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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 37

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.

In the land of his father’s sojournings (Marg.). — The dukes of Edom had habitations in the land of their possessions. Genesis 36:43 But Jacob, with his father Isaac, were pilgrims in the land of Canaan; content to dwell in tents here, that they might dwell with God for ever. Justin Martyr saith of the Christians of his time: They dwell in their own countries but as strangers; have fight to all, as citizens; but suffer hardship, as foreigners, … Pατπιδας οικουσιν ιδιας, αλλ" ως παροικοι , … - Epist. ad Diognetum.

Verse 2

These [are] the generations of Jacob. Joseph, [being] seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad [was] with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

These are the generations. — That is, Events, begotten of time, after he came to live with his father Isaac, who also wept for Joseph, Genesis 37:35 as Junius.

With the sons of Bilhah, … — It is thought that these sons of the handmaids, for the baseness of their birth, were more modest than the rest; and that Joseph therefore, out of his humility, sorted himself with them. Probable it is, they were more unruly than the rest, and ill conditioned, - as such are, commonly, - whereof Joseph made complaint, and was therefore hated. Veritas odium parit. Truth is a good mistress; but he that follows her too close at heels, may hap to have his teeth struck out. An expectas ut Quintillanus ametur? said he. Those that are wakened out of sleep are usually unquiet, ready to brawl with their best friends. So here.

Verse 3

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he [was] the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of [many] colours.

Because he was the son of his old age. — The Chaldee Paraphrast renders it morally, Because he was a wise son, in quo ante canos sapientia: such a one as Macarius was, of whom Nicephorus saith, that, for his prudence and gravity while he was yet but a youth, he was surnamed παιδαριογερων , the old stripling. Josephus saith, he was very like his mother Rachel; and therefore his father so loved him. But Chrysostom saith, better, that it was for his virtuous life, and godly disposition. Goodness is lovely in any; much more in an own child. John was the best beloved disciple, because best conditioned. But otherwise, Cavete, saith Ambrose, ne quos natura coniunxit, paterna gratia dividat. Parents’ partiality may breed heart-buruings. Ephesians 6:4

Verse 4

And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

They hated him. — 1. There is a passion of hatred: this is a kind of averseness, and rising of the heart against a man, when one seeth him; so that he cannot away with him, nor speak to him, nor look courteously or peaceably upon him; but one’s countenance falls whea he sees him, and he oven turns away, and, by his good will, would have nothing to do with him. 2. There is a habit of hatred: when the soul is so soured with this leaven, so settled in this alienation and estrangement, that it grows to wish, and desire, and seek his hurt. And this is one difference between hatred and envy: whom men hate, they will harm; but sometimes men’s gifts are envied, against whom no hurt is intended.

Verse 5

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told [it] his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

And Joseph dreamed. — Of divine dreams to be regarded as oracles, See Trapp on " Genesis 20:3 "

They hated him yet the more. — So the Jews did Jesus, for his parables; especially when he spake of his exaltation.

Verse 6

And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Hear, I pray you, this dream. — Thus he bespeaketh them, not out of a vain glorious boasting, but out of youthful simplicity, and because himself wondered at it. God also had a holy hand in it.

Verse 7

For, behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

We were binding sheaves. — This was fulfilled, when they came to him for grain into Egypt. Here Joseph dreams of his advancement, but not of his imprisonment: so do many professors, which therefore prove apostates.

Verse 8

And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Shalt thou indeed reign over us? — They rightly interpreted the dream, yet stubbornly resist the revealed will of God. This leaves sin without a cloak, John 15:22 as it did in the Pharisees. They rightly interpreted that place in Micah, Matthew 2:1-10 and yet, when Christ, to whom all their own signs did so well agree, came amongst them, they would by no means receive him; nay, they sent a message after him, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us."

