37:2 This is the account of Jacob.
Joseph, his seventeen-year-old son, 3 was taking care of 4 the flocks with his brothers. Now he was a youngster 5 working with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. 6 Joseph brought back a bad report about them 7 to their father.
37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons 8 because he was a son born to him late in life, 9 and he made a special 10 tunic for him. 37:4 When Joseph’s 11 brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, 12 they hated Joseph 13 and were not able to speak to him kindly. 14
37:5 Joseph 15 had a dream, 16 and when he told his brothers about it, 17 they hated him even more. 18 37:6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 19 37:7 There we were, 20 binding sheaves of grain in the middle of the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose up and stood upright and your sheaves surrounded my sheaf and bowed down 21 to it!” 37:8 Then his brothers asked him, “Do you really think you will rule over us or have dominion over us?” 22 They hated him even more 23 because of his dream and because of what he said. 24
37:9 Then he had another dream, 25 and told it to his brothers. “Look,” 26 he said. “I had another dream. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 37:10 When he told his father and his brothers, his father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream that you had? 27 Will I, your mother, and your brothers really come and bow down to you?” 28 37:11 His brothers were jealous 29 of him, but his father kept in mind what Joseph said. 30
37:12 When his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 37:13 Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers 31 are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I will send you to them.” “I’m ready,” 32 Joseph replied. 33 37:14 So Jacob 34 said to him, “Go now and check on 35 the welfare 36 of your brothers and of the flocks, and bring me word.” So Jacob 37 sent him from the valley of Hebron.
37:15 When Joseph reached Shechem, 38 a man found him wandering 39 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 40 me where they are grazing their flocks.” 37:17 The man said, “They left this area, 41 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 42 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! 43 37:20 Come now, let’s kill him, throw him into one of the cisterns, and then say that a wild 44 animal ate him. Then we’ll see how his dreams turn out!” 45
37:21 When Reuben heard this, he rescued Joseph 46 from their hands, 47 saying, 48 “Let’s not take his life!” 49 37:22 Reuben continued, 50 “Don’t shed blood! Throw him into this cistern that is here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” 51 (Reuben said this 52 so he could rescue Joseph 53 from them 54 and take him back to his father.)
37:23 When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him 55 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; 56 there was no water in it.)
37:25 When they sat down to eat their food, they looked up 57 and saw 58 a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying spices, balm, and myrrh down to Egypt. 59 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, 60 for after all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 61 37:28 So when the Midianite 62 merchants passed by, Joseph’s brothers pulled 63 him 64 out of the cistern and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The Ishmaelites 65 then took Joseph to Egypt.
37:29 Later Reuben returned to the cistern to find that Joseph was not in it! 66 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, 67 and dipped the tunic in the blood. 37:32 Then they brought the special tunic to their father 68 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! 69 Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 37:34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, 70 and mourned for his son many days. 37:35 All his sons and daughters stood by 71 him to console him, but he refused to be consoled. “No,” he said, “I will go to the grave mourning my son.” 72 So Joseph’s 73 father wept for him.
38:2 There Judah saw the daughter of a Canaanite man 81 named Shua. 82 Judah acquired her as a wife 83 and had marital relations with her. 84 38:3 She became pregnant 85 and had a son. Judah named 86 him Er. 38:4 She became pregnant again and had another son, whom she named Onan. 38:5 Then she had 87 yet another son, whom she named Shelah. She gave birth to him in Kezib. 88
38:8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Have sexual relations with 90 your brother’s wife and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her so that you may raise 91 up a descendant for your brother.” 92 38:9 But Onan knew that the child 93 would not be considered his. 94 So whenever 95 he had sexual relations with 96 his brother’s wife, he withdrew prematurely 97 so as not to give his brother a descendant. 38:10 What he did was evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord 98 killed him too.
38:11 Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up.” For he thought, 99 “I don’t want him to die like his brothers.” 100 So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.
38:12 After some time 101 Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. After Judah was consoled, he left for Timnah to visit his sheepshearers, along with 102 his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 38:13 Tamar was told, 103 “Look, your father-in-law is going up 104 to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 38:14 So she removed her widow’s clothes and covered herself with a veil. She wrapped herself and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the way to Timnah. (She did this because 105 she saw that she had not been given to Shelah as a wife, even though he had now grown up.) 106
38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute 107 because she had covered her face. 38:16 He turned aside to her along the road and said, “Come on! I want to have sex with you.” 108 (He did not realize 109 it was his daughter-in-law.) She asked, “What will you give me in exchange for having sex with you?” 110 38:17 He replied, “I’ll send you a young goat from the flock.” She asked, “Will you give me a pledge until you send it?” 111 38:18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?” She replied, “Your seal, your cord, and the staff that’s in your hand.” So he gave them to her and had sex with her. 112 She became pregnant by him. 38:19 She left immediately, 113 removed her veil, and put on her widow’s clothes.
