New European Commentary

 

About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan


Deeper Commentary

Joseph A Type Of Christ

1. The seed of Abraham, in whom the promises of fruitfulness and blessing upon all nations were fulfilled (47:27; 46:3 cp. 12:2; Dt. 26:5; Ps. 105:23,24). The seed of Abraham.

2. The beloved son of his father. Jn. 3:16

3. "The servant" (37:2 Heb.) The suffering servant (Zech. 3:8; Is. 42:1 etc.)

4. Loved and exalted above his brethren Heb. 1:9

5. "They hated him" because of his dream that one day he would reign over them (37:4,8). Christ had problems with His brothers (Jn. 7:3); the Jews hated Christ and would not have him reign over them (Lk. 19:14)

6. Joseph was likened to a sheaf (37:7) Christ was the wave sheaf (Lev. 23:11,12)

7. A progressive growth in hatred of Joseph (37:4,5,8) The Gospels give the same impression concerning the Jews and Christ

8. Rebuked by his natural father (37:10) Lk. 2:48

9. Israel would bow down to Joseph, although they refused to believe this at first and tried to kill him because of it (37:10) Ditto for Christ

10. " ...but his father observed the saying" (37:11) As did Mary , mother of Jesus (Lk. 2:19,51)

11. "Let us slay him... and we will see what will become of his (prophetic, inspired) dreams" (37:20) Christ's inspired prophecies of His death and resurrection must have motivated the Jews' slaying of Him (1).

.12. One of his persecutors tried to save him at the last minute (37:21) As did Nicodemus and Pilate.

13. Cast into a pit with no water in it (37:24) Ditto for Jeremiah, another type of Christ; pit = grave (Zech. 9:11; Ps. 69:15)

14. "They stripped  Joseph out of his coat" (37:23); was Joseph naked in the pit? Same LXX word in Mt. 27:28; was Christ naked on the cross? See  Heb. 6:6 "open shame" .

15. "And they sat down" after symbolically killing him. Mt. 27:36.

Sold him for pieces of silver. Ditto for Christ. Jesus was “him…whom they priced on the part of the sons of Israel” (Mt. 27:9 RVmg.). The reference to “the sons of Israel” is surely an allusion to the sons of Jacob selling Joseph for his value.

16. His brothers said: "He is our brother and our flesh" (37:27) "We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30)

17. "Let not our hand be upon him" (37:27). They thought that the rigours of slavery would be enough to kill him. The Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans. Does the type indicate some of them thought this fact would absolve them of guilt?

18. At least 2 of his 10 persecutors were unhappy about what they were doing , and said so (37:22,26). Perhaps the whole group egged each other on to adopt an attitude none were totally happy with in their conscience. Ditto for first century Israel, with Joseph and Nicodemus as the two who disagreed?

19. A blood drenched coat Is. 63:2; Rev. 19:13.

20. Sent on a mission to his brethren, on which they symbolically killed him. Christ sent first and foremost to redeem Israel (Gal. 4:4,5).

"Go... see whether it be well with thy brethren" (37:14) Same Hebrew as 1 Sam. 17:18, also typical of Christ.

21. Symbolically killed by the shepherds of his father's flock (37:12). Christ killed by the Jewish priests, the shepherds of God's flock.

"The anguish of his soul" and pleas for deliverance (42:21), ignored by the brothers. "The travail of his soul" (Is. 53:12), ignored by Israel (Is. 53:1-4). Did the Lord shout for deliverance in His pit?

22. "When they saw him afar off... they conspired against him to slay him" (37:18) "When the husbandmen saw  the son, they said among themselves (i.e. conspired), This is the heir; come, let us kill him" (Mt. 21:38) (2). Mt. 21:38 is quoting the LXX of Gen. 37:18.

23. "Joseph is... rent  in pieces. And Jacob rent  his clothes" (37:33,34); Jacob shared in Joseph's death. This is a fine prefigurement of the (sadly ignored) pain of God.

24. Judah disgraced after the condemnation of Joseph (Gen. 38) Ditto for Judah as a nation after their rejection of Christ.

25. His master committed all that he had into his hand (39:8) The Potiphar: Joseph and Pharaoh: Joseph relationship reflects that between God and Christ.

He "prospered", s.w. Ps. 1:3 concerning the righteous man prospering because he meditates on God's word. Did the Lord's carpenter business likewise flourish, for the same reasons? He was in favour with God and man.

26. Joseph lost his garment before he went into the pit and before he went to prison (39:13) (3). Jn. 19:23

27. Falsely accused of adultery, but with no remonstration on his part; cast into prison. Christ dumb before his shearers. In the 'Joseph as a type of Christ' story, prison = death; the ideas of prison and darkness are often associated (e.g. Is. 49:9). There was darkness at the death of Christ.

28. All the prisoners in the prison committed to Joseph's hand; "and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it" (39:22) An eloquent echo of Christ's relationship with us?

29. "The Lord... gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (39:21). Christ in favour with God and man (Lk. 2:52) (4).

30. In prison with two malefactors (one good and one bad?) Christ on the cross with two thieves (one good, one bad)

31. "Remember me when it shall be well with thee" (40:14) "Remember me"

32. Great pain in Joseph's heart because he knew his innocence (40:15); therefore the shame of a righteous man suffering as a sinner. Ditto for Christ- even more so.

