Design By Humans

Genesis 37. What's many colours and red all over?

Genesis 37.

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

We are back with Jacob's family, evidently the last chapter was all we'll ever need to know about the descendants of Esau. Why are we still calling Jacob Jacob? Should we not be calling him Israel?

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.

They have an evil report? It seems we are acknowledging Bilhah and Zilpah as Jacob's wives now and not just slaves he made pregnant. When were the weddings?

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.

Oh! We are calling him Israel now. Was Joseph really conceived in Israel's old age? Joseph was born before Israel left Laban's land. Did he stay with Laban all that long? Isn't Benjamin and not Joseph the youngest of Israel's sons?

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.

They are a jealous bunch these, the inheritors of Abraham's promise. Why does The LORD favour them?

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

Hated as the reaction to a dream? Is that a bit disproportionate?

6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Let's hear the dream...

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.

OK... In a remarkably surreal dream, Joseph's bundle of hay rises as ruler of his brothers' bundles. I'll admit it's odd but surely no-one thinks it means anything...

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.

My mistake, being the dream believing sons of Israel they jump to the conclusion that because Joseph had a dream about the respective positions of bundled crops that somehow they are destined to be subservient to him. Am I the only one that cannot exactly follow their line of thinking? 

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.

I'd say that he'd be wise to ignore dreams where celestial bodies are anthropomorphised, that aside though, are there only eleven stars existing at this time? So in Genesis 26. when God promised to multiply Isaac's seed as the stars in the heavens, did he mean he'd multiply them eleven times? That's not very much. 

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?

Why does Israel also assign undue significance to the surreal dreams of his son?

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Right you are. This is pretty odd behaviour though, even for these descendants of Abraham.

12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.

I hope they didn't offend the ruling hay sheaf by feeding it's subjects to the flock.

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.

Israel is concerned that Joseph's brothers might be angry with him for involuntarily dreaming about the activities of the sun, the moon, the stars and  some cereal crops.

15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

Do we know who this man is?

16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.

Why does Joseph think this man would know where his brothers are? For that matter is there a reason that Joseph thinks this man would even know what they look like?

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.

Turns out he knew. Who was this man?

18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

Because he had a dream? Seriously? What is wrong with these people?

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

This Dreamer? Do they not also dream?

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.

I still don't quite understand why they believe Joseph's dreams to be prophetic. There doesn't appear to be any precedent set in the narrative that would indicate that a dream that might tangentially be interpreted as a prophesy is likely to bring about the undreamed, arbitrarily concocted events of the interpretation. 

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

Reuben for some reason is less inclined to murder Joseph over a couple of dreams than his brothers.

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.

He still wants to throw him in a pit though.

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;

So they steal his coat...

24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

...and throw him in a pit. Luckily for Joseph it was a dry pit.

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.

Having condemned their brother to death in a pit, the brothers take a light lunch. Nice guys.

26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?

Forgetting that the reason that they have condemned their brother to death is so that the events that they imagined his unspecific dreams might possibly have foretold don't come to pass, they begin to wonder if they can make some extra profit from him that killing him alone would not afford them. 

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.

Right, so they are going to sell Joseph. One wonders if this whole retribution for a pretty vague pair of dreams thing isn't just some sort of excuse used to justify (poorly) the selling of their brother in some odd attempt to allay their guilt.

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.

I'm sure his value is relevant however I have no way of evaluating of 20 pieces of silver is considered a lot of a little.

29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

Like Hulk Hogan (Late 20th and early 21st Century professional wrestler)? I have never been so emotionally moved as to tear my clothes off, Nor have I ever seen any one so moved (with the exception of Hulk Hogan's theatrics). Is the destruction of clothing a common demonstration of emotional state at this time? Did Reuben walk home naked?

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

Child? I suppose a seventeen year old could be called a child. His brothers are undoubtedly in their twenties and thirties which in my opinion makes their actions all the more petty, these are not hot-headed teenagers.

31 And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;

The crime of selling their younger brother is not enough, They now plan to engage in deception.

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.

The 'Brothers Israel' try to convince their father that the goat blood is in-fact Joseph's.

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.

They succeed.

34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

OK... I understand that one might be so upset as to tear one's clothes off, but to then replace them with sackcloth-underpants is just odd. 

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.

Even after seeing their father reduced to a weeping sack-pants-wearing wreck, the 'Brothers Isreal' maintain their deception and try to comfort his mourning rather than confess.

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

I wonder if they turned a profit.

So this is the beginning of a story that is familiar to many and has been popularized as a piece of musical theatre. SO what can we glean from this rendition?

  • The adult children of Jacob/Israel are are moved to kill their brother on account of a gaudy coat and a couple of dreams. These do not seem like mentally balanced people.
  • The descendants of Abraham engage freely in slavery.
  • Israel is gullible enough not to attempt to investigate the alleged death of his favoured son but instead to mope around sack-clad, taking a bloody coat as proof absolute.

Onward to Genesis 38. for more about Joseph.

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