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Chapter 37

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ch. 37:1-11   ch.37:12-38

Joseph's Dream (ch. 37:1 - 11)


Verse 1 tells us that Jacob lived in the land where his father lived, and that was the land of Canaan.  Canaan is where God always wanted His people, and still does.  God wanted Israel to possess this land, but seldom ever has to the full extent. Even though Jacob lived in the land, he did not possess the land to be his own as the Abrahamic Covenant states, and he didn't live in that specific part of the land where God wanted him, and that was Bethel. 


Chapter 37 begins a new phase in the book of Genesis.  We now turn from Jacob and zero in on Joseph.  Joseph was the first son born to Jacob's wife Rachel, the wife he loved the most.  Rachel had one other son and his name was Benjamin. 


In verse 2 we see that at this point in time, Joseph was a young man at the age of 17.  The Hebrew word that is translated as "young" here suggests not only young as we would know it, but young in the sense of being an "apprentice". 


In verse 2 we see that Joseph was working with some of his brothers in the field attending to the flocks.  This is probably what he was apprenticing in.   The brothers that are specifically mentioned here are those born from both Leah and Rachel's maid-servants.  


It says in verse 2 that Joseph brought a bad report from the field to his father Jacob.  Many scholars believe that Joseph was simply being a "tattle tale" here, and might have been that type of person since he was young, and since his father Jacob loved him more than the other sons, as seen in verse 3.  He might well have been spoiled.


You will remember that Jacob's father Isaac loved Esau, Jacob's brother, more than Jacob.  We know from previous chapters that Jacob and his mother Rebekah did not like that. You might think that Jacob would have learned something from that, and not played favorites like his father and mother, but I guess he didn't learn.


The reason why Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons was because he was the first of two boys born to his favorite wife Rachel.  It only makes sense that Jacob would have a fondness then for Joseph.


We also see in verse 3 that because Jacob loved Joseph the best, he made a special coat for him.  Now most of us learned in Sunday School that this was "a coat of many colors", but this isn't necessarily the case.   The Hebrew word translated here has debatable origins.  Many scholars see this as a coat of many colors but there are just as many, if not more, that believe this coat to be a "long sleeved" coat, also known as a tunic.  Whatever the case, this is a special coat.  It is not special in the way it was made, it was special because Jacob gave it to Joseph and not to anyone else.   The coat is merely a symbol of Jacob's favoritism, something that Joseph's brother's despised.


There is a lot of apparent symbolism in the story of Joseph.  Many people see it as prophetic of the life of Jesus.  This coat is one example of the symbolism.  It was a special coat.  Jesus too had a special coat. 


Verse 5 might even suggest that the giving of this coat was the straw the broke the camels back with the brothers.  They came to hate Joseph.  They could not even speak a kind word to him.  Jacob's twelve sons were quite a lot of rough and tough characters, and these are the father's of Israel.   These are the leaders of  what would become to be known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  It is quite clear that the Bible does not hide the sins of those God has chosen.  The Bible is very transparent, and we should be too.  The church these days often covers things over to make themselves look good.  God certainly didn't do that in the pages of the Bible.


Here in 2010 there are major scandals in the Catholic church over child sex abuse.  Many in the Catholic church say that the church should not address these issues.  They say that Jesus wouldn't expose these things for the sake of the dignity of the church.  That is wrong.  Jesus exposed the sin of the Pharisees, and He would expose the sin of the Catholic church today.       


Joseph had a couple of dreams.  In verse 5 we see the introduction of the first dream, and as the text states, the brothers hated Joseph even more after he told them the dream.  I think Joseph wasn't really being arrogant in the telling of these dreams.  I think he was simply na´ve.  He just didn't think of the implications of him telling the dreams to his brothers that already hated him.  I could be wrong on this point.  One can't really be sure.  Joseph would have known that his brothers hated him.  He knew he was daddy's boy. Maybe he was just rubbing it in a bit. 


In verses 6 and 7 we can certainly see why the brothers got furious with Joseph.  He told them the dream.  They were all gathering grain to be harvested, binding the grain into sheaves.  Joseph's sheaf suddenly grew tall and the other sheaves surrounded Joseph's sheaf and bowed down to it.  The dream clearly suggest that Joseph is superior to his brothers. 


This dream, as well as the next dream is clearly prophetic.  I'm not sure how Joseph viewed the dream, that is, if he really understood its prophetic nature.  If he did, then he might well have felt compelled to share the dream.  Besides that, he may have had a number of motivations to sharing the dream.  As I say later, he might simply be na´ve, or else a little spiteful.      


We see in verse 8 that the brothers hated Joseph more than ever.  They asked, and I'm sure in a very sarcastic way, "will you rule over us?"  The question wasn't meant to be answered.  The brothers were simply saying that there was no way Joseph would rule over them.  He was the eleventh in the line of twelve brothers.  He certainly would not get the birthright, the blessing that would make him the head of the family once Jacob died. 


