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. Laurel says:

    Envy is the resentful longing for another’s possession(s), while jealousy is the fear of losing a possession to someone. These words are often used as synonyms, but they are not. Often, I am envious of other’s accomplishments, apparent ease in life, and/or ability to be gracious with their time and energy. It is a vice I am aware of and am working to replace with gratitude and thanksgiving.

    1. Gina Snow says:

      Thank you for making this distinction! God Himself describes Himself as Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Envy is always a sin. I see jealousy as neutral and sometimes positive in us humans.

  2. Jessica Nicolas says:

    Jealousy is one of those traps the enemy lives to use within women. He wants us to be led by comparison in stead of LOVE. Then we find ourselves shackled by lies and pride. I CHOOSE LOVE. I CHOOSE JOY. I CHOOSE FREEDOM.

  3. K says:

    I am convicted of jealousy. A woman at work has not always treated me right. However, people are now turning on her. I need to defend her, and repent. This is awful, but part of me was glad they were seeing her inadequacies. They could then see and praise what I know. How disgusting of me. That is not Christ-like at all. I am realizing how horrible I can be. I wouldn’t be able to do anything with God giving me the ability. I shouldn’t want human praise. I need to work to give God glory.

  4. Stacey Crawshaw says:

    I can sooo relate to this story and it reminds me that I need to confess and repent of this. Jealousy is so ugly. I think I will print out the Ten Commandments and put it somewhere I see it every day. Thou shall not covet …

  5. Autumn Kirtland says:

    I just realized a big source of conflict in my marriage – I am jealous of my husband. Whoa! I couldn’t pin point what my issue has been lately but I’ve just been so snippy at him. He is very smart, he is good at almost everything, he has a job he loves & he’s always so calm. We have a lot of similarities but are also very different. I was not very academic, I have to work hard at a lot of things & I am not super calm… lol. I stay at home with my kids but if I’m 100% honest, it’s really hard & I don’t absolutely love it. There are lot more examples but I’m blown away by this realization.

  6. Lia says:

    I’ve struggled with jealousy in friendships recently, and I feel so sad at how that does not reflect Christ’s warm, full acceptance of me… I think it’s due to a lack mindset too, ‘there’s not enough to go around’. But in God’s economy, there will always be more than enough for all. Thanks for these great thoughts this morning!

  7. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I think that gratefulness is the anecdote to jealousy. When I am jealous, I find that when I stop and thank God for all that he has given me, the jealousy takes a backseat to thankfulness. I pray that I would choose to walk in this thankfulness, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, instead of jealousy.

  8. Allison Bentley says:

    I loved this and so needed today. I feel like in a world of facebook and other social media forums we are constantly “measuring” our lives to those of others finding ourselves guilty of being jealous and making others jealous!!! SRT let’s do a study on jealousy!!

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