Genesis Chapter 37

Jacob (Israel) has twelve sons from his four wives. Two of his sons, were born to his beloved wife Rachel, who had died during childbirth of Jacob’s last son, Benjamin. Joseph, was not the firstborn son of the family, but he was Rachel’s first son. She had been barren for years, when she was finally able to conceive and have Joseph. (Side note: I have loved this story since I was in high school, due to being in 4 different productions of the musical based on it. I think it will be interesting to study it for the first time since then and see what is correct and what has been changed for entertainment reasons.) The story of Joseph begins in this chapter:

1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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.

Jacob and his family lived in Canaan. He loved his son Joseph because “he was the son of his old age”. I think that this means that they waited long to have a child together and so Joseph meant a lot to him because of this. If that is the case, then I understand this sentiment, however for slightly different reasons. My third pregnancy was a mentally and exhausting pregnancy due to a doctor who was not willing to recognize or address a condition I had. I had a strong feeling, I can only describe as inspiration, that my condition could lead to a negative outcome for one of the two of us. I had a priesthood blessing that gave me the strength to stand my ground and get the approval to see a specialist just so that my doctor would know my issues were not “in my head”. Once I did, I the condition was in fact confirmed, he took things more seriously. When my daughter was finally born, I was overcome with emotion for her being there and everything being alright. There was a level of love for her immediately that I had not had before. Since that time, she holds a place in my heart in a way that I cannot explain because it really feels like I had to fight for her to be here. So, I can understand a parent have a great love for one child because of the situation of their being conceived or their birth. Jacob loved Joseph and favored him. He gave him a gift when he was seventeen, which was a coat of many colors, or according to the footnote, it could have been a nice long coat with sleeves. Joseph’s brothers hated that he was favored and so they were unkind to him.

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
7 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.
8 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.

Joseph was a young man of dreams. He told his brothers of his dream, which was about all of their sheaves of corn making “obeisance” to his, which stood tall. The word obeisance means to show a sign of respect such as bowing. His brothers questioned if he thought this meant he would rule over them in some way and they hated him more for his dreams.

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.

He had another dream and told his family of it. This dream was of the sun, moon and eleven stars, which all bowed to him. The dream was interpreted as his parents and brothers bowing to him. His brothers were envious of him because of his dreams. His father, on the other hand, “observed the saying”, which I think means that he took note of the dreams and interpretations of them, or found them to be significant.

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.

Because he was favored, Israel had Joseph report on his brothers. I am sure that this only added to their hatred of him. Joseph was sent to Shechem where the brothers were feeding the flocks, so that he could tell Israel how they were doing.

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.
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.
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.

Joseph went looking for his brothers and found them in a place called Dothan. They saw him coming and since they were so bothered by his dreams, they conspired to kill him and tell their father that he was eaten by a wild beast. But Reuben, who did not think they should kill him, came up with a plan to throw him into a pit instead. Then, I guess his plan was to have him out of his brothers hands and return him to their dad. I’m not sure what his reasons for doing this would have been, other to perhaps gain favor with Jacob for saving Joseph from death, because Reuben has not been a great son up to this point. Perhaps, Reuben was just not interested in killing anyone, which was not something new for all of his brothers at this point.

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.
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.

When Joseph got to his brothers, they took his coat of many colors and threw him into a pit, just as they had decided to do. They left him to die in the pit and went to eat, when they saw a company of Ishmeelites on their way to Egypt. Judah wanted to take greater advantage of their situation, so he suggested that they sell him and then they would make profit and also not have the death of their brother on their hands. I am guessing that Reuben was not with them at this point, because it seems like if he had been, he would have been the one in charge of the situation, since he was the oldest of the brothers. Those who were there agreed, and they sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver. Joseph was then taken into Egypt.

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

Reuben, who apparently did not know about the plans of his brothers to sell Joseph, went back to the pit and saw that he was gone. He went to his brothers wondering what to do now that he was gone. They decided to make it look like Joseph had been killed by dipping his coat in blood. They took it to Jacob and said they did not know what had happened, and their father guessed that he had been killed by a beast. Jacob mourned for the loss of Joseph, and was not comforted by his family. Meanwhile, Joseph was sold to a man named Potiphar in Egypt, who was the captain of the guard of Pharoah and it seems some kind of royalty or high up in the rank of those who worked for Pharoah.

I always thought that Reuben was the most wicked of the sons of Jacob, and he hasn’t been the best son up to this point, but it seems that he was not the worst of them. I also tend to imagine them being all about the same age, when in reality Reuben would have been several years older than Joseph, who was only seventeen at this time. This means that Reuben was in his manhood and should have been a much more responsible person at this time. It is sad to see the wickedness that was in the hearts of some of the men of the ancient days, all because of envy and jealousy for those who are blessed (such as with Cain and Esau). I can see why our modern-day leaders stress the importance of not letting ourselves be taken in jealousy and envy of others. We just recently studied an LDS general conference talk given on this very topic in one of our Relief Society lessons. One of the messages I found interesting in that talk was that, “envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know”. We suffer more personally from envy, then from the misfortune that comes to us. It is a powerful tool for Satan and leads many away from all that is good. We cannot afford to take offense when someone else is blessed or when we find out that they may be blessed more than we are going to be. We will see what kind of outcome comes for these brothers, who chose to allow envy to take control of their hearts, and I know that it leads to great suffering for their family. I know that envy and jealousy are tools of Satan and that if we want to stand on the Lord’s side, we need to find ways to rejoice with those who are blessed no matter what our own situation may be.

(For more of the conference talk referenced see: The Laborers of the Vineyard by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.)

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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