Verse 9 tells us of the second dream that he had, and that he told his brothers once again.  I guess he didn't learn any lesson from the first dream.  He must have known that his brothers would be even more angry after this dream. 


In Joseph's dream there was the sun, moon and eleven stars.  They all bowed down to him.  Once again, this did represent Joseph being in a place of authority over his brothers.  The eleven stars represent his eleven brothers.  As yet, I'm not sure one hundred percent what the sun and the moon represent.  My guess is that the sun and moon represent Jacob and Rachel because of what is said in verse 10. 


This dream is very interesting for prophetic reasons.   In Revelation 12:1 we see the same symbolism.  There is a woman clothed in the sun and a moon and twelve stars.  The obvious question is, "who is this woman".   Some say she is the church.  That can't be because the woman gives birth to a man child.  The church has never given birth to a man child, but Israel has.  The man child is Jesus.  The symbolism in Revelation 12:1 is the same here in Genesis, and it is clear in Genesis that the twelve stars are the father's of the tribes of Israel. 


We will see later that this dream did come true. 


In verse 10 we see that Joseph told his father and his father seemed just as upset as the brothers, even though he loved Joseph.  He said, "will I, your mother and your brothers bow down to you?"    Since the eleven stars clearly represent the eleven brothers, I would suggest that the sun and moon represent Jacob and Rachel.  I think it is clear that this is how Jacob interpreted the dream from what he said.  He included himself and Rachel, his wife as bowing down before Joseph, along with the eleven brothers.  Yet when it comes to the sun and moon in Revelation 12, I've yet to be convinced to what that means.  There might not actually be a specific interpretation for each of the sun, moon and stars.  All three put together might simply represent Israel. 


Verse 11 states that the brothers were jealous of Joseph.  Everyone knew that Jacob loved Joseph the best, and even though Jacob reacted negatively to this dream, we don't know if the brothers knew that.  Verse 11 says that Jacob "kept the matter in his mind,"  much like Mary did when she knew that Jesus was the son of God.  She pondered those things in her heart.  This tells me that even though Jacob was upset with Joseph, he might well have thought that there was something to these two dreams. 


Joseph Sold By His Brothers (ch. 37:12 - 38)


In verses 12 and 13 we see the eleven brothers grazing Jacob's flocks near Shechem.  Once again, we see Jacob living near Shechem, when all along God wanted him in Bethel. 


Jacob, who is called Israel here, tells Joseph that he wants him to be with his brothers to help them.  This Suggests to me that Joseph wasn't always with his brothers working.  It might be that since he was a "daddy's boy" he spent more time with Jacob than with his brothers working.  It might also mean that because of the problems he had with his brothers, he just didn't hang around them much. 


In verse 14 Jacob tells Joseph to go and see how the brothers are doing and then come back and report to him what is happening.  This seems to be down Joseph's alley, so to speak.  He liked being a "tattle tale", or so some think.  Reporting back on his brothers might be something he'd like to do, but something his brothers didn't like him doing. 


We see the Valley of Hebron mentioned in this verse.  Hebron is where Abraham bought the parcel of land for a grave site for Sarah, and the rest of his family, and can  still be seen today.  Actually, here in 2010 there is much debate over this tomb, and also the tomb where Rachel was buried near Bethlehem.  The two tombs clearly belong to the Jews and have historical significance, but the Palestinians want to hold claim to them.  This is causing problems as I write these words.


From verses 15 to 17 we see Joseph go to the field where his brothers were supposed to be.  They weren't there.  A man told Joseph that they had moved on, and so Joseph eventually found them grazing the flocks in another field.


In verse 19 the brothers see Joseph coming.  They said, "here comes that dreamer"   Once again, this was very sarcastic.  Sarcastic is really an understatement.  In verse twenty they decide to kill Joseph.  So you can see that they're more than sarcastic.  The plan was to kill him, throw him into a dry pit, and say a wild animal devoured him. 


In verses 21 and 22 we see that Rueben, the oldest of the brothers.  He was born from Leah. He suggested that they should just throw him into the pit alive and not kill him.  When no one was around, Rueben would rescue Joseph and take him back to his father.  It would appear since Rueben was the oldest son, he felt responsible for Joseph.   


By throwing Joseph into the pit, the brothers would just leave him there to die.  They would not have to actually kill him with their own hands.  This idea seemed good to the other ten brothers.  It's a passive form of killing, not really an active form of killing, which might be a bit easier on the conscience.


In verses 23 and 24 the brothers take Joseph.  They take his special coat off and throw him into the pit, that we learn has no water in it.  So Joseph could not drown.  This pit was actually a dry well. 


While the brothers were in eating in verse 25 a caravan of Ishmaelites came by loaded down with all sorts of goods that they were gong to sell in Egypt.  You might remember that the Ishmaelites are descendents of  Ishmael, Isaac's half brother. 