33. The shame of Joseph in the dungeon (40:15); the lowest of the low, according to Ex. 12:29. A type of the supreme degradation of Christ on the cross.

34. "They made him run hastily out of the dungeon... and changed his raiment" (41:14 mg.). The energy of Christ's resurrection; change of clothing = change of nature, Zech. 3:3,4.

35. Because he knew Pharaoh's mind, he was exalted over Pharaoh's house and people (41:40). Christ knew God's mind; now over both Angels (God's house) and us (natural & spiritual Israel)

36. "According unto thy word shall all my people be ruled" (41:40). Egypt would have been  intricately obedient to his word. The supremacy of the word of Christ in our lives; obedience to his word has a sense of urgency  about it.

37. "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (41:40) Christ rules on God's behalf, but God is still King.

38. "I have set thee over all the land of Egypt" (41:41) Christ given all power in heaven and earth (Mt. 28:18). All Egypt ruled by his word, therefore 'Egypt' = the church now, and also the future Kingdom.

39. "Bow the knee" (41:43). Phil. 2:9.

Bread laid up in preparation for the famine. Laying up the word as a foundation against the judgment (1 Tim. 6:19).

40. Given a new name: "Zaphnath-paaneah": 'Saviour of the world', or 'bread of life' Christ given a new name on ascension (Phil. 2:6-9; Rev. 3:12).

41. A Gentile wife from a pagan king-priest background (41:45). Marriage of Christ to us, king-priests (Rev. 5:10). Psalm 45 is full of allusion to Joseph (vv. 2,4,5,7,10,14, 16 etc.). Yet it is also a prophecy of the marriage of Christ to His bride, modelled on the marriage of Joseph.

42. "Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt" (41:45). Christ's active involvement in our working out of our salvation.

43. Joseph's (half-Gentile) sons were counted as the twelve tribes of Jacob (41:51) We are Christ's sons (Heb. 2:13). Joseph was called "tender father" (41:43 mg.) as Christ will be called 'Father' in the future age (Is. 9:6 Heb.)

44. Pharaoh's total confidence in Joseph and the power of his word (41:55) God's attitude to Christ.

45. "According unto thy word shall all the people be ruled" (41:40) suggests a change in Egypt's legal system when Joseph came to power (cp. Ps. 105:22). The changeover between the law of Moses and the word of Christ.

46. Throughout the record there is the unwritten sense that the brothers had a niggling conscience that Joseph might be alive. This typifies the underlying Jewish conscience towards the Lord Jesus. They knew Christ as Messiah, but blinded themselves to the fact (Jn. 6:36; 9:41; 15:24 cp. 14:7). When Nicodemus secretly informed the Lord Jesus that "We know that you are a teacher come from God" (Jn. 3:2) it seems he was speaking of the situation he knew existed in the hearts of Israel's religious leaders- hence the Lord replied: "You [plural] receive not our witness" (Jn. 3:11).

47. Joseph's brethren fulfil his predictions without realizing it (fully, at any rate) by bowing before him (42:6). Latter day Israel likewise?

48. Even under pressure, the brothers came out with the same old lie (42:13). They kept repeating it so much that they believed it. Exact replica of the Jewish attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth.

49. The brothers suffer in prison for three days to prod their conscience about Joseph (42:17). Three year tribulation of Israel in the last days to bring them to accept Christ?

We get the impression that Joseph changed his plans for them several times; he recalled them when already on their journey etc.  Does this show that he hastened the day of revelation to them from purely emotional considerations- and will the Lord do the same with His Israel?

50. Joseph wept (this is recorded seven times in the record) (42:24). He must have found it hard to prolong the agony of not revealing himself to them immediately; he was motivated by a desire to make them see the enormity of their sin, for their spiritual good rather than his own vindication. Joseph as a type of Christ makes his story prophetic. This is a stunningly deep prophecy of the intensity of Christ's feelings, as the mighty Son of God, towards wayward Israel in the last days. He was a man of sorrow in his mortal life, and will still have an element of this characteristic in the future.

51. The brothers delay in their return, doubtless because of the struggle with their conscience; never spoken of together, but operating on each man individually (43:10) Will there be a 'delay' in Israel's repentance, and therefore in the full manifestation of Christ? Every Jew in the last days will go through the silent struggle of conscience about Christ.

52. Joseph celebrates their repentance with a meal together, at which they sit in their proper places (43:16) The marriage supper of the lamb, with each in his proper place (Lk. 14:10; 22:30; Rev. 19:9)

53. "Slay and make ready" (43:16) for the meal. This is the basis of the prodigal son parable (45:14,15 = Lk. 15:20); father = Christ; prodigal = repentant Jews, wanting to be servants and nothing else.

54. "The men marvelled" at his discernment. Ditto for Christ- it is emphasized (Mt. 8:27; 9:8,33; 21:20, 42; 22:22; 27:14; Lk. 2:33; Jn. 4:27; 7:15)

They were merry with him (43:34) He would fain have them enter into the joy of their Lord.

