Somehow, I have never paid attention, or never noticed this small detail in the story of Joseph. I've read the passage many times, I've taught the Sunday School lesson, I've even seen Joseph: King of Dreams. But there are a few verses here to which I have never paid particular attention. That gets my attention, because though it may seem like a small detail, if God put it there, it must have some significance.
Jacob's other sons are in the field in Shechem, tending sheep. He sends Joseph to go to them, to see how they are doing. Or does he have another motive? I ask this question, because I'm wondering if Jacob is a little suspicious of their behavior. He tells Joseph to come back to him and let him know what they are doing. I'm intrigued by this because of what I learn a few verses later.
Joseph goes to Shechem which is a good jaunt from their home in Hebron, about 55 miles. The fields there must be good for grazing. But Joseph's brothers aren't in Shechem. In fact, Joseph is wandering around Shechem, probably checking every field for some sign of them, when some gentleman (these are the verses I'd never really given much attention to) comes to him and asks what he needs. If it weren't for this gentleman, Joseph would never have learned that his brothers were actually in Dothan, another 20 miles north of Shechem. Who knows how long Joseph would have wandered about searching for his brothers? Now what is significant about this? Well, I read a little about Dothan. I mean, if the brothers went there without sending word to Dad, that seems a little suspicious. What I learned was that Dothan was not agricultural, it was a commercial town. So what are the brothers doing up in Dothan with sheep if there is little, if any, pastureland? That I don't have an answer for, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jacob's sons were involved in some wheeling and dealing, acquiring fortunes in the northland. I can't be certain of this, but it does seem a bit peculiar. So when Joseph arrives on the scene, they know they are in big trouble. Perhaps they have had business in Dothan for a while now, maybe they have set up some sweet deals with the merchants that come through, and the last thing they need is for kid brother to tattle to Dad about their business ventures, when they should have been taking care of the sheep. This would only fuel their desire to be rid of Joseph, so they could conduct business as usual.
|Joseph, search for his brothers, is told they had gone to Dothan|
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
It's all pure speculation, I know, but I don't know why God would have included the verses about Joseph's aimless wandering in Shechem, and a man there, who happened to overhear the brothers' plans redirecting him, if there had not been something amiss. Every verse in the Bible has a purpose, and maybe I miss it the first, second, or third time (sometimes the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth time as well), but when I keep reading and searching, I'm bound to find something new. Thank you, Lord, for such a marvelous Book.