“And a man found Joseph wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ I am seeking my brothers,’ he said. ‘Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ And the man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.” (Gen. 37:15-17)
This text seems unimportant at first. It’s the ancient equivalent of asking for directions. Joseph is looking for his 11 brothers. He wants to join them in the fields. Yet, he got lost along the way. So he steps and asks a passerby for guidance. The man tells him, and they both go on their way.
The Hinges of History
Despite their simplicity, however, these two verses are critical to the unfolding of the entire Bible. Had Joseph not met his brothers in the field, they would not likely have thrown him in a pit and sold him to traveling slave traders.
He would not have ended up in Egypt, become Pharaoh’s prime minister, and eventually saved the Israelites from famine. The Israelites would not have made their way to Egypt, been enslaved and eventually redeemed by God’s miraculous power. The Exodus story as we know it would not have taken place.
In other words, this seemingly random encounter is the hinge on which the entire story rests. In fact, it is not a random encounter at all. Jewish tradition describes the man in the fields as an angel of God, sent to ensure Joseph arrives where he is supposed to be.
Each of us has angels we encounter on the road of life. When we are lost and confused, they help direct us to where we are supposed to be.