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Genesis Chapter 37
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Joseph is Sold
37:1 Meanwhile, Jacob settled in the area where his father had lived in the land of Canaan.
37:2 These are the chronicles of Jacob:

Josesph was 17 years old. As a lad, he would tend the sheep with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. Joseph brought his father a bad report about them.

37:3 Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, since he was the child of his old age. He made [Joseph] a long colorful coat.
37:4 When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than all the rest, they began to hate him. They could not say a peaceful word to him.
37:5 Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
37:6 'Listen to the dream I had,' he said to them.
37:7 'We were binding sheaves in the field, when my sheaf suddenly stood up erect. Your sheaves formed a circle around my sheaf, and bowed down to it.'
37:8 'Do you want to be our king?' retorted the brothers. 'Do you intend to rule over us?' Because of his dreams and words, they hated him even more.
37:9 He had another dream and told it to his brothers. 'I just had another dream,' he said. 'The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.'
37:10 When he told it to his father and brothers, his father scolded him and said, 'What kind of dream did you have? Do you want me, your mother, and your brothers to come and prostrate ourselves on the ground to you?'
37:11 His brothers became very jealous of him, but his father suspended judgment.
37:12 [Joseph's] brothers left to tend their father's sheep in Shechem.
37:13 Israel said to Joseph, 'I believe your brothers are keeping the sheep in Shechem. I would like you to go to them.'

'I'm ready,' replied [Joseph].

37:14 'Then see how your brothers and the sheep are doing,' said [Israel]. 'Bring me a report.'

[Israel] thus sent him from the Hebron valley, and [Joseph] arrived in Shechem.

37:15 A stranger found him blundering about in the fields. 'What are you looking for?' asked the stranger.
37:16 'I'm looking for my brothers,' replied [Joseph]. 'Perhaps you can tell me where they are tending the sheep.'
37:17 'They already left this area,' said the man. 'I heard them planning to go to Dothan.'

Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

37:18 They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they were plotting to kill him.
37:19 'Here comes the dreamer!' they said to one another.
37:20 'Now we have the chance! Let's kill him and throw him into one of the wells. We can say that a wild beast ate him. Then let's see what will become of his dreams!'
37:21 Reuben heard these words and tried to rescue [Joseph]. 'Let's not kill him!' he said.
37:22 Reuben tried to reason with his brothers. 'Don't commit bloodshed. You can throw him into this well in the desert, and you won't have to lay a hand on him.' His plan was to rescue [Joseph] from [his brothers] and bring him back to his father.
37:23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of the long colorful coat that he was wearing.
37:24 They took him and threw him into the well. The well was empty; there was no water in it.
37:25 The [brothers] sat down and ate a meal. When they looked up, they saw an Arab caravan coming from Gilead. The camels were carrying gum, balsam, and resin, transporting them to Egypt.
37:26 Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover his blood?
37:27 Let's sell him to the Arabs and not harm him with our own hands. After all, he's our brother, our own flesh and blood.' His brothers agreed.
37:28 The strangers, who turned out to be Midianite traders approached, and [the brothers] pulled Joseph out of the well. They sold him to the Arabs for twenty pieces of silver. [These Midianite Arabs] were to bring Joseph to Egypt.
37:29 When Reuben returned to the well, Joseph was no longer there. [Reuben] tore his clothes in grief.
37:30 He returned to his brothers. 'The boy is gone!' he exclaimed. 'And I - where can I go?'
37:31 [The brothers] took Joseph's coat. They slaughtered a goat and dipped the coat in the blood.
37:32 They sent the long colorful coat, and it was brought to their father. 'We found this,' explained [the brothers when they returned]. 'Try to identify it. Is it your son's coat or not?'
37:33 [Jacob immediately] recognized it. 'It is my son's coat!' he cried. 'A wild beast must have eaten him! My Joseph has been torn to pieces!'
37:34 He tore his robes in grief and put on sackcloth. He kept himself in mourning for many days.
37:35 All his sons and daughters tried to console him, but he refused to be comforted. 'I will go down to the grave mourning for my son,' he said. He wept for [his son] as only a father could.
37:36 The Midanites sold [Joseph] in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officers, captain of the guard.



Commentary:

settled in the area
  Hebron; Genesis 37:14. Also see Genesis 35:27.

long colorful coat
  Kethoneth passim in Hebrew. It was a royal garment; 2 Samuel 13:18 (cf. Ralbag ad loc.). The word passim can be translated as 'colorful' (Radak; Septuagint), embroidered (Ibn Ezra; Bachya; Ramban on Exodus 28:2), striped (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim), or with pictures (Targum Yonathan). It can also denote a long garment, coming down to the palms of the hands (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Baaley Tosafoth; Bereshith Rabbah 84), and the feet (Lekach Tov). Alternatively, the word denotes the material out of which the coat was made, which was fine wool (Rashi) or silk (Ibn Janach). Hence, kethoneth passim, may be translated as 'a full-sleeved robe,' 'a coat of many colors,' 'a coat reaching to his feet,' 'an ornamented tunic,' 'a silk robe,' or 'a fine woolen cloak.'

suspended judgment
  Or, 'pondered the matter,' 'kept the matter in mind' or, 'his father waited to see the result' (Rashi). Literally, 'his father watched the word.'

Shechem
  See Genesis 12:6, 33:18, 48:22. Shechem is some 48 miles north of Hebron.

I believe
  This is actually posed as a question, 'Aren't your brothers...?' In many cases, however, the question is rhetorical, and is more accurately translated as a statement. See Genesis 40:8.

stranger
  A traveler (Ibn Ezra). Others say that it was Gabriel (Targum Yonathan; Rashi).

