Genesis 37


1. HAVING disposed, in the preceding section, of the line of Esau by a

brief sketch of its historical development during the two and a half

centuries intervening between the founding of the Edomite empire by

Esau’s withdrawing to Mount Seir, and the days of Moses, the narrative

reverts to the fortunes of the house of Jacob, the story of which, after

having suffered a temporary interruption, it likewise carries forward to the

same point of rest, viz., to the period of the sojourn in Egypt. Commencing

with a glance at the inner family life of the patriarch at Mamre in the vale

of Hebron, where, on returning from Padanaram, he had finally established

himself beside his aged and bedridden father Isaac, it recites the tragic

incidents connected with the sale of Joseph by his brethren, after which,

first rehearsing the further wickedness of Jacob’s sons in the matter of

Tamar, it pursues his eventful career from the moment of his entering

Egypt as a Slave in the household of Potiphar to the time when, arrayed in

fine linen and decorated with a golden necklace, he rode in the second state

chariot as Pharaoh’s prime minister and ruler over all the land. Then,

detailing the various circumstances arising from the famine which led to his

discovery of his brethren, it ends by describing the descent of Jacob and his

sons into Egypt and their settlement in Goshen, the death of Jacob after

delivering his last prophetic blessing to his sons, and finally the decease of

Joseph himself at the age of 110 years, when, as we learn from the

subsequent narrative in Exodus, having lost their protector at the Court,

and a dynastic change having taken place upon the throne, of Pharaoh, the

sons of Israel gradually sank into oppressive and exhausting bondage.


2. By those who repudiate the Mosaic authorship of Genesis the present

section is variously distributed among the alleged candidates for the honor

of its composition. Beyond the ascription of ch. 38., to the Jehovist,

there is the most complete absence of unanimity among partitionists as to

whom the different portions are to be assigned.  Here, vs. 2-36, which

Tuch declares to be the work of the Elohist, Bleek affirms to have been

tampered with by the Jehovist, while Davidson divides it between a

younger Elohist, the Jehovist, and a subsequent redactor. Ch. 39, is,

according to Davidson, almost exclusively the composition of the Jehovist;

while, according to Bleek, it has proceeded nearly entire from the pen of

the Elohist, and Tuch divides it pretty evenly between the two. Tuch again

thinks that chapters 40-50, have been supplied by the fundamental

document, and Bleek recognizes alterations by the hand of the

supplementer; but Davidson apportions most of them to the Jehovist,

giving the fragments that remain to the younger Elohist and the late

redactor. The insufficient character of the grounds on which such

assignments are made will be noted in the opposition; in the mean time the

remark is pertinent that their very diversity is one of the strongest indirect

proofs of the Mosaic authorship of the entire composition.


1 “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a

stranger (literally, in the land of the sojournings of his father), in the

land of Canaan.” This verse is not the commencement of the ensuing (Keil,

Kalisch, Lange, &c.), but the concluding sentence of the present, section,

the adversative particle ו,, corresponding to the δε of the Septuagint,

introducing a contrast between Esau, who dwelt in Mount Seir, and Jacob,

who dwelt in the land of Canaan, and the following verse beginning the

next division of the book with the customary formula, “These are the

generations” (Septuagint, some manuscripts, Quarry, p. 523). Rosenmüller less

happily connects the present verse with ch. 35:29; the Vulgate begins the

next section with v. 3. A similar division of verses to that proposed will

be found in ch. 25:11.


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.”   These are the generations of Jacob. The

opening of a new section as ch. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12;

25:19; 36:1).  Joseph, the son of Rachel, and born in Padan-aram (ch. 30:24) –

being seventeen years old, - literally, a son of seventeen years, thus making

Jacob 108 - was feeding the flock with his brethren; - literally, was shepherding;

not his brethren (Bush), but with his brethren, in, or among, the flock - and the

lad was - literally, and he a lad, aetate, moribus et innocentia (Lyra), non

tantum aetate sed et ministerio (Poole), but most probably designed simply

as a note of his age. Pererius, following the Vulgate, connects the clause with

what precedes; Calvin, Dathius, Lange, Murphy, Kalisch, and others conjoin

it with the words that follow; the Septuagint, Willet, Rosenmüller, Keil,

Ainsworth, Bush, &c. regard it as a parenthetical statement - with - not in the

capacity of a servant (Vatablus) or of a ward (Kalisch), but of a companion –

the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. With these

rather than the sons of Leah, as being less supercilious and haughty than the

children of the first wife (Lawson), or as being less opposed to him than they

(Lange), or more probably as being nearer to his own age than they (Keil),

or perhaps as having been brought more into contact with the handmaids'

children, and in particular with those of Bilhah, Rachel's maid, who may have

been to him as a mother after Rachel's death (Rosenmüller). And Joseph

brought unto his (rather, their) father their evil report. Not accusavit fratres

suos apud patrem crimine pessimo (Vulgate), or κατὴνεγκαν ψόλον πονηρὸν

προς Ισραὴλ τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶνkataenegkan psolon ponaeron pros Israel

ton patera autonbrought an evil report of them to Israel their father (Septuagint),

as if Joseph drew down upon himself their calumnious reports, but carried to his

father an evil report concerning them (Kalisch); not informed him of what he

himself saw of their evil deeds (Lawson), though this need not be excluded,

but repeated the דִּבָּה, or fama, always of a bad character (Rosenmüller),

which was circulating in the district respecting them - tunics rumores qui

subinde de iis spargebantur (Dathius); - the noun being derived from an

onomatopoetic root, דָּבַב, signifying to go slowly, or to creep about.


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 colors.”

Now (literally, and) Israel loved Joseph more than all his children (literally, sons),

because he was the son of his old age - literally, a son of old age (was) he to him;

not a son possessing the wisdom of advanced years (Onkelos), but a son born in

his old age (Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), which was literally true of Joseph,

since he was born in his father's ninety-first year. Yet as Joseph was only a year or

two younger than the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, and as Benjamin was still later

born than he, the application of this epithet to Joseph has been explained on the

ground that Benjamin was at this time little more than a child (Keil), and had not

much come into notice (Murphy), or perhaps was not born when this portion

of the narrative was originally written ('Speaker's Commentary); or that Joseph

had obtained the name before Benjamin's birth, and that it had clung to him

after that event (Inglis). Josephus ('Ant.,' 2:02, 1) gives another reason for

Jacob's partiality which is not inconsistent with the statement in the text, viz.,

the beauty of his person and the virtue of his mind, διὰ τε τὴν τοῦ σώματος

εὐγένειαν καὶ διά ψυχῆς ἀρετής dia te taen tou somatos eugeneian kai

dia psuchaes aretaes. And he made him a coat of many colors - literally,

a coat (kithoneth, from kathan, to cover; see ch. 3:21) of ends (Keil, Lange),

i.e. a tunic reaching to the ankles, and with sleeves reaching to the wrists,

and commonly worn by boys and girls of the upper ranks (Josephus, 'Ant.,'

7:08, 9; II Samuel 13:18), or a coat of pieces (Kalisch, T. Lewis, Wordsworth);

hence a variegated garment, χιτὼν ποικίλοςchiton poikilosmany colors

 (Septuagint), tunica polymita (Vulgate), a coat of many colors (Murphy, 'Speaker's

Commentary'). "Such garments are represented on some of the monuments of Egypt.

