Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Ordinary A37


JacobA settledB in the land where his father had lived as an alien,C the land of Canaan.D This is the story of the familyE of Jacob.

Notes on verses 1-2a

A “Jacob” = yaakob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.
B “settled” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
C “lived as an alien” = magor. From gur (properly, the act of turning off the road for any reason; sojourning, becoming a guest; can mean being fearful since one is outside of home territory; also dwelling, living, or inhabiting if one has turned off the root to encamp for a longer duration). This is a dwelling place, a temporary lodging. It can also mean to be fearful as one might be in a strange place.
D “Canaan” = kna’an. From kana’ (to be humble, subdue; properly, bend the knee). This is Canaan, his descendants, and the land where they settled. This could mean lowlands, describing their land or subjugated in reference to being conquered by Egypt. See
E “family” = toledoth. From yalad (to bear, bring forth; can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage). This is generations descent, family, or history.

Joseph,F being seventeen years old, was shepherdingG the flockH with his brothers;

Notes on verse 2b

F “Joseph” = Yoseph. From yasaph (to add, increase, continue, exceed). This is Joseph, meaning “he increases” or “let him add.”
G “shepherding” = ra’ah. This is to tend a flock, pasture, or graze. It can mean to rule or to associate with someone. Figuratively, it can be ruler or teacher.
H “flock” = tson. This is a flock of sheep and goats.

he was a helperI to the sons of BilhahJ and Zilpah,K his father’s wives;L and Joseph brought a badM reportN of them to their father. 

Notes on verse 2c

I “helper” = na’ar. May be from na’ar (to shake, toss up and down, tumble around). This is a child or a servant. It is a child in their active years so they could be aged anywhere from infancy to adolescence.
J “Bilhah” = Bilhah. From balahh (to be frightened, palpitate). This is Bilhah, meaning timid.
K “Zilpah” = zilpah. 7x in OT. Perhaps from zalaph (drip, sprinkle, pour – as fragrance or myrrh does). This is Zilpah, meaning “drop” or “sprinkle.” See
L “wives” = ishshah. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is woman, wife, or female.
M “bad” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
N “report” = dibbah. 9x in OT. From dabab (to glide, flow gently, speak, move slowly). This is whispering, slander, bad report, defaming.

Now IsraelO loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age;P and he had made him a long robeQ with sleeves.R But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hatedS him, and could not speakT peaceablyU to him.

Notes on verses 3-4

O “Israel” = yisrael. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god). This is God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.
P “old age” = zaqun. 4x in OT – all in Genesis. From zaqen (to be old, grow old, old man); from the same as zaqan (beard or chin – the beard represents old age). This is old age.
Q “robe” = kethoneth. Root may mean to cover. This is a tunic, coat, or other kind of garment.
R “with sleeves” = pas. 5x in OT – of Joseph’s coat and of Tamar’s robe in 2 Samuel 13:18-19. Perhaps from pasas (to disappear, disperse); from pas (palm of the hand). This is the palm of the hand or flat of the foot. It can be used to describe a robe that is long that has sleeves or maybe an especially wide one. Sometimes this has been translated as having many colors.
S “hated” = sane. This is an enemy or foe. It is one that is hated with a personal hatred.
T “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
U “peaceably” = shalom. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).

12 Now his brothers went to pastureV their father’s flock near Shechem.W 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.”

He answered, “Here I am.”X 

Notes on verses 12-13

V “pasture” = ra’ah. Same as “shepherding” in v2. See note G above.
W “Shechem” = shekem. From the same as shekem (shoulder, neck, or some other place that bears burdens; figuratively, the spur of a hill, or one’s allotted portion); from shakam (to rise early, begin work early; properly, this is leaning one’s shoulder or back into a load or a burden; also, loading an animal for work). This is Shechem, meaning “ridge.”
X “here I am” = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!

14 So he said to him, “Go now,Y see if it is wellZ with your brothers and with the flock; and bring wordAA backBB to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.CC

Notes on verse 14a

Y “now” = na. This particle is used for requests or for urging. It can be we pray, now, I ask you, oh. This is the same “na” in “hosanna.”
Z “it is well” = shalom. Same as “peaceably” in v4. See note U above.
AA “word” = dabar. Related to “speak” in v4. From dabar (see note T above). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
BB “bring…back” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
CC “Hebron” = chebron. From cheber (company, society, enchantment, wide); from chabar (to unite, ally, attach, touch; to join in a literal or figurative sense; also, specially, using magic knots or spells to fascinate or connect). This is Hebron, meaning “seat of association” or “league.”

