Genesis Chapter Thirty-Seven


Read Genesis 37:1-4 – Introduction to Joseph


v.1  And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.”


            Isaac is now dead and Jacob continues to dwell in the land that God has promised him as a stranger or sojourner.  In the writing to the Hebrews we find the reason why and an application for us today:


Hebrews 11:9-10By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”


            First of all, why is Jacob called a stranger and Abraham a sojourner?  It is because their stay in Canaan is temporary, and they are not to assimilate themselves into the culture, adopt the habits or morals of their surrounding neighbors.  Is it any different for us today?  No, it is not.  We are living here in the world today only temporarily and we are not to assimilate ourselves into the culture and morals of this world, but to stand as a separate people, called a peculiar people by Peter (I Peter 2:9).


v.2These 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.”


            Time has passed and Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, is now 17 years old.  He is working as a good son should, helping keep Jacob’s flocks.  As boys and even young men are prone to do, his brothers do something or some things that are not in keeping with the mind of Jacob or perhaps that Jacob had forbidden them to do.  We’re not told what it was just that Joseph is now placed in the position of being the one to inform his father.  The tone of the language used here would suggest that Joseph did so out of concern for his brothers, not to just be a tattletale.


v.3Now 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.”


            Of his twelve sons, no one had to ask which one was Jacob’s favorite.  Joseph is Jacob’s favorite, not just because he was a son of his old age, but also because he was the son of Rachel, the one whom Jacob loved.  He is shown partiality but, if his performance in Egypt is any indication, he is far from being a spoiled, self-centered brat.  Jacob makes his partiality obvious and provides Joseph with a symbol of his love, a coat of many colors.


v.4And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”

            As it usually does, Jacob’s partiality toward Joseph creates problems within his family.  Joseph brothers hated him, much the same as Esau hated Jacob with much less motivation than Esau had.


Genesis 27:41And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.”


Read Genesis 37:5-11 – Joseph’s Dreams


v.5And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.”


            Joseph dreamed a dream.  Not an unusual situation but there seems to be something more here than just a flight of mind during the night.  This was an important dream, a dream that perhaps even his brothers understood as being an indication of something very real that would come to them in the future.


v.6-7And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7For, 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.”


            In the day of Jacob grain would be cut by hand with a scythe or a sickle and then bound into sheaves by hand.  I’m not sure how many might be familiar with a grain binder but I worked in the fields as a young boy where they were used and understand the concept.  The grain was cut by the machine and carried up a belt where the stalks were bound into sheaves and then dropped on the ground.    These sheaves were then later gathered up and either put into shocks or stacks to await threshing day.  The scene in Joseph’s dream was of these sheaves.  Joseph’s sheaf stands in the field on its own and the sheaves of his brother bow down and pay homage to his sheave.  The word obeisance no longer appears in a modern usage dictionary but this is its meaning: to bow, curtsey or make a gesture; to pay homage or reverence to a ruler.


v.8  And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.”


            Joseph’s brothers understood the implication of Joseph’s dreams.  The day would come when he, the youngest next to Benjamin, but the eldest of Jacob’s favorite wife would rule over them.  Consequently they resented him, not only for that which was implied by his dreams but also because of what he told them.


v.9And 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.”


            Joseph has another dream.  In this dream, the sun, moon and stars paid homage or reverence to him.  This is another dream that reflects those things that are yet to come about.


v.1010And 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?


            When Joseph revealed his dream to his father, Jacob correctly interprets it.  There would come a day, many years in the future to be sure, when all of his brothers, his father and his mother would indeed bow down and pay homage to Joseph as the ruler of all Egypt under Pharoah their king.


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


            The same emotion that caused the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, envy is now in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers against him.  Stephen confirms that this is what moved them to sell Joseph into slavery.


Acts 7:9And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,”


But Jacob “OBSERVED” his saying.  What does this mean?  The scripture tells us.  First of all in Daniel as his reaction to his dream:


Daniel 7:28 “Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.”


And then Mary regarding the declaration of the angels to the shepherds concerning her new-born son:


Luke 2:1919But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”


Jacob remembered these things, kept them in his heart and pondered or meditated upon them.  Dreams were important.  Frequently God appeared in dreams or used dreams to communicate his requirements to mankind.


Read Genesis 37:12-22 – Jacob Sends Joseph To His Brothers


v.12-13And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13And 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.”


            Jacob had moved from Shechem to the plain of Mamre, specifically to Hebron as we had noted in our earlier study.  However, possibly due to the availability of graze for the flocks; Jacobs sons has moved their animals to the area around Shechem.  As we had noted earlier, it is only about 30 miles or so from Shechem to Hebron; only a few days travel with a flock of sheep and goats.


v. 14And 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 now has Joseph to act as a messenger.  He wants to know the situation with his sons and his flocks so he sends Joseph to find out and to report back to him what he learns.


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


            “AND A CERTAIN MAN FOUND HIM…”  A certain man, whether by God’s providence or by God’s explicit design and command we’re not told.  But the sons of Jacob have moved their flocks and cannot be found in the area where they were supposed to have been.  So Joseph asks him where his brothers have gone.


v.17And 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.”


            The man knows where Jacob’s sons said they were going to he relays this information to Joseph and Joseph proceeds to that place and finds them.  Dothan is about 15 miles due north of Shechem, over a mountain ridge and in the next valley.  The only other time that it is mentioned in scripture is when the king of Syria is looking for Elisha:


II Kings 6:13And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.”


