Most people think that Joseph was thrown into a single pit, but we have discovered through studying him that there were really five pits. However, they are not the kind of pits that you might normally think of. The type of pits that Joseph experienced were not always physical.
When we study the scriptures, we discover that Joseph was in different kinds the majority of his life. The first pit does not begin with the commonly discussed pit in Genesis chapter 37, but rather, it begins much earlier. Today, we will talk about the first pit.
The First Pit. The first pit was in his relationship with his family. When we look at the relationship between Joseph, His father & mother, his brothers and their wives and the maids, we discover that this was a very dysfunctional family. Even though they were anointed, blessed and highly favored of the Lord. We see some of this dysfunction in regard to the fact that his brothers despised and mistreated him. As a side note, we also see this in the life of David.
Joseph’s brothers became jealous because Joseph had dreamed a dream and he talked about it and it upset his brothers. Also, he dreamed that the sun, moon and stars would bow down to him. This represented that not only would his brothers bow down before him but his father and mother would also.
When we think about the behavior exhibited by his brothers to throw him in a pit as result of their anger, one does not have to think too long and hard to realize that there had to be some greater issues going on in the background. People as a rule just don’t arbitrarily decide to throw people into pits and leave them for dead unless they are aggravated to the point where this activity may have been the final straw. When look at the scriptures further, they reveal several interesting things.
In Genesis 37:4, we see that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers and that they could not speak peaceably to him.
“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 colours. 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.” – Gen 37:3 -4
We can glean from this that this was an ongoing aggravation to his brothers. They were so angry on a regular basis that they couldn’t even speak nicely to him. In this experience, Joseph became despised. One could also go so far as to say that he was hated but he was tolerated only because he was a family member.
But wait, that’s not all. When we look prior to that we see other clues that really help us to understand the depth of contempt brewing in their spirits. Genesis 37:2, really helps us understand the true levels of their raw emotions.
“These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; 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.”
– Gen 37:2
As we delve into the history before Genesis 37:2, we discover that Bilhah and Zilpah were Jacob’s wives. However, Bilhah had a checkered past. Bilhah was Laban’s servant. He gave her to Rachael when she could not have a child. Rachael in turn gave her to Jacob as his concubine to bear children by proxy as was the custom at that time for barren women. In Genesis 35:22 (two chapters earlier) we see that Bilhah had an incestuous relationship with Reuben. The Bible does not go into detail or give any clues of how this came about or why but merely states that it happened. We don’t know if it was a mutually consenting romantic relationship or not. The fact that it was mentioned as a fact by the Bible does let us know that there was something that was not right either in Reubin and/or Bilhah’s character. The fact that the Bible take the time to state it implies that there were behaviors going on that were unacceptable. We can easily surmise that there were other generally unacceptable behaviors of some sort going on that clearly Joseph felt that he needed to tell his Father about.
Here is the bottom line: Joseph was a 17 year old “Mr. Goodie Two Shoes” who went tattle tailed the bad behavior of his brothers. He was despised among his brothers because he told their business and then got them in trouble with Dad. If that wasn’t enough Dad loved him more than the others and made him a special coat that had some “serious style” to it. And if all of that was not enough, the ‘icing on the cake’ was that he had a dream they would all come bending down to him in a subservient manner. Not just one dream but a second dream also including his Father and Mother.
The attitudes and behaviors of Joseph’s brothers sound amazingly like a scripture in the New Testament:
“Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.”
– Jas 3:16 (CEV)
Add up the aggravation of a tattle tail little brother who got better treatment than the others, got a new set of fancy coat and sprinkle a some jealousy on top for good measure and you have real recipe for potentially murderous mindsets. Only the grace of God operating through Reuben spared Joseph from death. But it was also the Grace of God operating through Reuben that caused Joseph to move into the next Pit which we talk about next time. After all, the pits of Joseph’s life were just preparation for him to receive his ordained destiny and the greater weight of God’s Glory. Here is the irony. Joseph’s first pit was The Pit of Despising, but we must learn not to despise our pits. God is working something out in us to prepare us for our blessing.
Joseph’s First Pit – The Pit of Despising