- At this chapter begins the story of Joseph, Jacob's eldest son, by his beloved wife Rachel. It is so remarkably divided between his humiliation and his exaltation, that we cannot avoid seeing something of Christ in it, who was first humbled and then exalted; it also shews the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. In this chapter we have, I. The malice his brethren bore against him: they hated him, (1.) Because he informed his father of their wickedness, verse 1, 2.
- (2.) Because his father loved him, verse 3, 4.
- (3.) Because he dreamed of his dominion over them, verse 5-11.
- II. The mischiefs his brethren designed, and did to him. (1.) His visit he made them gave an opportunity, verse 12-17.
- (2.) They designed to slay him, but determined to starve him, verse 18-24.
- (3.) They changed their purpose, and sold him for a slave, verse 25-28.
- (4.) They made their father believe that he was torn in pieces, verse 29-35.
- (5.) He was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, verse 36: And all this was working together for good.
These are the generations of Jacob - It is not a barren genealogy, as those of Esau, but a memorable useful history. Joseph brought to his father their evil report - Jacob's sons did that when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done if they had been at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill carriage, that he might reprove and restrain them.
He made him a coat of divers colours - Which probably was significant of farther honours intended him.
Though he was now very young, about seventeen years old, yet he was pious and devout, and this fitted him for God's gracious discoveries to him. Joseph had a great deal of trouble before him, and therefore God gave him betimes this prospect of his advancement, to support and comfort him.
Shalt thou indeed reign over us? - See here, 1. How truly they interpreted his dream? The event exactly answered this interpretation, Genesis 42:6, &c. 2. How scornfully they resented it, Shalt thou that art but one, reign over us that are many? Thou that art the youngest, over us that are elder? The reign of Jesus Christ, our Joseph, is despised and striven against by an unbelieving world, who cannot endure to think that this man should reign over them. The dominion also of the upright in the morning of the resurrection is thought of with the utmost disdain.
His father rebuked him - Probably to lessen the offence which his brethren would take at it; yet he took notice of it more than he seemed to do.
And when they saw him afar off they conspired against him - It was not in a heat, or upon a sudden provocation, that they thought to slay him, but from malice propense, and in cold blood.
And Reuben heard it - God can raise up friends for his people, even among their enemies. Reuben of all the brothers had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born, and so entitled to those distinguishing favours which Jacob was conferring on Joseph, yet he proves his best friend. Reuben's temper seems to have been soft and effeminate, which had betrayed him to the sin of uncleanness, while the temper of the two next brothers, Simeon and Levi, was fierce, which betrayed them to the sin of murder, a sin which Reuben startled at the thought of. He made a proposal which they thought would effectually destroy Joseph, and yet which he designed should answer his intention of rescuing Joseph out of their hands, probably hoping thereby to recover his father's favour which he had lately lost; but God over-ruled all to serve his own purpose of making Joseph an instrument to save much people alive. Joseph was here a type of Christ. Though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world; yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us; he came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him; he came to his own, and his own not only received him not, but consulted, This is the heir, come let us kill him. This he submitted to, in pursuance of his design to save us.
They call him into a pit - To perish there with hunger and cold; so cruel were their tender mercies.
They sat down to eat bread - They felt no remorse of conscience, which if they had, would have spoiled their stomach to their meat. A great force put upon conscience commonly stupifies it, and for the time deprives it both of sense and speech.
What profit is it if we slay our brother? - It will be less guilt and more gain to sell him. They all agreed to this. And as Joseph was sold by the contrivance of Judah for twenty pieces of silver, so was our Lord Jesus for thirty, and by one of the same name too, Judas. Reuben it seems, was gone away from his brethren when they sold Joseph, intending to come round some other way to the pit, and to help Joseph out of it. But had this taken effect, what had become of God's purpose concerning his preferment, in Egypt? There are many devices of the enemies of God's people to destroy them, and of their friends to help them, which perhaps are both disappointed, as these here; but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand. Reuben thought himself undone because the child was sold; I, whither shall I go? He being the eldest, his father would expect from him an account of him; but it proved they had all been undone, if he had not been sold.
He refused to be comforted - He resolved to go down to the grave mourning; Great affection to any creature doth but prepare for so much the greater affliction, when it is either removed from us, or embittered to us: inordinate love commonly ends in immoderate grief.