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


            Living with unbridled hate must be a horrible condition.  Joseph’s brothers hate him so much that they now conspire to kill him.  King Saul suffered from the same condition:


I Samuel 19:1And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.”


Jesus suffered and died because of the same kind of hate:


Matthew 27:1When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:”


As did the Apostle Paul:


Acts 23:13 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”


v.19-20And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20Come 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.”


            The actions of Joseph brothers were not something that occurred in the heat of the moment but rather a conspiracy the developed and grew over time.  It underscores the truth taught by Jesus and through the Apostle John:


Matthew 5:22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”


Just as the Holy Spirit gave us through the pen of the wise man, Solomon:


Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”


Confirmed to us through the Apostle John:


I John 3:15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”


So the brothers because of their hate were prepared to kill Joseph.


v.21-22And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22And 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.


            Reuben, perhaps because he was the eldest son and more mature than his brothers not only counsels against their plan but works to rescue Joseph from the wrath of his brothers.  He prevents them from killing Joseph immediately, convinces them to immobilize him instead, actually planning to get him away from his brothers and return him to Jacob unharmed.


Read Genesis 37:23-28 – Joseph is Sold into Slavery


v.23-24And 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; 24And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.”


            When Joseph reaches his brothers they strip the coat from him, part of the reason that they hated him so much.  Heeding the advice of Reuben they put him in a pit, a hole in the ground apparently deep enough that he could not get out.  The scripture enlightens us further that were was no water in the pit so he isn’t in danger there, just restricted.


v.25And 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.”


            From the beginning of time throughout the history of Israel, that region was a major trade route between the lands north and east of Mediterrean, the country of Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba which gave access to eastern Africa.  Camel caravans traveled this route regularly carrying products of all sorts from one region to the other.  Many of the descendants of Ishmael, who became one branch of the Arabic peoples, were merchants traveling in these caravans and making their living in this manner.  A study of the topography of the land of Canaan reveals that the valley in which Dothan is located is a natural route from Gilead to the roads on the coastal plain that lead to Egypt.  Now that Joseph’s brothers have him sequestered in a hole in the ground, they calmly go about their business which at this moment is their noonday meal.  While doing so they arrive at another idea to get rid of their brother.


v.26-27And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27Come, 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.”


            Apparently Joseph’s half-brother Judah does have somewhat of a conscience.  His argument is that after all he is our brother, the son of our father and our flesh.  In addition; to just kill him would provide no profit, why don’t they sell him instead.  The buying and selling of slaves was a common practice, accomplishes their purpose of getting rid of Joseph from their presence so they agree, or as the scripture says “WERE CONTENT” with that proposal.


v.28Then 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.”


            Many peoples used this caravan route, we have here both Ishmaelites and Midianites mentioned.  The Ishmaelites were descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, the Midianites descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham and Keturah.


Genesis 25:1Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.”


This verse can be somewhat confusing to some and is used by others to claim an inconsistency in scripture.  But it would not be beyond reason to find both Ishmaelites and Midianites in the same caravan, after all they are cousins, both being descendants of Abraham.  Nor would it be beyond reason to find more than one caravan on this road at the same time.  Because of their ancestry they are also extended family to Joseph and his brothers but this fact apparently has no bearing on their desire to make a profit.  So Joseph is sold for 20 pieces of silver, 10 pieces less than Christ.  Of course, all of this is the plan of God, the psalmist tells us that:




So God uses this occurrence to send someone into Egypt to prepare the way for Israel that would follow.


Read Genesis 37:29-36 – Jacob Mourns Joseph


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


            Obviously not all of Joseph’s brothers were present when he was sold.  Reuben, who had planned to rescue him and return to his father, returns and finds him gone.  Reuben is in great distress; either because he was the eldest and consequently responsible for their actions, or because he knew how Jacob would react to the loss of the son that he loved so deeply.  He asks what does he do now and the brothers hatch a scheme to deceive their father.


v.31-32And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32And 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.”


            Isn’t it amazing how one sin just leads to another?  Joseph’s brothers hated him so much that they plotted to kill him.  Instead they sold him into slavery now they have to account for him to their father.  They concoct a story, deceive Jacob by preparing Joseph’s coat of many colors so that Jacob will reach the conclusion that they want.  Then they lie to Jacob telling him that they don’t know whether this is Joseph’s coat or not but this the way that they found it.

            Each sin is committed in an attempt to cover up the one before and so it goes in a man’s life when he turns to sin.  Job said that he would deserve the punishment of God if he had done this:


If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:” Job 31:33


v.33-34And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.”


            Jacob recognizes Joseph’s coat just as his sons knew he would.  He reaches the conclusion that some evil beast must have “DEVOURED” Joseph, leaving nothing to bury and Jacob goes into mourning for his son.


v.35And 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.”


            Jacob is so distraught that his sons and daughters fear for his well-being.  They do everything that they can think of to console and comfort him but he will not be comforted.  He declares that he will go to his grave grieving and mourning his son.  Jacob is still mourning refusing his permission when Joseph, unknown to his brothers, asked that Benjamin be brought to Egypt with them:


Genesis 42:38And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”


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


            Thus Joseph is sold as a slave in Egypt to Potiphar, described here as an officer in the army of the Pharoah of Egypt and Captain of his personal body guard.