Verse 9

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

Behold, the sun, and the moon. — The father of the family should be as the sun, full of heavenly light, and illightening all about him: The mother, as the moon, shining out in her husband’s absence, and veiling to him, when he is in place. The children, as stars of light, or rather, as a heaven full of stars, as one saith well of Joseph: Fuit Iosephi vita coelum quoddam lucidissimis virtutum stellis exornatum. The people of God are called, "the host of heaven," Daniel 8:10 and are bid to shine as lamps, or rather, [ φωστηρες ,] as those great lights of heaven. Philippians 2:15

Verse 10

And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

And his father rebuked him. — Either as not yet understanding the mystery, or dissembling it. It is wisdom, at some time, and in some place, to pretend a dislike of another man’s fact (so far as we may with truth), for the preventing of envy. This, some think, was Jacob’s drift here. And therefore he draws an argument, ab impossibili et absurdo; Shall thy dead mother rise and reverence thee? A likely matter: and yet, as light as Jacob made of it, to unload Joseph of the envy, he laid it to heart. Genesis 37:11

Verse 11

And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

And his brethren envied him. — Envy is a filthy fruit of the flesh Galatians 5:21 and the devil; who is called, the envious man; Matthew 13:19 ; Matthew 13:25 and such wisdom is said to be "devilish." James 3:15 The Pharisees, envying our Saviour, did the devil’s work. John 8:41 So did Cain, the devil’s patriarch, when he laid his cruel club on the innocent head of his brother Abel. And Saul, when, seized upon by the evil spirit more than a melancholy humour, he envied David, and sought his death. For, this vice, as it makes the heart to boil with hellish venom, so it blisters out at the tongue, as here; "They could not speak peaceably to Joseph," but scoff, and consult his ruin. It sits, also, looking out at the windows of the eyes; and, as a basilisk, blasteth the object. Nescio quis teneros, …; fascino, Bασκαινω , i.e., τοις φαεσι κτεινειν . Hence, invidere; to see with an evil eye, and naughty mind: and our English saith, to overlook a thing; that is, to bewitch it. This very looking upon other precellencies, whereby we are over shined, so as to lust to have that light put out, that our candle might shine above it - this is every man’s sin - though it act nothing, yet it is abominable. James 4:5 As, on the other side, to rejoice in the good parts of others, though it eclipseth our light, and this from the heart; this is indeed more than to excel others in any excellency, if this be wanting. For this, it is good to get the heart fraught with mercy, meekness of wisdom, fear of God, - whose providence cuts us out our various conditions and proportions, - zeal for his glory, as Moses; humility, charity ("Love envieth not," 1 Corinthians 13:4 ); and to take heed of strife. Romans 13:13 "Envy and strife" go coupled; they are brought in there by the brace, as it were twisted together. Likewise, of pride and vain-glory; Philippians 2:3 covetousness; Proverbs 28:22 contention about words; 1 Timothy 6:4 self-love, ignorance, …; all which make the soul sick of the fret, Psalms 37:8 ; Psalms 73:3 and to pierce itself through with many sorrows. For, this sin killeth the silly one, Job 5:2 if it kill no other. Envy and murder φθονου και φονου. φθονος , of φθινω , to consume. go coupled. Romans 1:29 Galatians 5:21 A hectic it is to itself, however; the same that rust is to iron, blasting to corn, or a moth to the cloth it breeds in. It drinketh the most part of its own venom, gnaws on its own heart, is consumed in its own fire, as Nadab and Abihu were; and, like the snake in the fable, licks off its own tongue, as envying teeth to the file in the forge. Socrates called it, the saw of the soul. Serram animae. David compares it to fire in billets of juniper, which burns vehemently, and continues, they say, more years than one. Simul peccat et plectitur: expedita iustitia, saith Petrarch. Other sins have some pleasure; this hath none, but torment. It is a very hell above ground, and paves a way to the unpardonable sin, as in Saul, and the Pharisees.

Verse 12

And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

In Shechem. — Sixty miles from Hebron, where Jacob now dwelt.

Verse 13

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed [the flock] in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here [am I].

And he said to him, Here am I. — "Children obey your parents," - quorum divina est dignitas, saith Chrysostom: our parents are Yεοι εφεστιοι , saith another; and Philo, for this maketh the fifth commandment a part of the first table, "for this is right." Ephesians 6:1 Blind nature saw it to be so. For it is not fit, saith the philosopher, to cross the gods, a man’s own father, and his tutor or teacher. Mη καλον κρινειν εναντια τοις Yεοις, πατρι, και Dαδασκαλω . - Aristot., Rhetor.

