Genesis 37
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
Jacob dwells in Canaan: Joseph brings to his father an ill report of his brethren, Genesis 37:2. He loves, they hate him, Genesis 37:3,4; the more because of his dreams which he told them, Genesis 37:5. His first dream, Genesis 37:7. His brethren interpret it, and their hatred increases, Genesis 37:8. His second dream, Genesis 37:9. Tells it to his father, who rebukes him, but observes his saying, Genesis 37:10,11. He is sent by his father to seek after his brethren, Genesis 37:13-17. They seeing him, conspire his death, Genesis 37:18-20. But upon the intercession of Reuben they strip and throw him into a pit, Genesis 37:21-24. Some Ishmeelites passing by, by Judah’s advice they sell him to them, who carry him into Egypt, Genesis 37:25-28. Reuben is concerned for him, Genesis 37:29,30. Their contrivance to deceive Jacob, Genesis 37:31,32. His grief for the loss of Joseph, Genesis 37:33-35. Joseph sold to Potiphar, an officer in Egypt, Genesis 37:36.

1729 No text from Poole on this verse.

These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
The generations, i.e. the events or occurrences which happened to Jacob in his family and issue. So that word is used Genesis 6:9 Numbers 3:1. Or the word

these may relate to what is said Genesis 35:22, &c. The genealogy of Esau being brought in by way of parenthesis, and that being finished, Moses returns to the generations of Jacob, as his principal business, and proceeds in the history of their concerns.

Jacob placed Joseph with

the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, rather than with the sons of Leah, either to keep Joseph humble; or for Joseph’s security, because the other sons retained the old grudge of their mother, and were more like to envy, contemn, hate, and abuse him; or as an observer of their actions, whom he most suspected, as the following words may seem to imply.

Joseph brought unto his father their evil report, acquainted him with their lewd and wicked courses, to the dishonour of God and of their family, that so his father might apply such remedies as he thought meet.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
He was the son of his old age, being born when Jacob was ninety-one years old. Such children are commonly best beloved by their parents, either because such are a singular blessing of God, and a more than common testimony of his favour, and a mercy least expected by them, and therefore most prized; or because they have more pleasing conversation with them, and less experience of their misbehaviour, of which the elder ofttimes are guilty, whereby they alienate their parents’ affections from them. The ancient translations, Chaldee, Persian, Arabic, and Samaritan, render the words thus, a wise or prudent son; old age being oft mentioned as a token of prudence; one born old, one wise above his years, one that had a grey head, as we say, upon green shoulders. This may seem the more probable, both because Joseph was indeed such a child, and gave good evidence of it in a prudent observation of his brethren’s trespasses, and a discreet choice of the fittest remedy for them; and because the reason here alleged seems proper and peculiar to Joseph; whereas in the other sense it belongs more to Benjamin, who was younger than Joseph, and cost his mother dearer, and therefore might upon that account claim a greater interest in his father’s afflictions.

A coat of many colours, probably made of threads of divers colours interwoven together. Compare 2 Samuel 13:18. This he gave him as a token of his special love, and of the rights of the first-born, which being justly taken from Reuben, he conferred upon Joseph, 1 Chronicles 5:1.

And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Their hatred was so deep and keen, that they could not smother it, as for their own interest they should have done, but discovered it by their churlish words and carriages to him.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

dream it is probable he did not understand, for then he would never have told it to them, who, as he knew very well, were likely to make an evil construction and use of it.

And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
No text from Poole on this verse.

For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
We were binding sheaves in the field; a secret insinuation of the occasion of Joseph’s advancement, which was from his counsel and care about the corn of Egypt.

Your sheaves stood round about; this was a posture of ministry and service, as is manifest both from Scripture and from common usage.

And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
For his relation of his dreams, which they imputed to his arrogancy.

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.
He dreamed another dream, that the repetition of the same thing in another shape might teach them that the thing was both certain and very observable.

The sun and the moon were not mentioned in the first dream, because in the event his brethren only went at first to Egypt and there worshipped him, as afterwards his father went with them.

Object. His father did not worship him in Egypt.

Answ. 1. He did worship him mediately by his sons, who in their father’s name and stead bowed before him, and by the presents which he sent as testimonies of that respect which he owed to him.

2. It is probable that Jacob did, before the Egyptians, pay that reverence to his son which all the rest did, and which was due to the dignity of his place. As the Roman consul was commended by his father for requiring him to alight from his horse, as the rest did, when he met him upon the way.

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?
His father rebuked him; not through anger at Joseph, or contempt of his dream, for it follows, he observed it; but partly lest Joseph should be puffed up upon the account of his dreams, and principally to allay the envy and hatred of his brethren.

Thy mother: either,

1. Rachel, who was now dead, and therefore must rise again and worship thee; whence he may seem to infer the idleness of the dream, because the fulfilling it was impossible. Or rather,

2. Leah, his stepmother, one that filled his mother’s place, being now Jacob’s only wife, and the mother of the family.

And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
The words of Joseph; or the thing, the dream which he told; well knowing that God did frequently at that time signify his mind by dreams, and perceiving something singular and extraordinary in this dream, and especially in the doubling of it.

And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.
In the parts adjoining to Shechem, in the lands which he had purchased there, Genesis 33:19. Let none think strange that he should send his sheep so far from him, both because that land was his own, and because his sheep being exceeding numerous, and he but a stranger in the land, was likely to be exposed to many such inconveniences. Compare Genesis 30:36. One may rather wonder that he durst venture his sons and his cattle there, where that barbarous massacre had been committed, Genesis 34:25. But those pastures being his own, and convenient for his use, he did commit himself and them to that same good Providence which watched over him then and ever since, and still kept up that terror which then he sent upon them. Besides Jacob’s sons and servants made a considerable company, and the men of Shechem being universally slain, others were not very forward to revenge their quarrel, where there was any hazard to themselves in such an enterprise.