38:20 Then Judah had his friend Hirah 114 the Adullamite take a young goat to get back from the woman the items he had given in pledge, 115 but Hirah 116 could not find her. 38:21 He asked the men who were there, 117 “Where is the cult prostitute 118 who was at Enaim by the road?” But they replied, “There has been no cult prostitute here.” 38:22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I couldn’t find her. Moreover, the men of the place said, ‘There has been no cult prostitute here.’” 38:23 Judah said, “Let her keep the things 119 for herself. Otherwise we will appear to be dishonest. 120 I did indeed send this young goat, but you couldn’t find her.”
38:24 After three months Judah was told, 121 “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has turned to prostitution, 122 and as a result she has become pregnant.” 123 Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 38:25 While they were bringing her out, she sent word 124 to her father-in-law: “I am pregnant by the man to whom these belong.” 125 Then she said, “Identify 126 the one to whom the seal, cord, and staff belong.” 38:26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more upright 127 than I am, because I wouldn’t give her to Shelah my son.” He did not have sexual relations with her 128 again.
38:27 When it was time for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb. 38:28 While she was giving birth, one child 129 put out his hand, and the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 38:29 But then he drew back his hand, and his brother came out before him. 130 She said, “How you have broken out of the womb!” 131 So he was named Perez. 132 38:30 Afterward his brother came out – the one who had the scarlet thread on his hand – and he was named Zerah. 133
39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt. 134 An Egyptian named Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard, 135 purchased him from 136 the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 39:2 The Lord was with Joseph. He was successful 137 and lived 138 in the household of his Egyptian master. 39:3 His master observed that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he was doing successful. 139 39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal attendant. 140 Potiphar appointed Joseph 141 overseer of his household and put him in charge 142 of everything he owned. 39:5 From the time 143 Potiphar 144 appointed him over his household and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed 145 the Egyptian’s household for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that he had, both 146 in his house and in his fields. 147 39:6 So Potiphar 148 left 149 everything he had in Joseph’s care; 150 he gave no thought 151 to anything except the food he ate. 152
Now Joseph was well built and good-looking. 153 39:7 Soon after these things, his master’s wife took notice of 154 Joseph and said, “Have sex with me.” 155 39:8 But he refused, saying 156 to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought 157 to his household with me here, 158 and everything that he owns he has put into my care. 159 39:9 There is no one greater in this household than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. So how could I do 160 such a great evil and sin against God?” 39:10 Even though she continued to speak 161 to Joseph day after day, he did not respond 162 to her invitation to have sex with her. 163
39:11 One day 164 he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants 165 were there in the house. 39:12 She grabbed him by his outer garment, saying, “Have sex with me!” But he left his outer garment in her hand and ran 166 outside. 167 39:13 When she saw that he had left his outer garment in her hand and had run outside, 39:14 she called for her household servants and said to them, “See, my husband brought 168 in a Hebrew man 169 to us to humiliate us. 170 He tried to have sex with me, 171 but I screamed loudly. 172 39:15 When he heard me raise 173 my voice and scream, he left his outer garment beside me and ran outside.”
39:16 So she laid his outer garment beside her until his master came home. 39:17 This is what she said to him: 174 “That Hebrew slave 175 you brought to us tried to humiliate me, 176 39:18 but when I raised my voice and screamed, he left his outer garment and ran outside.”
39:19 When his master heard his wife say, 177 “This is the way 178 your slave treated me,” 179 he became furious. 180 39:20 Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, 181 the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison. 182
39:21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness. 183 He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden. 184 39:22 The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing. 185 39:23 The warden did not concern himself 186 with anything that was in Joseph’s 187 care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful.
[37:1] 2 sn The next section begins with the heading This is the account of Jacob in Gen 37:2, so this verse actually forms part of the preceding section as a concluding contrast with Esau and his people. In contrast to all the settled and expanded population of Esau, Jacob was still moving about in the land without a permanent residence and without kings. Even if the Edomite king list was added later (as the reference to kings in Israel suggests), its placement here in contrast to Jacob and his descendants is important. Certainly the text deals with Esau before dealing with Jacob – that is the pattern. But the detail is so great in chap. 36 that the contrast cannot be missed.
[37:2] sn Some interpreters portray Joseph as a tattletale for bringing back a bad report about them [i.e., his brothers], but the entire Joseph story has some of the characteristics of wisdom literature. Joseph is presented in a good light – not because he was perfect, but because the narrative is showing how wisdom rules. In light of that, this section portrays Joseph as faithful to his father in little things, even though unpopular – and so he will eventually be given authority over greater things.
