Joseph’s name means “He adds” or “Add to” and was a prayer of Rachel’s: “May the LORD add another son to me” (Gen. 30:24).
Jacob agreed to work seven years in exchange for Rachel. Joseph’s birth coincided with the completion of that seven years. The timing of these things is significant. Jacob asked Laban to release him so he could return home with his family. Laban talked Jacob into staying. In exchange, Jacob would get sheep and goats with certain markings.
Over the next 6 years, Jacob’s flocks increased while Laban’s decreased. Laban saw this and changed which types of animals Jacob would get 10 times over those years. No matter which animals Laban picked–spotted, striped, or all dark–more of those animals were born, and Jacob’s wealth grew.
Laban and his sons began to resent Jacob for this. Jacob noticed their changed attitudes. The Lord spoke to him and said he should leave.
Looking back over Genesis, we see Abraham dividing from Lot when their flocks increased. Abimelech drove Isaac out when Isaac became wealthy. And Jacob separated from Laban because of his increased flocks. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the covenant patriarchs. God’s relationship with people was through them. Their increase was an increase of what was divine in the earth.
These things show us that an increase of Christ results in friction with what is natural, be it within us individually or in the world. When Christ is but a seed, what is natural functions largely as before; its rule isn’t threatened. That changes as Christ grows. At a certain threshold, Christ can’t be tamped down or ignored. He is a threat to the natural. Conflict erupts.
We saw this on an individual level when Rebekah was pregnant with Jacob and Esau. The babies struggled within her (Gen. 25:22). Rebekah was perplexed and distressed by this. This shows the experience of the believer as the Spiritual man (Christ / Jacob) and natural man (Adam / Esau) oppose each other (Gal. 5:17). As Christ increases within, His desires conflict more and more with the desires of the flesh. At a certain point, the flesh loses the power and territory it held within. This is a process that repeats throughout our lives as Jesus becomes greater in different areas of the soul.
Corporately, Israel coexisted with Egypt until they grew more numerous (Ex. 1:9-11). Pharaoh became afraid of their power, and tried to suppress them through slavery. “But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites” (Ex. 1:12). This escalating conflict led to the Passover lamb’s death and the exodus. This shows that Christ through the church will inexorably increase. Nothing can stop this. His increase results in conflict with the world, a conflict which can only have one outcome: the increase of His government and of peace without end (Isaiah 9:7).
So besides being Rachel’s prayer, Joseph’s name was prophetic. Coming as he did at the end of Jacob’s seven years of service, “Add to” showed that the increase of the spiritual was coming to the point of liberation from fleshly dominance. The spiritual and the natural couldn’t coexist any longer. Conflict and separation were unavoidable.
For us, there is promise in this. Jesus will increase in us, individually and corporately. There is no way around this. Make no mistake, we will meet conflict in ourselves and in this world. We live in the space where sword edges crash and clang. For one side, this conflict is futile. There is no possible way for the natural to prevail. No matter how hard Laban sought to manipulate things to benefit himself, no matter how he fought Jacob’s increase, God caused Jacob to grow and overcome. Similarly, there is nothing within us or in this world that can stop the kingdom of God from growing. The mustard seed grows into a giant tree. The yeast works all through the dough (Matt. 13:31-33). Whether the farmer gets up or lays down, the earth brings forth from herself the stalk, then the head, then the ripe grain in the head (Mark 4:26-29)