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Genesis 36:1-8 and Genesis 37

Esau and his family settled in Seir while Jacob remained in Canaan. Joseph shared his dreams with his family and so his brothers sold him into slavery.

This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan. Genesis 36:1-5

Esau was the first born son of Isaac and the fraternal twin of Jacob. His name means hairy. Esau was also known as Edom which means red. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentil stew. Esau, who despised his birthright, was carnal, rebellious and a self-centered man. Although his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac were descendents of the blessed line of Shem, Esau intentionally married idolatrous Canaanite women knowing that it displeased his parents. Esau also married the daughter of Ishmael who was prophesied to be a wild donkey of a man who would live in hostility toward all his brothers (Genesis 16:12).

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir. Genesis 36:6-8

Jacob descendants were destined to dwell in the Promised Land – a land of milk and honey – where they would raise livestock, work the fields and tend vineyards. While the Edomites lived in a region where land suitable for farming was scarce and depended upon the caravan trade to earn a living.

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:10-13

Paul quotes from Malachi 1:3 where the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Hundreds of years after Jacob and Esau had died, the Israelites and Edomites became bitter enemies. The Edomites often aided Israel’s enemies in attacks on Israel. Esau’s descendants brought God’s curse upon themselves.

God chose Jacob (whom He later renamed “Israel”) to be the father of His chosen people, the Israelites. God loved Jacob. God rejected Esau. It is my understanding that in God’s foreknowledge and sovereign will that the LORD foreknew that Esau would despise his birthright and choose to follow the gods of the Canaanites, and that is why God hated Esau and his descendents the Edomites.

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

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. Genesis 37:1-2

Joseph was the first born of Jacob’s favored wife, Rachel. Joseph was shepherding the flocks with Dan and Naphtali, the sons of Bilhah; and Gad and Asher, the sons of Zilpah. Jacob may have decided that Joseph should work alongside these half-brothers, rather than with the sons of Leah, because they were closer in age to Joseph. Since Joseph’s mother Rachel had died, perhaps Jacob also believed Rachel’s handmaiden Bilhah and her sons would have the most respect for Joseph.

As we will read later on in this chapter, it was customary for Jacob to send Joseph out to see how his brothers and the flocks were doing and report back to him. In this instance, Joseph brought his father a bad report about his brothers. The text doesn’t say that Joseph made up a story but was presenting a factual account to his father. We have no record of what that bad report contained or Joseph’s motivation for sharing it with his father. In any case, his actions at the least would have displeased his brothers.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Genesis 37:3-4

Joseph was the long awaited son of Rachel, the wife that Jacob loved. Joseph was the son born to Jacob in his old age. Israel loved Jacob more than any of his other sons. The robe he made for Joseph was either, very long-sleeved and extending to the feet, or a richly-ornamented tunic either of special color design or gold threading. In either case, this ornate robe was not suitable for a working man but for nobility. Joseph was envied by his brothers, who saw the special coat as an indication that Jacob chose Joseph to assume family leadership.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Genesis 37:5-8

Joseph’s brothers immediately understood the symbolism of Joseph’s dream. As the bothers’ sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf, one day in similar fashion, Joseph’s brothers would bow down to Joseph. His brothers, whose jealously had already provoked them to anger, were even more enraged because they assumed that it was Joseph’s desire to reign over them. But ruling over his brothers wasn’t something that Joseph dreamt up. This was a prophetic dream given to Joseph by God.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:11

Joseph is a type of Christ. Just as Jesus, “the King of the Jews” came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24) and was rejected by his own people, so do Joseph’s brothers, the sons of Israel,   hatefully reject the concept of Joseph ruling over them.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37:9-11

Joseph’s brothers also understood the symbolic significance of Joseph’s second dream. But this time Joseph shared his dream with Jacob as well as his brothers because his mother and father were represented in his second dream. Although his father rebuked Joseph, these dreams drove his brothers to jealousy and his father to serious contemplation.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. Revelation 12:1

A theologian’s method of interpretation (hermeneutical style), is often biased by his or her religious traditions. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, the woman clothed with the sun has been identified as Mary, the mother of Jesus. Roman Catholics esteem Mary and she has been given the title, The Queen of Heaven. Since Mary is not identified in an exalted position (or even mentioned), in any other passage of Scripture where heaven is described, Catholics use this passage as a proof text to support their doctrine. But their doctrine, which is based upon human tradition, does not line up with God’s Holy Word.

Reformed theologians (Covenant theologians), on the other hand, view the woman of Revelation 12 as symbolically representing the universal Christian church. The Reformed position holds to the doctrine that God has finished with Israel as a nation. According to their viewpoint, any reference in the New Testament that refers to Israel is automatically interpreted to symbolize the church.

