Where was he? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Joseph has grown up now and started having dreams. No. I’m not talking about what you get after eating too much pizza at night or about what happens when you are highly ambitious. (Although it certainly looks like Joseph was that.) These are dreams that get the rest of his family, including Jacob, angry. In these dreams, he would see representations of his family bowing down to him.
They weren’t exactly happy to hear all of this. Even Jacob was indignant. Unfortunately, Jacob did show special favor to Joseph though, such as giving him a fancy coat which no one else got. They could have seen it as a way of trying to make the dreams come about to be true.
One day, Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers and after some journeying, he finds where they are. When they see him coming, they decide to kill him, although Reuben does have second thoughts. (Maybe he remembers what he did with his Dad’s concubine and is trying to get in his father’s grace again.)
However, these brothers decide just killing Joseph wouldn’t get them that much. They can get rid of him and still profit some themselves. They just need to sell him into slavery. Fortunately, a caravan is coming through that will purchase him.
Reuben is apparently away while this happens and when he returns, he finds the pit that they had thrown Joseph into is empty and he thinks that the boy has been killed and he tears his clothes. The text doesn’t tell us, but I suspect this still has to do with Reuben’s transgression. Reuben wants to make up somehow for what he did.
However, the brothers still have a problem here. Joseph is gone, but their Dad is going to wonder what happened to him. Somehow, they have a hunch that the message of “We sold him into slavery” isn’t going to go over well. So, they take his special coat and dip it in the blood of an animal and show it to Jacob.
In the book Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes, the authors write about this story being told to a Middle Eastern group and when they get to the trouble between the brothers someone asks a question we don’t normally think of. “Where is Jacob?” To be sure, Jacob shows up in the text, but the father is supposed to lead his family and be aware of what’s going on. This father is so unaware of what’s going on that he doesn’t see the jealousy Joseph’s brothers have and don’t realize their desire to see him dead?
Sadly, Jacob’s special care for Joseph has blinded him to the reality of his other sons. You would think Jacob would have learned about the dangers of favoritism after the trouble that he had with Esau, which fortunately did end on a positive note. Unfortunately, he did not, and while God will use this for good, it doesn’t condone that Jacob should have been a more attentive father in the life of his children.
If you’re a father today, don’t make the same mistake. The consequences can be tragic.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)