Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When Life Is The Pits (Gen.37:1-28)




Have you ever read Erma Bomback’s book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I doing in the Pits?” This book is really an all too truthful book that causes us to stop and laugh at ourselves. I am not sure that even Erma Bomback could have made Joseph laugh. However, “The Pits” for Joseph became more than just a figure of speech.

Joseph had a sense of destiny as a 17 years old teenager. He could say not only, “I had a dream” but, “I had two dreams!” Naturally, Joseph felt he had to tell his brothers about them. Why? Who knows! He described to his brothers that the dream included all of them “Binding sheaves of grain out in the field. Suddenly, his sheaf rose and stood above the rest”.

The indication seemed to be that his brothers would bow down before him. Their response was rather typical, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” (Gen.37:7,8). They were angry; here stands Joseph in his dignified robe, telling them that one day he is going to be the headman. They couldn’t believe it; they hated him all the more.

Joseph twists the knife by telling them of a second dream (37:9). In this, the sun and moon, all 11 stars bow down to him. The message is clear, the sun and moon refer to his mom and dad, and the stars refer to the brothers. The temperature is rising dramatically. The brothers are getting hotter by the moment, and day by day. Joseph is being stretched, father’s favoritism; brothers hoping he would die.

For some time, the brothers fumed over the preposterous dreams that Joseph had shared with them. He would not become their superior! They would stop him. Their time finally came when Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers were doing as they tended sheep. The Scripture tells of their reaction upon seeing him coming (37:19-20). The die was cast.

But, Reuben, the oldest brother, had more maturity and sense. Murder would never work. Instead, he set forth the idea of throwing Joseph in the pit. This is the only way Reuben could do for his brother Joseph, to save or to prolong his life.

To cover up their deed, they would strip off his robe and blot it with animal blood. They would then proclaim to their father that their youngest brother had been killed. What an excellent cover-up, just enough to soothe their conscience and assuage their guilt.


It would be helpful to understand the causes that put Joseph “in the Pits.” They are often the same causes that put us there. These factors are especially evident when others are involved in our being in the Pits:-

2.1. Jealousy (verse 4 ff):

Jealousy is hostility toward a rival or a person one believes to enjoy an advantage or God’s special blessings. Joseph’s brothers were hostile toward him because of his father’s blatant favoritism (special blessings). Jealousy often wreaks havoc based on this premise. Many, a person, a home and Organization have been tragically destroyed because of this debilitating tendency.

A good example of this is Ester Pauline Friedman and her twin sister Pauline Ester Friedman. These identical twins dressed alike, took the same classes, shared the same purse, and slept in the same twin bed. However, things went wrong and the feud was on. For 8 years, these two sisters could not resolve a petty family squabble. Finally, the two partially made up. Feeling lingered on. Seventeen years after making up, jealousy is still on, and is still the problem.

2.2. Envy (verse 4 ff):

Having seen the favoritism shown by their father Jacob to Joseph, the brothers envied the father’s special attention. Why did they not have a special robe like him? Why did they have to work so hard? Why weren’t they handsome? The questions were innumerable. Do you know what a hatred ledger is? It’s that private mental list we keep of everything we hold against another person. Joseph’s brothers had been consistently adding to their hatred ledger concerning him.


Can you imagine being in Joseph’s place in the Pit? He was in the middle of nowhere and had no help. Was Joseph’s life going to end here at the ripe old age of 17? He couldn’t climb up the walls of the Pit. There was no way out. He was astounded. And what’s worse, no one cared. But God did care! Acts 7:9 tells us that “All the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt.” And yet God was with Joseph, even in the Jail (Gen.39:21). You see, it is always too soon to quit.

Let me remind you of Winston Churchill, who was such a man. While young, he attended a preparatory school by the name of Harrow. Following his time there, he completed his education and served in the military in both India and Africa. At the age of 65, this 5’5” tall giant was elected as Prime Minister of England.

Toward the end of his career he was invited to address the student body at his Alma Mater. The day preceding his arrival, the headmaster announced, “I would encourage you to bring pen and paper tomorrow. The Prime Minister will speak, and you will wish to note his comments. He is possibly the greatest orator of all time.”

The following day, the auditorium was packed and each pen hoisted. After an effusive introduction, Mr. Churchill stepped to the podium. Graciously he acknowledged all. Then, in a powerful voice, he rumbled, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up! Never! Never!” with that he sat down!

So, it is with Joseph and us, even in the Pits of Life, we must never give up. Paul described life in the Pits well when he said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2Cor.4:8-9). Joseph, in order to make a meaningful contribution with his life, will have to forget the adverse circumstances of the Pit and put them behind him, and total fidelity must be applied as demanded by God (Gen.39:9).


Joseph knew he was needed. God brought Joseph to a place of no return. He will do the same with you and mine. The 10 brothers lifted Joseph out of the Pit, when they saw the Ishmaelites coming. They lifted him out of the Pit and sold him for 20 pieces of silver. Then the Ishmaelites brought Joseph to Egypt.

There would be no turning back for Joseph. What is more, it was out of his hands. Joseph was given temporary relief from his immediate need, when he was lifted out of the Pit. He had thought that this was the end. God gave him relief. Joseph would always remember how he was lifted out of the dark Pit, and later lifted out from Jail for a second time.

Joseph’s new home was Egypt. A lot had happened in the last 24 hours. God can accomplish a lot in a very short period of time. What was accomplished now was the impossibility of turning back. It was painful. He didn’t even get to say good-bye to his father. He could only say in his heart, “Good-bye, Father. Good-bye, Canaan. Good-bye, Coat of Distinction, Coat of many Colors” which showed he was the favorite son.


Like Joseph, all of us have to deal with the Pits of life. But the strength to do so comes from knowing the One who can overcome all of the Pits. How about you? Do you know the God who is able to rescue from the Pits of life? Do you see His hand even in the Pit in which you may find yourself?

Perhaps the Pit is merely a brief stopping place on the ground to doing great things for God. Remember what Rev.Dr.William Carey said, “Attempt Great things for God and Expect Great things from God.” Thus, Wherever you are, Whatever you do, Whatever your problems are, How deep may be the Pit, Don’t Ever, Never, Ever, Never Give Up!

(Taken from “Pasaipha” Magazine, MSO: Shillong Publication, 2010, pp.103-104). Read also at

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