Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Sojourned at Hebron and the environs. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Generations. This connects his history with chap. xxxv. What happened to Jacob and his sons, and particularly to Joseph, forms the subject of the remaining part of Genesis. (Haydock) — Old; complete, or beginning “his 17th year,” as the Hebrew, Chaldean, and Septuagint have it. “He was the son or boy of”—so many years always means the current year unfinished. (Bochart 1. R. xiii. 1.) — The sons. Perhaps these were not so much enraged against Joseph, till he told his father of their scandalous behaviour, in order that he might put a stop to it. — He accused. Some editions of the Septuagint read, “they accused him,” &c.; but all others confirm the Vulgate and Hebrew. (Calmet) — Crime: perhaps of sodomy, or bestiality (St. Thomas Aquinas); or of abusive language to Joseph himself. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Old age, and therefore expected to have no more children; but he loved him still more, on account of his innocent and sweet behaviour (Menochius): in which sense the Samaritan, Chaldean, &c., have, “because he was a wise and prudent boy.” — Colours. The nations of the East delight in gaudy attire, “hanging down to the heels” as the original passim is sometimes expressed, talaris & polymita, ver. 3. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Could not, through envy, which caused them to notice every little distinction shewn to Joseph. They perceived he was the most beloved. His accusing them, and insinuating by his mysterious dreams that he would be their lord, heightened their rage. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. A dream. These dreams of Joseph were prophetical, and sent from God, as were also those which he interpreted, chap. xl. and xli.; otherwise, generally speaking, the observing of dreams is condemned in the Scripture, as superstitious and sinful. See Deuteronomy xviii. 10, and Ecclesiasticus xxxiv. 2, 3.
Ver. 7. Sheaf. Joseph probably knew not what this portended, as the prophets were sometimes ignorant of the real purport of their visions. (Calmet) — But it admirably foreshewed the famine, which would bring his brethren to adore him in Egypt. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. The sun. This second dream confirmed the truth of the former. Joseph relates it with simplicity, not suspecting the ill will of his brethren: but his father easily perceives what effect the narration would have, and desires him to be more cautious. He even points out the apparent incoherence of the dream, as Rachel, who seemed intended by the moon, was already dead; unless this dream happened before that event. St. Augustine (q. 123.) observes, this was never literally verified in Joseph, but it was in Jesus Christ, whom he prefigured. (Calmet) — Some think that Bala, the nurse of Joseph, was intended by the moon. (Tirinus)
Ver. 10. Worship. This word is not used here to signify divine worship, but an inferior veneration, expressed by the bowing of the body, and that, according to the manner of the eastern nations, down to the ground.
Ver. 11. With himself: not doubting but it was prophetical. Thus acted the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. In Sichem. About ninety miles off. The town had not probably been as yet rebuilt. Jacob had a field there, and the country was free for any one to feed their flocks. It was customary to drive them to a distance. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Bring me. He was afraid of letting him remain with them, and retained him mostly at home for company, and to protect him from danger.
Ver. 16. My brethren. The man was acquainted with Jacob’s family, as he had dwelt in those parts for a long time. (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Dothain: twelve miles to the north of Samaria. (Eusebius)
Ver. 19. The dreamer. Hebrew Bahal hachalomoth, “the lord of dreams,” or the visionary lord (Calmet); or one who feigns dreams: so the Jews say of our Saviour, this seducer. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Pit: walled around to contain water: Hebrew Bur. Bar means a well that has no walls. (Menochius) — Shall appear. They resolve to tell a lie, and easily believe that Joseph had been as bad as themselves in telling one first. If they had believed the dreams were from God, they would hardly have supposed that they could prevent them from having their effect. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. His father. Ruben wished to regain his father’s favour, chap. xxxv. 22.
Ver. 25. To eat bread. How could they do this while their innocent brother was praying and lamenting! (chap. xlii. 21.) (Haydock) — Some: a caravan of merchants. (Du Hamel) — Balm, or rosin; “that of Syria resembles attic honey.” (Pliny, Natural History) — Myrrh, (stacten); Hebrew, Lot: “drops of myrrh or laudanum, or of the Lotus tree.” (Calmet)
Ver. 28. Of silver. Some have read, thirty pieces of gold or silver. (St. Ambrose, c. 3.) — The price was trifling: twenty sicles would be about £2 5s. 7½d. English. The Madianites and Ismaelites jointly purchased Joseph. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Ruben, who, in the mean time, had been absent while his brethren hearkened to the proposal of Juda only, and therefore consented to this evil. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. I go to seek for him. His brethren inform him of what they had done, and he consents to keep it a secret from his father. (Menochius)
Ver. 33. A beast. So he might reasonably conclude from the blood, and from the insinuations of the messengers sent by his ten sons, (Haydock) whom he would not suspect of so heinous a crime. Wild beasts infested that country. (Menochius)
Ver. 34. Sack-cloth, or hair-cloth, cilicio. These garments were made very close, like a sack, of the hair taken from the goats of Cilicia, which grew long, rough, and of a dark colour. The poorest people used them: Usum in Castrorum & miseris velamina nautis, (Virgil, Geor. 3.); and the Ascetics, or monks, afterwards chose them for the sake of mortification and humility. (Calmet) — Jacob was the first, mentioned in Scripture, who put them on, and the Israelites imitated him in their mourning. — Long time; twenty-three years, till he heard of his son being still alive. (Menochius)
Ver. 35. Into hell; that is, into limbo, the place where the souls of the just were received before the death of our Redeemer. For allowing that the word hell sometimes is taken for the grave, it cannot be so taken in this place; since Jacob did not believe his son to be in the grave, (whom he supposed to be devoured by a wild beast) and therefore could not mean to go down to him thither: but certainly meant the place of rest, where he believed his soul to be. (Challoner) — Soal, or sheol, to crave, denotes the receptacle of the dead, (Leigh) or a lower region; the grave for the body; limbo, or hell, when speaking of the soul. See Delrio, Adag. in 2 Kings, p. 209. (Haydock) — Protestants here translate it, “the grave,” being unwilling to admit a third place in the other world for the soul. See the contrary in St. Augustine, ep. 99[164?], ad Evod.; City of God xx. 15. (Worthington)
Ver. 36. An eunuch. This word sometimes signifies a chamberlain, courtier, or officer of the king: and so it is taken in this place. (Challoner) — Soldiers, cooks, or butchers. Hebrew tabachim, executioners, mactantium. He might also be chief sacrificer, governor of the prisons, &c., all these employments were anciently very honourable, Daniel ii. 14. The providence of God never shines more brightly in any part of the Scripture, than in this history of Joseph, except in that of Jesus Christ, of whom Joseph was a beautiful figure. He was born when his father was grown old, as Jesus was in the last age of the world; he was a son increasing, as Jesus waxed in age and grace before God and men; both were beloved by their father, both comely, &c. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Jospeh’s dreams: he is sold by his brethren, and carried into Egypt.
