Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Genesis 37:2
Joseph was one of twelve brothers, through different mothers. His father was Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Joseph’s brothers were not good people. We know this from three stories in the book of Genesis.
The story of Simeon and Levi
His brothers Simeon and Levi came up with a plan to avenge the people of Shechem after Shechem slept with their sister Dinah. The brothers misled Shechem into thinking that they would be at peace with him if all his men were circumcised. While the men were recovering, and in no position to fight, the brothers destroyed the city. Jacob said, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land” (Gen. 34:30). No one will ever respect this family again.
The story of Reuben
Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, but he brought disgrace to the family through sexual indulgence. “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (35:22). James Boice comments, “This was an offense for which Reuben lost not only his father’s favor but also his birthright… Jacob exercised his sovereign choice and appointed Joseph his heir.” Boice concludes, “This is the true meaning of… Joseph’s coat of many colors.” When Jacob draped the coat on Joseph, he was effectively saying, “You are the new heir!”
The story of Judah
The story of Judah and Tamar is another story of sexual promiscuity (see Gen. 38). Judah was a man without sexual boundaries. He left a trail of wounded lives as he sinned his way further and further from God.
Joseph is surrounded by people who cannot be trusted, are prone to violence, and are sexually out of control. Do you know what this is like? What kind of pressure does this bring?