Scripture reading – Genesis 37
Our chronological study of Genesis brings us to Genesis 37, and a new crossroads in the Scriptures where the focus begins to shift from Jacob, now known as Israel, to his son Joseph. Joseph stands out as one of the most honorable, and upright men of the Old Testament.
A key detail to understanding the dynamics in this period of Joseph’s life is to remember that his mother had recently died giving birth to his brother Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth born son (35:16-19). Recalling Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife, and his first love, helps us to appreciate the tragic events that are recorded in Genesis 37.
Being reminded that Jacob was a shepherd, a sojourner, he was “a stranger, in the land of Canaan” (37:1). The LORD had promised him, his father Isaac, and grandfather Abraham the land of Canaan for an inheritance (Genesis 12:1; 35:12); however, the possession of that land would not come to fruition until Israel returned from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and conquered and possessed the land.
Joseph was seventeen years old, and was tending sheep with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines who had each borne him two sons (37:2). We are not told what prompted Joseph going to his father and delivering an “evil report” concerning his brothers, but I feel there is good reason to believe that jealously might have prompted them to treat him with disdain.
Growing up in a household we would describe in our day as a “blended home,” there was constant strife and contention between Joseph and his brothers. His mother’s recent death had no doubt left him vulnerable, and his father favoring him with a “coat of many colours” (most likely a long sleeve tunic), indicated his favored stature in the home (37:3). “When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (37:4).
In the providence and plan of God, the LORD prophetically revealed to Joseph in two dreams that he would one day have a position of authority in his brother’s lives, and they would bow before him (37:5-11). Unwisely in my opinion, Joseph shared the prophetic nature of his dreams with his brothers, and they “envied him” (37:11).
A fateful day came when Joseph was bid by his father to leave the safety of the home, and go out and inspect the welfare of his brothers and the flocks they were tending (37:12-14). Joseph traveled from his home in Hebron, a distance of 40 miles to Shechem (a place that has already been infamous for it was where Simeon and Levi had slain the men of that city, 34:25-31). Joseph arrived in Shechem, but learned his brothers had moved on to Dothan (37:15-17), a city that was one hundred miles from home, and was on a main trade route to Egypt.
Perhaps recognizing Joseph’s coat from a distance, the brother’s conspired together, at first to kill him (37:18-20). Reuben, the oldest brother, intervened and convinced his brothers to put Joseph in a pit, planning to return later and free him (37:21). Stripping Joseph of his tunic (37:23), the brothers cast him into a pit (37:24). When they spied the approach of Midianite merchantmen traveling to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers, in the absence of Reuben the oldest, sold him as a slave for twenty pieces of silver, and he was taken into Egypt, where he was then sold to “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard” (37:25-28, 36).
Joseph’s brothers, determined to deceive their father, and convince him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, dipped his coat into the blood of a goat. Seeing the frayed condition of Joseph’s coat covered in blood, Jacob believed he was dead, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days…[and saying], “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (37:34-35).
The stage is set for Joseph to one day deliver his brothers from a famine, and fulfilling his dream, stand in authority as they bowed before him.
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith