And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
Joseph is the favorite of his father, but not of his brethren. "In the land of his father's sojournings." This contrasts Jacob with Esau, who removed to Mount Seir. This notice precedes the phrase, "These are the generations." The corresponding sentence in the case of Isaac is placed at the end of the preceding section of the narrative Genesis 25:11. "The son of seventeen years;" in his seventeenth year Genesis 37:32. "The sons of Bilhah." The sons of the handmaids were nearer his own age, and perhaps more tolerant of the favorite than the sons of Leah the free wife. Benjamin at this time was about four years of age. "An evil report of them." The unsophisticated child of home is prompt in the disapproval of evil, and frank in the avowal of his feelings. What the evil was we are not informed; but Jacob's full-grown sons were now far from the paternal eye, and prone, as it seems, to give way to temptation. Many scandals come out to view in the chosen family. "Loved Joseph." He was the son of his best-loved wife, and of his old age; as Benjamin had not yet come into much notice. "A Coat of many colors." This was a coat reaching to the hands and feet, worn by persons not much occupied with manual labor, according to the general opinion. It was, we conceive, variegated either by the loom or the needle, and is therefore, well rendered χιτὼν ποικίλος chitōn poikilos, a motley coat. "Could not bid peace to him." The partiality of his father, exhibited in so weak a manner, provokes the anger of his brothers, who cannot bid him good-day, or greet him in the ordinary terms of good-will.
These 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.
Now 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.
And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
Joseph's dreams excite the jealousy of his brothers. His frankness in reciting his dream to his brothers marks a spirit devoid of guile, and only dimly conscious of the import of his nightly visions. The first dream represents by a figure the humble submission of all his brothers to him, as they rightly interpret it. "For his dreams and for his words." The meaning of this dream was offensive enough, and his telling of it rendered it even more disagreeable. A second dream is given to express the certainty of the event Genesis 41:32. The former serves to interpret the latter. There the sheaves are connected with the brothers who bound them, and thereby indicate the parties. The eleven stars are not so connected with them. But here Joseph is introduced directly without a figure, and the number eleven, taken along with the eleven sheaves of the former dream, makes the application to the brothers plain. The sun and moon clearly point out the father and mother. The mother is to be taken, we conceive, in the abstract, without nicely inquiring whether it means the departed Rachel, or the probably still living Leah. Not even the latter seems to have lived to see the fulfillment of this prophetic dream Genesis 49:31. The second dream only aggravated the hatred of his brothers; but his father, while rebuking him for his speeches, yet marked the saying. The rebuke seems to imply that the dream, or the telling of it, appears to his father to indicate the lurking of a self-sufficient or ambitious spirit within the breast of the youthful Joseph. The twofold intimation, however, came from a higher source.
And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
For, 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.
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.
And 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.
And 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?
And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.
Joseph is sent to Dothan. Shekem belonged to Jacob; part of it by purchase, and the rest by conquest. Joseph is sent to inquire of their welfare (שׁלום shālom "peace," Genesis 37:4). With obedient promptness the youth goes to Shekem, where he learns that they had removed to Dothan, a town about twelve miles due north of Shekem.
And 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.
And 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.
And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
And 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.
And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
His brothers cast him into a pit. "This master of dreams;" an eastern phrase for a dreamer. "Let us slay him." They had a foreboding that his dreams might prove true, and that he would become their arbitrary master. This thought at all events would abate somewhat of the barbarity of their designs. It is implied in the closing sentence of their proposal. Reuben dissuades them from the act of murder, and advises merely to cast him into the pit, to which they consent. He had a more tender heart, and perhaps a more tender conscience than the rest, and intended to send Joseph back safe to his father. He doubtless took care to choose a pit that was without water.
And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
Come 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.
And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
And 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.
And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
And 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.
Reuben rips his clothes when he finds Joseph gone. "To eat bread." This shows the cold and heartless cruelty of their deed. "A caravan" - a company of travelling merchants. "Ishmaelites." Ishmael left his father's house when about fourteen or fifteen years of age. His mother took him a wife probably when he was eighteen, or twenty at the furthest. He had arrived at the latter age about one hundred and sixty-two years before the date of the present occurrence. He had twelve sons Genesis 25:13-15, and if we allow only four other generations and a fivefold increase, there will be about fifteen thousand in the fifth generation. "Came from Gilead;" celebrated for its balm Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11. The caravan road from Damascus to Egypt touches upon the land of Gilead, goes through Beth-shean, and passes by Dothan. "Spicery." This gum is called tragacanth, or goats-thorn gum, because it was supposed to be obtained from this plant. "Balm," or balsam; an aromatic substance obtained from a plant of the genus Amyris, a native of Gilead. "Myrrh" is the name of a gum exuding from the balsamodendron myrrha, growing in Arabia Felix. "Lot," however, is supposed to be the resinous juice of the cistus or rock rose, a plant growing in Crete and Syria. Judah, relenting, and revolting perhaps from the crime of fratricide, proposes to sell Joseph to the merchants.