55. Joseph's cup is how he discerns (44:5) The cup of the Lord likewise.

56. "Then Joseph could not refrain himself..." (45:1) implies he planned to drag out the process of spiritually refining his brothers, but his love for them caused him to cut it short. "For the elects sake the days shall be shortened" by Christ (Mt. 24:22).The same Hebrew word is used in Is. 42:14 about how God can no longer refrain Himself in the last days.

57. "All them that stood before him" not present at his revelation to his brethren (45:1) The Angels who accompany Christ will not be present at his meeting with Israel (Zech. 3:4; Is. 63:3)?

Communication without an interpreter. A new paradigm of relationship with the Lord Jesus, face to face.

"Fear not: for I am in the place of God" (50:19 Heb.); "thou art even as Pharaoh" (44:18) Joseph as a type of Christ reveals the revelation of God's essential love through the face of Jesus Christ.

The struggle to make the brothers believe the extent of his grace. Our difficulty at the judgment.

58. "A great deliverance" (45:7). Heb. 2:3 "that great salvation" .

Israel saved, all the surrounding world also blessed with deliverance from the famine. Ditto for the last days; the nations around Israel blessed materially to overcome the problems of the latter day judgments. These judgments are to make Israel repent, but in that time of trouble the whole world suffers.

Gen 37:1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s travels, in the land of Canaan- The significance of this statement is that Jacob was intended to live in Canaan and had suffered hugely in order to leave Mesopotamia. The contrast is between the Hebrew term for "lived", which means 'to settle down', and that for "travels", which means to live temporarily. Although Isaac spent more of his life in the eretz than Jacob did, he moved around a lot in the land; whereas Jacob settled down permanently [relatively speaking] in one location.

Gen 37:2 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 an evil report of them to their father- The sons of Bilhah (Dan and Naphtali) and Zilpah (Gad and Asher) were perhaps the least connected to the Jacob family and the promises. Perhaps this was what led to their poor behaviour which Joseph reported. "Was feeding the flock" could mean "was the shepherd of the flock"; although very young, he had been pronounced 'chief shepherd' by Jacob, as a way of investing him with the titles and roles of the firstborn after Reuben had lost that role. In this case, we see again how Joseph is set up as a type or representative of the Lord Jesus, the chief shepherd of Israel's flock.

The patriarchs having more than one wife at a time signals that all was not well morally within the Abraham family. The repeated way in which they lied about their wives also indicates that they didn't take their marital responsibilities as they should have (Gen. 12:13; 20:3,13; 26:7).  Abraham's apparently casual relationship with Hagar, Judah's use of a harlot (apparently the sort of thing he often did), Esau's many carnal wives, Dinah's love affair, Reuben's incest (Gen. 49:4)... all this creates a certain impression of weakness in this area. Joseph's evil report regarding his brothers may well have featured news of their playboy escapades while far away from usual family life (note the similarities with 1 Sam. 2:23,24).

Gen 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age- Here the Spirit frames the record in Jacob's favour. We have shown that most of Jacob's children were born within a few years of each other, and in any case, Benjamin was the youngest. It seems that the Spirit is almost making a weak excuse for Jacob's favouritism, or perhaps picking up Jacob's self-justification for his favouritism and treating it as if it is valid. This is imputed righteousness. Jacob should have learnt from all the problems caused by his father's favoritism towards Esau and his mother's towards himself. But he didn't, and just as both Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives, so this weakness of having favourites continued from Isaac to Jacob.

And he made him a coat of many colours- A priestly robe (s.w. Gen. 3:21; Ex. 28:4; 29:5) which likely went with the firstborn's responsibilities. Jacob therefore dressed in Esau's clothes, and he seems to have wanted to use this opportunity to reflect his own experiences to his sons. Maybe Jacob made Joseph the firstborn after Reuben (the firstborn) slept with Bilhah. There seems to have been something unusual about the Lord’s outer garment. The same Greek word chiton used in Jn. 19:23,24 is that used in the LXX of Gen. 37:3 to describe Joseph’s coat of many pieces. Josephus (Antiquities 3.7.4,161) uses the word for the tunic of the High Priest, which was likewise not to be rent (Lev. 21:10). The Lord in His time of dying is thus set up as High Priest, gaining forgiveness for His people, to ‘come out’ of the grave as on the day of Atonement, pronouncing the forgiveness gained, and bidding His people spread that good news world-wide.

Gen 37:4 His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and couldn’t speak peaceably to him- They wouldn't greet him with the standard shalom greeting. This hatred "grieved" Joseph deeply (Gen. 49:23); Jacob says that it was as if Joseph had archers shooting at him, so we can assume that he had several attempts to harm or kill him before the incident now recorded. This means that Jacob sending Joseph alone to them was done with his full knowledge that harm was going to arise, and his attitude was a window onto the feelings of God as He sent His Son to his brethren. According to that parallel, Jacob sent Joseph to them hoping that without his presence, he would somehow reconcile them to himself. See on :13. It meant also that Joseph's willingness to go to his brothers alone was spiritually motivated; for he would surely have sensed what might happen.