At Beni-Hassan, for example, there is a magnificent excavation forming the tomb

of Pihrai, a military officer of Osirtasen I., in which a train of foreign captives

appears, who are supposed to be Jebusites, an inscription over one person in the

group reading, "The Chief of the Land of the Jebusites. 'The whole of the captives

are clad in parti-colored garments, and the tunic of this individual in particular

may be called "a coat of many colors" (Thornlcy Smith, 'Joseph and his Times,'

p. 12). It has been supposed that Jacob's object in conferring this distinction

on Joseph was to mark him out as the heir to whom the forfeited birthright

of Reuben (I Chronicles 5:1) was to be transferred (Kurtz, Lange, Gerlach,

Bush, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary,' &c.); but the historian only

mentions it as a token of affection, such as was customary in those times

for princes to bestow upon their subjects, and parents on their children

(see Thornley Smith, 'Joseph and his Times,' p. 11). Roberts says the same

thing is still done among the Hindus, crimson, purple, and other colors being

often tastefully sewed together for beautiful or favored children (see 'Oriental

Illustrations,' p. 43).


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.”

And when (literally, and) his brethren saw that their father loved him more

 than all his brethren, they (literally, and they) hated him, - as Esau hated

Jacob (ch. 27:41; compare ch. 49:23) - and could not speak peaceably unto him

literally, they were not able to speak of him for peace, L e. they could not address

him in such a way as to wish him well; they could not offer him the customary

salutation of Shalom, or Peace.


5 “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated

him yet the more.”  And Joseph dreamed a dream (in which, though, as the sequel

shows, intended as a Divine communication, there was nothing to distinguish it

from an ordinary product of the mind), and he told it to his brethren: - not in pride,

since there is no reason to suppose that Joseph as yet understood the celestial origin

of his dream but in the simplicity of his heart (Kalisch, Murphy), though in doing so

he was also guided, unconsciously it may be, but still really, by an overruling

providence, who made use of this very telling of the dream as a step towards

its fulfillment (Lawson) - and they hated him yet the more - literally, and they

added again to hate him.



Joseph at Home (vs. 2-4)


“Joseph, being seventeen years old.” Picturesque scene is the

encampment of Jacob. How well the dark camel-hair tents harmonize with

the general character of the spots in which they are pitched. Peace and

purity should dwell there. Ten men of the tribe of Jacob are most depraved,

but their characters only threw into brighter prominence that of Joseph. It

is probable that Jacob gave greater attention to the training of Joseph than

to that of his brethren. He showed favoritism also. His act of giving him a

garb of varied color may not altogether have been so foolish and weak as

sometimes it has been supposed to be. It was simply an ordinary Eastern

way of indicating that Joseph was to be the future leader and sheik of the

encampment. Think of Joseph’s home life, and learn:



PREPARE FOR FUTURE LIFE. Doubtless Jacob would tell Joseph of the

promises of God to Abraham, of the tradition of the Deluge and the Fall;

probably also of his own fleeing from home, and his dream in the desert,

when he saw “the great altar-stair sloping through darkness up to God,”

and the angels ascending and descending. Joseph always afterwards has

great faith in dreams. No book had he. The Bible was not written.

Traditions and oral teaching formed his mental training.



EMPLOYMENT. His father loved him too dearly to allow him to grow up

in habits of idleness. He learned to handle the crook and to become a

faithful messenger. No work is to be despised, for all may be a preparation

for future usefulness.



WRONGDOING. The lives of Joseph’s brethren were sinful, and their

doings deceitful. Some things he is obliged to know about of which it is

dangerous to keep silence. The welfare of the whole tribe was being risked

by the elder brothers, and Joseph, fearing that, tells his father, or seeks

counsel that he may be strengthened to resist evil influence.



FUTURE. The two dreams concerning the sheaves, and the sun and moon

and stars, brought hate from his brethren, but they had an influence on

Joseph’s after life. They were remarkably fulfilled. We all have some such

visions. We build “castles in the air.” The stern realities of life tone down

our dreams. It is well to have some such dreams. Without them few make

any advance in life. We are not to be like mere senseless stones, but

growing plants. Better is it to bear fruit than to wait to become only the

sport of circumstances.


6 “And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:”

Though Joseph did not certainly know that his dream was supernatural, he may

have thought that it was, the more so as dreams were in those times commonly

regarded as mediums of Divine communication; and in this case it was clearly

his duty to impart it to the household, and all the more that the subject of it

seemed to be for them a matter of peculiar importance. In the absence of

information to the contrary, we are warranted in believing that there was nothing

either sinful or offensive in Joseph s spirit or manner in making known his dreams.

That which appears to have excited the hostility of his brethren was not the mode

of their communication, but the character of their contents.


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.”  For (literally, and), behold, we were binding

sheaves - literally, binding things bound, i.e. sheaves, alumim, from alam, to bi9 nd;

the order of the words and the participial form of the verb indicating that the

speaker describes the vision as it appeared to his mind  - in the field, - literally,

in the middle of the field; from which it would appear that Jacob was not a mere

nomad, but carried on agricultural operations like his father Isaac (ch. 26:12) –

and, lo, - "the הֵנּה, as repeated in his narration, shows that he had a presentiment

of something great" (Lange) - my sheaf arose, and also stood upright (literally,

stood, i.e. placed itself upright, and remained so); and, behold, your sheaves stood

round about, and made obeisance - i.e. bowed themselves down (compare ch. 23:7,

Abraham bowing to the Hethites) - to my sheaf. The fulfillment of this dream

occurred in Egypt (see Genesis 42:6;  43:26;  44:14).


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.” And his brethren (who had no difficulty in

interpreting the symbol's significance) said to him (with mingled indignation

and contempt), Shalt thou indeed reign over us? - literally, reigning, wilt thou

reign? i.e. wilt thou actually reign over us? the emphasis resting on the action

of the verb - or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? The form of expression

is the same as that of the preceding clause. And they hated him yet the more

(literally and they added again to hate him) for (i.e. on account of) his dreams,

and for (or, on account of) his words.


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.  And he dreamed yet another dream, -

the doubling of the dream was designed to indicate its certainty (compare ch. 41:32) –

and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and,

behold, the sun (הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, the minister, from Chaldee root שְׁמַשׁ, the pael of which

occurs in Daniel 7:10) and the moon - הַיּרֵחַ, probably, if the word be not a primitive,

the circuit-maker, from the unused root יָרַח, =  אָרַח, to go about (Furst); or the

yellow one, from יָרַח =  יָרַק, to be yellow, ח and ק being interchanged (Gesenius) –

and the eleven stars - rather, eleven stars, כּוכָבִים, globes, or bails, from כָּבַב,

to roll up in a ball (see ch. 1:10) - made obeisance to me - literally, bowing

themselves to me, the participles being employed ut supra, v. 7. It is apparent

that Joseph understood this second dream, even more plainly than the first,

to foreshadow, in some way unexplained, his future supremacy over his brethren,

who were unmistakably pointed out by the eleven stars of the vision; and this

remarkable coincidence between the number of the stars and the number of his

brethren would facilitate the inference that his parents were referred to under the

other symbols of the sun and moon. In the most ancient symbology, Oriental and

Grecian as well as Biblical (Numbers 24:17), it was customary to speak of noble

personages, princes, etc., under such figures; and the employment of such terminology

by a nomadic people like the Hebrew patriarchs, who constantly lived beneath the

open sky, may almost be regarded as a water-mark attesting the historic credibility

of this page at least of the sacred record.


