Genesis 43: Jacob Sends Benjamin to Egypt; Joseph Welcomes His Brothers

face-washing man faucet water joseph genesis

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

The famine intensifies in Canaan so Jacob agrees to send Benjamin to Egypt with his other sons. Despite their fears, the brothers are welcomed into Joseph’s home. Joseph cries in private when he sees Benjamin. The brothers are served a meal in Joseph’s home and are mysteriously seated in their birth order.

II. Photo

Joseph gathers himself after crying in a side room: “Then he washed his face, came out, controlled himself, and said, ‘Serve the meal.’” (v. 31)

III. Outline

1-14. Jacob changes his mind about Benjamin

1. The famine grows in Canaan

2. Jacob tells his sons to return to Egypt when the grain runs out

3-5. Judah reminds Jacob of Joseph’s stipulation regarding Benjamin

6. Israel (called such) asks why his sons told Joseph about Benjamin

7. They reply that Joseph interrogated them

8-10. Judah forcefully tells Jacob to let him take responsibility and leave with Benjamin

11-14a. Israel sends his sons including Benjamin with gifts and doubles their original money

14b. Israel laments his state of childlessness

15-34. The brothers are welcomed by Joseph in Egypt

15. The brothers return to Joseph in Egypt

16-17. Joseph has his brothers brought to his home where a meal is prepared

18. The brothers are frightful regarding the money from last time

19-22. The brothers tell their side of the story to Joseph’s servant

23. The servant attributes the money to their god and returns Simeon to them

24-25. The brothers are treated well and prepare to meet Joseph

26-29. The brothers show deference to Joseph, who inquires about Jacob and Benjamin

30-31. Joseph steps aside so he can cry

32. Because of Egyptian practice, Joseph and the Egyptians ate separately from Joseph

33. The brothers were shocked to see themselves seated in birth order

34. Benjamin is given five times his brothers, and all eat and drink

IV. Select Verses

1-2: Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little more food.”

8-10. Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die—you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”

13-14: Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

27-30: He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there.

32: They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

33: When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement.

34:  Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

V. Comment

Back in Genesis 37:3, I noted that Joseph is called Jacob’s “child of old age” despite the fact that Benjamin was born after Joseph. One explanation is that the passage understands Benjamin to be older than Joseph, meaning it contradicts the previous narrative. There is an alternative explanation too. According to the medieval Jewish commentator Rashbam, Joseph was Jacob’s “child of old age” for many years before Benjamin was born. This period of time solidified Joseph’s position as his favorite child. This latter explanation makes sense in light of Joseph’s treatment of Benjamin in this and the previous chapter. Joseph was most likely interested in seeing his younger brother Benjamin because he never gotten the chance to get to know him.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 42: Joseph Terrifies His Brothers in Egypt

eavesdropping listening ear spying whispering hard of hearingHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Ten of Jacob’s sons travel to Egypt for grain while Benjamin stays behind. Joseph recognizes his brothers, who do not recognize him, and accuses them of spying. Simeon remains in prison while his brothers return to Canaan to fetch Benjamin, which would prove they are from one family and not spies. The brothers are terrified when they find the money Joseph had taken from them in their sacks. Jacob does not allow Benjamin to travel to Egypt, lest he never return.

II. Photo

Joseph hears his brothers loud and clear: “[The brothers] did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter.” (v. 23)

III. Outline

1-25. Joseph terrifies his brothers

1-2. Jacob tells his sons to get grain in Egypt

3-5. Ten brothers go to Egypt, Benjamin stays behind due to his father’s fears

6-14. Joseph, who recognizes the brothers, accuses them of spying but they, who do not recognize him, deny it and assert they are of one father

15-16. Joseph demands one brother travel home and bring Benjamin as proof that they are not spies

17. Joseph puts the brothers in prison for three days

18-20. Joseph allows all but one to bring grain home on the condition they return with Benjamin

21. The brothers admit their guilt regarding Joseph and see it as a cause for their distress

22. Reuben chastizes the brothers for not listening to him

23-24a. Joseph, who understands Hebrew despite having an interpreter, weeps from what he hears

24b-25. Joseph imprisons Simeon and gives the other brothers grain and puts their money in their sacks

26-38. Nine brothers return to Jacob

26. Nine brothers leave Egypt

27-28. One brother realizes the money has been returned and all the brothers are terrified

29-34. The brothers recount their story to Jacob

35. The other brothers find their money and the entire family is frightened

36. Jacob laments his lot: he has lost Joseph, Simeon, and now they ask for Benjamin

37. Reuben offers to kill his own two sons if Benjamin is not returned

38. Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go

IV. Select Verses

7a: When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.

