poison to the envious man. The odious passion of envy torments and destroys one's self, while it seeks the ruin of its object. Beware of envy; you know not to what it tends. Beware of all its fruits; you will find them to be deadly, when they have time and opportunity to ripen. Joseph's brethren did not proceed to extremes of cruelty when they were first seized with this baleful passion. They "could not speak peaceably to him," but they entertained no thoughts of killing him, till their envy had by indulgence acquired a greater degree of strength. Their "lust conceived and brought forth sin; and when their sin was finished, it brought forth death" to Joseph in their intentions. They contracted the guilt of his blood, although they did not shed it. They were chargeable with intended murder in the sight of 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."
()When Sir Walter Scott was a boy at school, his efforts to gain a prize seemed all to no purpose, on account of the superior memory of one of his companions, who never failed to say his lessons perfectly. Walter did well, but now and then he would make a slip. In vain he strove to be first; he was always second, but could not oust his schoolfellow from the top place. One day, watching his rival repeating a long task without mistake or hesitation, Walter noticed that his fingers were perpetually fidgeting a particular button on his waistcoat. A thought struck the envious lad. Could it be? He would see. An opportunity soon occurred, and he cut off that button from that waistcoat while its owner was asleep. Next day the class stood up. Number one began, and as the first words left his lips, his fingers might be seen feeling for the familiar button. They felt for it in vain; and the hapless boy stopped, then stammered, then stopped again, and broke down altogether. Utterly unconscious of the cause, he racked his memory in despairing amazement, but he could not remember a line, and Walter stepped to the top of the class. Not a very serious trick, many boys will say. I choose it on this very account, as an illustration of what envy will lead to. Our object in this lesson should be to show envy at work in ordinary daily life, working all manner of mischief, just because its wickedness is not appreciated. An illustration of some murderer, whose crime was instigated by envy, would not answer our purpose. Our Sunday scholars would condemn the sin with horror, utterly failing to see the less glaring, but in God's sight not less hateful, fault of their own hearts and tongues and lives. Our illustrations should be such as will enable us effectively to say, like Nathan, "Thou art the man!" "Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur." But it is not enough to show the hideousness of envy. We must show the beauty of the " charity" which "envieth not." Thus: What should Walter Scott have done? Let the button alone? Yes; hut more than that. He should have honoured his companion, and rejoiced in his success. Ah, that is hard!
()When envy has fully formed its purpose of cruelty, it very speedily sees and seizes an opportunity for carrying it through. The great dramatist, indeed, has represented one of the most unscrupulous of his characters as excusing himself after this fashion: "How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done"; but then it is only the envious and malicious man who is on the outlook for means to do ill deeds, and therefore it is to him only that the perception of them offers a temptation. If King John had not been wishing to make away with Arthur, the presence of Hubert would not have suggested to him that he had found a fit instrument to do what he desired. Just as love keens the vision to such a degree that it sees ways of service that are invisible to others, so hate quickens the perception, and finds an occasion for its gratification in things that would have passed unnoticed by others. The brothers of Joseph, therefore, being filled with envy towards him, soon had an opportunity of working their will upon him, and they seized it with an eagerness which showed how intensely they hated him.
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