You can find trouble anywhere at any time.
Have you been in trouble lately? Are you currently overwhelmed with trouble? Is this a time when you can learn from past troubles?
A song titled “Hello Trouble” by Buck Owens comes to mind. I first heard the song in the movie Crazy Horse. Jeff Bridges, won an Oscar for his role at Otis "Bad" Blake, a 57-year-old alcoholic singer-songwriter who was once a country music star. The “Has Been” now earns a modest living by singing and playing his guitar at one-night stands, in small town bars, in the southwestern United States. Having a history of failed marriages (four that he admitted to, although it’s five) Blake is without a family. He has a son, aged 28, with whom he has not had contact in 24 years. He is mostly on the road performing, staying in cheap motels and traveling in his old car alone. His is a troubled life.
The story of Joseph is the longest continuous narrative in the book of Genesis. Early on in the narrative we hear of Joseph’s fabulous Technicolor dreamcoat. And right of the bat we discover Joseph’s life is full of drama. Ups and downs. Ups and downs. And sadly, we discover a figure quite apart from his family, someone who did not quite fit in. Ever had to create a new identity and a new family after being rejected by family?
Torah Queeries, Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible Greg Drinkwater , pp. 53-92 (Edited by Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser, and David Shneer)
37:1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.
Are you settled or unsettled?
Jacob settled in the land.
37:2 This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.
The initial description of Joseph as a Vayeshev has perplexed commentators for two thousand years. These lines describe Joseph as a seventeen-year-old who tends the flocks with his brothers, but in this same passage the Torah also tells us that he was a na’ar – a youth or lad. In Biblical times, a seventeen-year-old would certainly be an adult, so why is Joseph described as a na’ar? And why comment at all after having clearly listed his age? In the midrash, the sages suggest that although Joseph was indeed seventeen, he behaved like a boy. [ Torah Queeries, Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible Greg Drinkwater , pp. 53-92 (Edited by Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser, and David Shneer)]
Know anybody like that?
Also, underscore that Joseph is tattling. He brought a bad report to his father about his brothers. We aren't told the nature of the report. Hey Dad, they are goofing off. Hey Dad, they lost three of the sheep. Hey Dad – it could have been any number of things, but any way you draw it up Joseph’s report did not sit well with his brothers.
Anybody ever tattled on you?
Have you ever given a bad report on your siblings?
Ever had to live with the consequences of either?
We continue with verse 3.
37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.
Aren’t family dynamics wonderful? Loving one child more. Please. What was the psychodynamics of Jacob's old age that led to him loving Joseph more?
In what ways do our compensations for our insecurities harm others?
37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
So much for a Norman Rockwell family.
37:12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father's flock near Shechem.
37:13 And Israel said to Joseph, "Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them." He answered, "Here I am."
37:14 So he said to him, "Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me."So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem,
37:15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, "What are you seeking?"
37:16 "I am seeking my brothers," he said; "tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock."
37:17 The man said, "They have gone away, for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan.
So Joseph had trouble finding his brothers. That would be an appropriate metaphor.
Ever tried to establish a relationship with a relative for years and years with no success?
37:18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.
The father saw the prodigal from a distance, but the father's heart was filled with forgiveness. Joseph’s brothers saw from a distance and their hearts boiled with hate. What a difference.
37:19 They said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer.
37:20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams."
Engage in trouble and you have to worry about covering up, don’t you?
37:21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, "Let us not take his life."
37:22 Reuben said to them, "Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him" --that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.
37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore;
Yes, the robe. All the family history and their emotions were caught up in that robe.
What are the symbols of your family dynamics? Cars, diplomas, family jewelry, medicine bottles, a can of beer?
37:24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
37:25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
37:26 Then Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
37:27 Come, 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 agreed.
37:28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Two final questions. What pits have you been in? And, where is your Egypt?
The pit and Egypt became spaces of birth/rebirth for Joseph. May they be the same for you.
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