Day 19: Joseph and his Brothers

Genesis 37:1-36 Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph, represented by the multicolored robe, stirred up jealousy in his brothers. The sequence of events echoes the similar situation regarding Cain and Abel. Joseph’s brothers’ resentment turned to jealousy and hatred, and finally they took drastic and violent measures to get rid of him. As in the case of Cain, this is an illustration of how nurting an evil interior disposition (ENVY) can lead to a more gravely evil act (MURDER). Shed no blood: Only Reuben and Judah protected Joseph from death; only because of their interventions did Joseph survive and end up in Egypt. (CCC 2538-2540)

Job 27:1-23 Job called upon God in an oath to witness to his innocence just as he had indicated earlier. Being innocent, he attributed his misfortune to God rather than on account of his sins. Job understood the idea of atonement for sin but saw that it did not apply in his own case. An oath is the act of calling upon God as a witness to verify the truth of what is being said or claimed; for this reason, an oath must be taken only for a serious reason and only when a person’s own word is not sufficient. (CCC 2150-2155)

Job 28:1-28 The greatest gift a person can attain is WISDOM, which serves as a guiding light for a proper vision of human life and the actions that ultimately lead to a relationship with God. Wisdom is acquired by the habitual desire to discern God’s will in the circumstances of daily life. The exercise of humility, justice, and piety reflect a strong presence of wisdom. Fidelity to moral law leads to a deepening of wisdom since natural law is an expression of God’s eternal wisdom. (CCC 216, 295, 299, 1950, 1954, 1978-1986)

Proverbs 3:21-35 Performing virtuous actions consistently reflects the habitual presence of wisdom and prudence, and the ongoing quest to choose good acts prompts a person to grow in these virtues. (CCC 1806)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 13: Joseph is Sold into Slavery (Genesis 37:12-36)

Joseph, the eleventh and favorite son of Jacob (Israel), falls victim to the ire of his older brothers, who sell him into slavery in Egypt. Falsely accused, Joseph is imprisoned, only to rise to power through his ability to interpret dreams. Through him, God’s providence saves many people from famine - even his own brothers.

  • Joseph, the Dreamer: The story of Joseph and his brothers is another story of fraternal rivalry that careens toward fratricide.

  • In Genesis 37, we find Jacob now an old man with twelve sons.

  • Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn and Jacob’s favored son, is seventeen.

  • Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph leads to division among his sons, and they “hated [Joseph] and could not speak peaceably [shalom] to him” (Gn 37:4).

  • This rivalry will continue for generations among the tribes of Israel, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob.

  • Joseph is a dreamer, literally, and has the gift of interpreting dreams.

  • His dreams intensify the division between himself and his brothers.

  • First, Joseph dreams that all of the brothers were binding sheaves in the field and that their sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf, a dream that his brothers immediately understand as implying that Joseph would someday rule over them.

  • Later, Joseph dreams that the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to him; this time even his father and mother would bow before Joseph!

  • It is not hard to imagine the reception these dreams received from Joseph’s brothers.

  • Joseph’s brothers “hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words” (Gn 37:8).

  • And “his brothers were jealous of him” (Gn 37:11).

  • Soon, their jealousy turns to envy—an envy that resembles Cain’s envy of the election and favor shown to his brother Abel.

  • As in Cain’s case, such envy can be deadly.

  • Jacob, seemingly oblivious to this growing tension between Joseph and his brothers, exacerbates the problem by one day sending Joseph out to spy on his brothers. “Go now, see if it is well [shalom] with your brothers, and with the flock; and bring me word again” (Gn 37:14).

  • Of course, we know that there is not shalom with Joseph and his brothers, as was already noted in Genesis 37:4.

  • Joseph had already brought one bad report of his brothers to Jacob (Gn 37:2), and now it appears that Jacob is sending Joseph out again, indicating that perhaps Jacob’s real interest may not be so much the welfare (shalom) of the brothers as it is the welfare of the flock.

  • Jacob’s greed has blinded him to the growing conflict between his sons.

  • When Joseph finds his brothers, they throw him in a pit and plan to kill him (Gn 37:20).

  • One brother, Judah, intervenes. “Why kill him? Let’s sell him and get some money for him, and not have his blood on our hands.”

  • In the end, Joseph is taken by traders to Egypt, where he is sold as a slave.

  • To cover up their sin, Joseph’s brothers dip Joseph’s coat in goat’s blood, telling Jacob that Joseph has been slain by a wild beast.

  • Once again, Jacob reaps what he has sown.

  • Just as Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, to steal the blessing from a favored son, so now Jacob experiences the grief and betrayal of having his own sons lie and deceive him about his favored son.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • Well here we are, introduced to Joseph

  • He is beloved by Israel because he is the son of Rachel

  • Joseph is not only the little brother but he is not necessarily well liked by his older brothers

  • Here again is the brokenness of a family

  • Joseph is 17 and his brothers are quite a bit older (remember Rachel could not bear children for quite a long time)

  • Because Israel loves Joseph more than the brothers, here is JEALOUSY and ENVY

  • When there is something unjust, at first maybe we are righteous in saying “This is wrong, this isn’t how it should be”

  • But then something can twist inside of us where we are not merely fighting for justice anymore

  • Now we are fighting out of a place of resentment, jealousy, or envy

  • At this point, Joseph is the youngest son (Benjamin hasn’t been born yet as far as we know)

  • As the youngest, Joseph doesn't have much power or authority

  • And yet, because of this distortion and jealousy that turns to resentment there seems to be no stopping what we will do when we feel RESENTMENT

  • When we feel someone else has something that we BELIEVE IS OURS OR SHOULD BE OURS

  • That is the root of resentment

  • In this case, it was their father’s love

  • They’re not wrong in the sense that their father should love them, but they are wrong to be resentful

  • The resentment is what leads them to a dark place where they are LITERALLY WILLING TO KILL THEIR YOUNGEST BROTHER

  • You would think, “I would never do that”

  • But jealousy distorted into envy distorted into resentment could lead us to do ANYTHING

  • Pay attention to the brokenness in these stories so that we know our family, but also so that WE KNOW OUR OWN HEARTS

  • This is where God not only reveals HIS HEART to us in His Word

  • It also reveals OUR HEARTS to OURSELVES

  • If I leave my jealousy unchecked that can become envy that can become resentment and THAT CAN BECOME DEADLY

  • I don’t want to be that kind of person, do you?

  • So what do we do?

  • I can’t believe that this life that is OWED to me, but it is merely something that is GIVEN to me

  • Since it is given to me, I can receive it with GRATITUDE

  • I can’t DEMAND it

  • I can’t FORCE it

  • It is simply A GIFT

  • Today is a GIFT for every single one of us

  • Give thanks to the Lord


Prayer by Fr. Mike: "God, you are good and we give you praise. Thank you so much for your Word. We ask that you please send your Holy Spirit to enliven our minds, to enliven our hearts as we belong to you more and more this day and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen."


A lot of similarities between Joseph and Christ already. What I find particularly interesting is up front the brothers mirror the Sanhedrin that conspired against Jesus. At the end of Joseph’s story, the same brothers will come to prefigure the Twelve Apostles.