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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Genesis

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FRAMEWORKS: Genesis 37: Joseph, Spoilt Son Sold into Slavery (for contents of Part 2D scroll to bottom of page)


v.1-4 The Family Background

v.5-11 The Lord gives Joseph Two Dreams

v.12-17 Joseph sent to his Brothers

v.18-22 The Brothers Plan to Kill Joseph but Reuben restrains them

v.23-28 The Brothers sell Joseph to traders

v.29-36 The Brothers lie to their father, while Joseph is sold in Egypt



v.1-4 The Family Background


v.1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

v.2 This is the account of Jacob's family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

v.3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.

v.4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.


[Notes: Joseph, son of Rachel, his father's favourite, stirs up animosity in his brothers.]



v.5-11 The Lord gives Joseph Two Dreams

v.5-8 Dream One

v.5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

v.6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:

v.7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

v.8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

v.9-11 Dream Two

v.9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

v.10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”

v.11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.


[Notes: Two dreams with the same message – he, Joseph, will be elevated and the rest of the family will bow down to him. This upsets them all.]



v.12-17 Joseph sent to his Brothers


v.12,13 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied.

v.14,15 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

v.16 He replied, “I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

v.17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let's go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.


[Notes: Unwisely Jacob sends Joseph out to the brothers tending the sheep some miles away to the north.]



v.18-22 The Brothers Plan to Kill Joseph but Reuben restrains them


v.18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

v.19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.

v.20 “Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams.”

v.21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let's not take his life,” he said.

v.22 “Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don't lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.


[Notes: Seeing him coming they plot to kill him but Reuben, the oldest of the brothers, sought to calm them down and save Joseph.]



v.23-28 The Brothers sell Joseph to traders


v.23,24 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—  and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

v.25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

v.26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?

v.27 Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

v.28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.


[Notes: They throw Joseph into a well and while Reuben is away [see next verse] they sell Joseph off to some passing traders who take him south to Egypt.]



v.29-36 The Brothers lie to their father, while Joseph is sold in Egypt


v.29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes.

v.30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?”

v.31 Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.

v.32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe.”

v.33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

v.34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.

v.35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

v.36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.


[Notes: Reuben is upset when he returns and, taking the responsibility as the oldest, worries about what he will tell Jacob. They take Joseph's coat that he left behind and cover it with blood and return to Jacob with the tale that he must have been killed by wild animals. Jacob believes then and mourns for Joseph.]



Lessons or Challenges to Ponder from Genesis Chapter 37


1. Observing spoilt brat Joseph receiving prophetic dreams reminds us that being charismatic does not equate with maturity or holiness (similarly in the case of Samson in Judges 13 onwards). It simply means God knows who is available that He can use to (ultimately) bless His people.

2. Joseph's story also reveals a father with favourites (which always brings trouble and should be avoided) and a bunch of bad-attitude brothers for whom no excuses can be made. Perhaps it warns us that Jacob may have ‘found God' but he still has some way to go in creating a godly family, a challenge to all parents.



Continue to Chapter 38


PART 2D: Gen 37-50 – Joseph's Story


Ch.37-40 Joseph in tough times

Ch.37: Joseph sold into Slavery

Ch.38: Judah & Tamar [An aside]

Ch.39: Joseph & Potiphar

Ch.40: Joseph in Prison: Two dreams & interpretations


Ch.41 Joseph saves the world

Ch.41: Joseph & Pharaoh: Joseph implements the rescue plan


Ch.42-45 Joseph tests the brothers

Ch.42: Joseph meets his brothers

Ch.43: The Brothers' Second Visit to Egypt

Ch.44: Judah takes responsibility

Ch.45: Joseph Revealed


Ch.46-50 Settling in Egypt while holding the faith

Ch.46: Jacob & Family go to Egypt

Ch.47: Jacob settles the family in Egypt

Ch.48: Jacob blesses Ephraim & Manasseh

Ch.49: Jacob blesses all the sons; Jacob dies

Ch.50: Jacob buried in Canaan; Joseph eventually dies