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January 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 37, 38, 39

Overcoming Animosity

What causes animosity in a home or business? Usually it is caused by favoritism or unfair treatment, whether real or imagined. Some people are perpetrators of hatred and others are innocent victims of it. Does God care? What should we do?

In today's Bible reading the Biblical patriarch Jacob causes jealousy and hatred in his family. He forfeits the rights of his first born son, Reuben, to the family inheritance because he slept with one of Jacob's wives, Bilhah (1Chronicles 5:1-2; Genesis 37:3). The rights are then given, not to the second born son by Leah, but to Joseph, the first born son of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. This causes animosity towards Joseph because Jacob favors him over the rest of his older brothers. Moreover, Joseph is given a special robe to wear which distinguishes him above them. From his own life Jacob should have known the danger which favoritism brings to a family, but Jacob still chooses Joseph over his other sons. Are you doing anything which may cause bitterness or anger in your home, business, church or other organization?

The jealousy in Jacob’s household goes from bad to worse. At age seventeen Joseph gives an unfavorable report about his brothers. Maybe Joseph’s brothers are lazy or irresponsible, but no one wants to look bad in the eyes of his family or employer.

Next, Joseph receives two dreams from the LORD about his destiny. Dreams in those days had special significance and meaning. The meaning of his dreams is clear to his family—Joseph would be lifted up above his brothers, and even his mother and father would bow down to him. God’s hand of blessing would certainly be upon Joseph. His brothers, however, do not see it that way. They think Joseph is just being cocky, seeking to elevate himself above his family, and this causes more animosity.

After this, Joseph is given the task of checking up on his brothers. Perhaps Jacob perceives his other sons can't be trusted, but he trusts Joseph. Now he is alone, away from the protecting eyes of his father. Seeing him from a far, they plot to kill him, but Reuben persuades his brothers to throw him into a dry cistern; Reuben wishes to deliver him later. When a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants travels by them, however, his brothers sell Joseph to them. Afterwards, the brothers take Joseph's beautiful robe, dip it into goat’s blood, and deceive their father Jacob into believing he has been killed by a wild animal. In God's providence, though, he is not killed but re-sold in Egypt (Genesis 50:20).

What lessons can we learn about the dangers of favoritism? First, favoritism causes competition, jealousy, hatred, and a lack of peace in a home, business, church or other organization. We need to appreciate all members for who they are and how God has made them. Second, from Joseph's life we can learn that the LORD exercises his providential care over those who are faithful when mistreated.

In Genesis 38 the account of Judah's life seems an interruption to the Biblical narrative; yet, it proves to show the wisdom of God’s choice of Joseph over Judah. It is not position or leadership abilities which are important to God—it is obedience.

Why does Judah leave his brothers and go to Adullam, some fifteen miles away? He may have been trying to escape the guilt of his actions towards Joseph and the deception of his father; for it was “at that time” (38:1) that Judah leaves his brothers to live there.

Judah was an example of a life caught in sin. First, he lies and deceives. Second, he runs away from his problems. Third, he compromises his Jewish heritage by marrying a Canaanite woman. Her influence and the wickedness of the culture where they now live may have influenced his sons to be wicked—God put two of them to death. Fourth, Judah deceives his daughter-in-law, Tamar, to protect his youngest son but is later deceived himself.

After Judah’s wife dies, Tamar, who was not given Judah's youngest son Shelah to marry as agreed upon, disguises herself and pretends to be a prostitute so she can have children. Having recently lost his wife, Judah is caught by lust and deceived. Have you been caught in your sin? Don’t run and hide and seek to make a new life for yourself. Repent and God will be gracious to forgive you and help you bear the consequences (more...).

While Judah is in the area of Adullam making a new life for himself, Joseph is sold as a slave in Egypt and serves the household of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials (Genesis 39). He gains the attention and favor of his master because he can be completely trusted with everything. Joseph also gains the attention of Potiphar’s wife! She wants to sleep with this handsome, strong young man, but he refuses. Joseph tells her,

“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she screamed (Genesis 39:9-13, NIV).

She accuses Joseph of attempted rape. For that lie Joseph is imprisoned. Joseph must have thought, I am trying my best to be faithful to the LORD and serve my master, and yet this happens. What is God doing?

What can we learn from being the victim of false accusations and injustice? Life is sometimes unjust. When bad things happen to us, even when we are living right and trying to please God, we do not understand. However, God is working all things for his glory and is molding us to be better Christians (Romans 8:28-29). He does deliver us, although deliverance may not come immediately. However, if we persevere through trials and are faithful when unjustly treated, God will reward us (Revelation 2:10). What happens to Joseph? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s lesson.

Lessons to Live By

  • Don't do things which will cause animosity in your home, business, church or other organization. Favoritism causes competition, jealousy, hatred, and a lack of peace. We need to appreciate all members for who they are and how God has made them.
  • The LORD exercises his providential care over those who are faithful when mistreated.
  • It is not position or leadership abilities which are important to God—it is obedience.
  • Have you been caught in your sin? Don’t run and hide and seek to make a new life for yourself. Repent and God will be gracious to forgive you and help you bear the consequences. (more...)
  • Life is sometimes unjust and deliverance is not always immediate. However, if we persevere through trials and are faithful, God will reward us.

Focus Verses

Proverbs 28:13-14 (NIV)

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

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Please send your comments to mtbiblestudies@gmail.com

A Look Ahead: Although Joseph suffers injustice, God directs the course of his life for his glory and Joseph's benefit. Find out more about God's Providential Care in his life and ours in the Next Lesson.

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