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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 37

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-36

Genesis 37:2. These are the generations, or events which happened to Jacob’s family. Sons of Bilhah. Jacob seems to have divided Leah’s sons from the sons of the bond-women, who proved very wicked children; and Joseph’s calamities began by accusing them. Concumbentes cum bestiis.

Genesis 37:3. Israel loved Joseph, because of Rachel, and because of his great piety at the age of seventeen; and having taken the birthright from Reuben, on account of his sin, he conferred it on Joseph on account of his piety. With this view he made him a coat of many colours, that he might assist him at the altar. But it might be called a coat of varied colours, from the embroidery, as the Tunicam manicatam seems to imply. The art of dyeing was understood by the ancients, as appears from the Tyrian purple, chiefly produced by secretions found in a fish. The works of art would obtrude discoveries on the old world.

Genesis 37:4. They hated him. The partiality of their father, the complaints preferred against them for their faults, the coat of many colours, and the character of his dreams, instead of attracting the esteem of their better nature, excited their hatred, as was the case of the Lord Christ, of whom Joseph was a figure.

Genesis 37:14. Whether it be well with thy brethren. Jacob might fear some calamity on account of the massacre at Shechem.

Genesis 37:19. This dreamer cometh. A bitter sarcasm, and word of infidel reproach, which God, in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, converted into real honour, and a diadem of prophetic glory. So in the case of Jesus Christ, the crown of thorns was turned into a crown of glory, the reed into a sceptre of iron, and the purple robe into garments of light and majesty.

Genesis 37:20. Let us slay him. Simeon and Levi, according to Abarbanel, were the two that moved the rest to this wicked deed. Poli. Synopsis. Simeon is said to have bound Joseph, which apparently accounts for his being bound in Egypt.

Genesis 37:24. The pit was empty; being a pit to catch water in the rainy season.

Genesis 37:34 . Jacob mourned. There was more cause to have mourned for the wickedness of his sons yet alive, than for Joseph, who was supposed to be dead. When a man is supposed to have died in a distant land, his family should endeavour meekly to leave the matter with providence.


Entering now on the history of Joseph, one of the finest and most instructive providences is unfolded to our view which the sacred writings afford; and there is nothing in all the pagan writings, which either in point of consummate virtue or literary excellence, has claims to equal merit. May the Lord assist us in tracing its prominent features, and may our hearts be softened and sanctified by a review of his early providences and grace. We find Joseph, at the age of seventeen, inheriting the virtues of the patriarchs, and twice favoured with divine revelations of his future greatness. So it is that providence is wont to buoy up the mind with sacred hope, before the days of affliction approach.

He was hated of his brothers, because of his virtue; because he complained of their vices, and because he was honoured of his father and of his God. And providence is the same still; the cross and the crown are uniformly joined. We have seldom known a man eminently holy, but he was eminently tried. The one without the other might have been awful even to St. Paul: hence the joys of his revelations were allayed with a thorn (of infirmities) in the flesh. Consequently we ought not to be discouraged at adversity, for having God’s favour our crosses shall do us good, and not evil.

We learn also, that real religion is characterised by abundance of simplicity, and a disposition to overcome evil with good. How simply did this youth relate his dreams! Intending no harm himself, he little suspected that another would thereby take occasion to seek his destruction. How cheerfully did he run to Shechem, and then to Dothan, to seek his envious brothers! A deep work of God on a young man’s mind is accompanied with the most engaging simplicity. Living to God, he has no secrets but what might be known. Wishing to do all things right, he opens all his soul without reserve. His friendship is without suspicion, and his conversation untainted with guile. Grace makes a man once more as a little child, and restores even to old age the heaven of infantile simplicity. On the other hand, how wicked, how inconceivably wicked must the human heart be, which can hate and persecute so much goodness in the soul of a brother. Oh, how sin estranges the heart from God: what a desert, a dry and barren desert, it brings upon the soul. Oh, how soon may a course of crimes reduce the human heart to become the habitation of devils, and the seat of every infernal plot. Suppress, oh my soul, every evil thought in its commencement, for thou knowest not but a single folly once indulged may prove thy destruction, or embarrass thee for life. A single folly did I say? But where is the sin that is not complicated? Here is a plot to kill a young, a pious, and unoffending brother. Next follows a scheme to cover the crime, by dipping his sacred coat in the blood of a kid; and sad is the recollection, that by a kid Jacob had deceived his father Isaac. Next the venerable Sire must be murdered too, or nearly so, with sorrow for a favourite son; and next, this horrid story must be persisted in for twenty years, till providence should develope the guilt. These brothers cast Joseph into a pit, and would have fallen themselves into the bottomless pit, had not God graciously brought them to deep repentance. Flee, oh young man, the society and counsel of ungodly men; for when once entered on a course of crimes, you may not stop at the limited point; and every kind of sin must terminate either in humiliating confessions, or everlasting misery.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 37". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-37.html. 1835.
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