Genesis 37

Partiality And Dreams

Jacob is living in Canaan, the land of his father's sojourning. Jacob's family heritage was fraught with sin and struggle. Abram put his wife in danger on multiple occasions as did Isaac. Isaac's family was divided and manipulative. Favoritism had wreaked havoc with every generation, and this trend would continue. Jacob had a seventeen-year-old son named Joseph. At seventeen, he is an adult but not a mature man. He is old enough to work with his brothers and tend the flocks. Joseph took it upon himself to make his father aware that his brothers were not doing their job well. At this point, it is important to note that the sinful patterns in this family continue because the scripture alerts the reader to the truth that Joseph was Jacob's favorite. He was the son of his old age, and he was the firstborn son of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel. Jacob did not seem to concern himself with how his actions might affect the rest of the family, and he gifted him with a special robe. Jacob's preferential treatment appears to fuel the hatred of his brothers. Joseph exacerbates matters through his arrogance, and these siblings are estranged from one another. There is so much contention that the Bible says the brothers could not speak peacefully to him.  

Joseph's relationship with his brothers is further strained by his dreams. Joseph has a dream, and instead of seeking wisdom and guidance about the proper time and people to disclose it to, he arrogantly announces to his brothers that he is to rule over them. His brothers are incensed by Joseph's hubris and their hatred intensified. Joseph did not learn his lesson and when he has his next dream he gives notice that not only will his brothers bow to him but his father and mother would bow before him as well. Jacob offers a mild rebuke and keeps the statement in mind, but his brothers were jealous, and things were about to take a dark turn for this egotistic teen. 


It would seem the tension reached a point that Joseph was no longer working with his brothers pasturing the flocks. Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers and touring back word concerning their welfare. This is no small task because Joseph would need to travel about sixty miles in order to reach his brothers. Joseph obeys Jacob and goes in search of his brothers and their flocks. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, there was no sign of his brothers but a stranger advises Joseph to make his way to Dothan because he had heard them say that was where they were headed. 

Joseph's brothers recognize him from a distance, and they conspire to murder their brother. Joseph was alone and did not have the protection of their father Jacob, and so they saw this as their opportunity to make this teenager pay for his arrogance. Jacob's brother Esau had once sought to take his life as well. This family was dysfunctional, to say the least. The brothers concluded that killing Joseph now and discarding the body would prevent his dreams from becoming a reality. The eldest son Reuben intervened and sought to rescue Joseph out of their hands. He instructs them not to shed blood but just throw him in a pit in the wilderness. Reuben's plan was to restore Joseph to their father. When Joseph arrived, his brothers jumped him and ripped his robe off. They threw him into a pit, and they sat down to eat presumably ignoring their brother's cries for help. They saw a caravan of Ishmaelites traveling and Judah proposes that they could profit from all the trouble their brother had caused but they should not kill him. This recommendation pleased the group, and they lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty shekels of silver. Imagine the scene as Joseph pleads for his brothers to have mercy and stop the transaction. How many times did his new owners strike him to make him compliant? Was he rendered unconscious? It would be twenty-two years before they saw their brother again.

Reuben returns too late, and he tears his clothes because he knows what this will do to his father. The brothers quickly devise a plan to cover their tracks. The story would be that they never saw Joseph but they found this robe covered in blood and they think it might belong to their brother. They return home, and they ask their father to inspect the robe and see if he could identify it? There is a small detail that should not be overlooked: they ask if the robe belongs to his son and not their brother. Jacob sees the robe and creates his own narrative about what happened to Joseph. Jacob tears his clothes and grieves over his lost son. Jacob's children try to comfort him, but he refuses to be comforted and exclaims that he will not find any comfort in this life. Meanwhile, Joseph was sold in Egypt to a man named Potiphar who was the captain of the guard for Pharaoh.

Things To Consider:

  • Why are family relationships so complicated?
  • Why do you think Jacob was blind to what his treatment of Joseph was doing to the rest of his sons?
  • Have you reached a point in your family where you cannot speak peacefully? 
  • How can you be a peacemaker in your family?
  • Why do younger adults sometimes struggle with wisdom?
  • How do anger and jealousy consume?
  • What do you think it was like when Joseph was brought out of the pit and sold?
  • Is there any such thing as a half-truth? Why or why not?
  • What does verse 36 teach us about God's activity during this?