Genesis 31: Jacob Leaves Haran; Discord with Laban; Rachel’s Curse; Jacob and Laban’s Pact 

rachel period laban genesis crampsHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob confirms that Rachel’s and Leah’s loyalty is to him and not their father Laban. In order to avoid Laban, Jacob leaves Haran stealthily with his family, his many possessions, and, unbeknownst to him, the idols Rachel stole. Laban tracks Jacob down, accuses him of stealing the idols, but does not harm him on account of a warning from Yahweh. Jacob condemns whoever stole the idols to death and lambasts Laban. Jacob and Laban make a peace agreement at Mizpeh in Gilead.

II. Photo

Rachel hides her father’s idols under her body: “Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me.” (v. 35)

III. Select Verses

5-9: “I see that your father’s manner toward me is not as it has been in the past. But the God of my father has been with me. As you know, I have served your father with all my might; but your father has cheated me, changing my wages time and again. God, however, would not let him do me harm. If he said thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks would drop speckled young; and if he said thus, ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks would drop streaked young. God has taken away your father’s livestock and given it to me.

14: Then Rachel and Leah answered him, saying, “Have we still a share in the inheritance of our father’s house?

24: But God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.”

27-29: Why did you flee in secrecy and mislead me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive music, with timbrel and lyre.  You did not even let me kiss my sons and daughters good-by! It was a foolish thing for you to do. I have it in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father said to me last night, ‘Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.’

32: But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive! In the presence of our kinsmen, point out what I have of yours and take it.” Jacob, of course, did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

33-35: So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. Rachel, meanwhile, had taken the idols and placed them in the camel cushion and sat on them; and Laban rummaged through the tent without finding them. For she said to her father, “Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me.” Thus he searched, but could not find the household idols.

47-52: Laban named it Yegar-sahadutha, but Jacob named it Gal-ed. And Laban declared, “This mound is a witness between you and me this day.” That is why it was named Gal-ed; And [it was called] Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of sight of each other. If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides my daughters — though no one else be about, remember, God Himself will be witness between you and me.” And Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this mound and here the pillar which I have set up between you and me: this mound shall be witness and this pillar shall be witness that I am not to cross to you past this mound, and that you are not to cross to me past this mound and this pillar, with hostile intent.

IV. Outline

1-16. Jacob confirms Rachel’s and Leah’s support

    1. Jacob hears Laban’s sons complain about Jacob’s wealth

    2. Jacob notices Laban has changed his demeanor

    3. Yahweh tells Jacob to return his homeland

    4-13. Jacob explains his side of the story to Rachel and Leah: Yahweh appeared to Jacob, told him about the multi-colored animals, and gave him Laban’s flock despite Laban’s lies

14-16. Rachel and Leah side with Jacob, viewing Laban’s wealth as their own

17-18. Jacob sets off with his family and his possessions

19-42. Discord with Laban; Rachel’s curse

19. Laban was gone and Rachel had stolen his idols (terafim)

20. Jacob did not tell Laban he left

21. Jacob had already crossed the Euphrates on his way to Canaan

22-23. Laban finds out and catches up in seven days, in Transjordan

24. Yahweh appears to Laban, warning him about Jacob

25. Laban camps near Jacob

26-30. Laban expresses his frustration and power, relates Yahweh’s message, and asks for his idols back

31-32. Jacob, who does not know about Rachel’s actions, denies the theft and condemns the thief to death

33. Laban searches Jacob’s, Leah’s, Bilhah’s, and Zilpah’s tents

34-35. Laban searches Rachel’s tent, but she sits on the idols and feigns her period so as not to stand up

36-37. Jacob yells at Laban for pursuing him for no reason

38-42. Jacob expresses the commitment he had for Laban, who would not have paid him if not for Yahweh’s intervention

43-54. Jacob and Laban’s pact

43. Laban concedes

44. Laban offers to make a covenant

45-46. Jacob and his people make a mound of stones and eat a meal

47-48. The mound is named “witness heap” by Laban in Aramaic and by Jacob in Hebrew

49-52. The site, named “lookout” (mizpeh), bears witness that Jacob wont marry other wives and Laban won’t cross with ill intent

53. The oath is made with the ancestral deities of Abraham and Nahor

54. Jacob offers a sacrifice, has a meal, and spends the night

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 49: Jacob’s Prophetic Speech To His Sons; Jacob’s Death

judah lion jacob blessing lioness whelp pup genesisHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob prophesies about each of his twelve sons; some will be wealthy and mighty while others will be weak and servile. Jacob commands his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah next to his wife Leah, his parents Isaac and Rebekah, and his grandparents Abraham and Sarah. Jacob dies when he finishes speaking to his sons.

