Richard Agee

Genesis 37: Yosef gets two dreams, a royal coat, sold into slavery

Richard AgeeThis account of Yosef’s dreams and being sold by his brothers into slavery in Mitsraim (Egypt) is the foundation for the teaching through the rest of Genesis and even the Torah. The life of Yeshua the Messiah on Earth paralleled that of Yosef (Joseph).

Favoritism was deadly for Yosef and for the Messiah (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:21–22; 2nd Pet. 1:17–18). Yosef suffered the wrath of his jealous brothers by being sold into slavery in Mitsraim, yet through that would become a savior for his family, including the brothers who betrayed him.

 The ultimate fulfillment of that example: the Son of God faced the deadly wrath of God against the destructive rebellion of mankind, “hitting the reset button” for humanity through the God’s mercy.

The chapter starts with Yosef, who was 17 years old, bringing back an “evil report” about the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah (Gen. 37:2). The English translation as evil is not reflective of what the Hebrew actually says about this. It would be more accurate to translate the Hebrew word רַע ra (Strong’s lexicon No. H7451) as a bad report, as you find in the New American Standard Bible or as a “grievous censure” in the latest English translation of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, ca. 300–100 B.C.). It was a disappointing report.

Ex. 33:4 is another example of the word ra:

“When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments.”

Some translations also translate this as an “evil word.” Are God’s words evil? 

Isa. 7:15-16 speaks of the Messiah Himself prophetically using the word ra:

“He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

This word is not evil (רָשָׁע rasha, H7563, “wicked,” “criminal”), but bad

Now, let’s go back to Yosef. The next verse tells us that Israel loved Yosef because he was the son of his old age. The word describing this cloak is פַּס pas (H6446), meaning “flat of the hand or foot,” i.e., the coat reached to the palm and sole (cf. 2nd Sam. 13:18-19).

Yosef was not the only person who had a special robe. The importance of this robe was not its color or a variety of colors but that the sleeves were long enough to cover the arms to the hands and the legs all the way to the feet. This robe was something Israel did not give to the other sons. 

After this, the brothers would not speak with him and if they did speak to him, it was not on friendly or peaceable terms.  

Then we are told about a dream Yosef had where they were all gathering sheaves and the sheaves of the brothers bowed to his sheaf. The response of the brothers tell us that they knew, even before Yosef did, what the dream meant. They respond to him and ask, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” They resented him even more. Not only does his dad love him most but now he has been given dreams, too. 

The next dream was about the sun, moon and stars praising him. This theme comes up again in Revelation, where the woman who was standing on the moon with a crown of stars has a child, who was taken away (Rev. 12:1–6). 

The first dream will become plain eventually, but this second dream never is explained, at least not in the lifetime of Ya’akov (Jacob) and Yosef. Ya’akov rebukes Yosef and asks, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” At this time, Rachel was dead so this shows us that Ya’akov didn’t understand the dream because Ya’akov “closely watched” the matter. Ya’akov didn’t understand how Yosef’s dreams would come to pass but had faith that it these dreams would come to pass somehow, some day.  

What is a dream? In Hebrew, the word is חֲלוֹם khalom (H2472), meaning “to bind firmly,” or “to make happen.” Yosef did not make these dreams come true, God did. Ya’akov, when he had his dream on the rock, Ya’akov did not fulfill that dream either, God did. 

This was something God was going to do, not what Yosef was going to do. Yosef later tells the Pharaoh that God gives dreams, not men. 

We don’t know how many weeks passed between these dreams ending in Gen. 37:11-12, but we read that Israel sends Yosef to check on the brothers who were the sons of Leah and bring back a report. The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah remained near Hebron with Ya’akov. Yosef came from Hebron and headed to Shechem to find his brothers. 

At this point “a man” comes along finding Yosef wandering around trying to find his brothers. The Hebrew gives no clues on the identity of his man. Not everyone in the Bible is important. 

Yosef’s job was to go give a report and he would not be able to give his father a report if he couldn’t’ find his brothers. The man Yosef met knew the brothers had departed from Shechem and went towards Dothan, which later is Elisha’s hometown (2nd Kings 6:13). If the man had not told Yosef where the brothers had gone, Yosef, most likely, would have returned home, but this is not what God had in mind. 

When Yosef was still aways off, the brothers see him and decide to kill him but two of the elder brothers had different ideas about what to do instead: Reuben wanted to save Yosef and return him to their father. Yehudah (Judah) wanted to sell him off to slave-traders. Reuben was about 37-38 years old at this time. Reuben although he publicly said that they should not do any harm to Yosef, he did not have enough boldness to take charge and stop the conversation. He left Yosef in the pit and planned to sneak back and return him. Yehudah, on the other hand, was very vocal and public about his idea to sell him and the majority of the brothers agreed with this. 

Initially they were going to sell him off to some Ishmaelites but they didn’t keep Yosef, and it was the Midianites who sold him in Mitsraim. It’s fitting that a descendant of Yosef, Moshe (Moses), would find refuge later in Midian and become a son-in-law of Yitro (Jethro), a “high priest” of that region.

When Reuben came later and realized Yosef was gone, he was very upset. He was terrified because he was the one who had to give a report to his father. He didn’t know how he was going to find Yosef and return him. So they conspired to make Ya’akov (and the rest of the family who remained in Hebron) believe that Yosef was dead. The chapter ends with the Midianites selling Yosef to Potiphar, the royal bodyguard in Mitsraim. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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