God is with Joseph
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 37-50
This commentary has been through Advanced Theological Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
‘The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah’ were Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. (See Genesis 35:25-26.) Bilhah and Zilpah were Jacob’s extra wives. His wives were Leah and Rachel.
Most people wore coats that had no sleeves. Their coats reached to their knees. Joseph’s coat had sleeves and it was extra long. It was a special gift that his father gave to him. Probably it meant that Joseph was Jacob’s favourite. (But some people think that the *Hebrew word does not mean a long coat with sleeves. They think that it means a coat of many colours.)
Genesis usually tells us things in the order that they happened in. But sometimes it does not do this. These verses tell us what had happened earlier. We know that because of verse 10. That verse tells us that Joseph’s mother Rachel was still alive. So the things that are in these verses happened before Rachel’s death. So they happened before Genesis 35:18. Genesis tells us about these things now for a good reason. We need to know about these things when we read verses 18-19.
Jacob was foolish to tell his dream to his brothers. He knew that it would make them hate him more. His father had made him think that he was important. So he thought that he was more important than his brothers.
Many years after this time, Joseph’s brothers did bend themselves down in front of him. (See Genesis 42:6; 44:14; 50:18.)
Many years after this time, Joseph’s father and his brothers did go to Egypt to see him. But his father did not bend himself down in front of him. Instead, Joseph went to greet his father. (See Genesis 46:29-31.)
Journeys like this were usual. When the sheep had eaten the grass in one region, they needed to move to another region.
God began to carry out an important plan. Joseph’s journey from Hebron to Shechem was 80 kilometres (50 miles). But soon after this, God sent Joseph out of *Canaan, the country where he was, to another country. He sent him to Egypt. That was a journey of 400 kilometres (250 miles). And after that, in God’s plan, all the children of Israel went to Egypt. They spent many years there and they increased in number. Then they returned across the desert to *Canaan.
When God made this plan, he had two great purposes. God’s purposes were these:
· He intended to turn Israel’s family into a great nation. He could not do that while they looked after sheep and cows in *Canaan. So he sent them to Egypt.
· He intended to teach all people how to trust and follow God. He led the children of Israel out of Egypt. He led them across the desert. That journey was like a picture of the lives of people who obey God. And God uses that journey to teach us.
The brothers had gone to Dothan. That was an important part of God’s plan. By God’s plan, Joseph must go to Egypt. So it was important that Joseph should meet his brothers near Dothan. There the brothers might meet merchants who went to Egypt. They would not meet them anywhere else.
The reason for this is that the brothers kept their animals in the hilly country. The merchants travelled along the coast near the sea. So the brothers and the merchants did not meet. But when the merchants went further north they turned to the east. There they travelled away from the sea. Some of them travelled near Dothan and they went on to Gilead. (Gilead is a region that is east of the river Jordan.) Now the brothers had come north from Hebron to Shechem. They went further north to the end of the hills near Dothan. There they might meet merchants who went to Egypt.
Perhaps God had made the grass poor at Shechem. Perhaps that made the brothers decide to go further to Dothan.
‘Deep holes in the ground’. People had made deep holes in the rock in order to store water. The holes were large but they were narrow at the top. People filled the holes with water in the rainy season. They used the water in the dry season. Nobody could climb out of such a hole unless somebody else helped them.
Reuben was the oldest brother. He considered that he was responsible for his brothers. Especially he was responsible for Joseph because Joseph was only 17 years of age.
‘They dropped him into a deep hole.’ See the comment on verse 20.
The Ishmaelites were probably *descendants of Ishmael. (See Genesis 25:12-18.) Gilead is the east part of the country that is called *Canaan. Gilead is east of the river Jordan.
People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. ‘Balm’ is a medicine. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell.
Judah and most of the other brothers made this plan. But Reuben considered that he was responsible for Joseph. He intended to go alone to the deep hole as soon as the meal was over. (See verse 29.) He intended to pull Joseph out of the hole. And he intended to send him back to his father at Hebron.
The Midianites were probably *descendants of Midian, who was a son of Abraham. (See Genesis 25:2.) For Ishmaelites, see comment on verse 25.
Reuben intended to rescue Joseph. (See verse 22.) But he did not find Joseph in the hole. He did not know what had happened. He was very sad because he could not give Joseph back to his father.
The brothers did not know what to tell their father. So they pretended that they had not seen Joseph. They pretended that they had found Joseph’s coat. They pretended that there was blood on the coat. So Jacob would not blame them. Instead, he would blame a wild animal.
Bible students do not agree about why this verse says ‘Midianites’ and not ‘Ishmaelites’. (See comment on verse 28.) Some students say that this verse speaks briefly. It probably means, ‘Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph as a slave. People took him to Potiphar in Egypt.’ The Midianites did not sell Joseph to Potiphar. They sold him to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and they sold him to Potiphar. (For a similar verse that speaks briefly, see Genesis 45:4 and the comment.)
Other students say that ‘Ishmaelites’ and ‘Midianites’ are two names for the same people. Perhaps they were *descendants of Ishmael who lived in Midian.
This chapter is not a part of the main story. The main story continues from the end of chapter 37 to chapter 39 verse 1.
This chapter has two purposes:
· It tells the origin of three families of Judah. These were the families of Shelah (see verse 5) and Perez and Zerah (see verses 29-30 and the comment). The Bible also mentions them in Numbers 26:20.
· It tells about the duty of a husband’s brother. (See verse 8 and the comment.)
Judah married a foreign woman. That caused trouble. Their first two sons were evil. (See verses 7 and 10.) Many years before this, Esau took foreign women as his wives. And that made his parents very unhappy and it caused great trouble. (See Genesis 26:34-35.) Abraham insisted that his son Isaac should not marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis 24:3-4.) And Isaac wanted his son Jacob to marry a woman from his own family. (See Genesis 28:1-2.) So some of God’s ancient people thought that to marry a foreign woman was wrong. And some of those who married foreign women caused trouble.
But to marry a foreign woman was not always wrong. Joseph married the daughter of an Egyptian priest. (See Genesis 41:45.) That did not cause trouble. And God blessed their sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
In later times, God told his people that they must not marry foreign women. (See Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Nehemiah 13:23-25.) But some of God’s people did not obey this rule. Solomon married many foreign wives and they made him do evil things. (See 1 Kings 11:1-6.)
Genesis does not tell us what wicked things Er did. But we can be sure that his deeds were very evil. God had not killed people since the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Genesis 19:25.) And before that, God killed people by the flood. (See Genesis 7:21.) But God did not kill one man alone until he killed Er.
The duty of a husband’s brother forms part of Moses’ law. (See Deuteronomy 25:5-6.) It is important in Ruth 3:1–4:22. We read about it in Mark 12:18-23. But this chapter (chapter 38) shows that the duty was much older than Moses’ law. The duty was this. A married man dies and he has no son. His wife is still alive. The dead man’s brother has a duty that he must have sex with the wife. If there is no brother, the dead man’s nearest relative has the duty. Their son is called the son of the dead man.
The reason for the duty was this. It was important to people in those times that they had *descendants. (See God’s *command to increase in Genesis 1:28.) If a man died without *descendants, his brother should give him *descendants. They were not his own *descendants, but they were *descendants of a close relative. And they were called his *descendants.
When Onan spilled his seed, that was not very wrong. These things were wrong.
· He did not do his duty. He did not produce a child for his brother.
