Genesis – Chapter 37

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 37


Jacob settled in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.


This is his family history. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he was tending the flocks with his brothers; he was an assistant to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah, and he brought his father bad reports about them.


Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic.


When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.


Once Joseph had a dream, which he told to his brothers:


«Listen to this dream I had.


There we were, binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf rose to an upright position, and your sheaves formed a ring around my sheaf and bowed down to it.»


«Are you really going to make yourself king over us?» his brothers asked him. «Or impose your rule on us?» So they hated him all the more because of his talk about his dreams.


Then he had another dream, and this one, too, he told to his brothers. «I had another dream,» he said; «this time, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.»


When he also told it to his father, his father reproved him. «What is the meaning of this dream of yours?» he asked. «Can it be that I and your mother and your brothers are to come and bow to the ground before you?»


So his brothers were wrought up against him but his father pondered the matter.


One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem,


Israel said to Joseph, «Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem. Get ready; I will send you to them.» «I am ready,» Joseph answered.


«Go then,» he replied; «see if all is well with your brothers and the flocks, and bring back word.» So he sent him off from the valley of Hebron. When Joseph reached Shechem,


a man met him as he was wandering about in the fields. «What are you looking for?» the man asked him.


«I am looking for my brothers,» he answered. «Could you please tell me where they are tending the flocks?»


The man told him, «They have moved on from here; in fact, I heard them say, ‘Let us go on to Dothan.'» So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.


They noticed him from a distance, and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.


They said to one another: «Here comes that master dreamer!


Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.»


1 When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying: «We must not take his life.


Instead of shedding blood,» he continued, «just throw him into that cistern there in the desert; but don’t kill him outright.» His purpose was to rescue him from their hands and restore him to his father.


So when Joseph came up to them, they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;


then they took him and threw him into the cistern, which was empty and dry.


They then sat down to their meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm and resin to be taken down to Egypt.


Judah said to his brothers: «What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?


Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.» His brothers agreed.


2 They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.


When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes,


and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: «The boy is gone! And I – where can I turn?»


They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood.


Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: «We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.»


He recognized it and exclaimed: «My son’s tunic! A wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn to pieces!»


Then Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned his son many days.


Though his sons and daughters tried to console him, he refused all consolation, saying, «No, I will go down mourning to my son in the nether world.» Thus did his father lament him.


The Midianites, meanwhile, sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and his chief steward.

1 [21-36] The chapter thus far is from the Yahwist source, as are also  Genesis 37:25-28a. But  Genesis 37:21-24 and  Genesis 37:28b-36 are from the Elohist source. In the latter, Reuben tries to rescue Joseph, who is taken in Reuben’s absence by certain Midianites; in the Yahwist source, it is Judah who saves Joseph’s life by having him sold to certain Ishmaelites. Although the two variant forms in which the story was handed down in early oral tradition differ in these minor points, they agree on the essential fact that Joseph was brought as a slave into Egypt because of the jealousy of his brothers.
2 [28] They sold Joseph . . . silver: in the Hebrew text, these words occur between out of the cistern and (they) took him to Egypt at the end of the verse.