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Genesis 37:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

These are the generations - תלדות toledoth, the history of the lives and actions of Jacob and his sons; for in this general sense the original must be taken, as in the whole of the ensuing history there is no particular account of any genealogical succession. Yet the words may be understood as referring to the tables or genealogical lists in the preceding chapter; and if so, the original must be understood in its common acceptation.

The lad was with the sons of Bilhah - It is supposed that our word lad comes from the Hebrew ילד yeled, a child, a son; and that lass is a contraction of ladess, the female of lad, a girl, a young woman. Some have supposed that King James desired the translators to insert this word; but this must be a mistake, as the word occurs in this place in Edmund Becke's Bible, printed in 1549; and still earlier in that of Coverdale, printed in 1535.

Brought unto his father their evil report - Conjecture has been busily employed to find out what this evil report might be; but it is needless to inquire what it was, as on this head the sacred text is perfectly silent. All the use we can make of this information is, that it was one cause of increasing his brothers' hatred to him, which was first excited by his father's partiality, and secondly by his own dreams.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-36

- Joseph Was Sold into Egypt

17. דתין dotayı̂n Dothain, “two wells?” (Gesenius)

25. נכאת neko't “tragacanth” or goat‘s-thorn gum, yielded by the “astragalus gummifer”, a native of Mount Lebanon. צרי tsērı̂y “opobalsamum,” the resin of the balsam tree, growing in Gilead, and having healing qualities. לט loṭ λῆδον lēdon “ledum, ladanum,” in the Septuagint στακτή staktē The former is a gum produced from the cistus rose. The latter is a gum resembling liquid myrrh.

36. פוטיפר pôṭı̂yphar Potiphar, “belonging to the sun.”

The sketch of the race of Edom, given in the preceding piece, we have seen, reaches down to the time of Moses. Accordingly, the history of Jacob‘s seed, which is brought before us in the present document, reverts to a point of time not only before the close of that piece, but before the final record of what precedes it. The thread of the narrative is here taken up from the return of Jacob to Hebron, which was seventeen years before the death of Isaac.

Genesis 37:1-5

Joseph is the favorite of his father, but not of his brethren. “In the land of his father‘s sojournings.” This contrasts Jacob with Esau, who removed to Mount Seir. This notice precedes the phrase, “These are the generations.” The corresponding sentence in the case of Isaac is placed at the end of the preceding section of the narrative Genesis 25:11. “The son of seventeen years;” in his seventeenth year Genesis 37:32. “The sons of Bilhah.” The sons of the handmaids were nearer his own age, and perhaps more tolerant of the favorite than the sons of Leah the free wife. Benjamin at this time was about four years of age. “An evil report of them.” The unsophisticated child of home is prompt in the disapproval of evil, and frank in the avowal of his feelings. What the evil was we are not informed; but Jacob‘s full-grown sons were now far from the paternal eye, and prone, as it seems, to give way to temptation. Many scandals come out to view in the chosen family. “Loved Joseph.” He was the son of his best-loved wife, and of his old age; as Benjamin had not yet come into much notice. “A Coat of many colors.” This was a coat reaching to the hands and feet, worn by persons not much occupied with manual labor, according to the general opinion. It was, we conceive, variegated either by the loom or the needle, and is therefore, well rendered χιτὼν ποικίλος chitōn poikilos a motley coat. “Could not bid peace to him.” The partiality of his father, exhibited in so weak a manner, provokes the anger of his brothers, who cannot bid him good-day, or greet him in the ordinary terms of good-will.

Genesis 37:5-11

Joseph‘s dreams excite the jealousy of his brothers. His frankness in reciting his dream to his brothers marks a spirit devoid of guile, and only dimly conscious of the import of his nightly visions. The first dream represents by a figure the humble submission of all his brothers to him, as they rightly interpret it. “For his dreams and for his words.” The meaning of this dream was offensive enough, and his telling of it rendered it even more disagreeable. A second dream is given to express the certainty of the event Genesis 41:32. The former serves to interpret the latter. There the sheaves are connected with the brothers who bound them, and thereby indicate the parties. The eleven stars are not so connected with them. But here Joseph is introduced directly without a figure, and the number eleven, taken along with the eleven sheaves of the former dream, makes the application to the brothers plain. The sun and moon clearly point out the father and mother. The mother is to be taken, we conceive, in the abstract, without nicely inquiring whether it means the departed Rachel, or the probably still living Leah. Not even the latter seems to have lived to see the fulfillment of this prophetic dream Genesis 49:31. The second dream only aggravated the hatred of his brothers; but his father, while rebuking him for his speeches, yet marked the saying. The rebuke seems to imply that the dream, or the telling of it, appears to his father to indicate the lurking of a self-sufficient or ambitious spirit within the breast of the youthful Joseph. The twofold intimation, however, came from a higher source.

