Chapter 37

  1. Joseph’s Dreams

    • Jacob lived in Canaan- the same land that his father had lived in.

    • The following is the account of Jacob and his family:

      • Boice writes this describing the life of Joseph that we are about to read, ““He was loved and hated, favored and abused, tempted and trusted, exalted and abased. Yet at no point in the one-hundred-and-ten-year life of Joseph did he ever seem to get his eyes off God or cease to trust him. Adversity did not harden his character. Prosperity did not ruin him. He was the same in private as in public. He was a truly great man.”

    • At the age of 17, Joseph was tended sheep with some of his half brothers (the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah- Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher) and Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.

    • Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph was born when Jacob was old.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible also notes that Jacob probably loved Joseph more due to the fact that he was the first born son of Rachel, which was his favorite wife.

    • Israel made Joseph a special multicolored robe with long sleeves.

      • Guzik explains the significance of this gift, “Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph was plain to all, including Joseph and his brothers. As an outward display of this, he gave Joseph a tunic of many colors. This signified a position of favor, princely standing, and birthright. It was a dramatic way of saying he was the son to receive the birthright. The real idea behind the ancient Hebrew phrase for tunic of many colors is that it was a tunic extending all the way down to the wrists and ankles, as opposed to a shorter one. This was not what a workingman wore. It was a garment of privilege and status.”

    • Jacob’s favoritism was so obvious that Joseph’s brothers hated him for it and couldn’t even bring themselves to speak kindly to Joseph.

    • One night Joseph had a dream that he and his brothers were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. Joseph’s sheaf stood up and his brothers sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to it. Joseph told his brothers about his dream and this made them hate him even more.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “God confirmed his choice of this faithful son as the eventual leader of the whole family through two symbolic dreams. This is the first of three dream sequences in chapters 37-50. Dreams carried weight as a form of divine communication, especially if the dream revelation was given twice. Everyone would have taken Joseph’s dream seriously.”

    • Joseph’s brothers hated him even more because of his dream and responded, “Do you really think you are going to be our king and rule over us?”

      • “At best, Joseph showed a great lack of tact. Surely he knew how much his brothers hated to hear this dream, which set him above his brothers.” (Guzik)

      • “Also relevant to this dream was the fact that it involved sheaves of wheat. Joseph’s ultimate position of status over his brethren would be connected with food.” (Guzik)

    • Then Jacob had another dream. In this dream the sun, moon, and 11 stars were bowing down to him.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “Astrological symbols often represent rulers. The dream predicted Joseph’s elevation to a position of authority over the whole clan of Israel.” Guzik notes that these same astrological symbols are used in Revelation 12:1, which talks about Jesus coming from the nation of Israel.

    • Joseph told his fathers and brothers about this dream. This time Jacob scolded Joseph saying, “What kind of dream is that? Are your mother and I going to bow down to you also?”

    • Joseph’s bothers became even more jealous, but Jacob thought about it and wondered what the dreams meant.

  1. Joseph Sold into Slavery

    • Joseph’s brothers had taken their father’s flocks to Schechem to pasture them and Israel sent Joseph to Schechem to check on them and report back to him how they were doing.

    • When Joseph came to Schechem he couldn’t find his brothers, but he came across a man that told him his brothers had moved on to Dothan.

      • “The brothers ranged far and wide. Shechem was about 50 miles from Hebron, and Dothan another 15 miles beyond Schechem.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

    • Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching from a distance and they plotted to kill him saying, “Here comes the dreamer! Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these pits. We’ll just say he was attacked and eaten by a wild animal. Then let’s see how his dreams turn out.”

      • “Without intending to, they put Joseph’s dreams to the ultimate test. If the dreams really were from God, they could not be defeated by the hatred of the brothers.” (Guzik)

    • When Reuben heard what they were planning he tried to change their minds. He suggested that instead of killing Joseph they just throw him alive into a pit in the wilderness. He intended to come back himself and get Joseph from the pit and bring him back to his father.

      • “Two things probably motivated Reuben to try and save Joseph’s life. First, as the oldest son, he was most responsible to his father for the safety of his young sibling. Second, after having sexual relations with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (35:22), Reuben was undoubtedly trying to get back in Jacob’s good graces.” (HCSB commentary)

    • When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped off the multicolored robe Jacob had given him and threw him into an empty pit.

    • With Joseph in the pit, the brothers sat down to eat. During their meal they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, on their way from Gilead to Egypt.

      • “Ishmaelites were descendants of Abraham through Hagar (16:5), while Midianites were descendants of Abraham through Keturah (25:1-2). The term Ishmaelite may have described bedouin tribes generally. The Midianites might also have been travelling with a separate caravan of Ishmaelite traders.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

    • Judah spoke up and said to his brothers, “What will we get by killing Joseph then having to cover it up? Instead of dirtying our hands by killing him, let’s just sell him to these traders.”

– “Judah was the son of Jacob who would become the ancestor of the Messiah.” (Guzik)

    • The brothers agreed and when the traders came they sold Joseph to them for 20 pieces of silver.

      • HCSB commentary notes, “This passage reveals the low value Joseph’s brothers placed on his life, as well as their cruelty. Joseph was thrown into a pit without food or water while his brothers ate a meal. In addition, when Joseph was sold into slavery his brothers accepted “20 pieces of silver”, far less than the typical 30 pieces of silver (Exodus 21:32).”

    • When Reuben came back and saw that Joseph was gone he tore his clothes in grief and said to his brothers, “He’s gone! What am I going to do?”

