Joseph

Gen. 37 – 47.

He “that was separated from his brethren.”

BT vol. 18 p. 17 etc.

For judging the history of Joseph to be typical or allegorical, like that of Hagar and Ishmael and a thousand others in scripture, we have clear warrant of the Holy Ghost. See Acts 7. But without this warrant, the use which in the New Testament is made of the Old Testament narratives, might authorise us to look for some mystery or “hidden wisdom,” in none of them so strongly marked as this.

I propose now simply to follow out the series of events in this history, as given us in these chapters, briefly unfolding what I judge to be their mystical or hidden meaning. May the Lord, in such sweet and heavenly labours, both enlarge and control our minds!

Genesis 37 — This chapter gives us the first part or section in the history.

Joseph here signalises himself as the righteous or separated one, and as such provokes the enmity of his wicked brethren. The light makes manifest the deeds of darkness, and the darkness hates it, as Joseph’s Lord was afterwards hated of the world, for He testified that its deeds were evil. And this enmity is only further moved by tokens of the divine favour which are put upon the righteous one. Joseph was a younger son, no way entitled according to the flesh to distinguished favour; yet the Lord marks him out as the appointed heir of blessing and glory, and Joseph speaks of the goodness he had found, and of the high purposes of God concerning him. But his brethren did not care for any divine purpose which interfered with their pride. He might be the one that was to receive the kingdom, but they said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” As Cain had slain his brother Abel because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous, so it is now. Joseph’s brethren envy him; and again when in the field together, like another Cain, they take counsel together whether to slay him, to cast him into the pit, or sell him to strangers. And they do sell him for twenty pieces of silver. And they who could thus trespass against their innocent brother’s life, easily deem it a light thing to wound their aged father’s heart. “This have we found,” said they of Joseph’s coat which they sent to Jacob besmeared with blood: “know now whether it be thy son’s coat. or no.” And thus was their offence of high and double bearing — they sinned against their aged father, and their righteous unoffending brother.

In all this we have the stiff-necked and uncircumcised Israel betraying and murdering the just one. His father had sent Joseph to his brethren to enquire after their welfare. But it was not as the bearer of kind tidings that they saw him or received him, but “behold this dreamer cometh.” “Come therefore and let us slay him.” So afterward toward the Greater than Joseph; it was not as the minister of grace and messenger of love, but as the envied Heir of the vineyard that they looked on Him with malicious heart, and said, “come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” His love was refused, and for envy His brethren delivered Him unto death. For His love they were His adversaries. There might be one in the counsel who would plead for the prisoner, as Reuben did, who would not consent to the counsel and deed of them (Luke 23: 51, John 7: 51); but this could prevail nothing. Thirst for blood may yield to covetousness, but the evil heart, in some of its desires against the righteous one, must have its way. For thirty pieces of silver they sold Him to strangers. They crucified Him that was the Father’s elect One, and all His delight. “They pleased not God, and were contrary to all men;” they sinned against God and their brother.

Genesis 38 — This chapter gives us the second part in the history.

The spirit of revelation here interrupts the course of Joseph’s history, in order to give us a view of his brethren during Joseph’s separation from them. And what is the view we get of them here? Just filling up the measure of their sins, making terms with the uncircumcised, and defiling the holy seed.

And so it is now. The holy seed has mingled itself with the seed of men, and all in Israel is corruption and uncleanness. They have profaned the covenant of their fathers’ as Judah here does; and the Lord has been a witness between them, and the wife of their youth. Judah dealt treacherously and profaned the holiness of the Lord, marrying the daughter of a strange god. He wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh passed from him. (Jer. 11: 15.) So Israel has played the harlot with many lovers, and is now, while Jesus is separated from them, filling up the measure of their sins.

But while the Spirit of God thus for a moment raises the veil, and we see the abominations that are now done in Israel, we are given also to catch the faint glimpse of distant blessing. Judah is brought to know and confess his sin; the pledges of his full abomination are produced and owned by him in the spirit of a repentant one; and then “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Pharez comes forth, and he is the second Jacob, the supplanter, who, in spite of fleshly title in his elder brother, gets the birthright. The kingdom suffers violence at his hand, and he takes it by force. And from this Pharez comes the true Inheritor of the blessing, the righteous Supplanter of every usurper, the one that shall prevail, and whose kingdom shall stand for ever. (Matt. 1: 3.)

Genesis 39 – 41 — These chapters together form the third part in the history.

Here we see Joseph filling up the measure of his sorrow, while his brethren are filling up the measure of their sins. He in exile preserves his purity and separation to God, like a Nazarite purer than snow and whiter than milk, while they at home are defiling the covenant. God is with him, and man against him. He takes his place in the cloud of witnesses, suffering for righteousness’ sake. For conscience toward God he endures grief, suffering wrongfully. But the Lord is still with him. God shows that His covenant was with him, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed; for Potiphar first, and then the keeper of the prison, were made to prove this in their own persons. The archers are sorely grieving him, and shooting at him; but his bow abides in strength, and the arms of his hands are made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. He may be persecuted of men, but God will not forsake him, but give him favour in the sight of strangers in spite of all the dishonour and humiliation to which the wickedness of his kindred and others may reduce him. And all this “affliction of Joseph” is made the discipline of God, Who loved him; for as we read, “the word of God tried him” (Ps. 105: 19). This tribulation under the divine hand was made to work patience, and by it the crown was brightening for him.

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