Gen 37:5 Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him all the more- This parallels how the Lord spoke forth what He heard from God (Jn. 8:38; 12:50) and was hated unto death for it. Joseph likely didn't want to speak forth what he had been shown, and he did so with the spirit in which we may nervously share God's word and plan with those whom we know will hate us for saying it. The same word for "hated" is used in the promise that the Messianic seed would triumph over those who hated him (Gen. 24:60). It was their hatred which was therefore the background of the dreams, which I suggest were extensions of the Abrahamic promise repeated to Joseph; for the dreams stated as much, that Joseph would triumph over those who hated him, i.e. his own brothers.


Gen 37:6 He said to them, Please hear this dream which I have dreamed- This is entreaty, as if he is asking them to believe something they don't want to. Perhaps if they had fallen before him then, accepting he was the chosen firstborn and spiritual leader, then the whole sad history of the next chapters need not have happened. The dreams were an invitation to "hear" them and respond to them. In this we see the open ended approach to God to the fulfilment of His will and prophetic plan. And yet perhaps Joseph was repeating the mistake of Jacob, in insisting that in this life he should be accepted as the firstborn. Before birth it had been decreed that Esau should serve Jacob, but that was only to come true in the future. But Jacob wanted it in this life. And Joseph possibly made the same mistake, in wanting the brothers to accept him in this life as the firstborn. The way the dreams feature his mother bowing to him, when she was dead, was surely a hint that the intended fulfilment was not in this life but at the resurrection. And the fulfilment was not essentially in Joseph, but in the future Messianic seed whom he represented and prefigured. Jacob's final comment upon Joseph is that he was representative of the future Messianic seed (Gen. 49:22-26), but if they had all been more Christ-centred then all the personal angst against Joseph would not have happened.


Gen 37:7 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-
The patriarchs were shepherds and cattle herders- not sedentary crop farmers. The dream transported them into another world or situation other than what they knew then. The dream was God's way of giving the Abrahamic promises to Joseph. He was being given more detail- that his mother Rachel would be resurrected, and along with his brothers, would all bow down to his sheaf, which also would be lifted up [another hint at resurrection?]. Jacob in Gen. 49 understands all this correctly, finally- that it spoke not so much of Joseph, but of the Messianic seed whom he typified. This means that the bowing of the brothers to Joseph was but a primary fulfilment of the promise. It wasn't complete, because Rachel was not there. Joseph was likened to a sheaf (37:7)- and Christ was the wave sheaf (Lev. 23:11,12). It was "his sheaf", Messiah, who was to be worshipped by all Israel. The things of the Kingdom / land were revealed in the picture of fruitful grain harvests, and those of the Name of Jesus in the way that Joseph is being set up as a type of the Messianic seed. Perhaps if the brothers had immediately accepted him as such, then the course of history would have not gone as it did. The way the promise had a primary fulfilment as the brothers bowed to Joseph in Egypt fits in with the theme of the promises all having initial fulfilment in this life, but pointing forward to the more significant future fulfilment.

Jacob had quite wrongly sought to obtain the blessing of the firstborn, which included the wording that his family should bow down to him (s.w. Gen. 27:29). Although he had resigned that stolen blessing to Esau when he repented on the night of wrestling, Jacob still likely disliked the message being repeated here- that he was to bow down to others, in this case, his young son Joseph or the Messianic seed represented by him.

Gen 37:8 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- This was the Lord's experience: "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Lk. 19:14), "We have no king but Caesar" (Jn. 19:15). But "have dominion" is the Hebrew word used of how Joseph ruled over all Egypt and those who came to buy corn from him such as his brother (Gen. 45:8,26). However, that was but a primary fulfilment; the main fulfilment must be yet future.


Gen 37:9 He dreamed yet another dream- The double dream of Gen. 41:32 was a sign of absolute certainty of fulfilment. When Pharaoh had two dreams, and the prisoners together had two dreams, Joseph would have recalled his double dreams, and would have thereby been encouraged that they would be fulfilled too.

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- It must have taken Joseph quite some courage to explain the dreams to his brethren. "He dreamed yet another dream, and  told it his brethren" (AV). There was quite likely a certain bucking up of courage in the spirit of the Lord Jesus at age 30, when he 'came down from Heaven' and started preaching the glories of his future Kingdom to a cynical Israel. This is our struggle, to tell forth the things revealed to us. As noted on :36, Potiphar and Pharaoh both mean "sun", and had temporal mastership over Joseph. When Pharaoh ["the sun"] pointed out that in the throne, he would be above Joseph... he must have remembered this dream. We have established here the basis for how sun, moon and stars, the figurative heavens, refer to Israel and its leadership, or founding fathers.

 


Gen 37:10 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?- This reveals how Jacob's view of the promises, even at the age of 108, was very much on a surface level. Rachel was dead (Gen. 35:19), and Jacob mocked the suggestion that she would ever "come" to bow to her son as it implied a resurrection. It has been suggested that Joseph had the dream as a very small child, before the death of Rachel. But the dream spoke of his eleven brothers; so that is not a possibility, unless his dream was also a prophecy that Jacob would have another son.


Jacob’s anger with Joseph's claim that all his brothers would bow down to him is explicable when we remember that Isaac had promised Jacob that this would be his blessing (Gen. 27:29 cp. 37:10). Yet at the end, he realized that the promised blessings didn't only apply to him on a personal level, and he even conferred such a blessing on Judah (Gen. 49:8). See on :7. 


