The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 37

Gen 37:1

Gen 37: Joseph the youth: Joseph, as a type of Christ -- to Jews -- see list of parallels, Index Rerum 7,8; WExp 92. Joseph = "he takes away" (ie, reproach) and "God will increase" (him...): cp Gen 30:23,24; Isa 53:11,12.

Gen 37:2

THIS IS THE ACCOUNT OF JACOB: (1) "The generations of Jacob". The last of the 10 "generations" in Genesis. This will be the arena of all the OT, until the formula is repeated in Christ (Mat 1:1). (2) Or, alternatively, "the generations of Jacob... Joseph": Joseph, the one true hope of God's family at this time. All life was vested in this one man: The man sent before to preserve life! The Saviour of the world!

TENDING THE FLOCKS: Like the "Good Shepherd" (Joh 10:11).

SONS OF BILHAH... AND ZILPAH: Dan, Asher, Gad, Naphtali (Gen 35:25,26).

A BAD REPORT: Poss their resentments or insinuations. Or other activities, as Reuben (Gen 35:22) and Simeon and Levi (Gen 34:25).

Gen 37:3

ISRAEL LOVED JOSEPH MORE...: "My beloved son" (Mat 3:17; Col 1:13 mg).

A RICHLY ORNAMENTED ROBE (AV "COAT OF MANY COLORS"): Cp Exo 39:1. Sig a princely garment -- the birthright. RV mg: "a long garment with sleeves" -- reserved for sheik and his heir (Str Scr 44). Reuben had forfeited birthright (Gen 35:22). Joseph was the other firstborn.

ROBE: Heb "kethoneth": a ceremonial, priestly coat -- used only of Adam's coat (Gen 3:21), Joseph's coat, priestly linen garment (Exo 28:4), and the symbol of chastity for a king's daughter (2Sa 13:18,19; Song 5:3).

Gen 37:4

Joseph was no doubt hated as much for his different outlook and habits, as for the love of Jacob. Envy, the root of all evil: Psa 69:8; 38:11; 88:18.

THEY HATED HIM: "Despised and rejected" (Isa 53:3). "They hated me without a cause" (Joh 15:25).

COULD NOT SPEAK A KIND WORD ("peaceably": KJV) TO HIM: In ct, Jesus will one day speak "Peace" to the nations: Zec 9:10.

Gen 37:5

Did he not know what they might do?

Gen 37:6

Unlike the old Jacob, Joseph openly tells all, and does not scheme to secure any preeminence for himself. He assumes his brethren will be pleased to listen to him (cp Moses in Exo 19:23).

Gen 37:7

SHEAVES: Cp the waved sheaf offering (Lev 23:10-14), sym Christ.

Gen 37:8

Christ speaks parables of kingdom, and is hated for it: "We don't want this man to rule over us" (Luk 19:14).

Gen 37:9

Joseph was represented by Taurus the bull (Deu 33:17), while his brothers were the 11 other constellations (WJos 8). Cp application to Christ: "Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars" (Psa 148:3).

Gen 37:10

YOUR MOTHER: Rachel had died. So this refers to: (1) national Israel -- the "mother", or (2) Rachel bowing to Christ in the Kingdom.

AND I: Did Jacob bow down before Joseph? No, not literally. (In fact, the opposite is implied -- that even the mighty Joseph in Egypt still pays respect, homage to his elderly father Jacob -- as does even Pharaoh!: Gen 47:10; cp Heb 7:7.) Is this a prophetic type, of all his bre bowing down before Christ, the antitypical "Joseph'?

Gen 37:12

The trials of Joseph: Joseph, as type of Jesus, needed to suffer chastisement: "Joseph was innocent and excellent, but Joseph was young and untried, and God had a great purpose with him that required that he should be matured and perfected in character as men only can be perfected -- in the school of adversity. Joseph had to be fitted for exaltation and the exercise of power, and therefore Joseph had to suffer for Joseph's own good and for the bringing about of a great result to the whole house of Israel. Joseph was allowed to become the object of his brethren's successful hatred. Therefore, if sympathy sheds a tear, the understanding admires, while Joseph is bound by unfeeling brethren, and in spite of his frantic entreaties, lowered into a pit where death appears inevitable, both in his own estimation and that of his brothers. No greater evil short of death could befall a human being than that which thus came to Joseph. A spectator on the spot would have said it was evil in which it was not possible to imagine any good purpose. There was no explanation of it. Joseph was not permitted the know the meaning. He could not have understood if told. It would have frustrated the object for him to know. Let us recollect this when in any matter similarly situated. Circumstances may be dark; calamity unmixed; the situation such that enemies may say, 'There is no help for him in God'; yet God may be at the bottom of all the trouble for purposes of goodness which the future alone will reveal. The only policy is, in all circumstances, to commit ourselves to the keeping of our Creator in faith and well-doing: 'Commit thy way unto the Lord; and trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday' " (WP 87).

Gen 37:13

Joseph was sent by father, to lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mat 15:24).

VERY WELL: Given their past history, did Joseph not know it might be dangerous?! Of course he did. Typ willing sacrifice of the "greater than Joseph".

