Day 25

Joseph Is Sold into Slavery

from the Genesis reading plan


Genesis 37:1-36, Job 5:2, Psalm 77:2

BY Melanie Rainer

The ugliest moments of my life have been marked by jealousy. It is perhaps my most defining sin, and it masquerades as pride, fear, insecurity, and relationship-crushing meanness. Envy dehumanizes everyone around me; it removes their own agency as creative, talented, smart image-bearers of God. I no longer see them as their own persons, but rather as measuring sticks for my own worth. Too often, I think, I’m better than so-and-so at that, but nowhere near as good as that other person. If jealousy is my economy, cynicism and narcissism are the currency I trade. If that sounds harsh or out of proportion, it’s not. I think that jealousy and envy are the root of most conflicts between people, and unadmitted jealousy festers and slowly destroys relationships.

Envy is threaded through the Bible, a throughline of sin from Cain and Abel, Rachel and Leah, Saul and David, the pharisees who watched Jesus draw crowds to Himself, and more. In history, art, and literature, examples are rampant. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago cautions Othello about such envy: “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

Joseph is the victim of his brothers’ jealousy, which robs him of his family, his home, his dignity, and almost his life. His brothers strip him of his robe and would have killed him, but sold him to a band of traders instead. It was perhaps the equivalent of death in their eyes: they expected to never see him again, and delivered the news of his death to their father Jacob.

As modern readers, we know how the story goes: Joseph trusts the Lord, and the Lord protects him. He rises to power in Egypt and eventually saves his family from famine and forgives his brothers. But the moment we read about today in Genesis 37 doesn’t have any of that goodness— only pain. And by not reading ahead, we can force ourselves to sit in the devastation wreaked by Joseph’s brothers. Jacob mourns the loss of his son and cannot be comforted. Joseph is sold again, this time to an Egyptian official. No longer in control, Joseph has lost all agency at the hands of his jealous brothers.

This is that same “green-eyed monster,” and throughout Scripture, we are warned against its fallout. Proverbs 14:30 cautions that “a tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us that “all labor and all skillful work is due to one person’s jealousy of another. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.” And James 3:16 advises that “where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice.”

Scripture certainly doesn’t hold back about the consequences of jealousy, and neither should we. As I read about Joseph’s story, I’m aware that I should “let it read me”: Where is my jealousy hurting people that I love? Where is it corroding my heart and sowing disorder? Where is it disordering my priorities away from Christ and toward my own selfish gain? These are important questions to ask because jealousy isn’t something to be taken lightly. My prayer is that I never will.

Post Comments (43)

43 thoughts on "Joseph Is Sold into Slavery"

  1. Searching says:

    I’m not sure of the best label for Joseph’s behavior as the favored son – maybe pride or even cockiness. Yes, he was favored and, if his reporting of his dreams to his brothers was an example of his typical attitude, he flaunted it and at least to some extent, taunted them. And really, what else would you expect from a 17 year old? I’m far from 17 and pray that if I’ve been blessed with anything or see another’s blessing that might spur jealousy that my only response is thankfulness for what I have and pray it is used for the purpose God intended.

  2. Libby K says:

    Yes! So true. When the ugly jealousy wells up in me, it’s usually because I am far from God. Not being secure in who I am in Him. Lord, help us to focus on who You say we are!

  3. Angie says:

    Until the age of about 7, my parents were alcoholics. Then they became Christians. My dad was even a preacher for several years. There were also years in my adulthood where, hurt by the church and tired of being poor, they fell back into the patterns of their early life, in more ways than alcohol. The good news is, God never stopped drawing them, never stopped loving them, and never stopped caring for us. Why tell total strangers this? I remember as a little girl being embarrassed about my home life. I remember hearing my mom, grandmother, and aunt in fights on the phone with each other, all the time…fights founded in jealousy over who was the most loved or got the most stuff. I remember praying one day and asking God to, NOT, let me do that. As a child of about tenish I asked Him if the cycle could be broken with me.
    So often bad events in a person’s childhood cause them to make excuses for poor choices they make as adults. I am not saying the events in our childhood do not have an effect on us, I believe fully they do. Joseph’s childhood was “something.” He could have gotten mad at God and held anger and hurt against his brothers, waiting for revenge. But, he chose not to. Those choices, (he probably made daily), opened the door for God to work most fully in His life. They opened the door for God to be honored, and positive results came to Joseph as well.
    Growing up in an alcoholic family during my early years allows me as a teacher to spread hope to my students in similar situations. It allows me to understand more fully what they may be going through. God has used it for good in my life. Don’t get me wrong…many of them go through so much more than I ever did. But I love them differently than I would have, had my growing up years all been peachy-cream. I believe God has used the circumstances of my life to cut away and shape this clay, me. My sister and I talked last night about how our dad would tell us, “this hard stuff will make you better.” As little girls, with broken hearts our answer sometimes was, “I don’t want to be better, I just don’t want to hurt anymore.”
    As an adult, I don’t ever feel like “I don’t want to be better,” for the closer I draw to Jesus, the better for Him I want to be (while at the same time recognizing, it isn’t about how good or not good I am – and yet in love I long to please and obey Him). Sometimes though, I do still feel like, “I just don’t want to hurt anymore.” When that happens, I can look back and praise God because EVERY TIME, ALL THE TIME, He has been faithful. As I turn to Him with my heart in His hands, I KNOW, whatever, however, this ends…He will use it for good. I do trust that You will use this for my good, Good, Good Father.

