Genesis 37:1
And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
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(1) And Jacob . . . —This verse is not the beginning of a new section, but the conclusion of the Tôldôth Esau. In Genesis 36:6, we read that Esau went into a land away from Jacob. Upon this follows in Genesis 37:8, “And Esau dwelt in Mount Seir;” and now the necessary information concerning the other brother is given to us, “And Jacob dwelt in the land . . . of Canaan.” In the Hebrew the conjunctions are the same.



Genesis 37:1 - Genesis 37:11

‘The generations of Jacob’ are mainly occupied with the history of Joseph, because through him mainly was the divine purpose carried on. Jacob is now the head of the chosen family, since Isaac’s death {Genesis 35:29}, and therefore the narrative is continued under that new heading. There may possibly be intended a contrast in ‘dwelt’ and ‘sojourned’ in Genesis 37:1, the former implying a more complete settling down.

There are two principal points in this narrative,-the sad insight that it gives into the state of the household in which so much of the world’s history and hopes was wrapped up, and the preludings of Joseph’s future in his dreams.

As to the former, the account of it is introduced by the statement that Joseph, at seventeen years of age, was set to work, according to the wholesome Eastern usage, and so was thrown into the company of the sons of the two slave-women, Bilhah and Zilpah. Delitzsch understands ‘lad’ in Genesis 37:2 in the sense in which we use ‘boy,’ as meaning an attendant. Joseph was, then, told off to be subordinate to these two sets of his rough brothers. The relationship was enough to rouse hatred in such coarse souls. And, indeed, the history of Jacob’s household strikingly illustrates the miserable evils of polygamy, which makes families within the family, and turns brothers into enemies. Bilhah’s and Zilpah’s sons reflected in their hatred of Rachel’s their mothers’ envy of the true wife of Jacob’s heart. The sons of the bondwoman were sure to hate the sons of the free.

If Joseph had been like his brothers, they would have forgiven him his mother. But he was horrified at his first glimpse of unrestrained young passions, and, in the excitement of disgust and surprise, ‘told their evil report.’ No doubt, his brothers had been unwilling enough to be embarrassed by his presence, for there is nothing that wild young men dislike more than the constraint put on them by the presence of an innocent youth; and when they found out that this ‘milk-sop’ of a brother was a spy and a telltale, their wrath blazed up. So Joseph had early experience of the shock which meets all young men who have been brought up in godly households when they come into contact with sin in fellow-clerks, servants, students, or the like. It is a sharp test of what a young man is made of, to come forth from the shelter of a father’s care and a mother’s love, and to be forced into witnessing and hearing such things as go on wherever a number of young men are thrown together. Be not ‘partaker of other men’s sins.’ And the trial is doubly great when the tempters are elder brothers, and the only way to escape their unkindness is to do as they do. Joseph had an early experience of the need of resistance; and, as long as the world is a world, love to God will mean hatred from its worst elements. If we are ‘sons of the day,’ we cannot but rebuke the darkness.

It is an invidious office to tell other people’s evil-doing, and he who brings evil reports of others generally and deservedly gets one for himself. But there are circumstances in which to do so is plain duty, and only a mistaken sense of honour keeps silence. But there must be no exaggeration, malice, or personal ends in the informer. Classmates in school or college, fellow-servants, employees in great businesses, and the like, have not only a duty of loyalty to one another, but of loyalty to their superior. We are sometimes bound to be blind to, and dumb about, our associates’ evil deeds, but sometimes silence makes us accomplices.

Jacob had a right to know, and Joseph would have been wrong if he had not told him, the truth about his brothers. Their hatred shows that his purity had made their doing wrong more difficult. It is a grand thing when a young man’s presence deprives the Devil of elbow-room for his tricks. How much restraining influence such a one may exert!

Jacob’s somewhat foolish love, and still more foolish way of showing it, made matters worse. There were many excuses for him. He naturally clung to the son of his lost but never-forgotten first love, and as naturally found, in Joseph’s freedom from the vices of his other sons, a solace and joy. It has been suggested that the ‘long garment with sleeves,’ in which he decked the lad, indicated an intention of transferring the rights of the first-born to him, but in any case it meant distinguishing affection; and the father or mother who is weak enough to show partiality in the treatment of children need not wonder if their unwise love creates bitter heart-burnings. Perhaps, if Bilhah’s and Zilpah’s sons had had a little more sunshine of a father’s love, they would have borne brighter flowers and sweeter fruit. It is fatal when a child begins to suspect that a parent is not fair.