In verses 27 and 28 Judah has yet a better idea than just to let Joseph die a slow death in the pit.  He suggested that they sell him to the Ishmaelites.  At least hey could get some money from them, and at the same time, their brother would not die.  "Joseph was their brother," Judah said.  They all agree.


At this point I should point out that many scholars see the resemblance between this event and the life of Jesus close to his death.  This whole event is seen as prophetic by many people, and I can certainly see how people see this. 


It is also interesting the Joseph was sold into the hands of relatives, although relatives that were at odds with Israel.  Jesus was sold into the hands of His people, the Jews, as well. 


In verse 28 we see the term "Midianites" in relation to the caravan of men that previously was called "Ishmaelites", and are also called "Ishmaelites" in the last part of this verse.  The question is thus asked, who were these men?  Were they Ishmaelites or Midianites?  They were probably both.  Remember, Ishmael was born from Hagar, Abraham's concubine.   Midian was born to Abraham's concubine Keturah. (Gen.25:2)    Keturah and her children were sent away by Abraham.  They eventually ended up to the east of the Jordan River .  It is commonly thought then that the Ishmaelites and the Midianites intermarried, thus both terms are used.


Joseph's brothers sold him to these men for twenty shekels of silver.  This was the going rate for a young slave.  A shekel is a weight of measure.  It is not a coin.  So they would have weighed out twenty shekels of silver, or else they just knew how much twenty shekels were.      


The caravan was going to Egypt to sell their goods, so this is where Joseph ended up. Egypt was where all the action was.  Egypt in the Old Testament is symbolic of the world, the kingdom of men, as opposed to the Kingdom of God.  Some see the prophetic element here.   As Jesus entered the kingdom of men to bring salvation to His people.  Joseph entered the kingdom of men that would eventually bring salvation to his people.


In verse 29 we see that Rueben tore his clothes when he returned to the pit to see Joseph missing.  Why he left, we don't know.  The ripping of clothes is a custom that shows disgust and anger.  So in verse 30 he asked his brothers where Joseph was.  Again, I think Rueben feels responsible for Joseph since he is the oldest son.   He might have resented Joseph, but this resentment was balanced with responsibility.  Some people suggest that since he lost his birthright because he slept with his father's concubine, he wanted Joseph to receive the birthright and be the head of the family.  We don't know this for sure.  It's only speculation.


At this point the brothers had to devise a plan to present to their father.  Joseph would not return home so they had to come up with a good reason.  In verses 31 and 32 the brothers kill a goat, dipped Joseph's coat in the blood, to give to their father.  They asked Jacob if this was Joseph's coat.  Of course, they knew it was Joseph's coat.  Again, some see the shedding of blood here as symbolic of the shedding of blood by Jesus.


In verse 33 Jacob recognizes the coat right away and assumed that Joseph was attacked and killed by a wild animal.  This is just the response that the brothers wanted to hear from their father. 


So once again, we see how the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel behaved.  They weren't a godly group of men, but these were the men that God had chosen and had promised Abraham to be a great nation. 


In verse 34 we see the Jewish custom.  Jacob tore his clothes as did Rueben a few verses earlier.  He also covered himself with  sackcloth and mourned greatly, which was yet another custom.  


In verse 35 Jacob's sons and daughters try to comfort him and make him feel better, but he refused.  He told them, "in mourning  will I go down to the grave to my son."   Jacob was saying that he would now mourn and be in sorrow to the day he dies.


The word "grave" here is the Hebrew word "Sheol".  "Sheol" was understood in Hebrew culture to be the place of the departed dead.  In many places throughout Genesis we've seen people die, and the text usually says that the one who dies is gathered with his people.  That means they go to Sheol to be with their loved ones.  This is what Jacob is saying.  He will be in mourning until he dies, goes to Sheol to see Joseph once again, and at that point, he will stop mourning.


The word "Hades" is the New Testament Greek word for the Hebrew word "Sheol".  "Sheol" was a place where both the righteous and unrighteous would go to after death.  The New Testament suggests the Jesus went to "Sheol" or "Hades" to release the righteous dead after His death.


Hebrew culture did not separate the soul from the body.  The soul was the total sum of all that made a person.  As in creation, man was a living soul.  Man did not possess a soul.  He was a soul.  For this reason Hebrew tradition states that when a person died all of who he was sent to "Sheol".  The dead therefore would be seen in "Sheol" with a body.   


Verse 36 tells us the fate of Joseph.  Once the Midianites reached Egypt , they sold Joseph to a man named Potiphar.  Potiphar was a well off man.  He was a high ranking official in Pharaoh's army.  This now begins the long story of Joseph in Egypt.  Many books and movies have been written of his experience in the land of Egypt.  Some see the selling of Joseph to Potiphar as symbolic of giving Jesus to Pilot.  The selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelites would be the selling of Jesus to the Jewish leadership.       


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