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Joseph Dreams of Greatness


Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

5 Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, 15and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. 30He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?” 31Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. 32They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him. 36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

1. And Jacob dwelt. Moses confirms what he had before declared, that, by the departure of Esau, the land was left to holy Jacob as its sole possessor. Although in appearance he did not obtain a single clod; yet, contented with the bare sight of the land, he exercised his faith; and Moses expressly compares him with his father, who had been a stranger in that land all his life. Therefore, though by the removal of his brother to another abode, Jacob was no little gainer; yet it was the Lord’s will that this advantage should be hidden from his eyes, in order that he might depend entirely upon the promise.

2. These are the generations of Jacob. By the word תולדות toledoth we are not so much to understand a genealogy, as a record of events, which appears more clearly from the context. For Moses having thus commenced, does not enumerate sons and grandsons, but explains the cause of the envy of Joseph’s brethren, who formed a wicked conspiracy against him, and sold him as a slave: as if he had said “Having briefly summed up the genealogy of Esau, I now revert to the series of my history, as to what happened to the family of Jacob.”132132     The second verse is rendered by Professor Bush in a manner different from that of any other commentator whom the Editor has had the opportunity of consulting. His view of the passage is, at least, worthy of consideration. “The correct translation,” he says, “is doubtless the following: ‘Joseph, being seventeen years old, was tending his brethren among the flocks, and he a (mere) lad, (even) the sons of Bilhah, etc.’ The mention of his youth is brought in parenthetically, as something peculiarly worthy of notice; while the clause, ‘the sons of Bilhah, etc.,’ is designed to limit and specify the term ‘brethren’ going before.” This interpretation he proceeds to vindicate by reference to passages of similar construction, which we have not room to quote. The point which it would establish is, that Jacob assigned to his boy, of seventeen years of age, the superintendence or oversight of the sons of Bilhah among the flocks; so that he was rather an overlooker of the shepherds than of the sheep. This would show more clearly the propriety of Joseph’s conduct, in carrying an ill report of his brethren to their father; and would also account for the hostility they felt towards him. But it may be doubted whether this interpretation can stand. — Ed. Moreover, Moses being about to speak of the abominable wickedness of Jacob’s sons, begins with the statement, that Joseph was dear beyond the rest to his father, because he had begotten him in his old age: and as a token of tender love, had clothed him with a coat woven of many colors. But it was not surprising that the boy should be a great favorite with his aged father, for so it is wont to happen: and no just ground is here given for envy; seeing that sons of a more robust age, by the dictate of nature, might well concede such a point. Moses, however, states this as the cause of odium, that the mind of his father was more inclined to him than to the rest. The brethren conceive enmity against the boy, whom they see to be more tenderly loved by their father, as having been born in his old age.133133     “Son of his old age.” The Chaldee renders it, “a wise son;” as if he were a man in intellect, while a boy in years. This would avoid a difficulty; for Benjamin was far more properly the son of Jacob’s old age than Joseph. — Ed. If they did not choose to join in this love to their brother, why did they not excuse it in their father? Hence, then, we perceive their malignant and perverse disposition. But, that a manycoloured coat and similar trifles inflamed them to devise a scheme of slaughter, is a proof of their detestable cruelty. Moses also says that their hatred increased, because Joseph conveyed the evil speeches of his brethren to their father. Some expound the word evil as meaning some intolerable crime; but others more correctly suppose, that it was a complaint of the boy that his brothers vexed him with their reproaches; for, what follows in Moses, I take to have been added in explanation, that we may know the cause for which he had been treated so ill and with such hostility. It may be asked, why Moses here accuses only the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, when, afterwards, he does not exempt the sons of Leah from the same charge? One, indeed, of her sons, Reuben, was milder than any of the rest; next to him was Judah, who was his uterine brother. But what is to be said of Simon? What of Levi? Certainly since they were older, it is probable that they were leaders in the affair. The suspicion may, however, be entertained, that because these were the sons of concubines and not of true wives, their minds would be more quickly moved with envy; as if their servile extraction, on the mother’s side, subjected them to contempt.

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