Verse 14

And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks. — His first care is for the welfare of his children. Many a Laban is more solicitous of his flock than of his family. It were better being Herod’s swine than his son, said Augustus. Hawks and hounds are better tended and tutored in some great houses than children. Or if they be taught manners, and handsome behaviour, that is all that is cared for. But piety must be principally planted, where God’s blessing upon posterity is expected: the promise whereof is therefore’specially annexed to the second commandment. Macrob.

Verse 15

And a certain man found him, and, behold, [he was] wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

What seekest thou? — This was not the angel Gabriel, as the Hebrews will have it; but some courteous passenger, that thus offereth himself to wandering Joseph, and sets him in his way again. At Athens there were public curses appointed against such as showed not those their error that were out of the way. Dion. Lamb., in Corn. Nep. See the like, Deuteronomy 27:18 . "Brethren," saith St James, "if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he saves a soul from death"; James 5:19-20 yea, he pulls him out of the fire of hell, saith Jude Ex igne gehennali - Pareus. Judges 1:23 for they that err from God’s commandments are cursed. Psalms 119:21

Verse 16

And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed [their flocks].

I seek my brethren. — He stayed not at Shechem, whither his father sent him; but missing them there, he seeks farther, till he found them. This is true obedience, whether to God or man, when we look not so much to the letter of the law, as to the mind of the lawmaker; apices iuris non sunt ius.

Verse 17

And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

And found them in Dothan. — That is, In Defection. So found our Saviour his lost sheep, in utter defection, both of doctrine and manners: some four, or fewer, "that looked for the consolation of Israel."

Verse 18

And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

They conspired against him. — So did the husbandmen against Christ: "This is the heir," say they, … Luke 20:14 The word is by one rendered, They craftily conspired. The Greek hath it, malignantly: craft and cruelty go usually together in the Church’s adversaries. The devil lends them his seven heads to plot, and his ten horns to push poor Joseph, that dreads no danger.

Verse 19

And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Behold, this dreamer. — This captain dreamer, or, this architect of dreams. A lewd scoff, and, by it, a cruel calumny. Envy, so it may gall, or kill, cares not how true or false it be, that, it allegeth: it usually aggravates the matter beyond truth, to do mischief, as here. Their hearts were so big, swollen with spite and spleen, that they could not call him by his name, but "this dreamer." So the Pharisees called our Saviour, "this fellow." Luke 23:2 And "the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?" - εκεινος - John 7:11 They could not find in their hearts to say, Where is Jesus? as Saul asked not for David, but for "the son of Jesse," by way of contempt. Christ tells his disciples that men shall, in hatred of them, cast out their names for evil, for his sake. Luke 6:22 Their persons should be proscribed, and their names expunged, as unworthy to breathe in the common air. That like as we give names to newly born babes; so when we cannot afford to mention a man’s name, it shows we wish him out of the world: Sic apud Latinos dicebantur capitis diminutionem pati, qui ex albo a censoribus expungebantur. Nomine Christianorum deleto, qui Remp. exercebant. So those bloody tyrants of the primitive times sounded the triumph beforehand, and engraved the victory they never got, upon pillars of marble. Ubicunque invenitur nomen Calvini, deleatur, saith the Index Expurgatorius. After Stephen Brune the martyr’s death, his adversaries commanded it to he cried, that none should make any more mention of him, under pain of heresy. Act. and Mon., fol. 820. So in Queen Mary’s days, one Tooly, hanged for felony, for defying the Pope, was, after his death, suspended and excommunicated; and strict charge given, that no man should eat or drink with him; or if any met him by the way, he should not bid him good morrow, or call him by his name. Ibidem, fol. 1439. It was not for nothing, surely, that our Saviour, in token of hearty reconciliation, requires men to greet their enemies, and to call them friendly by their names. Matthew 5:47

Verse 20

Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

And we will say. — So they consult, to cover their murder with a lie. One sin admitted makes way for another. He that hath fallen down one rung of hell’s ladder, knows not where he shall stop, till he break his neck at the bottom.