Gen 37:11 His brothers envied him- As Israel envied Moses for spiritual reasons (Ps. 106:16; Acts 7:9), so they did the Lord(Mt. 27:18), after the pattern of the brothers' spiritual envy of Joseph. Spiritual envy leading to persecution is quite a common feature in Biblical history (Job, Jeremiah, Paul...). And it isn't absent from the Christian experience either.  Envy is a great theme in the Abraham family. The Philistines envied Isaac (Gen. 26:14); as (we can assume) Laban did Jacob; Rachel envied Leah (Gen. 30:1); Joseph's brothers envied him (Acts 7:9). Family friction certainly stalked the generations. Jacob against Esau, Isaac against Jacob, Ishmael against Isaac, Sarah against Hagar, Joseph's brothers amongst themselves (Gen. 45:24). Envy of Israel by the world and friction within Israel has been a continued characteristic (what similarities with spiritual Israel?). Yet there was also a soft streak there; Esau and Jacob evidently had a certain affection for each other and willingness to truly forgive (Esau more so than Jacob!); Abraham truly cared for lot's fate in Sodom on at least two occasions; and the brothers genuinely cared for Benjamin and the grief of their father.

But his father kept this saying in mind- As did Mary , mother of the Lord Jesus (Lk. 2:19,51). In Lk. 2:51 it is recorded that Mary “kept these sayings”. It could be that she had pondered from the LXX of Gen. 37:11 how Jacob “observed” (s.w.) the saying of Joseph / Jesus, and therefore felt that she too must meditate on all the words associated with her Son. She speaks in Lk. 1:55 Gk. of “the seed of him”- she understood the seed of Abraham to be Messiah, her son, and makes many references and allusions to the promises to Abraham. She had clearly reflected upon her ‘first principles’.  


Gen 37:12 His brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem- About 60 miles from their base in Hebron.


Gen 37:13 Israel said to Joseph, Aren’t your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them. He said to him, Here I am- The fact Jacob sent Joseph with the priestly robe, which wouldn't have been worn apart from in a religious context, suggests he intended Joseph to conduct a religious ceremony with them, which he hoped they would accept. See on :4. He wished the ceremony to give them "peace" (:14).

Joseph readily responded to his father's desire that he go to his brethren: "Here I am". Isaiah, another type of Christ, uttered similar words before his mission to Israel (Is. 6:8), and the Lord's spirit was likewise (Heb. 10:7). Yet in both Joseph and Isaiah there must have been a sense of apprehension, sensing the persecution that would come. In line with the typology of Joseph and Isaiah, there was a point when the Lord received and responded to His Father's commission. This may have been some time in His teens; perhaps 17, as with Joseph? Or at 30 when he began His ministry and came "into the (Jewish) world"?


Gen 37:14 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- “Go... see whether it is well with your brothers" is the same Hebrew as in 1 Sam. 17:18, also typical of the Lord. He was sent to the shepherds and the sheep of Israel. This accounts for the special effort he made to appeal to the Jewish religious leaders, even when it seemed he was wasting time with them. Jacob wanted there to be "peace" for them ["it is well" = shalom, peace], which was the Lord's mission likewise; whom "God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36). We recall that they had not even given Joseph the "peace" greeting, and Jacob thought that the keeping of the ritual would rectify that. Perhaps the conclusion intended is that keeping religious rituals will not of itself bring peace between brethren.

Gen 37:15 A certain man found him, and behold, he was wandering delirious in the field. The man asked him, What are you looking for?- The life of Jesus was a life of outgiven grace and seeking the salvation of men, after the pattern of Joseph going to seek the welfare of his brethren. Even when he was delirious [AV “wandering”] he told the stranger that he was seeking his brethren (who hated him); seeking them was his dominant desire. And so it was in the life of the Lord. Like His Father, He was willing to be incredibly patient, in order to win people. The man may well have been an Angel. The incident functioned to remind Joseph later that his life had been preserved at this point; and this would have encouraged him when in the pit and in prison that God had preserved his life before. His purpose with Joseph was therefore far from over. The question "What are you looking for / seeking?" was thereby so strongly engrained in Joseph's mind, so that in all decisions and situations he would be asking himself this crucial question. But the Hebrew translated here "delirious" is usually used in a negative context, or erring or going astray. Perhaps his resolve to seek and find his brethren spiritually  (see on :16) had weakened, and he needed this Angelic encounter to encourage him to go forward to what he rightly guessed could be death or suffering, for the sake of his brethren who hated him.

Gen 37:16 He said, I am searching for my brothers- The Hebrew for "searching" is also used in the sense of asking / enquiring of God in prayer. As noted above, both Jacob and Joseph had premonitions that there would be trouble, and Joseph's mission involved taking the coat of many colours for some religious rite, and seeking the peace of those who would not give "peace" to him. The incident with the man / Angel who found Joseph was likely to focus him upon his mission, to get him to verbalize it. And we have similar encounters in our lives, to make us realize our mission. The way Joseph talks about "my brothers" could imply that he felt the man knew him and his brothers, strengthening the suggestion that this was an Angel.

