Dreams and Visions. Genesis 37:2
What we see in the beginning introduction in chapter 37 is the origin of tension in Jacob's family, the tension among the brothers—the conflict, the competition and the downright hatred and jealousy that Joseph's brothers have for him and how that is ultimately resolved. It is the resolution of that tension between the brothers that ultimately provides for the safety and security for Jacob and his family in preparation for their future in the land. They have to be taken out of the land to Egypt for a time of protection and growth. The focal point is on chapters 44 and 45. Everything leads to that and what follows in chapters 46-50 flows out of that.
In the first section the emphasis in on God providing for the future of the seed of Abraham through Joseph. God is working behind the scenes to bring about His desired result. We don't see in this passage the overt interference and direction of God. He is completely in the background and not even mentioned in chapter 37. But what we see is the principle of Romans 8:28. What happens at the beginning is that God is going to reveal to Joseph his future position and power. There are some interesting things that are going on in the way God does that because He reveals this future to Joseph through two dreams. But God is not mentioned as the one who is doing the revealing. When we look at other examples of dream revelation and vision revelation in Genesis God is always mentioned, but we don't have that here.
Genesis 37:2, "These are the generations of Jacob." That is, this is what happens to Jacob's family. The focus is immediately on Joseph. We are told that he is a young man, 17 years of age. In the Hebrew it also adds to this, that he is a na'ar, translated in the KJV a "lad," which can also have the emphasis of a servant. That would make sense in this passage. He is the youngest of the brothers and he would not be in charge of the flocks or have any position of responsibility. "…and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report." The text makes it clear that he was with the sons of Bilhah, not with the rest of them, so apparently he is just out there with Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher, and they are taking care of the sheep.
Genesis 37:3, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors." Israel is the new name that God has given to Jacob. Jacob emphasized his character when he was under the control of the sin nature and his natural personality as a heel-grabber, deceiver, conniver, manipulator, who is trying to get the best out of every situation. Israel emphasizes his spiritual side and usually brings out his more positive side, that he is the one who is the wrestler with God. By referring to him as Israel here the text is painting a positive picture of Israel in his love for Joseph. He loves Joseph more than all of his children because "he was the son of his old age." There is nothing wrong in this statement of his love for Joseph. What becomes wrong is the way in which he deals with that in relation to the other sons. He sort of rubs their nose in it. He also made him "a coat of many colors." There is a lot of debate in the language as to what exactly this means because the verbiage that is used here is extremely rare. But there was something about this tunic. It would have been a long robe that would come down to his knees but it stood out so that as Joseph is approaching the brothers later on in the passage they can spot him a long way away. It gave them an opportunity to work out how they could execute vengeance upon him. But the coat that he has is a coat that indicates his special status in the family. That is where Jacob fell into a problem. It is not wrong for him to have loved Joseph more but it is wrong for him to have showed this kind of favoritism. It generated hostility, resentment and bitterness in the family.
Genesis 37:4, "And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." Three times in the text we are going to be reminded that his brothers hated him. In verses 5-11 we see how this whole situation gets aggravated. God picks a perfect time. The timing of God is not accidental or coincidental. He picks a specific time to give this dream to Joseph, and it just adds fuel to the fire here.
Genesis 37:5, "And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more." The interesting thing with this dream is that we are not told that God spoke to Joseph in a dream. That should stand out because every other time that God speaks and gives a dream that is emphasized in the book of Genesis. Joseph interprets the dream and uses it to say that he was going to be obviously elevated over his brothers.
Genesis 37:7, "For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf." Remember that later on there would be the seven-year famine and the brothers are going to have to come down to Egypt in order to get wheat. So there is a connection here between the dream and the sheaves of wheat and what will eventually take place. In the dream Joseph's sheaf stood upright and theirs stood around in a circle and bowed down to his sheaf. And they all get the point.
Genesis 37:8, "And his brethren said to him, Shall you indeed reign over us? or shall you indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words." Then God gives him another dream. It is not an accident that this is happening as it is happening. God is revealing this to Joseph because He knows exactly what Joseph is going to do with it, that he can't wait to go out and tell his brothers that he is going to rule over them, and that it is going to make the brothers more and more angry, leading to a course of events. God is not coercing Joseph's volition, or his brothers' volition, but He knows exactly what to do in order to produce and bring about certain results.
Genesis 37:9, "And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." Again, it reinforces the idea that he will be in a position of authority and they are going to be under his authority. This time he also tells it to his father, and his father rebukes him for having told this. Nobody believed that this was from God. In fact, nothing in the text attributes it to God.
Genesis 37:10, "And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to you to the earth?"
Genesis 37:11, "And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying." Hatred developed into envy. But Jacob knows enough and has had enough experience with God where, even though he is chastising Joseph for telling his brothers and aggravating their anger, he also knows that there could be something going on behind this, that God could be revealing Himself in a new way regarding the future of Joseph and the family. This is often the case in the Old Testament in dreams.
"Dream" usually translates the Hebrew word chalom which is used 65 times and it occurs during sleep, whereas "vision" is something that takes place while someone is awake. The word "vision" translates one of three Hebrew words: machazek; marah, a participle form based on the verb ra'ah which means to see, and often this is a word that is applied to prophets as seers. They would see God's revelation of the future; chazon, which refers more to the revelatory message. Sometimes this is translated "oracle of God," sometimes "the revelation of God." It doesn't have the same precision as "vision," it doesn't necessarily indicate something that is conveyed through a vision but it may, and in certain contexts it does. Then there are the basic Greek words: ONAR, [o)nar] which indicates "dream," used six times, only in the Gospels; then "vision" is a translation of HORAMA [o(rama], used not too many times and only occurs after Pentecost. When we talk about dreams we have to think about the broader category to which this relates, i.e. revelation. The English word "revelation" is based on the Greek word APOKALUPSIS [a)pokaluyij] which indicates an unveiling or a disclosure of something. There are two categories of divine revelation: general revelation—non-verbal revelation, the idea of Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God."
[Tape stops here]