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?  And he told it to his father, and to his brethren - whom it manifestly

concerned, as, for the like reason, he had reported the first dream only to his brethren.

That he does not tell it to his mother may be an indication that Rachel was by this

time dead. And his father rebuked him, - either to avoid irritating his brethren

(Calvin), or to repress an appearance of pride in Joseph (Lange, Murphy, Inglis),

or to express his own surprise (Candlish) or irritation (Keil), or sense of the absurdity

of the dream (Lawson), which he further demonstrated when he added - and said

unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed! Shall I and thy mother -

(1) "Rachel, who was neither forgotten nor lost" (Keil), who may possibly have

been living at the date of the dream ('Speaker's Commentary'), though then

Joseph could not 'have had eleven brothers; who, being dead, was referred to in

order to show the impossibility of its ever being fulfilled (Kalisch, Pererius); or

(2) Leah, as the chief mistress of Jacob's household (Willet, Hughes, Inglis); or
so when he recognized Joseph's greatness and depended on him

for support (ch. 47:12). It is certain that Leah died before the immigration to

Egypt (ch. 49:31), and it cannot be determined whether Bilhah or Zilpah went

to Egypt - to the earth. Jacob seems here, by intensifying Joseph's language,

to resent the claim wh

(3) Bilhah, Rachel,s maid, who had probably acted as Joseph s mother after Rachel's

death (Jewish interpreters, Grotius, and others); or, what seems more probable,

(4) the term "mother" is here introduced simply for the sake of giving completeness

to the symbol (Kurtz, Murphy) - and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves

to thee - Joseph's brethren ultimately did so in Egypt (ch. 42:6); Joseph's father

practically did ich it conveyed.


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

And his brethren envied him. The verb קָנָא (unused in Kal), to become red

in the face, seems to indicate that the hatred of Joseph's brethren revealed itself

in scowling looks. But his father observed the saying - literally, kept the word,

διετήρησε τὸ ῥῆμα  - dietaeraese to rhaemakept this saying in mind (Septuagint).

Compare Daniel 7:28; Luke 2:51.



Joseph in His Hather’s House (vs. 2-11)




Ø      With them in the sense of as well as them. That is to say, Joseph no

more than the other sons of his father was trained to indolence. It is the

duty of parents to educate their children in some useful and honorable

calling. Even when not required for procuring daily bread, it is of

advantage as a means of withdrawing one from temptations which would

otherwise beset him, while it largely enhances the enjoyment of existence,

and enables one to contribute more or less directly to the sum of human

happiness. Adam. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and even Laban, all brought up

their sons to honest toil.


Ø      With them in the sense of like them. That is, he was, as they had been

before him, instructed in the business of a husbandman and shepherd.

There is evidence that Jacob combined the callings of an agriculturist as

well as sheep-farmer, and trained his boys to sow and reap and bind

sheaves as well as tend the flocks and herds on his estate. From this,

however, it were wrong to argue that all the children in a family should be

trained alike, or put to learn the same craft or profession. In Jacob’s day

and Joseph’s there was little choice of openings for young men who had

aspirations above the crook or the plough. But in these times the

avocations of men are as diverse as their gifts; and in all respects it is better

more beneficial to society at large, and more advantageous for the

individual - that a wise discrimination be exercised by parents and guardians

in selecting spheres of labor for those dependent on or entrusted to them

that shall be suited to their gifts and tastes.


Ø      With them in the sense of beside them. Joseph accompanied his brethren

when they tended the flocks or reaped the ripened grain, and in particular

associated himself, for reasons suggested in the Exposition, with the sons

of Bilhah and Zilpah. It was a privilege which Joseph enjoyed that he did

not need to go from home to learn his trade; and doubtless Joseph’s

amiable disposition would make the society of his father’s sons more

agreeable to him than the company of strangers.




Ø      By his father.


o        The ground of Jacob’s partiality for Joseph. He was the son of Jacob’s

old age. However this expression may be explained (see Exposition), the

amount of it seems to be that Joseph had come to gladden Jacob’s heart

after a considerable period of waiting, and at a time when Jacob was

beginning to feel himself an old man. Hence more than to any of his

other children Jacob’s affections went out to the firstborn of Rachel,

and this affection could not fail to strengthen after Rachel’s death.

It is just possible also that it was kept alive and fostered by a

reminiscence of Rachel’s beauty, which he saw reproduced in the

well-proportioned frame and finely-cut features of the growing lad.

Anyhow, Jacob’s fondness for Joseph was palpable; and without

affirming that it was right, it may at least be contended that it was

natural, the more especially when Joseph’s piety is contrasted

with the notorious wickedness of Jacob’s other sons.


o        The exhibition of Jacob’s partiality for Joseph. Many parents who

find themselves in Jacob’s situation, drawn to one child more than

another in their families, make an effort at least to conceal a preference

which in their inmost hearts they cannot but feel to be justifiable. But

Jacob, with a sad lack of prudence, displayed his superior estimation

of Rachel’s son by presenting him with a rich and valuable coat of ends

or pieces (see Exposition). As might have been expected, such a mark

of preference was distasteful to his other children, and, had it not been

for Joseph’s superior character, might have been morally hurtful to

Joseph himself. As it was, it was no kindness to Joseph, but only a

foolish gratification to Joseph’s father.


Ø      By God. Joseph was honored to receive dreams prophetic of his future

greatness. The first, the dream of the bowing sheaves, was a Divine

foreshadowing of his advancement above his brethren; and the second, the

dream of the nodding orbs, of his elevation above all the members of his

family. Even had they not concerned himself at all, to have been made the

recipient of Divine communications was an honor; much more when these

communications related to his own exaltation. This preference of Joseph

was unquestionably gracious, but it was also natural (I Samuel 2:30)




Ø      The cause of their hatred. This was:


o        The superior place which he enjoyed in their father s affection (v. 4).

Parents may here observe the danger of cherishing, and especially of

manifesting, a preference of one member of the family above another.

Unless in very exceptional circumstances, all are equally entitled to a

father’s care and a mother’s love.


o        The superior piety he displayed above themselves. It is difficult to

credit the actors in the Shechemite and Dothan tragedies with anything in

the shape of religion. Certainly they were not looked upon as exemplary

characters by those who had the misfortune to live beside them. Out of

their father’s sight they shook off any little restraint which his presence

may have inspired. Their scandalous behavior became the talk of every

neighborhood they chanced to visit; and Joseph hearing it, as in duty

bound, reported it to Jacob. Not that the mere reporting of it at home

would much concern these reckless youths. Possibly it would exasperate

their minds against their brother. But the thing which would incense them

most would be the disinclination which he showed to run with them into

the same excess of riot.  (I Peter 4:4)


o        The superior honor he received from God. The brethren clearly enough

understood the dreams to contain a prognostication of Joseph’s future, else

why did they allow themselves to become inflamed with anger on account

of a foolish boy s fancies? At least they believed Joseph regarded them in

this light, and they hated him on that account.