· He was not honest. He pretended to do his duty and he lay with Tamar. He could have said, ‘I will not do my duty. I will not lie with Tamar.’ That would not be so bad because he would be honest. But instead he pretended to Judah and he pretended to God.
· He was selfish. If he produced a child for Tamar, that child would have some of the family’s possessions. Otherwise, Onan would have them because he was the next brother. He wanted those possessions for himself.
Shelah was not yet old enough to have sex with Tamar. When Shelah was older, he would have the duty of the husband’s brother. He would have a duty to produce a son for his dead brother Er. So Tamar waited until Shelah was older. But Judah did not intend to let Shelah do his duty. Judah was afraid that Shelah might die. (See the comment on verse 14.)
An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam.
Shelah had become old enough to do the duty of a husband’s brother for Tamar. But Shelah’s father Judah did not allow him to do his duty. Judah was afraid that Shelah would die. Shelah’s two brothers had died because they were wicked. Judah thought that they had died because they married Tamar. So Judah wanted to protect Shelah. And Judah did not allow Shelah to have sex with Tamar.
‘Perfume’ is a substance that has a very pleasant smell.
There were women who had sex for money. And some of those used to cover their faces. So Judah thought that Tamar was such a woman. He did not recognise her because she had covered her face.
Judah promised to send a young goat to Tamar. That was her price. But she pretended that she did not trust Judah. She asked him to give her some of his possessions. She would give them back to him when he brought the goat to her. (See verse 20.)
The seal was a special stone. It had a string so as to hang from a person’s neck. Its shape had a special pattern. Its owner would press the seal on a flat lump of clay. (Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a flat lump. One can write on the flat lump with the point of a stick. People used flat lumps of clay as we use paper nowadays.) Then anyone could see the pattern on the lump of clay. That was like signing a letter nowadays. (See the comment on Genesis 41:42.)
An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam. For ‘seal’, see comment on verse 18.
The seal was much more valuable than the goat. So Judah wanted to give the goat to the woman and to have his seal back. But he did not want to ask all the people who the woman was. Otherwise, they would know what he had done. He had had sex with a strange woman for money. He did not want people to know that. And so he decided that he would do nothing.
For ‘seal’, see the comment on verse 18.
Judah realised his duty. He should have given his son Shelah as a wife to Tamar. If Shelah did not do the duty, the duty was on Judah. Judah was Er’s nearest relative apart from Shelah.
‘Perez’ means ‘breaking out’. ‘Zerah’ means ‘red’.
Jesus Christ was a *descendant of Perez. (See Luke 3:33.)
The previous chapter (chapter 38) tells things that happened in *Canaan during approximately 20 years. This chapter and chapter 40 tell what happened in Egypt during the same time. So this verse follows after the end of chapter 37.
Egypt is a country that is south and west of *Canaan. An Egyptian is an inhabitant of Egypt. Every king of Egypt was called ‘*Pharaoh’. *Pharaoh was not the name of this one king of Egypt.
For the meaning of ‘Ishmaelites’ see Genesis 37:25 and the comment on that verse.
God often makes people who follow him successful. But he does not always do this. Some people who follow God have many troubles. If that happens, we should not be surprised. If God causes troubles for us, he does so for a good reason. He caused great trouble for Joseph. After Joseph had been in Potiphar’s house, he was in prison for many years. (See verse 20.) And God did that for a good reason.
God was starting to train Joseph. After 13 years, Joseph would rule the whole country, Egypt. So the management of a house in Egypt was good practice for him. And after 13 years, Joseph would need to speak the Egyptian language very well. Potiphar’s house was a good place to learn the language. Probably Joseph worked as an ordinary slave for a time before Potiphar made him his own servant. And after some time as Potiphar’s own servant, Potiphar gave him more authority.
Joseph had authority ‘in the field’ as well as ‘in his house’. After 13 years, Joseph would deal with the farmers of Egypt. Potiphar’s fields were a good place to learn how the inhabitants of Egypt farmed their land.
Joseph was right to refuse. Potiphar’s wife was doing an evil thing. But God used her evil deed for a good purpose. He used her evil deed in his plan to prepare Joseph for his future work.
‘He is not more powerful in this house than I am.’ Joseph told everyone in the house what they should do. So Joseph was powerful. Potiphar did not say what people should do in his house. He let Joseph do that. So Potiphar did not use his power in the house. But Potiphar could tell people what to do in the house if he wanted to do that.
‘Potiphar put Joseph into the prison.’ One would expect that Potiphar would kill Joseph. That would be the usual punishment, if Joseph was guilty. But perhaps Potiphar did not believe what his wife said.
God was still training Joseph for his future work. It seemed that God was not pleased with Joseph, as he had been before. But Joseph had to learn to trust God. We must trust God even when things are bad. Nowadays many Christians are in prison. People have put them there because they are Christians. Some remain there for many years. It is difficult to trust God in such circumstances. But God has his own purposes. We often do not know what he intends.
After Joseph managed Potiphar’s house, he managed a prison. So God used this also to train Joseph. Later, Joseph managed the whole country, Egypt.
It is possible that the prison keeper was Potiphar. The reason that it is possible is this. Potiphar was called ‘the captain of the guards’. (See Genesis 37:36 and 39:1.) And, at a later time, Joseph’s prison was the house of the captain of the guards. (See Genesis 40:3.) Potiphar put Joseph ‘in the place where the king’s prisoners were’. (See verse 20.) Perhaps that place was a room in Potiphar’s house. Or perhaps it was a building near to Potiphar’s house.
When Potiphar put Joseph in prison, perhaps Joseph doubted God. Perhaps he did not trust that God was still with him. But ‘the *Lord made all that Joseph did successful.’ So Joseph knew that God was with him.
A *cup-bearer was an important person. He provided the wine that the king drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank. But if anybody wanted to poison the king, they might put poison in the wine. So the *cup-bearer guarded the wine carefully. And the *cup-bearer always drank some of the wine before he gave it to the king. That showed that there was no poison in it. So the *cup-bearer was always near to the king. The king trusted him. The *cup-bearer might even give advice to the king, as he did in Genesis 41:9-13. We can be sure that Joseph often talked with the *cup-bearer in the prison. So Joseph heard many things about *Pharaoh and about his court. That was a part of God’s plan. God was preparing Joseph for his future work.
They said, ‘There is nobody who can explain their meanings to us.’ In *Pharaoh’s court there were wise men. These wise men believed that they could tell the meanings of dreams. But the *cup-bearer and the baker were in prison. Therefore, they could not ask the wise men to explain their dreams.
‘God knows the meanings.’ That does not mean that God will always tell us the meanings of dreams. And it does not mean that all dreams are messages from God. But God can use dreams. He can use anything that he has made. He can use dreams to speak to us. And when God gives a dream, he can explain its meaning.
Verses 9, 10
A vine is a plant that produces grapes. Grapes are the fruits of vines. People make wine out of grapes.
The chief *cup-bearer dreamed that he was doing his usual job.
‘In 3 days’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
· The day when the chief *cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph
· One whole day
· The morning of the next day
That makes a little more than 2 nights and a day.
The baker dreamed that he was trying to do his usual job. But he could not give the bread and the cakes to *Pharaoh. Before he could do that, the birds ate them.
These two dreams told what would happen 2 days later. And, 2 years after this time, *Pharaoh had two dreams. (See Genesis 41:1.) Those dreams told what would happen during the next 14 years. All these dreams told the future correctly because God had given them. God knows what will happen in the future. But he does not often tell us what will happen in the future.