He came to Shechem, 15 and a manDD foundEE himFF wanderingGG in the fields; the man askedHH him, “What are you seeking?”II 

Notes on verses 14b-15

DD “man” = enosh. Perhaps related to “wives” in v2. See note L above.
EE “found” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.
FF {untranslated} = hinneh. Same as “here I am” in v13. See note X above.
GG “wandering” = taah. This is to wander, deceive, seduce, vacillate. It is to stray in a literal or figurative sense.
HH “asked” = shaal. This is to ask, inquire, beg, borrow, desire, request. It can also mean to demand.
II “seeking” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.

16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tellJJ me, please,KK where they are pasturing the flock.” 

17 The manLL said, “They have gone away,MM for I heardNN them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’”OO

Notes on verses 16-17a

JJ “tell” = nagad. This is to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain.
KK “please” = na. Same as “now” in v14. See note Y above.
LL “man” = ish. Related to “wives” in v2 & “man” in v15. See note L above.
MM “gone away” = nasa. This is properly pulling up as when one pulls up tent pegs or stakes. This would imply striking tents in order to start a journey. So this could be bring, pullout, set out, journey, or cause to go away.
NN “heard” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
OO “Dothan” = Dothan. 3x in OT. Perhaps from Aramaic. This is Dothan, north of Samaria, meaning “decree” or “well.”

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came nearPP to them, they conspiredQQ to kill him. 19 They said to one another,RR “Here comes thisSS dreamer.TT 

Notes on verses 17b-19

PP “came near” = qarab. This is to come near, offer, make ready, approach, take.
QQ “conspired” = nakal. 4x in OT. This is to deceive, defraud, be crafty or treacherous. It can also mean to conspire.
RR “to one another” = ish + el + ach. Literally “a man to his brother.”
SS {untranslated} = baal. From baal (to marry, have dominion, be master). This is lord, owner, ally, or archer.
TT “dreamer” = chalom. From chalam (properly, to bind solidly and so to be plump; to be healthy or strong, to recover; figuratively, to dream). This is a dream or dreamer.

20 Come now, let us killUU him and throwVV him into one of the pits;WW then we shall say that a wildXX animalYY has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 

Notes on verse 20

UU “let us kill” = harag. This is to strike with deadly intent so it can be kill, destroy, murder, or put to death.
VV “throw” = shalak. This is to throw, fling, or hurl. It can also be to throw away in a literal or figurative sense.
WW “pits” = bor. From bur (to bore; figuratively, to explain, examine, or clear up). This is a pit – generally a cistern or dungeon. It could also be a well or fountain.
XX “wild” = ra’. Same as “bad” in v2. See note above.
YY “animal” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.

21 But when ReubenZZ heard it, he deliveredAAA him out of their hands,BBB saying, “Let us not takeCCC his life.”DDD 

Notes on verse 21

ZZ “Reuben” = reuben. From raah (to see, show, stare, think, view; to see in a literal or figurative sense) + ben (son, age, child; son in a literal or figurative sense). This is Reuben, meaning “behold a son.”
AAA “delivered” = natsal. This is to snatch someone or something away in a good sense – as rescue, defend, or deliver – or in a bad sense – as strip or plunder.
BBB “hands” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
CCC “take” = nakah. This is to hit whether lightly or severely. It can be used in a literal or figurative sense. So, this could be beat, punish, give wounds, kill, or slaughter.
DDD “life” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.

22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood;EEE throw him into this pit here in the wilderness,FFF but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescueGGG him out of their hand and restoreHHH him to his father. 

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they strippedIII him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty;JJJ there was no water in it.

Notes on verses 22-24

EEE “blood” = dam. Perhaps from damam (to cease, be or become mute, silent, still, cut off, hold peace, be astonished, die). This is blood, bloodshed, bloodguilt, lifeblood, and death. It is used for people and animals. More often blood from a wound or the blood of the innocent. Used figuratively for violence or for wine. Closely tied to life and death.
FFF “wilderness” = midbar. Related to “speak” in v4 & “word” in v14. From dabar (see note T above). This is mouth or speech. It can also be desert or wilderness. Additionally, it can be used for a pasture to which one drives cattle.
GGG “rescue” = natsal. Same as “delivered” in v21. See note AAA above.
HHH “restore” = shub. Same as “bring…back” shin v14. See note B above.
III “stripped” = pashat. This is to raid or invade. Figuratively, it means to strip or plunder.
JJJ “empty” = req. 14x in OT. From riq (to be empty or to make empty; also vanity, emptiness, something worthless, in vain); from ruq (to pour out in a literal or figurative sense, hence, to be or make empty). This is empty, vain, or worthless.