8: Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.

9a: Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them.

13: They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.”

21-24a: They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept

36: And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!”

37: Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”

38: But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

V. Comment

  • Although it is not made clear how fetching Benjamin will prove the brothers’ innocence, it appears that Joseph was making an excuse to see Benjamin. This was perhaps to make sure that Benjamin was not harmed, as Joseph himself was.
  • It is not clear why Joseph chose Simeon to stay behind in prison (v. 24). Similarly, it is not clear why “the one” brother who finds the money in verse 27 is not mentioned by name.
  • There are two difficulties in the narrative of this chapter. First, Joseph tells the brothers in verses 15-16 that only one of them is to fetch Benjamin while the rest sit in prison. He then throws the others in jail three days later in verse 17. Then, in verses 18-19 Joseph tells his brothers that all but one of them will go fetch Benjamin, and this is what happens as the story unfolds. While it is possible that Joseph changed his mind during those three days, perhaps because he wanted his father and brother to receive an abundance of grain as soon as possible, the text does not make this clear. Rather, there is an immediate break, which suggests that there may have been two versions of this story woven into one. The second difficulty stems from verse 25, which says that Joseph gave orders to return the money to each of the brothers. The problem is that we were not told that any money was taken. We are also not told why the brothers are so terrified of seeing their own money in their sacks. Perhaps this passage was another version of Genesis 44:1-13, when the brothers find Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s sack. In that case, there was legitimate reason for fear, for it seemed as if Benjamin stole Joseph’s royal cup.

VI. Works Used

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Genesis 41: Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams; Joseph Saves Egypt; Joseph’s Two Sons

seven cows joseph pharaoh rear healthy lean dreams genesis

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Pharaoh has two disturbing dreams that initially defy interpretation. The cupbearer tells Pharaoh about Joseph, who interprets the dreams as foretelling seven plentiful years followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command and Joseph collects grain that helps during the years of famine. Joseph and an Egyptian named Asenath have two children named Manasseh and Ephraim.

II. Photo

Pharaoh dreams of seven cows: “Then came up out of the Nile seven beautiful and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.” (v. 2)

III. Outline

1-7. Pharaoh’s two dreams

1a. Two years pass

1b-4. The first dream: 7 emaciated cows eat 7 healthy ones at the Nile

5-7. The second dream: 7 emaciated ears of grain eat 7 healthy ones

8-36. Joseph’s interpretation and suggestion

8. Egypt’s wise men and magicians could not explain the dream

9-13. The cupbearer recounts his experience with Joseph to Pharaoh

15-16. Joseph tells Pharaoh that God, not Joseph, is the true interpreter

17-24. Pharaoh recounts his two dreams

25-33. Joseph’s interpretation: 7 years of bounty followed by 7 years of famine

34-36. Joseph’s suggestion: appoint someone to collect 1/5 of the bounty for the years of famine

37-45. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command

37-41. Pharaoh chooses Joseph to be his second-in-command

42-43. Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet ring, dresses him in fine clothes, and has him ride as a ruler

44. Pharaoh gives Joseph full control of Egypt

45. Pharaoh names Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gives him Asenath daughter of the priest Poti Phera as a wife

46-53. The seven good years, including Joseph’s two sons

46a. Joseph was 30 years old when he began to serve Pharaoh

46b-49. Joseph stores up grain beyond measure during the 7 plentiful years

50-52. Joseph has two children with Asenath: Manasseh (“forgetting”) because he has forgotten his troubles, and Ephraim (“fruitful”) because he has been fruitful

53-57. The seven bad years

53-54. The famine spread to every country, but there was bread in Egypt

55. Pharaoh sends his people to Joseph

56. Joseph gives (sells?) grain to the Egyptians

57. Foreigners came for grain too

IV. Select Verses

1-7: After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,  and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk.  Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream.

15-16: And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

42-43:  Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.