II. Photo

Jacob characterizes Judah as a lion: “Judah is a lion’s whelp, from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion, like a lioness, who dares rouse him up?” (v. 9)

III. Outline

1-28. Jacob “blesses” his children

1-2. Jacob (called such) gathers his sons for a prophetic speech

3-4. The firstborn Reuben will lose his power because he went up to Jacob’s bed

5-7. Simeon and Levi will be divided and scattered in Israel because of their violence

8-10. Judah is like a lion and will be given rulership

11-12. Judah will have an abundance of grapes and beauty

13. Zebulun will settle along the Mediterranean near Sidon

14-15. Issachar will become a servant to shepherds [near Shechem; he “bowed his shoulder (Shechem)”]

16-17. Dan will become highway robbers

18. Declaration of faith: Jacob waits for Yahweh’s deliverance

19. Gad will be sea raiders

20. Asher shall produce an abundance of bread

21. Naphtali is a doe with lovely fawns (?)

22-26. Joseph is blessed with viticulture, military might, offspring, protection from the ancestral god, and separation from his brothers

27. Benjamin is a carniverous wolf (?)

28. Conclusion to the “blessings” (called such)

29-32. Jacob commands his sons to bury him the Machpelah cave with his parents, grandparents, and Leah [who we did not know had died]

33. Jacob dies

IV. Select Verses

1: And Jacob called his sons and said, “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.

8-10: You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; Your father’s sons shall bow low to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; On prey, my son, have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, Like the king of beasts — who dare rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; So that tribute shall come to him And the homage of peoples be his.

24-26: Yet his bow stayed taut, And his arms were made firm By the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob — There, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel — The God of your father who helps you, And Shaddai who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that couches below, Blessings of the breast and womb. The blessings of your father Surpass the blessings of my ancestors, To the utmost bounds of the eternal hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, On the brow of the elect of his brothers.

28: All these were the tribes of Israel, twelve in number, and this is what their father said to them as he bade them farewell, addressing to each a parting word appropriate to him.

29-32: Then he instructed them, saying to them, “I am about to be gathered to my kin. Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave which is in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site —  there Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah —  the field and the cave in it, bought from the Hittites.”

33: When Jacob finished his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and, breathing his last, he was gathered to his people.


V. Comment

  • There is tension between the introduction/conclusion to the “blessings” and the “blessings” themselves. In the introduction we are told of a prophetic speech, one that will reveal what is to happen in the future. While many of the statements can be read this way, such as Judah’s rulership and Joseph’s might and separation (the “house of Joseph” would eventually become the Northern Kingdom of Israel), other statements are more confusing. What does it mean that Naphtali is a doe with lovely fawns (v. 21)? What does it mean that Benjamin is a wolf that eats and shares its prey (v. 27)? Furthermore, the conclusion to Jacob’s speech (v. 28) mentions the “blessings” he gave to each son, but some of the statements are more like curses. Reuben’s role is diminished (vv. 3-4), Simeon and Levi will be scattered (vv. 5-7), and Issachar will become a servant in the region of Shechem (vv. 14-15). These are but some of the many difficulties in understanding this chapter.
  • In v. 31 Jacob mentions burying Leah in the cave of Machpelah. We were not previously told that Leah had died. Similarly, although we had not been told that Jacob’s mother Rebekah had died, this is made explicit it v. 31: “There Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried.”
  • In vv. 29-32 Jacob asks to be buried in the cave of Machpelah with his ancestors. Note that he refers to the acquisition of the cave from the Hittites three times, an emphasis that may suggest that the cave was disputed territory.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 48: Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

blurry vision legally blind glasses driving eyesight

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph brings his sons Ephraim and Manasseh to Jacob for a blessing. Jacob considers the boys his own and blesses them with his name and many offspring in the land. Despite Joseph’s protest, Jacob places his right hand on Ephraim, the younger of the two boys. Jacob grants Shechem to Joseph.