Ø      The progress of their hatred.


o        They omitted to give him the customary salutation of Shalom. It is

a bad sign when a man declines to exchange friendly greetings with

his neighbor, and much more with his brother.


o        They passed on to deep and bitter hatred. They hated him yet the

more for his dreams and his words. Evil passions have a tendency to

grow, and should be nipped in the bud. Obsta principiis (resist the



o        They envied him; the fierce malignity of their enraged spirits

burning in their bosoms, suffusing their countenances with

ominous looks and angry scowls, and generally expressing

itself in dislike, irritation, and annoyance.


Ø      The end of their hatred. It was impossible that the gathering storm

should continue long without bursting. All things mundane, evil as

well as good, strive after completeness. “Lust, when it hath conceived,

bringeth forth sin: sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”

(James 1:15).  Hence, “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer”

(I John 3:15); initially in thought, and ultimately, granting time and

opportunity, in deed. The murderous feeling of Joseph’s brethren

very speedily found occasion to become the fratricidal act.


12 “And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.”

I.e. the modern Nablous, in the plain of Muknah, which belonged to Jacob partly

by purchase and partly by conquest (see ch. 33:19; 34:27). Shechem was at a

considerable distance from the vale of Hebron, where the patriarchal family at

this time resided.


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.”

And Israel (see ch. 32:28; 35:10) said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the

flock (literally, Are not thy brethren shepherding?) in Shechem? come, and I will

send thee unto them. Either he:


·         was solicitous of the safety of his sons while in the vicinity of Shechem, or

·         he hoped to effect a reconciliation between them and Joseph.


And he (i.e. Joseph, in response to this invitation, expressed a willingness to

undertake a mission to his brethren, and) 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.”  And he (Jacob) said to him, Go, I pray thee,

see whether it be well with thy brethren (literally, see the place of thy brethren),

and well with the flocks (literally, and the peace of the flock); and bring me word

again. So (literally, and) he sent him out of the vale of Hebron (see ch. 35:27),

and he same to Shechem - a distance of sixty miles.


15 “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.”  And a certain man

(or simply a man) found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field (obviously

seeking some thing or person): and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

And he said, I seek my brethren: - or, more emphatically, My Brethren I (am)

seeking - tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks - or, Where (are) they





Joseph Leaving Home (vs. 14-15)


“Go, I pray thee, see whether, see whether it be well with thy brethren.”  Joseph left

home unexpectedly. He knew not when he left it to seek his brethren that he would

never come back again. After a longer journey than he anticipated Joseph finds his



  • Like many leaving home, JOSEPH MET WITH FAITHFUL GUIDES.

There are generally companions, teachers, ministers to help.


  • Like many leaving home, JOSEPH FELL INTO SNARES. He could not

help himself. The snares were not such as were willingly entered. The

wicked entrapped him. On This youth, far from home, defenseless, and

kindly-intentioned, nine cowardly men fell.


  • Like many away from home, JOSEPH FOUND THAT GOD CARED


the means of saving him from death. Sold into slavery, he was still on the

highway to eminence. We have to beware of hateful and murderous

thoughts, remembering “that he that hateth his brother is” (so far as intent

goes) “a murderer.” In all journeyings we have to commit our way unto the

Lord, and he will guide and defend.   (Proverbs 3:6)


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.”

And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to

Dothan - Dothaim, "the Two ells," a place twelve miles north of Samaria in the

direction of the plain of Esdraelon, situated on the great caravan road from

Mount Gilead to Egypt, the scene of one of the greatest miracles of Elisha the

prophet (II Kings 6:13-18), and, though now a deserted ruin, still called by its

ancient name. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

"Just beneath Tell Dothan, which still preserves its name, is the little oblong

plain, containing the best pasturage in the country, and well chosen by Jacob's

sons when they had exhausted for a time the wider plain of Shechem" (Tristram,

'Land of Israel,' p. 132; cf. Thomson, ' Land and Book,' p. 466).


18 “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them,

they conspired against him to slay him.”  And when (literally, and) they saw

him afar off, even (or, and) before he came near unto them, they (literally,

and they) conspired against him (or, dealt with him fraudulently) to slay him.


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

And they said one to another (literally, a man to his brother), Behold, this dreamer

literally, this lord of dreams - cometh - expressive of rancor, contempt, and hatred.


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.”  Come now therefore, and lot us slay him, and cast

him into some pit (literally, into one of the pits or cisterns in the neighborhood),

and we will say (to his father and ours), Some (literally, an) evil beast hath

devoured him (which will account for his disappearance); and we shall see

what will become of his dreams - or, what his dreams will be.


21 “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.”

And Reuben (the eldest son, and therefore probably regarding himself as in

some degree responsible for Joseph's safety) heard it, and he delivered him

out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him - literally, Let us not destroy

his life (nephesh). And Reuben said (further) unto them, Shed no blood, but

cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness (i.e. into a dry pit that was near),

and lay no hand upon him; that (the adverb indicates the purpose Reuben had

in view) he might rid him (translated above deliver him) out of their hands,

to deliver him (or, more correctly, to return him) to his father again.



God’s Providence and Man’s Responsibility (vs. 20-21)



THEIR OWN PLANS. The word to Abraham (ch. 15:13) does

not seem to have been thought of by Jacob. After long wandering he

seemed to be settled in Canaan. But God was bringing to pass His word.


Ø      Jacob’s injudicious fondness for Joseph,

Ø      the anger and murderous design of his brethren (compare

   John 11:50; Acts 3:17),

Ø      Reuben’s timid effort for his deliverance (compare Acts 5:38),

Ø      Judah’s worldly wise counsel (compare Luke 13:31),

Ø      Joseph’s imprisonment by Potiphar,

Ø      the conspiracy in Pharaoh’s household,


were so many steps by which the sojourn in Egypt was brought about.

So in the founding of the Christian Church. The writing on the cross

(John 19:20) pointed to three separate lines of history, two of them

pagan, which combined to bring about the sacrifice of Christ and

the spread of the gospel. So in the case of individuals. God s promises

are sure (II Corinthians 1:20). There may seem to be many hindrances,

from ourselves (Psalm 65:3) or from circumstances; but no cause for

doubt (Luke 12:32; 22:35). Unlikely or remote causes are often God’s

instruments. The envy of the Jews opened for St. Paul, through his

imprisonment, a door to the Gentiles which otherwise he would not have

had (Acts 21:28; Philippians 1:13).



GOOD (Compare Romans 9:19). The cruel act of his brethren brought about

the realizing of Joseph’s dreams, his greatness in Egypt, the support of the

whole family during the famine, and the fulfillment of God’s word; but not

the less was it wrong (ch. 42:21; compare Matthew 26:24). Moral

guilt depends not upon the result, but on the motive. God has given the

knowledge of redemption to move our will, and the example of Christ and

the moral law to guide our lives. The fulfillment of His purposes belongs to

Himself. He needs not our help to bring it to pass. It is not His will that we

should forsake His immutable rules of right and wrong, even for the sake

of bringing on the fulfillment of prophecy. Much evil has sprung from

neglect of this — e.g. the maxim, Faith need not be kept with heretics.