Genesis 37:12-17

Joseph is sent to Dothan. Shekem belonged to Jacob; part of it by purchase, and the rest by conquest. Joseph is sent to inquire of their welfare (שׁלום shālom “peace,” Genesis 37:4). With obedient promptness the youth goes to Shekem, where he learns that they had removed to Dothan, a town about twelve miles due north of Shekem.

Genesis 37:18-24

His brothers cast him into a pit. “This master of dreams;” an eastern phrase for a dreamer. “Let us slay him.” They had a foreboding that his dreams might prove true, and that he would become their arbitrary master. This thought at all events would abate somewhat of the barbarity of their designs. It is implied in the closing sentence of their proposal. Reuben dissuades them from the act of murder, and advises merely to cast him into the pit, to which they consent. He had a more tender heart, and perhaps a more tender conscience than the rest, and intended to send Joseph back safe to his father. He doubtless took care to choose a pit that was without water.

Genesis 37:25-30

Reuben rips his clothes when he finds Joseph gone. “To eat bread.” This shows the cold and heartless cruelty of their deed. “A caravan” - a company of travelling merchants. “Ishmaelites.” Ishmael left his father‘s house when about fourteen or fifteen years of age. His mother took him a wife probably when he was eighteen, or twenty at the furthest. He had arrived at the latter age about one hundred and sixty-two years before the date of the present occurrence. He had twelve sons Genesis 25:13-15, and if we allow only four other generations and a fivefold increase, there will be about fifteen thousand in the fifth generation. “Came from Gilead;” celebrated for its balm Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11. The caravan road from Damascus to Egypt touches upon the land of Gilead, goes through Beth-shean, and passes by Dothan. “Spicery.” This gum is called tragacanth, or goats-thorn gum, because it was supposed to be obtained from this plant. “Balm,” or balsam; an aromatic substance obtained from a plant of the genus Amyris, a native of Gilead. “Myrrh” is the name of a gum exuding from the balsamodendron myrrha, growing in Arabia Felix. “Lot,” however, is supposed to be the resinous juice of the cistus or rock rose, a plant growing in Crete and Syria. Judah, relenting, and revolting perhaps from the crime of fratricide, proposes to sell Joseph to the merchants.

Midianites and Medanites Genesis 37:36 are mere variations apparently of the same name. They seem to have been the actual purchasers, though the caravan takes its name from the Ishmaelites, who formed by far the larger portion of it. Midian and Medan were both sons of Abraham, and during one hundred and twenty-five years must have increased to a small clan. Thus, Joseph is sold to the descendants of Abraham. “Twenty silver pieces;” probably shekels. This is the rate at which Moses estimates a male from five to twenty years old Leviticus 27:5. A man-servant was valued by him at thirty shekels Exodus 21:32. Reuben finding Joseph gone, rends his clothes, in token of anguish of mind for the loss of his brother and the grief of his father.

Genesis 37:31-36

The brothers contrive to conceal their crime; and Joseph is sold into Egypt. “Torn, torn in pieces is Joseph.” The sight of the bloody coat convinces Jacob at once that Joseph has been devoured by a wild beast. “All his daughters.” Only one daughter of Jacob is mentioned by name. These are probably his daughters-in-law. “To the grave.” Sheol is the place to which the soul departs at death. It is so called from its ever craving, or being empty. “Minister.” This word originally means eunuch, and then, generally, any officer about the court or person of the sovereign. “Captain of the guards.” The guards are the executioners of the sentences passed by the sovereign on culprits, which were often arbitrary, summary, and extremely severe. It is manifest, from this dark chapter, that the power of sin has not been extinguished in the family of Jacob. The name of God does not appear, and his hand is at present only dimly seen among the wicked designs, deeds, and devices of these unnatural brothers. Nevertheless, his counsel of mercy standeth sure, and fixed is his purpose to bring salvation to the whole race of man, by means of his special covenant with Abraham.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
In Joseph's history we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes. Though Joseph was his father's darling, yet he was not bred up in idleness. Those do not truly love their children, who do not use them to business, and labour, and hardships. The fondling of children is with good reason called the spoiling of them. Those who are trained up to do nothing, are likely to be good for nothing. But Jacob made known his love, by dressing Joseph finer than the rest of his children. It is wrong for parents to make a difference between one child and another, unless there is great cause for it, by the children's dutifulness, or undutifulness. When parents make a difference, children soon notice it, and it leads to quarrels in families. Jacob's sons did that, when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill conduct, that he might restrain them. Not as a tale-bearer, to sow discord, but as a faithful brother.
Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 138-43