II. Photo

Jacob does not see well: “Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, and he could not see well. So Joseph brought [the boys] near him; and he kissed them and embraced them.” (v. 10)

III. Outline

1a. Joseph learns his father is ill

1b-2. Joseph brings Ephraim and Manasseh to Jacob (called such)

3-4. Jacob recounts El Shaddai’s (called such) promise at Bethel of land and offspring

5-6. Jacob considers Ephraim and Manasseh his own sons, but Joseph’s future children Joseph’s

7. Rationale: Joseph’s mother Rachel already died [so she could not give birth to more children]

8-10. Israel (called such), who has poor vision, has Ephraim and Manasseh brought close for a blessing

11. Israel is thankful for seeing Joseph’s children

12-13. Joseph presents Manasseh to Israel’s right and Ephraim to his left

14. Israel switches his hands, giving his right to Ephraim and left to Manasseh

15-16. Jacob blesses the boys with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s name as well as offspring in the land

17-18. Joseph confronts his father about his hands and attempts to switche them

19. Jacob does not budge, relating that Ephraim will be greater than Manasseh

20. Israel will be blessed “may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh”

21-22. As death approaches, Jacob grants Joseph “one ridge (Shechem)” that he conquered from the Amorites

IV. Select Verses

3-4: And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and he blessed me, and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers; I will make of you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your offspring after you for a perpetual holding.’

5-7: Therefore your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are now mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are. As for the offspring born to you after them, they shall be yours. They shall be recorded under the names of their brothers with regard to their inheritance. For when I came from Paddan, Rachel, alas, died in the land of Canaan on the way, while there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).

10: Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, and he could not see well. So Joseph brought them near him; and he kissed them and embraced them.

17-19: When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father! Since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused, and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.”


V. Comment

In verses 3-4, Jacob says:

El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and He blessed me, and said to me, ‘I will make you fertile and numerous, making of you a community of peoples; and I will assign this land to your offspring to come for an everlasting possession.’

This appears to refer to Jacob’s encounters with the divine at Bethel in 28:11-22 and 35:1-8. Although Bethel is not mentioned in our chapter, those passages make clear that Jacob changed the name Luz to Bethel (28:19, 35:6).

Verse 7, which mentions Rachel’s death, is referring to 35:16-20:

They set out from Bethel; but when they were still some distance short of Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for it is another boy for you.” But as she breathed her last — for she was dying — she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Ephrath — now Bethlehem. Over her grave Jacob set up a pillar; it is the pillar at Rachel’s grave to this day.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 47: Joseph Settles His Family in Egypt; Joseph Acquires All of Egypt’s Possessions; Jacob Prepares to Die

farmer grain pile wheat harvest agriculture

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph’s family meets Pharaoh and settles in Goshen/Rameses. Due to the severity of the famine, the people of Egypt give all of their money, livestock, and land to Joseph and Pharaoh. Jacob makes Joseph promise to bury him with his ancestors in Hebron.

II. Photo

Joseph acquires all of the farmland in Egypt: “So Joseph gained possession of all the farm land of Egypt for Pharaoh, every Egyptian having sold his field because the famine was too much for them; thus the land passed over to Pharaoh.” (v. 20)

III. Outline

1-12. Joseph settles his family in Goshen

1-2. Joseph presents five of his brothers to Pharaoh, telling him they live in Goshen

3-6. Pharaoh permits Joseph’s brothers to live there and asks that they shepherd his flock

7-10. Jacob meets pharaoh, telling him he is only 130 years old

11-12. Summary: Joseph fed his family and settled them in the land of Rameses

13-26. Joseph acquires all of Egypt’s wealth and land for Pharaoh

13. Introduction: the famine was severe

14. Joseph collected all the money in the land as payment for rations

15-17. Joseph next collects livestock for rations

18-21. Joseph next acquires all the land in Egypt for rations

22. Note: Joseph did not collect land from the priests, who had been given land by Pharaoh

23-25. Joseph enters into a serf relationship with the people of Egypt, who must give 1/5 of their produce to Pharaoh

26. Joseph’s law of 1/5 is still

27-31. Jacob prepares to die

27. Israel’s (called such) family grew and prospered in Egypt

28. Jacob (called such) lived for 17 more years for a total of 147

29-31. Jacob has Joseph vow to bury him with his ancestors [in Hebron]

IV. Select Verses

5-6: Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “As regards your father and your brothers who have come to you, the land of Egypt is open before you: settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them stay in the region of Goshen. And if you know any capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.”