After having delivered Joseph’s brother Benjamin, Joseph’s mother Rachel died in childbirth. Rachel was survived by her sister Leah, who Jacob married only because he was duped by their father Laban. It is clear that in the interpretation of Joseph’s second dream that the sun represented his father, the moon his mother (his step-mother Leah) and the eleven stars represented his eleven brothers (ten half-brothers and younger brother Benjamin). In chapter twelve of the Book of Revelation the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars (Joseph and his eleven brothers), according to the biblical interpretation already stated in Scripture corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman of Revelation chapter twelve neither symbolizes Mary nor the church, but represents the nation of Israel.

Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. Genesis 37:12-14a

After Dinah’s rape, Simeon and Levi took vengeance upon the Shechemites and God commanded Jacob to leave Shechem and go to Bethel. In preparation to offer up sacrifices to Yehovah in Bethel, Jacob’s household had to purify themselves and they were told to get rid of the foreign gods in their possession.

So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Genesis 35:4

Jacob may have been concerned that his other sons had gone off to graze his flocks near Shechem as a pretext to dig up the earrings and the idols that were covered in silver or gold.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. Genesis 37: 14b-17

“Dothan” means two wells. According to the Bible Encyclopedia:

It was the residence of Elisha (2 Kings 6:13), and the scene of a remarkable vision of chariots and horses of fire surrounding the mountain on which the city stood. It is identified with the modern Tell-Dothan, on the south side of the plain of Jezreel, about 12 miles north of Samaria, among the hills of Gilboa. The “two wells” are still in existence, one of which bears the name of the “pit of Joseph.”

But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other, “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” Genesis 37:18-20

Again we see a remarkable parallel between Joseph’s life and events in the life of Jesus.

and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. Matthew 26:4

So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over. Matthew 27:17-18

Josephs’ brothers provoked by jealousy plotted together to kill him as would the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people plot together to kill Jesus.

When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said.  “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. Genesis 37:21-24

Reuben was the eldest son and therefore probably regarded himself as responsible for Joseph’s safety. He intended to return Joseph back to their father unharmed.

As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Genesis 37:25

There would be a similar caravan of camels headed to Bethlehem 1700 years later carrying gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the newborn king.

Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. Genesis 37:26-28

Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian hand maiden. After Sarah died, Midian was a son of Abraham by his concubine Keturah.

Joseph was sold into slavery for twenty shekels of silver. He would be taken to Egypt which represents the idolatrous, sinful world.

and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. Matthew 26:15

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Jesus was betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver and would lay down His life for the sins of the world. The Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and the celebration of the Passover would symbolize our blood bought redemption by the Lamb of God.

When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes.  He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” Genesis 27:29-30

Reuben was truly shocked and distressed when he saw that Joseph was missing. Reuben was desperate, and in essence asked his brothers, “How can I account for his disappearance?”

Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. Genesis 37:31

Reuben’s brothers did not answer his question verbally but by their actions.

They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.” Genesis 37:32-33

The ornate robe that provoked Joseph’s brothers to jealousy, now served to deceive Jacob into believing that Joseph was dead, having been torn apart and devoured by a wild animal. Jacob who had deceived his father Isaac was deceived by his own sons. Jacob’s obvious partiality to both Rachel and her son Joseph, served to tear apart and devour his family.

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him. Genesis 37:34-35

Even in his grief, he showed his other sons and daughters that they mattered little to him compared to his feelings for Joseph. Jacob wept and refused to be comforted.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

This quote in Matthew is taken from Jeremiah 31:15. Rachel was the ancestress of the three tribes, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. In spite of Jeremiah’s reassurance of the restoration of banished Israel, figuratively speaking, Rachel wept and refused to be comforted. This prophecy was said to have reached its fulfillment when, seeking to destroy the Christ child, Herod killed all the male children, not only in Bethlehem, but in all the surrounding villages.

 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. Genesis 37:36

This last verse in Genesis 37 is very significant because Joseph’s servitude to Potiphar will eventually provide Joseph access to the most powerful man in the world as Joseph journeys from the pit to the palace.

According to rabbinic understanding, there are two very distinct lines of prophecy in the Scriptures concerning the Messiah. One line portrays him as a humble suffering-savior. The other line of prophecy depicts him as a conquering king-redeemer.

Talmudic’ and other Jewish sources claim that there would be two Messiahs. The first Messiah would suffer and be humbled as did Jacob’s son Joseph. He is known as Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah the son of Joseph).

He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:3

The second would rule and be exalted as was King David. He is known as Mashiach ben Dovid (Messiah the son of David).

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

The common Jewish belief is that the essential task of Mashiach ben Yosef is to act as precursor to Mashiach ben Dovid. The first Messiah will prepare the world for the coming of the final redeemer.

We, who are born-again and have had the eyes of our understanding opened, know that we are not awaiting two Messiahs that will serve in two different capacities. Instead, Jesus the Messiah fulfilled the role of the suffering servant Messiah when he came lowly riding on the colt of a donkey into Jerusalem to suffer, pour out His blood, and die for the sins of the world. We await His return with great anticipation when Jesus will ride on a white horse to rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.