Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A Caravan of Traders

So we're coming to the story of Joseph. It's in the tail end of Genesis if you need some help finding it. And there's one little detail about this story that, over 23 years of faith and reading this story and acting it out in VBS and knowing it, I thought, forward and backward, I've missed - a detail that changes a lot for me about this story. 

You probably also know this story well. 

Joseph is one of the younger brothers of Jacob's children. Jacob, renamed Israel after wrestling with God, is the father of the Jewish people, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Yes, that Abraham. 

Abraham is the figure to whom God promised descendants as numerous as the stars and the sands on the seashore. Abraham is the guy who was pushing 100 without having any children and whose wife laughed when he told her God was going to give them a son. Abraham took matters into his own hand and had a son with his wife's slave woman before receiving the promised child from God more than a decade later, at which point he cast his first son aside and went all-in with Isaac, God's promise fulfilled. 

Fast forward to Joseph, and he is the first son of the favored wife for Jacob. Jacob worked years to earn Rachel as his wife, but was tricked first with Leah. He worked many more years and finally got Rachel. And each wife brought with them slave women. 

Jacob had children first through Leah because God was favorable to her. He had children through the slave woman of Rachel, since she was barren but wanted to compete with Leah. He had children through the slave woman of Leah, who wasn't about to be outdone by her little sister. And then finally, after ten kids, Rachel gives Jacob a son, and he names the boy Joseph. 

Joseph, being the firstborn of the favored wife, was the favored son. Jacob made him a beautiful multi-color tunic to wear to show how special he was. He sent Joseph to check on his brothers while they were tending the flocks. He loved Joseph. 

Then, Joseph started having dreams. 

Joseph dreamt that his brothers and father and mother bowed down to him. Not once, but twice. And he told them about these dreams because, well, that seemed smart. "Hey, guys, not only am I more loved than you, but I'm gonna be greater than you! Just you wait and see! How awesome is this?" Well, when you're not the favored son, it's not awesome. So his brothers plotted to get rid of him. 

They threw him into a hole they found in the desert, likely an old well. Thankfully for Joseph, it was empty, so he didn't drown right away. As they sat around talking about what they would tell their father, Jacob, who loved Joseph so much, and scheming to dip his beloved tunic, now slightly torn, into goat's blood as evidence of his obvious demise, a caravan of traders happened by. 

Suddenly, they had an idea. 

They pulled Joseph out of the hole in the ground and sold him to these traders on their way to Egypt. 

So far, I'm sure, this is the story you know. Nothing special here. Except...

Who were these traders to whom the sons of Israel, grandsons of Isaac, great-grandsons of Abraham sold their brother Joseph? 

God names them in His Word. 

And if you're not paying attention, you'll read right past it, like I did for more than twenty years.... 

(Yes, you could look this up and spoil all the fun. But come back tomorrow anyway and look at what's happening here. Please.)  

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