Gen. 37:1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
Gen. 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
This chapter picks back up with the story of Jacob and his descendants. Jacob had stayed in Canaan like his father before him. We jump right in with the story focusing on Joseph at the age of 17. He was tending the flocks with some of his brothers (Dan, Napthali, Gad, and Asher) and felt they weren’t doing a good job, so he went home and told daddy.
I liked this observation from Boice as quoted by Guzik: “He was loved and hated, favored and abused, tempted and trusted, exalted and abased. Yet at no point in the one-hundred-and-ten-year life of Joseph did he ever seem to get his eyes off God or cease to trust him. Adversity did not harden his character. Prosperity did not ruin him. He was the same in private as in public. He was a truly great man.”
MacDonald: “Joseph is one of the most beautiful types (symbols) of the Lord Jesus Christ in the OT, though the Bible never labels him as a type. A. W. Pink lists 101 correspondences between Joseph and Jesus, and Ada Habershon lists 121. For example, Joseph was loved by his father (v.3); he rebuked the sin of his brothers (v.2); he was hated by his brothers and sold into the hands of enemies (vv. 4, 26-28); he was punished unjustly (chap. 39); he was exalted and became the savior of the world, for all the world had to come to him for bread (41:57); he received a Gentile bride during his rejection by his brethren (41:45).”
Gen. 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
Gen. 37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Joseph was daddy’s favorite. It says that it was because he was born in Jacob’s old age, but I think it was also because he was Rachel’s son. Jacob had made Joseph a special robe, which I have been taught was a tunic with long sleeves. Jacob was so obvious in his preference that the other brothers were naturally jealous; it made them hate Jacob so much that they couldn’t even carry on a civil conversation with him.
More information from Boice: “the real idea behind the ancient Hebrew phrase for tunic of many colors is that it was a tunic extending all the way down to the wrists and ankles, as opposed to a shorter one. This was not what a workingman wore. It was a garment of privilege and status. The man who wore a tunic of many colors watched others as they did hard physical labor.”
Gen. 37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
Gen. 37:6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
Gen. 37:7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
Gen. 37:8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
Joseph fed this hatred even more when he decided to tell his brothers about a dream he had. (It makes you wonder if Jacob was simply naïve or loved goading his brothers or what.) He dreamed that they were binding sheaves of grain in the field. All of a sudden Joseph’s sheaf stood upright, and his brother’s sheaves gathered round his and bowed down to it. It was obvious to all of them that this meant he thought he would rule over them one day. This made his brothers hate him even more.
Gen. 37:9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
Gen. 37:10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
Gen. 37:11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
Joseph had another dream and again told it to his brothers and even his father, causing his father to rebuke him. He had dreamed that the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him. Jacob took the sun and moon to represent him and Rachel and the eleven stars his brothers. Even though Rachel was dead, she would be represented as bowing in her position of submission to her husband. We learn from scripture that the first dream was fulfilled when Joseph was in charge of the food supplies of Egypt, and the brothers learned that the brother they had sold into slavery was second in command in Egypt. We also know that there is prophetic significance to the second dream, serving as a type or picture of the nation of Israel that gives birth to the Messiah as pictured in Revelation 12.
His brothers responded with disgust and Jacob with rebuke, yet we are told that he “observed the saying” (the Hebrew indicates that is a reference to keeping it in remembrance). I’m not sure, but Jacob could have been thinking about how God doesn’t always act/choose according to what we think is right. Even in his own life—God had chosen him over Esau. What might He have planned for Joseph?
Thoughts – A friend asked me a question last night that got my brain going, and I liked the ideas that God gave me. God has not made us robots. Our every move is not predestined, but the fulfillment of His plan is—whether for our life or that of a nation. God’s choice is one man for one woman. Abraham and Sarai were doing fine until Sarai’s lack of faith in God’s promise caused her to take matters into her own hands and give Abraham her maid, Hagar, to obtain a son. (Abraham was complicit mind you.) God’s plan was always to use Isaac. Ishmael coming on the scene didn’t change that plan, and the result of that sin is still being felt today in the Middle East. Could Abraham have chosen to wait on God—yes!
Isaac and Rebekah knew that God had said that the elder would serve the younger of their sons. Again, because of lack of faith in my opinion, Rebekah intervened and even made her son a party to her sin. Would God’s plans to use Jacob have been thwarted if they had not intervened—No! The result—Rebekah lost her favorite son, because according to the story in the scripture, she’s already out of the picture when Jacob comes home twenty years later.
Now to Jacob—His desire and heart was set on Rachel. The deceiver gets his just reward when he is deceived himself. He planned on one wife, I think, but was tricked into having two—by his uncle no less. This one is a little trickier since Leah was the mother of Judah, the tribe that would produce the Messiah. I think God would have protected Jacob from Laban’s deceit if he had not helped his mother deceive his own father to get his blessing. Anyway, I think God compensated Leah so to speak for being the “unloved” one by giving her more children. Then Rachel got jealous because she was barren and gave Jacob her handmaid—just like Sarai before her—instead of accepting whatever the Lord might have planned for her. So the jealousy cycle is continued when Leah gave Jacob her maid after Rachel had her own children. Could Jacob have avoided much of the future problems among his children by changing some of his choices along the way—Yes! Did he change God’s plan—No. I think he just influenced how God accomplished His purpose. I think Jacob’s choices affected the nation of Israel with its inner conflicts for hundreds of years to come.
