Genesis 37

Joseph’s Dreams

1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him.
4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:
7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”
11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem,
13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem,
15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.
18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.
20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said.
22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—
24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?
27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels[b] of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes.
30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.
32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.
35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites[c] sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Genesis 37 Commentary

Chapter 37

Joseph is loved of Jacob, but hated by his brethren. (1-4) Joseph's dreams. (5-11) Jacob sends Joseph to visit his brethren, They conspire his death. (12-22) Joseph's brethren sell him. (23-10) Jacob deceived, Joseph sold to Potiphar. (31-36)

Verses 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.

Verses 5-11 God gave Joseph betimes the prospect of his advancement, to support and comfort him under his long and grievous troubles. Observe, Joseph dreamed of his preferment, but he did not dream of his imprisonment. Thus many young people, when setting out in the world, think of nothing but prosperity and pleasure, and never dream of trouble. His brethren rightly interpreted the dream, though they abhorred the interpretation of it. While they committed crimes in order to defeat it, they were themselves the instruments of accomplishing it. Thus the Jews understood what Christ said of his kingdom. Determined that he should not reign over them, they consulted to put him to death; and by his crucifixion, made way for the exaltation they designed to prevent.

Verses 12-22 How readily does Joseph wait his father's orders! Those children who are best beloved by their parents, should be the most ready to obey them. See how deliberate Joseph's brethren were against him. They thought to slay him from malice aforethought, and in cold blood. Whosoever hateth his brother is ( 1 John. 3:15 ) because their father loved him. New occasions, as his dreams and the like, drew them on further; but this laid rankling in their hearts, till they resolved on his death. God has all hearts in his hands. Reuben had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born; yet he proves his best friend. God overruled all to serve his own purpose, of making Joseph an instrument to save much people alive. Joseph was a type of Christ; for though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world, yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us in great humility and love. He came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him. His own not only received him not, but crucified him. This he submitted to, as a part of his design to redeem and save us.

Verses 23-30 They threw Joseph into a pit, to perish there with hunger and cold; so cruel were their tender mercies. They slighted him when he was in distress, and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, see ( Amos 6:6 ) ; for when he was pining in the pit, they sat down to eat bread. They felt no remorse of conscience for the sin. But the wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain, ( Psalms 76:10 ) . Joseph's brethren were wonderfully restrained from murdering him, and their selling him as wonderfully turned to God's praise.

Verses 31-36 When Satan has taught men to commit one sin, he teaches them to try to conceal it with another; to hide theft and murder, with lying and false oaths: but he that covers his sin shall not prosper long. Joseph's brethren kept their own and one another's counsel for some time; but their villany came to light at last, and it is here published to the world. To grieve their father, they sent him Joseph's coat of colours; and he hastily thought, on seeing the bloody coat, that Joseph was rent in pieces. Let those that know the heart of a parent, suppose the agony of poor Jacob. His sons basely pretended to comfort him, but miserable, hypocritical comforters were they all. Had they really desired to comfort him, they might at once have done it, by telling the truth. The heart is strangely hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Jacob refused to be comforted. Great affection to any creature prepares for so much the greater affliction, when it is taken from us, or made bitter to us: undue love commonly ends in undue grief. It is the wisdom of parents not to bring up children delicately, they know not to what hardships they may be brought before they die. From the whole of this chapter we see with wonder the ways of Providence. The malignant brothers seem to have gotten their ends; the merchants, who care not what they deal in so that they gain, have also obtained theirs; and Potiphar, having got a fine young slave, has obtained his! But God's designs are, by these means, in train for execution. This event shall end in Israel's going down to Egypt; that ends in their deliverance by Moses; that in setting up the true religion in the world; and that in the spread of it among all nations by the gospel. Thus the wrath of man shall praise the Lord, and the remainder thereof will he restrain.