Verse 21

And Reuben heard [it], and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

And he delivered him out of their hands. — Josephus relates his arguments, whereby he prevailed with them: as (1.) That God would surely see them; (2.) Their father would extremely grieve at it; (3.) That Joseph was but a child, and their brother; (4.) That they would bring upon themselves the guilt of innocent blood, … It was happy they hearkened to him. God would have it so: and he will ever have one Reuben or another, to deliver his. It is not in vain for some one to stand for God and his people against many adverreties. When the Pharisees had destined our Saviour to death, John 7:1 Nicodemus, though he had none in the council to second him, spoke in his behalf, John 7:51 and for that time frustrated their bloody intention. See the like, Jeremiah 26:24 .

Verse 22

And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, [but] cast him into this pit that [is] in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

Shed no blood. — Every drop of it hath a tongue to cry for vengeance. Well might King James say, that if God did allow him to kill a man, he would think God did not love him. David, God’s darling, falling into that crimson sin, carried the bruise of that fall with him to his grave. Woe to those Italians that blaspheme oftener than swear; and murder more than revile or slander! Sandys’s Relation of West. Relig., sec. 13.

Verse 23

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, [his] coat of [many] colours that [was] on him;

They stripe Joseph out of his coat. — For, (1) It an eyesore to them; (2.) There with they would colour their cruelty. And this while they were doing, Joseph used many entreaties for himself, but they would not hear him. Genesis 42:21 Reuben also pleaded hard for the child, but all to no purpose. Genesis 37:22 Their tender mercies were cruelties.

Verse 24

And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit [was] empty, [there was] no water in it.

They cast him into a pit. — Where they meant he should pine and perish with hunger, which is a more cruel death than to die by the sword. Lamentations 4:9 Thus died Drusus by the command of Tiberius; food being denied him, he had eaten the stuffings of his bed. Druso adeo alimenta subducta, ut tomentum a culcitra tentaverit mandere. - Tacit. I have heard of a certain bishop, saith Melancthon, who, having cast ten men into a dungeon for their religion’s sake, kept them there so long without all manner of food, that they devoured one another. Joh. Manlii, loc. com., 124.

Verse 25

And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry [it] down to Egypt.

And they sat down to eat. — To weep for their wickedness, they should have sat down rather. But the devil had drawn a hard hoof over their hearts, that either they fdt no remorse of what they had done, for present; or else they sought to ease themselves of it by eating and merry making. "They drank wine in bowls; but no man was sorry for the affliction of Joseph ." Amos 6:6 Nay, perhaps they had so tired themselves with making away their brother, that they were even spent again, and stood in need of some refreshing. The good providence of God was in it howsoever, that they should there sit down, till the merchants came by from Gilead, which was a market for merchants. Jeremiah 8:22 ; Jeremiah 22:6 "All things co-operate for good to them that love God." Romans 8:28

Verse 26

And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit [is it] if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?

What profit is it? …Cui bono said that old judge in Rome. Cic., Orat. pro. C. Rabir. This is a song that most men will listen to. As the Jassians in Strabo, delighted with the music of an excellent harper, ran all away, when once they heard the market bell ring, save a deaf old man, that could take little delight in the harper’s ditties. But it were to be wished, that whenever we are tempted to sin, we would ask ourselves this question, What profit is it? …

Verse 27

Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he [is] our brother [and] our flesh. And his brethren were content.

For he is our brother, and our flesh. — This consideration should be, as the angel’s call to Abraham, to stay our hand from striking another; (1.) That he is our brother, in respect of God; for "have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" Malachi 2:10 (2.) That he is "our flesh," in regard of our first parents. Acts 17:26 Isaiah 58:7

Verse 28

Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty [pieces] of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

For twenty pieces of silver. — A goodly price! not all out the price of a slave. Exodus 21:32 Here "they sold the just one for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes." Amos 2:6 The Hebrews tell us, that of these twenty shekels, every of the ten brethren had two, to buy shoes for their feet Pirke R. Eliez, cap. 38.

