Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Joseph’s First Dream - Genesis 37:5-8

Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; 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." 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.

It is not enough that Joseph was the most favored son of his father Jacob, that he got a special coat as a gift from Jacob, that he squealed on his brothers, and that his brothers hated him. But now Joseph has a dream and proceeds to tell his brothers about it. Under normal circumstances that would be what one expects a younger brother to do – share his dream with his older siblings. But in this case, the dream depicted a situation that was not at all favorable to the brothers.

Unless I am missing a third alternative, either Joseph was very naïve or he really wanted to stick it to his brothers. Why else would he plead with them to listen to it? He was either looking to them for an interpretation or he was telling them what was in store for them.

The dream itself is interesting, depicting Joseph and his brothers harvesting wheat in the fields. The bundles that the brothers had put together bowed down to the bundle that Joseph had amassed, which stood tall and upright in the field. You can imagine how kindly the brothers took to that. In fact, they immediately saw the connection and asked Joseph if he thought he would some day reign or rule over them.

Interestingly, scripture does not give us Joseph’s answer to those questions, perhaps because they were rhetorical in nature and he did not reply. But the bottom line was that his brothers hated Joseph even more because of both his dream and “his words”. We do not know whether this latter reference was to his answering the questions they asked or to his telling of the dream.

As an only child, I have not had the experience of growing up with siblings. Something both my wife and children feel contributes greatly to my lack of understanding the intricate workings of close family relationships. I have observed however, both in my own family and elsewhere, many relationships of younger siblings to their older brothers and sisters, especially when that child is more artistic, creative, or in short a bigger dreamer. In a healthy situation, that child would be loved, joked with, and protected from the evil world that his/her older siblings have discovered. In a situation that had already been marred by the over-attentiveness of a parent, the relationship can easily turn sour as it did in the case of Joseph and his brothers.

As we study this text, we have an opportunity to examine several things including: reflecting on how our parents handled us and any siblings we may have had; how we relate and show our love towards each of our own children; how we ourselves relate to our siblings; and finally, how our children relate to each other. There is much to be learned. Often there is much to be forgiven. But almost always, there is something we can change for the better.

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