Genesis chapter 37 is resplendent with history, symbolism, lessons in morality, and prophetic patterns.
Joseph Dreams of Greatness
Genesis 37:1 Now Jacob (aka Israel) dwelt in the land where his father (Isaac) was a stranger (sojourner, temporary resident), in the land of Canaan.
►Why Jacob is also called “Israel”: Jacob changes from a “heel” (Jacob), a manipulative wheeler-dealer, to a man blessed by God, “Israel” (“prevail,” “have power as a prince”).
Jacob had reached a place in his life where his manipulations were about to reap its consequences. He was on his way to encounter his brother Esau who swore to kill him. Jacob separated his family so that, if Esau’s intentions were to engage in a slaughter, some of his family might be spared.
During a fitful night Jacob had an extreme struggle with an angel (God: The Face of God, ie Jesus) for the life and death of his family. Jacob forces the angel to bless him. The angel gives him his prophetic name, Israel. When morning arrives, Jacob has a limp (is humbled) and knows he will prevail in his relationship with his brother, Esau.
When the humbled Israel meets Esau he does it with humility, calling himself “your servant” and Esau “my lord,” and begging his brother’s favor.
Sometimes Jacob is called Jacob and sometimes he is called Israel. When the name Israel is used in scripture, that event has a special spiritual significance demanding the reader’s attention. When the name Jacob is used it refers to Jacob’s natural self.
Moral of the Story: Am I a Jacob (heel) or an Israel (who prevails trusting God)?
Genesis 37:2 This is the history of Jacob (aka Israel).
The history of (the natural) Jacob begins with Joseph.
Joseph, being seventeen years old (1723 BC), was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives (concubines); and Joseph brought a bad (literally: evil) report of them to his father.
►Joseph is with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who are Rachel and Leah’s handmaidens, also called Jacob’s concubines or wives. Any child born to a handmaiden was considered a child of the mistress herself, who named and raised that child as her own.
Joseph, the son of Rachel, is with Dan and Naphtali (Bilhah’s sons) and Gad and Asher (Zilpah’s sons). Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father.
Joseph was a “law-keeper”, later he would become a “merciful forgiver of sins”.
►According to Timeline BC, this event took place in 1723 BC. Joseph is 17 years old. Benjamin is 9 years old.
►The meaning of Joseph’s name is “May Yehova (God) add/give increase” because Rachel wanted her own biological son.
►Joseph is a type of Jesus, and he is feeding the flock. Jesus calls Himself “The Good Shepherd”. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
►The sons of Leah (including Reuben and Judah) are not mentioned in the aforementioned event. It is Reuben and Judah who make an attempt to rescue Joseph separately.
One might surmise their wrath is not as great because they were not included in Joseph’s bad report although they also resent their father’s favoritism.
The sons of the handmaids had less prestige than the sons of the wives. Also, the sons of Leah had less prestige than the sons of Rachel because Rachel was loved. This is indicated when Joseph separates his family who will be in danger when they meet Esau:
- Gen 33:2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear.
Therefore: the four sons who received a bad report (Gad, Asher, Dan and Naphtali) were young men on the bottom of the pecking order below Rachel’s son Joseph who was highest on the pecking order. It would appear to add gasoline to a fire. They were filled with hatred.
| Jacob-Israel’s |
(also had a daughter: Dinah
|Reuben “Behold! A Son!” |
Tried to save Joseph
Reuben lost his
birthright when he
had relations with his father’s wife, Bilhah.
| Simon “listen” |
|Levi “joined in harmony”||Judah “thanksgiving”, “praise” *tried to save Joseph.||Issachar “reward; recompense”||Zebulun “one who dwells” “resident”|
|Zilpah “frailty”||Gad “luck” “fortunate”|
*had an evil report by Joseph
| Asher “happy” “fortunate” “blessed”|
*had an evil report by Joseph
|Rachel “ewe”||Joseph “May Yehova (God) add/give increase”||Benjamin “son of the south” or “son of the right hand”|
|Bilhah “bashful”||Dan “He has judged me” *had an evil report by Joseph||Naphtali “my struggle” “my strife” “wrestling” “fights” *had an evil report by Joseph|
Genesis 37:3 Now Israel (Jacob’s Name with Spiritual Significance) loved Joseph (the Son) more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
►Notice that Jacob is called Israel in this verse, a name with spiritual significance.
- The main implication is that Jacob’s son, Joseph will save the entire tribe who will become the nation Israel.
- The second implication is following the pattern of how Jesus will also save the entire nation at His return.
►Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children because Joseph was the son of the woman he loved, namely, Rachel (who are symbolic of the Jews). See “Jacob’s Two Wives”
►Note: The tunic (coat) of many colors is the symbolic covenant of Jesus who is described in scripture as a “rainbow”.
