Community Group Study “Genesis: Here Comes That Dreamer”
Read Genesis 37:12-36
Our last study guide introduced us to Joseph. He was Jacob’s favorite son and had a position of comfort and ease in the family. We learned that he was even considered to be the “royal” son with the coat of many colors given to him by his father Jacob. The favoritism that Jacob had for Joseph likely encouraged the pride we see in Joseph. Joseph also did not do himself any favors by “telling on” his brothers and boasting about his dreams. The story carefully tells us that the brothers hated him and were filled with jealousy. These dreams are important to the big picture story of Jospeh. God had been given Joseph this set of dreams so that they would carry him through the rough days ahead. The dreams would give him a glimpse of how God would exalt him and one day when his brothers would bow down before him in Egypt he’d connect the dots. The only problem is that Joseph, instead of keeping this to himself, would brag about the dreams and his brothers would grow in their hatred of him.
Our passage opens up with the familiar place of Shechem. We first saw Shechem as the place of Dinah’s rape, the brother’s revenge murder of the city and Jacob’s passivity as a parent. Given our previous experience with Shechem, we should read this with weariness and an awareness that something bad will happen in the story. It is like the creepy music in the background of a tense thriller movie. Joseph was sent out by his father to essentially spy on his brothers (37:14). He did not find them at Shechem but was led by a random man to a nearby location named Dothan where his brothers were shepherding the flock. The brothers were able to see him coming from afar and discussed how they could get their revenge on their arrogant brother. You can tell that they were still angry and were mulling over the dream that Joseph had because they say to one another, “here comes that dreamer” (37:19). As you read Genesis 37:18-28 you see their conspiracy morph in real time. They initial desire was to kill him and cover it up as the work of a wild animal, but one brother desired to rescue him by convincing them to throw him in a pit and leave Joseph there. The brothers jump on him. Joseph is disrobed of that symbol of his father’s favoritism and love, the robe of many colors, and his brothers throw him into the pit.
Their plan for revenge shifts again as the brothers see a group of slave traders go by. They realize they can rid themselves of their problem in Joseph once and for all and at the same time make some money off of him. Judah comes up with the plan to trade their brothers life away (this is important for the big story because Judah will be confronted about his personal sin and will later be put in a situation where he offers to trade his life for one of his brothers). This was a huge offense because even in that time and culture this kind of kidnapping and selling into slavery would later be punishable by death. We see this come to pass later on in the Law of Moses but it would be similarly treated the same way in other Ancient Near East legal codes in their own day. But their hatred of Joseph was so great, this did not deter them from selling away his life.
This all could look bleak and hopeless, but even in this we see God’s timing and care for Joseph. God used this terrible situation to spare the life of Joseph and to move him to Egypt where God will use him for the good of the surrounding nations and even the good of his brothers who sold him into slavery.
Be aware as you continue to move through the larger narrative of Jospeh that there are some ironies in this story. For example, just as Jacob deceived his own father with a goat and clothing, so his sons deceive him with the same items. Likewise, Jospeh will also be exalted and given power, but to get there he must be cast down into a pit and removed of his agency as a human being and beloved son.
Main idea: Joseph’s brothers conspire for revenge and sell their brother into slavery. God uses this event to move Joseph towards humility and trust and to take the next step in his plan to use Joseph to save the surrounding nations and his own family. This story shows us a glimpse of the gospel in how one man suffers and is rejected by his family yet is used by God to save the people who harmed him. Like Jesus, Joseph will be sold for pieces of silver, bound and cast down, but God will use these events to exalt Joseph, just like he exalted his son Jesus through the cross.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 37:12-36
What hints does the text give us that Joseph’s brothers resented him and held his dreams against him? (Look at 37:4, 5, 11 and 19).
What happens in Joseph’s life to cultivate pride and arrogance in him? How does God reveal the dangers and foolishness of pride in this story?
Are there any events that seem “coincidental” in this story that show us God’s hand behind what took place?
How do these events humble Joseph, both physically and emotionally?
Why does God want to correct pride and arrogance in his people?
One major theme throughout the Joseph story will be God’s Providence which is God’s activity to provide for the needs of his people. It is the idea that God works events for the good of his people and his plan, even if those events seem like setback and suffering while they’re happening. How does God show us his providence early on in this story? Have you had experiences in your life that were difficult or that you’d consider a setback but in the long run God used that for good? Please share with the group if you feel comfortable doing so.