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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 37

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


Genesis 37. Joseph Excites the Hatred of his Brothers, and is in consequence Carried away into Egypt.— With this chapter we begin the story of Joseph and his Brothers which (apart from Genesis 38, Genesis 49:1-28) fills the rest of the book. It is “ at once the most artistic and the most fascinating of OT biographies” (Skinner). On its literary qualities see p. 22. More than any other of the patriarchal stories, it contains a “ plot,” and of a somewhat complicated kind. It has been compiled with great skill from J and E. The parts that belong to P are trifling. Some tribal history may be preserved in the story, but in the main the figures are individual, not tribal. It is by no means impossible that it may contain an element of authentic biography, though mingled with this are other strands of folk-romance.

Verses 1-11

Genesis 37:1-11 . Joseph Hated by his Brothers on Account of his Talebearing, his Father’ s Partiality, and his Dreams of Supremacy.

Genesis 37:1-2 a is certainly from P, but probably Genesis 37:2 b also. It gives a third reason for the hatred which Joseph excited; the rather priggish Joseph tells tales to Jacob about the children of his concubines. Nothing more is preserved from P till we reach Genesis 41:46 a. J’ s story ( Genesis 37:3 f.) lays the blame on Jacob’ s partiality: he loved him because he was the son of his old age— a curious statement in view of the fact that some of his half-brothers were younger than himself. Presumably he loved him because he was the son of his favourite wife. He made him “ a long garment with sleeves” ( mg.) . Such a tunic was not worn by people who had to work ( 2 Samuel 13:18 mg.) ; the sleeves would be in the way, and the length, reaching to the feet instead of the knees, less convenient. E characteristically explains the envy as occasioned by Joseph’ s two dreams (the duplication indicating the certainty and speed of accomplishment, Genesis 41:32), which he could not keep to himself. The second, foretelling that father and mother will bow down, brings him reproof from Jacob, who, however, like Mary ( Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51), ponders the omen in his heart. Observe that Jacob is here represented as practising agriculture ( cf. Genesis 26:12).

Verses 12-17

Genesis 37:12-17 . Some assign to J; more probably it belongs to J and E. To J Genesis 37:12-13 a, Genesis 37:14 b; to E Genesis 37:13 b, Genesis 37:14 a may be allotted. Genesis 37:15-17 may belong to either. Shechem has fine pasturage, Dothan (p. 30, 2 Kings 6:13-15 *), 15 miles N. of it, still finer.

Verses 18-30

Genesis 37:18-30 . To J we may assign Genesis 37:18 b (“ and before,” etc.), Genesis 37:21 (substituting “ Judah” for “ Reuben” ), Genesis 37:23; Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:27-28 (“ and sold” to “ silver” ), to E Genesis 37:18 a, Genesis 37:19 f., Genesis 37:22; Genesis 37:24; Genesis 37:28 (“ And there . . . pit,” “ And they . . . Egypt” ), Genesis 37:29 f. According to J the brothers, seeing Joseph coming, conspire to murder him. Judah dissuades them from actual murder. When Joseph arrives, they strip off his hated coat. While at food, they see approaching an Ishmaelite caravan, travelling to Egypt with gums (used for embalming). Judah urges the tie of brotherhood and the more profitable course of selling him for a slave than killing him, and then covering the blood to stifle its cry for vengeance ( Genesis 4:10 *). So they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels, and the Ishmaelites take him to Egypt. According to E, the brothers, seeing Joseph in the distance, plot to murder him and cast him into a pit, and ascribe his death to a wild beast, then they will see what will become of his dreams. Reuben proposes that they should put him in a pit and leave him to die, to avoid the risk they will incur by shedding blood, intending to return when his brothers had left, and to rescue him. So Joseph was put into the pit [and the brothers abandoned him to his fate. After their departure] Midianite merchants pass by, discover Joseph, lift him out of the pit and take him to Egypt, where they sell him to Potiphar, ( Genesis 37:36). Reuben returns that he may rescue Joseph, only to find him gone, and then goes back to his brothers with a despairing cry. Observe that this representation of Joseph as kid- napped rather than sold by his brothers is confirmed by Genesis 40:15, “ I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews.”

Genesis 37:31-36 . The analysis is uncertain. According to one narrative, the brothers seem to have sent Joseph’ s coat to Jacob, after dipping it in goat’ s blood, according to the other to have brought the coat to him as it was; but possibly, according to one, they brought the stained coat, according to the other sent the unstained. On Genesis 37:34 see p. 110. vv. Genesis 37:36 concludes E’ s narrative; the Midianites sold Joseph into Egypt to Potiphar. If the text were a unity “ the Midianites” would have been “ the Ishmaelites” ( Genesis 37:28). The Ishmaelites are mentioned as selling him in Genesis 39:1. Potiphar probably represents the Egyptian Pedephrç, “ He whom the sun-god gives.” He was a eunuch (not “ officer” as RV), and chief of the court cooks or butchers. They seem to have become the royal bodyguard.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 37". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/genesis-37.html. 1919.
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