Genesis Segment 24 (37:1-36)

Genesis 37:1-2 “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. {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.”

The “generations of Jacob” is the story of his family, but Joseph is the central character so the story revolves around him. At seventeen, it seems that Joseph was a pain in the neck to his brothers. He was a snitch. He would go out into the fields with his brothers and go back and tell Jacob all the bad things that the brothers did. He tattled on them. Jacob encouraged it and this unnerved Joseph’s brethren. The next verse gives us the reason.

Genesis 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.”

OK, let us see if we can fathom this much-bandied coat of many colors. The Hebrew is kethoneth passim, or a long garment of handbreadths. The garment probably went down to his feet and had long sleeves. It may have been made of strips of cloth sewn together. There is no overt mention in the Hebrew text of colors. It is said that the KJV translators mistranslated the word passim, and rendered it colors instead of handbreadths (or hollows as some modern translators render it). However, it can be deduced that it possibly was of many colors. The Roman toga is a similar garment. The toga is made of strips of cloth and in boys the strips were of differing colors. The Septuagint (Greek Translation of the O.T. c. 250 BC) translated it “colorful”. The Septuagint was the scripture in common use in Jesus’ day so in His day the coat was known in the Greek as a colorful coat. The Torat Hayim (Living Torah) says that the word passim can be translated as colorful, embroidered, striped, or illustrated. So the kethoneth passim could be a full-sleeved robe, a coat of many colors, a coat reaching to his feet, an ornamented tunic, a silk robe, or a fine woolen cloak. It was definitely a stylish, valuable item of clothing that was quite costly.

The coat was like a royal robe. Jacob was very insensitive to his other sons when he gave this royal garment to Joseph. It did not help the ill will Joseph’s brothers had for him; in fact it made them hate him the more. I am sure it was because of Jacob’s love for Rachel’s children that he gave the coat to Joseph and he probably did not mean it as a snub to his other sons. But that is exactly what it was. The scripture tells us that Jacob favored Joseph because Joseph was born to him in his old age. He doted on Joseph and later on Benjamin.

Genesis 37:4-5 “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. {5} And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.”

All of the things about Joseph—his father’s doting, the coat, his informing on them, his attitude, and then the dream—combined to make his brethren hate him exceedingly. They hated him enough to plot to murder him.

Genesis 37:6-7 “And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: {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.”

Joseph had a prophetic dream. He would stand as a ruler over them and they would bow down to him. It came true in Genesis 42:6, so it was a true prophecy. But his brethren did not think so. They completely and absolutely resented it.

Genesis 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.”

Yes he would reign over them and have dominion over them. They thought it was just boasting. Their hatred increased again.

Genesis 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.”

This time he had a prophecy that he would be in authority over his father as well. If I were Joseph and I knew how my brothers felt about my first dream, perhaps I would keep silent about the second dream. But Joseph was perhaps oblivious to their emotions, or he was not concerned with them, or it was God’s will that he tell them these things.

Let me quote from Revelation Segment 11:

The sun is Jacob or Israel, the moon is Rachel, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Joseph, the eleven stars are Joseph’s eleven brothers, and Joseph makes star number twelve. Jacob is the sun and he figuratively clothed his family with his provision and his protection. Rachel is the moon and Jacob’s foremost wife and she figuratively girds up the family from underneath (being Jacob’s #1 wife, she is the foundation of the family). The crowning achievement of Jacob is his family of twelve sons.

Genesis 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?”

Rachel did not make it to Egypt. Jacob did bow to Joseph once in Genesis 47:32, but it was not obeisance; Jacob was thankful that Joseph promised to bury his remains at Machpelah. Joseph’s brethren did bow in obeisance to him. The obeisance of Jacob was the acknowledgement that Joseph was the highest political authority in the land short of Pharaoh himself. While Rachel did not go down into Egypt, other concubines or wives would serve in Rachel’s place. In the passage in Revelation, the moon does refer to Rachel just as Jacob thought it referred to Rachel in verse nine of Genesis chapter thirty-seven.

Genesis 37:11 “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.”