[37:3] sn The statement Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons brings forward a motif that played an important role in the family of Isaac – parental favoritism. Jacob surely knew what that had done to him and his brother Esau, and to his own family. But now he showers affection on Rachel’s son Joseph.
[37:3] 10 tn It is not clear what this tunic was like, because the meaning of the Hebrew word that describes it is uncertain. The idea that it was a coat of many colors comes from the Greek translation of the OT. An examination of cognate terms in Semitic suggests it was either a coat or tunic with long sleeves (cf. NEB, NRSV), or a tunic that was richly embroidered (cf. NIV). It set Joseph apart as the favored one.
[37:5] 17 sn Some interpreters see Joseph as gloating over his brothers, but the text simply says he told his brothers about it (i.e., the dream). The text gives no warrant for interpreting his manner as arrogant or condescending. It seems normal that he would share a dream with the family.
[37:7] 20 tn All three clauses in this dream report begin with וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, “and look”), which lends vividness to the report. This is represented in the translation by the expression “there we were.”
[37:8] 22 tn Heb “Ruling, will you rule over us, or reigning, will you reign over us?” The statement has a poetic style, with the two questions being in synonymous parallelism. Both verbs in this statement are preceded by the infinitive absolute, which lends emphasis. It is as if Joseph’s brothers said, “You don’t really think you will rule over us, do you? You don’t really think you will have dominion over us, do you?”
[37:8] 24 sn The response of Joseph’s brothers is understandable, given what has already been going on in the family. But here there is a hint of uneasiness – they hated him because of his dream and because of his words. The dream bothered them, as well as his telling them. And their words in the rhetorical question are ironic, for this is exactly what would happen. The dream was God’s way of revealing it.
[37:9] 26 tn Heb “and he said, ‘Look.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse have been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. Both clauses of the dream report begin with הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), which lends vividness to the report.
[37:10] 28 tn Heb “Coming, will we come, I and your mother and your brothers, to bow down to you to the ground?” The verb “come” is preceded by the infinitive absolute, which lends emphasis. It is as if Jacob said, “You don’t really think we will come…to bow down…do you?”
[37:11] 29 sn Joseph’s brothers were already jealous of him, but this made it even worse. Such jealousy easily leads to action, as the next episode in the story shows. Yet dreams were considered a form of revelation, and their jealousy was not only of the favoritism of their father, but of the dreams. This is why Jacob kept the matter in mind.
[37:11] 30 tn Heb “kept the word.” The referent of the Hebrew term “word” has been specified as “what Joseph said” in the translation for clarity, and the words “in mind” have been supplied for stylistic reasons.
[37:13] 33 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.
[37:15] 39 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.
[37:28] 63 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).
[37:32] 68 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.
[37:33] 69 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.
[37:36] 75 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.”
[38:3] tn Heb “and he called his name.” The referent (Judah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
[38:8] 92 sn Raise up a descendant for your brother. The purpose of this custom, called the levirate system, was to ensure that no line of the family would become extinct. The name of the deceased was to be maintained through this custom of having a child by the nearest relative. See M. Burrows, “Levirate Marriage in Israel,” JBL 59 (1940): 23-33.
[38:9] sn The text makes it clear that the purpose of the custom was to produce an heir for the deceased brother. Onan had no intention of doing that. But he would have sex with the girl as much as he wished. He was willing to use the law to gratify his desires, but was not willing to do the responsible thing.
[38:11] sn I don’t want him to die like his brothers. This clause explains that Judah had no intention of giving Shelah to Tamar for the purpose of the levirate marriage. Judah apparently knew the nature of his sons, and feared that God would be angry with the third son and kill him as well.
[38:12] 101 sn After some time. There is not enough information in the narrative to know how long this was. The text says “the days increased.” It was long enough for Shelah to mature and for Tamar to realize she would not have him.
[38:14] 105 tn The Hebrew text simply has “because,” connecting this sentence to what precedes. For stylistic reasons the words “she did this” are supplied in the translation and a new sentence begun.
[38:21] 118 sn The Hebrew noun translated “cult prostitute” is derived from a verb meaning “to be set apart; to be distinct.” Thus the term refers to a woman who did not marry, but was dedicated to temple service as a cult prostitute. The masculine form of this noun is used for male cult prostitutes. Judah thought he had gone to an ordinary prostitute (v. 15); but Hirah went looking for a cult prostitute, perhaps because it had been a sheep-shearing festival. For further discussion see E. M. Yamauchi, “Cultic Prostitution,” Orient and Occident (AOAT), 213-23.
