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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 37

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Verse 1

Jacob Lives in Canaan

Unlike the mighty Esau who has conquered his possessions, Jacob lives as a guest in Canaan. He has no kings like Esau and no land to rule over and no great tribes. Worldly power is acquired faster than spiritual greatness. A promised spiritual blessing requires patience and faith.

Jacob stays in the land for a long time, until he goes to Egypt. He has come to the end of his experiences and has come to rest. However, he still has to learn that God is not only entitled to Rachel, but also to Joseph and Benjamin. That is again for him via a long way. Abraham learned this lesson faster (Genesis 22:1-2 Kings :).

Verses 2-4

Beginning of the History of Joseph

The history of Joseph begins with a remarkable remark. It is said “these are [the records of] the generations of Jacob” and then the history of Joseph begins. From this we can conclude that the generations of Jacob are interwoven with the history of Joseph. The continued existence of Jacob and his descendants depends on Joseph. Joseph is a beautiful and almost perfect picture of the Lord Jesus. No sin is mentioned of him. However, we see that at the end of his history he is mistaken when he thinks Jacob is mistaken in blessing his sons (Genesis 48:17-Psalms :).

Joseph, like other men of God, for instance Abel, Moses and David, is a shepherd. Leaders learn leadership behind the sheep. He performs his task together with the sons of the female slaves of Jacob. This is reminiscent of the days of the Lord Jesus, when the people are in slavery, subject to Roman dominion – and even more so to the dominion of sin – and in that situation He performs His service.

The Lord Jesus is the separated One. In this Joseph resembles Him. He does not join the wrong of his brothers. Jacob also calls Joseph “the one distinguished among his brothers” (Genesis 49:26). Joseph brings back a bad report about them to his father. He is not a squealer. Everything we know about Joseph, that is known to us from his history, shows that he is someone who hates evil and does not participate in it. What his brothers do hurts him. Who better to talk to than his father? In the same way, the Lord Jesus spoke to His Father about everything.

Jacob loves Joseph more than his other sons. That is not procrastination. Does not a child walking with the Lord give us more joy than a child who is willful? Jacob also loves his other sons, but Joseph gives him a special joy. With him he can share the things of his heart.

Jacob expresses his love for Joseph by making him a varicolored tunic. This arouses the brothers’ jealousy and hatred. Do we find this hatred understandable? We can only understand their hatred if we realize that the brothers are boys who care nothing about their father. This is evident from the rest of this history. The further course of history also shows how they too are ultimately brought into the right relationship with their father. But it takes a lot of discipline.

What happens to Joseph here, shows in picture what happened to the Lord Jesus as the Beloved of the Father. How is He hated and watched with jealousy. God loves His people, but the people disobey Him. The Lord Jesus is the only One Who does what the whole people should do: Honor God and serve Him. That is why the Father loves Him and why His testimony sounds: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Joseph’s brothers hate him, not strangers. The faithful believer is always hated by fellow Christians who do not take the truth so seriously.

Verses 5-11

The Two Dreams of Joseph

Because Joseph lives with God, God can also tell him what will happen in the future. In Joseph’s two dreams, there is encouragement for him. After all the suffering he has to endure, there will eventually be glory for him. It is an encouragement for every believer to know that after suffering the glory follows. Let’s look at our great example “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

The first dream about the sheaves in the field shows an earthly scene, the second dream about the heavenly bodies shows a heavenly scene. We see here in the picture that to the Lord Jesus all things in heaven and on earth will be subject. To Him already “all authority has been given … in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). “But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Hebrews 2:8). However, God has purposed “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” which will happen in “the fullness of the times” (Ephesians 1:9-2 Samuel :).

That the dream has a meaning is shown by the reaction of his father and his brothers. They realize that the dream applies to them. Similarly, the adversaries of the Lord Jesus have realized that He has spoken some things in view of them (Matthew 21:45).

When the Lord Jesus stands before His earthly judges, He testifies of the truth that they will “see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN”. On this basis He is condemned: “Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”” (Matthew 26:64-Revelation :). The deep reason He is surrendered is their envy (Matthew 27:18), as do the brothers envy Joseph (Genesis 37:11). There is no jealousy with Jacob. He keeps all these things in his heart (cf. Luke 2:51).

Verses 12-17

Jacob Sends Joseph to His Brothers

Although “Israel” (Genesis 37:13) knows his sons, he sends Joseph, the son of his love, to his brothers. This proves that Jacob does not neglect his other sons in favor of Joseph. Here too we see a beautiful picture of the Father Who sends His Son. As Joseph says, if his father wants to send him, “Behold, here I am”, the Lord Jesus says at His coming into the world, “Behold, I have come … To do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:9). Jacob is concerned about the welfare of his sons and also about the welfare of the flock (Proverbs 12:10). Thus God is concerned about the welfare of His people and His creatures.

