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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Genesis 37

Verses 1-11

God’s Divine Call to Jacob (Joseph’s Dreams) - Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 50:26 will place emphasis upon the second phase of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. His divine calling for mankind to fulfill His purpose of multiplying and filling the earth with righteousness. God will implement phase two of His divine plan of redemption by calling one man named Abraham to depart unto the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3), and this calling was fulfilled by this first patriarch. Isaac’s calling can also be found at the beginning of his genealogy, where God commands him to dwell in the Promised Land (Genesis 26:1-6), and this calling was fulfilled by the patriarch Isaac. Jacob’s calling was fulfilled as he bore twelve sons and took them into Egypt where they multiplied into a nation. The opening passage of Jacob’s genealogy reveals that his destiny would be fulfilled through the dream of his son Joseph (Genesis 37:1-11), which took place in the land of Egypt. Perhaps Jacob did not receive such a clear calling as Abraham and Isaac because his early life was one of deceit, rather than of righteousness obedience to God; so the Lord had to reveal His plan for Jacob through his righteous son Joseph. In a similar way, God spoke to righteous kings of Israel, and was silent to those who did not serve Him. Thus, the three patriarchs of Israel received a divine calling, which they fulfilled in order for the nation of Israel to become established in the land of Egypt. Perhaps the reason the Lord sent the Jacob and the seventy souls into Egypt to multiply rather than leaving them in the Promised Land is that the Israelites would have intermarried with the cultic nations around them and failed to produce a nation of righteousness. God’s ways are always perfect.

Joseph’s Two Dreams - Joseph dreamed two dreams about the same event. The Lord speaks in multiple dreams to me when He wants to reveal something very important. This is because a matter is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1). The first dream involved Joseph and his eleven brothers. He saw twelve sheaves. This dream was told to his eleven brothers. The second dream added Joseph’s father and mother. This dream was told to his eleven brothers as well as his father.

2 Corinthians 13:1, “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

This dream was fulfilled in Genesis 42:6, where Joseph first meets his brothers in Egypt.

Genesis 42:6, “And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth .”

These two dreams revealed Joseph’s destiny, which was to rule over Egypt and his family as their redeemer.

Genesis 37:3 “and he made him a coat of many colours” Word Study on “a coat” Strong says the Hebrew word “coat” ( כֻּתֹּנֶת ) (H3801) literally means, “a shirt.” The Enhanced Strong says this Hebrew word is used 29 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as “coat 23, garment 5, robe 1.”

Word Study on “of (many) colors” Gesenius says the Hebrew word “colors” ( פַּס ) (H6446) properly means, “extremity,” and that it refers to “a tunic extending to the wrists and ankles, a long tunic with sleeves, worn by boys and girls of nobler rank.” Strong says it properly means, “the palm (of the hand) or sole (of the foot),” but refers to “a long and sleeved tunic,” or a “wide one,” because of its original root word meaning, “of many breaths.” Strong says it comes from the primitive root ( פָּסַס ) (H6461), which means, “to disperse, i.e., to disappear, cease.” HALOT says it means, “palm of the hand.” This word is used five times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV each tim as “of many colors.” ( Genesis 37:3; Genesis 37:23; Genesis 37:32, 2 Samuel 13:0; 2 Samuel 18:19) It is used to describe the beautiful garments of Joseph and Tamar.

Comments - The Hebrew meaning of the phrase “coat of many colors” suggests that this garment was not literally a multi-colored coat, but a tunic that reached down to his hands and feet. In this culture, it was a garment worn by wealthy people, by princes and person of nobility. Smith tells us that ancient Egyptian pictures depict the people of Palestine and Syria wearing long, linen dresses, partly colored, generally with a stripe around the skirts and on the borders of the sleeves. [247] In East Africa, it is not uncommon for an elderly man to wear just such a long, white tunic as a sign of nobility or respect.

[247] Reginald S. Poole, “Joseph,” in Dr. William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 2, ed. H. B. Hackett and Ezra Abbot (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1889), 1463.

Psalms 45:14, “In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her.” ( ESV)

Comments - This coat of many colors that Jacob made for his son Joseph not only revealed his favour towards his son Joseph, but it sent a message that Joseph would be heir of Jacob’s blessings and possessions. Remember how Abraham sent away all of his children and kept Isaac as the sole heir. The brothers of Jacob probably felt that this was the message behind this beautiful tunic.