‘He forgot him.’ This also was a part of God’s plan. The time had not come when Joseph should go to *Pharaoh. God planned that it would happen 2 years later. Sometimes we think that God works very slowly. We often need to be patient. God knows the best time for each of the things that he does.
The Nile is a very big river. Egypt has very little rain, but the river Nile provides water for Egypt. It provides water so that the crops can grow. It provides water for the plants that the cows eat. So the river Nile is very important in Egypt. And a dream about the river Nile might bring a very important message.
The corn had long stems. The grains were at the tops of the stems. Each grain was a seed.
Probably the wise men tried to explain the dreams. Perhaps they guessed part of the meaning of the dreams. But they were afraid to say that bad things would happen. And *Pharaoh did not believe that their explanations were true. Later (in verse 37) *Pharaoh believed what Joseph said.
This was happening in the way that God intended. The *cup-bearer had forgotten Joseph until this time. But the *cup-bearer was with *Pharaoh when *Pharaoh spoke to the wise men. That reminded the *cup-bearer about Joseph.
The *cup-bearer said that Joseph was ‘a servant of the captain of the guards.’ He did not say that Joseph was a prisoner. This tells us about how Joseph lived in the prison. He had some freedom while he was in the prison. He did not have to remain in a small room. (See Genesis 39:22.)
Joseph had been in Egypt for 13 years. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph was 17 years of age’. And see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.) And Joseph had been in the prison for most of that time.
‘Joseph shaved himself.’ *Hebrews often had beards. But in Egypt, only prisoners or lazy people had beards. The Egyptians did not allow anybody to come to *Pharaoh with a beard.
Joseph needed great courage to say this. The inhabitants of Egypt believed in many false gods. They also believed that *Pharaoh was a god. Joseph had learnt about the one God from his father Jacob. He knew that God had been with him. He had the courage to tell *Pharaoh about God. And he trusted God to help him now.
Joseph knew God well. He could tell *Pharaoh what God would do. His father Jacob also knew God well. But Jacob and Joseph learned to know God in different ways.
· Jacob did not know God until he was adult. Jacob’s father, Isaac, had told Jacob about God. But Jacob himself did not know God. Then God appeared to him in a dream. (See Genesis 28:12‑17.) Many people nowadays are like that. And they remember the first occasion when they met God.
· Joseph learned about God from his father Jacob. And the Bible does not tell us that God appeared to Joseph. Instead, God guided Joseph and he taught Joseph by his experiences. Many people nowadays are like that. They knew about God when they were young. And they have learnt to know him better during their lives.
‘The *famine will be very bad.’ In some years there is not enough rain and so there is a *famine. This is natural. This happened during Abraham’s life. (See Genesis 12:10.) It had happened during Isaac’s life. (See Genesis 26:1.) Sometimes the *famine lasts for several years. So the 7 years *famine should not surprise us. The wonderful things were:
· In the 7 years before the *famine, the crops were extra good.
· The *famine started at the time that God had said.
· The *famine lasted for the time that God had said.
· The *famine brought Israel’s children to live in Egypt. That was God’s plan.
God often uses things that are natural. He uses things that he has made. He uses them as his tools. They are wonderful because events happen at the right time and in the right way.
‘God will soon make it happen.’ God could have sent enough rain to prevent the *famine. But he did not do that. He sent the *famine and he warned people about it. The *famine was a part of God’s plan. Because of the *famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. And in Egypt, Jacob’s *descendants became a nation. So we can see the reason why God sent the *famine. Usually, when God sends a *famine or a flood, we do not know the reason.
Joseph did not have enough time to think about this plan. But he proposed a plan that was correct. ‘One part out of every 5 parts’ (verse 34) was the correct amount. Joseph did not make the plan himself. God had made the plan and he showed it to Joseph. God does not always do that for us. More often, he wants us to think for ourselves. He has given us brains and he wants us to use them. But we must always be ready for God to guide us.
Joseph had explained *Pharaoh’s dreams. But *Pharaoh realised that Joseph had done more than that. He had also proposed a plan. By Joseph’s plan, the inhabitants of Egypt could have enough food during the *famine. *Pharaoh decided that the plan was good. So *Pharaoh told Joseph to carry out that plan.
*Pharaoh’s ring was a ‘signet ring’. The shape of a ‘signet ring’ has a special pattern. Its owner would press the ring on a flat lump of clay. (Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a flat lump. One can write on the flat lump with the point of a stick. People used flat lumps of clay as we use paper nowadays.) Then anyone can see the pattern on the lump of clay. So the words that are on the lump of clay have authority. Therefore when *Pharaoh gave Joseph the ring he gave him authority. (See the comment on Genesis 38:18.)
‘Linen’ is a material. People make cloth out of it. Only important people and priests wore linen clothes. *Pharaoh made Joseph into a ruler. He may have also made him into a priest.
A *chariot was a cart that had 2 wheels. One or two horses pulled it. It could move fast. *Pharaoh and other important people rode in *chariots. The army used *chariots of a different kind when they fought. Joseph rode in *Pharaoh’s second *chariot because the first *chariot was for *Pharaoh only. Nobody knows whether ‘Make way!’ is the right meaning. Some people suggest that the meaning is ‘Bend the knees’. To bend the knees is to show that you respect someone.
‘I am *Pharaoh.’ *Pharaoh meant that he was the only person with great authority. But he gave that authority to Joseph. In future, Joseph would have the authority that *Pharaoh usually had.
‘Nobody shall move a hand or a foot.’ *Pharaoh did not mean exactly what he said. But he meant that Joseph had complete authority in all Egypt.
Some people suggest that ‘Zaphenath-paneah’ may mean ‘one who preserves people alive’.
This does not mean that Joseph gathered food himself. Joseph *commanded what his managers should do. (*Pharaoh had appointed managers. See verse 34.) And the managers *commanded their workers.
‘Manasseh’ sounds like ‘forget’. ‘Ephraim’ means ‘fruit’. Fruit is something that a plant produces.
‘God has made me forget my father’s house.’ Joseph thought that he would not see his father and his brothers again. He did not know God’s plan. God had put Joseph in *Pharaoh’s court so that he could help his father and his brothers. God seldom tells us his plans before they happen.
‘Go to Joseph.’ The people did not go to Joseph himself. Joseph told the people what they should do. But he provided grain through the organisation that he had set up.
‘All the earth’ means the parts of the earth that those people knew. That was only a small part of the whole earth.
When Jacob mentioned Egypt, his sons were unwilling to go there. Perhaps the word ‘Egypt’ reminded them of Joseph and therefore they felt guilty. But they went when Jacob told them to go.
Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. Their father was Jacob and their mother was Rachel. The 10 other brothers might be called Joseph’s ‘half-brothers’. Their father was Jacob but they had different mothers. But all 12 were often called ‘brothers’. (For a list of the brothers, see Genesis 35:23-26 and the comment.)
When Joseph was still with his father Jacob, Joseph was Jacob’s favourite. Jacob cared for Joseph more than he cared for his other sons. (See Genesis 37:3.) After that time, Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So Benjamin became Jacob’s favourite. Jacob refused to send Benjamin anywhere where he would be in danger. So he sent his other 10 sons to Egypt but he did not send Benjamin.