Tell me, please, where they are feeding the flock- The record speaks often of "the flock" in the singular. It was specifically Jacob's flock, so large that it needed all his adult sons and probably others to feed it.


Gen 37:17 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- About eight miles further. This all points forward to the Lord Jesus seeking and finding His Father's wayward children. In the incidents with his brethren later regarding the cup, Joseph likewise chases after his brethren and 'finds' them. His whole work with them was to seek and find them, for God. From youth to middle age, this was his very gracious mission toward them.


Gen 37:18 They saw him afar off, and before he came near to them, they conspired against him to kill him-
 There are steep hills near Dothan which would have enabled them to see Joseph approaching across the plain. The leaders of first century Israel initially recognized Jesus of Nazareth coming to them as the Messiah (Mt. 21:38 cp. Gen. 37:20; Jn. 7:28). They saw (i.e. understood, recognized) him, but then they were made blind by Christ (Jn. 9:39). It was because they "saw" Jesus as the Messiah that the sin of rejecting him was counted to them (Jn. 9:41). "When the husbandmen saw  the son, they said among themselves (i.e. conspired), This is the heir; come, let us kill him" (Mt. 21:38). Mt. 21:38 is quoting the LXX of Gen. 37:18.


Gen 37:19 They said one to another, Behold, this dreamer comes- Heb. 'baal / master of dreams'. They perhaps meant that he considered himself the baal, their master as the one having the status of the firstborn, on account of his dreams. Jealousy over the status of being the designated firstborn is a major theme in the record. Isaac replaced Ishmael, Jacob replaced Esau, Jacob wanted Joseph to replace Reuben, and even at the end of his life, Jacob wants to replace Manasseh with Ephraim (Gen. 48:14). The lesson was never learnt, an yet by grace, Jacob and his sons will be saved. This is comfort to us as we come to realize that both we and others shall go to their graveplanks with some areas of our lives and thinking still not subdued by the Spirit as they should have been.


Gen 37:20 Come now therefore and let’s kill him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, ‘An evil animal has devoured him’- They never 'said' this; Jacob was led by them to wrongly deduce it (:33). But such misleading and deception is tantamount to telling the lies. Giving false impressions, even without speaking a word, is therefore the same as lying. This legalistic, but vain, attempt to avoid guilt for the sin is all prophetic of the Jewish attitude to the Lord's crucifixion.

We will see what will become of his dreams-  Likewise the Lord's inspired prophecies of His death and resurrection must have motivated the Jews' slaying of Him.  The brothers failed to appreciate that the dreams were not so much talking about this life as about some future point, when Rachel would be resurrected. So murdering Joseph would not disprove the dreams.

Gen 37:21 Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand, and said, Let’s not take his life- Reuben had slept with his father's concubine, and yet despite that awful sin, he still had a better side to him. And we should remember this in considering our feelings about those who have committed what are without doubt serious sins. He still considered himself the firstborn, despite his demotion from that as a result of the incest of Gen. 35:22. He points forward to the efforts of the unspiritual Pilate to save the Lord (Jn. 19:12).


Gen 37:22 Reuben said to them, Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him-that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father- Joseph and Nicodemus were inspired with that sense which we possess all too fleetingly: that in the light of the Lord's death, nothing else matters. They were both typified in some way by Reuben and Judah, who when confronted with the reality of murdering Joseph, spoke out unashamedly in front of their unspiritual brethren (Gen. 42:22). They pointed forward also to Pilate, who wanted to chastise and then release the Lord (Lk. 23:16). Like the Jews who crucified the Lord Jesus, these men clearly had a conscience even in the midst of their sin. In our outreach to the world, we must never conclude that some people have no religious conscience. All are made in the image of God and somewhere, there is a conscience toward Him which we can connect with through the message.



Gen 37:23 It happened, when Joseph came to his brothers-Just as the Lord came to His brothers and was rejected, betrayed for pieces of silver and slain (Jn. 1:11 "he came to his own"). The camera, as it were, is showing Joseph walking across the plain towards them (:18), and now is zoomed in close-up as Joseph comes to them, and they grab his coat.

That they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colours that was on him- Just as the Lord was stripped of a specially made coat (Jn. 19:23). Was Joseph naked in the pit? The same LXX word is used in Mt. 27:28; was the Lord naked on the cross? See on Heb. 6:6 "open shame". Joseph came to them wearing the special coat, the sign of the firstborn, as if he came to them with some religious message and wanted to perform some religious ritual. We recall how Jacob dressed in Esau's coat of the firstborn when deceiving Isaac.

Gen 37:24 And they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty- "Dothan" means 'two wells'. Perhaps he was thrown into one of these which was dry.

There was no water in it- Representing death and the grave (Zech. 9:11; Ps. 40:2). When Zedekiah called Jeremiah out of the prison house to meet him and show him the word of God, he ought to have perceived that he was going through the very experience of Pharaoh with Joseph (Jer. 37:17,20). Jeremiah’s desperate plea not to be sent back to prison to die there surely echoes that of Joseph to his brethren; for Jeremiah was let down like Joseph had been into a pit with no water in, so reminiscent of Joseph. But Zedekiah didn’t want to see all this; he should’ve listened to Jeremiah, as Pharaoh had listened to Joseph and saved himself. It was all potentially set up for him; but he refused to take note.