Comments - The garments of Joseph will play an important role in the life of this servant. He will remove the garments of a youth and put on a coat of many colors, which symbolizes a prince. When this garment is taken from him by his brothers, he will put on the garments of a slave. Then these garments will be taken from him by Potiphar’s wife and he will put on the garments of a prisoner. Finally, he will be clothed with the garments of the Prime Minister of Egypt. Each time his garments were taken he had to forgive and forget. He did not long for the past, but looked to God to make a way for him in the future. Eventually, he realized that each time it was divine providence that caused his garments to be changed, and he became content wearing the garments and the ministry that God had placed him into.

Genesis 37:4 Comments - The story of Joseph and his brothers serves as an excellent illustration of jealousy in human nature.

Genesis 37:7 Comments - In Genesis 37:7 Joseph tells of his dream about sheaves of wheat. Note that as head of Egypt years later Joseph gathered wheat for the world, and his brothers would one day bow down over the issue of wheat.

Genesis 37:9 Comments - We know that God spoke to Abraham and compared his seed to the stars in heaven for multitude. So, on two occasions in the Scriptures the stars serve to symbolize people.

Genesis 37:11 Comments - Genesis 37:11 illustrates two different reactions to Joseph's two dreams. This reveals their hearts. His brothers envied him. Jacob pondered these things in his heart as Mary, Jesus’ mother, did on many occasions.

Verses 1-36

The Genealogy of Jacob The genealogies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have a common structure in that they open with God speaking to a patriarch and giving him a commission and a promise in which to believe. In each of these genealogies, the patriarch’s calling is to believe God’s promise, while this passage of Scripture serves as a witness to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling each promise. Only then does the genealogy come to a close.

Genesis 37:1 to Genesis 50:26 gives the account of the genealogy of Jacob, Isaac’s son. Hebrews 11:21-22 reveals the central message in this genealogy that stirs our faith in God when Jacob and Joseph gave redemptive prophecies, saying, “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” As Abraham’s genealogy begins with a divine commission when God told him to leave Ur and to go Canaan (Genesis 12:1), and Isaac’s genealogy begin with a divine commission predicting him as the father of two nations (Genesis 25:23), so does Jacob’s genealogy begin with a divine encounter in the form of his son Joseph’s two dreams. These dreams make it clear that Jacob’s divine commission was to bring his clan of seventy souls into Egypt through Joseph for four hundred years while the people multiply into the nation of Israel. This genealogy closes with the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “prince of God,” because his destiny was to father a multitude of godly seed. He fathered the twelve sons, or “princes,” who multiplied into the twelve tribes of Israel. His ability to father twelve righteous seeds earned him his name as a prince of God, as a man who ruled over a multitude of godly seed. The Scriptures testify to Jacob’s faith in God’s promise that Joseph would rule over his brethren by the fact that he followed his son into Egypt (Genesis 49:22-26), and he blessed the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh (Hebrews 11:21-22). The fact that Jacob died in a ripe old age testifies that he fulfilled his destiny as did his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

The Story of Joseph The last story in the origin of the nation of Israel that is recorded in the book of Genesis is the story of Joseph. Perhaps there is no other Old Testament story so moving as when he reveals himself to his brothers. There are many truths that are taught to us in this great Bible story. We learn that if we will serve the Lord amidst persecutions, God will always bring someone into our lives to bless us. Joseph had the favour and blessings of his father as a young man in the midst of his brothers’ persecutions. He then had the blessings of Potipher as a young man in Egypt. He found the favour of Pharaoh as an adult.

God gave Jeremiah some friends who stood by him and blessed him during the most difficult times in his ministry. God gave Daniel three friends in his Babylonian captivity. God gave to Paul men like Timothy and Luke to stand by him during times of persecution and even imprisonment. But for Joseph, he often stood alone, totally trusting in God.

The Chronology of the Life of Joseph - Jacob was one hundred thirty (130) years old when he went to Egypt.

Genesis 47:9, “And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”

Jacob died at the age of 147.

Genesis 47:28, “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.”

Joseph became ruler in Egypt at the age of 30.

Genesis 41:46, “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Joseph had two sons by the age of 37.

Genesis 41:50, “And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.”

Joseph was 39 when his family comes to Egypt.

Genesis 45:11, “And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.”

Therefore, Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born.

Also, Joseph died at the age of 110 (Genesis 50:22; Genesis 50:26)

Genesis 50:22, “And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.”

