When recounting your life story, with decades of perfect hindsight, it may sound as if it were one logical, well-reasoned step after another. Is that really what it felt like at the time—or was it much less “linear”? Name some unexpected twists or turn of events that detoured or delayed you along the way.
Joseph’s father Jacob lived as “less than,” “at odds with,” and “on the run” from his twin brother Esau (Genesis 25-32). Now as a father himself, Jacob does likewise—raising Joseph, the 11th of his 12 sons, with favorite-son status resulting in equally tragic consequences. Joseph has two dreams in which his older brothers bow down to him—and he tells them. Joseph’s brothers hate him for claiming to be holier-than-thou and ruler-of-all (37:1-11). In today’s story, a 17-year-old Joseph is sent by his father to check up on his brothers, but this time the brothers turn on him and seek justice. Joseph’s life is about to take a turn for the worse. Genesis 39-50 will reveal yet more twists and turns. In the end, Joseph clearly has the God-given abilities necessary for those dreams (he rules Egypt—his brothers come to buy grain) to come true.
Take turns reading this section, Genesis 37:12-36. Read slowly and deliberately and listen closely. Have a pen and paper ready to make notes of the small details that stand out.
Finding My Story in God’s Story
1. Who in this story do you more closely identify with and why?
2. Place yourself in this story at the time Joseph is being stuffed into the cistern, then sold into slavery by his brothers. He eventually rises from the pit of despair to the pinnacle of power (Genesis 39–41), but all such thoughts are furthest from his mind or knowledge. If you had witnessed only this Genesis 37 part of the story, what would you have heard?
- Joseph bargaining for his life.
- Joseph sharing deep regrets.
- Brothers debating how to save Joseph and deceive their dad.
- Dad weeping over his parental choices and consequences.
- Other __________.
3. Based upon Genesis 37, the backstory, and how things eventually turn out (he rules Egypt and his brothers—even, after being taken out of the picture), how does Joseph manage to survive, even rise to a place where he thrives?
- Reuben stood up for him when the other half-brothers would not.
- He’s shaped by and stayed true to God’s call, as revealed in dreams.
- With cool head and quick feet, he was able to flee sexual temptation.
- With humility and honesty, he could deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Other __________.
4. Imagine you are one of Joseph’s half-brothers. Who in your life plays the rising-then-falling star—you know, the one who got the positive attention, then the negative press?
- When that rising star passed me on the way up, I felt or reacted like: _________.
- When that rising star met his comeuppance and fell from grace, then I: _______.
5. The Genesis 37 story of “sibling rivalry” has marketplace implications. You are an investigative reporter for your industry writing an exposé about “Jacob & Sons.” What title fits your story? Or which angle do you pursue?
- A Rising Star Gets Ditched
- Top Dog Gets Brought Down
- Family Feud Turns Ugly, Even Deadly
- The Rise and Fall of ….
- Other __________.
6. At the bottom of the pit or bound over as a slave, Joseph has no way of knowing how the story would end. When things take a bad turn, you don’t know how your story will turn out either. So what thoughts come to mind when facing “life in the pit”?
- Give up in despair and sadness, full of regrets and what-ifs.
- Hold a grudge, shift blame, and plot revenge.
- Bargain for my life, promise anything, just to live for another day.
- Review what happened, wonder what-if, and learn from my mistakes.
- All of the above or other __________.
7. How has sibling rivalry impacted your life—either as the brother on top, the brother on the bottom, or as the dad trying to learn from mistakes and mediate the conflict?
8. Pair up and take turns being Brother #2 who shares how he feels “less than” Brother #1. Have an older Reuben-type Brother #3 offer unconditional support. For example:
Brother #3: (acting as mediator) “How do you feel less than your sibling?”
Brother #2: (answer as victim, with Brother #1 blamed), “I feel less than when he…”
Brother #3: “Sorry that happened to you. Thank you for sharing.”
Facilitator times out 2-3 minutes, then “brothers” switch places and role play another round, but this time from a different true-to-life story. Facilitator extrapolates from these role plays (and the Bible study) to identify choices and changes in attitude and actions to make things better. Claim one or two things to avoid thinking or doing that make it worse, even today.
Apply the principles identified above to relationships within your small group. Talk out those issues that stir up conflict and take next steps, as appropriate. Close your group time in prayer for one another and those next steps or lifelines of mercy you plan to extend.