    1. Natasha R says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Angie.

  4. Churchmouse says:

    Envy. Jealousy. Favoritism. Pride. Ungratefulness. Which comes first? Sort of like the chicken or the egg and does it really matter? Whatever the genesis of our sin it is still sin. It must be named and dealt with or indeed it will eat us alive and cause us to do things we would never otherwise consider. We’re commanded to confess and repent, yet that is often the shortest part of our prayers. We are long on requests but brief about our faults and failings. May we determine today to start with honesty about the darkness that lurks within. May God shed the Light of His grace on us as we ask for His forgiveness. May we be humble enough to go to those we have offended and seek their forgiveness as well. Then and only then may we take our petitions to the Lord. Sin is serious. Let us take it seriously before Him today.

  5. Kaitlyn says:

    Wow. I feel like I need to read this almost every hour of every day. “I no longer see them as their own persons, but rather as measuring sticks for my own worth.” This is so disappointingly true, and one of my own main struggles. Thanks for sharing these scriptures, Melanie!

  6. Audrey Flores says:

    As a nonbeliever my thoughts of the Old Testament was that it was old and unneeded. But today my heart is breaking for Joseph. I can only imagine his heart break and betrayal that he is feeling over and over at this time. I didn’t even consider the envy of his brothers because I was so focused on how it hurt him. This was a good check on my own heart. If asked I would’ve said I am a more prideful person than an envious one. But I felt so convicted while reading the devotional. I always feel envy building in my heart while I scroll through Instagram. I can feel the fleeting thought of well if only I, too, was born into a rich family or had a few million dollars etc, etc. Where else does it take hold of my heart? How does it hurt the ones around me?? Lord Jesus I pray you work on my heart and show me its current state. Help me to surround myself with things that will make it grow like yours and not of the world. Amen.

  7. Marianne Reuter says:

    Oh yes, envy and jealosy – I can so relate! But I‘d like to go a step further. I think the underlying problem of jealousy is a lack of self-esteem and ignorance of who I am in God‘s eyes. If I am conscious of God‘s love to me and of the gifts He gave me there is no need to envy someone, because I can be content in what I have.
    Still struggling with that though …

  8. Tina says:

    A couple of weeks ago my sister, with whom I struggle, in my head, let us know ahead of today, that she would be travelling from Italy to London to mark the first anniversary of our mothers passing.. immediately my back went up.. here we go again I thought, this is pressure now!

    My green eyed monster/jealousy/ envious/ not good enough being was beginning to rear its ugly ugly head.

    I knew I could not make it to London today to be with the family, because of work commitments, but this message had really got me.. I began to image them saying things like, ‘she couldn’t even make today’ ‘ if she cared…’ get the picture?

    I think and know these are the insecurities of the past, yet they still rear their ugly head, and get me all disconbobulated..yeap, disconbobulated!

    But God..

    But God..

    I chuckle as I write.. this morning I put a WhatsApp message out to all the family saying I was thinking of them and that I pray they know peace as they navigate today.. I apologized for not being with them, and asked for someone to blow mum a kiss for me..
    Immediately, and the first to respond was my sister! Not only did she come back that she would blow mum a kiss but a couple of red hearts too! Petty to some, I guess, but to me.. HUGE. HUGE!

    Fear, has a way of disconbobulating things, my fear here, was that I would never be good enough next to this sister, in mums eyes, and an imagined animosity! And yet, as I wrote a week or so ago, mum absolutely blessed US ALL the day of her passing.
    I think that Melanie writes truth when she says
    Where is it corroding my heart and sowing disorder? Where is it disordering my priorities away from Christ… because jealousy isn’t something to be taken lightly…it Absolutely is not!

    Thankful that God orders my day and steps, and although I have worried and felt uneasy about today, God made it right before the day even began. Amen!

    Thank you Lord God, thank you!❤

    Happy Thursday sisters, with love wrapped hugs..❤

    1. Toni Gray says:

      ❤️

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