Genesis 50:26, “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”

Joseph as a Type and Figure of Christ Jesus In many ways we can see Joseph as a type and figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note some comparisons:

1. Joseph was Jacob’s beloved son, just as Jesus was the Heavenly Father’s beloved son.

Matthew 3:17, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

2. Joseph was given a coat of many colours, which was similar to the seamless robe worn by Jesus Christ, of which the Roman soldiers cast lots (John 19:23-24).

John 19:23-24, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.”

3. Joseph took bread to his brothers, just like Jesus was sent as the bread of life to His people.

Matthew 15:24-26, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.”

4. Joseph was rejected by his brothers like Jesus was rejected by His people, the Jews.

5. Joseph was thrown in the pit in Genesis 37:24. This is like Jesus’ death on the cross (Psalms 16:10)

Genesis 37:24, “And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.”

Psalms 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

6. When Joseph was betrayed by his brethren and sold as a servant. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of sliver.

7. Joseph became a servant in the house of Potiphar, just like Jesus Christ took form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and (Psalms 105:17).

Genesis 37:36, “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.”

Genesis 39:1, “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.”

Psalms 105:17, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:”

Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

8. Joseph was sent to Egypt to deliver the house of Jacob (Israel) (Genesis 45:7-8) like Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to deliver them.

Genesis 45:7-8, “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Matthew 15:24, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

9. Joseph was lifted up by Potiphar, then brought down into prison, then raised up by Pharaoh at his right hand. This is like Jesus being brought down to the grave, and then being raised to the right hand of the Father.

10. Joseph was exalted as ruler under Pharaoh, like Christians at the right hand of the Father in heaven today.

11. Some scholars suggest that Joseph’s marriage to the Egyptian is a type of Christ’s marriage to the church (especially to the Gentile church). He had two sons, which symbolizes the salvation of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

12. Joseph’s brothers bowed down to Joseph during the famine (Genesis 42:6) like Israel will bow down to Jesus one day (Romans 11:26). Israel shall be saved through the Deliverer.

Genesis 42:6, “And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.”

Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”

13. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers on their third trip to Egypt. The ten brothers finally coming to Joseph and recognising him and receiving an inheritance is like Israel turning to and recognising Jesus and all being saved.

Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”

Jesus will reveal Himself to the Jews after the Church is raptured at His Second Return, thus, a third return.

14. All nations came and bowed down to Joseph, as all nations will someday come and bow down at the throne of the Lord Jesus.

15. Joseph was ruler over Egypt and the whole world, just as Jesus will reign in Zion as king of kings over the earth.

Verses 12-36

Joseph Is Sold into Slavery Genesis 37:12-36 records the story of Joseph being sold into slavery. The fact that there were both Ishmeelite and the Midianite traders in the account of Joseph being sold as a slave may seem a bit confusing. Some English translations read as though these two groups of traders were one and the same.

When the Midianites attempted to sell Joseph to Potiphar (Genesis 37:36), this Egyptian perceived that Joseph was not a slave or the son of a slave, but one of noble birth. Therefore, he required a bill of sale from the Midianites lest he be stolen. The Midianites then brought the Ishmeelites before Potiphar and gave him their account that he was truly a slave whom they had purchased. Upon this testimony Potiphar purchased Joseph. This would account for Genesis 39:1 which said that Potiphar purchased Joseph from the Ishmeelites.

Genesis 37:36, “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.”

Genesis 39:1, “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.”

Genesis 37:19-20 Comments Manifestation of Sin - In Genesis 37:19-20 the sin that has been abiding in heart of Joseph’s brothers for sometime is revealed. Sin in man’s heart will work itself out into actions if it is not dealt with and confessed to God.

Genesis 37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

Genesis 37:21 Comments - Reuben was the eldest of the children of Jacob.

Genesis 37:26-27 Comments Judah and Judas Compared - Note that it was Judah's idea to sell Joseph, his brother. The name “Judas” is the New Testament word for the Hebrew name “Judah.” Also, it was Judas that sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:14-15).

Matthew 27:14-15, “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.”

Genesis 37:30 Comments - Was Reuben responsible because he was eldest?

Genesis 37:33 Comments Circumstances can be fully persuasive, but absolutely wrong. Jacob lived for many years convinced that Joseph was dead. It took a great amount of persuasion for his sons to later convince him of the truth.

Genesis 45:26, “And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.”

Genesis 45:28, “And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.”

Genesis 37:31-35 Comments The Deception of Deceiving Others - The one who has deceived others has now himself been deceived.

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No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 37". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/genesis-37.html. 2013.