Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:36

36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.

While family drama would continue to take place at home, Joseph was sold off and separated from all of that. From now on he would have his own problems to deal with, and a whole new story was unfolding for him in Egypt.

Egypt is of recurring importance throughout the Old Testament, and it takes on many roles, entwining itself in the fate of the Israelites, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil. At this point Egypt appears to be for evil, the land of Joseph’s unjust oppression, but in a few years that will change, and Egypt will become a place of refuge.

I can’t help but wonder if Joseph felt he was already at the lowest point of his life, a slave in a strange land, but soon he will descend even further, cast out of his lowly station to become a prisoner. Before we get to that, though, we have to take a detour with Judah for chapter 38.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:32-35

32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.

33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.

34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Joseph’s brothers wrenched his coat off his body, tore it to pieces, dipped it in blood, and then had the audacity to ask Jacob whether it was Joseph’s, as if they didn’t already know! It is interesting that the question they phrase their question as “whether it be thy son’s coat.” Could they not even bring themselves to say, “our brother’s coat?” The strange verbiage makes them sound as if they were strangers to Jacob, but then, I suppose in this moment they truly are. They are lying and pretending, presenting a face to him that is far removed from reality.

But this is not all. They then continued to lie through their teeth when they rose up to comfort their father. The very men that deprived this man of his son would then pretend to be sympathetic for his loss! Jacob thankfully rejected their overtures, even if he did not fathom what sort of vipers he had all about him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:29-31

29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?

31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;

Reuben’s language to his brothers is very interesting here. It is as if he thinks he is giving them new news. “The child is not!” Does this mean they did not tell him what they had done with Joseph? Was he left to assume that some unknown mischief had taken his brother? Did he never know that his brother had been sent away to Egypt until they met him years later?

I also find interesting his other statement “and I, whither shall I go?” Joseph was the one who had been sold, but Reuben feels lost in this moment as well. As the eldest of all the brethren he might have felt a special responsibility for all of the others, even Joseph. Now that he had failed in that responsibility he had a sense of having misplaced his own self.

And yet, Reuben wasn’t ready to come clean to his father. Rather than tell the man what they had done, Reuben went along with concocting a falsehood about some wild beast killing Joseph. All the brothers had some humbling to go through before they would be ready to own their wrongs.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:25-28

25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?

27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Now it is Judah who changes the plan for Joseph, suggesting that they sell him into slavery rather than leave him to die. The thought occurs to me that, like Reuben, he might have been doing this as a way to save Joseph from his brothers. Unlike with Reuben, we don’t have a verse specifically telling us what his intent is, but it does seem a possibility.

If Judah really was trying to help Joseph, then it is interesting that Joseph’s loss was a combined coincidence of two brothers trying to save him without realizing that that’s what the other one was trying to do as well. If that is the case, it only goes to show that Joseph being sold into Egypt was inevitable, an event that God had dictated to happen, for reasons He only understood at this time.

But if, on the other hand, Judah’s motivation really was “what profit is it if we slay our brother,” then this is a horrible thing. This would mean he was deciding which way we wanted to ruin his younger brother’s life on the basis of what was most beneficial to him personally. And even if this wasn’t Judah’s actual motivation, all of his brothers still agreed to its logic!

Though, then again, who knows? Maybe they agreed to it because they were coming to realize that they didn’t really want to kill their brother and here was an opportunity to somewhat spare him. Wouldn’t it be a fascinating thing if none of the brothers were okay with what was happening, but none of them spoke plainly because they thought they were the only one that felt this way?

Either way, the outcome was the same. Joseph was sold to Egypt because that was where God needed Joseph to go. And he was sold for twenty pieces of silver, which is another parallel to the story of Jesus, who was sold for thirty.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:22-24

22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. 

23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;

24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

Reuben sought to save Joseph, but he had to account for the other brothers’ wrath. Perhaps if he stood entirely on the side of Joseph they would have killed him as well, so instead he suggested that they throw him into a pit in the middle of the wilderness. The idea was that Joseph would still die, there wasn’t even any water for him to drink, but it would spare them from directly staining their hands with his blood.

But as verse 22 reveals, this was all a ruse. Rueben’s actual intention was to come back to the pit after the others had left and get Joseph out of it. Perhaps then he would have urged Joseph to venture out on his own, or maybe he was hoping the others would have calmed down enough to bring the boy back home. In either case, though, this plan of Reuben’s was not to be.

Todays verses again parallel the story of the Savior. Both Joseph and Jesus were betrayed by their brethren and consigned to death. Both of them had a sympathetic ear in Pilate and Reuben, who each tried to save the condemned man but failed. Also, the tearing of Joseph’s cloak seems symbolic to me of when Jesus’s body was torn by the whip before being raised on the cross.

