And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
- 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.
an evil beast hath devoured him; this was natural to conclude from the condition the coat was in, and from the country he was sent into, which abounded with wild beasts, and was the very thing Joseph's brethren contrived to say themselves; and in this view they wished and hoped the affair would be considered, and so their wickedness concealed:
Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces; or "in rending is rent" (d); he is most certainly rent in pieces, there is no question to be made of it; it is plain, and it must be the case.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)33. an evil beast] Jacob interprets the message, as they had intended. They never asserted his death, but asked him to draw the inference. The clause is repeated from Genesis 37:20.Verse 33. - And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast (vide ver. 20) hath devoured him (this was precisely what his sons meant him to infer); Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces - טְרֹפ טֹרַפ, the inf. abs. Kal with the Pual expressing undoubted certainty. Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11); and לט, ladanum, the fragrant resin of the cistus-rose. Judah seized the opportunity to propose to his brethren to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. "What profit have we," he said, "that we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites; and our hand, let it not lay hold of him (sc., to slay him), for he is our brother, our flesh." Reuben wished to deliver Joseph entirely from his brothers' malice. Judah also wished to save his life, though not from brotherly love so much as from the feeling of horror, which was not quite extinct within him, at incurring the guilt of fratricide; but he would still like to get rid of him, that his dreams might not come true. Judah, like his brethren, was probably afraid that their father might confer upon Joseph the rights of the first-born, and so make him lord over them. His proposal was a welcome one. When the Arabs passed by, the brethren fetched Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him into Egypt. The different names given to the traders - viz., Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:25, Genesis 37:27, and Genesis 37:28), Midianites (Genesis 37:28), and Medanites (Genesis 37:36) - do not show that the account has been drawn from different legends, but that these tribes were often confounded, from the fact that they resembled one another so closely, not only in their common descent from Abraham (Genesis 16:15 and Genesis 25:2), but also in the similarity of their mode of life and their constant change of abode, that strangers could hardly distinguish them, especially when they appeared not as tribes but as Arabian merchants, such as they are here described as being: "Midianitish men, merchants." That descendants of Abraham should already be met with in this capacity is by no means strange, if we consider that 150 years had passed by since Ishmael's dismissal from his father's house, - a period amply sufficient for his descendants to have grown through marriage into a respectable tribe. The price, "twenty (sc., shekels) of silver," was the price which Moses afterwards fixed as the value of a boy between 5 and 20 (Leviticus 27:5), the average price of a slave being 30 shekels (Exodus 21:32). But the Ishmaelites naturally wanted to make money by the transaction.
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