8-9: Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How many are the years of your life?” And Jacob answered Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourn [on earth] are one hundred and thirty. Few and hard have been the years of my life, nor do they come up to the life spans of my fathers during their sojourns.”

23-26: Then Joseph said to the people, “Whereas I have this day acquired you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you to sow the land. And when harvest comes, you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be yours as seed for the fields and as food for you and those in your households, and as nourishment for your children.”  And they said, “You have saved our lives! We are grateful to my lord, and we shall be serfs to Pharaoh.” And Joseph made it into a land law in Egypt, which is still valid, that a fifth should be Pharaoh’s; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.

28-31: Jacob lived seventeen years in the land of Egypt, so that the span of Jacob’s life came to one hundred and forty-seven years. And when the time approached for Israel to die, he summoned his son Joseph and said to him, “Do me this favor, place your hand under my thigh as a pledge of your steadfast loyalty: please do not bury me in Egypt. When I lie down with my fathers, take me up from Egypt and bury me in their burial-place.” He replied, “I will do as you have spoken.” And he said, “Swear to me.” And he swore to him. Then Israel bowed at the head of the bed.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 46: Yahweh Appears to Jacob;  Jacob’s “Seventy” Descendants; Joseph and Jacob are Reunited in Egypt

chariot wheel wagon horse chinese riding up close

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh promises to make Jacob a great nation in Egypt and to return that nation to Canaan. The “seventy” descendants of Jacob who go with him to Egypt are listed. Joseph cries when he meets his father Jacob, who is now ready to die in his old age.

II. Photo

Jacob moves to Egypt: “Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him.” (v. 5)

III. Outline

1-4. Jacob’s encounter at Beer Sheba

1. Jacob sets off [from Hebron] and makes sacrifices to Yahweh

3-4. Yahweh tells Jacob he will become a great nation in Egypt and be returned

5-7. Jacob’s family travels in wagons and the people bring their possessions

8-27. Jacob travels to Egypt with “seventy” descendants

8a. Introduction

8b-9. Reuben’s children

10. Simeon’s children

11. Levi’s children

12. Judah’s children

13. Issachar’s children

14. Zebulun’s children

15. Total of Leah’s children, children, and (important) grandchildren, including Dinah: 33

16. Gad’s children

17. Asher’s children

18. Total of Zilpah’s children, grandchildren, and (important) great grandchildren: 16

19. Rachel’s two children

20. Joseph’s children

21. Benjamin’s children

22. Rachel’s children and grandchildren: 14

23. Dan’s child

24. Naphtali’s children

25. Bilhah’s children and grandchildren: 7

26. Jacob’s offspring: 66

27. Explanation: Joseph’s two children were born in Egypt

28-34. Jacob arrives in Egypt

28a. Joseph sends Judah ahead

28b-29. Joseph weeps when he meets his father in Goshen

30. Israel (called such) proclaims he is ready to die

31-34. Joseph prepares his shephard family to ask Pharaoh for land in Goshen because shephards are abominable in Egypt

IV. Select Verses

2-4: God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.”

8: Now these are the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his offspring, who came to Egypt. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn…

26-27: All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all. The children of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.

29: Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.

30: Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.”


V. Comment

The major difficulty with Genesis 46 concerns the number seventy. According to verse 27, seventy of Jacob’s descendants travelled from Canaan to Egypt. This is repeated in two other verses:

Exodus 1:5: The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:22: Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now Yahweh your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

Our chapter, which contains a list of seventy men (33 + 16 +14 +7), was presumably the original list of seventy, or at least the first attempt to name the seventy. However, it seems that a later reader/editor was disturbed for two reasons. First, as verse 12 points out, Judah’s sons Er and Onan died in Canaan (see Genesis 38). Second, as verse 27 points out, Joseph’s two sons were born in Egypt. Based on this close reading, the editor likely added verse 26:

All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all.

