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Genesis - Chapter 37

Bible Study Notes

Genesis 37:1-4 Living in the land of Canaan, Jacob and his family were just living life. Joseph, who was Jacob's favorite son tattled on his older brothers from Bilhah and Zilpah when they were out pasturing the flock. Jacob made him a special robe and treated him better than all his sons. Joseph's brothers hated him because he was their father's favorite and because he ratted them out when they were up to no good.

Notes: Joseph's actions may have alienated him from his brother's, but this also implies that he is more righteous than his brothers, which explains and intensifies the brother's hostility toward him. Although it is not specified here, in Genesis dreams are normally associated with divine revelations a robe of many colors. The Septuagint (LXX) favored this translation of the Hebrew phrase used by Moses, although some prefer “a long-sleeved robe” or “an ornamented tunic.” It marked the owner as the one whom the father intended to be the future leader of the household, an honor normally given to the firstborn son.

Genesis 37:5-8 Joseph dreamed, like his sheaf, that he would rise up to a position of leadership over his brothers who would bow down to him. Joseph's brothers hated him even more. They could never accept Joseph ruling over them, especially since he was not the first-born.

Genesis 37:9-11 Joseph dreamed again, but this time it involved his father and mother bowing to him. Jacob rebuked Joseph. His brothers were jealous, but Jacob kept this in his mind (or continued to ponder the meaning of the dreams)

Genesis 37:12-17 Jacob sent Joseph to check up on his brothers who were pasturing the flock near Shechem and then return and let him know how is brothers and the flock were doing. Joseph didn't find them in Shechem. He came upon a man who told him they were in Dothan, so Joseph went another 16 to 20 miles further north to seek his brothers and the flock and found them.

Genesis 37:18-24 Joseph's brothers were furious that Joseph found them in Dothan. They may have purposely took off to Dothan to hide from the stool pigeon. They decided, with no witnesses around, especially their father, to get rid of Joseph once and for all. Reuben suggested to throw him in a pit and let fate decide what would become of him. His plan was really to rescue Joseph out the pit later when his brothers weren't looking and bring him home safely. They agreed to Rueben's plan. When Joseph came, they stripped him the robe his father had made him and through him in an empty pit.

Notes: Reuben may have been more concerned about looking good in his father's eyes after what he had done shamefully with Bilhah and hopefully still get the first born-promise.

Notes: This scenario resembles the life of Jesus very closely. The father sent his son to the world to be worshiped by his creation, but his own rejected him and plotted to kill the one that would have the inheritance.

Genesis 37:25-28 Judah came up with a brilliant idea as he watched a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to trade in Egypt. Instead of killing their brother and the guilt and terrible sin that went along with it, he figured we can get rid of him and profit at the same time. His plan was to sell Joseph into slavery. Joseph would be sent to Egypt and be enslaved with no hope of ever returning again. The brothers agreed, and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him for twenty shekels of silver.

Notes: This criminal behavior would later be prohibited by the Mosaic legislation
(Ex. 21:16 - “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. Deut. 24:7 - “If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.

Notes: twenty shekels of silver. This was the average price of a slave at that time in the second millennium b.c. Although most slaves were part of the booty of military conquest, private and commercial slave-trading was also common. Joseph was sold into slavery c. 1897 b.c.

Genesis 37:29-31 Reuben, who was not with his brothers at the time when Judah came up with idea of selling Joseph, returned to the pit to find Joseph gone. He tore his clothes, which was a visible sign of intense anguish and pain, often linked to mourning. Reuben’s grief and despair might center not on the loss of Joseph himself but on his own lost opportunity to regain his father’s favor. They dipped Joseph's robe in goat’s blood to come up with some alibi as to what happened to Joseph.

Genesis 37:32-34 Returning home, the brothers presented Joseph's bloody robe to Jacob and concealed the fact that they never even saw Joseph, but found this robe that looked very much like Joseph's robe and wanted their father to identify it. Jacob confirmed the robe was Joseph’s and was convinced that Joseph was devoured by a wild animal. Jacob mourned for many days.

Notes: Jacob’s deception by his sons, using Joseph’s cloak and a slaughtered goat, mirrors the way Jacob had deceived his own father by using Esau’s cloak and two goatskins.

Genesis 37:35 Jacob's family tried to console and comfort him, but Jacob rejected their comfort and instead resolved that he would mourn Joseph until he died and went to be with Joseph in Sheol. “Sheol” is the proper name for the place where people go after death. This is how much Jacob loved Joseph.

Genesis 37:35 Joseph was sold to Potiphar, an officer and captain of the guard of Pharaoh of Egypt as a slave.


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