Jacob thinks his sons are in Shechem. When Joseph comes there, he cannot find them. Then he meets a man who asks him what he is looking for. Joseph gives the wonderful answer: “I am looking for my brothers.” Joseph knows his brothers aren’t considering him as such, but he sees them that way. Thus the Lord Jesus also came to “His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

The man tells him where he can find his brothers. Then Joseph goes there. His obedience goes beyond what his father told him to do. He could have gone back with the announcement that he did not find his brothers at the place Jacob sent him to.

Of course God knows the condition of His people when He sends His Son. The Son’s obedience did not go beyond what the Father asked of Him, for the Son acted in all things out of obedience to the Father. During His life on earth He does nothing more and nothing less than to be perfectly and fully obedient. He cannot do otherwise, for it is His food to do the will of Him Who has sent Him (John 4:34). In His obedience is no gradation.

Verses 18-22

The Plan to Kill Joseph

When the brothers see Joseph coming, they immediately think of his dreams. These dreams are also the reason for their murder plans. They want to do everything they can to prevent their brother’s dreams from coming true. They want to kill him especially because he has said they will bow before him. And they never want that! In the same way, the Lord Jesus has been consciously killed because He will rule as heir, and that is what the leaders themselves want to do (Matthew 21:38). “Men of bloodshed hate the blameless” (Proverbs 29:10).

In the consultation there is still a protest through Reuben. Similarly, there is a Nicodemus who objects to the course of events surrounding the condemnation of the Lord Jesus (John 7:50-Colossians :). With his proposal, Reuben prevents the murder of Joseph.

Verses 23-30

Joseph Rejected and Sold

Joseph is thrown into the pit. They do not care about the distress of their brother’s soul and his pleading for mercy (Genesis 42:21). The coldness of their hearts becomes clear when they sit down and eat after this act. The thought that they are free from his possible rule provides them with peace and joy (cf. Revelation 11:10).

The prophet Amos also refers in his prophecy to what the brothers are doing here. He uses their example to denounce the attitude of the people towards God. He does not use a soft language: “Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:6).

Amos points out with these words that, while Israel sighs under the consequences of sin, its inhabitants surrender to carelessness, lust and indolence. All the gifts God has given them, they use for themselves. The pursuit of one’s own pleasure allows the situation among God’s people to be pushed into the background. Israel is in need, the greatest need being that the people do not see their need. It laughs and dances ahead of its downfall.

Also today, Christians are indifferent to how the whole church is fragmented into countless pieces. It is even justified by terms such as “the multicolored nature of God”. The pursuit of our own convenience makes us insensitive to the decline in the church and the divisions that exist.

When Ishmaelites come, Judah proposes to sell Joseph. The Ishmaelites are descendants of Abraham via Hagar (Genesis 16:15). The Midianites are descendants of Abraham via Ketura (Genesis 25:1-Exodus :). The brothers sell Joseph to related merchants. They sell him for even less money than a slave is worth (Exodus 21:32). This is where the Judas spirit comes to the fore, which the Lord Jesus has handed down for money (Matthew 26:14-Nehemiah :).

Reuben has stipulated that Joseph is not killed, but thrown into a pit. With this he thinks he saved Joseph’s life, because he wants to take him out of it later and bring him back to his father. He will have been absent for a moment when the other brothers sell Joseph. When he discovers that Joseph has been sold, he desperately tears his garments and blames his brothers for making his life unbearable. Here we see that inventors of evil follow their own plans and do not take any account of each other.

Verses 31-35

Jacob Deceived

The brothers add the sin of lie to their violent acts against Joseph. They lie to their father about the absence of Joseph. As for Jacob, once again he will have to deal with the consequences of his own cunning actions. He is deceived by his sons. He has been deceiving his father with the skins of young goats (Genesis 27:16). Now he himself is being deceived with the blood of a goat.

The heartlessness of the brothers is shocking. Thus is man, so am I, without God. Jealousy makes every human feeling disappear (Proverbs 27:4). This is made all the worse by their attempts to comfort their father, when they are the cause of his grief. This is hypocrisy at its summit.

Verse 36

Joseph Sold to Potiphar

While Jacob thinks his son is dead, Joseph is on his way to Egypt to finally take his place on the throne. But first he must go a way of suffering. He had already suffered this suffering from his brothers. Now his suffering begins on the part of the nations. In all this the counsel of God is fulfilled. In Egypt he is first humiliated, to come to the greatest glory thereafter.

In practical terms, the way of suffering is the way God uses to form His servants. Prophetically, the way of suffering is God’s way to come to glory. Thus the Lord Jesus first suffered and then was glorified (Luke 24:26). This principle also applies to the believer (Romans 8:17).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 37". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-37.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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