Reading 11/341, Genesis 37-39

Jacob has 12 sons, but favors Joseph, who dreams that he will rule over his brothers. They decide to kill him, but then they sell him to slavers, who take him to Egypt. Then they tell Jacob that Joseph is dead. In Egypt, Joseph is successful, but his master’s wife lies, sending him to prison. Meanwhile, Judah unknowingly sleeps with his widowed daughter-in-law, then threatens to kill her for being pregnant.
[A] The rivalry among the sons of Jacob mirrors the rivalry among his wives. He is still playing favorites, as his father did when he favored Esau over him.
[B] Here toward the end of Genesis, we see a repetition of a story from the beginning of the book: Cain and Abel.
[C] The selling of Joseph takes us back in time from yesterday's reading. Rachel is still alive, and Jacob and his family still live near Shechem. When we see how devastated Jacob is, it explains his impotence in yesterday's reading. He never was the same man after the death of Joseph.
[D] In the middle of the story of Joseph today, there is inserted the story of Tamar. The double standard present here is shocking, but this was 4000 years ago. The readings today reveal Judah as a bad man. He suggested selling Joseph and burning Tamar. It is from him and Tamar that Jesus will descend. Jesus' mother Mary was sinless, but his Great-great-great...great grandfather was not.
[E] Joseph is considered a type of Jesus. There are many parallels, e.g. being sold for pieces of silver by the ones he had most right to trust (brothers, Apostle). Joseph also is remarkable for always doing what is right, unlike all of his relatives. They are tricky; he is simply honest. They are cruel; he is merciful. They are selfish; he is eager.
[F] In later years, Israel was divided into 2 kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Israel was ruled by descendants of Joseph. Judah was ruled by descendants of Judah. Taking [C] and [D] together, we might suppose that this section was written by someone from Israel.


Jacob lived in the land of his father's travels, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 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 colors. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him all the more. He said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright, and behold, your sheaves came around, and bowed down to my sheaf." His brothers said to him, "Will you indeed reign over us? Or will you indeed have dominion over us?" They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words. He dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, "Behold, I have dreamed yet another dream: and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me." He told it to his father and to his brothers. His father rebuked him, and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves down to you to the earth?" His brothers envied him, but his father kept this saying in mind.

His brothers went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, "Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them." He said to him, "Here I am." He said to him, "Go now, see whether it is well with your brothers, and well with the flock, and bring me word again." So he sent him out of the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. A certain man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field. The man asked him, "What are you looking for?" He said, "I am looking for my brothers. Tell me, please, where they are feeding the flock." The man said, "They have left here, for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'" Joseph went after his brothers, and found them in Dothan. They saw him afar off and, before he came near to them, they conspired against him to kill him. They said one to another, "Behold, the dreamer comes. Come now therefore, and let us kill him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, 'A fierce animal has devoured him.' We will then see what will become of his dreams." Reuben heard this and delivered him out of their hand, and said, "Let us not take his life." Reuben said to them, "Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the desert, but lay no hand on him"—so that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father.

So it happened, when Joseph came to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors that was on him, and they took him, and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty. There was no water in it. They sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not let our hand be on him; for he is our brother, our flesh." His brothers listened to him. Midianite merchants passed by. They drew and lifted Joseph up out of the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. Reuben returned to the pit, and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, and he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, "The child is no more, and I, where will I go?"

They took Joseph's coat, and killed a male goat and dipped the coat in the blood. They took the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, "We have found this. Examine it, now, whether it is your son's coat or not." He recognized it, and said, "It is my son's coat. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces." Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, "I will go down to Sheol, to my son, mourning." His father wept for Joseph. The Midianites sold Joseph into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard.

It happened at that time, that Judah went down from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her, and went in to her. She conceived, and bore a son, and he named him Er. She conceived again, and bore a son, and she named him Onan. She yet again bore a son, and named him Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bore him. Judah took a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord. The Lord killed him. Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her, and raise up seed to your brother." Onan knew that the seed would not be his, and it happened, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother. The thing which he did was evil in the sight of the Lord, and he killed him also.

Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, "Remain a widow in your father's house, until Shelah, my son, is grown up;" for he said, "Lest he also die, like his brothers." Tamar went and lived in her father's house. After many days, Shua's daughter, the wife of Judah, died. Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers to Timnah, he and his friend Hirah, the Adullamite. It was told Tamar, saying, "Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep." She took off her garments of widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gate of Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she was not given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought that she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her along the way, and said, "Please come, let me come in to you," for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?" He said, "I will send you a kid of the goats from the flock." She said, "Will you give me a pledge until you send it?" He said, "What pledge will I give you?" She said, "Your signet and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand." He gave them to her, and came in to her, and she conceived by him. She arose, and went away, and put off her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. Judah sent the kid of the goats by the hand of his friend, the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman's hand, but he did not find her. Then he asked the men of her place, saying, "Where is the prostitute, that was at Enaim by the road?" They said, "There has been no prostitute here." He returned to Judah, and said, "I have not found her, and also the men of the place said, 'There has been no prostitute here.'" Judah said, "Let her keep it, lest we be laughed at. Behold, I sent this kid, and you have not found her."

It happened about three months later, that it was told Judah, saying, "Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has played the prostitute, and moreover, behold, she is with child by prostitution." Judah said, "Bring her forth, and let her be burnt." When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man, whose these are, I am with child." She also said, "Please discern whose are these--the signet, and the cords, and the staff." Judah acknowledged them, and said, "She is more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah, my son." He knew her again no more. In the time of her labor, it happened that behold, twins were in her womb. When she labored, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, "This came out first." It happened, as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out, and she said, "Why have you made a breach for yourself?" Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out, that had the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

Joseph was brought down to Egypt. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites that had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man. He was in the house of his master the Egyptian. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did succeed in his hand. Joseph found favor in his sight; he attended him. He made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. It happened from the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake, and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in the house and in the field. He left all that he had in Joseph's hand. He did not concern himself with anything but the food which he ate.

Joseph was well-built and handsome. It happened after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." But he refused, and said to his master's wife, "Behold, my master does not concern himself about anything in the house, and he has put all that he has into my hand. He is not greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" As she spoke to Joseph day by day, he did not listen to her, to lie by her, or to be with her. About this time, he went into the house to do his work, and there were none of the men of the house inside. She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" He left his garment in her hand, and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had run outside, she called to the men of her house, and spoke to them, saying, "Behold, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice. It happened, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment by me, and ran outside." She laid up his garment by her, until his master came home. She spoke to him according to these words, saying, "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought to us, came in to me to mock me, and it happened, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment by me, and ran outside." It happened, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, "This is what your servant did to me," that his wrath was kindled.

Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were bound, and he was there in custody. But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever they did there, he was responsible for it. The keeper of the prison did not look after anything that was under his hand, because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it prosper.

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