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.
1729 Having kept him for some time at home, and supposing that length of time had cooled their heats, and worn out their hatred, he now sends him to them.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
No text from Poole on this verse.

And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
Dothan a place not very far from Shechem, where afterwards a city was built. See 2 Kings 6:13.

And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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

This master of dreams, this crafty dreamer, that covers his own ambitious designs and desires with pretences or fictions of dreams.

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.
Cast him into some pit; partly, as unworthy of burial; partly, to cover their villanous action; and partly, that they might quickly put him out of their sight and minds.

Some evil beast hath devoured him, there being great store of such creatures in those parts. See 1 Kings 13:24 2 Kings 2:24.

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

delivered him, as to the violent and certain despatch of his life which was intended. Or the act is here put for the purpose and endeavour of doing it, in which sense Balak is said to fight against Israel, Joshua 24:9, and Abraham to offer up Isaac, Hebrews 11:17. So here, he delivered him, i.e. used his utmost power to deliver him, that so he might recover his father’s favour lost by his incestuous action.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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;
No text from Poole on this verse.

And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
They sat down to eat bread, to refresh themselves, their consciences being stupified, and their hearts hardened against their brother, notwithstanding all his most passionate entreaties to them, Genesis 42:21.

Ishmeelites; the posterity of Ishmael. See Genesis 25:18.

Gilead, a famous place for balm, and other excellent commodities, and for the confluence of merchants. See Jeremiah 8:22 22:6.

Balm, or rosin, as the ancient and divers other translators render it.

And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
If we suffer him to perish in the pit, when we may sell him with advantage,

and conceal his blood, i.e. his death, as the word blood is often used. See Deu 17:8 2 Samuel 1:16 3:28.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
This story seems a little involved, and the persons to whom he was sold doubtful. Here seem to be two, if not three, sorts of merchants mentioned,

Ishmeelites and

Midianites here, and Medanites, as it is in the Hebrew, Genesis 37:36, which were a distinct people from the Midianites, as descended from Medan, when the Midianites descended from Midian, both Abraham’s sons, Genesis 25:2. The business may be accommodated divers ways; either,

1. The same persons or people are promiscuously called both Ishmeelites and Midianites, as they also are Judges 8:1,24,28; either because they were mixed together in their dwellings, and by marriages; or because they were here joined together, and made one caravan or company of merchants. And the text may be read thus, And the Midianite merchantmen (either the same who were called Ishmeelites, Genesis 37:27, or others being in the same company with them) passed by, and they (i.e. not the merchantmen, but Joseph’s brethren, spoken of Genesis 37:27; the relative being referred to the remoter antecedent, as it is frequently in the Scripture)

lift up Joseph, and sold him to the Ishmeelites or Midianites, &c. Or,

2. The persons may be distinguished, and the story may very well be conceived thus: The Ishmeelites are going to Egypt, and are discerned at some distance by Joseph’s brethren, while they were discoursing about their brother. In the time of their discourse, the Midianites, who seem to be coming from Egypt, coming by the pit, and hearing Joseph’s cries there, pull him out of the pit, and sell him to the Ishmeelites, who carry him with them into Egypt. There they sell him to the Medanites, though that, as many other historical passages, be omitted in the sacred story. And the Medanites, or Midianites, if you please, only supposing them to be other persons than those mentioned Genesis 37:28, which is but a fair and reasonable supposition, sell him to Potiphar.

And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
Reuben returned unto the pit, that, according to his brethren’s order, Genesis 37:27, he might take him thence and sell him.

He rent his clothes, as the manner was upon doleful occurrences. See below, Genesis 37:34 Numbers 14:6 Ezra 9:3 Job 1:20 2:12.

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

the child comparatively to his brethren, though he was seventeen years old, Genesis 37:2.

The child is not, i.e. is not in the land of the living, or is dead, as that phrase is commonly used, as Genesis 42:13,36, compared with Genesis 44:20 Job 7:21 Jeremiah 31:15 Lamentations 5:7 Matthew 2:18.

I, whither shall I go, either to find the child, or to flee from our father? He is more solicitous than the rest, because he being the eldest brother, his father would require Joseph at his hand; and being so highly incensed against him for his former crime, would be the more apt to suspect him, and deal more severely with him.

And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.

brought it by a messenger whom they sent: men are commonly said to do what they cause others to do.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
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 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.
All his daughters; Dinah, and his daughters-in-law, and his sons’ daughters.

The grave; this Hebrew word sheol is taken sometimes for hell, as Job 11:8 Proverbs 15:11, but most commonly for the grave, or the place or state of the dead, as Genesis 42:38 44:29,31 Psa 6:5 16:10, &c. And whether of those it signifies, must be determined by the subject and the circumstances of the place. Here it cannot be meant of hell, for Jacob neither could believe that good Joseph was there, nor would have resolved to go thither; but the sense is, I will kill myself with grief, or I will never leave mourning till I die.

Unto my son; or, for my son: so the preposition el is oft used for al, as 1 Samuel 1:27 4:19,21,22 2 Samuel 21:2.

And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.
Whose office it was to apprehend and punish criminal persons. See Genesis 40:3 Jeremiah 39:9 Mark 6:27.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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