Sermons Archive



8 AUGUST 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor


Genesis 37:1-11, 18-22, 26-28

Why are some people “provoked unto jealousy”?

I suppose a catch-all answer, for what most people think of as jealousy, would be “because they have fear in their hearts.”

But then we must ask, "Fear of what?"

Perhaps fear of themselves: that they are not as good as someone else whom they, in turn, fear as being able to entice something or someone away from them; or that someone they supposedly love would look to that other person instead of to them.

Perhaps it's that they fear that others have more than they have, either in possessions or abilities; and thus they consider themselves inferior in some way.

Perhaps they are basically dishonest, and fear exposure by others who act righteously or with integrity.

And with this last thought, we enter the realm of another type of jealousy: that of being jealous for the righteousness of God.

This is the case with Joseph and his brothers, for they were provoked into jealousy by him, or because of him, as we shall see as we look at Genesis 37.

Let's begin by looking at the first four verses:

1. Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan.

2. These are the records of the generations of Jacob.
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.

Here we see the first instance of being provoked unto jealousy. Joseph wanted to do what was right before God and his father. He, in essence, was jealous for what was right and honorable, and he did what was expected of him at all times.

His brothers, on the other hand, knowing that their father was back at home and couldn't see them, probably did as little as they could, or did things contrary to the wishes of their father.

Thus, Joseph reported to his father these things that were happening behind his back.

3. Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.

Here we have the seed of another cause to provoke others unto jealousy: Jacob made a tunic only for Joseph, and not for his brothers, and he loved Joseph more than them.

Joseph may have deserved this tunic because his actions were unlike the actions of his brothers; but Jacob gave Joseph this tunic for another reason.

In either case, for the one who is unrighteous and fearful, the seeds of jealousy have been planted.

4. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more then all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.

In other words, they were jealous of him.

Now we could speculate on how and why Joseph turned out one way, and how and why his brothers developed the character they had, but that isn't the point of this morning's discussion.

What we are looking at are the things that cause people to be “provoked unto jealousy.”

At the same time, we should try to put ourselves in the time and place of our study, and consider our own work ethic and whether we are like Joseph or like one of his brothers; or perhaps like Jacob, or even like all of them at various times in our own lives.

We also should consider how we would feel and behave in similar circumstances.

It is obvious from the Scriptures that God wants us to relate to Joseph; but we must also be honest with ourselves, as to who we really are, for God indeed sees us as we are, and we cannot fake being like someone else before Him.

And because Joseph was zealous, or jealous for the things of God, the Lord gave him two dreams, or visions of the future, that would comfort him during future events.

But the Lord, knowing that Joseph would relate these dreams to his family, encouraged Joseph's unrighteous brothers unto even greater jealousy, and thus hastened the fulfillment of the dream.

Let's take a look at the first of these dreams and the results, as recorded in Genesis 37:5­8.

5. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.

6. And he said to them, "Please listen to this dream which I have had;

7. for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf."

8. Then his brothers said to him, "Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

If we look ahead in our Bibles to Genesis 42:6, we see that Joseph's brothers actually did bow down before him:

6. Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.

They were jealous of the wrong things, and so it came down upon their own heads, as does any unrighteous jealousy. It always back­fires.

But now let's look at Joseph's next dream from the Lord (Genesis 37:9-11):

9. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, "Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."

10. And he related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?"

11. And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

The Lord is still “provoking unto jealousy” by repeating the first dream in a different form, but this time including Joseph's parents.

Perhaps that is why Jacob kept all this in mind, for he knew that Joseph had a different character from that of his brothers, and that Joseph's dream could indeed have been from the Lord.

This is why it is so important for us to read and study the Bible, for it gives us a view of things as God sees them, from beginning to end.

We can look at all of the aspects of a situation, such as the case before us, and understand how God provokes and directs and uses the circumstances for His pleasure and in our best interest.

Let's jump ahead to verses 18-22, and see what this jealousy did to Joseph's brothers.

18. When they saw him [Joseph] from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.

19. And they said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer!

20. "Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!"

That's quite a drastic way to resolve jealousy, isn't it?

Yet, this is why half of the murders occur today.

In the midst of all of this jealousy, Reuben has a partial change of heart and realizes that his brothers have gone too far, as we are told in the next two verses:

21. But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, "Let us not take his life."

22. Reuben further said to them, "Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him" – that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.

Out of respect for their older brother, they listened to him; but as soon as he was gone, their jealousy and greed came to the surface again, and they sold Joseph to some Midianite traders, who in turn sold him into Egypt. (Genesis 37:26-28)

26. And Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?

27. “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

28. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.

We don't have enough time to go into everything that happened to Joseph in Egypt, but let us realize that the Lord was with him through it all; and because Joseph was jealous for the Lord's righteousness, he eventually became the prime minister of Egypt.

It was in these circumstances that Joseph's brothers came to him to purchase food, and also when they fulfilled the prophecy of Joseph's dream by bowing down to him.

Joseph prospered because he was zealous for the Lord. His brothers didn't prosper, so that they would learn to humble themselves before God, and to recognize that the hand of God was present through all that happened.

In Genesis 50:18-21, following the death of Jacob their father, Joseph's brothers come before him in fear for their lives, because of what they have done; fear brought about by their unrighteous jealousy.

But note carefully how Joseph answers them, and consider in your heart if you would have answered them as does Joseph, if they had done to you what they did to Joseph.

18. Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants."

19. But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?

Do we hear what Joseph is saying?

Condemnation is the responsibility of God, and not of men. If he takes revenge on them, he places himself in the position of playing God.

What Joseph does do, however, is to act in the Spirit of God, by loving his enemies and his brothers, who in this case, happen to be one and the same.

20. [And Joseph said,] "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

21. "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

So, as for each of us gathered here today, let us go forth from here, looking at our own lives, as the Lord has allowed us to look at the lives of Joseph and his brothers; and consider for ourselves for whom are we jealous.

If we are jealous of others, or envious or covetous, we do not fully love, and we will not find any joy.

But if we are jealous for the Lord and His righteousness, then we should be filled with his love and have joy in our hearts, even through tough times, knowing with absolute certainty that the Lord has all good things planned for us in the future.

Live for the Lord, and don't worry about worldly situations.

God is indeed in control!


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