Beckett: Genesis 37:6-11 Bible Study

(Words in italics are words not found in the Hebrew text but need to be supplied in the target language, English. Words underlined are a Hebrew idiom. Words in brackets [] are in the text but not needed in the English translation to make sense of the text.)


Hebrew Translation

He said to them, “Hear, then, this dream that I dreamt. Behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field; and behold, my sheaf rose and even stood firm! Behold, it encircled your sheaves and they bowed down before my sheaf!” His brothers said to him, “Will you truly rule over us? Or will you surely govern over us?” And they hated him even more because of his dreams and because of his words.

Then he dreamt another dream again, and he told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I dreamt a dream again! Behold, the sun, the moon, and 11 stars were bowing before me!” But when he told his brothers and his father, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you dreamt? Shall I, your mother, and your brothers surely come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were envious of him, and his father kept the matter.

Commentary

As much as we want to empathise with Joseph in this story—his brothers selling him into slavery—Joseph certainly didn’t better the situation. What I see here in Joseph is youthful arrogance and ignorance. It’s not until much later that we find out Joseph’s dreams were prophecies from God that his brothers would come before him in Egypt asking for grain during a great famine (sheaves are cereal-crop stems bound together after reaping with a scythe or sickle).

Joseph might have been a master of interpreting dreams, but not even he got his dreams right here, at least not fully. What he got right was that he’d be in a position of authority over his brothers, but what he got wrong was that he assumed he’d receive their praise and worship (the “bowing down” or “prostrating” before him), which is further insinuated in his second dream. Ironically, it would be Joseph’s arrogance in these dreams that would cause them to come true!

Joseph was also ignorant in that he failed to recognise—or perhaps didn’t care for—his brothers’ contempt toward him, especially considering verse 4, “they hated him and were not able to speak to him peacefully.” Surely, if people are incapable of speaking peacefully toward you, this would be obvious. Yet youthful ignorance (and arrogance) would ignore such contempt. After all, he is his father’s favourite!

Jacob’s rebuke of Joseph shows also the extent of his own wisdom, seeing as he also interpreted Joseph’s dream—the sun being Jacob, the mother being Joseph’s mother, and the 11 stars being each of Joseph’s brothers. This was a different dream with the same tale with new information. Not only would Joseph’s brothers “bow down” before him, but now his own parents would as well. Of course, unbeknownst to Joseph, this position of humility would be asking for mercy to provide grain, not to bow down in worship and reverence. And even though Joseph is Jacob’s favourite son, not even he is exempt from much needed rebuke.

What does it mean that Jacob “kept the matter”? It could also be translated “observed the matter.” That is, he remembered the dream and recalled it to mind on occasion, just as one would “keep” or “observe” the Torah. As the ESV translates it, “but his father kept the saying in mind.” I went with a more literal translation.

Jacob might’ve simply recalled it to mind on occasion, or he might’ve recalled it for the purpose of reconsidering Joseph’s dream—that maybe he was wrong to rebuke Joseph. Maybe Joseph would rule over them. Of course, he would rule over them, but not int he way any of them might’ve thought. Perhaps Jacob remembered this dream when he learnt of Joseph’s elevation some 22 years after the deception that he was killed. God often revealed His plan to the people of Israel through dreams, and I think Jacob was aware of this.

Christology

As Joseph’s family would come and bow before him pleading for mercy to provide grain in order to sate their hunger and thus save them, so we come before Christ and bow before Him pleading for His mercy to sate our spiritual thirst and hunger and thus saves us. Indeed, our thirst for righteousness is satisfied, for we eat His body in the bread and drink His blood in the wine of the Eucharist. Here, at His Supper, we receive His mercy as He gladly gives us bread from Heaven to forgive repentant sinners.

Related Readings

Genesis 37:1-5 Bible Study

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