Cross References 80

  • 1. S Genesis 17:8
  • 2. S Genesis 10:19
  • 3. S Genesis 2:4
  • 4. S Genesis 30:24
  • 5. Genesis 41:46; 2 Samuel 5:4
  • 6. Genesis 46:32; 1 Samuel 16:11; 1 Samuel 17:15; Psalms 78:71; Amos 7:15
  • 7. Genesis 35:25
  • 8. Genesis 35:26
  • 9. 1 Samuel 2:24
  • 10. S Genesis 17:5
  • 11. S Genesis 25:28
  • 12. Genesis 43:27; Genesis 44:20
  • 13. ver 23,31,32; 2 Samuel 13:18-19
  • 14. Genesis 43:34; Genesis 45:22; 1 Samuel 1:4-5; Esther 2:9
  • 15. S ver 24; S Genesis 27:41; Genesis 49:22-23; Acts 7:9
  • 16. S Genesis 20:3; S Genesis 28:12
  • 17. ver 10
  • 18. ver 8
  • 19. Ruth 2:7,15
  • 20. ver 9,10; Genesis 27:29; Genesis 42:6,9; Genesis 43:26,28; Genesis 44:14; Genesis 50:18; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 9:6
  • 21. Genesis 41:44; Genesis 42:10; Genesis 44:16,18; Genesis 48:22; Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16
  • 22. ver 5
  • 23. S ver 7; Genesis 28:12
  • 24. Revelation 12:1
  • 25. Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3
  • 26. ver 5
  • 27. Ruth 2:16; Psalms 9:5; Psalms 68:30; Psalms 106:9; Psalms 119:21; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 54:9; Zechariah 3:2
  • 28. S ver 7; S Genesis 9:25; S Genesis 33:3; Genesis 27:29
  • 29. Genesis 26:14; Acts 7:9
  • 30. Luke 2:19,51
  • 31. S Genesis 12:6
  • 32. S Genesis 17:5
  • 33. Genesis 33:19
  • 34. 1 Samuel 17:18
  • 35. S Genesis 13:18; Genesis 35:27
  • 36. 2 Kings 6:13
  • 37. 1 Samuel 19:1; 2 Chronicles 24:21; Psalms 31:13,20; Psalms 37:12,32; S Matthew 12:14; Mark 14:1; Acts 23:12
  • 38. S Genesis 28:12
  • 39. ver 22; Jeremiah 38:6,9
  • 40. ver 33; Leviticus 26:6,22; Deuteronomy 32:24; 2 Kings 17:25; Ezekiel 34:25
  • 41. ver 31-33; S Genesis 4:10
  • 42. Genesis 50:20
  • 43. S Genesis 29:32
  • 44. Genesis 42:22
  • 45. S ver 20
  • 46. ver 29-30
  • 47. ver 3
  • 48. S ver 4; Genesis 49:23; Jeremiah 38:6; Jeremiah 41:7; Ezekiel 22:27
  • 49. S Genesis 16:11
  • 50. S Genesis 31:21; S Song of Songs 4:1
  • 51. Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 22:6; Jeremiah 46:11
  • 52. Genesis 43:11; Exodus 30:23; Psalms 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 1:13; Matthew 2:11
  • 53. ver 28; Genesis 39:1; Psalms 105:17
  • 54. S Genesis 29:35
  • 55. ver 20; S Genesis 4:10
  • 56. Genesis 42:21
  • 57. S Genesis 29:14
  • 58. S Genesis 25:2; Judges 6:1-3
  • 59. Jeremiah 38:13
  • 60. Exodus 21:16
  • 61. Leviticus 27:5; Matthew 26:15
  • 62. S Genesis 16:11
  • 63. ver 36; Genesis 39:1; Genesis 45:4-5; Psalms 105:17; Jeremiah 12:6; Acts 7:9
  • 64. ver 34; Genesis 44:13; Numbers 14:6; Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:11; Job 2:12">2Ki Job 2:12; 2 Kings 5:7; 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 22:11; Job 1:20; Job 2:12; Isaiah 36:22; Isaiah 37:1; Jeremiah 36:24; Jeremiah 41:5; Joel 2:13
  • 65. ver 22; Genesis 42:13,36
  • 66. S ver 3; ver 3,23
  • 67. Revelation 19:13
  • 68. S ver 3
  • 69. S ver 20
  • 70. Genesis 42:13,38; Genesis 44:20,28
  • 71. S ver 29
  • 72. 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 20:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; 2 Kings 19:1,2; Job 16:15; Psalms 69:11; Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:3; Isaiah 22:12; Isaiah 32:11; Isaiah 37:1; Jeremiah 48:37; Jeremiah 49:3; Joel 1:13
  • 73. Ge 50:3,10,11; Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8
  • 74. Job 2:11; Job 15:11; Job 16:5; Job 42:11
  • 75. 2 Samuel 12:17; Psalms 77:2; Jeremiah 31:15
  • 76. Genesis 42:38; Genesis 44:22,29,31
  • 77. 2 Samuel 12:23
  • 78. S Genesis 25:2
  • 79. S ver 28
  • 80. Genesis 39:1; Genesis 40:3; Genesis 41:10,12; 1 Samuel 22:14

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain; also in verses 23 and 32.
  • [b]. That is, about 8 ounces or about 230 grams
  • [c]. Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Vulgate and Syriac (see also verse 28); Masoretic Text "Medanites"

Chapter Summary


In this chapter begins the history of Joseph, with whom the remaining part of this book is chiefly concerned; and here are related the hatred of his brethren to him, because he brought an ill report of them to his father, and because his father loved him, and which was increased by the dream he dreamed, and told them of, Ge 37:1-11; a visit of his to his brethren in the fields, whom he found after a long search of them, Ge 37:12-17; their conspiracy on sight of him to slay him, but by the advice of Reuben it was agreed to cast him into a pit, which they did, Ge 37:18-24; and after that, at the motion of Judah, sold him to the Ishmaelites, who were going to Egypt, Ge 37:25-28; this being done, Reuben being absent, and not finding Joseph in the pit, was in great distress, Ge 37:29,30; their contrivance to deceive their father, and make him believe that Joseph was destroyed by a wild beast, which on the sight of the coat he credited, and became inconsolable, Ge 37:31-35; and the chapter concludes with the sale of Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, Ge 37:36.

Genesis 37 Commentaries

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