- Revelation 10:1 I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head (a rainbow of many colors), his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.
- Ezekiel 1:28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
- Genesis 9:13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
- Genesis 9:14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;
- Genesis 9:16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
►The “father” loved Joseph more than all his brothers. Similarly, the “Father” loves the “Son (Jesus)” more than all his brothers (the Jews).
►Like Joseph, Jesus was vehemently hated by His brothers.
- Matthew 26:59-60 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none (another translation adds: even though many false witnesses came forward.)
Genesis 37:5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.
Genesis 37:6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed.
Genesis 37:7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright (righteous); and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
► Jesus’ brothers (the Jews) will bow down to Him at His return to earth (the world). In scripture, a field is symbolic of the world or worldliness and the sheaves were in the field.
►A sheaf is associated with a harvest, as in God’s harvest at the resurrections of the dead.
- A first fruit is at the head (beginning) of the harvest.
- A first fruit is also the first born son of the father.
►Jesus is the first fruit of the harvest being first raised from the dead. He is also the First Born of the Father. Joseph obtained the birthright as the first fruit born of the father, the head of the family after Reuben relinquished his birthright by sleeping with his father’s concubine.
Chart: The Harvests, Jewish Feasts, and Resurrections
Joseph, as the upright sheaf, is the fruit of the harvest. Likewise, Jesus is also the fruit of the harvest.
- John 12:24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
Below: Jacob’s blessing for Joseph:
- Gen 49:22-26 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a well (empty well); His branches run over the wall.
23 The archers (pierce rs) have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him.
24 But his bow (covenant) remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong (See Gen chapter 6)
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel
- Jesus is referred to as Branch, Shepherd and Stone. He was “pierced” by the archers (Roman soldiers) and hated by his brothers. The empty well was Jesus’ tomb, Jesus who is the “Living Water”.
Genesis 37:8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
The Jews hated Jesus because He claimed to be the Son of God who would reign over them. The Jews today continue to reject Jesus as their Messiah even though He will indeed reign over them in the millennium.
Genesis 37:9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
►The sun is Jacob, the moon is Leah (Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin) and the eleven stars are the tribes of Israel (Jacob). Adding Joseph, they are the twelve tribes of Israel (ie Jacob).
- Revelation chapter 12 illustrates Joseph’s dream: the vision of the woman is symbolic of the nation Israel who is clothed by the Sun (Jacob, the Father) and gives birth to the messiah, Jesus. The moon is Leah.
Read more in Revelation chapter 12.
Rachel symbolizes the Jews and Leah the Gentiles. Read Jacob’s Two Wives ~Barbara Grover
The Gentiles are the greater light (moon) and the Jews (stars) are the lesser light. (The Gentiles bear more fruit ie give more light -than the Jews.)
Leah bore more children than Rachel who was barren until Joseph and Benjamin were born at the end. The Jews also will bear fruit – give light – at the end of the age during the tribulation.
Genesis 37:10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother (Leah) and I (Jacob) and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
Genesis 37:11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Jacob kept Joseph’s words in his heart.
Joseph Sold by His Brothers
Genesis 37:12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
“Shechem ” means back or shoulder. The shoulder in scripture is a reference to absolute authority.
Genesis 37:13 And Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.”
So he said to him, “Here I am.”
Note: Joseph was obedient, without questioning.
Other similar verses of this obedience for reference:
- Genesis 22:1 Abraham’s Faith Confirmed – Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
- Genesis 31:11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.‘
- Exodus 3:4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
- 1 Samuel 3:4 that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!”
- Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Genesis 37:14 Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.” So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron (“Binding Friendship”), and he went to Shechem (“Absolute Authority” “Shoulder”).
Hebron means “Binding Friendship”.
Jesus left the place in heaven where the cords of God bind the Godhead together in unity. Like Joseph he went to where his was sent, to become a man under the Shechem (authority) of the Father.
Genesis 37:15 Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?”
An unnamed person in scripture is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
- Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man (Jesus) has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Genesis 37:16 So he (Joseph, like Jesus) said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.”
Genesis 37:17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan (Two Wells).’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.
Dothan means “Decree/Two Wells”.
(Genesis 37:17; the two spellings דתן, Dothan, and דתין, Dothin, both occur in this verse)
“Dual” Double minded.
Joseph’s brothers, however, weren’t happy to see him and plotted to kill him.
Jesus’ brothers (the Jews) weren’t happy to see him and plotted to kill him.
►The root of the word Dothan is the noun דת (dat) which means (human) law or decree. It was a human manipulation of the law (not God’s laws) that had Jesus killed.
