“Yow! Boy, does my head hurt. Where am I?”
I tried to open my eyes.
“Oh man, even my eyes hurt and it’s too dark to see anything. Okay, what can I feel?”
I sat up and began feeling around with my hands and feet and could feel nothing but dry, dusty, hard, round surfaces and walls.
“Nothing but rocks here, it’s terribly hot, it’s exceptionally dry and dusty and—oh, my head still hurts, my eyes hurt and so does just about every other part of me … and I’m talking to myself. How crazy is that? Okay, what can I hear or smell?”
I leaned back, listened, and sniffed.
“So, I can hear some sheep and it smells like someone has used this cistern as a latrine. Wait a minute, where is my coat? Oh no, Father is going to kill me if I lost that coat. But I’ll have to wait to worry about that. For now, how did I get here and … for that matter where is here?”
I rubbed my sore head and then my eyes before trying to open them again.
“Alright, I can finally see a sliver of light up there. Okay, I think I get it now. My brothers took some unreasonable offense to something I said, beat me up, stole the special coat that father made for me and stuck me down a dry cistern. Wow! I knew I wasn’t popular with them, but what did I ever do that made them mad enough to do this? Hmm … it may have started soon after we moved here from Paddan-Aram. Come to think of it, it may have gotten worse when I had those dreams. Oh man, my head still really hurts. I think I’ll sleep for a bit using these rocks for a pillow like Father did on his way to Paddan-Aram before he met Mother. Yes, a little nap is what I need to get it all straight in my brain.”
# # #
I remember sitting at the desk in my father’s tent tallying up columns of numbers to help Father manage our flocks and herds. Then father entered the tent and I called him over to show him what I had found, “Father, did you know that since we arrived here in Canaan, our flocks have grown by 25%? The pastureland here must be much better than it was at Paddan-Aram. Also, you might want to think about selling some of them off. The size of our flock is getting too large and difficult for my brothers to manage. They are having to move the flocks much more often to find new pastures.”
Father sat on a chair near me stroking his beard and said, “You know, I think you might be right. Why don’t you go to where your brothers are keeping the flocks and report back to me what you see.”
I am pretty sure I made a face and said, “Are you sure about that Father? I have not been warmly received by them since you gave me this wonderful new coat.”
Father just smiled and said, “Why don’t you let me worry about them. You just go first thing tomorrow morning and then bring me a report on how your brothers and our flocks are doing.”
“As you wish, Father.”
That night, I had a large meal and then retired to my tent where I had a strange dream. My brothers and I were out harvesting grain and stacking the tied up sheaves in neat bundles. It was really hard work. I remember getting really sweaty and then the beginnings of blisters on my hands. The blisters hurt a lot, but then the strangest thing happened. One of my sheaves stood up on end and then the sheaves of my eleven brothers all bowed down to it. It was so weird that I woke up and had to get a drink of water. After that, I slept for the rest of the night without any more dreams. That dream stuck in my head so I couldn’t forget it.
When I found them, they avoided talking to me but Reuben gave me some tasks to do. I did them quickly so I could do the inventory that Father asked for.
At lunch, I decided to tell my brothers about my strange dream. That might have been a mistake. I spoke up loud enough for everyone to hear and said “Listen to this dream. We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”
At first, it didn’t seem like they wanted to listen. Some of them turned away from me at the beginning but when I got to the part about their sheaves bowing down to mine, they got angry, rushed at me and started yelling at me, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” Then they all stomped off to care for the sheep. Talk about getting in my face! Needless to say, I shut up and silently continued with the inventory Father had asked for.
When we got home, I reported to Father that my inventory did not match up with the numbers that my brothers had given him. I told him that I thought they were selling some of the sheep without telling him so they could have spending money. I thought I saw some women hiding in their tents while I was there. Father said nothing about my report, but he questioned them thoroughly when they got home a week or so later. They seemed to pretend from then on that I did not exist. None of them, except for Reuben would even talk to me.
Several weeks later, I had another dream and one night at dinner I stood up and shared the dream with my father and my brothers. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!” Father scolded me. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” This surprising reaction from my father seemed to match my brothers. I think they were jealous of me. My brothers wolfed down the rest of their food and took off. They rushed rudely past me nearly knocking me over with their arms and elbows.
After his initial outburst, Father sat quietly while he finished eating. He said nothing to me when I left to go to my tent.
# # #
A few weeks passed by and then Father asked me to go and check on my brothers again and bring back another report. I can tell you, I was not in any big hurry to see them again, but headed to Shechem as I had been asked to do.
The next morning I packed a bag, put on my special coat, and rode my favorite donkey to where my brothers were supposed to be tending to the flocks. But, they weren’t there. So I had to look around for them. After an hour or so, I ran into a man that told me that they had gone to Dothan. Typical. They are so unreliable.
When I first saw them, I could tell that they could see me too. I waved at them and could see a lot of hurried activity. They seemed to be huddling together about something. I hoped that it was because they had forgiven me for telling them about my dreams. I hoped for a warm welcome.
But, when I got there, they grabbed me by the arms and tied me up. They were arguing among themselves trying to decide what to do with me. I have to say I was actually frightened when I heard them say, “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
But then, Reuben came to my rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
I was hoping that Reuben was secretly planning to rescue me and take me back to father. But my brothers ripped off the beautiful robe I was wearing and threw me into an empty cistern.
# # #
I woke up from my nap to the sound of my brothers arguing again. It seems like that’s all they ever did. But then I heard the sound of camels, They removed the lid from the cistern and threw down a rope so I could pull myself out. I have to say that I got my hopes up that they had changed their mind. It was a wonderful feeling that lasted only until I got up to the top of the cistern and climbed out. Then they grabbed me and took me over to some rough-looking men with a caravan of camels and shoved me to the ground in front of them. I looked around to see if Reuben was there to stick up for me, but he was nowhere to be found. The traders gave Levi what looked like twenty pieces of silver and then grabbed me, tied my hands together, and then tethered me to one of their camels.
As we traveled away, I could hear one of my brothers say, goodbye dreamer! It felt like my life was over. I needed to connect with my father’s God. No one else was going to help me. So I prayed as I walked.
“God of my father Jacob, his father Isaac and my great-grandfather Abraham. I have taken you for granted all of my life, but I need you now. I was born into privilege and luxury. I was the favorite son of my father and did not appreciate any of it. When I had dreams of being worshipped and bowed down to, I took pride in my lofty position and lorded it over my brothers. I am sorry, Lord. I am sorry for my pride and my arrogance. I know that from now on I will need to walk closely with you and learn humility from you in order to survive. A slave’s life is very hard. Please accept my repentant heart and walk with me on a daily basis. Teach me to walk in your ways, O Lord. Keep me close to your heart and protect me with your powerful right arm. Amen.”
A few weeks later, after walking all day every day behind a camel and trying to make sure that I avoided stepping in his droppings, we arrived in Egypt. I was taken to a slave market and sold to an important looking Egyptian man named Potiphar. I was then taken to his house, cleaned up and put to work cleaning everything in sight.