Joseph listened to his father's instructions, and feared the Lord. He was more obedient to his father's righteous teachings than any of his brethren. He treasured his instructions, and with integrity of heart, loved to obey God. He was grieved at the wrong conduct of some of his brethren, and meekly entreated them to pursue a righteous course, and leave off their wicked acts. This only imbittered them against him. His hatred of sin was such that he could not endure to see his brethren sinning against God. He laid the matter before his father, hoping that his authority might reform them. This exposure of their wrongs enraged his brethren against him. They had observed their father's strong love for Joseph, and were envious at him. Their envy grew into hatred, and finally to murder. 3SG 138.1

The angel of God instructed Joseph in dreams which he innocently related to his brethren. “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. 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. 3SG 138.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1 (EGW), 1096

2, 3. Jacob's Efforts to Remove Wrong Accepted—Jacob was humbled, and required his family to humble themselves, and to lay off all their ornaments, for he was to make an atonement for their sins, by offering a sacrifice unto God, that He might be entreated for them, and not leave them to be destroyed by other nations. God accepted the efforts of Jacob to remove the wrong from his family, and appeared unto him, and blessed him, and renewed the promise made to him, because His fear was before him (Spiritual Gifts 3:137). 1BC 1096.1

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 332

As men increased upon the earth, almost the whole world joined the ranks of rebellion. Once more Satan seemed to have gained the victory. But omnipotent power again cut short the working of iniquity, and the earth was cleansed by the Flood from its moral pollution. PP 332.1

Says the prophet, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness, ... and will not behold the majesty of Jehovah.” Isaiah 26:9, 10. Thus it was after the Flood. Released from His judgments, the inhabitants of the earth again rebelled against the Lord. Twice God's covenant and His statutes had been rejected by the world. Both the people before the Flood and the descendants of Noah cast off the divine authority. Then God entered into covenant with Abraham, and took to Himself a people to become the depositaries of His law. To seduce and destroy this people, Satan began at once to lay his snares. The children of Jacob were tempted to contract marriages with the heathen and to worship their idols. But Joseph was faithful to God, and his fidelity was a constant testimony to the true faith. It was to quench this light that Satan worked through the envy of Joseph's brothers to cause him to be sold as a slave in a heathen land. God overruled events, however, so that the knowledge of Himself should be given to the people of Egypt. Both in the house of Potiphar and in the prison Joseph received an education and training that, with the fear of God, prepared him for his high position as prime minister of the nation. From the palace of the Pharaohs his influence was felt throughout the land, and the knowledge of God spread far and wide. The Israelites in Egypt also became prosperous and wealthy, and such as were true to God exerted a widespread influence. The idolatrous priests were filled with alarm as they saw the new religion finding favor. Inspired by Satan with his own enmity toward the God of heaven, they set themselves to quench the light. To the priests was committed the education of the heir to the throne, and it was this spirit of determined opposition to God and zeal for idolatry that molded the character of the future monarch, and led to cruelty and oppression toward the Hebrews. PP 332.2

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 238-9

Inspiration faithfully records the faults of good men, those who were distinguished by the favor of God; indeed, their faults are more fully presented than their virtues. This has been a subject of wonder to many, and has given the infidel occasion to scoff at the Bible. But it is one of the strongest evidences of the truth of Scripture, that facts are not glossed over, nor the sins of its chief characters suppressed. The minds of men are so subject to prejudice that it is not possible for human histories to be absolutely impartial. Had the Bible been written by uninspired persons, it would no doubt have presented the character of its honored men in a more flattering light. But as it is, we have a correct record of their experiences. PP 238.1

Men whom God favored, and to whom He entrusted great responsibilities, were sometimes overcome by temptation and committed sin, even as we at the present day strive, waver, and frequently fall into error. Their lives, with all their faults and follies, are open before us, both for our encouragement and warning. If they had been represented as without fault, we, with our sinful nature, might despair at our own mistakes and failures. But seeing where others struggled through discouragements like our own, where they fell under temptations as we have done, and yet took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As they, though sometimes beaten back, recovered their ground, and were blessed of God, so we too may be overcomers in the strength of Jesus. On the other hand, the record of their lives may serve as a warning to us. It shows that God will by no means clear the guilty. He sees sin in His most favored ones, and He deals with it in them even more strictly than in those who have less light and responsibility. PP 238.2

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