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This account transitions into the life of Joseph and his mistreatment at the hands of his brothers. It must be read with several key perspectives in mind:

– The concept of divine election where you have Joseph as the seed of promise in contrast to his other brothers

– The providential hand of God in growing Israel into a vast nation while in slavery in Egypt – none of which would have occurred apart from how God led Joseph down into Egypt

– The parallels to the life of Christ who was the ultimate rejected stone – He came unto His own, and His own not only did not receive Him but cruelly mistreated Him, rejected Him and cast Him aside


“Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan.”

“These are the records of the generations of Jacob.”

Parunak: marks a contrast between Esau’s descendants “in the land of their possession” (i.e., Seir, 36:43) and Jacob “in the land of Canaan.”

On a larger scale, ch. 37 opens the last section of Genesis. The overarching theme of this section is 50:20, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” We will see much “thinking evil” throughout these chapters, but behind it all is the sovereign Lord, producing good. Ps76:10, “surely the wrath of man shall praise thee.”

Section is primarily about Jacob – even though so much attention is given to Joseph; story of the development of the people of Israel – into a nation; a great nation; a nation that would end up in Egypt





3 Reasons for Discord:

1. (:2b) Tattling

“Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.”

Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher

Ligon Duncan: It shouldn’t surprise us that Joseph would bring back a bad report of his brothers. They had already been involved in some significant mischief. Rueben sleeping with his father’s concubine. Simeon and Levy slaughtering the Shechemites because of their sister disgrace. These men were rough. They were hard and they were reckless.

Parunak: the Hebrew word dibbah has negative overtones wherever it is used. It suggests two things: deception, and antagonism toward the person or thing being described. Consider some specific examples.

We see deception in the three uses of the term (Num 13:32; 14:36, 37) to describe the report brought by the spies concerning the land of Canaan. Read 13:25-33 to compare the initial report with the slanted version that was given to oppose Caleb’s recommendation to go in: From a land “that floweth with milk and honey” (v.27), it becomes “a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof.” The “evil report” is clearly slanted.

The aspect of antagonism is clear in Jer 20:10 (“defaming”). He has been imprisoned for predicting the fall of Jerusalem, and his enemies are watching for him to say something so that they can turn him in and “take our revenge on him.” See also Psa 31:13; Ezek 36:3. Prov 10:18 places the word in the same category with flattery. “ He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” Here dibbah “slander” is compared with insincere flattery. The first half of the verse says good things insincerely; similarly, the latter half says bad things without grounds. Both are inaccurate, and both are motivated by deception.

Another way to look at this noun is to review the people who are responsible for producing dibbah. They are without exception of ill repute:

• the unbelieving spies in Num 13-14

• David’s enemies in Ps 31:14

• A fool in Prov 10:18

• Someone who seeks to shame you in Prov 25:10

• Jeremiah’s enemies in 20:10

• Those who mock the land of Israel in Ezek 36:3

This is the company to which Joseph belongs by conducting himself in this way.

Moses’ use of this word suggests that Joseph is not simply bringing a fair and impartial report of what has happened in the field, but (as siblings so often do) is tattling, carrying tales about his brothers to enhance his own standing in his father’s eyes. His behavior falls under the category of being a “talebearer” or “slanderer” that is forbidden in texts such as Prov 11:12-13 and Lev 19:16.

2. (:3) Favoritism

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.”

Keith Krell: Favoritism has a long history in Jacob’s family (Isaac’s preference for Esau, Rebekah’s for Jacob, and Jacob’s preference for Rachel). In every case it created major problems. Jacob, of all people, should have understood this. His father loved his brother more than him. While Jacob should have been sensitive to favoritism, he repeats the sin of his parents.

3. (:4) Hatred

“And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.”



1. (:5-8) First Dream

a. (:5) Summary

“Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.”

Parunak: There are two dreams. The first shows Joseph’s superiority over his brothers; the second includes his parents. Joseph explains the first only to his brothers, but includes his father in the explanation of the second, showing that he understands their import.

b. (:6-7) Dream Imagery

“And he said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’”

Parunak: —He pictures himself working with his brothers, the environment in which they had been abusive to him, and suggests that the time will come when the tables will be turned.

Ligon Duncan: The first dream is interesting isn’t it, because it’s an agrarian picture. Now these are shepherds. Presumably their main pastime was not reaping a harvest in a field, but shepherding flocks. And yet the dream comes in the form of a harvest picture. Does that foreshadow the future of Joseph? Is God telling us something here that is not at present but will be in the future? I think so because it will be through the harvest of grain that Joseph’s name and fortune will be made in Egypt.

c. (:8) Angry Reaction

“Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”

2. (:9-11) Second Dream

a. (:9a) Summary

“Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers,”

b. (:9b) Dream Imagery

“and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’”

No mistaking what the imagery in this dream means

c. (:10-11) Angry Reaction

“And he related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?’ And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.”