Gen 37:14

Apparently the brethren were suffering a lengthy drought (note greater distance traveled -- v 17. Dryness of pit -- v 22). Note the spiritual significance.

JOSEPH ARRIVED AT SHECHEM: Joseph took his priestly coat (vv 31,32), perhaps intending to offer sacrifice for his brethren on Jacob's altar at Shechem (Gen 33:20).

Gen 37:15

A MAN: Or is it an angel?

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?: Was Joseph seeking "buried treasure"? -- the jewels and figurines buried by Jacob (Gen 34:27-29; 35:4). This field was the extra "portion" given by Jacob to Joseph (Gen 48:22) (Tes 51:281). Consider parable of treasure buried in field: Mat 13:44.

Gen 37:17

DOTHAN: 12 miles north of Samaria, near plain of Esdraelon, and the n-s trading routes (v 25). In area of Gentile traffic, as was Jerusalem in Roman times.

They had indicated that they were taking their father's flocks to Shechem. Instead they went twice as far, all the way to Dothan. Is it too much to think that they wanted to put as much distance between themselves and their father's house as they could? These were men who seemed to enjoy mischief and went out of their way to find it. Joseph's reports of their evil conduct had already been told their father. And the Scriptures record much of that despicable and ungodly conduct.

Sometimes we can find that our proximity to OUR Father's House has become remote out of neglect, preoccupation, or poor priorities. When we find that, the old adage works, "If God seems far away, guess who moved!" But let us be sure that our conduct NEVER imitates that of Joseph's brethren. Deliberately moving a long way away from godly influences, ecclesial fellowship, and those who seek after God's righteousness, just like Joseph's brethren, will inevitably cause our downfall and grief and may, if we persist, eternally damage our prospects.

SO JOSEPH WENT AFTER HIS BROTHERS: "Going the extra mile" (Mat 5:41) -- more than might reasonably be expected (as would Jesus).

Gen 37:18

"But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours' " (Mar 12:7). They judged him before they fairly heard him.

Gen 37:19

"And then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. 'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said" (Mat 27:29).

Gen 37:20

CISTERNS: This was a dry country where shepherds often dug fruitlessly for water.

THEN WE'LL SEE WHAT COMES OF HIS DREAMS: "If he be king of Israel..." (Mat 27:42,43; Psa 22:7).

Gen 37:21

Reuben was the displaced one; he had lost his standing because of Joseph.

Gen 37:23

"They said to one another, 'Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us' " (Gen 42:21). They also bound him with iron fetters: Psa 105:18.

THEY STRIPPED HIM: Psa 22:18; Mat 27:28!

Gen 37:24

"Empty, where never man was laid" (Luk 23:53). Cp Psa 40:1,2.

NO WATER IN IT: "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit" (Zec 9:11).

Gen 37:25

"You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph" (Amo 6:6). Cp also 1Co 10:7; Psa 14:4; Pro 30:20.

MYRRH: Mar 15:23; Joh 19:39!

Gen 37:27

As with Jesus, Jews use Gentiles to get rid of a problem.

Gen 37:28

20 SHEKELS: The standard price of a slave (Lev 27:5; Exo 21:32,16) (WJos 17). Cp 30 pieces of silver: the price of Christ (Mat 26:15). Prof Kenneth Kitchen, an Egyptologist at the University of Liverpool (retired) points out that the sale of Joseph to a caravan of Midianites (for 20 silver pieces) could have been an example of anachronism in the Bible, since 1,000 years later the price for a slave was much higher (ancient inflation). However, the price reported in the Bible matches precisely the going price of slaves in the region from Joseph's time period. This is just one example that demonstrates, according to Kitchen, that "it's more reasonable to assume that the Biblical data reflect reality."

TO EGYPT: "A distant country" (Luk 19:12).

Gen 37:30

Perplexity, at death of Jesus, and the empty tomb.

Gen 37:31

The bros' treachery brings unintentional blessings later (Gen 45:5; 50:20). So it was with Christ's death, sacrifice. (Coat dipped in "Joseph's" blood brought by his bre to F(f)ather.)

A GOAT: "The rabbis used to say that the reason why the sacrifice of a goat was appointed for the day of Atonement (Lev 16:5,8) was that it might be a special reminder to the people of Israel of the grievous sin of their fathers" (WJos 19).

Gen 37:32

YOUR SON'S: Not "our brother's"! Cp Luk 15:30.

Gen 37:33

The story was circulated, that Jesus' body had been stolen: Mat 27:12,13. But did Jacob suspect "foul play"? (cp Gen 42:36-38).

IT IS MY SON'S ROBE: The one who, many years before, had used a priestly garment and a kid to deceive his aged father (Gen 27:16,17) was now himself deceived by the same means.

Gen 37:35

Cp Jer 31:15: Rachel weeping for her children.

Gen 37:36

Jacob's sons associate too closely with the Canaanites, and thus the need to remove them to Egypt -- where God would, in time, make of them a great nation... thru Joseph and later Moses.

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