‘Joseph was the one who sold grain.’ Joseph certainly did not sell all the grain himself. His servants did that. But perhaps Joseph sold grain to those who came from far away. Or perhaps he saw his brothers and so he decided to deal with them himself.
It was God who had brought Joseph to Egypt. Joseph knew that. And God had changed Joseph’s character since he came to Egypt. Because of this, Joseph did not blame his brothers and he was ready to forgive them. But he did not tell them yet that he forgave them. He waited until he knew more about them. Perhaps they would not be friendly to him. And perhaps they were not sorry for what they did to him.
Joseph acted in the way that God acts. God does not blame us for the wrong things that we have done. He is ready to forgive us. But he waits until he knows two things about us. Do we want to know him? And are we truly sorry for the wrong things that we have done?
There were many reasons why the brothers did not recognise Joseph. These are some of the reasons.
· They believed that Joseph was dead.
· Joseph had shaved his beard off.
· Joseph spoke in the Egyptian language and an interpreter translated.
· Joseph wore Egyptian clothes.
· Joseph had an Egyptian name.
Spies are people who come from a foreign country. They come in order to gather information. Spies may discover how an army could attack the country successfully. Joseph knew that his brothers were not spies. But he probably wanted to test them. Perhaps he wanted to know whether there had been a change in their character. However, he did not really want to hurt them.
The youngest brother, who was with their father, was Benjamin. And when they said, ‘one brother is dead’, they meant Joseph. And Joseph knew that they meant him. The brothers had persuaded their father Jacob that Joseph was dead. (See Genesis 37:31 and comment.) But, when they did that, they were lying to their father. They did not actually know whether Joseph was dead. But they believed that he was dead.
For ‘spies’, see comment on verse 9.
‘So I will test your words.’ It would not test whether they were spies. But Joseph did not really want to test them. He wanted to see his brother Benjamin.
‘For 3 days’ does not mean 3 whole days. The *Hebrews counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
· The end of the day when Joseph spoke to his brothers
· One whole day
· The early morning of the next day
That makes about 2 nights and a day.
Joseph had changed his plans since he last spoke to his brothers. Then, he said that only one should return to *Canaan. (See verse 16.) But he decided that 9 should return. There were several reasons for this.
· One brother could not carry enough grain to *Canaan.
· Jacob would be more likely to send Benjamin if 9 sons persuaded him.
· Jacob might think that he had lost 9 more of his sons. That would be a great shock to him.
· The brothers had sent away one brother, Joseph, 20 years before. So Joseph took away one more brother. That was a suitable punishment.
The brothers were losing one member. That reminded them that they had sent Joseph away many years before. They thought that God was punishing them for what they had done.
Reuben called Joseph ‘the boy’. Joseph’s age had been 17 years at that time. But Joseph was the youngest except for Benjamin, who was still with his father. And Reuben considered that he was responsible for Joseph. So Reuben called Joseph ‘the boy’.
‘He bound Simeon.’ Joseph told his servants to tie Simeon with strong strings. Probably he untied him when the brothers had gone.
Joseph had said that Simeon would be ‘in prison’. (See verse 19.) He would probably live in Joseph’s house. He would not be free to go wherever he wanted to go. But he would not have to stay in a small room.
The ‘bags’ contained the grain that the brothers had bought. The ‘sacks’ contained their clothes and their other possessions. The food for their *donkeys was in their sacks. The food for their *donkeys was not part of the grain that they had bought.
To give honour to one’s father was very important in those days. Joseph would never take money from his own father. But the money that his brothers brought belonged to their father. Therefore, Joseph could not take the money from them. But he could not refuse the money. If he refused it, he would need to explain his reason. He would need to say that he was their brother. And he was not yet ready to say that. So he returned the money to them secretly. Perhaps he did not expect that this would make his brothers and his father so anxious. (See verse 28, ‘Then they were very anxious.’)
The brothers did not understand what was happening. Therefore they were afraid. They did not understand why the ruler of the country himself spoke with them. They expected to buy grain from a less important person. They did not understand why Joseph spoke severely to them. They did not understand why he called them spies. (See comment on verse 9.) They did not understand why he put them in prison. They did not understand why Joseph wanted to see Benjamin. They did not understand why Joseph kept Simeon in Egypt. And they did not understand why the money was in the sack.
The brothers were afraid for another reason too. These events reminded them about Joseph. They were responsible for Joseph’s death. (That is what they thought.) And if they brought Benjamin to Egypt, they might cause Benjamin’s death. And Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. (See the first part of the comment on verse 4.) Also, they had intended to sell Joseph for money. (See Genesis 37:26-27.) And they had lost Simeon but they had gained some money. So these two events were similar. They thought that perhaps God was punishing them. And they said, ‘What has God done to us?’
For the meaning of ‘spies’, see the comment on verse 9.
God promised to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham that his *descendants would be as many as the stars. (See Genesis 15:5.) God repeated this promise to Jacob’s father Isaac. (See Genesis 26:3-4.) And God promised to Jacob, ‘Your family shall become a nation and a group of peoples.’ (See Genesis 35:11.) But Joseph was dead. (That is what Jacob thought.) Simeon was a slave in Egypt. (That too is what Jacob thought.) And people wanted to take Benjamin away. It seemed to Jacob that he was losing all his sons. God’s promises were failing.
Jacob probably thought of how God tested Abraham. He probably compared himself with Abraham.
· God had promised that Abraham would have a son, Isaac. Then God told Abraham to kill Isaac as an *offering. (See Genesis 22:1-2.) Abraham obeyed because he trusted God. And God saved Isaac.
· God had promised that Jacob would have sons. But God could not save Jacob’s sons. One was dead and one was a slave in a foreign country. (That is what Jacob thought.) And Jacob could not obey God as Abraham did. God had not told him what to do. And so he could not obey God.
We may sometimes be in a situation that is similar to this. It seems to us that God’s promises are failing. It seems that God’s plan is not working. And God has not told us what to do. And so we cannot obey him. We must trust him, especially when it is difficult to trust him.
Actually, God’s plan was working well. All Jacob’s 12 sons lived and they had large families. And Joseph was ready to save them all from the *famine. And God was ready to move them all to Egypt. Egypt was the place where their *descendants could learn to become a nation.
‘I will bring him back to you.’ This promise meant nothing. Reuben did not have the power to keep Benjamin safe.
‘His brother is dead.’ Joseph was Benjamin’s only real brother. The other 10 men were half-brothers. ‘Only he remains.’ Benjamin was the only one whose mother was Rachel. (See the comment on verse 4.)
Judah spoke on behalf of all the brothers. We would expect that Reuben would do this. Reuben was the oldest brother. And, before this time, Reuben was the most responsible brother. (See Genesis 37:21.) But Judah became the leader. And, later, Jacob dealt with Judah as if he was the oldest. (See Genesis 49:8 and the comment.)
Benjamin was not a boy. He was more than 22 years of age. This is how we know that.
· Benjamin was born before Joseph went to Egypt.
· Joseph was in Egypt for 13 years before he met *Pharaoh. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph was 17 years of age’ and see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.)
· After Joseph met *Pharaoh there were 7 years of plenty.
· The *famine had already lasted 2 years. (See Genesis 45:6.)
· The total of 13 and 7 and 2 is 22.
But Benjamin was the youngest brother. Also, he was Jacob’s favourite son. So Judah called him ‘the boy’.
