Bereishit 37:1 – 37:11 Joseph Has Dreams
After The Travails
After Jacob’s travails with Laban, his confrontation with Esau, and the incident in Shechem, he decided it was time to settle, and have a tranquil life in the land that his descendants would inherit. Unfortunately for him, and true to his new name, Israel, his struggles had not ended yet.
What happens next initiates a series of events that results in Jacob and all his family moving to Egypt. So much for Jacob settling for a tranquil life in the land of his inheritance.
2216 (about 1545 B.C.E.)
Jacob’s son, Joseph, was 17 years old. He tended flocks with his brothers, including the sons of Leah, Bilha, and Zilpa. After work he would hang out with the sons of Bilha and Zilpa. Following the deaths of Rachel and Leah, Bilha and Zilpa, who had been concubines, are now called wives of Jacob. The sons of Leah were peeved that Joseph preferred to socialize with the sons of Bilha and Zilpa. However, it should be noted that after Joseph’s mother, Rachel, died, Bilha took care of Joseph and his brother Benjamin.
In his teenage years, Joseph may have been somewhat vain. Like modern teenagers, he took special care of his hair and facial features to look handsome. This did not go well with his brothers. To make matters worse, it was obvious that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob had a special garment – a multi-shaded robe or tunic – made for Joseph. Joseph wore it constantly, only adding to the resentment his brothers felt toward him.
Whenever his brothers misbehaved, Joseph would tell his father, Jacob. Of course, this caused his brothers to further despise Joseph. It almost goes without saying, something about Joseph irritated his brothers immensely. But they tolerated him because he was so much younger than they were. And, he was, after all, their brother.
Joseph had a dream. He told the dream to his brothers, which only added to their resentment.
This is what Joseph said, “In my dream, we all were there, binding sheaves in the middle of a field. Suddenly my sheaf rose up and remained standing, while your sheaves all gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
His brothers did not like the implications: “So what you are saying is, you – Joseph – are going to reign over us and dominate us? Is that what you’re saying?”
Joseph went and had another dream. He told this dream to both his father and his brothers. He said, “In this dream the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
His father, Jacob, admonished Joseph for relating this dream, “What are you saying? That I and your mother, and all your brothers are to come to you and bow down to you? That’s ridiculous. How is that even supposed to happen? Your mother, Rachel, is dead.”
Now the Torah tells us that Joseph’s brothers became jealous of Joseph. Before, they despised him, now they were jealous.. Jacob, however, kept the dream in mind – meaning that he did not dismiss its implications. When he ridiculed the dream in front of Joseph’s brothers, it was Jacob’s attempt to placate his other sons, show them that Joseph was wrong, and somehow keep Joseph’s brothers from taking things too seriously.
In fact, Jacob, as well as his older sons, all knew that Joseph’s dreams were Divinely inspired, and were destined to come true, someday. This is why Jacob kept the dream in mind. It is also why Joseph’s brothers hated him. And this sets the stage for what happened next.