Gen 37:25 They sat down to eat bread- Ignoring Joseph's screams for mercy (Gen. 42:21), as the soldiers sat down and watched the Lord on the cross, eating their army rations. The callousness of the brothers reminds us of what they did in the massacre at Shechem. Every one of them would receive multiple life sentences in high security prison if they were alive today. And yet these harsh, wicked men... became the foundation pillars of God's people. Even though there is little record of their transformation in this life. They were saved by the grace of their wonderful brother and heavenly Father.

"And they sat down" after killing the Lord Jesus- Mt. 27:36.

And they lifted up their eyes and looked, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt- Jacob later sent such balm, made from fragrant gum trees which grew in Canaan, called ladanum (Gen. 43:11). The brothers were intended by the hand of providence to reflect that in going to Egypt with such gum balm, they were retracing the steps of Joseph and those merchants.

Throughout the records of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his children there is continual repetition in the manner in which the record is written. This repetition is of both experiences and of the language used to describe those experiences. The repeated language about going down to Egypt is an example. Thus Gen. 39:1- 8: "Joseph was brought down to Egypt... the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither... down to Egypt" (37:25). There are other examples: "The Lord was with Joseph... and his master saw that the Lord was with him". "His master the Egyptian... his master". "Joseph... was a prosperous man... the Lord made all that he did to prosper". Potiphar "made him overseer over his house...from the time that he had made him overseer in his house". "All that he had he put into his hand... over all that he had... the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had... he left all that he had in Joseph's hand". "His hand... into his hand... Joseph's hand... to my hand". This kind of linguistic device suggests that the Spirit in Genesis is inviting us to observe the development of theme and to note emphasis. The above example from Joseph's life is one of many such sets of evidence.  The repetition of certain descriptions and common experiences in the lives of Abraham's family members is to enable us to build up a very clear picture of what they were like as people. We are being enabled to get to know them as a family. This is necessary for us if we are to realistically obey the New Testament commands to see Abraham and the patriarchs as our spiritual fathers, to model our daily walk upon them, to see in them the examples which should dominate our lives and thinking. The way the record repeats their similar experiences reveals certain family traits; the majority of which are negative. This takes some appreciating.  


Gen 37:26 Judah said to his brothers, What profit is it if we kill our brother- At least two of his ten persecutors were unhappy about what they were doing , and said so (:22). Perhaps the whole group egged each other on to adopt an attitude none were totally happy with in their conscience- Ditto for first century Israel? But the motivation of Judah may simply have been "profit", and we note that "Judah" is effectively the same word as "Judas". The Hebrew for "profit" is usually used of wealth unjustly obtained. Judah reasons that there is no cash value in just murdering Joseph. Later, Joseph was to shower them with silver in the mouths of their sacks, and even his silver cup; to show them that he repaid this evil with good, and that silver was immaterial when compared to grace.

And conceal his blood?- Blood is a symbol of both life and also death (also in Num. 35:19,33; Lev. 20:9). Both the Lord’s death and His life form a covenant / testament / will for us to obey- in both baptism and then in living out the death and life in our daily experience. We cannot be passive to it. Judah means that there is no cash advantage if they just kill Joseph and conceal or cover their [responsibility for] his blood (as in Job 16:18; Ez. 24:8). The same word is soon to be used twice of how Judah in turn will be deceived by Tamar covering / concealing herself (Gen. 38:14,15). This is not simply an example of 'what goes around, comes around'. God makes such circumstances repeat because He wants to help people to repent, to realize the effect of what they have done to others in the hope it will elicit sensitivity and repentance.

 


Gen 37:27 Come, let’s 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- This recalls "We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30). "Let not our hand be on him" may mean that they thought that the rigours of slavery would be enough to kill him, and in the same spirit, the Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans. Does the antitype indicate some of the brothers thought this fact would absolve them of guilt? Like the Jews, they were very eager to minimize their guilt through legalistic manouevre; but they end up, like we do, realizing that they had to throw themselves upon the grace of the one who had effectively died and been resurrected. They likely held some belief that a special curse would come upon them if they themselves killed their own flesh brother; I suggest this is how we should read this verse, rather than seeing any softness toward Joseph on their part.


Gen 37:28 Midianites who were merchants passed by- These Ishmaelites lived in Midian.

And they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver- The Lord Jesus was “him… whom they priced on the part of the sons of Israel” (Mt. 27:9 RVmg.). The reference to “the sons of Israel” is surely an allusion to the sons of Jacob selling Joseph for his value. Twenty pieces of silver was the price of redemption for a teenager (Lev. 27:5); the Lord was sold for thirty pieces, the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32).

They brought Joseph into Egypt- According to some reconstructions of the geography, their route would have taken them through Mamre and Hebron, where Jacob was and from where Joseph had just come from. It would've all been so terribly painful for him, as it was for the Lord.

