37 5 Joseph dreamed a dream and told it to his brothers—they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I dreamt. 7 We were binding sheaves in the field when my stalk arose and stood upright, while your sheaves circled round and bowed down to my sheaf.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Will you mean to be king over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and his words to them.
9 And he dreamed another dream and related it to his brothers: “Look, I dreamed another dream. This time, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he recounted it to his father and brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What kind of dream have you dreamed? Shall we really come, I and your mother and your brothers to bow to you, down to the ground?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, while his father remembered.
Dreams and messages shift relationships. Arcs of a person’s direction, as well as that of a community, are affected. Those with direct connections with an identified G*D have qualitatively different dreams than those Joseph reports.
Joseph’s dreams are smart interpretations of a given circumstance and often provide the grist of division or the setup for later consequences not immediately discernable.
Joseph’s first dream is about power—his. His unique tunic requires a fitting audience, one that recognizes its worth (Joseph’s worth), one bowed down to.
Joseph’s brothers already hate him for his privileged position in the eyes of Jacob/Israel. When Joseph announces his dream to them, it is recorded that they hate him all the more.
Challenged by his brothers, with no intervening response, the storyteller repeats their hate toward Joseph.
Joseph, not hearing a discouraging word, pushes on to relate yet another dream. It is the same dream with different components—sun, moon, and one star per brother. What was an ordinary intra-family power struggle is raised to a higher level with all of creation (including G*D?) bowing down to Joseph. Today we might equate Joseph with current narcissistic leaders who cannot compute any reaction that does not glorify them. We might anticipate the great fall and disaster that comes from a “See how great I am” way of acting in a larger and larger world.
Not even a rebuke from his primary cheerleader will phase Joseph. Israel, noting Joseph’s lack of listening and learning (humility), can only hold this pattern of behavior in mind, and so should readers.
[Note: A point of confusion enters with Israel’s reference to Rachel, who was dead and buried some time ago.]