Genesis 37:34
And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
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(34) Many days.—Jacob mourned for Joseph not merely during the usual period, but so long as to move even the hearts of those who had wronged him. For not only his daughters, but “all his sons rose up to comfort him.” Probably he had several daughters by Leah and the two handmaidens, Dinah alone having been mentioned by name, because two of her brothers forfeited the birthright by the cruelty with which they avenged her wrong. We learn how long and intense Jacob’s sorrow was from Genesis 45:26-28. His daughters are mentioned also in Genesis 46:7.

37:31-36 When Satan has taught men to commit one sin, he teaches them to try to conceal it with another; to hide theft and murder, with lying and false oaths: but he that covers his sin shall not prosper long. Joseph's brethren kept their own and one another's counsel for some time; but their villany came to light at last, and it is here published to the world. To grieve their father, they sent him Joseph's coat of colours; and he hastily thought, on seeing the bloody coat, that Joseph was rent in pieces. Let those that know the heart of a parent, suppose the agony of poor Jacob. His sons basely pretended to comfort him, but miserable, hypocritical comforters were they all. Had they really desired to comfort him, they might at once have done it, by telling the truth. The heart is strangely hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Jacob refused to be comforted. Great affection to any creature prepares for so much the greater affliction, when it is taken from us, or made bitter to us: undue love commonly ends in undue grief. It is the wisdom of parents not to bring up children delicately, they know not to what hardships they may be brought before they die. From the whole of this chapter we see with wonder the ways of Providence. The malignant brothers seem to have gotten their ends; the merchants, who care not what they deal in so that they gain, have also obtained theirs; and Potiphar, having got a fine young slave, has obtained his! But God's designs are, by these means, in train for execution. This event shall end in Israel's going down to Egypt; that ends in their deliverance by Moses; that in setting up the true religion in the world; and that in the spread of it among all nations by the gospel. Thus the wrath of man shall praise the Lord, and the remainder thereof will he restrain.The brothers contrive to conceal their crime; and Joseph is sold into Egypt. "Torn, torn in pieces is Joseph." The sight of the bloody coat convinces Jacob at once that Joseph has been devoured by a wild beast. "All his daughters." Only one daughter of Jacob is mentioned by name. These are probably his daughters-in-law. "To the grave." Sheol is the place to which the soul departs at death. It is so called from its ever craving, or being empty. "Minister." This word originally means eunuch, and then, generally, any officer about the court or person of the sovereign. "Captain of the guards." The guards are the executioners of the sentences passed by the sovereign on culprits, which were often arbitrary, summary, and extremely severe. It is manifest, from this dark chapter, that the power of sin has not been extinguished in the family of Jacob. The name of God does not appear, and his hand is at present only dimly seen among the wicked designs, deeds, and devices of these unnatural brothers. Nevertheless, his counsel of mercy standeth sure, and fixed is his purpose to bring salvation to the whole race of man, by means of his special covenant with Abraham.

- The Family of Judah

1. עדלם ‛ǎdûllâm, 'Adullam, "righteousness." חירה chı̂yrâh Chirah, "nobility?"

2. שׁוּע shûa‛, Shua', "luck, riches, cry."

3. ער ‛êr, 'Er, "watching."

4. אונן 'ônân, Onan, "strong."

5. שׁלה shēlâh, Shelah, "request? rest." כזיב kezı̂yb Kezib, "falsehood."

6. תמר tāmār, Tamar, "palm."

12. תמנה tı̂mnâh, Timnah, "counted or assigned."

14. עינים 'êynayı̂m, 'Enaim, "two fountains."

29. פרץ perets, Perets, "breach."

This strange narrative is an episode in the history of Joseph; but an integral part of the "generations" of Jacob. It is loosely dated with the phrase "at that time." This does not indicate a sequel to the preceding record, the proper phrase for which is "after these things" (האלה חדברים אחר 'achar hadebārı̂ym hâ'ēleh Genesis 22:1). It implies rather a train of events that commenced at least in the past, some time before the closing incident of the previous narrative Genesis 21:22. But the sale of Joseph, which alone is recorded in the last chapter, only occupied some few weeks or months of a year. Hence, the circumstances contained in this memoir of Judah's family must have taken their rise before that event. The date "at that time," is rendered indefinite also by being attached to the phrase, "And it came to pass," which covers at least all the events in the first eleven verses of the chapter.