Midianites and Medanites Genesis 37:36 are mere variations apparently of the same name. They seem to have been the actual purchasers, though the caravan takes its name from the Ishmaelites, who formed by far the larger portion of it. Midian and Medan were both sons of Abraham, and during one hundred and twenty-five years must have increased to a small clan. Thus, Joseph is sold to the descendants of Abraham. "Twenty silver pieces;" probably shekels. This is the rate at which Moses estimates a male from five to twenty years old Leviticus 27:5. A man-servant was valued by him at thirty shekels Exodus 21:32. Reuben finding Joseph gone, rends his clothes, in token of anguish of mind for the loss of his brother and the grief of his father.
And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
Come, 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.
Then 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.
And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
The brothers contrive to conceal their crime; and Joseph is sold into Egypt. "Torn, torn in pieces is Joseph." The sight of the bloody coat convinces Jacob at once that Joseph has been devoured by a wild beast. "All his daughters." Only one daughter of Jacob is mentioned by name. These are probably his daughters-in-law. "To the grave." Sheol is the place to which the soul departs at death. It is so called from its ever craving, or being empty. "Minister." This word originally means eunuch, and then, generally, any officer about the court or person of the sovereign. "Captain of the guards." The guards are the executioners of the sentences passed by the sovereign on culprits, which were often arbitrary, summary, and extremely severe. It is manifest, from this dark chapter, that the power of sin has not been extinguished in the family of Jacob. The name of God does not appear, and his hand is at present only dimly seen among the wicked designs, deeds, and devices of these unnatural brothers. Nevertheless, his counsel of mercy standeth sure, and fixed is his purpose to bring salvation to the whole race of man, by means of his special covenant with Abraham.
- The Family of Judah
1. עדלם ‛ǎdûllâm, 'Adullam, "righteousness." חירה chı̂yrâh Chirah, "nobility?"
2. שׁוּע shûa‛, Shua', "luck, riches, cry."
3. ער ‛êr, 'Er, "watching."
4. אונן 'ônân, Onan, "strong."
5. שׁלה shēlâh, Shelah, "request? rest." כזיב kezı̂yb Kezib, "falsehood."
6. תמר tāmār, Tamar, "palm."
12. תמנה tı̂mnâh, Timnah, "counted or assigned."
14. עינים 'êynayı̂m, 'Enaim, "two fountains."
29. פרץ perets, Perets, "breach."
This strange narrative is an episode in the history of Joseph; but an integral part of the "generations" of Jacob. It is loosely dated with the phrase "at that time." This does not indicate a sequel to the preceding record, the proper phrase for which is "after these things" (האלה חדברים אחר 'achar hadebārı̂ym hâ'ēleh Genesis 22:1). It implies rather a train of events that commenced at least in the past, some time before the closing incident of the previous narrative Genesis 21:22. But the sale of Joseph, which alone is recorded in the last chapter, only occupied some few weeks or months of a year. Hence, the circumstances contained in this memoir of Judah's family must have taken their rise before that event. The date "at that time," is rendered indefinite also by being attached to the phrase, "And it came to pass," which covers at least all the events in the first eleven verses of the chapter.
All this is in accordance with the customary mode of arranging parallel lines of events in Hebrew narrative. We shall see reason afterward for placing the birth of Er at as early a date as possible in the life of Judah Genesis 46:12. Now Judah, we conceive, was born when his father was eighty-seven, and Joseph when he was ninety-one, and hence, there is a difference about four years in their ages. We suppose Er to have been born in Judah's fourteenth year, when Joseph and Dinah were in their tenth, and therefore, about three years before the rape of Dinah, and shortly after Jacob arrived at the town of Shekem. The dishonor of Dinah, and the cruel treatment of Joseph, being of essential moment in the process of things, had to be recorded in the main line of events. The commencement of Judah's family, having no particular influence on the current of the history, is fitly reserved until the whole of the circumstances could be brought together into a connected narrative. And the private history of Judah's line is given, while that of the others is omitted, simply because from him the promised seed is descended. As soon as Jacob is settled in the promised land, the contact with Hebron and its neighborhood seems to have commenced. A clear proof of this is the presence of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, in Jacob's family Genesis 35:8. The great thoroughfare from Damascus to Egypt runs through Shekem and Hebron, and we know that when Jacob was residing at Hebron, his sons fed their flocks at Shekem and Dothan, and the youthful Joseph was sent to inquire after their welfare.
And 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.
And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
And 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.
And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.