Dothan
  Tell Dothna, a city some 15 miles north of Shechem. It later became part of the territory of Joseph (Manasseh); see 2 Kings 6:13.

to one another
  According to Talmudic tradition, the main plotters were Simeon and Levi (Targum Yonathan). See Genesis 49:6. It is for this reason that, of the older brothers, only Reuben and Judah spoke up to spare Joseph. According to other sources, Simeon, Dan and Gad were the main plotters (Tzava'ath Zebulun 2:1).

well
  A well that had been dug, but had come out dry (Tzava'ath Zebulun 2:7). Alternatively 'pit' or 'cistern.'

They took
  Written, 'he took.' Some say that it was Simeon who threw Joseph into the pit (Bereshith Rabbah 84). It was for this reason that Simeon was later singled out for special punishment by Joseph (Genesis 42:24). According to others, it was Reuben who gently lowered Joseph into the pit (Josephus, Antiquities 2:3:2).

Arab
  (Targum; Saadia). Literally, Ishmaelites. See 1 Chronicles 2:17, 27:30. Also see note on Genesis 37:28.

Gilead
  Gilead was to the northeast of the Holy Land, on the trade route from Mesopotamia to Egypt, as we see in the case of Jacob above (Genesis 31:21). This route passed through Dothan. It was famous for its spices, see other notes on Genesis 37:25, 'gum', 'balsam', 'resin'.

gum
  Nekhoth in Hebrew. See Genesis 43:11. The Targum renders it as sh'af, a kind of wax or gum (Rashi; cf. Bereshith Rabbah 91). On the basis of Semitic cognates, it is usually identified with tragacanth, the aromatic sap of a species of Astragalus, a short prickly shrub of the family Papilionaceae (cf. Septuagint). Others say that it comes from the member of the carob family (Lekach Tov; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). Rashi says that nekhoth is a generic word for spices.

balsam
  Tzeri or Tzori in Hebrew. Balsam is a gum extracted from the sap of the tree Commiphora apobasamum, and it is used for incense and perfume. Gilead was a famed source of balsam (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11).

resin
  Lot in Hebrew. See Genesis 43:11. On the basis of Semitic cognates, it is usually identified as labdanum or laudanum, a soft, dark resin derived from various bushes known as rockroses, of the genus cistus. It is used for making perfume. The Midrash defines it as mastic (Bereshith Rabbah 91), the resin of the mastic tree, Pistacia lenticus, a member of the pistachio family (cf. Septuagint). The Targum renders it letum, a species mentioned in the Mishnah (Shevi'ith 7:6), and identified as a chestnut (Rambam ad loc.; Ibn Janach) or pine extract (Ibn Janach; cf. Radak, Sherashim). Rashi identifies it as aristolocia, the birthwort. (See Otzar Maasoth, p. 95).

Midianite traders
  These were the Arabs mentioned in Genesis 37:28. When they approached, they were recognizable as Midianites (Ibn Ezra; Radak; cf. Josephus 2:3:3; Yov'loth 34:11). We thus see that the Midianites are called 'Arabs' (Ishmaelites; Judges 8:24). This might have been because Ishmael was identified with all his brothers (Genesis 25:18). Others say that the Ishmaelites and Midianites were two different groups, see other note on Genesis 37:28, 'the brothers'.

the brothers
  (Rashi). There is a tradition that they bought shoes with the money that they got for Joseph (Tanchuma 2; cf. Tzava'ath Zebulun 3:2). Some say that the brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, and the Ishmaelites to the Midianites (Rashi). According to others, it was the Midianites who took Joseph from the pit (Sefer HaYashar; Rashbam; Bachya). There is a tradition that Joseph was sold on Yom Kippur (Yov'loth 34:13).

daughters
  This is the first mention of Jacob's daughters. These may be previously unmentioned daughters, or alternatively, Jacob's daughters-in-law (Targum Yonathan; Bereshith Rabbah 84; Rashi), or granddaughters (Ibn Ezra).

as only a father...
  Literally, 'his father wept for him.' Some translate, 'Thus his father wept for him.' According to others, it was Isaac who wept for Jacob (Targum Yonathan; Bereshith Rabbah 84; Rashi; Ibn Ezra). On the basis of the chronology in the Torah, Isaac did not die until Joseph was 29 years old, 12 years after he was sold.

Midanites
  Actually, the Midanites and Midianites were separate tribes (Genesis 25:2). Some say that the Midianites sold Joseph to the Midanites (Bereshith Rabbah 84; see Sefer HaYashar). Others, however, state that the Midanites here are the same as the Midianites (Targum). Moreover, from the context, it seems obvious that the Midianites are the same as the Arabs or Ishmaelites (see Genesis 39:1; Ramban).

Potiphar
  This is an Egyptian name, Pa-diu-par, meaning 'giving of the house' in ancient Egyptian, hence denoting a steward. Par is ancient Egyptian for house, as in Par-aoh (Genesis 12:15). It can also be related to the name found in ancient inscriptions. Pa-diu-a-Ra, literally, 'one whom Ra has given,' where Ra is the Egyptian sun god. This is also the meaning of Pot Phera, Genesis 41:45.

captain of the guard
  Cf. 2 Kings 25:8, Jeremiah 39:9. The royal prison was therefore in his house; Genesis 40:13. Some say that he was the chief executioner (Targum; Saadia; Ramban; cf. Daniel 2:14). Others say that he was the chief butcher (Rashi; cf. Ibn Ezra) or chief cook (Josephus 2:4:1; cf. 1 Samuel 9:23,24). He was the third most powerful man in the kingdom (Tzav'ath Yosef 13:5). Some say that he was the priest of Elev (Yov'loth 34:11), while others identify him with Poti Phera (see Genesis 41:45).





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