And they brought Joseph into Egypt. — Little knowing what a prize they had in their hand, even the jewel of the world, and him that should one day be lord of Egypt. The saints, for their worth, are called "princes in all lands"; Psalms 45:16 kings in righteousness, "Many righteous," are "many kings." Compare Matthew 13:17 with Luke 10:24 . though somewhat obscure ones, - as Melchisedec. Hebrews 7:1-28 They are called "God’s portion"; Deuteronomy 32:9 "the dearly beloved of his soul"; Jeremiah 12:7 "a royal diadem in the hands of Jehovah." Isaiah 62:3 This the cock on the dunghill, the Midianitish muckworms take no notice of. They could see no comeliness in Christ, though the fairest of ten thousand; nothing more than a despicable man. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?." John 6:52 God had hid him ("in whom all the treasures of" worth and "wisdom were hid," Colossians 2:3 ) under the carpenter’s son: this pearl was covered with a shellfish; so are all God’s precious people, for most part, abjects in the world’s eye; their glory is within; "their life is hid": they are great heirs, but as yet in their non-age; kings, but in a strange country; heads destinated to the diadem; but this "the world knows not." 1 John 3:1 Let it suffice us that God, and all that can spiritually discern, know it; and so shall others: as Joseph’s brethren did him, in his bravery. For "when Christ, our life, appear, we shall appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:4

Verse 29

And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph [was] not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

He rent his clothes. — In token of extreme passion. A custom in use also among some heathens.

Verse 30

And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child [is] not; and I, whither shall I go?

The child is not; and I, … — In an old manuscript, I met with these words thus pathetically rendered: -

“Heu quid agam! periit puer ille, puer puer ille.”

Reuben was the oldest, and therefore thought he should be most blamed. Besides, he had not forgot how highly his father had been lately offended with him, for his detestable incest.

Verse 31

And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;

And dipped the coat in the blood. — That Jacob might think his son Joseph was dead; and so make no further inquiry after him.

Verse 32

And they sent the coat of [many] colours, and they brought [it] to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it [be] thy son’s coat or no.

Know now whether it be thy son’s coat. — One Philip, bishop of Beauvieu, in France, in the time of our Richard I, being a martial man, and much annoying our borders, was by King Richard in a skirmish happily taken, and put in prison. The bishop hereupon complained to the Pope, who wrote in the behalf of his son, as an ecclesiastical person, … The king sent to the Pope the armour he was taken in, with these words engraven thereon, "Know whether this be thy son’s coat, or not." Which the Pope viewing, sware it was rather the coat of a son of Mars, than a son of the Church; and so bade the king use his pleasure. Heyl., Geog., p. 108.

Verse 33

And he knew it, and said, [It is] my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.

It is my son’s coat, … — The Lord may well say as much of hypocrites: Their outward form of godliness is the garb of my sons and daughters; but some evil spirit hath devoured them, who use it only in hypocrisy. They are fair professors, but foul sinners. And when the filthy stoner goes damned to hell, what shall become of the zealous professor? As the churl said to the Bishop of Cullen, praying in the church like a bishop; but as he was a duke, going guarded like a tyrant: Whither thinkest thou the bishop shall go, when the duke shall be damned?

Verse 34

And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

Mourned for his son many days.Puerilitas est periculorum pelagus. Few live to be old, for one evil beast or another that devours them: as for one apple that hangs till it falls, many are cudgelled down or gathered off the tree. We should learn to bury children and friends, while yet alive; by acting their death to ourselves aforehand.

Verse 35

And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

And all his sons, … — Oh, faces hatched with impudence! Oh, hearts hewn out of a rock! Could they cause his woe, and then comfort him? Miserable comforters were they all; such as the usurer is to the young novice, or the crocodile that weeps over the dead body that it is devouring. These were the evil beasts that devoured Joseph. Nullae infestae hominibus bestiae, ut sunt sibi ferales plerique Christiani. - Am. Marcell., lib. ii. cap. 2. A sad thing that a heathen should see cause to say so.

But he refused to be comforted. — Wherein he showed his fatherly love, but not his son-like subjection to God’s good providence: without the which, no evil beast could have set tooth in Joseph; whom he was sure also to receive safe and whole again at the resurrection: which was a great comfort to those afflicted Jews, Daniel 12:2 and those mangled martyrs. Hebrews 11:34

Thus his father wept for him. — Jacob’s father Isaac, saith Junius; which might very well be; for he lived twelve years after this, and likely loved Joseph best, for his great towardiiness.

Verse 36

And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, [and] captain of the guard.

And the Midianites. — Little knew Joseph what God was in doing. Have patience, till he have brought both ends together.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 37". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/genesis-37.html. 1865-1868.
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