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Joseph, Birthright Son Of The Covenant The Dreamer
Jacobs Life Prepares Him For His Prophetic Role
The Old Testament prophet Jacob (who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, also known as the three patriarchs) had many experiences in his life to prepare him for the calling which he held.
1) He was given the birthright blessing at a young age.
2) He was separated from his home and family when he was sent to find a wife.
3) He received instruction from the Lord through dreams and visions.
4) He gained experience by working for someone who had power over him.
5) He led his family out of bondage and into freedom.
6) He came to know the Lord personally.
7) He instructed his family in righteousness.
8) He endured trials and pressed forward until the end of his life in faith.
The Lord qualifies those He calls
When looking at the account of Jacob's life, as given in the book of Genesis, we can find many parallels to that of the account of the life of his son Joseph. It is a lesson given to us of how the Lord prepares those whom he calls to be his prophets through their life's experiences. He places them in situations for their own spiritual growth and development, and then watches over them as they choose to obey.
Jacobs Wives and Sons In Their Birthorder
- Leah has Reuben (See a Son)-Joy for having a son.
- Leah has Simeon (Hearing)-Because the Lord heard that she was hated.
- Leah has Levi (Joined)- "This time will my husband be joined unto me."
- Leah has Judah (Praise)-"Now I will Praise the Lord."
- Bilhah has Dan (Judging)- "God hat judged me."
- Bilhah has Nephtali (Wrestling)- "With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister."
- Zilpah has Gad (Troop)- "Leah said, A troop cometh."
- Zilpah has Asher (My happiness)- "Leah said, Happy am I."
- Leah has Issachar (A reward)- God hath given me my reward.
- Leah has Zebulun (Dwelling)- "Now will my husband dwell with me."
- Rachel has Joseph (Adding)- "The Lord shall add to me another son."
- Rachel has Benjamin (Son of my right hand)- "You are the son of my right hand."
Definition of Birthright
Under the patriarchal order, the right or inheritance of the firstborn is known as birthright. This generally included a land inheritance as well as the authority to preside. The firstborn of flocks and of human families was considered as belonging to the Lord, and was expected to be dedicated to him. This dedication could be either literal or by the payment of redemption money.
The Right of the Firstborn
In the patriarchal order, the firstborn son is the heir and inherits the leadership of the family upon the death of the father. This is often spoken of in the scriptures as birthright. Under the law of Moses, the firstborn son was regarded as belonging to God, and special ordinances were provided for his redemption. The eldest son received a double portion of his father's possessions; and after his father's death, he was responsible for the care of the mother and sisters.
Joseph Receiving A Blessing From His Father
Custom of the Day
According to the custom of the day, the birthright went to the first born son of the first wife. If he was unworthy to receive the birthright blessing it was then typically given to the first born son of the second wife, and so on down the line. Leah was the first wife, by deception, and Rachel was the second wife, of Jacob's choice. Zilpah and Bilhah were servants, and therefore considered property of the two women respectively, and the sons thus belonged to their owner.
The "natural man", that was part of each of the brothers, would have given them a desire to receive the birthright blessing. This would explain the competition that would exist between siblings, know as "sibling rivalry." Each of them in turn would try to prove that they were worthy to be the chosen one in some way or another.
Cain Loses His Blessing
Worthiness is the most important pre-requisite
As we have been taught through all the examples in the scriptures, birthright was determined most by the worthiness of the individual to receive it. Disobedience to the will of God and His commandments was the one guaranteed way to lose the opportunity to be the birthright heir.
This was shown first with the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was the lawful birthright heir but because
- he conspired against his brother (with Satan)
- planned or plotted to kill his brother (had murder in his heart)
- Killed his brother
- covered up the murder or tried to deny it
He was literally stripped of his priesthood blessing.
Joseph Was The Only Worthy Son
The answer to the question of birthright heir to Jacob is fairly simple, Joseph was the only "worthy" one that could have received it, besides Benjamin who was below Joseph in birth order.
Proof of this is given throughout the account in Genesis, but the only solid proof that we need to see is the account given in Genesis 37:
And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Joseph Being Sold
Only through the promptings of Reuben, who suggests just throwing him in the pit so that they have no blood on their hands, and Judah, who suggests that they sell him instead, are they saved from the same fate that befell Cain.They went through the exact same process of falling from grace that Cain did, except for the final act of murder itself. The initial process began in their hearts and in their minds, they were jealous, this then led to their actions. By not actually killing their brother, Jacob's sons are saved from the consequence of "murder of innocent blood" resulting in the removal of all priesthood blessings, but they are certainly out of the running for the "birthright blessing."
Naphtali shows Joseph's blood-stained coat to Jacob.
Event Referred to in the Book of Mormon
Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden underfoot, if we shall fall into transgression.
Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.
Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said-Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God. Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.
And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ.
More Proof That Joseph Is The One
If we are still not convinced yet that Joseph was the rightful birthright heir, we are given more proof by events recorded in Genesis that would eliminate all other possibilities:
- Reuben- He was the firstborn of all the sons, lost the birthright by acting too quickly and taking what didn't belong to him. Thinking that he was in line for the birthright because of birth order, he took what was eventually, in his mind, going to be his anyway. He slept with his father's property, Bilhah.
- Simeon- He was the second son of Leah and next in line following Reuben. He and Levi took it upon themselves to punnish Shechem for the rape of their sister Dinah, and massacred the Shechemites.
- Judah- He was next in line, but forfeited his right when he would not hold true to the rights of Tamar. He slept with her thinking she was a "whore" and then realized that she was his daughter-in-law that he had not honored by covenant of allowing her seed for his son.
- Dan and Gad- may have thought they were in line but were considered Rachel's property.
A Living Prophet Today
As we further study the life of Joseph, we will see the similarities with that of the life of Jacob. We can come to understand that the Lord prepares his prophets by placing them in situations that will allow growth and leadership.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I testify that this is the same order that is upon the earth today. The Lord prepares and qualifies whom he will call to be his prophet. I have seen that proven with the passing of our prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, and the subsequent calling of the Lord's new prophet Thomas S. Monson. Both were prepared from their birth by being given ways to exercise their agency. They were allowed to choose the path of their life, and because of the choices they made, they were placed in positions or places where the Lord could best utilize them to further His work. I am grateful to be a member of the Lord's church upon this earth who recognizes the authority and guidance of a living prophet.