- John 19:15 But they (the leaders of the Jews) cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”
Satan is known for manipulating, twisting and braiding the truth.
- Gen 3:1 KJV Now the serpent was more subtle/crafty/manipulative than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
- To “coil” is to manipulate. To be crafty is to weave things together even as basket weaving is a craft. Satan is referred to as a reptile that coils. When a person is tempted to manipulate a situation they are taking God’s will away from God’s hands and doing it their own way instead of trusting God. The definition for Leviathan is not just a sea monster, but also a “wreath”. Wreaths are coiled by man’s hands. The crown of thorns on Jesus’ head was a “wreath” of thorns, and is picturesque of Satan coiling around Jesus’ head to bury his fangs into Jesus’ forehead releasing all his venom and hatred into the Son of God, just like the brothers of Joseph; and just like Joseph, Jesus was one of their own, a Jew.
Genesis 37:18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him.
- Mark 14:1 [The Plot to Kill Jesus] After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death.
Genesis 37:19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer (Lit. master of dreams) is coming!
- John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Genesis 37:20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild (literally evil “Ra”) beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Joseph’s brothers were the evil beast, condemning themselves. Evil had attached itself to them like Velcro with their own hatred.
In Egyptian mythology, Ra was the god of the sun. He was the most important god in Ancient Egypt. He had many names, such as Amun-Ra, and Ra-Horakhty. It was said he was born each morning in the East, and died each night in the West.
“Ra” is Satan who mimics Jesus. Jesus is the “Son” of “God” instead of the god of the sun. Jesus died for men and was born (resurrected: begotten) as the “morning star”.
Genesis 37:21 But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.”
Reuben means (Behold! A Son!) Reuben was the firstborn (the son of Leah) and therefore had the birthright (Being the leader of the brothers).
Genesis 37:22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.
Genesis 37:23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him.
Like Joseph, Jesus was stripped of his clothing before he was “put in a pit” (buried).
Genesis 37:24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it (empty).
- The brothers are double minded.
- Jesus and Joseph were both put in a pit (an empty well-Jesus’ tomb is empty).
Genesis 37:25 And they sat down to eat a meal.
They casually ate their meal while Joseph plead with them in the anguish of his soul.
- Genesis 42:21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.”
- Romans 2:9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;
Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt.
Note: the Ishmaelites are the descendants of Ishmael, the half brother of their grandfather Isaac.
The Hebrew meaning of “Gilead” is “hill of testimony” or “mound of witness”.
Genesis 37:26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
Judah attempts to subtly save Joseph because of the peer pressure of his brothers. He diverts their attempts to kill him but will find himself in a lie that will demand a reckoning.
Genesis 37:27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened.
Judah had influence over his brothers but he misused it.
Genesis 37:28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Evidently, Reuben had left and was not with the brothers when they sold him.
Pieces of silver is the price of a life: Joseph, Jesus.
Genesis 37:29 Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes.
Reuben is shocked. What started out as wishing Joseph dead turned out to be more than he bargained for. Tearing his clothes is a sign of grief.
Genesis 37:30 And he (Reuben) returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?”
What will I do? Reuben is the son who will have to give an account being the oldest.
Genesis 37:31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood.
Joseph’s tunic is the rainbow covenant of a sacrificial redeemer who will be covered in blood.
Genesis 37:32 Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”
Both Joseph and Jesus are victims of treachery. Albeit Jesus went willingly.
Genesis 37:33 And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild (evil) beast (living animal) has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”
Genesis 37:34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
Genesis 37:35 And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.
Genesis 37:36 Now the Midianites (Medanites) had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.
Egypt is symbolic of the world and worldliness. Joseph went down to the world and Jesus went down into the world.
Neither Joseph nor Jesus are dead.
|Egypt||World, worldliness, death||v. 28,36|
|Empty Pit||Empty tomb||v. 24|
|Rainbow||Jesus||v. 3 (See Genesis 9)|
|Goat Sacrificed||Redemption, atonement||v. 31|
|Jacob (of the flesh)||“a heel”, a manipulator, a supplanter||v. 11|
|Israel (of the Spirit)||“prevail,” “have power as a prince”||v. 3|
|Tunic, coat||A covering, the glory of a person, dignity||v. 32|
|Wild beast||Evil beast, Satan||v. 20|
|Pieces of silver||The price of a life||v. 28|
|Dothan||Double minded: “two choices”.||v. 17|
|Gilead||“hill of testimony” “mound of witnesses”||v. 25|
|A Sheaf||Joseph’s sheaf is a First Fruit||v. 7|
|Hebron||“Binding Friendship”||v. 14|
|Shechem||“Absolute Authority” “Shoulder”||v. 14|