Gen 37:29 Reuben returned to the pit; and saw that Joseph wasn’t in the pit; and he tore his clothes- Reuben wasn't present; perhaps he had gone somewhere in order to try to arrange some release of Joseph. The Divine camera of inspiration invites us to view Reuben alone at the pit, and then returning to his brothers (:30) who were nearby but not directly at the pit. Maybe he had gone to the pit alone in order to get Joseph out of it. I suggest on :30 that Reuben may not have been totally sincere in all this. He tore his coat because he wanted Joseph's coat, the sign of the firstborn.


Gen 37:30 He returned to his brothers and said, The child is no more; and I, where will I go?- Such an outburst would be appropriate for Reuben as the firstborn who was responsible for his brothers. But he had been stripped of that position after the incest of Gen. 35:22. So his words may not have been completely sincere, but rather an insistence that he was in fact the firstborn.

Gen 37:31 They took Joseph’s coat, and killed a male goat, and dipped the coat in the blood- This is full of reference to atonement rituals; the point being that their sin could not be covered by any such ritual of animal sacrifice, but only by the gracious forgiveness of Joseph [cp. the Lord Jesus]. To make it realistic, the dipping may not have been complete immersion. And yet the blood soaked garment becomes the visual characteristic of the Lord Jesus (Rev. 19:13). Their father would now have to make a new coat and designate another firstborn.


Gen 37:32 They took the coat of many colours, and they sent it to their father, and said, We have found this. Examine it, please, whether it is your son’s coat or not- They sent it by messengers before they themselves arrived. This was so cruel to Jacob. The brothers implied that they did not know for sure whether it was Joseph's coat or not; even though it was the object of their intense jealousy. Their language has credibility. Even when trying to deceive, they couldn't but call Joseph "your son" rather than "our brother"; and likewise they pretended not to know very much about the coat. The whole story must have had less and less credibility as the years went by; and yet the brothers would have continued the lie all the more insistently.


Gen 37:33 He recognized it, and said, It is my son’s coat. An evil animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces- "Joseph is... rent  in pieces. And Jacob rent  his clothes" (:34); Jacob shared in Joseph's death. This is a fine prefigurement of the (sadly ignored) pain of God, as well as another example of the record having absolute psychological credibility. Jacob is pretended as falling completely ["without doubt..."] for their story. And yet he must have had his doubts. He was being placed precisely in the position of his father Isaac when he had deceived him regarding the birthright blessing. Jacob's later words about the matter are pregnant with the hint that he guessed something was wrong with the story: "[Joseph] went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I haven’t seen him since" (Gen. 44:28). This could be taken as meaning 'This is what I thought at the time, I was sure of it; although it's true that since then, I never saw him again'.


Gen 37:34 Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days- As Joseph's coat was torn, so his father tore his clothes. This sense of identity with the deceased is natural and is another example of where these ancient records have every psychological credibility, adding to our faith that what we are reading really did happen as stated.


Gen 37:35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning. His father wept for him- The Syriac says: "I will go down into the grave on account of my son mourning". He felt suicidal and wanted to die with his 'dead' son. As noted on :34, his recorded reaction is absolutely psychologically credible. His refusal to accept their comfort could reflect his skepticism about the whole story. We note too that he had "daughters", as well as Dinah. And one lie led to others. It was this which all contributed to Jacob's sense of loneliness, suspecting all around him were deceiving him.

 

Jacob's love for Rachel is reflected and acknowledged by the inspired record when we read of Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted "because they are not" (Mt. 2:18; Jer. 31:15). But these ideas are more relevant surely to Jacob weeping for Rachel and especially for Joseph- for Jacob wept for Joseph and refused to be comforted (Gen. 37:35). This was after the death of Rachel (Gen. 35:19). Surely the record is reflecting the unity which there was between Jacob and Rachel; even after her death, Jacob wept as it were with her kind of weeping. And yet she was not a very spiritual woman. Martin Buber notes that "womenfolk bring the household gods to the homes of their husbands from the homes of their fathers" (Moses (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1947) p. 205). By doing this, Rachel showed both her loyalty to her husband and yet also her attachment to idolatry; a classic case of mixed motivation arising from not having wholly given herself to the one true God.

Both good and bad people go to sheol, ‘hell’, i.e. the grave. Thus Jesus “made his grave with the wicked” (Is. 53:9). In line with this, there are other examples of righteous men going to hell, i.e. the grave. Jacob said that he would “go down into the grave (hell)... mourning” for his son Joseph.

Gen 37:36 The Midianites sold him into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard- "Officer" is 'eunuch', which would explain his wife's sexual frustration. "Captain of the guard" is Heb. 'captain of the slaughterers'; he was in charge of execution. This raises the question as to why Potiphar didn't immediately have Joseph executed for trying to rape his wife; the fact he didn't makes us think that actually, he suspected she was lying and didn't want to kill Joseph, although he had to be seen as punishing him. The LXX gives "chief cook", which would mean that the presence of the butler and baker in prison was likewise at the hands of Potiphar. They would've all known each other, and surely the butler and baker knew Joseph to be innocent. There is also the possibility that the keeper of the prison was in fact Potiphar, if "captain of the guard" is correct.

The words Potiphar and Pharaoh are very similar; they both mean "the sun". As Joseph was subject to these men, he would have remembered his dream- that ultimately the sun would bow down to him. But his faith in that prophetic word was to be sorely tested.