God’s will and promises are “Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou

dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.  Delight thyself also in the

Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way

unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.  (Psalm 37:3-5)



Our actions lead to their appropriate results (Galatians 6:8) at the same

time that they tend to carry out God’s purposes, whether we will or not.

Each one is a factor in the great plan which in the course of ages God is

working out (John 5:17). Men such as they are, wise or ignorant,

guided by the Spirit or resisting Him, loving or selfish, pressing upwards or

following worldly impulses, all are so directed by a power they cannot

comprehend that they bring about what He wills (Psalm 2:2-4). But

along with this there is a history which concerns ourselves, which we write

for ourselves, the issues of which depend immediately upon ourselves. To

each a measure of:


Ø      time,

Ø      knowledge,

Ø      opportunity


has been given, on the use of which the line of our course depends.

Nothing can turn aside the course of God’s providence; but upon our

faithfulness or unfaithfulness depends our place and joy in it. Hence

encouragement to work for Christ, however small our powers (I Samuel 14:6).

The little is accepted as well as the great; and as “workers together with him”

(II Corinthians 6:1) our work cannot be in vain.


23 “And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they

stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him;”

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they

stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors - i.e. his coat of ends,

or coat of pieces (see on v. 3) - 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.  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.”  And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and

the pit was empty, there was no water in it. Cisterns when empty, or only

covered with mud at the bottom, were sometimes used as temporary prisons

(Jeremiah 38:6;  40:15). And - leaving him, as they must have calculated,

to perish by a painful death through starvation, with exquisite cold-bloodedness,

paying no heed to his piteous outcries and appeals (ch. 41:21) - they sat down

(the callous composure of the act indicates deplorable brutality on the part of

Joseph's brethren) to eat bread (perhaps with a secret feeling of satisfaction,

if not also exultation, that they had effectually disposed of the young man and

his dreams): and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, Behold, a company

or chath, from arach, to walk; a band of travelers, especially of merchantmen;

a caravan; συνοδία ὁδοιπόροι  - sunodia hodoiporoi - (Septuagint; compare

Job 6:19)   of Ishmaelites - Arabs descended from Ishmael, who occupied the

district lying between Egypt and Assyria (ch. 25:18), and, as appears from the

record, carried on a trade with the former country. That Ishmael's descendants

should already have developed into a trading nation will not be surprising

(Bohlen) if one reflects that Ishmael may have married in his eighteenth or

twentieth year, i.e. about 162 years before the date of the present occurrence,

that four generations may have been born in the interval, and that, if Ishmael's

sons had only five sons each, his posterity in the fifth generation (not reckoning

females) may have amounted to 15,000 persons (Murphy). But in point of fact

the Ishmaelites spoken of are not described as nations - simply as a company

of merchants, without saying how numerous it was - came (literally, coming)

from Gilcad (see ch. 31:21) with (literally, and) their camels bearing spicery

נְכאת, either an infinitive from נָכָא, to break, to grind (?), and signifying a

pounding, breaking in pieces, hence aromatic powder (Gesenius); or a

contraction from נְכָאות (Ewald), meaning that which is powdered or pulverized.

Rendered θυμιαμάταthumiamataspices (Septuagint), aromata (Vulgate),

στύραξsturax - (Aquila), it was probably the gum tragacanth, many kinds of

which appear in Syria (Furst, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange,

Murphy), or storax, the resinous exudation of the styrax officinale, which

abounds in Palestine and the East (Aquila, Bochart, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary,'

Inglis) - and balm - ךצרִי (in pause צרי, after vau of union צְרִי), mentioned as one

of the most precious fruits of Palestine (ch. 43:11), rendered ῤητίνη raetinae

balm (Septuagint) and refina (Vulgate), and derived from צָוָה, to flow, to run (hence,

literally, an outflowing, or out-dropping). was unquestionably a balsam, but

of what tree cannot now be ascertained, distilling from a tree or fruit growing in

Gilead, and highly prized for its healing properties (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11). See

Lexicons (Gesenius and Furst) sub voce; Michaelis, 'Suppl.' p. 2142; Kalisch

in loco - and myrrh, - לֹט, στακτή - staktaemyrrh (Septuagint), stacte (Vulgate),

pistacia (Chaldee, Syriac, Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 1424), was more probably

ladanum (Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), an odoriferous

gum formed upon the leaves of the cactus-rose, a shrub growing in Arabia,

Syria, and Palestine (see-Herod., 3:112; Pliny, 'N. H., 12:37; Celsius, 'Hierob.,'

L 280-288) - going - the caravan route from Gilead crossed the Jordan in the

neighborhood of Bersan, and, sweeping through Jenin and the plain of Dothan,

joined another track leading southwards from Damascus by way of Ramleh

and Gaza (see Robinson, 3:27, and cf. Tristram, 'Land of Israel,' p. 132) –

to carry it down to Egypt. At that time the land of the Pharaohs was the

chief emporium for the world's merchandise.




Joseph Among His Brethren at Dothan (vs. 12-25)




Ø      Its local destination. This was Shechem, at a distance of sixty miles

from Hebron, where Jacob had previously resided for a number of years

and acquired a small estate (ch. 33:18-19), where Jacob’s sons

had committed, a few years before, the terrible atrocity which made the

name of Israel stink throughout the land (ch. 34:26-30); and where

now Joseph’s brethren were shepherding their flocks, having gone thither

either on account of the excellent pasture, or in order to be beyond the

reach of Joseph and his tale-bearing, or perhaps with a mind to keep an

eye on their father’s estate.


Ø      Its kindly intention. Joseph was dispatched to this important sheep

station in the north to require after the welfare of his brethren. That Jacob

should have sent a son so tender and beloved on a journey so arduous and

an errand so fraught with danger to himself, considering the well-known

hostility of his brethren towards him, if a proof of Jacob’s want of

consideration, was also a mark of his parental solicitude for his sons’

behavior, as well as a sign of his apprehensions for their safety, venturing,

as they had, to revisit the scene of their former crimes, and perhaps it may

be added, an indication of his desire to effect a reconciliation between

Joseph and his brethren.


Ø      Its cheerful susception. Though realizing better than his father did the

perilous character of the enterprise, in consequence of knowing more

exactly than his father the depth of malignant feeling entertained towards

him by his brethren, Joseph did not hesitate to comply with his father’s

instructions, but, making nothing of the long journey, and keeping silent as

to the risks of increased hatred, if nothing more, which he must have

known that mission would entail upon him, cheerfully replied, Here am I.

What a bright example of true filial piety and obedience!


Ø      Its successful completion. Arriving at Shechem, he first failed to find his

brethren, and then lost his way, but ultimately, on being directed by a

stranger, discovered them at Dothan. The perseverance of Joseph in

carrying through his father’s commission may be profitably studied, as a

pattern to all to whom any sort of work, but more especially Christian

work, is entrusted.




