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Genesis 37

37
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.

Genesis 37

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CHAPTER 37
1Forsooth Jacob dwelled in the land of Canaan, in which his father was a pilgrim;
2and these were the generations of him. Joseph when he was of sixteen years, yet a child, kept a flock with his brethren, and he was with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, the wives of his father; and he accused his brethren at the father of the worst sin.
3Forsooth Israel loved Joseph above all his sons, for he had begotten him in his eld age; and he made to Joseph a coat of many colours.
4Forsooth his brethren saw that he was loved of the father more than all they, and they hated him, and might not speak anything peaceably to him.
5And it befelled that he told to his brethren a sweven that he saw, which cause was the seed of more hatred.
6And Joseph said to his brethren, Hear ye the sweven which I saw,
7I guessed that we bound together sheaves, or handfuls, [in the field], and that as mine handful rose up, and stood upright, and that your handfuls stood about, and worshipped or honoured mine handful.
8His brethren answered, Whether thou shalt be our king, either we shall be made subject to thy lordship? Therefore this cause of dreams and words ministered the nourishing of envy, and of hatred.
9Also Joseph saw another sweven, which he told to his brethren, and said, I saw a dream that as the sun, and the moon, and the eleven stars worshipped me.
10And when he had told this dream to his father, and his brethren, his father blamed him, and said, What will this dream mean to itself that thou hast seen? Whether I, and thy mother, and thy brethren, shall worship thee on earth?
11Therefore his brethren had envy to him. Forsooth the father beheld privily the thing,
12and when his brethren dwelled in Shechem, about [the] keeping of [the] flocks of their father,
13Israel said to Joseph, Thy brethren keep sheep in Shechem; come thou, I shall send thee to them. And when Joseph answered, I am ready,
14Israel said, Go thou, and see whether all things be welsome with thy brethren, and the sheep; and then tell thou to me what is done. And so he was sent from the valley of Hebron, and came into Shechem;
15and a man found him erring in the field, and the man asked him, what he sought.
16And he answered, I seek my brethren; show thou to me where they keep their flocks.
17And the man said to him, They went away from this place; forsooth I heard them saying, Go we into Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
18And when they had seen him afar, before he nighed to them, they thought to slay him,
19and they spake together, Lo! the dreamer cometh,
20come ye, slay we him, and put we him into an eld [or old] cistern, and we shall say, A wild beast full wicked hath devoured him; and then it shall appear what his dreams profit to him.
21Soothly Reuben heard this, and enforced or endeavoured to deliver him from their hands, and said, Slay we not the life of him,
22neither shed we out his blood, but cast ye him into an eld [or old] cistern, which is in the wilderness, and keep ye your hands guiltless. Forsooth he said this, willing to deliver him from their hands, and to yield him to his father.
23Therefore anon as Joseph came to his brethren, they despoiled him of his coat, that went down to the heel, and was of many colours,
24and they put him in[to] an eld [or old] cistern, that had no water.
25And they sat to eat bread; and they saw that Ishmaelite way-goers came from Gilead, and that their camels bare sweet smelling spiceries, and resin, and stacte, into Egypt.
26Therefore Judah said to his brethren, What shall it profit to us, if we shall slay our brother, and shall hide his blood?
27It is better that he be sold to Ishmaelites, and our hands be not defouled, for he is our brother and our flesh. His brethren assented to these words;
28and when [the] merchants of Midian passed thereforth, they drew Joseph out of the cistern, and sold him to Ishmaelites, for twenty pieces of silver; which led him into Egypt.
29And Reuben turned again to the cistern, and found not the child; and he rent his clothes,
30and he went to his brethren, and said, The child appeareth not, and whither shall I go?
31Forsooth they took his coat, and dipped it in the blood of a kid, which they had slain;
32and they sent men that bare it to their father, and said, We have found this coat; see thou, whether it is the coat of thy son, or nay.
33And when their father had known it, he said, It is the coat of my son; a wild beast full wicked hath eaten him; a beast hath devoured Joseph.
34And he rent his clothes, and he was clothed with an hair-shirt, and bewailed his son in much time.
35Soothly when his free children were gathered together, that they should appease the sorrow of their father, he would not take comfort; but said, I shall go down into hell, and shall bewail my son. And while Jacob continued in weeping,
36Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, a chaste and honest servant [or the gelding] of Pharaoh, master of the chivalry.