Thus, in many ways Joseph was alone in this suffering, but at the same time he also had a Savior who would endure the same manner of afflictions, and who would therefore know how to speak comfort to his soul. And though that Savior wouldn’t pass through those afflictions until many years later, I believe that in the celestial perspective all of time is laid out as one, and an experience of the future can be called upon to empathize with what has happened in the past.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:18-21

18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

Even if it seems unfair that Jacob showed a clear favoritism towards Joseph, or if it seems imprudent of Joseph to have related his dreams to his brothers, there is no earthly justification for what these brothers conspired to do. They were contemplating murder, and their derision that they will then “see what will become of his dreams” is shockingly callous.

I do wonder which of the brothers were the primary instigators of this plot. Simeon and Levi had already shown their willingness to kill, though that was as a retaliation for the rape of their sister. Here they are discussing the death of an innocent. Fortunately, not every brother was as bloodthirsty as the others. Reuben interceded in Joseph’s behalf, which we will get more into with tomorrow’s verses.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:15-17

15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.

17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

Joseph isn’t even able to fulfill his initial charge, to ascertain whether all is well with his brethren and the flocks, because they aren’t anywhere to be found! Continuing with the analogy of Joseph being like the Savior, a beloved son is sent to check on his brethren but does not immediately find his charge. Because sometimes we have picked up from where we were supposed to be and wandered off, and do not care to be found. But like the good shepherd, the son seeks, and queries, and presently comes to us wherever we are. No matter how filthy of a hovel, or how offensive a den of iniquity, he finds us where we are.

But as the story of Joseph shows, sometimes being found is not the same as being saved. Jesus might come find us where we are, but we still retain the right to refuse him. Even the right to cast him out from us. Though we should know that if we do so, it may be quite a season before we see him again.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:12-14

12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

So begins the great journey of Joseph. An innocuous errand will lead to his entire life being changed. Unlike his father and great-grandfather, Joseph didn’t know that he was about to leave his home. He had no bag packed and had said no goodbyes. He was plucked out mid-stride and against his will.

I also am noticing in these verses how the story of Joseph is representative of the savior. A father sends his favored son as a representative to his other children. The son comes to see whether his brothers have properly cared for their flocks, or have gone astray, and the brothers respond by trying to destroy him. But their attempt is in vain, for in both cases the favored son is led through the tragedy to fulfilling his great purpose.

So no, Joseph was not anticipating the detour that awaited him, but as terrible as his fate may have seemed for a time, God was in it, and it all worked out for the greater good.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:9-10

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

I wanted to look at Joseph’s second dream a little more before moving on. I mentioned yesterday that Jacob interpreted the sun and moon and stars in Joseph’s dream as representing Jacob, Rachel, and all of Joseph’s brothers. And if this interpretation is correct, then the doubling of Joseph’s dreams, first with the sheaves of wheat and second with the heavenly bodies, likely signified the two times his family would make special obeisance to him. The dream with only the eleven sheaves would be indicating the first time that Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt, asking for grain, and bowing before Joseph. This second dream with the stars and the sun and the moon would be indicating later when Joseph had revealed his identity and all the household came to live under Joseph’s protection.

But that being said, I’m not entirely sure that Jacob was correct in his interpretation. The fact that he says “I and thy mother” seems to suggest that this dream was given when Rachel was still alive. But by the time that Joseph came into power his mother was long since dead. Rachel was never present to see, and make obeisance, to Joseph as an Egyptian prince. Perhaps the sun and the moon could instead represent the two nations who depended on Joseph for survival: Egypt and Israel.

Of course, that other interpretation depends entirely on whether Rachel was still alive at this point or not. We know that she died during the birth of Benjamin, but we do not know how old Joseph was when his younger brother was born. Is it possible he never knew the boy before he was sold off to Egypt? If that were the case, then eleven stars would have seemed strange to the family, as Joseph would have only had ten brothers so far.

Which perhaps means that Benjamin was already born, Rachel had already passed away, and if the sun and moon really did signify Jacob and Rachel showing reverence to their son, perhaps it was meant in a spiritual sense instead of physical.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:9-11

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

It is interesting that after such a poor reception to his first dream Joseph felt compelled to share this second one as well. Perhaps he was too naïve to realize the vexation it would stir up. Or maybe he fully knew the drama that would be caused, but the dream came with a God-given need to share it. Certainly Noah knew that his calls to repentance would not be received cheerfully, but he still was called to foretell the flood.

It is understandable that Joseph’s brothers would feel poorly about these dreams, but the retaliation they exercised on him was completely inexcusable. If they thought he was a fool or a liar they could have dismissed him out of hand, but the fact that they contemplated murder and sold him into slavery shows that they felt threatened. No doubt they knew in their hearts that he was more worthy than they, but they sought to remove him instead of improving themselves.

Of note in Joseph’s dream is that this one not only shows Joseph’s brothers making obeisance to him, represented by the eleven stars, but also two others represented by the sun and the moon. Jacob interpreted the sun and the moon as being himself and Joseph’s mother, and took offense to that. But unlike Joseph’s brothers, we hear that he “observed the saying,” which suggests that even though he disliked the message, he recognized it was from God and had respect to it.