25 Then they sat downKKK to eat;LLL and looking upMMM they sawNNN a caravanOOO of IshmaelitesPPP coming from Gilead,QQQ

Notes on verse 25a

KKK “sat down” = yashab. Same as “settled” in v1. See note B above.
LLL {untranslated} = lechem. From lacham (to eat, feed on). This is bread, food, loaf. It can refer to food more generally for people or for animals.
MMM “looking up” = nasa + ayin. Literally “lifting their eyes.”
NNN {untranslated} = hinneh. Same as “here I am” in v13. See note X above.
OOO “caravan” = orechah. 2x in OT. From arach (to go, travel, wander). This is a caravan or other company that travels together.
PPP “Ishmaelites” = yishmeeli. Related to “heard” in v17. 8x in OT. From yishmael (Ishmael, meaning “God hears” or “God will hear”); {from shama (see note NN above) + el (God, a god)}. This is Ishmaelite or one descended from Ishmael.
QQQ “Gilead” = gilad. From gala (to lay bare, quarrel, expose) OR from gal’ed (heap of testimony); {from gal (wave, billow, rock pile; something rolled; a spring of water); {from galal (to roll, roll away, wallow, commit, remove; rolling in a literal or figurative sense)} + ed (witness, testimony, recorder); from ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve)}}. This is Gilead, meaning “perpetual fountain” or “heap of testimony.” See

with their camelsRRR carrying gum,SSS balm,TTT and resin,UUU on their way to carry it down to Egypt.VVV 

Notes on verse 25b

RRR “camels” = gamal. From gamal (how one deals with someone whether positively or negatively – so to reward, requite; to wean or the work that goes into something ripening). This is a camel as an animal of labor or one that bears burdens. The English word “camel” is from a Semitic source, perhaps Hebrew or others.
SSS “gum” = nekoth. 2x in OT. From naka (to smite, drive away) OR from nake (smitten, stricken, wounded). This is a natural, aromatic gum or spice. It might be tragacanth gum. See
TTT “balm” = tsori. 6x in OT – this is the balm in Gilead in Jeremiah 8:22. Root might be to crack as under pressure, to leak. This is gum from the balsam tree – perhaps commiphora gileadensis. See &
UUU “resin” = lot. 2x in OT. This is a gum or resin – probably labdanum or myrrh. See & All three products are also found in Genesis 43 when Israel sends gifts back with Benjamin to Joseph.
VVV “Egypt” = mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.

26 Then JudahWWW said to his brothers, “What profitXXX is it if we killYYY our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sellZZZ him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”AAAA And his brothers agreed. BBBB 

Notes on verses 26-27

WWW “Judah” = yehudah. Probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Judah, meaning “praised.”
XXX “profit” = betsa. From batsa (to break or cut off, to acquire violently, break ranks, greedy, fulfill; usually, it means to plunder). This is dishonest gain or gain from violence. It can also be plunder or profit.
YYY “kill” = harag. Same as “let us kill” in v20. See note UU above.
ZZZ “sell” = makar. This is to sell – could be commerce/trade, a daughter to be married, someone into slavery. Figuratively, it can mean to surrender.
AAAA “flesh” = basar. From basar (being a messenger, publish, carry preach; properly, this is being fresh, rosy or cheerful as one bearing news). This is flesh, the body, fat, skin, self, nakedness, humankind, or kin. It can also refer to private parts.
BBBB “agreed” = shama. Same as “heard” in v17. See note NN above.

28 When some MidianiteCCCC tradersDDDD passed by,EEEE they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.FFFF And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Notes on verse 28

CCCC “Midianite” = midyani. 8x in OT. From midyan (Midian, Midianite, meaning “strife” or “place of judgment”); from the same as midyan (brawling, contention); from the same as madon (strife, contention, brawling); from din (to judge, defend, dispute, govern, strive). This is Midianite.
DDDD “traders” = sachar. To travel, go around. So, it is to travel like a peddler, to trade, to be a merchant. It can also mean to palpitate.
EEEE “passed by” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
FFFF “silver” = keseph. From kasaph (to long for, be greedy; to become pale). This is silver or money.

Image credit: “Story of Joseph” by John August Swanson, 2005.

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