45:  Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.

49: So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure.

50-52: Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”

54b: There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

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Genesis 40: Joseph Interprets Two Dreams Correctly 

baked goods bread assortment whole wheat white wallah baguette jelly cream

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are sent to prison, where they each have a dream. Joseph interprets their dreams, telling the cupbearer he will be restored to his position in three days and telling the baker he will be hanged in three days. Three days later, Pharaoh has a birthday party and does exactly as Joseph predicted.

II. Photo

The baker has a dream: “In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.” (v. 17)

III. Outline

1-19. Joseph interprets two dreams

1-4. Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are sent to prison and placed under Joseph’s command

5. The two have dreams on the same night

6-8. Joseph offers to interpret the dreams in the name of God

9-11. The cupbearer’s dream: pressing wine for Pharaoh from a three branched vine

12-13. Joseph’s interpretation: in three days the cupbearer will be returned to his position

14-15. Joseph asks the cupbearer to mention him to Pharaoh and states his innocence

16-17. The baker’s dream: three baskets of bread on his head for Pharaoh with a bird eating the contents of the top

18-19. Joseph’s interpretation: in three days Pharaoh will hang the baker and the birds will eat his flesh

20-23. Joseph’s predictions come true

20. Pharaoh hosts a birthday party three days later and summons the cupbearer and baker

21. The cupbearer is restored to his position

22. The baker is hanged

23. The cupbearer forgets to mention Joseph to Pharaoh

IV. Select Verses

7-8: He asked Pharaoh’s courtiers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, saying, “Why do you appear downcast today?” And they said to him, “We had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” So Joseph said to them, “Surely God can interpret! Tell me [your dreams].”

9-13: Then the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him, “In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: The three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer.

14-15: But think of me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place.  For in truth, I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews; nor have I done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.”

19: In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.”

20-22: On the third day — his birthday — Pharaoh made a banquet for all his officials, and he singled out his chief cupbearer and his chief baker from among his officials. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he impaled — just as Joseph had interpreted to them.

23: Yet the chief cupbearer did not think of Joseph; he forgot him.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

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Genesis 39: Joseph is Framed by Potiphar’s Wife; Joseph in Prison


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh blesses Joseph, who is given control of his master Potiphar’s house. Joseph refuses the advances of Potiphar’s wife so she accuses him of rape. Potiphar sends Joseph to Pharaoh’s prison. Yahweh blesses Joseph again and he is put in charge of the prison.

II. Photo

Potiphar’s wife makes a move on Joseph:  “Joseph was handsome and good-looking, and after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’” (vv. 6-7)

III. Select Verses

6b-10: Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her.

16-18: Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home,  and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”

20-23: And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

IV. Outline

1. Joseph was sold to Potiphar

2-6a. Yahweh blesses Potiphar’s house because of Joseph, who is given control of the house

6b-7. Potiphar’s wife tries to sleep with Joseph

8-9. Joseph refuses because of Potiphar and Yahweh

10. Joseph refuses many times

11-12. Joseph again refuses Potiphar’s wife, who steals his cloak

13-18. Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape

19-20. Potiphar throws Joseph in Pharaoh’s jail

21-23. Yahweh watches over Joseph, who is put in charge of the jail

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 38: Judah’s Five Sons, Including Two With Tamar


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Judah has three sons named Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er dies, his widow Tamar marries Onan, but Onan will not inseminate Tamar. Yahweh kills Onan for his sin and Judah sends Tamar away lest she marry Shelah and he die too. Later, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah impregnates her. When Judah sentences Tamar to death for being pregnant, she proves that he was the one who impregnated her and is allowed to live. Tamar gives birth to twins named Perez and Zerah.

II. Photo

Tamar disguises herself to Judah: “When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face.” (v. 15)

III. Select Verses

6-11: When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.” But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

24-26: About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.