Reuben had made a promise like this. (See Genesis 42:37 and the comment.) And now Judah promised that he would bring Benjamin back. However, he knew that he might not be able to do that. But he still made the promise. If he did not promise, his father would not agree. So Benjamin would not go to Egypt. And the brothers would not go and they would have no food.
‘Balm’ is a medicine. People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell. ‘Almonds’ are a kind of nuts.
The ‘double money’ included the money that they found in their sacks earlier. And it included money to buy more grain.
To eat together was a sign of friendship. So the manager knew that Joseph was friendly towards the brothers. But the brothers did not know that yet.
The brothers did not know why they were going to Joseph’s house. They could not guess that they would eat a meal with Joseph. They made the only guess that they could make. And they were very much afraid.
They spoke at the door because they did not want to go into the house. They thought that it was like a trap. They did not know what Joseph would do to them.
The manager of Joseph’s house already knew about the money. Perhaps he had put the money back into the sacks during the brothers’ previous visit. (See Genesis 42:25.) So he knew that Joseph refused to take money from the brothers. And he knew that Joseph would not hurt the brothers. Otherwise, he would not eat a meal with them. But he did not know that they were Joseph’s brothers.
But this verse also tells us something else. It tells us that the manager knew about Joseph’s God. The manager knew that Joseph served God. He knew that Joseph had learned about God from his father. And he knew that Joseph’s God cared about people. Otherwise, nobody would believe that God might give money to people. So it is certain that Joseph had told the manager about God. Joseph is a model for us. We might ask ourselves, ‘Do the people that we work with know about God? Do they know that God cares about people? Have we told them about God?’
To eat together was a sign of friendship. And the brothers heard that they would eat a meal at Joseph’s house. Perhaps they would eat a meal with Joseph. That would mean that they were not in danger. But they were still worried. They did not understand what was happening. And they still could not be sure that they were safe.
‘Benjamin was his brother.’ All the brothers were sons of Joseph’s father. But only Benjamin was a son of Joseph’s mother.
Joseph called Benjamin ‘my son’. But that was a common greeting by an important person to someone who was young. Joseph was not saying that Benjamin was a relative.
It was the custom that Egyptians (inhabitants of Egypt) did not eat with foreigners. Also, *Pharaoh may have made Joseph an Egyptian priest. And it was the custom that Egyptian priests did not eat with other Egyptians. But Joseph had another reason to eat separately. He was not ready to show that he was friendly with his brothers.
On important occasions, the brothers would sit in order. The oldest brother would sit nearest to the head of the table. The other brothers would sit in the order of their ages. And Joseph put each brother in the right position. The brothers were very surprised. They could not understand how Joseph knew the correct order.
These shares were not the main part of the meal. Joseph ate at a separate table from them. He sent small shares from his own table to his brothers. That showed that they were eating the meal together. It showed that they were his guests. So these shares were small. And Benjamin’s larger share was not more than he could eat.
‘To find the truth by magic.’ Egyptians used to pour oil into water that was in a cup. Then they looked at the pattern of the oil. They thought that the pattern showed what was true. The *Hebrews did not do this. Joseph probably did not do it. But he pretended to his brothers that he did it.
The cup that an Egyptian used for this purpose was a very special cup. So if the brothers had stolen such a special cup, that was a very evil deed.
The brothers were certain that they had not taken the cup. They proposed that anyone who had the cup should die. They proposed that all the other brothers should become slaves. If the manager agreed to that, it would be definite. The punishment that they proposed would happen. That was the custom by Egyptian law. But the manager did not agree to such a severe punishment. He pretended that the brothers had proposed a smaller punishment.
The manager also found the money that was in the top of each sack. But the cup was very much more important than the money. So the manager did not mention the money.
Probably Joseph did not believe that he could find the truth by magic. (See the comment on verse 5.) *Pharaoh believed in magic. (See Genesis 41:8.) Many wise men in Egypt believed in magic. So Joseph told his brothers that he could find the truth by magic. That is what a ruler of Egypt would say. And Joseph said it in order to make his brothers more anxious.
Judah knew that he had not taken the cup. He was sure that his brothers had not taken it. They were too worried to do that. They wanted to take the grain that they had bought. And they wanted to return to their father in *Canaan. They would not want the cup. And Judah knew that Benjamin had not taken the cup. He would never do that. So Judah said, ‘God has shown that we are guilty.’ He thought that God had put the cup in Benjamin’s sack. He thought that God was punishing them. It was a punishment for what they had done to Joseph 22 years before.
Joseph was testing his brothers. Many years before this time, they had plotted to kill Joseph. (See Genesis 37:18.) And they had plotted to sell him as a slave. They plotted to sell him to Ishmaelites, who were going to Egypt. (See Genesis 37:27.) Joseph wanted to know whether the brothers would do the same thing again. Would they let Benjamin become a slave? Would they leave Benjamin in Egypt? Or were they more honourable than they were 22 years before?
Reuben was the oldest brother but Judah had become the leader. (See verse 14. See also Genesis 43:3, 8.) And after this time, when Jacob gave his *blessing to his sons, he made Judah the most important. (See Genesis 49:8 and the comment.)
Judah’s character was very different from what it had been 22 years before. Judah had suggested that the brothers should sell Joseph. (See Genesis 37:26-27.) But in these verses, he showed that he cared deeply about Benjamin. And he cared deeply about his father Jacob.
Judah called Benjamin ‘the boy’. But Benjamin was more than 22 years of age. (See the comment on Genesis 43:8.) Probably Joseph remembered that the brothers used to call him, Joseph, ‘the boy’. (See Genesis 37:30.)
The brothers had already mentioned Joseph. They had said, ‘One brother is dead.’ (See Genesis 42:13, 32.) But in this verse, Judah said more than that. However, Judah did not confess that the brothers were responsible. They were unwilling to say that they were guilty. And Judah did not think that it would be helpful to confess.
Judah had promised to Jacob, ‘I shall bring him back.’ (See Genesis 43:9.) But he was not able to bring Benjamin back. So he tried to send Benjamin back. If he could do that, he would have kept his promise to his father.
Judah alone offered to stay in Egypt as a slave. But, apart from that, he spoke on behalf of all the brothers. He showed that they all cared deeply about Benjamin.
‘The evil thing that would happen to my father.’ Judah thought that his father would die. His father had said that. (See Genesis 42:38.) And Judah had just told Joseph what his father had said. (See verse 29.)
Joseph had tested his brothers. He had acted as a judge. And he had proved that the character of the brothers had changed. But he could not say, ‘You deserve that I forgive you.’ His emotion was too strong. He could not still act as a judge. He could only act as a brother.
‘And the people who were in *Pharaoh’s court heard.’ Perhaps they heard the sound when Joseph wept. Or perhaps they heard about it when people told them afterwards.
Before this, Joseph had spoken with his brothers by an interpreter. Joseph spoke in the Egyptian language and the brothers spoke in the *Hebrew language. The brothers thought that Joseph did not understand the *Hebrew language. But at this time, Joseph sent all the Egyptians out. So there was no interpreter. And Joseph spoke in the *Hebrew language.
Joseph knew that his father was still alive. The brothers had told him that. But he said this so as to show that he cared about his father.
‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.’ This verse speaks briefly. It means, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, to whom you did a wrong thing. So people sold me in Egypt.’ The brothers did not sell Joseph in Egypt. But because of their deed, other people sold Joseph in Egypt. (For a similar verse that may speak briefly, see Genesis 37:36 and comment.)