[38:26] sn She is more upright than I. Judah had been irresponsible and unfaithful to his duty to see that the family line continued through the levirate marriage of his son Shelah. Tamar fought for her right to be the mother of Judah’s line. When she was not given Shelah and Judah’s wife died, she took action on her own to ensure that the line did not die out. Though deceptive, it was a desperate and courageous act. For Tamar it was within her rights; she did nothing that the law did not entitle her to do. But for Judah it was wrong because he thought he was going to a prostitute. See also Susan Niditch, “The Wronged Woman Righted: An Analysis of Genesis 38,” HTR 72 (1979): 143-48.
[38:29] 130 tn Heb “Look, his brother came out.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through the midwife’s eyes. The words “before him” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
[38:29] 131 tn Heb “How you have made a breach for yourself!” The Hebrew verb translated “make a breach” frequently occurs, as here, with a cognate accusative. The event provided the meaningful name Perez, “he who breaks through.”
[38:29] 132 sn The name Perez means “he who breaks through,” referring to Perez reaching out his hand at birth before his brother was born. The naming signified the completion of Tamar’s struggle and also depicted the destiny of the tribe of Perez who later became dominant (Gen 46:12 and Num 26:20). Judah and his brothers had sold Joseph into slavery, thinking they could thwart God’s plan that the elder brothers should serve the younger. God demonstrated that principle through these births in Judah’s own family, affirming that the elder will serve the younger, and that Joseph’s leadership could not so easily be set aside. See J. Goldin, “The Youngest Son; or, Where Does Genesis 38 Belong?” JBL 96 (1977): 27-44.
[38:30] 133 sn Perhaps the child was named Zerah because of the scarlet thread. Though the Hebrew word used for “scarlet thread” in v. 28 is not related to the name Zerah, there is a related root in Babylonian and western Aramaic that means “scarlet” or “scarlet thread.” In Hebrew the name appears to be derived from a root meaning “to shine.” The name could have originally meant something like “shining one” or “God has shined.” Zerah became the head of a tribe (Num 26:20) from whom Achan descended (Josh 7:1).
[39:1] 134 tn The disjunctive clause resumes the earlier narrative pertaining to Joseph by recapitulating the event described in 37:36. The perfect verbal form is given a past perfect translation to restore the sequence of the narrative for the reader.
[39:4] 140 sn The Hebrew verb translated became his personal attendant refers to higher domestic service, usually along the lines of a personal attendant. Here Joseph is made the household steward, a position well-attested in Egyptian literature.
[39:5] 145 sn The Hebrew word translated blessed carries the idea of enrichment, prosperity, success. It is the way believers describe success at the hand of God. The text illustrates the promise made to Abraham that whoever blesses his descendants will be blessed (Gen 12:1-3).
[39:5] 147 sn The passage gives us a good picture of Joseph as a young man who was responsible and faithful, both to his master and to his God. This happened within a very short time of his being sold into Egypt. It undermines the view that Joseph was a liar, a tattletale, and an arrogant adolescent.
[39:6] 149 sn The Hebrew verb translated left indicates he relinquished the care of it to Joseph. This is stronger than what was said earlier. Apparently Potiphar had come to trust Joseph so much that he knew it was in better care with Joseph than with anyone else.
[39:7] sn The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife has long been connected with the wisdom warnings about the strange woman who tries to seduce the young man with her boldness and directness (see Prov 5-7, especially 7:6-27). This is part of the literary background of the story of Joseph that gives it a wisdom flavor. See G. von Rad, God at Work in Israel, 19-35; and G. W. Coats, “The Joseph Story and Ancient Wisdom: A Reappraisal,” CBQ 35 (1973): 285-97.
[39:14] 168 tn The verb has no expressed subject, and so it could be treated as a passive (“a Hebrew man was brought in”; cf. NIV). But it is clear from the context that her husband brought Joseph into the household, so Potiphar is the apparent referent here. Thus the translation supplies “my husband” as the referent of the unspecified pronominal subject of the verb (cf. NEB, NRSV).
[39:14] 170 tn Heb “to make fun of us.” The verb translated “to humiliate us” here means to hold something up for ridicule, or to toy with something harmfully. Attempted rape would be such an activity, for it would hold the victim in contempt.
[39:17] 176 tn Heb “came to me to make fun of me.” The statement needs no explanation because of the connotations of “came to me” and “to make fun of me.” See the note on the expression “humiliate us” in v. 14.
[39:20] 182 sn The story of Joseph is filled with cycles and repetition: He has two dreams (chap. 37), he interprets two dreams in prison (chap. 40) and the two dreams of Pharaoh (chap. 41), his brothers make two trips to see him (chaps. 42-43), and here, for the second time (see 37:24), he is imprisoned for no good reason, with only his coat being used as evidence. For further discussion see H. Jacobsen, “A Legal Note on Potiphar’s Wife,” HTR 69 (1976): 177.