27-30: When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.” But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

IV. Outline
1-5. Judah’s children with the daughter of Shua

    1. Judah leaves his brothers and settles near Hirah the Adullamite

    2. Judah marries Shua’s daughter, a Canaanite woman

    3-5. Shua gives birth to Er, Onan, and Shelah

6-30. Judah children with his daughter-in-law Tamar

    6. Er marries Tamar

    7. Yahweh kills Er, who is displeasing to him

    8. Judah tells Onan to take Tamar as a wife

    9. Onan does not inseminate Tamar

    10. Yahweh kills Onan for his actions

    11. Judah sends Tamar home to protect his third son, Shelah, telling her to wait for him to grow

    12. Shua’s daughter dies and Judah travels to Hirah the Adullamite at Timnah

    13-14. Tamar takes off her widow’s clothing and sees that Shelah has grown

    15-18a. Judah mistakes Tamar for a prostitute and gives her his seal and staff as collateral for a goat as payment

    18b. Judah sleeps with Tamar and she becomes pregnant

    19. Tamar leaves and puts on her widow’s clothing

    20-23. Judah sends a goat to the “prostitute” via Hirah, but she cannot be found

    24. When it is apparent Tamar is pregnant, Judah condemns her to death for whoring

    25. Tamar shows Judah the seal and the staff

    26. Judah acknowledges his wrongdoing regarding Shelah and does not lie with Tamar again

    27-30. Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez who “broke through” (paratz) first after his brother Zerah’s hand had preceded him

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 37: Joseph’s Brothers Sell Him Into Slavery


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph is favored by Jacob/Israel but is hated by his brothers. Joseph relates two dreams about his own greatness, which causes his brothers to hate him even more. Instead of killing him, the brothers decide to sell Joseph into slavery. They tell their father that Joseph is dead but Joseph is actually a servant of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh in Egypt.

II. Photo

Joseph is hated by his brothers: “[Joseph’s brothers] took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (v. 24)

III. Select Verses

1-2a: Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. This, then, is the line of Jacob: At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers…

3: Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic.

6-8: He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed:  There we were binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf stood up and remained upright; then your sheaves gathered around and bowed low to my sheaf.” His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.

9: He dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: And this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

IV. Outline

1. Jacob (called such) lived where his ancestors sojourned
2a. Introduction to Jacob’s story
2b-4. Joseph is hated by his brothers
    2b. Joseph helps with his brothers’ flocks but speaks ill of them to Jacob
    3. Israel (called such) loves Joseph the most and gives him a special garment
    4. The other brothers hate Joseph
5-8. Joseph’s first dream
    5. Joseph tells his brothers his dream and they hate him more 
    6-7. The brothers’ sheafs bow to Joseph’s in the field
    8. The brothers ask if Joseph wishes to reign and they hate him more
9-11. Joseph’s second dream
    9. Joseph tells his brothers that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed to him
    10. Jacob chastises Joseph for his dream
    11. The brothers grew jealous, and Jacob kept the matter in mind
12-36. Joseph is sold into slavery
    12-14a. Israel sends Joseph to his brothers who are shepherding in Shechem
    14b-17. At Shechem, Joseph learns his brothers went to Dothan, so he follows
    18-20. The brothers decide to kill Joseph
    21-22. Reuben convinces the brothers to passively kill Joseph by throwing him in a pit so that he can secretly save him
    23-24. The brothers strip Joseph of his special garment and throw him in a pit without water
    25. A caravan of Ishmaelites passes by
    26-28. Judah convinces the brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (called Midianites) instead of killing him  
    29-30. Reuben returns to an empty pit and confronts his brothers
    31. The brothers dip Joseph’s garment in blood
    32-35. Jacob (called such) is shown the garment and mourns for his son uncontrollably
    36. The Ishmaelites (called Midianites) sell Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh

V. Comment

Joseph is called Jacob’s “child of old age” in verse 3 despite the fact that Benjamin was born after Joseph. One explanation is that this passage understands Benjamin to be older than Joseph, meaning it contradicts the previous narrative. There is an alternative explanation too. According to the medieval Jewish commentator Rashbam, Joseph was Jacob’s “child of old age” for many years before Benjamin was born. This period of time solidified Joseph’s position as his favorite child.

Two ethnic designations are mentioned in the sale of Joseph, namely, the Ishmaelites (v. 25, 28) and the Midianties (vv. 28, 36). While Rashbam thinks the Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the more straightforward explanation is that the Ishmaelites were the Midianites. The proof for this is verse 36, which says “the Midianites sold [Joseph] to Potiphar in Egypt.” If the Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the verse should have said the Ishmaelites, not the Midianites, sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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