Need family advice? Welcome to Genesis 37 and what can be loosely be described as how to have a seriously dysfunctional family. Perhaps it is also important to point out that all the brothers involved in this story are the grandfathers of the tribes of Israel, so we should see in them characteristics of the Israelite tribes.
First off I just have to say I am not sure why this verse is in this chapter, I can only assume it is meant to give some relevance to a later tale in the Bible, or it demonstrates that Joseph was a really good son.
"This is the history of Jacob. When Joseph was 17 years old, the young man was tending the flock with the sons of Bilʹhah and the sons of Zilʹpah, the wives of his father. And Joseph brought a bad report about them to their father."
Now lets move onto the psychology. We see that Jacob/Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons as he was the last son born to Jacob/Israel. This love that Jacob/Israel has towards Joseph however causes hatred towards Joseph from his other brothers. Naturally this is to be expected as we know that those children that are under appreciated and or neglected over others will have bad feelings towards the special child. However, as Jehovah and his faithful servant Jacob/Israel say nothing or do nothing about this favoritism it demonstrates that God approves of this child rearing method.
"Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons because he was the son of his old age, and he had a special robe made for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they began to hate him, and they could not speak peaceably to him."
Now to make matters worse, Jacob starts having dreams where he is superior to his brothers. Naturally he thinks it is a good idea to tell his brothers this and needless to say this enrages them further. See verse 5 to 8. However Joseph then has another dream which finally leads to a subtle rebuke from his father.
"After that he had still another dream, and he related it to his brothers: “I have had another dream. This time the sun and the moon and 11 stars were bowing down to me.” Then he related it to his father as well as his brothers, and his father rebuked him and said to him: “What is the meaning of this dream of yours? Am I as well as your mother and your brothers really going to come and bow down to the earth to you?” And his brothers grew jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind."
Interestingly enough, the only reason that Jacob/Israel gets angry is because Joseph says he will be master even over his father (sun) and mother (moon). Why Joseph thinks it is a good idea to share these dreams can only be understood in terms of foreshadowing which is a very prevalent theme in this chapter. It is almost as if the writers are setting up the story for a dramatic turn of events, one could say the story was almost planned and not divinely inspired.
At some later point in time after these dreams, Jacob/Israel sends Joseph on an errand to find his brothers who are looking after their fathers flocks. This again shows favoritism towards Joseph as why was he not tending the flocks with his brothers in the first place, but as you will see the brothers are very loosely arranged in this story as they come and go as foreshadowing requires. Anyway, Joseph finally catches up with brothers and a horrible story unfolds.
"Now they caught sight of him from a distance, and before he reached them, they began plotting against him to put him to death. So they said to one another: “Look! Here comes that dreamer. Come, now, let us kill him and pitch him into one of the waterpits, and we will say that a vicious wild animal devoured him. Then let us see what will become of his dreams.”"
Firstly, these brothers are all asshats. I mean sure their brother is the special one, but that gives you no reason to want to kill someone. However, luckily for Joseph he has a friend in Reuben who does not want to kill his brother and he tries to hatch an escape plan.
"When Reuʹben heard this, he tried to rescue him from them. So he said: “Let us not take his life.” Reuʹben said to them: “Do not shed blood. Throw him into this waterpit in the wilderness, but do not harm him.” His purpose was to rescue him from them in order to return him to his father."
So of all the brothers there is only Reuben who is good? Does that means most of the Israelite tribes are a bunch of thugs? Oh, and please remember Reuben is no saint, after all he had sex with his fathers concubine, see Genesis 35:22. So in effect all the great tribes of Israel are based on some really dodgy people.
As the story continues we find the brothers deciding to sell their brother into slavery at the behest of Judah.
"When they sat down to eat. When they looked up, there was a caravan of Ishʹma·el·ites coming from Gilʹe·ad. Their camels were carrying labdanum gum, balsam, and resinous bark, and they were on their way down to Egypt. At this Judah said to his brothers: “What profit would there be if we killed our brother and covered over his blood? Come, now, let us sell him to the Ishʹma·el·ites, and do not let our hand be upon him. After all, he is our brother, our flesh.” So they listened to their brother. And when the Midʹi·an·ite merchants were passing by, they lifted Joseph up out of the waterpit and sold him to the Ishʹma·el·ites for 20 pieces of silver. These men took Joseph into Egypt."
Now Judah is an important tribe in Israel, however the grandfather of this tribe is anything but decent selling his own brother into slavery. As such I am not sure why Judah is mentioned here, unless it is to show that Judah was wise enough to realize that the brothers could make some money by not killing their brother? Also this is again a very obvious reference to the approval Jehovah has towards slavery, as the Israelites were prepared to sell their own brother into slavery. Needless to sat Reuben was not pleased when he came back from not being with his brothers??
"Later when Reuʹben returned to the waterpit and saw that Joseph was not in the waterpit, he ripped his garments apart. When he returned to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The child is gone! And I—what am I going to do?”"
Surely the story if true would make a remark that Reuben was not there when they were selling Joseph into slavery, after all it mentions Judah. There truly are inconsistencies in this story, but if you consider it as a literal technique towards foreshadowing then you can perhaps understand better.
Finally the brothers take Josephs special robe and dip it in blood before presenting it to their father. Naturally their father freaks out and goes into a serious mourning period which is to be expected consider his favorite child died.
"With that Jacob ripped his garments apart and put sackcloth around his waist and mourned his son for many days. And all his sons and all his daughters kept trying to comfort him, but he kept refusing to take comfort, saying: “I will go down into the Grave mourning my son!” And his father continued weeping for him."
So the sons with the information do nothing to make their father feel better. In fact they are so dishonest that they try to make Jacob/Israel feel better while not telling him the one thing that could make him feel better. This is truly narcissistic behavior, and this is the tribe of Israel. Lastly we see that Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt.
Like I said, what a great family?
Oh and for the kids lets indoctrinate them a little today.
All verses come from the New World Translation Of The Holy Scriptures.
Online version available at the Jehovah's Witnesses official website