Joseph said, ‘Do not be angry with yourselves. God sent me here.’ He did not say, ‘You did a wrong thing, but I forgive you.’ He could not say that. The thing that happened was right. God did it. God brought Joseph to Egypt. God did that so as to save Jacob’s family in the *famine. And he did it so as to save Egypt.
God also had another purpose, which Joseph did not know. God had brought his people to Egypt to make them into a nation. In Egypt, they would learn many things that they would need to know in later times.
‘Like a father to *Pharaoh’ Perhaps this means that he had looked after *Pharaoh’s business. Or perhaps this was an official name that described Joseph’s authority.
Joseph gave honour to God. He told the brothers what God had done.
Joseph had made this plan long before this time. And he had chosen the district that was called *Goshen. That was the place where his family should live.
They had many things to say. They had not met as brothers for 22 years. During that time, they had all changed in character. Probably they talked about what the brothers had done to Joseph. (See Genesis 37:24.) That was easier to do because of what Joseph said. He said, ‘Do not be angry with yourselves. God sent me here before you.’ (See verse 5.)
Joseph had already said this to his brothers. But it was necessary that *Pharaoh should approve. And *Pharaoh approved gladly.
Actually, they did bring their goods to Egypt. They brought their animals and all their possessions. (See Genesis 46:6.)
Joseph spoke as a brother would speak. He did not speak as a foreign ruler would speak. He had a friendly relationship with his brothers and he did not blame them.
Perhaps the brothers confessed to their father Jacob at this time what they had done 20 years before. They had dropped Joseph into a deep hole and they had put a goat’s blood on his coat. (See Genesis 37:24, 31.)
‘Israel’ and ‘Jacob’ are two names of the same man. (See Genesis 32:28.)
God had sent Joseph to Egypt. God had prepared a place in Egypt where Jacob and his family could live. God was providing food for Jacob and for his family during the *famine. By these things, God was guiding Jacob. God was showing him that he should go to Egypt. But Jacob still needed to make sure that God wanted him to go to Egypt. So he went to Beer-sheba, which was on the way to Egypt. Perhaps he used the *altar that Isaac had built for his *offering. (See Genesis 26:23, 25.) Jacob prayed. And then he was certain what God wanted him to do.
When God guides us, he may prepare the way for us. He may make some things impossible for us. And he may give us opportunities. These things may tell us what we should do. But we still need to pray. Then we can be certain what God wants us to do.
Until this time, Jacob expected to go to Egypt for a short time. He expected that he would return as soon as the *famine was over. But at this time God told him that his *descendants would stay there for a long time. They would stay until they became a great nation.
‘I will bring you back again.’ The word ‘you’ does not mean Jacob himself. It means the nation that Jacob would become. So it means Jacob’s *descendants. Jacob himself would not return. But when he was dead, his body would return. And his sons would bury him in *Canaan.
In the phrase ‘when you die’, the word ‘you’ does mean Jacob himself. ‘Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ That means that Jacob would die in peace. And Joseph would be with him. So Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when he died. That was a son’s duty.
From Hebron to Beer-sheba was 50 kilometres (30 miles). And from Beer-sheba to *Goshen was 300 kilometres (180 miles). When the brothers travelled to Egypt before, they took food for themselves and for their *donkeys. And the journey might take 10 days. But when the whole family travelled with all their animals, they had to go more slowly. The animals needed to eat grass, but there was little grass because of the *famine. So the journey took much longer.
‘These are’ refers to the names in the verses that follow.
In these verses, the word ‘sons’ sometimes means ‘grandsons’. And it can also include the sons of grandsons.
We do not know why the total is 33. Verses 9-15 mention 33 names. With Dinah too, the total is 34. Perhaps these verses leave out Er and Onan because they did not go to Egypt. And perhaps there was another daughter. That could make a total that is 33.
Verses 15, 18, 22, 25
‘These are’ refers to the names in the previous verses.
Jacob said, ‘Now I am ready to die.’ Actually, Jacob lived for 17 years after this time.
Joseph was afraid that his brothers would become slaves. So he told them to emphasise that they kept animals. The inhabitants of Egypt themselves kept few animals. They avoided people who kept animals. So they would not want the brothers as slaves in their houses. Instead they would let the brothers live in the district that is called *Goshen. There they would be separate from the inhabitants of Egypt. Joseph said this because he did not trust *Pharaoh.
Perhaps Joseph took only 5 brothers because the other brothers were looking after the animals. Or perhaps *Pharaoh did not allow more than 5 foreigners to visit him at one time.
‘Your servants keep animals.’ See Genesis 46:34 and the comment.
‘Please let your servants live in *Goshen.’ Joseph had already said that they should live in *Goshen. And *Pharaoh had made Joseph the ruler of all Egypt. Therefore, Joseph had the authority to make that decision. But it was right that they should ask *Pharaoh to agree.
‘Let them look after my cows.’ *Pharaoh offered employment to some of Jacob’s family. *Pharaoh expected that they would mix with the Egyptian people. But they did not mix. About 400 years after this time, they were still separate. (See Exodus 1:8-9.)
Jacob changed *Pharaoh’s word ‘life’. (See verse 8.) Instead, he said, ‘I have stayed on the earth’. He meant that it was a temporary stay. Jacob knew that his stay on the earth was temporary. After it, he would be with his fathers and with God.
Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. It was less than his father Isaac’s life, which was 180 years. But it was not ‘few’ years. We can only guess why Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. The Egyptians did not live for so many years. Jacob did not say, ‘We live for more years than you do.’ To say that would be not to respect *Pharaoh. So he said, ‘The years of my life have been few.’
Jacob calls his life ‘evil’. Perhaps this is to respect *Pharaoh. He does not say, ‘I have lived a better life than you have.’ Instead, he says the opposite. But this also has another meaning. Jacob remembers that he has done many things that were wrong. For example, he cheated his brother Esau and his father Isaac. (See Genesis 27:19.) And he cheated Laban. (See Genesis 31:20.) And Jacob had much trouble in his life.
When Jacob initially decided to go to Egypt, he expected to go for a short time. He expected to stay in Egypt until the *famine was over. He did not expect to own property in Egypt. But Joseph gave them land as a possession. This was part of God’s plan. He intended to make them a great nation. So their *descendants would live in Egypt for about 400 years.
‘Rameses’ was the name of a part of the region *Goshen.
Joseph did not do this himself. He had appointed managers, who organised the work. (See Genesis 41:34.) And the managers had many servants, who helped them. The managers and their servants gathered the money. And the people did not bring the animals to Joseph himself. They brought them to the managers and to their servants.
They did not take the animals away from the people. They let the people keep the animals. But the animals belonged to *Pharaoh.
Perhaps some of the people came to Joseph himself. But usually they went to the managers. The managers reported to Joseph and Joseph sent instructions to the managers.
The land became *Pharaoh’s property. The people became slaves and they too belonged to *Pharaoh. So *Pharaoh became more powerful. But the people continued to farm the land, as they had done before. Their lives did not change when they became slaves.
Joseph made big changes in Egypt. And the people realised that they benefited from these changes. They benefited because they had enough food during the *famine. And they realised that they would also have enough food during future *famines. Therefore, they were willing to become slaves.
