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Genesis 37:29-36

  1. .
    Gen 37:29-30 . .When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he rent his clothes. Returning to his brothers, he said: The boy is gone! Now, what am I to do?

    Precisely where, and why, Reuben wasn't present when his brothers sold Joseph isn't stated.

    Reuben wasn't privy to his brothers' scheme to sell Joseph so he innocently "informs" them of their kid brother's disappearance. Imagine his dismay to discover that they, of all people, sold their own blood kin into slavery! How in blazes is he supposed to explain that to his dad!?!

    Reuben is so disturbed that he can't think straight; so his brothers, in their characteristic cold, calculating way, devise yet another nefarious scheme. They will stain Joseph's ornamental garment with blood and let their dad draw his own conclusions about it.

    Gen 37:31-32 . .Then they took Joseph's tunic, slaughtered a kid, and dipped the tunic in the blood. They had the ornamented tunic taken to their father, and they said: We found this. Please examine it; is it your son's tunic or not?

    So without any explanation, nor details of the circumstances leading up to Joseph's disappearance, they let Jacob jump to his own conclusion. That is a very, very common, and very, very human way of perpetrating a lie.

    Gen 37:33-34 . . He recognized it, and said: My son's tunic! A savage beast devoured him! Joseph was torn by a beast! Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

    This is the very first mention of sackcloth in the Bible. It's a rough, coarse material like burlap commonly used for packaging grain in bags. Though an inexpensive fabric, it's prickly and chafes the skin so it's not really suitable for undergarments. Exactly where Jacob got the idea to abuse himself like that is unknown; but it's common in the Old Testament: mostly donned as an outer garment rather than under.

    If Joseph was "torn" then why was his tunic still in one piece? It's not uncommon for carnivorous beasts like grizzly bears to devour a portion of people's clothing right along with their flesh.

    Well . . poor Jacob is so overcome with grief over the loss of his favorite son that his logic chip just simply overheated and crashed. People who are gravely upset sometimes have trouble finding their car keys even if they're right inside their own pants pocket.

    Gen 37:35a . . All his sons and daughters sought to comfort him

    "sons and daughters" is somewhat ambiguous and can indicate not just Jacob's progeny, but every man, woman, and child in the whole family regardless of age with himself the paterfamilias of the whole bunch.

    Gen 37:35b . . but he refused to be comforted, saying: No, I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.

    The Hebrew word translated "grave" is sheol (sheh-ole') and this is its first appearance in the Bible.

    Sheol is sometimes translated grave, sometimes hell, sometimes netherworld (a.k.a. the world of the dead; viz: the afterlife) and sometimes not translated at all but left as-is in Hebrew; presumably to avoid controversy.

    The New Testament equivalent of sheol is haides (hah'-dace) which is an afterlife place where all the dead go, both the good dead and the bad dead, and the young and the old regardless of age, race, religion, and/or gender.

    Gen 37:35c . .Thus his father bewailed him.

    Sometimes it's really best to leave people alone and let them grieve through their loss. Many a well-meaning "comforter" has only succeeded in making matters worse by attempting to talk friends out of their grief with good-intentioned, but nevertheless; tiresome philosophical platitudes.

    And people who stifle their grief are only forestalling the inevitable. One day, possibly when they least expect it, and quite possibly inconveniently, it will catch up to them.

    Gen 37:36 . .The Midianites, meanwhile, sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh, and his chief steward.

    Although slavery normally isn't regarded a blessing, in this case Joseph couldn't have been sold into a better situation. Potiphar was well-connected instead of just another plantation owner who would work Joseph to the bone; undernourished, inadequately housed, and poorly clothed.

    Courtiers were typically royalty's personal assistants and performed a variety of duties. Potiphar was "chief steward". The Hebrew words means boss of the butchers; an ambiguous term which implies not just slaughtering and/or cooking animals for food, but also supervising capital punishments, and/or supervising Pharaoh's personal bodyguards along with the oversight of his own private jails; especially jails for political prisoners.
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