Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. (Genesis 37:2-3)
The Hebrew phrasing in this passage suggests that Joseph, still a young man, was “supervising” his older brothers. In fact, the Hebrew word translated as “feeding” could actually hint at “ruling” thus reinforcing the notion that Jacob had placed the son of Rachel over the children of Bilhah and Zilpah. No doubt this led to bitter feelings. The fact that the Bible records he brought an “evil report” (the Hebrew word suggests “to demean” or “defame” the others) suggests that his youthful immaturity and indiscretion led him to belittle them at great expense. Couple this with the fact that “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children” and we can see why there was such intense jealousy and hatred for Joseph among the other brothers.
In time it would be proven that Joseph had a greater spiritual awareness than his brothers and, perhaps, this is why Jacob preferred him over the others. Abraham preferred Issac; even God chose Jacob over Esau because the favored ones were, in fact, the true protectors of the covenant. Nevertheless, there were lessons the favored had to learn and, in Joseph’s case, hard lessons at that. Many years later, Pharaoh noted that Joseph — newly released from prison — possessed wisdom, discretion and was full of the spirit of God (Gen. 41:33-38). So where did Joseph obtain this wisdom, discretion and infusion of the Spirit of God? I would argue it came through the school of hard knocks.
Just because we have obtained God’s favor doesn’t mean we have obtained all wisdom and knowledge. In fact, if we have obtained God’s favor there is much expected of us and we must, therefore, anticipate that we will have to endure trying times. Some times these things happen as a result of our own choices; sometimes things happen that are completely beyond our control. Still, if God’s favor is upon us, a great responsibility goes along with that and the tools needed to walk in that responsibility are often acquired in the school of hard knocks. Thankfully, God’s favor will help us through the circumstances we encounter and, if we remain faithful, will ensure that we will graduate and step into our destiny.
Blessings and Shalom,