< Eyes of the Ancients | Dean R. Davis | 3ABN
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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Great Sorrows
Based on Genesis 34, 35, and 37

After Jacob returns to Canaan, he suffers terrible and sorrowful events. First Shechem, a Caananite, violates his daughter Dinah. This leads to bloodshed when Simeon and Levi slaughter every male in the city—after they’ve been circumcised in a futile attempt to appease the brothers’ rage.

Next, on the return trip from Bethel where the family finally abandons their pagan gods, Jacob’s favored wife Rachel dies during childbirth—but not before naming her son Ben-Oni, or “Son of My Sorrow.” Jacob later renames him Benjamin, “Son of the Right [or favored] Hand.” He’s hardly over his grief when he discovers his son Reuben has committed incest with one of his wives—an immoral act despised even by the pagans!

Favored

Jacob loves Joseph, the son of his favored wife, more than all his children. He provokes his other sons’ hatred by favoring him with what the Septuagint* calls “a coat of many colors.” Scholars believe the Hebrew translation should be “a long coat,” indicating noble rank. Perhaps it was both long and multicolored, but either way, it indicates Jacob’s plans to make Joseph his heir.

The situation worsens when Joseph has two amazing dreams—which the ancients believe have divine origin. The first dream places them in a field, binding grain sheaves. Suddenly, Joseph’s sheaf stands upright, and his brothers’ sheaves bow down to it. His brothers are livid! “Shall you indeed reign over us?” they demand.

The second dream is even worse. Josephs sees the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing to him. His father is astonished! “Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” he asks in disbelief.

Betrayed

The nearby pastures are exhausted, so the sons of Jacob’s concubines take their flocks to Shechem. Some time passes, and Jacob sends Joseph to check on them. Perhaps he’s worried the Shechemites might seek revenge for the slaughter of their men. However, when Joseph arrives, he finds they’ve moved on to Dothan.

His brothers spot him in the distance. “Here comes the dreamer!” they sneer, and begin to plot his death. They’ll tell their father that some beast devoured him, but Reuben insists on throwing him into a dry cistern, instead, secretly planning to rescue him later.

Seizing the lad, they strip off his coat and throw him into the pit. Later, in Reuben’s absence, Judah and his brothers sell Joseph for 20 shekels of silver to a band of traders on their way to Egypt. Then they kill a young goat, dip his coat in its blood, and take it to Jacob. “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” they ask.

Jacob tears his clothes. “A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”

Sackcloth

Following an ancient custom, he puts sackcloth around his waist. This coarse cloth, used for corn sacks, is usually made of goat’s hair. In cases of extreme distress, it is worn next to the skin. It is very uncomfortable, and causes dreadful itching.

Jacob’s sorrow is so intense that he won’t be comforted. “I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning,” he exclaims as he cries over the loss of his beloved son.

Except for the death of Rachel, Jacob’s sorrows are all brought on by the children of his unloved wife Leah, and his concubines.

What a great price he’s paid for having multiple wives and favoring certain family members.

*The ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament.

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