37:3 Now Israel [formerly Jacob (cf. Gen. 32:28); name means “he struggles with God”] loved Joseph [firstborn son of his preferred wife Rachel; Joseph was 17 years old at this time (cf. Gen. 37:2)] more than [Jacob showed favoritism; recall that Jacob was favored by his mother Rebekah and Esau favored by his father Isaac] any of his other sons [had 12 sons, including Joseph], because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe [a sign of Jacob’s special love for Joseph and a constant reminder to his brothers that their father favored him] for him [Jacob (Israel) did not extend this favor to his other sons].
Note: Why did Jacob repeat the sin of his parents? Perhaps because many parents tend to raise their children the way they were raised.
37:4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated [this was the bitter fruit of Jacob’s preferential treatment of Joseph] him and could not speak a kind word [peaceably] to him [to Jacob or to Joseph].
37:5 Joseph had a dream [cf. Gen. 42:9], and when he told it [the text does not criticize Joseph for relating the dream to his brothers; cf. Gen. 37:11 re: Jacob’s response] to his brothers [would later call Joseph “the dreamer” (Gen. 37:19)], they hated him all the more.
37:6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had [Joseph and his family did not realize at this time what Joseph’s dreams indicated about his destiny and the destiny of the family]:
37:7 We were binding sheaves of grain [bundles of harvested grain] out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
37:8 His brothers said [their question unwittingly contained the interpretation of Joseph’s dream] 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.
37:19 “Here comes that dreamer! [spoken with contempt; Joseph’s dreams had become the basis of all their bitterness and hatred]” they said to each other.
37:20 “Come now, let’s [it is likely that no one of the brothers would have carried out such a sinister plot alone] kill [their festering jealousy and bitterness came to the surface] him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say [they came up with a plausible cover-up] that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
37:21 When Reuben [oldest brother; son of Leah (Gen. 29:32)] heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said.
Note: What does it take to stand up to a crowd and say no? What risks are involved? What are the potential benefits?
37:22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern [hewn out of the ground to collect water; had narrow opening at the top and a wide basin at the bottom] here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers [who were tending the flocks in the vicinity of Shechem and, later, Dothan], they stripped him of his robe [the focal point of their growing anger; their hatred moved from abusive words (cf. Gen. 37:8,19) to violent action]—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing [Joseph seemed insensitive or ignorant with regard to how his brothers felt about the coat]—
37:24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern [originally Reuben’s idea (cf. Gen. 37:21-22); Reuben intended to later rescue Joseph]. Now the cistern [Joseph would be unable to escape without assistance (cf. Gen. 37:28)] was empty; there was no water in it [thus no danger of drowning and no water to drink].
Note: How would you have felt if you had been Joseph?
37:25 As they sat down to eat their meal [Joseph’s brother’s ate while he awaited his uncertain fate], they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites [used interchangeably with “Midianites”] coming from Gilead [a region in northern Transjordan; a famous source of balm (cf. Jer. 8:22)]. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh [used in Egypt for incense, medicine, embalming], and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
37:26 Judah said [his suggestion saved Joseph from death] to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?
37:27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites [used interchangeably with “Midianites”] and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
37:28 So when the Midianite [used interchangeably with “Ishmaelites”] 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.
Note: Sin leads to more sin. Joseph’s brothers sinned by:
• mocking Joseph
• selling Joseph into slavery
• stripping off Joseph’s coat
• casting Joseph into the cistern
• selling Joseph to the passing caravan
• lying to their father about Joseph
37:34 Then Jacob [the deceiver was now deceived; expressed his grief…] tore his clothes, put on sackcloth [clothes made out of rough cloth] and mourned for his son many days.
Note: Read 2 Samuel 12:19-23 regarding how David handled the grief of losing a child.
37:35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted [shows depth of his love for Joseph]. “No,” he said, “in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.” So his father wept for him.
37:36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.