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Joseph: Family Issues

Genesis 37:1-11

This is the first sermon in a new series on the Life of Joseph. We find Joseph in a dysfunctional family, the tension so high between him and his brothers that “they could not speak peacefully to him.”  What are the causes of these family problems?  Are we susceptible to similar difficulties in our families? What about in our other relationships — our friends, at work, and at school.

3 Ways We’ll Consider the Life of Joseph in this Series

As we study Joseph over the next several weeks, we will consider his life in three different ways:

First, we will study him as a model of a righteous life, especially in in times of trial.  Joseph was a godly man, and his character, his decisions, and his actions all demonstrate that.  He persevered when he encountered trials, and he was faced with many of them. His brothers hated him so much they “could not speak peacefully to him.” His brothers plotted to kill him and then sold him into slavery. As a slave in Egypt, he was unjustly accused and put in prison, seemingly forgotten. But all the time he remained faithful.

Second, we will look at Joseph’s life as an example of God’s providence, even when things seem out of control.  Joseph’s circumstances go from bad to worse during the first half of his story, and it’s hard to see how God is in control.  But in the end, we see how has God has orchestrated all of the events in Joseph’s life to bring him bring him to a position of power in Egypt.  And then God uses Joseph to save his family from the famine that threatens their lives.

Third, we we consider Joseph as a type of Christ.  A type of Christ is an Old Testament picture of the person or work of Jesus Christ.  It may be an event, like the Passover.  It may be thing, like the Tabernacle.  Or it may be a person, like Moses.  Joseph was a type of Christ.  He was loved by his father, but rejected by his own people.  He was prophesied to reign over them, and they resented him for it.  And he was ultimately the instrament of their salvation.

Family Issues

Joseph was 17 years old when we find him in Genesis 37.  And he belongs to a dysfunctional family.

His father loved him more than all his brothers and gave him a robe of many colors. When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more, the hated him. At one point Joseph brought a bad report about them to their father, and they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Joseph had two dreams. He dreamed that his brothers’ sheaves of grain were bowing down to his own sheaf.  He dreamed that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. His brothers understood that the dream mean they would bow down to Joseph. They hated even more.

Why was the family such a mess?

Why was Joseph’s family so messed up?  There were several reasons. First, his brothers were wicked. Elsewhere we see that they are unjust and immoral. Their sinful character affects family life.

Joseph’s father was also foolish, at least in the ways he treated his sons. He put a stumbling block before his older sons by showing them that he loved Joseph more.  And he put Joseph in a dangerous position with them.

But what about Joseph? Did he contribute to the family’s problems? Some suggest that he was arrogant to share his dreams with his brothers.  Some suggest that he was wrong to bring his father the bad report.  But scripture doesn’t suggest that.  Joseph had to believe what God had told him (in his dreams).  And it wasn’t for him to decide to keep that revelation from his family.  Regarding the bad report, his father had likely asked him for the report, and the report was almost certainly accurate.  Joseph was faithful. He was faithful to God. He was faithful to his father. He was even faithful to his brothers.

But sinful men often resent faithful men, and so it was with Joseph’s brothers.


Every one of us will have people in our lives who are sinful (like Joseph’s brothers). We will all have people in our lives who are foolish (like Joseph’s father). And it is important to recognize that if we are faithful to what God has called us to, it will create difficulties in those relationships.  When we act righteously and when we stand up for truth, it is not always going to make our lives easy.  In fact, it may cause serious trouble in many of our relationships with family, friends, and others. We need to be prepared for that and, like Joseph, be committed to faithfulness no matter what the cost.