The Jews today determine “Jewishness” (used as inclusive of all Israel) through the maternal line. It would appear in God’s economy that fact is determined through the paternal line.
Gen. 37:12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
Gen. 37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
Gen. 37:14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
Gen. 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
Gen. 37:16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
Gen. 37:17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Joseph’s brothers had taken the flocks to find pasture in Shechem. Although no time frame is given, they had been gone long enough that Jacob was getting a bit concerned and wanted to know that everything was OK. Joseph obediently set out to check on his brothers for his father. When he came to Shechem, he couldn’t find them. A man (unidentified) saw him wandering around and asked him what he was looking for. Joseph told him that he was looking for his brothers who were grazing their flocks. (Note – No mention is given of further identification.) The man told Joseph that he had heard them speak of going to Dothan, another 10-20 miles away. Joseph proceeded to Dothan and spotted his brothers. (I can’t help but wonder if the man was an angel.)
Gen. 37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
Gen. 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
Gen. 37:20 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.
Gen. 37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
Gen. 37:22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
Gen. 37:23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
Gen. 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
His brothers saw him coming from a distance and decided that this would be the perfect chance to get rid of him. They decided to kill him, throw him in a cistern, and say that a wild animal had killed him. Then they wouldn’t have to hear any more of his dreams. Reuben quickly scrambled to think of a way to spare Joseph’s life. He convinced his brothers not to kill him—just throw him in the cistern in the desert. He hoped to be able to rescue him later. When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of his special robe and threw him in the empty cistern.
Gen. 37:25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
Gen. 37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
Gen. 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
Gen. 37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Afterwards, as they sat down to eat, and spotted a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. They were headed to Egypt to sell spices, balm, and myrrh. Judah got an idea. Why not sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, then they wouldn’t have the blood of their brother on their hands, and they could make a little profit as well. So they sold him for 20 shekels of silver.
Gen. 37:29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
Gen. 37:30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
Gen. 37:31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
Gen. 37:32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.
Gen. 37:33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
Evidently Reuben was away checking the animals or something; because when he came back and found Joseph gone, he tore his clothes in a passion. He went to his brothers and screamed that Joseph was gone. What were they going to do?
Note – This is the first time I ever noticed that no explanation was ever given to Reuben of what the brothers had done. They must have realized that he would probably have gone after him to rescue him and take him home.
So, they took Joseph’s robe and dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat. Then they took the robe home to their father.
I think it is significant to note that reference is made to “thy son” in verse 32—not to “our brother.”
Several thoughts begin to whirl through my mind. I keep thinking that the prevalence of sin has to be worse today than ever. But as I read through the scripture, I realize that many of the things that horrify me the most now have happened all throughout history. It’s just hard to imagine that a brother would be so cruel to his own brother and then to his own father—all because of jealousy.
Also, God’s plan keeps moving forward. Since He knew what the brothers would do, God arranged a caravan of Ishmaelites for Joseph’s rescue and transport to Egypt. God is always several steps ahead of us because of His foreknowledge of our choices—not because we are programmed dummies.
Gen. 37:34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
Gen. 37:35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
So they took Joseph’s robe home to their father and said that they had found it and wondered if it was Joseph’s. He recognized it immediately and assumed the worst. Then Jacob tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and mourned for his son for many days. We are told that ALL of his sons and daughters tried to comfort him. (The brothers were such hypocrites!) But he refused to be comforted. Jacob vowed to go to his grave in mourning for his son, and he wept in sorrow.
Although Joseph was alive, Jacob believed he was dead. Guzik made a great application from this truth. "This is also a powerful illustration of the principle that if we believe something to be so, it may as well be. Joseph was not dead, but as long as Jacob believed he was, as far as Jacob was concerned, Joseph was dead. In the same way, the Christian has in truth been set free from sin, but if Satan can persuade us we are under the tyranny of sin, we may as well be.”
Gen. 37:36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
In the meantime, Joseph was in Egypt and had been sold to Potiphar, the captain of the guard under Pharaoh.
Wayne Walter, in his article on 9th Sedrah at www.lampresource.com, clarifies that “captain of the guard” specifically refers to “the chief of the executioners.”
Verse 36 indicates that the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar. It would seem that the Midanites/Ishmeelites describe one group of merchantmen. Reuben was obviously absent from the camp when Joseph was sold.
Historical note from Guzik: “Egypt was a large and thriving kingdom for at least a thousand years before Joseph came. The Egyptians were wealthy and had massive natural resources. They were educated and had no real enemies at the time. When Joseph came to Egypt, some of the pyramids already looked old and the Sphinx was already carved.”