      • “Reuben tore his clothes as an expression of utter horror and mourning because his weak stand for righteousness accomplished nothing. Joseph might as well be dead, because his father who loved him so would never see him again.” (Guzik)

    • They killed a goat and stained Joseph’s robe with its blood. They took the robe to Jacob saying that they had found it and asked him to look at it and see if he thought it was Joseph’s robe.

    • Jacob recognized it as Joseph’s robe and cried, “Joseph has been eaten by a wild animal!”

    • Jacob tore his clothes in grief. He wore sackcloth and mourned for a long time. Even though his children tried to comfort him, he was inconsolable and wept saying, “I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning.”

      • Many of you may be wondering what Sheol is. Many Bibles translate Sheol as “the grave”, but that really doesn’t accurately portray what the Hebrew meaning of Sheol was. HCSB commentary explains, “When Jacob says he will go down to Sheol, he does not mean he will go to hell (or heaven), but that he will be reunited with his son beyond death. In the Hebrew Bible, Sheol is the general term for the afterlife, the abode of departed spirits beyond the grave.”

        • Ok, I know this may be new information for some people, so some may be thrown for a loop here in different ways depending on your religious background because it reveals a major issue with how a Hebrew word is not very accurately translated into English. For example, people who believe in “soul sleep” (souls do not go to heaven when we die, but are “asleep” in the grave until the resurrection) could be bothered by this new information because the translation of “the grave” lends itself to a “soul sleep” interpretation in many cases and this new information doesn’t necessarily corroborate that interpretation. On the other hand, for people who believe that souls go to heaven when we die may also be thrown for a loop because the Hebrew meaning of this word seems to indicate some other place that our souls may go that is not heaven. My intent here is not to confuse anyone or corroborate any particular view. My goal especially isn’t to make any assertion at all regarding where people go when they die. I do, however, believe that everyone should be aware that Hebrew doesn’t translate “perfectly” into other languages. When it doesn’t, I believe that we should try our best to get a clearer understanding of what the Hebrew word actually means. So, in light of that intention, I’ll list some extra sources that you can check out to get a better understanding of what exactly is meant by Sheol. Again, the meaning of Sheol is not an area that all scholars agree on, so I’ve tried to list some sources with varying interpretation.

              1. Don Stewart writing for Blue Letter Bible:

              1. Breakdown of Sheol from Jewish

              1. Berean Bible Society:

              1. Abarim Publications:

        • Some points I do want to make regarding the word Sheol:

        • It is used basically 5 different ways in the Old Testament and the context determines the meaning. The context is not always easy to determine and the 5 different uses can even overlap further complicating things.

1. The unseen realm of the dead.

2. The grave – the actual place where bodies are buried.

3. Specifically, the place of punishment for the wicked.

4. Symbolically.

5. The place from where the righteous are saved.

      • The word Sheol appears 65 times. It is translated as “the pit” 3 times, “the grave” 31 times, and “hell” 31 times.

      • There is a word in Hebrew for what we think of today as “the grave”- it is queber.

        • The following comparisons show that sheol and queber cannot be used interchangeably:

1.Sheol is never used in plural form. Queber is used in the plural 29 times.

2. It is never said that the body goes to Sheol. Queber speaks of the body going there 37 times.

3. Sheol is never said to be located on the face of the earth. Queber is mentioned 32 times as being located on the earth.

4. An individual’s Sheol is never mentioned. An individual’s queber is mentioned 5 times.

5. Man is never said to put anyone into Sheol. Individuals are put into a queber by man (33 times).

6. Man is never said to have dug or fashioned a Sheol. Man is said to have dug, or fashioned, a queber (6 times).

7. Man is never said to have touched Sheol. Man touches, or can touch, a queber (5 times).

8. It is never said that man is able to possess a Sheol. Man is spoken of as being able to possess a queber (7 times). (These eight points of comparison are adapted from “Life and Death” by Caleb J. Baker, Bible Institute Colportage Ass’n, 1941).

        • Also, as noted in the Berean article, “Words associated with queber are quabar and qeburah. Quabar is a verb meaning to bury or to be buried and qeburah is a noun meaning a grave or place of burial. The use of these related words helps to reinforce the difference between queber and Sheol, as they clearly have to do with the grave as a burial place, while Sheol does not.”


    • While Jacob was mourning Joseph’s death, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar- one of Pharaoh’s officers and captain of the guard.
      • Guzik makes a point here that we would all do well to consider ourselves and apply in our own lives, “Even in the midst of this horror, God did not depart from Joseph. In some ways the story will get worse – and when it does, God will still be with Joseph. God is working not only for Joseph himself, but also for the larger purposes of God’s redemptive plan.”
    • Joseph certainly suffered and it may have seemed on many occasions that God wasn’t working for Joseph’s good even though Joseph was faithful. But God has an eternal perspective that Joseph didn’t have and that we don’t have either. Guzik really drives home that point with this list:

· If Joseph’s brothers never sell him to the Midianites, then Joseph never goes to Egypt.

· If Joseph never goes to Egypt, he never is sold to Potiphar.

· If he is never sold to Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape.

· If Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape, then he is never put in prison.

· If he is never put in prison, he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh.

· If he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh, he never interprets their dreams.

· If he never interprets their dreams, he never gets to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.

· If he never gets to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he never is made prime minister.

· If he is never made prime minister, he never wisely administrates for the severe famine coming upon the region.

· If he never wisely administrates for the severe famine coming upon the region, then his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine.

· If his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine, the Messiah can’t come forth from a dead family.

· If the Messiah can’t come forth, then Jesus never came.

· If Jesus never came, you are dead in your sins and without hope in this world.