While the most likely explanation for this verse is that a later editor was grappling with a textual inconsistency, it is surprising that he does not offer any suggestion on how to reconcile the numbers 66 and 70. He simply allows the contradiction to stand. As Wenham points out (Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis, 442-443), later commentators have suggested two possible ways to resolve the contradiction. The first is that seventy is a round number meant to indicate a large group or a large family (see Exodus 24:1, 9; Judges 8:30; 12:14), so it is not meant to be taken literally. The second is that Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh are included, as well as Dinah and Jacob himself. This brings the number to seventy (66 + 2 + 1 +1). However, these two explanations do not actually solve the difficulty. First, this chapter takes numbers very seriously, and even has a list of seventy names, so it is difficult to suggest that seventy is meant to be a round number. Second, women are implicitly and even explicitly excluded (v. 26), so Dinah must be ruled out. Third, Ephraim and Manasseh are excluded (v. 27) and the list is meant to be Jacob’s descendants, so he is excluded too. Genesis 46 therefore seems to include a very early stage of biblical exegesis, one that was actually inserted into the text itself. Although the reader/editor does not provide an answer to his question, he points out that the list of seventy is actually a list of sixty-six.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 45: Joseph Reveals Himself, Forgives His Brothers, and Sends for Jacob

fertile nile river egypt ancient agriculture pyramids

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and forgives them for selling him because Yahweh planned it to save the family from starving. With the blessing of Pharaoh, Joseph sends the brothers home to fetch Jacob so that the entire family can live near Joseph in Goshen. Jacob agrees to travel to Egypt in his old age.

II. Photo

Pharaoh has a message for Joseph’s brothers: “Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” (v. 18)

III. Outline

1-8. Joseph reveals himself

1. Joseph sends the Egyptians from the room

2-3a. Joseph weeps loudly and says “I am Joseph, is my father alive?”

3b. The brothers were so shocked they could not speak

4-8. Joseph pardons his brothers saying it was all part of Yahweh’s plan to save the family

9-24. Joseph sends his brothers for Jacob

9-13. Joseph tells his brothers to bring Jacob so that the family can live in Goshen

14. Joseph weeps with Benjamin

15. Joseph weeps and speaks with his brothers

16-20. Pharaoh tells Joseph to send his brothers to Canaan in royal fashion and return with his family

21-22. Josephs sends his brothers in wagons with clothing, but gives Benjamin silver and five sets of clothing

23. Joseph sends his father ten donkeys with grain and ten with presents

24. Joseph sends his brothers on their way

25-28. The brothers tell Jacob (also called Israel) about Joseph; Jacob gains his health and decides to travel to Egypt

IV. Select Verses

1-3: hen Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

4-8: Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

21-22: The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments.

28: Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.”

V. Comment

No comment. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 44: Benjamin is Framed by Joseph


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph hides a silver vessel in Benjamin’s sack as he sends his brothers home with grain. Benjamin is sentenced to slavery when the vessel is found in his sack. Judah pleads with Joseph to enslave him instead of Benjamin, lest Jacob die of hardship.

II. Photo

Judah pleads with Joseph: “When [Jacob] sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.” (v. 31)

III. Outline

1-2. Joseph has his brothers’ sacks filled with grain, their money, and a silver vessel for Benjamin

3. The brothers set off for Canaan

4-6. Joseph sends for his brothers accusing them of stealing his silver vessel

7-9. The brothers deny the charge, condemning any thief to death

10. Joseph’s servant says he will enslave the thief

11-12. The brothers open their sacks and lament when the vessel is found in Benjamin’s sack

13. All the brothers return to Joseph

14. The brothers bow to Joseph

15. Joseph proclaims his divination powers

16-17. The brothers offer to be slaves but Joseph only wants Benjamin

18-34. Judah tells the story from Jacob’s perspective and asks to be enslaved instead of Joseph

IV. Select Verses

7-9: They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

11-12: Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.

31, 34: When [Jacob] sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol… For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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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

(see “Commentaries” page)

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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

(see “Commentaries” page)

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