All this is in accordance with the customary mode of arranging parallel lines of events in Hebrew narrative. We shall see reason afterward for placing the birth of Er at as early a date as possible in the life of Judah Genesis 46:12. Now Judah, we conceive, was born when his father was eighty-seven, and Joseph when he was ninety-one, and hence, there is a difference about four years in their ages. We suppose Er to have been born in Judah's fourteenth year, when Joseph and Dinah were in their tenth, and therefore, about three years before the rape of Dinah, and shortly after Jacob arrived at the town of Shekem. The dishonor of Dinah, and the cruel treatment of Joseph, being of essential moment in the process of things, had to be recorded in the main line of events. The commencement of Judah's family, having no particular influence on the current of the history, is fitly reserved until the whole of the circumstances could be brought together into a connected narrative. And the private history of Judah's line is given, while that of the others is omitted, simply because from him the promised seed is descended. As soon as Jacob is settled in the promised land, the contact with Hebron and its neighborhood seems to have commenced. A clear proof of this is the presence of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, in Jacob's family Genesis 35:8. The great thoroughfare from Damascus to Egypt runs through Shekem and Hebron, and we know that when Jacob was residing at Hebron, his sons fed their flocks at Shekem and Dothan, and the youthful Joseph was sent to inquire after their welfare.

34. Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins—the common signs of Oriental mourning. A rent is made in the skirt more or less long according to the afflicted feelings of the mourner, and a coarse rough piece of black sackcloth or camel's hair cloth is wound round the waist. Sackcloth, i.e. a coarse and mournful habit. This is the first example of that kind, but afterwards was in common use upon these occasions. See 2 Samuel 3:31 1 Kings 20:31 21:27, &c. And Jacob rent his clothes,.... As expressive of his grief and mourning for the death of his son, as he supposed:

and put sackcloth upon his loins; put off his usual apparel, and put on a coarse garment on his loins next to his flesh, as another token of his great trouble and affliction for the loss of his son; which though afterwards was frequently done in times of public or private mourning, yet this is the first time we read of it; whether Jacob was the first that used it, whom his posterity and others imitated, is not certain; however it appears that this usage, as well as that of rending clothes on sorrowful occasions, were very ancient:

and mourned for his son many days: or years, as days sometimes signify; twenty two years, according to Jarchi, even until the time he went down to Egypt and saw him alive.

And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
34. rent his garments, &c.] Jacob mourned with the mourning rites of the Israelites. The rent clothes, the sackcloth, and the ashes, denote the exact opposite of festal array, new garments, soft raiment, and ointment.

For “sackcloth” in mourning, see 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30.Verse 34. - And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, - שָׂק (cf. σάκος, el, frog, saccus), the usual dress of mourners (2 Samuel 3:31; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:1), was a coarse, thick haircloth, of which corn sacks were also made (Genesis 42:25), and which in cases of extreme mental distress was worn next the skin (1 Kings 21:27) - and mourned for his son many days. Though twenty-two years elapsed before Jacob again beheld his son, and though doubtless the old man's grief for the premature and, violent death, as he imagined, of Rachel s child was little abated by the lapse, of time, yet the expression "many days" may only be employed to mark the intensity of Jacob's sorrow, which continued longer than the customary mournings of the period. Reuben had saved Joseph's life indeed by his proposal; but his intention to send him back to his father was frustrated. For as soon as the brethren sat down to eat, after the deed was performed, they saw a company of Ishmaelites from Gilead coming along the road which leads from Beisan past Jenin (Rob. Pal. iii. 155) and through the plain of Dothan to the great caravan road that runs from Damascus by Lejun (Legio, Megiddo), Ramleh, and Gaza to Egypt (Rob. iii. 27, 178). The caravan drew near, laden with spices: viz., נכאת, gum-tragacanth; צרי, balsam, for which Gilead was celebrated (Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11); and לט, ladanum, the fragrant resin of the cistus-rose. Judah seized the opportunity to propose to his brethren to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. "What profit have we," he said, "that we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites; and our hand, let it not lay hold of him (sc., to slay him), for he is our brother, our flesh." Reuben wished to deliver Joseph entirely from his brothers' malice. Judah also wished to save his life, though not from brotherly love so much as from the feeling of horror, which was not quite extinct within him, at incurring the guilt of fratricide; but he would still like to get rid of him, that his dreams might not come true. Judah, like his brethren, was probably afraid that their father might confer upon Joseph the rights of the first-born, and so make him lord over them. His proposal was a welcome one. When the Arabs passed by, the brethren fetched Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him into Egypt. The different names given to the traders - viz., Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:25, Genesis 37:27, and Genesis 37:28), Midianites (Genesis 37:28), and Medanites (Genesis 37:36) - do not show that the account has been drawn from different legends, but that these tribes were often confounded, from the fact that they resembled one another so closely, not only in their common descent from Abraham (Genesis 16:15 and Genesis 25:2), but also in the similarity of their mode of life and their constant change of abode, that strangers could hardly distinguish them, especially when they appeared not as tribes but as Arabian merchants, such as they are here described as being: "Midianitish men, merchants." That descendants of Abraham should already be met with in this capacity is by no means strange, if we consider that 150 years had passed by since Ishmael's dismissal from his father's house, - a period amply sufficient for his descendants to have grown through marriage into a respectable tribe. The price, "twenty (sc., shekels) of silver," was the price which Moses afterwards fixed as the value of a boy between 5 and 20 (Leviticus 27:5), the average price of a slave being 30 shekels (Exodus 21:32). But the Ishmaelites naturally wanted to make money by the transaction.
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