Jacob, the father of the tribes of Israel, stirred the wrath of his sons by openly favoring his son Joseph. This is terrible for any family dynamic and Jacob’s selfishness was causing terrible rifts among his sons. Joseph, meanwhile, told his brothers about his dreams that they would bow down to him despite the fact that they were so angry about his coat that they could not speak peaceably to him. Joseph was either a smug little brat and rubbed it in or he was completely clueless about why doing that would stir even more wrath against him. Given the wisdom Joseph displays later, it is almost certainly the former.
Joseph’s brothers decided to murder their brother in the field, and then they would “see what will become of his dreams.” They sold him into slavery instead, but told their father that his most beloved son was killed by a wild animal. The rank sadism of showing Jacob the coat and driving their own father into depression is truly awful, as well as the hypocrisy of pretending to comfort Jacob in his grief.
I find all of this very encouraging. When you read the Bible, you see that the patriarchs of God’s chosen people were very messed up. Even many heroes of the faith were deeply flawed, from God’s anger being kindled against Moses in Exodus 4 to King David committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband to cover up his crime. God provides these examples in His Word to show us that we are all flawed, and that only through His grace are we righteous.
The Bible teaches us in Romans 3:10-18 that there is none righteous. The failures of God’s prophets, apostles, kings and patriarchs demonstrate this. As we look at our own sins and failures, we can be comforted by the fact that many heroes of Scripture were sinners too, and yet God still used them and rewarded them with eternal life. While we stand completely helpless in our own power, God provides a way of escape from His wrath – the blood of His own Son, shed so that we may have eternal life.