Genesis 37 Commentary

Genesis 37 Commentary

Having given an account of Edom and his line now the Bible turns its attention to Jacob and his line. The rest of the Bible would focus on this line. The Bible begins Jacob’s account by talking about Joseph and his dreams. The LORD has been talking to Israel (Jacob) in dreams. Now the LORD begins to talk to Joseph in dreams. In the immediate context Joseph would receive honor. Israel would be honored by the nations. If you look at Joseph’s dream in the context of the history-long blessing, the dream isn’t at all strange.

May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be Lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Genesis 27:29 NIV

Look again at Isaac’s words and compare them to Joseph’s dream. No wonder the patriarch Jacob reacted in the way he reacted. Yes he rebuked Joseph but importantly he kept the thought in his mind – the patriarch knew there was more to the dream than just a boy’s wishful dreaming. After all Jacob himself had heard the LORD speak to him in dreams – actually more times than Joseph.

But because this story is a Sunday school story and often taken and understood as a standalone story, we miss this point. It is a shame. The LORD has just added technology to Isaac’s blessing of Jacob. We now have graphics – but it’s the same old, history-long Abrahamic blessing that Isaac passed on to Jacob and that now the LORD Himself repeats to Joseph in a series of dreams.)

The meaning of the dream is important but standing alone in importance is the fact that the LORD begins to speak to Joseph. There are 12 sons who collectively carry the blessing but one is representing them all (for now). So the LORD speaks and repeats the history-long blessing to one (one representing the 12). Remember what Isaac said concerning Jacob becoming “a community of peoples (28:3 NIV). So here we are with a community of 12 peoples.

Jacob had reacted by keeping the matter in his mind but the brothers’ anger would drive them further to wanting to kill Joseph. They get an opportunity when the brother is sent to them on a mission of peace. “Here comes the dreamer,” they said. Let’s kill him and see what becomes of his dreams. It does actually sound familiar. The real Joseph (SEED) would be killed by the brothers. They would say, “here is the heir, let’s kill him”. They would laugh and scorn his words. Let’s see what happens to his ‘project’ of building the temple in three days.

Three key characters can be identified here. There is Reuben the firstborn. He advises against the killing but in a weak way. You would expect him to come out strongly and say no. A simple no. We really didn’t expect much from Reuben. We know he is weak and cannot be trusted.

Then we have unnamed characters represented by the fierce two – Simeon and Levi. They have nothing to do with mercy. A wrong must be punished. You want to believe it’s the Simeon/Levi spirit behind the extreme plan to terminate another’s life because of a dream.

Then we have Judah. He is son number 4 after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. We see him as a firm leader who decides what eventually happens to Joseph. He is sold and the plan to deceive their father is hatched. Of course we all know the recipient of this deception and we can also guess why the LORD allowed this deception to cause him pain. The patriarch would live with this deception for a long time until the events descriptive of the patriarchal blessing happened.

The pain was real. The patriarch held a funeral. Interestingly even his own sons (killers) came to comfort him.

Looking ahead, Jacob’s account becomes an account of two of his sons, mainly – Joseph and Judah. The two accounts would run concurrently even long before the reign of kings in Israel. They represent the two-head front of the blessing. Firstly for fruitfulness and increase in the case of Joseph and secondly for rulership/leadership in the case of Judah.

So we can see that the same Adamic blessing of 1/28 became the Noahic blessing in 9/1. Then we have the same blessing with Abraham in 12/2. The Abrahamic blessing was passed on to Isaac and later on to Jacob. Now the LORD confirms the same to Joseph. While the 12 sons collectively carry the blessing, it is Joseph and Judah who paint for us a clearer and stronger picture of the blessing as passed on by the patriarch Jacob. But we have events and drama before the patriarch Jacob joins his fathers in death.

But bear in mind, the story of Joseph is still and remains Jacob’s account.

Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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