Ø      Its innocent occasion — the approach of Joseph in his long-sleeved and

long-skirted tunic. Like a gunpowder train that has been carefully prepared,

and only wants the application of a spark to produce an explosion, the

brethren of Joseph were only needing some trifling incident to elicit all the

fratricidal hate which was already growing in their bosoms, and that

incident was supplied by the sight of the coat of ends. It was a striking

illustration of how great results frequently proceed from apparently

insignificant causes (James 3:4-5).


Ø      Its murderous character. It aimed at the destruction of Joseph’s life.

With unexampled unanimity, not a voice was raised against the proposal

(perhaps made by Simeon) to kill him and cast his lifeless body into a pit.

The proposal of Reuben must have been understood by the others as only a

more excruciatingly cruel way of inflicting death, viz., by starvation. See

here in Jacob’s family a development of the same spirit of murder as

existed in Adam’s. Like Cain, the sons of Jacob were of that wicked one,

and slew (in intention at least) their brother, and for the same reason

(I John 3:12).


Ø      Its impious design — to spoil his dreams. From this it is evident that they

regarded his dreams as a Heaven-sent prognostication of his future

greatness; else, if they regarded them as purely boyish fancies, why should

they have felt annoyed at what was so evidently groundless? Hence, in

seeking to prevent the realization of his dreams they were actually fighting

against God. But it is just precisely in proportion as wicked men see God’s

hand in any prophecy or program that they take measures to insure its

defeat (compare I Samuel 19:1).


Ø      Its ruthless execution. They took him and cast him into a pit. The crime

was perpetrated:


o        with insolent humiliation — they stripped the poor lad of his pretty


o        with violent brutality — they cast him into the pit; Jeremiah was let

down by cords (Jeremiah 38:6);

o        with relentless crueltythey heeded not his outcries and entreaties

(ch. 42:21-22); and;

o        with exquisite cold-bloodedness — having dispatched their infernal

business, with infinite nonchalance the ruffians sat down to eat bread,

to regale their appetites after a good day’s work.


  • THE ATTEMPTED RESCUE. The stratagem of Reuben was:


Ø      Mercifully designed. Reuben, in some respects was not a person to be

greatly admired, weak and vacillating in his character, and easily drawn

aside by stronger natures into sinful courses, appears in this matter to have

been the only one of Joseph’s brethren in whom the natural affections of a

brother were not completely overborne. Though he wanted the courage to

resist his stronger-minded brothers, he seems to have conceived the

purpose of saving, if he could, the life of Joseph. So far the stratagem was

good, only it was:


Ø      Timidly planned. The narrative would almost seem to convey that

Reuben in the first onset of his opposition to his brother’s nefarious

intentions had succeeded in wresting Joseph from their hands. Had he at

that moment asserted himself with vigor and boldness, as became the

firstborn of the house, he might have saved Joseph altogether. But, alas,

true to his feeble and timid character, he allowed himself to be

overcome by the clamors of his fiercer-natured brethren, and only

proposed that instead of imbruing their hands in Joseph’s blood they

should inflict on him the horrors of starvation. In making such a proposal

of course Reuben hoped to be able to effect his deliverance, in which he

might have succeeded, had he acted with promptitude and decision. But

instead his stratagem was:


Ø      Weakly carried through. Where Reuben was when his brethren were

comforting their hearts with a dinner after Joseph’s consignment to the

cistern, and concocting the matter of his sale, the narrative does not say;

but most likely he was by himself, deliberating, and resolving, and

hesitating, and delaying, instead of acting. Hence his stratagem was:


Ø      Completely defeated. By the time he had got his mind made up to act it

was too late. When he returned to the pit Joseph was gone, and, like many

another procrastinator, he could only bemoan his own folly.


26 “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.”  And Judah (apparently shrinking from the idea of murder) said unto

his brethren, What profit is it if (literally, what of advantage that) we slay our brother,

and conceal his blood? (i.e. and hide the fact of his murder). Come, and let us sell

him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him (literally, and our hand,

let it not be upon him, i.e. to slay him); for he is our brother and our flesh - or,

more expressly, our brother and our flesh he (compare ch. 29:14). And his brethren

were content - literally, hearkened, viz., to the proposal.


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.”  Then there passed by Midianites

merchantmen; - literally, and passed by the men, Midianites (by country), merchants

(by profession). On the different appellations given to the traders – see v. 36 - and

they - not the Midianites (Davidson), but Joseph's brethren - drew and lifted up

Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver

literally, for twenty (shekels) of silver; the price afterwards fixed for a boy between

five and twenty (Leviticus 27:5), the average price of a slave being thirty shekels

(Exodus 21:32), and Joseph only bringing twenty because he was a lad (Kurtz),

because the Midianites desired to make money by the transaction (Keil), perhaps

because-his brethren wished to avoid the reproach of having acted from love

of gain (Gerlach), but most probably because Joseph's brethren cared little

what they had for him, if so be they were rid of him (Lawson). On the term

keseph see ch. 20:16. And they brought Joseph into Egypt - where they in turn

disposed of their purchase, doubtless at a profit (v. 36).




Drawn from the Pit (v. 28)


“And they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit.” As a compromise

Joseph had been thrown into a pit. His brothers at first intended to murder

him. Their intention was almost as bad as a murder. The Scriptures tell us

that “he that hateth his brother is a murderer.” (I John 3:15)  And one writer

says, “Many a man who has not taken a brother’s life, by indulgence of

malevolence, is in the sight of God a more sinful man than many who have

expiated their guilt on a scaffold.” Joseph only was the gainer in that life was

spared. To the brothers deep guilt appertained. They threw him into a pit to

perish, thinking possibly to lessen guilt by avoiding the actual shedding of blood.



snare came suddenly. He was forced in. He had acted as he believed rightly

in revealing the wicked deeds of his brethren, and he suffers for it. His

brothers seize the first opportunity of bringing reprisals upon him for what

they considered his officiousness. When alone they seized him. They were

ten men to one stripling. Coward brothers! “In with him,” they say. In the

pit’s depth is security, in its dryness speedy death. The pitfalls into which

many stumble or into which they are drawn are such as these:

circumstances being altogether unfavorable in life; or severe and

overpowering temptations to some special sin, as intemperance, passion, or

lust; or greed, or ambition, or spiritual pride. Debt, loss of character, and

despondency are also deep pitfalls. If we come to love evil for itself, that is

a very deep pit, and it adjoins that state which is hopeless. Many are drawn

into these pits by carelessness, indifference, and neglect, while others are

so entangled by circumstances and conditions of birth that the wonder is

that they ever escape.