1 And Jacob dwelt in the land of Chanaan, wherein his father sojourned.*
2 And these are his generations: *Joseph, when he was sixteen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being but a boy: and he was with the sons of Bala and of Zelpha, his father’s wives: and he accused his brethren to his father of a most wicked crime.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph above all his sons, because he had him in his old age: and he made him a coat of divers colours.
4 And his brethren seeing that he was loved by his father, more than all his sons, hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Now it fell out also that he told his brethren a dream, that he had dreamed: which occasioned them to hate him the more.
6 And he said to them: Hear my dream which I dreamed.
7 I thought we were binding sheaves in the field: and my sheaf arose as it were, and stood, and your sheaves standing about bowed down before my sheaf.
8 His brethren answered : Shalt thou be our king? or shall we be subject to thy dominion? Therefore this matter of his dreams and words ministered nourishment to their envy and hatred.
9 He dreamed also another dream, which he told his brethren, saying: I saw in a dream, as it were the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars worshipping me.
10 And when he had told this to his father, and brethren, his father rebuked him, and said: What meaneth this dream that thou hast dreamed? shall I and thy mother, and thy brethren worship thee upon the earth?
11 His brethren therefore envied him: but his father considered the thing with himself.
12 And when his brethren abode in Sichem, feeding their father’s flocks,
13 Israel said to him: Thy brethren feed the sheep in Sichem: come, I will send thee to them. And when he answered:
14 I am ready: he said to him: Go, and see if all things be well with thy brethren, and the cattle: and bring me word again what is doing. So being sent from the vale of Hebron, he came to Sichem:
15 And a man found him there wandering in the field, and asked what he sought.
16 But he answered: I seek my brethren, tell me where they feed the flocks.
17 And the man said to him: They are departed from this place: for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothain. And Joseph went forward after his brethren, and found them in Dothain.
18 And when they saw him afar off, before he came nigh them, they thought to kill him:
19 And said one to another: Behold the dreamer cometh.
20 Come, let us kill him, and cast him into some old pit: and we will say: Some evil beast hath devoured him: and then it shall appear what his dreams avail him.
21 *And Ruben hearing this, endeavoured to deliver him out of their hands, and said:
22 Do not take away his life, nor shed his blood: but cast him into this pit, that is in the wilderness, and keep your hands harmless: now he said this, being desirous to deliver him out of their hands and to restore him to his father.
23 And as soon as he came to his brethren, they forthwith stript him of his outside coat, that was of divers colours:
24 And cast him into an old pit where there was no water.
25 And sitting down to eat bread, they saw some Ismaelites on their way coming from Galaad, with their camels, carrying spices, and balm, and myrrh to Egypt.
26 And Juda said to his brethren: What will it profit us to kill our brother, and conceal his blood?
27 It is better that he be sold to the Ismaelites, and that our hands be not defiled: for he is our brother and our flesh. His brethren agreed to his words.
28 *And when the Madianite merchants passed by, they drew him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ismaelites, for twenty pieces of silver: and they led him into Egypt.**
29 And Ruben returning to the pit, found not the boy:
30 And rending his garments he went to his brethren, and said: The boy doth not appear, and whither shall I go?
31 And they took his coat, and dipped it in the blood of a kid, which they had killed :
32 Sending some to carry it to their father, and to say: This we have found: see whether it be thy son’s coat, or not.
33 And the father acknowledging it, said: It is my son’s coat, an evil wild beast hath eaten him, a beast hath devoured Joseph.
34 And tearing his garments, he put on sackcloth, mourning for his son a long time.
35 And all his children being gathered together to comfort their father in his sorrow, he would not receive comfort, but said: I will go down to my son into hell, mourning. And whilst he continued weeping,
36 The Madianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Putiphar, an eunuch of Pharao, captain of the soldiers.
1: Year of the World 2276, Year before Christ 1728.
2: Genesis xxxv. 27.
21: Genesis xlii. 22.
28: Wisdom x. 13. — ** Year of the World 2276, Year before Christ 1728.