Here is a more modern rendering of the Hebrew: “And his brethren were jealous of him; but his father wondered about the meaning of the dreams.” Jacob heeded the matter. He believed it could be a revelation from God. So he did not mock Joseph for it nor did he deride him in any way.

Genesis 37:12-14 “And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. {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. {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.”

Jacob once again sent Joseph to his brethren as an informant. The brethren were some miles away. Some commentators say it was more than 60 miles away. But that is a guess. This time Jacob would not see Joseph again until he came into Egypt many years later.

Genesis 37:15-17 “And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? {16} And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. {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.”

It is obvious that the “certain man” was known to Joseph and knew Joseph and his brethren. Dothan means “two wells.” The modern name of the place is Jubb Yusuf, meaning Pit of Joseph. It is near a hill called Tell-Dothan, which is supposed to be the ruins of ancient Dothan. Tell-Dothan is located on the plain of Jezreel near Gilboa. It is a minor tourist attraction. There are two pits there and one of them is supposed to be the pit into which the brothers placed Joseph. Elisha lived at Dothan. When the Syrian army surrounded Elisha and his servant (perhaps Gehazi, but there is no mention of his name.), Elisha asked the LORD to open the servants eyes. God did and the servant was able to see the armies of heaven arrayed around them.

Genesis 37:18 “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.”

They were very serious in their hatred of Joseph. When they saw him, they remembered Joseph’s informing and they remembered his dreams, and they remembered his coat of many colors. All of these things came together and made them angry enough to kill Joseph. This was of course God’s will. They meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). Josephus says they rejoiced in Joseph’s coming, not because Jacob had sent him, but that he was sent by providence so that they could kill him.

Genesis 37:19 “And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.”

Literally, “Look! The master-dreamer comes!” They were mocking, but Joseph did indeed have the gift of interpreting dreams.

Genesis 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.”

These were his own brothers! And they talked casually about killing him, covering up the deed, and then lying to their father about it. Their hatred was intense. This shows the total depravity of mankind.

Genesis 37:21-22 “And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. {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.”

We are not told why Rueben delivered him; just that Joseph was delivered. Being the eldest, he probably reasoned with them about their consciences and about the feelings of their father and Rachel. He may have mentioned that God knew what they were doing and since they could never get out of God’s sight, He would be a witness to the murder. Whatever he said, he convinced them to refrain from killing Joseph. From the alternative he suggested (casting Joseph into a pit), Rueben was no lover of Joseph. But he was the eldest and his father Jacob would hold him responsible for anything that happened to Joseph. He proposed placing Joseph in a pit to give himself a little time to rescue the boy. It appears that Rueben went away for a while, probably to take care of some detail concerning the flock and he was gone for a time.

As for the pit, it was a well or a cistern. Today at Tell-Dothan (mound of Dothan) there are two pits extant and one of them is called the Pit of Joseph (Jubb Yusuf). These pits were evidently dug as wells, but the one into which Joseph was cast was dry.

Genesis 37:23-24 “And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; {24} And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.”

The coat would have identified Joseph as from a family that had wealth and status. No one would have been willing to act against a son of a wealthy house. In fact, it is more than likely that questions would have been raised about the legitimacy of the actions they took against Joseph. That coat was removed for the safety of the other ten. They gave no thought of any future plans for Joseph. That would come later. They had simply cast him into the pit to keep him from running away while they decided his fate. That means that they did not plan at that time to use the coat as evidence that Joseph had been killed and torn to pieces by a wild animal. That plan materialized later.

The cistern was empty and probably completely dry. Remember that the pit into which they cast Jeremiah was full of mud and Jeremiah sank into the mud (Jeremiah 38:6). Joseph did not sink, which is evidence that there was no mud in the pit.

Genesis 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.”

