Day 14 (Jan. 14): Joseph’s dreams, Joseph’s brothers sell him, Judah and Tamar, Judah’s descendants, Joseph revered by Potiphar, Potiphar’s retaliates

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 37-38

1 Chronicles 2:3-6

1 Chronicles 2:8

Genesis 39

Questions & Observations

Q. (37:5): If we are supposed to learn something from Joseph’s dream story, I would think that it is sometimes things happen for a reason and to trust in God.  But how do you know when God is influencing a situation?  This story does not tell us that God gave Joseph those dreams.  Also, being the favored son, I can totally understand why the brothers felt jealous of Joseph.  Then, to tell of his boastful dreams would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

A. You actually make a keen observation in noting the absence of God in Joseph’s dreams.  And while dreams will become important in his life, at this point, Joseph is an arrogant young man who is basically gloating about the dreams that he is having and how he will rule over his family (even his parents, something that would have been exceedingly rare in his day).  You get it exactly right: it is Joseph’s bragging (and his special robe or coat) that gets him in trouble with his jealous brothers and motivates them to sell him into slavery.  As we will explore throughout this story, God will use all of these events (including Joseph’s arrogance) to bring about the salvation of Jacob’s family, so you could make the argument that God is “planting the seeds” for the story that will unfold in the events we have read today.

Q. (38:1-30):  What is the significance to the Judah-and-Tamar story?  I see a few points: 1) God saw evil in a descendant of Abraham — Er — and took his life.  2) Widowers were well respected.  If their husband died, they were owed a caretaker from their deceased husband’s family.  3) Birth order is important in these times.  But, like we have learned, God doesn’t give it the importance that humans do.  In the birth of Tamar and Judah’s twins, maybe God did this as a point:  It’s an argument to say who was born first.  One started to come out, but then the other somehow took over.  So, maybe God is saying they are equally important.

A. I agree with these suggestions you have made, but there is a larger picture at play.  Basically, Judah’s descendants will be among the most important Israelites in their history.  Ruth Chapter 4 actually tells us why the story of Tamar is important: Perez, the firstborn twin (though not Judah’s firstborn) is the ancestor of King David, and Perez’s line will give birth to numerous kings.  Note also, that Jesus (as a descendent of David) is ALSO of the line of Perez, and therefore Judah and Tamar.  Pretty amazing that God originates the world’s salvation through this troubling story of prostitution and incest.  We will see more examples of this type of story as we read on, notably in the stories of David and Solomon.

O. (39:3): Potiphar noticed that the Lord was with Joseph.  I wonder what made him say that?  Has anyone looked at someone and said to themselves, “They must believe in God?”

Q. (39: 7-10): Joseph had the willpower to deny Potiphar’s wife who was begging him for sex.  Joseph had the strength, yet so many men and women, even followers of God, give in to temptation.  Does the Bible tell us how to ignore temptation?

A. Part of the point of the story of Joseph is that he is held up as a perfect example of submission and faithfulness to God (at least AFTER being sold into slavery).  We will continue to see the ways that God will use Joseph and Joseph will prosper because he has faith in God when things get bad (and they are about to get really bad!)

When it comes to resisting temptation, the model of Joseph is a good one: Joseph is able to resist temptation because he trusts in God.  Having a powerful faith in God, and trusting that He knows what is best for us, compared to say the fall story in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve became convinced that God was withholding something from them.  If we trust in the idea that God desires the best for us, then if we learn about the things that God (through the Bible) says are wrong or to be avoided, then we are more likely to avoid them.  Ultimately, it is important to understand that we will ALL fall into some sort of temptation eventually; it is in our nature.  This does not excuse our actions, but it does prevent us from thinking that God gives up on us when we screw up.  Quite the opposite: God desires to forgive and restore us to right relationship with Him.  So doing our best to avoid temptation is a good and desirable thing, but it is just as important for us to understand God’s desire to reconcile us to Himself through Christ.  If you are interested, here’s a collection of verses on resisting temptation that I think is pretty good: http://www.godresources.org/blog/0-2/7-2/verses-for-resisting-temptation/

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