Friday of Week 2 of Lent – First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28

There is a strong parallel between the stories of Joseph and Jesus in today’s readings. In both cases the words quoted from the Psalm apply:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
(Ps 118:22)

Joseph is the favourite of Jacob’s twelve sons, the sons who would later become the patriarchs of God’s people. His brothers became jealous of him and grew to hate him. They hated him even more for the dreams he told. In one of these, he said he had a vision of the family bringing in the harvest. In the dream, all his brother’s sheaves bowed down before Joseph’s sheaf. This, of course, did happen later when the brothers came to Egypt during a time of famine in search of food. Unknown to them at first, Joseph was the grand vizier of Egypt in whose presence they paid homage.

In today’s reading, when Joseph, at the instructions of his father, went to visit his brothers in the fields, they conceived a plot to kill him. However, one of the brothers, Reuben, intervened and suggested instead that Joseph be thrown down a dry well, hoping to give him back to their father later. Reuben was the eldest son, but later fell out of favour after committing incest with his father’s concubine. Judah subsequently took over leadership of the family. The other brothers agreed to Reuben’s suggestion because they did not want to have the blood of their own brother on their hands. Perhaps they remembered what happened to Cain.

Eventually Joseph is either sold to Ishmaelites on their way to do business in Egypt or discovered in the well by Midianites and sold for 20 pieces of silver to traders on their way to Egypt. In later times, this sum was the value of a male of Joseph’s age who had been dedicated to the Lord (see Lev 27:5). The father is later told that his son has died from an attack by animals and is given back, as proof, the famous multi-coloured coat stained with (goat’s) blood.

Joseph should have ended up in obscurity as a slave in Egypt but, thanks to his ability to interpret dreams, he was to win the favour of the Pharaoh and become the chief minister in Egypt and ultimately the saviour of his own people from famine – a famine which Joseph had foretold and helped to prepare for.

The story prepares us for the coming of Jesus, who is clearly the son in the parable featured in today’s Gospel. Jesus, too, was a man of ‘dreams’, with a vision of life which was rejected by many close to him. He, too, was sold into the hands of enemies precisely because of that, to become the saviour of his own people.

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