Nowadays, the word ‘slaves’ means people who are not free. A slave is a person who belongs to another person. That is a very evil thing. But slaves in ancient Egypt were different. They farmed the land and they lived in an ordinary way. But, because they were slaves, they did not manage their own affairs. *Pharaoh’s servants told the people what they should do. And they told the people when they should sow their seeds. *Pharaoh’s servants managed the farming in the whole country. This was an advantage for the people. The reason was that farming was difficult in Egypt. Egypt has a very dry climate. There is not enough rain for the crops. So people had to use water from the river Nile to water the crops. And they needed canals to bring the water from the river. *Pharaoh and his servants managed all this. And they stored grain in case there was a *famine. They could do these things better than the separate farmers could do them.
The law still stood at the time when people wrote Genesis. Joseph’s law remained after Joseph’s death. So there would still be a store of food in case there was a *famine.
‘If you are pleased with me.’ This is not what the father of the family would say to his son. The son should respect and obey his father. But Joseph was not only Jacob’s son. Joseph was also the ruler of the whole country where Jacob was staying. So Jacob gave honour to Joseph. And Joseph gave honour to Jacob, because he was his father.
‘Put your hand under my leg.’ This was a sign of an important promise. (See Genesis 24:2.)
‘Israel’ was the same person as Jacob.
Luz was the same place as Bethel. (See Genesis 28:19.)
Jacob reminded Joseph about God’s promise. (See Genesis 35:11-12.) God had given the country that is called *Canaan to Jacob’s *descendants. He gave it to them so that they should possess it for all ages. Therefore, they should not always live in Egypt. They lived in Egypt for 400 years. And after that time God led them back to *Canaan.
‘Your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, shall be mine.’ Later, the *tribes had the names of Jacob’s sons. But two *tribes were called the *tribe of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh. And Ephraim and Manasseh were not actually Jacob’s sons. They were actually Jacob’s grandsons. So Ephraim and Manasseh were called Jacob’s sons.
‘They shall be called by their brothers’ names.’ Joseph’s later sons would not give their names to *tribes. Their *descendants would be part of the *tribe of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh.
Probably Israel could see that two people were with Joseph. But he could not see clearly. He could not recognise them until they were close to him.
For many years, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. (See Genesis 37:33.) That was why he did not expect to see Joseph’s face.
‘Children’ does not mean young children. They were more than 19 years of age. These are the reasons why we know that. They were born before the *famine began. (See Genesis 41:50.) Jacob came to Egypt 2 years after the *famine began. (See Genesis 45:6.) And Jacob lived for 17 more years. (See Genesis 47:9, 28.) So we can be sure that Joseph’s sons did not sit on Israel’s knees. They stood by his knees.
‘And he took Manasseh toward Israel’s right hand.’ Joseph did this so that Jacob would put his right hand on Manasseh’s head. So Jacob would give to Manasseh the right of the oldest son.
Jacob knew that Ephraim’s *descendants would be greater than Manasseh’s *descendants. (See verse 19.) God told him this.
Jacob called God ‘the *angel who has rescued me’. God had appeared several times as an *angel. (For example, see Genesis 31:11.)
Joseph thought that Jacob had made a mistake because of his weak sight.
‘The nation of Israel’ means Israel’s *descendants. They are still called ‘Israel’ nowadays.
Perhaps this refers to Genesis 34:25-29. That city was called Shechem. And the son of the chief man of the city was also called Shechem. Jacob did not take the city himself, but his sons, Simeon and Levi, took it. Perhaps Jacob meant that he had the responsibility as their father. For Amorites, see Genesis 10:16 and the comment on that verse.
Many years after this, people buried Joseph at Shechem. (See Joshua 24:32.) They buried him in the piece of land that Jacob had bought. (See Genesis 33:19.)
Before Jacob died, he gave his *blessing as the father of the family. A father’s *blessing was very important. (See Isaac’s *blessing in Genesis 27:26-40.) God told Jacob what he should say. Therefore, the things that Jacob said were true. And Jacob said things that actually happened many years later.
After this time, Jacob’s *descendants lived in Egypt for 400 years. The *descendants of each of Jacob’s sons became a *tribe. Then they returned to the country that is called *Canaan. And each *tribe obtained land in *Canaan. Many parts of this *blessing refer to those lands.
The names in this chapter sometimes mean Jacob’s sons. And sometimes they mean the *tribes, which were the *descendants of Joseph’s sons. In verses 3-7, the names usually mean the sons. After verse 8 the names mean the *tribes.
Many *Hebrew words in this chapter are difficult to understand. We cannot be sure what they mean. These are likely meanings, but some of these meanings are not certain.
‘You flow as water flows.’ A person cannot lean on water because the water moves. So this means, ‘A person cannot trust you.’
‘You shall not be first.’ Before this time, Reuben had the right of the oldest son. Jacob said that Reuben would not keep that right. But this verse does not only mean that Reuben himself would not be first. It refers to Reuben himself, but it also refers to Reuben’s *tribe. Reuben’s *tribe would not lead the other *tribes. Judah’s *tribe would lead them.
‘You had sex.’ See Genesis 35:22.
‘They use their swords.’ Simeon and Levi attacked the men in Shechem. (See Genesis 34:25-26.) ‘I do not agree.’ Jacob told them that their deed was wrong. (See Genesis 34:30.)
‘I will divide them in Jacob and I will scatter them in Israel.’ This does not refer to Simeon and Levi themselves. It refers to the *tribes of Simeon and Levi. When those *tribes reached their own country, they did not receive land. The *tribe of Simeon shared land with the *tribe of Judah. So God divided the land for them. (See Joshua 19:9.) The *tribe of Levi lived among all the other *tribes. So God scattered them in Israel. (See Joshua 13:14.)
‘Judah’ means Judah himself and it also means the *tribe of Judah. But the verses that follow refer to the *tribe of Judah.
Judah was not the oldest son. But Jacob blessed Judah as if he was the oldest son. And the *tribe of Judah later became the most important *tribe.
Later, there were many kings in the *tribe of Judah. David and Solomon were two famous ones. Jesus too is a king and he also is a member of the *tribe of Judah.
A ‘vine’ is a plant. People make wine out of the fruits of vines.
This verse probably means that there would be plenty. If one ties a *donkey to a vine, the *donkey will eat the grapes. (Grapes are the fruits of the vine.) One would only do that if there were plenty of grapes.
This verse probably also means that there would be peace. A king would ride on a *donkey if he came in peace. That was the custom. Otherwise he would ride on a horse or in a *chariot. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he rode on a *donkey. (See Matthew 21:5.)
Jacob blessed his first 4 sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah) in the order of their birth. He blessed the other 8 sons in a different order. The order of their birth was this:
Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin
The *tribe of Zebulun later possessed land in the north part of *Canaan. The edge of their land that was towards the west was near the coast. Sidon is there. The east edge of their land reached to the big lake that is called the ‘Sea of Galilee’. They used ships on the sea and on the lake. Most of Jacob’s *descendants did not use ships.
The *tribe of Issachar would have land that was good for farming. They would work hard on their land.
A small snake can overcome a large horse. So the *tribe of Dan will be a small *tribe but it will be powerful.
The *tribe of Gad would have land east of the river Jordan. So robbers might come from the desert in the east. The *tribe would be too small to fight a battle and so they might attack from behind.
The *tribe of Asher would have land where crops grow well.
The meaning of the *Hebrew language in this verse is not certain. Perhaps it means that the *tribe of Naphtali would be peaceful people.