So these surly brothers, who could not even say ‘Peace be to thee!’ {the common salutation} when they came across Joseph, had a good deal to say for themselves. It is a sad picture of the internal feuds of the house from which all nations were to be blessed. The Bible does not idealise its characters, but lets us see the seamy side of the tapestry, that we may the more plainly recognise the Mercy which forgives, and the mighty Providence which works through, such imperfect men. But the great lesson for all young people from the picture of Joseph’s early days, when his whiteness rebuked the soiled lives of his brothers, as new-fallen snow the grimy cake, hardened and soiled on the streets, is, ‘My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.’ Never mind a world’s hatred, if you have a father’s love. There is one Father who can draw His obedient children into the deepest secrets of His heart without withholding their portion from the most prodigal.

Joseph’s dreams are the other principal point in the narrative. The chief incidents of his life turn on dreams,-his own, his fellow-prisoners’, Pharaoh’s. The narrative recognises them as divinely sent, and no higher form of divine communication appears to have been made to Joseph, He received no new revelations of religious truth. His mission was, not to bring fresh messages from heaven, but to effect the transference of the nation to Egypt. Hence the lower form of the communications made to him.

The meaning of both dreams is the same, but the second goes beyond the first in the grandeur of the emblems, and in the inclusion of the parents in the act of obeisance. Both sets of symbols were drawn from familiar sights. The homeliness of the ‘sheaves’ is in striking contrast with the grandeur of the ‘sun, moon, and stars.’ The interpretation of the first is ready to hand, because the sheaves were ‘your sheaves’ and ‘my sheaf.’ There was no similar key included in the second, and his brothers do not appear to have caught its meaning. It was Jacob who read it. Probably Rachel was dead when the dream came, but that need not make a difficulty.

Note that Joseph did not tell his dreams with elation, or with a notion that they meant anything particular. It is plainly the singularity of them that makes him repeat them, as is clearly indicated by the repeated ‘behold’ in his two reports. With perfect innocence of intention, and as he would have told any other strange dream, the lad repeats them. The commentary was the work of his brothers, who were ready to find proofs of his being put above them, and of his wish to humiliate them, in anything he said or did. They were wiser than he was. Perhaps they suspected that Jacob meant to set him at the head of the clan on his decease, and that the dreams were trumped up and told to them to prepare them for the decision which the special costume may have already hinted.

At all events, hatred is very suspicious, and ready to prick up its ears at every syllable that seems to speak of the advancement of its object.

There is a world of contempt, rage, and fear in the questions, ‘Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?’ The conviction that Joseph was marked out by God for a high position seems to have entered these rough souls, and to have been fuel to fire. Hatred and envy make a perilous mixture. Any sin can come from a heart drenched with these. Jacob seems to have been wise enough to make light of the dreams to the lad, though much of them in his heart. Youthful visions of coming greatness are often best discouraged. The surest way to secure their fulfilment is to fill the present with strenuous, humble work. ‘Do the duty that is nearest thee.’ ‘The true apprenticeship for a ruler is to serve.’ ‘Act, act, in the living present.’ The sheaves may come to bow down some day, but ‘my sheaf’ has to be cut and bound first, and the sooner the sickle is among the corn, the better.

But yet, on the other hand, let young hearts be true to their early visions, whether they say much about them or not. Probably it will be wisest to keep silence. But there shine out to many young men and women, at their start in life, bright possibilities of no ignoble sort, and rising higher than personal ambition, which it is the misery and sin of many to see ‘fade away into the light of common day,’ or into the darkness of night. Be not ‘disobedient to the heavenly vision’; for the dreams of youth are often the prophecies of what God means and makes it possible for the dreamer to be, if he wakes to work towards that fair thing which shone on him from afar.

37:1-4 In Joseph's history we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes. Though Joseph was his father's darling, yet he was not bred up in idleness. Those do not truly love their children, who do not use them to business, and labour, and hardships. The fondling of children is with good reason called the spoiling of them. Those who are trained up to do nothing, are likely to be good for nothing. But Jacob made known his love, by dressing Joseph finer than the rest of his children. It is wrong for parents to make a difference between one child and another, unless there is great cause for it, by the children's dutifulness, or undutifulness. When parents make a difference, children soon notice it, and it leads to quarrels in families. Jacob's sons did that, when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill conduct, that he might restrain them. Not as a tale-bearer, to sow discord, but as a faithful brother.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.CHAPTER 37

Ge 37:1-4. Parental Partiality.

1. Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger—that is, "a sojourner"; "father" used collectively. The patriarch was at this time at Mamre, in the valley of Hebron (compare Ge 35:27); and his dwelling there was continued in the same manner and prompted by the same motives as that of Abraham and Isaac (Heb 11:13).Jacob dwells in Canaan: Joseph brings to his father an ill report of his brethren, Genesis 37:2. He loves, they hate him, Genesis 37:3,4; the more because of his dreams which he told them, Genesis 37:5. His first dream, Genesis 37:7. His brethren interpret it, and their hatred increases, Genesis 37:8. His second dream, Genesis 37:9. Tells it to his father, who rebukes him, but observes his saying, Genesis 37:10,11. He is sent by his father to seek after his brethren, Genesis 37:13-17. They seeing him, conspire his death, Genesis 37:18-20. But upon the intercession of Reuben they strip and throw him into a pit, Genesis 37:21-24. Some Ishmeelites passing by, by Judah’s advice they sell him to them, who carry him into Egypt, Genesis 37:25-28. Reuben is concerned for him, Genesis 37:29,30. Their contrivance to deceive Jacob, Genesis 37:31,32. His grief for the loss of Joseph, Genesis 37:33-35. Joseph sold to Potiphar, an officer in Egypt, Genesis 37:36.

1729 No text from Poole on this verse.

And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger,.... And this stands opposed unto, and is distinguished from the case and circumstances of Esau and his posterity, expressed in the preceding chapter, who dwelt in the land of their possession, not as strangers and sojourners, as Jacob and his seed, but as lords and proprietors; and so these words may be introduced and read in connection with the former history; "but Jacob dwelt", &c. (a); and this verse would better conclude the preceding chapter than begin a new one. The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases the words, "and Jacob dwelt quietly"; or peaceably, in tranquillity and safety; his brother Esau being gone from him into another country, he remained where his father lived and died, and in the country that by his blessing belonged to him:

in the land of Canaan, and particularly in Hebron, where Isaac and Abraham before him had dwelt.

(a) "at habitavit", Schmidt.

And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a {a} stranger, in the land of Canaan.

(a) That is, the story of such things as came to him and his family as in Ge 5:1

1. sojournings] Cf. Genesis 17:8, Genesis 28:4, Genesis 36:7 (P).

Ver 1. - And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger (literally, in the land of the sojourning, s of his father), in the land of Canaan. This verse is not the commencement of the ensuing (Keil, Kalisch, Lange, &c.), but the concluding sentence of the present, section, the adversative particle ו, corresponding to the δε of the LXX., introducing a contrast between Esau, who dwelt in Mount Seir, and Jacob, who dwelt in the land of Canaan, and the following verse beginning the next division of the book with the customary formula, "These are the generations" (LXX., some MS., Quarry, p. 523). Rosenmüller less happily connects the present verse with Genesis 35:29; the Vulgate begins the next section with ver. 3. A similar division of verses to that proposed will be found in Genesis 25:11.

Genesis 37:1Genesis 37:1-2

The statement in Genesis 37:1, which introduces the tholedoth of Jacob, "And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's pilgrimage, in the land of Canaan," implies that Jacob had now entered upon his father's inheritance, and carries on the patriarchal pilgrim-life in Canaan, the further development of which was determined by the wonderful career of Joseph. This strange and eventful career of Joseph commenced when he was 17 years old. The notice of his age at the commencement of the narrative which follows, is introduced with reference to the principal topic in it, viz., the sale of Joseph, which was to prepare the way, according to the wonderful counsel of God, for the fulfilment of the divine revelation to Abraham respecting the future history of his seed (Genesis 15:13.). While feeding the flock with his brethren, and, as he was young, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who were nearer his age than the sons of Leah, he brought an evil report of them to his father (רעה intentionally indefinite, connected with דּבּתם without an article). The words נער והוּא, "and he a lad," are subordinate to the main clause: they are not to be rendered, however, "he was a lad with the sons," but, "as he was young, he fed the flock with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah."

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