In the middle of the narrative of Joseph, there is one chapter that stands out like a sore thumb: Gen 38, the narrative of Judah. It just so happens, in God’s paragraph divisions, that Gen 38:1-30 is a weak paragraph within the stronger paragraph of Gen 38:1-39:23. Gen 38 is about Judah and Gen 39 is about Joseph, two seemingly unrelated topics – but apparently not to God. The Scripture put these two together to teach us something!
First, what is the Scripture trying to tell us about Judah? For those who worked out the chiastic structure in yesterday’s reading, in Gen 37:21-30, we found that Reuben as the firstborn of Jacob, exercised leadership over his brothers, in turning them from killing Joseph to merely putting him in a pit, so that he could return him to their father later. The chiastic structure begins and ends with Reuben. But the central axis is Judah’s counsel, Gen 37:26-27. His brothers listened to him and not to Reuben. The leadership passed from Reuben, to Judah, skipping Simeon and Levi because they murdered the men of Shechem. Judah was responsible for Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt.
I wonder, when they returned to Israel, and found that he mourned for Joseph without being comforted, if Reuben upbraided Judah, that his plan had been to restore the boy to their father, but thanks to Judah’s bone- headed idea, the boy was now lost forever as a slave in Egypt. I know if I was in Reuben’s shoes, I would be tempted to.
So the next thing we find, is Judah departing from his brothers (Gen 38:1), and living among the Canaanites, apparently long enough to have children grow up and marry themselves. I think Judah had a guilty conscience, and removing himself from the inheritance of Abraham shows, to me, that he realized he had blown it also, just like Reuben, just like Simeon, and just like Levi; that he was not worthy of God. You know, only the people who know they have done wrong, in whom the Spirit is working to convict of sin and righteousness, hide from God. The proud and arrogant shake their fist at Him and dare Him to strike them with lightning.
And here is the key to the whole puzzle: Judah departed from his brothers, and dwelt among the Canaanites. Joseph departed from his brothers, and dwelt among the Egyptians. Both Canaan and Egypt are types for the kingdom of darkness. This is why God considers these two seemingly unrelated chapters related. God is putting Judah and Joseph together for a reason … this is what this strong paragraph is teaching us.
For further study: The life of Joseph is a mass of chiastic structures. There is one in Gen 39:1-23. Can you find it? What is the central axis, that God has put neon flashing lights around? What is God trying to tell us today about dwelling among Egyptians?
Finding Messiah: There is an extraordinary number of threes in these chapters concerning the life of Joseph: he was made overseer three times (f0r his father, for Potiphar, and for the keeper of the prison); he was cast down three times (into a pit, into slavery, and into prison); three days figure in each dream he interpreted in prison. We saw last time that Joseph was a type of Messiah. Three is a sign of Messiah in Torah, that a passage is prophesying of Messiah. The threes are there to attract our notice. The prophecy of Messiah, is that just as Joseph was cast down, so also was Messiah:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Phi 2:5-8