The *tribe of Joseph was usually called the two *tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
The meaning of the *Hebrew words in this verse is doubtful. Some people translate it as, ‘Joseph is a branch with fruit, which is near to a pool.’ But this is not likely. People do not shoot arrows at trees.
If the translation ‘*donkey’ is right, these verses mean this. Joseph is in a dangerous place. One can shoot a wild *donkey when it is drinking. It cannot hide itself when it is by a rock. So people attack Joseph’s *descendants, but God protects them. He makes the strong arms of the attacker weak.
The *Hebrew word for ‘wild dog’ means ‘wolf’. A wolf is a fierce wild dog that hunts in groups.
In later times, the *tribe of Benjamin were fierce people. They fought a war against the other *descendants of Israel. (See Judges 20:12-48.) And they were skilful fighters. (See for example 1 Chronicles 12:2.)
‘The 12 *tribes of Israel’ means the *descendants of each of Israel’s 12 sons.
Jacob’s real home was the country that was called *Canaan. Egypt was only a temporary home for Jacob’s *descendants. That was important. God had promised to Abraham that his *descendants would live in *Canaan. (See Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7 and 17:18.) So Joseph must bury Jacob in *Canaan. And Jacob’s *descendants would live in Egypt for only 400 years. After that time, they would return to *Canaan.
Genesis 23:17-18 tells how Abraham bought the field and the cave.
‘To embalm’ means to put special substances on a dead body and in it. These substances keep the body in a good state. A dead body that people have embalmed is called a ‘mummy’. It lasts for very many years. The Egyptians used to embalm the bodies of important people who had died.
Joseph did not speak to *Pharaoh but he sent a message. We do not know why he did not speak to *Pharaoh himself. Perhaps he did not approach *Pharaoh because he had touched Jacob’s dead body.
‘After I do that, I will return.’ Jacob promised to *Pharaoh that he would return to Egypt. He would not take the opportunity to move his home back to *Canaan.
The inhabitants of Egypt gave great honour to Jacob. The reason was that Jacob was Joseph’s father. And Joseph was the most important person in Egypt apart from *Pharaoh.
The ‘farm of Atad’ was actually ‘the threshing-floor of Atad’. A ‘threshing-floor’ is the part of a farm where people beat grain with sticks. That separates the seeds from the rest of the grain.
‘Abel-mizraim’ means ‘Egypt weeps’.
They did as Jacob had said. (See Genesis 49:29.)
Joseph had forgiven his brothers. He did not blame them for what they did. He showed this clearly, by what he said. (See Genesis 45:5 and the comment.) And he showed it by what he did. (See Genesis 47:11-12.) But the brothers were still not sure that Joseph had forgiven them.
We may sometimes be like the brothers. We may not be sure whether God has forgiven us. But God forgives all those who come to him. He shows this clearly, by what he says in the Bible. And he shows it by the help that he gives to us. If we forget this, we may ask, ‘Has God really forgiven us?’ We should always trust him.
We do not know whether Jacob actually said this. Probably the brothers were lying.
‘Joseph wept.’ Joseph had already forgiven his brothers but his brothers did not trust him. Joseph wept because they did not trust him.
Initially, the brothers sent a message. (See verse 16.) They also came themselves. (See verse 18.)
The brothers had asked Joseph to forgive them. (See verse 17.) But Joseph did not say, ‘I forgive you.’ He had already forgiven them, many years before this time.
The things that had happened were a part of God’s plan. Joseph realised that and so he did not blame his brothers. Instead, he praised God.
Many years after Joseph’s death, Israel’s *descendants left Egypt. They crossed the desert and they entered *Canaan. And they overcame the people who lived in *Canaan.
For ‘embalm’ see the comment on verses 2-3.
Nearly 400 years after this time, Israel’s *descendants left Egypt and they went to *Canaan. They took Joseph’s mummy with them and they buried it in *Canaan. (See Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32.)
Exodus follows Genesis in the Bible. Exodus describes how God’s people left Egypt. And it tells how they began their journey to *Canaan.
altar ~ a table where one burned an animal as an *offering to God. An altar is usually several large stones that form a pile.
angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven. The *Hebrew word that means ‘angel’ also means ‘*messenger’.
blessing ~ a father’s prayer for his sons before the father died. God sometimes showed the father what would happen to the son. And so the blessing said what would happen in the future. The blessing of the oldest son was extra important. It showed that the oldest son took his father’s place as the head of the family. (The word ‘blessing’ also has other meanings.)
Canaan ~ the country where the *Canaanites lived. (See *Canaanites.) It is approximately the same land as the modern country Israel together with the land of the Palestinians.
Canaanites ~ Canaan’s *descendants. Canaan was a grandson of Noah. (See Genesis 9:18.) The word Canaanites included Amorites and Hivites and other nations. (See Genesis 10:16-17.) It sometimes also included other people who lived in the country *Canaan. These people were not *descendants of Canaan.
chariot ~ a cart that has 2 wheels. One or two horses pull it. It can move fast. Some important people rode in chariots. Armies used chariots of a different kind when they fought.
command ~ to tell people (or a person) that they must do something; to say to people (or to a person) something that they must obey; to control by means of commands. A command is an order that one must obey.
cup-bearer ~ a person who provided the wine that the king drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank.
descendants ~ children and grandchildren and later members of the family.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. Donkeys can carry heavy loads on their backs. People ride on them.
famine ~ a period when crops do not grow. It may last for several years. There is a serious lack of food.
Goshen ~ a district that was a part of Egypt. It was on the east side of Egypt. A canal brought water to it from the river Nile. It was good land for sheep and cows. Few Egyptians lived in Goshen. Most of the Egyptians lived on land that was good for crops.
Hebrew ~ the Hebrew people were Abraham and his *descendants. The ancient Hebrew language is the original language of Genesis. It is also the original language of most of the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). This language is like the modern Hebrew language, which people speak in the country Israel today.
Hittites ~ one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before Abraham went there.
Lord ~ a lord is a person who has authority. ‘The Lord’ means God. It is a translation of God’s name. The *Hebrews wrote God’s name as YHWH. We may write it as Yahweh.
lord ~ a person who has authority.
messenger ~ someone who brings a message.
offering ~ a gift to God. An offering may be an animal. People killed the animal and burned it on an *altar.
Pharaoh ~ every king of Egypt was called ‘Pharaoh’. It was not one king’s name.
pregnant ~ a woman is pregnant when she has a baby in her.
tribe ~ a large group of people who are relatives of each other. Judah’s *descendants were called ‘the tribe of Judah’. In a similar way, each of the 12 sons of Israel became a tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants were not called ‘the tribe of Joseph’. They were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
G. Ch. Aalders ~ A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch ~ Tyndale Press
V. P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (NICOT) ~ Eerdmans
E. F. Kevan ~ ‘Genesis’, The New Bible Commentary ~ IVF (1953)
G. T. Manley ~ The New Bible Handbook ~ IVF
M. Salisbury (editor) ~ Skills for Translating and Exegeting the Primary Scriptures (STEPS) ~ SIL (CD-ROM)
J. A. Thompson ~ The Bible and Archaeology ~ Paternoster
G. J. Wenham ~ ‘Genesis’, New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition ~ IVP
Chambers Concise Dictionary
Oxford Bible Atlas ~ Third edition
Logos Bible Computer Software 1.6
Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon
Bibles ~ KJV, NIV, REB, RSV, TEV
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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