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Genesis 37

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Joseph Sold into Egypt. 1Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.#The statement points ahead to 47:27, “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen.” These two statements frame the Joseph narrative; the later material (47:28–49:33) is about Jacob; chap. 50 brings to a conclusion themes remaining from the earlier story. One aim of the Joseph story is to explain how Israel came to Egypt after sojourning so long in Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob.#The Joseph story is great literature not only in its themes but in its art. The stories show an interest in the psychology of the characters; everyone acts “in character” yet there is never a doubt that a divine purpose is bringing events to their conclusion. According to a literary analysis, vv. 1–4 set the scene; vv. 5–36 introduce the dramatic tension in the form of a conflict within the family; chaps. 38–41 describe the journeys away from their family of the eponymous ancestors of the two great tribes of later times, Judah (chap. 38) and Joseph (chaps. 39–41) and their preliminary conclusions; chaps. 42–44 detail the famine and journeys for food (chaps. 42, 43) that bring the brothers and (indirectly) the father into fresh contact with a mature Joseph who now has the power of life and death over them; 45:1–47:27 is the resolution (reconciliation of Joseph to his brothers) and the salvation of the family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he was tending the flocks with his brothers; he was an assistant to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah, and Joseph brought their father bad reports about them. 3Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long ornamented tunic.#Jacob’s favoring Joseph over his other sons is a cause of the brothers’ attempt on his life. Throughout the story, Jacob is unaware of the impact of his favoritism on his other sons (cf. vv. 33–35; 42:36). Long ornamented tunic: the meaning of the Hebrew phrase is unclear. In 2 Sm 13:18–19, it is the distinctive dress of unmarried royal daughters. The “coat of many colors” in the Septuagint became the traditional translation. Ancient depictions of Semites in formal dress show them with long, ornamented robes and that is the most likely meaning here. Possibly, the young Joseph is given a coat that symbolizes honor beyond his years. Later, Pharaoh will clothe Joseph in a robe that symbolizes honor (41:42). 4When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his brothers, they hated him so much that they could not say a kind word to him.
5#Joseph’s dreams of ruling his brothers appear at first glance to be merely adolescent grandiosity, and they bring him only trouble. His later successes make it clear, however, that they were from God. Another confirmation of their divine source is the doubling of dreams (cf. 41:32). Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers, they hated him even more.#Gn 42:9. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf rose to an upright position, and your sheaves formed a ring around my sheaf and bowed down to it.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you really going to make yourself king over us? Will you rule over us?” So they hated him all the more because of his dreams and his reports.#Gn 50:17–18.
9Then he had another dream, and told it to his brothers. “Look, I had another dream,” he said; “this time, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10When he told it to his father and his brothers, his father reproved him and asked, “What is the meaning of this dream of yours? Can it be that I and your mother and your brothers are to come and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were furious at him but his father kept the matter in mind.
12One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, 13Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not tending our flocks at Shechem? Come and I will send you to them.” “I am ready,” Joseph answered. 14“Go then,” he replied; “see if all is well with your brothers and the flocks, and bring back word.” So he sent him off from the valley of Hebron. When Joseph reached Shechem, 15a man came upon him as he was wandering about in the fields. “What are you looking for?” the man asked him. 16“I am looking for my brothers,” he answered. “Please tell me where they are tending the flocks.” 17The man told him, “They have moved on from here; in fact, I heard them say, ‘Let us go on to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 19They said to one another: “Here comes that dreamer! 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We will see then what comes of his dreams.”#Gn 44:28.
21#The chapter thus far is from the Yahwist source, as are also vv. 25–28a. But vv. 21–24 and 28b–36 are from another source (sometimes designated the Elohist source). In the latter, Reuben tries to rescue Joseph, who is taken in Reuben’s absence by certain Midianites; in the Yahwist source, it is Judah who saves Joseph’s life by having him sold to certain Ishmaelites. Although the two variant forms in which the story was handed down in early oral tradition differ in these minor points, they agree on the essential fact that Joseph was brought as a slave into Egypt because of the jealousy of his brothers. But when Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying: “We must not take his life.” 22Then Reuben said, “Do not shed blood! Throw him into this cistern in the wilderness; but do not lay a hand on him.” His purpose was to save him from their hands and restore him to his father.#Gn 42:22.
23So when Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped him of his tunic, the long ornamented tunic he had on; 24then they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25Then they sat down to eat. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm, and resin to be taken down to Egypt.#Gn 43:11. 26Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?#Jb 16:18. 27Come, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed.
28Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern. They sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver#They sold Joseph…silver: editors tried to solve the confusion, created by different sources, by supposing that it was the Midianite traders who pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him to Ishmaelites. In all probability, one source had the brothers selling Joseph to Ishmaelites, whereas the other had them cast him into the pit whence he was taken by Midianite traders. to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.#Ps 105:17; Wis 10:13; Acts 7:9. 29When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his garments,#Tore his garments: the traditional sign of mourning in the ancient Near East. 30and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I—where can I turn?” 31They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32Then they sent someone to bring the long ornamented tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” 33He recognized it and exclaimed: “My son’s tunic! A wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn to pieces!”#Gn 44:28. 34Then Jacob tore his garments, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned his son many days. 35Though his sons and daughters tried to console him, he refused all consolation, saying, “No, I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol.”#Sheol: see note on Ps 6:6. Thus did his father weep for him.#Gn 42:38.
36The Midianites, meanwhile, sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and his chief steward.#Ps 105:17.
37
Joseph’s Dreams
1Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had lived as a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2These are the records of the generations of Jacob.
Joseph, when he was seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers, while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a #Or full-length tunicmulticolored tunic. 4And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him #Lit in peaceon friendly terms.
5Then Joseph #Lit dreamedhad a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have #Lit dreamedhad; 7for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf stood up and also remained standing; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9Then he #Lit dreamedhad yet another dream, and informed his brothers of it, and said, “Behold, I have #Lit dreamedhad yet another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10He also told it to his father as well as to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have #Lit dreamedhad? Am I and your mother and your brothers actually going to come to bow down to the ground before you?” 11And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
12Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “#Lit Behold meI will go.” 14Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
15A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, “#Lit saying, “What...?”What are you looking for?” 16He said, “I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.17Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
The Plot against Joseph
18 # Or And When they saw him from a distance, and before he came closer to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 19They said to one another, “#Lit Behold, this master of dreams comesHere comes this dreamer! 20Now then, come and let’s kill him, and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A vicious animal devoured him.’ Then we will see what will become of his dreams!” 21But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands #Lit and saidby saying, “Let’s not #Lit strike his soultake his life.” 22Then Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—so that later he might rescue him out of their hands, to return him to his father. 23So it came about, when Joseph #Lit came toreached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the #Or full-length tunicmulticolored tunic that was on him; 24and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.
25Then they sat down to eat #Lit breada meal. But as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying labdanum resin, balsam, and #Or resinous barkmyrrh, #Lit goingon their way to bring them down to Egypt. 26And Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27Come, and let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him out and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold #Lit Josephhim to the Ishmaelites for #About 10 oz. or 280 gmtwenty shekels of silver. So they brought Joseph into Egypt.
29Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. 30He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?” 31So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood; 32and they sent the #Or full-length tunicmulticolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please #Or recognizeexamine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” 33Then he #Or recognizedexamined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A vicious animal has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 34So Jacob tore his clothes, and put on a sackcloth undergarment over his waist, and mourned for his son many days. 35Then all his sons and all his daughters got up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him. 36Meanwhile, the #Lit MedanitesMidianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.