Read Genesis 37-38 at Bible Gateway.
These chapters are divided into God’s paragraph divisions as:
Gen 37:1-36 p Joseph’s advancement and enslavement.
Gen 38:1-39:23 p (We will look at this one tomorrow).
I say that Joseph was advanced over his brothers, as his coat of many colors is mentioned in two other contexts in the Scriptures, besides Joseph’s account: in the special robes that the priests wore when they were serving in the Temple (Exo 28:4), and the robe that David’s daughter Tamar wore (2 Sam 13:18). Both cases point to nobility. When it becomes clear from the narrative that Jacob took Joseph from watching the sheep with his brothers, as a younger son would do (1 Sam 16:11), to overseeing his brothers in watching the sheep, as the firstborn son would do, we can infer that Joseph’s coat as a gift from his father was a sign that Jacob intended to give him the blessing and birthright of the firstborn. This is why, after the gift was given, it says, “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers,” (Gen 37:4).
Chapter 37 makes a chiastic structure with an unexpected central axis:
1A: Gen 37:1, Jacob in Canaan;
1B: Gen 37:2-3a, Joseph’s bad report about his brothers + Israel loved Joseph;
1C: Gen 37:3b, the tunic of many colors;
1D: Gen 37:4, the hatred of Joseph’s brothers;
1E: Gen 37:5-10, Joseph’s dreams;
1F: Gen 37:11, His brothers envied him;
1G: Gen 37:12-14, Sent to his brothers in Shechem;
CENTRAL AXIS: Gen 37:15-16, “I am seeking my brothers;”
2G: Gen 37:17, Found his brothers in Dothan;
2F: Gen 37:18, His brothers conspired against him to kill him;
2E: Gen 37:19-20, Joseph’s dreams;
2D: Gen 37:21-30, the hatred of Joseph’s brothers;
2C: Gen 37:31, the tunic of many colors;
2B: Gen 37:32-35, the brothers’ bad report about Joseph + Israel mourned Joseph;
2A: Gen 37:36, Joseph in Egypt.
Now when I first began studying this chapter, and saw repeating elements, I assumed that Joseph’s dreams would be the central axis. Why does God put neon flashing lights around Joseph’s statement that he is seeking his brothers? We need to tuck that away in our minds and see if God reveals it as we continue in Joseph’s story.
For further study: The 2D element in the above structure, Gen 37:21-30, the hatred of Joseph’s brothers, forms a mini chiastic structure itself within the larger one. Can you find the central axis? Why would God put neon flashing lights around this passage? It might be that we will have to tuck it away, and see if God reveals it as we continue in Joseph’s story.
Finding Messiah: Joseph’s first dream comes to pass, as we find out in the next chapters. His second dream, however, does not seem to come to pass, because there is no record of Jacob or Rachel, who has of course passed away, bowing down to Joseph, even when he came to him in Egypt. But this prophetic dream will indeed come to pass, when we consider that the fathers, mothers, and children of Israel will indeed come to bow down – to the Messiah as King. This is our first clue that Scripture gives us, that the life of Joseph, like Isaac, is a type of Messiah in Torah.
For further study:
The Joseph Narrative in Archaeology (Assoc. for Biblical Research)
Joseph – Hebrew word study (Brad Scott)
<– 35-36 genesis 39-40 –>
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