PITFALLS. To Joseph it came at the right moment. It came in response to

earnest desire. The brothers thought to make a profit by his deliverance,

but God was saving him through their avarice and timidity. Joseph was

helpless. His brothers had to lift him out. We must feel our helplessness,

and then Christ is sure to deliver us from the pit of sin and despair. The

brothers of Joseph had low and mercenary aims in lifting up their brother;

Jesus is all love and self-sacrifice in the effort to save us. Nothing but the

long line of His finished work and fervent love could reach souls. When

brought up from the pit we shall not be inclined to praise ourselves. We

shall ascribe all the glory to Him who “brought us up out of the deep pit

and miry clay, and placed our feet upon a rock, and established our

goings.”  (Psalm 40:2)


29 “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?”  And Reuben (in whose absence apparently

the scheme of sale had been concocted and carried through) returned to the pit

(obviously with a view to deliver Joseph); and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit;

and he rent his clothes - a token of his mingled grief and horror at the discovery

(compare  v. 34; 44:13; II Samuel 13:31; II Kings 18:37; Job 1:20). And he

returned unto his brethren, and said, The child (or young man, as in ch. 4:23,

where יֶלֶד in the one hemistich is equivalent to אִישׁ in the other) is not; and I,

whither shall I go - i.e. however shall I account for his disappearance?


31 “And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped

the coat in the blood;  32 And they sent the coat of many colors, and they

brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether

it be thy son's coat or no.”  And they - i.e. Joseph's Brethren, including Reuben,

to whom manifestly the matter had been explained (Candlish thinks Reuben may

have been deceived by his brethren), and who lacked the courage either to expose

their wickedness or to dissent from their device for deceiving Jacob - took Joseph's

coat, and killed a kid of the goats, - more correctly, a he-goat of the goats, since the

name of goat seems to have belonged in a wider sense to other animals also (Gesenius);

usually understood to mean the somewhat older he-goat which was used as a sin

offering - Leviticus 16:9; 23:19; Numbers 7:16; 15:24 (Furst) - and dipped the coat

in the blood; and they sent the coat of many colors (see on v. 3), and they brought it

(or caused it to be brought by the hands of a servant) to their father, and said (of

course by the lips of the messenger), This have we found: know now whether it be

thy son's coat or no. Either Jacob's sons had not the fortitude to witness the first

outburst of his grief, or they had not the effrontery requisite to carry through their

scheme in their own persons, and were accordingly obliged to employ another,

probably a slave, to carry home the bloody coat to Jacob in Hebron.


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.”  And he knew it, and said, It is

my son's coat; an evil beast (see v. 20) hath devoured him (this was precisely

what his sons meant him to infer); Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces - טְרֹפ טֹרַפ,

the inf. abs. Kal with the Pual expressing undoubted certainty.


34 “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned

for his son many days.”  And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his

loins, - שָׂק (compare σάκοςσάκκος - sakossakkossack cloth, the usual dress

of mourners (II Samuel 3:31; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:1), was a coarse, thick haircloth,

of which corn sacks were also made (ch. 42:25), and which in cases of extreme mental

distress was worn next the skin (I Kings 21:27) - and mourned for his son many days.

Though twenty-two years elapsed before Jacob again beheld his son, and though

doubtless the old man's grief for the premature and, violent death, as he imagined,

of Rachel s child was little abated by the lapse, of time, yet the expression

"many days" may only be employed to mark the intensity of Jacob's sorrow,

which continued longer than the customary mournings of the period.


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.”  And all his sons

the criminals become comforters (Lange)- and all his daughters - either Jacob

had other daughters besides Dinah (Kalisch, Gerlach, 'Speaker's Commentary'),

or these included his daughters-in-law, the word being employed as in Ruth

1:11-12 (Willet, Bush, Murphy), or the term is used freely without being designed

to indicate whether he had one or more girls in his family (Augustine) - rose up to

comfort him (this implies the return of Jacob's brethren to Hebron); but he refused

to be comforted; and he said (here the thought must be supplied: It is vain to ask

me to be comforted), For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning

or, retaining the order of the Hebrew words, which is almost always more

expressive than those adopted by our translators, I will go down to my son

mourning to, or towards, in the direction of, Sheol. The term שְׁאֹל - more

fully שְׁאול, an infinitive absolute, for a noun, either:

(1) from שָׁאַל = שָׁעַל, to go down, to sink (Gesenius, Ftirst), signifying the

      hollow place; or,

(2) according to the older lexicographers and etymologists, from שָׁאַל, to ask,

      and meaning either the region which inexorably summons all men into

      its shade, the realm that is always craving because never satisfied

      (Keil, Murphy, Lange), or the land that excites questioning and wonder

      in the human heart, "the undiscovered country from whose destination no

      traveler returns" (T. Lewis) - is not the grave, since Jacob's son had no

      grave, but the place of departed spirits, the unseen world (ἍδηςHadaes

      Hades -  Septuagint) into which the dead disappear, and where they

      consciously exist (II Samuel 12:23). Thus (literally, and) his father

      (not Isaac) wept for him.



36 “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of

Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.”  And the Midianites - or Medanites,

descendants of Medan, a brother of Midian, both of whom were sons of Abraham

by Keturah (ch. 25:2). That the Arabian merchants are called Ishmaelites (v. 27),

Midianites (v. 28), and Medanites (here), is explained as an evidence of varying

legends (Tuch, Bleek, Davidson, Colenso), but is better accounted for as indicating

that the traders were composed of men of various nations (Clericus); that the

Midianites, Ishmaelites, and Medanites were often confounded from their common

parentage and closely similar habits (Keil); that the narrator did not intend to lay

stress upon the nationality, but upon the occupation, of the travelers (Havernick);

that the proprietors of the caravan were Ishmaelites, and the company attending

it Midianites or Medanites (Lange); that the Ishmaelites were the genus, and the

Midianites and Medanites the species, of the same nation (Rosenmüller, Quarry);

that the Midianites or Medanites were the actual purchasers of Joseph, while the

caravan took its name from the Ishmaelites, who formed the larger portion of it

(Murphy) - sold him into Egypt (i.e. having brought him into Egypt, perhaps,

as Luther conjectures, passing through Hebron on the way, sold him) unto Potiphar, -

the name is abbreviated from Poti-Pherah (ch. 41:50), i.e. he who belongs to the sun

(Gesenius, sub voce). The Septuagint render ΠετεφρήςPetephraes or Πετεφρῆ -

Petephrae - an officerסָרִיס, from סָרַס, an unused root signifying to pull up by

the roots, originally means a eunuch (Isaiah 56:3-4), such as Oriental monarchs

were accustomed to set over their harems (Esther 2:3, 14-15;  4:5), but is here

employed to denote an officer or courtier generally, without any reference to the

primary signification, since Potiphar was married - of Pharaoh's (see ch. 12:15),

and captain of the guard - literally, captain of the slaughterers, i.e. chief officer

of the executioners, the nature of whoso duties may be understood from the fact

that he was keeper of the State prison, "where the king's prisoners were bound"

(ch. 39:20).




Joseph Carried by Midianites to Egypt (26-36)




Ø      The wicked proposal. “Come, and let us sell him.”  By whatever motives

Judah was actuated, the notion that either he or his brethren had a right

thus to dispose of Joseph’s life was not simply an open violation of the

Divine law which constituted all men with equal fights, and in particular

made every man his brother’s keeper, not his brother’s destroyer or

proprietor, but a hideous discovery of the utter perversion of moral nature

which had taken place in the case of Joseph’s brethren. So low had they

now sunk, that they were become not alone without humanity, but without

natural affection as well.


