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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

Genesis 37

Verses 1-11

The Seeds of Jealousy

Jealousy yields ugly actions. Joseph' brothers were jealous of him for several reasons. When Joseph was seventeen, the sons of Bilhah, Dan and Naphtali, and Zilpah, Gad and Asher, did something wrong while tending their father's sheep. Joseph told Jacob, thus stirring the hearts of four brothers against him. Joseph was the firstborn son of Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife. He was also the son born to Jacob in his old age. So, Jacob gave him a coat of many colors. His brothers concluded he was loved more than they were. They hated him for it and would not speak to him in a kind way.

Then, Joseph had a dream that made them hate him more. In the dream, all the brothers were working in the field making sheaves of grain. The sheaves of the other brothers bowed down to Joseph's sheave, which stood erect. They naturally concluded he would rule over them. He had another dream in which the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. When Jacob heard the dream, he asked if it meant he and his wife along with eleven sons would bow down to Joseph. This aroused envy in the brothers. However, Jacob, who knew the significance of certain dreams, kept the matter in his heart ( Gen_37:1-11 ; Gen_28:10-22 ).

Verses 12-22

An Opportunity For Revenge

Joseph's brothers took their father's sheep to the area around Shechem. Remember, this area would have been fraught with potential danger because of the slaughter worked by Simeon and Levi. That may have been why Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. However, when he arrived at Shechem in the valley of Hebron, he could not find them. A man told him he had heard them say they were going on to Dothan.

Joseph caught up to his brothers in Dothan. Before he ever reached them, they said, "Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, 'Some wild beast has devoured him.' We shall see what will become of his dreams!" Reuben suggested they not shed blood but cast Joseph into a pit, or empty cistern. The inspired writer says his plan was to rescue Joseph and safely return him to his father ( Gen_37:12-22 ).

Verses 23-36

Sold By His Brothers

When Joseph reached them, they stripped himof the coat Jacob had given him and cast him into a pit. Then, they sat down to eat. While they were eating, a caravan of Ishmaelite traders were sighted by the brothers. They were going from Gilead to Egypt to sell spices, medicine and perfume. Judah suggested they not kill Joseph but make a profit by selling him to the traders.

The Ishmaelites gave them twenty shekels of silver, which was the redemption price for a boy up to twenty years of age ( Lev_27:5 ). All of the business with the traders must have been done while Reuben was away. When he returned to an empty pit, he tore his clothes. Then, Joseph's brothers took his coat and dipped it in goat's blood. The extent of their jealous anger can be seen in the question they asked their father. "We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?" Notice, they would not even call Joseph their brother.

Jacob assumed just what they hoped he would. He knew it was Joseph's coat and believed a wild animal had killed him. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. Then, he mourned for his lost son and would not be comforted. In fact, he said he would mourn until he died. Meanwhile, Joseph was sold by the Midianites to Potiphar, a captain of the guard serving Pharaoh ( Gen_37:23-36 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Genesis 37". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/genesis-37.html. 2014.