Parunak: The word “rebuke” is a very strong term, most often applied to God’s rebuke of the wicked, the nations, or the forces of nature (in the OT, the Red Sea, Ps 106:9; in the NT, Matt 8:26, the Sea of Galilee). The LXX sometimes translates it, “threaten.” It implies strong emotion and authority on the part of the rebuker. . . In most instances of rebukes of this sort, the person being challenged offers an explanation, but Joseph is silent.

Keith Krell: Envy is the root of almost every sin against believers. Whenever it is harbored, there is an end of all peace, rest, and satisfaction. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil spirit revives the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (cf. Prov 27:4; NET;). James 3:16 tells us, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”



A. (:12-14) Sent on a Mission

“Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem.”

“And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.’ And he said to him, ‘I will go.’

Then he said to him, ‘Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock; and bring word back to me.’”

“So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.”

Ligon Duncan: And I want you to pause there and I want you to see a beautiful truth because God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is a reality in the heart and the life of Joseph. God’s choice of him does not lead him to indolence, to indifference, to passivity. He is working to do his father’s bidding. He is faithful in the carrying out of his task, even though he knows that God has made a choice of him. The doctrine of election doesn’t lead him to no effort, it leads him to extraordinary effort. It doesn’t lead him to a sense of entitlement, it empowers his ethic and that’s always how the biblical doctrine of election impacts the heart of a regenerate believer.

Hughes: Hebron was twenty miles south of Jerusalem, and Shechem was thirty miles north of the holy city. So Joseph’s brothers were fifty miles north, or approximately five days’ journey away. This considerable distance to Shechem, coupled with the recent history of Simeon and Levi’s bloody massacre of the Shechemites, was reasonable cause for Jacob’s unease.

B. (:15-17) Steered to the Proper Destination

“And a man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field;”

“and the man asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ And he said, ‘I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.’ Then the man said, ‘They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’’”

“So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.”

Providence of God at work – otherwise Joseph would have never found his brothers



A. (:18-20) The Malicious Plot Against the Dreamer

“When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. And they said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!’”

Parunak: “conspired” — The word is always negative, and refers to deceptive, knavish behavior. This specific form describes the attitude of the Egyptians toward Israel during their period of enslavement in Psa 105:25.

B. (:21-22) The Merciful Rescue Attempted by Reuben

“But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben further said to them, ‘Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him’– that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.”

C. (:23-24) The Malevolent Attack

“So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.”

Parunak: This is not a gentle action, but what they would have done with a dead body (v.20). They tossed him in. Used in Exod 1:22 of throwing babies into the river to drown.



A. (:25) Seeing an Opportunity

“Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.”

Keith Krell: They are ruthless and cold. All they care about is their stomach. The callousness and cruelty of Joseph’s brothers is shocking! There is no sense of guilt, no remorse, not even a loss of appetite. The next time the brothers would eat a meal in Joseph’s presence he would sit at the head table (43:32-34). For the next 23 years, Joseph’s cries for mercy would haunt them in their dreams and ring in their ears (see 42:21).

B. (:26-27) Smelling the Riches

“And Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and 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 listened to him.”

C. (:28) Shaking Hands on the Deal

“Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.”

Keith Krell: The “twenty shekels of silver” is also intended to remind us of how Judas sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver. This is not happenstance. Joseph’s life is designed to point to the life of the Lord Jesus.



A. (:29-30) Desperation of Reuben

“Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments.

And he returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?’”

B. (:31-32) Deceit of Joseph’s Brothers

“So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said,

‘We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.’”

Parunak: Review the steps of their sin.

• They plan it. Their hatred overwhelms them. This is where the real offense occurs.

• They execute it, with hypocritical rationalizations that it isn’t as bad as it could be.

• They refuse to repent when they have opportunity.

• They cause pain to others in lying to cover up their sin.

C. (:33-35) Dismay of Jacob

“Then he examined it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!’ So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him.”

D. (:36) Delivery of Joseph to Potiphar

“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.”

Keith Krell: It was not coincidence that Joseph ended up in the home of one of the most responsible officers of Pharaoh’s administration. Hidden from the logic of man’s limited perspective, God was orchestrating His eternal and divine purposes for the preservation and deliverance of the people of Israel. God takes Joseph to Egypt to make him a great nation. But it would be 23 years of nightmare before Joseph’s dream and God’s ultimate plan for his life finally came to pass.