When Others Hate You

Explore the Bible Series

April 6, 2008


Background Passage:  Genesis 37:1-38:30

Lesson Passage: Genesis 37:2b-11; 17-20, 28


Introduction: This section of Genesis begins the narrative about Joseph.  As before, the text takes directions that readers may not anticipate.  Furthermore, patterns of behavior surface again and again. Careful Bible students should note these trends.


  1. In each patriarchal generation the younger sons assume the dominant roles, according to the providence of God: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  In the present narrative, the older sons behave disgracefully, and the last chapters of Genesis record the amazing story of Joseph’s ascendancy over his elder brothers.
  2. Deceitfulness characterized every patriarchal generation.  In Abraham’s case, his deception about Sarah troubled God’s servant in his relation with the Egyptians and the Philistines.  Isaac, following his father’s example, lied about his relationship with Rebekah.  Of course, Jacob engaged in deceit on several occasions, and, now, our lesson will demonstrate the rampant dishonesty of Jacob’s sons.
  3. Great cruelty troubled the chosen family.  Abraham and Sarah treated Hager and Ishmael badly after the birth of Isaac, and, if God had not intervened in their behalf, the forlorn mother and son might have died in the desert.  Jacob’s cruelty to Isaac and Esau ruined family relations for a generation.  Furthermore, Jacob treated Leah badly and, at times, dealt dishonestly with Laban.  Last week, the lesson focused on the brutality of Levi and Simeon, and this week’s material covers the unseemly story of Jacob’s sons and their spitefulness toward their younger brother, Joseph.
  4. In spite of all the human failure, God’s promises remained true.  Lying, cheating, adultery, vindictiveness, murder, and malice—none of these failures derailed the gracious purpose of God. Please don’t misunderstand the point.  I do not suggest that God blessed the sin of his people; rather, I affirm that God’ purpose of grace was not thwarted by human failure.  The Lord protects, guides, and forgives his people, and, in the end, he accomplishes his gracious design.  Joseph, as he neared the end of his life, saw the Lord’s hand in all the difficulties he faced.  In a sense, the horrible cruelty of his brothers, the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and the years of imprisonment were simply steps along he way of God’s accomplishment of a wonderful plan of mercy. 


Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Jacob’s Sons Betrayed Joseph (37:1-36)

A.    Joseph’s relationship with his brothers (vv. 1-11): Though Joseph’s brothers acted disgracefully, Joseph apparently did not handle his family relationships very well.

1.      tattling(v. 2): We don’t know the occasion, but, at some point, Joseph gave a bad report on some of his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah (See I Timothy 5:13—this word denotes a meddlesome spirit).

2.      favoritism (vv. 3-4): Jacob favored Joseph over all the other sons, and he gave expression to his bias by giving his younger son an impressive garment.  This beautiful coat may have denoted status and certainly reminded the other ten sons of the elevated status of Joseph.  Recall that Jacob had grown up in a divided household and enjoyed the favoritism of his mother.  Apparently, the patriarch did not learn from the tumultuous environment of his childhood.  This coat provoked the slighted brothers to envy and bitter speech toward Joseph.

3.      pride (vv. 5-11): Joseph received two dreams.  Soon afterwards, Joseph reported his dreams to his brothers, and their hatred increased toward their kinsman.  Even Jacob seemed offended by Joseph’s report of the dreams (See v. 10).  The text makes clear that the brothers’ resentment grew in the wake of Joseph’s account of his dreams.  Perhaps Joseph could have handled this situation more diplomatically, and his bold pronouncement to his brothers may have reflected an immature, prideful heart.


B.     Joseph Sold by his Brothers (vv. 12-36)

1.      Joseph’s search for his brothers (vv. 12-17):  The older sons of Jacob tended the family flocks some distance from their father’s home.  In time, Jacob wanted a report of their wellbeing, and the old man sent Joseph to check on the family interests.  Joseph sought his brothers at Shechem and Dothan.

2.      the sons’ conspiracy (vv. 18-36): As Joseph approached his brothers, they mocked and conspired to kill him.  Reuben intervened in Joseph’s behalf and convinced the brothers to throw Joseph in a pit.  Later, Reuben planned to return to rescue his younger brother. Apparently, Reuben left his brothers for a time, and, in his absence, the sons sold Joseph to Midianite tradesmen.  When Reuben returned, to his horror, he discovered what the men had done, and he agreed to tell Jacob that a wild beast had killed Joseph.  The brothers dipped Joseph’s coat in goat’s blood and lied to their father about Joseph’s death.  Jacob, of course, grieved inconsolably for his lost son. Joseph, in the meantime, was taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, an important military official in the service of Pharaoh. 






II.                The Adultery of Judah (38: 1-30)

A.    The family of Judah (vv. 1-5): Judah left his kinsmen and moved to the South.  While living near Adullam, Judah took a Canaanite wife, and she bore him two sons: Er and Onan. 

B.     Onan and Tamar (vv. 6-11): When Er grew to maturity he married a Canaanite woman named Tamar.  The Bible does not reveal the nature of Er’s sin, but the Lord killed this wicked man.  According to the levirate marriage norms of ancient Middle Eastern culture, Onan, Er’s brother, was obligated to father a child in his deceased brother’s line.  Onan made a mockery of his family responsibilities, and the Lord took his life too.  Judah told Tamar to wait until a younger son reached marriageable age; then, Judah would ensure Tamar’s marital integrity. 

C.     Judah’s fornication (vv. 12-30): After the passage of some time, Judah disregarded his promise to Tamar.  He went to the Philistine city of Timnah, and he went in to a prostitute.  Unfortunately, Tamar had concealed her identity and seduced her father-in-law.  In place of a payment for her prostitution, Tamar requested that Judah give her his signet and staff.  Tamar became pregnant, and, upon Judah’s discovery of her condition, he condemned her to a painful execution.  When confronted with her immorality, Tamar revealed Judah’s signet and the staff.  Judah, of course, knew that he was guilty.  She gave birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.  Tamar and Perez were in the lineage of the Lord Jesus.