The Setup


Often God chooses unexpected people to accomplish his purposes and upends conventional standards as he works out his perfect will. A shepherd boy called to slay a giant and lead a kingdom? A humble teenage girl chosen as the mother of the Lord? A Savior mocked, beaten, and crucified on a cross? God’s will and ways often affront cultural norms, and the account of Joseph is no exception. In today’s passage, we step into the continuing redemptive storyline of God sovereignly choosing a people to bless and be a blessing. Oh, but what ire arises as God’s plan and purposes are set in motion!

  • Where have you seen God work in unexpected ways and through people that surprised you? 


These are the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. From the brothers’ perspective, what reasons were given as to why they hated Joseph? How did Jacob add fuel to this fire?
  2. Now put yourself in Joseph’s sandals—had he done anything wrong to deserve this anger?
  3. What did Joseph’s dreams imply (vss. 8, 10)? Why was this troubling?
  4. What were the different reactions of Jacob and the brothers after Joseph’s second dream (vs. 11)?
  5. Are you open to the unexpected ways of how God might choose to use you in his redemptive plan? In what ways might God call you to go against what is culturally comfortable in order to serve him?


Trouble was brewing in the house of Jacob. Were his ears not burning as he listened to his faithful son’s dreams? Did he not recognize the continuing theme of the older serving the younger from his own life? Certainly Jacob’s gifting of the colorful robe provoked the older brothers’ anger, but the deeper tension came from the dreams’ implication of Joseph’s rule over them; this was a huge cultural affront. Joseph’s divine call to leadership aroused the hatred and jealousy of his brothers. In a culturally surprising move, we see the setup of God choosing Joseph. God shows no partiality and he always chooses, in his infinite wisdom, for good. 

  • Ask God for the courage to follow him even when it goes against the grain of culture.