Sitting down to lunch is the epitome of selfishness on the part of the brethren. They had not a care in the world about Joseph. Don’t you know that Joseph pleaded with them to let him out? They shut him out. Joseph probably knew that they sat down to eat when he was in the pit. Joseph heard them plotting against his life. It is a safe bet that these brothers remembered this incident vividly when they stood before Joseph in Egypt and when Joseph told them who he was. That is why they were so frightened of Joseph: “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled [they trembled] at his presence.” (Genesis 45:3). They were troubled all right. They knew what they had done and here was Joseph, alive, and the most powerful man save one, Pharaoh, in the world. They probably expected the worst. Joseph must have seen it in their eyes fore he told them, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)

The company of Ishmeelites was a mixed group of tribes travelling together in one caravan (the American use of the word caravan called arab, which means to mingle. The Persian language renders them araban, from the Chaldee. So you see, the Arabs of more modern times were then simply groups of mixed tribes from the Middle East. In Persian the whole phrase is translated into English thus: “a company of Arabs.” These commingled tribes eventually became associated as one nation, the Arab Nation. (Note: nation as opposed to state; one nation in several states.)

Genesis 37:26-27 “And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? {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.”

This is when the plan came together. There was some profit in murdering Joseph—they would be rid of him forever and would never have to put up with him again. But Judah had a better idea. Why not get rid of him and earn some money as well? And they would not have the blood of their own kin on their hands. Everyone was happy with this plan except Rueben, who was not there.

Genesis 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.”

It is not known how large the pieces of silver were. Some say they were shekels, some talents. There is a wide difference between a shekel (.365 Troy ounce) and a talent (91 Troy pounds), so it is difficult to tell. The price had to be low enough for the Ishmeelites to purchase a slave boy, so it is more than likely a modest sum. Joseph is a type of Christ and this twenty pieces of silver pointed to the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judah Iscariot. The Ishmeelites knew they could make a profit with Joseph in Egypt so they sold him there rather than keep him. He was more valuable to them as a commodity than he was as a servant. These seem like coincidences, but they were all part of God’s plan. I do not believe there are any coincidences in the life of a God-fearing man or woman.

Genesis 37:29-30 “And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. {30} And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?”

Rueben, Jacob’s firstborn, was responsible for Joseph and now he feared having to explain this to his father. The Hebrew sense of this statement is one of woe. He is woeful and asks “where shall I go now?” or “what shall I do now?” He was worried about his own standing with his father and not about Joseph’s well-being. He ripped his clothes for himself and not for Joseph.

Genesis 37:31 “And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;”

A “kid of goats” is literally the fawn of a nanny (or she-goat). They would have been able to eat the flesh of this kid, which they most likely did.

Genesis 37:32-33 “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. {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.”

We have already discussed the coat of many colors is a previous verse (above). The fact that it was a unique coat made especially for Joseph was proof positive that it belonged to him. There was no doubt in Jacob’s mind that it was Joseph’s coat. In that day there was no way to test blood to see if it is human or otherwise, so Jacob had no way to prove whether or not it was Joseph’s blood. He listened to his sons who told him they found it. It was left up to Jacob’s imagination what caused it to have blood on it. He naturally jumped to the conclusion that his son had shed his blood upon the coat due to an attack by a wild animal. His sons did not correct him upon the matter. Isn’t it amazing just how debased these patriarchs of Israel were?

Genesis 37:34-35 “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. {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.”

Let us not overlook this verse. I have never lost a child, but I have known several who have. Their sense of utter, irreplaceable loss is all consuming. There is no immediate comfort for them. Even Christian parents who know their child was a Christian are impossible to comfort. Yes they have comfort in the knowledge that their child is with the Father, but their grief is not lessened. Their loss is still very real and very hurtful. I never really know what to say or do in those situations because empathy is difficult when they and not you have suffered the loss. The only real thing anyone can do is to just be there for them. It is impossible to assuage their loss. Nothing you can say or do will ever replace their child. This applies to the loss of little children and to the loss of adult children. The saddest funerals I have ever attended were the funeral of a one-year-old child and the funeral of a twenty-one year old child.

I said all of these things to help you realize the utter sense of loss that Jacob felt. He could not be comforted. Time helps to lessen the hurt, but the memory will never go away. The memory is carried to the grave. Jacob was so upset that he said he would carry his mourning for Joseph to the grave with him. Luckily, we know that Jacob did not have to carry his mourning to the grave. His mourning turned to joy when he learned that Joseph lived.

Genesis 37:36 “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.”

From this point until the end of Genesis, the story concerns Joseph in Egypt.

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