Ø      The double reason.


o        The advantageous character of the proposed transaction is exhibited by

Judah, who doubtless understood the sort of arguments that would

weigh most powerfully with his brethren. Simply to assassinate the

hated stripling and conceal his blood might indeed gratify their feelings

of revenge, but would not do much to enrich them. Might it not be

possible to dispose of him more profitably than by the coarse way of

killing him? Then:


o        the humane aspect of the proposed transaction is pathetically dwelt

upon by Judah, — “he is our brother and our flesh,” — in which

perhaps may also be detected Judah’s subtle knowledge of human

nature, in reasoning that men who cared nothing for the claims of

humanity and brotherhood in themselves might be induced to do a

little cheap philanthropy by sparing Joseph, after they had first been

made to see that it would likewise be profitable. Judah’s last remark

was a master-stroke which overbore every vestige of opposition:

his brethren were content.”


Ø      The favorable opportunity. Many wicked schemes are happily never

carried through because the opportunity is wanting — thanks to Divine

providence! But, on the other hand, thousands of nefarious crimes are born

of the opportunity — thanks to the sinful ingenuity of the fallen heart! The

scheme of Judah was clearly suggested by the providential circumstance

that at the moment an Ishmaelitish caravan was passing by on its way with

gums and spicery to Egypt. That caravan was God’s chariot sent to convey

Joseph to the throne of Egypt. Judah asked his brethren to see in it a prison

van to take their brother into slavery in Egypt. Wicked men and God may

often seem to play at cross purposes with one another, but GOD ALWAYS

TRIUMPS!   Man proposes; God disposes.


Ø      The accomplished transaction. “They drew and lifted Joseph up out of

the pit, and sold him to the Midianites for thirty pieces of silver.” The

first recorded specimen of a transaction which has frequently been repeated

in the history of mankind. Slave markets have often imitated, but seldom

surpassed, the wickedness of which Joseph’s brethren were guilty. It was

not simply a fellow-creature that they sold, but a brother; and they had not

even the poor apology of getting a good bargain, as they sold him for

twenty shekels — little over forty shillings!


Ø      The unforeseen result. Joseph’s purchasers conveyed him into Egypt,

and sold him, as probably his brethren expected; it is scarcely likely they

anticipated he would find his way into so honorable service as that of a

high officer of state. But God was taking Joseph thereby a step nearer to

his predicted elevation.




Ø      The ominous symbol. The coat of ends, the token of a father’s love for

his darling son, the insensate ruffians, after dipping it in blood, caused to be

conveyed into their father’s presence by the hands of a swift-footed

messenger. This was rather a proof of their cowardice than of their

consideration for Jacob’s feelings.


Ø      The pretended discovery. The bearer of the blood-stained tunic was

directed to say that the brethren had found the robe, and to ask, with

expressions of their deep concern, whether or not it was the coat of his

beloved son. Their intention we cannot think was to stab their father’s

heart, but to mislead his judgment.


Ø      The expected inference. As they designed, the old man concluded that

his son was devoured: “Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.” Seldom do

villains’ plots succeed so well.




Ø      The bitter grief. The depth and tenderness of Jacob’s mourning for his

lost son was:


o        visibly expressed: “he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on

his loins;”

o        long continued: “he mourned for his son many days;” and, if

we accept a proposed reading of the last clause of v. 35,

o        lovingly shared: “his father,” the blind Isaac, who still survived,

wept for him” — for Rachel’s dead child and Jacob’s lost son.


Ø      The ineffectual consolation. “All his sons and all his daughters rose up

to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted.” For this Jacob was:


o        to be excused, since his comforters were mostly hypocrites, whose

proffered consolations must have sounded strangely hollow in his

ears; but also:

o        to be blamed, since although God in His providence had taken away

Joseph, that was no reason why he should give way to despairing

grief. Not so did Abraham when he thought of losing Isaac.




The Representative Man (vs. 1-37)


Jacob may be said to fall into the background from this time until his

parting benediction. The kingdom of God is represented in Joseph and his

history. The main points in this chapter are:



from his brethren in character, in his father’s affection, in the method of his

life, in’ the communications of the Spirit. Joseph is the type of the believer,

faithful to the covenant, amongst both the Canaanitish heathen and the

unfaithful children of the covenant, the patriarchs.




GOD’S GRACE IN THE INDIVIDUAL. Joseph brought the evil report to

Jacob. Joseph dreamed. Joseph was evidently both in himself superior to

his brethren and more favored by God. That is the old story — the Cain

spirit developed by contact with the Abel spirit. A time of special grace is

always a time of special wickedness and judgment. Witness the advent of

the Lord, the Reformation period, the revival of religion in the last century,

(18th Century – CY – 2018) leading on to the outburst of both wickedness

and judgment at the end.




foreshadowed was that of the spiritual kingdom over the unspiritual.



through the personal character of Joseph, partly through the evil passions

of his brethren, partly through the apparently casual incidents of the

neighborhood, partly through the Spirit of righteousness working in the

heart of Reuben, partly through the weakness and fondness of Jacob. How

strangely “all things work together” in God’s hands! He weaves the web

composed of many single threads into one united, orderly pattern as a

whole in which we are able to trace his own thought and purpose.


  • Joseph in the pit while his brethren sit down to eat bread represents


WORLD. A type of Jesus cast into the pit of His humiliation, while the

Jewish people despised and rejected claims, His prophetic words, His

evident favor with God, and by their transactions with Gentiles, the

Romans, gave Him up to what seemed to them ruin, but what was the

crowning of His head with glory. We begin to see at this point that, as the

Psalmist sang, the word of the Lord tried him.”  (Psalm 105:19)


  • THE DELIVERANCE of Joseph and his transference to the sphere of

his future triumph are EFFECTED THROUGH JUDAH



Judah, Ishmael, Midian remind us that the fleshly links which bind the

descendants of Abraham together are not lost sight of by God, are called in

to serve the purposes of grace, but not to take the place of the true

spiritual work, which goes on in its own appointed channel. So in the

history of the Church, while there are many secondary influences at work,

still there is a remnant according to the election of grace in which there is

the real continuity of DIVINE DEALINGS.


  • The genuine grief of Reuben, the barbarous inhumanity towards their

father of the fallen sons, THE OVERWHELMING SORROW OF THE

AGED, HEART-BROKEN JACOB, the rising up of all his sons and

daughters to comfort him, are all beautiful and significant touches of nature

in this history, which remind us that we are not “following cunningly devised

fables  (II Peter 1:16), and that God’s gracious kingdom of truth and love

does not annihilate the human in order to reveal the Divine, but puts its

rainbow on the cloud.


  • THE INTRODUCTION OF EGYPT again into the history. Egypt

is the type of the world, as built upon the foundation of fallen humanity

alone, without the special grace of God, Into that bulk of the unrenewed

race the leaven of the kingdom must be put. The connection between the

covenant family and Egypt, which we trace in the history of Abraham,

Isaac, and Jacob, as afterwards in their descendants, represents at once:


Ø      the thoroughly human character of the kingdom that God would set up

in the earth, for the people of God found much in Egypt which they

carried away with them afterwards, and assimilated to their own

specially communicated faith;


Ø      the breadth of the promises of God — the separation of the one people

was for the sake of all the families of the earth.


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