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Genesis 37:12-36

Context

37:12 When his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 37:13 Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers 1  are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I will send you to them.” “I’m ready,” 2  Joseph replied. 3  37:14 So Jacob 4  said to him, “Go now and check on 5  the welfare 6  of your brothers and of the flocks, and bring me word.” So Jacob 7  sent him from the valley of Hebron.

37:15 When Joseph reached Shechem, 8  a man found him wandering 9  in the field, so the man asked him, “What are you looking for?” 37:16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Please tell 10  me where they are grazing their flocks.” 37:17 The man said, “They left this area, 11  for I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

37:18 Now Joseph’s brothers 12  saw him from a distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 37:19 They said to one another, “Here comes this master of dreams! 13  37:20 Come now, let’s kill him, throw him into one of the cisterns, and then say that a wild 14  animal ate him. Then we’ll see how his dreams turn out!” 15 

37:21 When Reuben heard this, he rescued Joseph 16  from their hands, 17  saying, 18  “Let’s not take his life!” 19  37:22 Reuben continued, 20  “Don’t shed blood! Throw him into this cistern that is here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” 21  (Reuben said this 22  so he could rescue Joseph 23  from them 24  and take him back to his father.)

37:23 When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him 25  of his tunic, the special tunic that he wore. 37:24 Then they took him and threw him into the cistern. (Now the cistern was empty; 26  there was no water in it.)

37:25 When they sat down to eat their food, they looked up 27  and saw 28  a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying spices, balm, and myrrh down to Egypt. 29  37:26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 37:27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let’s not lay a hand on him, 30  for after all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 31  37:28 So when the Midianite 32  merchants passed by, Joseph’s brothers pulled 33  him 34  out of the cistern and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The Ishmaelites 35  then took Joseph to Egypt.

37:29 Later Reuben returned to the cistern to find that Joseph was not in it! 36  He tore his clothes, 37:30 returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy isn’t there! And I, where can I go?” 37:31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a young goat, 37  and dipped the tunic in the blood. 37:32 Then they brought the special tunic to their father 38  and said, “We found this. Determine now whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”

37:33 He recognized it and exclaimed, “It is my son’s tunic! A wild animal has eaten him! 39  Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 37:34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, 40  and mourned for his son many days. 37:35 All his sons and daughters stood by 41  him to console him, but he refused to be consoled. “No,” he said, “I will go to the grave mourning my son.” 42  So Joseph’s 43  father wept for him.

37:36 Now 44  in Egypt the Midianites 45  sold Joseph 46  to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. 47 

1 tn The text uses an interrogative clause: “Are not your brothers,” which means “your brothers are.”

2 sn With these words Joseph is depicted here as an obedient son who is ready to do what his father commands.

3 tn Heb “and he said, ‘Here I am.’” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged for stylistic reasons.

4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Heb “see.”

6 tn Heb “peace.”

7 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “and he [i.e., Joseph] went to Shechem.” The referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Heb “and a man found him and look, he was wandering in the field.” By the use of וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, “and look”), the narrator invites the reader to see the action through this unnamed man’s eyes.

10 tn The imperative in this sentence has more of the nuance of a request than a command.

11 tn Heb “they traveled from this place.”

12 tn Heb “and they”; the referent (Joseph’s brothers) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

13 tn Heb “Look, this master of dreams is coming.” The brothers’ words have a sarcastic note and indicate that they resent his dreams.

14 tn The Hebrew word can sometimes carry the nuance “evil,” but when used of an animal it refers to a dangerous wild animal.

15 tn Heb “what his dreams will be.”

16 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

17 sn From their hands. The instigators of this plot may have been the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah (see v. 2).

18 tn Heb “and he said.”

19 tn Heb “we must not strike him down [with respect to] life.”

20 tn Heb “and Reuben said to them.”

21 sn The verbs translated shed, throw, and lay sound alike in Hebrew; the repetition of similar sounds draws attention to Reuben’s words.

22 tn The words “Reuben said this” are not in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

23 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 tn Heb “from their hands” (cf. v. 21). This expression has been translated as “them” here for stylistic reasons.

25 tn Heb “Joseph”; the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

26 tn The disjunctive clause gives supplemental information that helps the reader or hearer to picture what happened.

27 tn Heb “lifted up their eyes.”

28 tn Heb “and they saw and look.” By the use of וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, “and look”), the narrator invites the reader to see the event through the eyes of the brothers.

29 tn Heb “and their camels were carrying spices, balm, and myrrh, going to go down to Egypt.”

30 tn Heb “let not our hand be upon him.”

31 tn Heb “listened.”

32 sn On the close relationship between Ishmaelites (v. 25) and Midianites, see Judg 8:24.

33 tn Heb “they drew and they lifted up.” The referent (Joseph’s brothers) has been specified in the translation for clarity; otherwise the reader might assume the Midianites had pulled Joseph from the cistern (but cf. NAB).

34 tn Heb “Joseph” (both here and in the following clause); the proper name has been replaced both times by the pronoun “him” in the translation for stylistic reasons.

35 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Ishmaelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

36 tn Heb “and look, Joseph was not in the cistern.” By the use of וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, “and look”), the narrator invites the reader to see the situation through Reuben’s eyes.

37 sn It was with two young goats that Jacob deceived his father (Gen 27:9); now with a young goat his sons continue the deception that dominates this family.

38 tn Heb “and they sent the special tunic and they brought [it] to their father.” The text as it stands is problematic. It sounds as if they sent the tunic on ahead and then came and brought it to their father. Some emend the second verb to a Qal form and read “and they came.” In this case, they sent the tunic on ahead.

39 sn A wild animal has eaten him. Jacob draws this conclusion on his own without his sons actually having to lie with their words (see v. 20). Dipping the tunic in the goat’s blood was the only deception needed.

40 tn Heb “and put sackcloth on his loins.”

41 tn Heb “arose, stood”; which here suggests that they stood by him in his time of grief.

42 tn Heb “and he said, ‘Indeed I will go down to my son mourning to Sheol.’” Sheol was viewed as the place where departed spirits went after death.

43 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

44 tn The disjunctive clause formally signals closure for this episode of Joseph’s story, which will be resumed in Gen 39.

45 tc The MT spells the name of the merchants as מְדָנִים (mÿdanim, “Medanites”) rather than מִדְיָנִים (midyanim, “Midianites”) as in v. 28. It is likely that the MT is corrupt at this point, with the letter yod (י) being accidentally omitted. The LXX, Vulgate, Samaritan Pentateuch, and Syriac read “Midianites” here. Some prefer to read “Medanites” both here and in v. 28, but Judg 8:24, which identifies the Midianites and Ishmaelites, favors the reading “Midianites.”

46 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

47 sn The expression captain of the guard might indicate that Potiphar was the chief executioner.



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