Notes: Genesis 36-37

Trinity International Baptist Church of Athens, Greece

English Language Bible Study Guide for February 9, 2008


The account of the death of Isaac (chapter 35) is followed by the genealogy of Esau; and then the narrative of Jacob’s family continues to the end of the book of Genesis.

Genesis 36


I. Esau, who is Edom (1-19:)

1, 8, 19, 43: The point is this: Esau is Edom. So when we later find the nation of Edom opposing the nation of Israel, we understand the root of the turmoil.

6-7: Both Esau and Jacob were wealthy, and the land could not sustain both households. Hence they amicably parted ways, as did their grandfather Abraham separate from his nephew Lot.


II. Dukes and Kings of Seir/Edom (20-42:)

20-42: Some of these names are found elsewhere in scripture; but many are never mentioned again outside of this list.

24: In the midst of the names there are a couple of additional comments. In this verse one Anah is noted as the one who found the mules in the wilderness.

31: Edom had kings before the nation of Israel did.


Genesis 37


I. Joseph, more beloved of his father than the other sons, relates his dreams (1-11:)

2: If Joseph was 17, and he was son #11, then how old must the others have been? This was not just another teenage prank.

3-4: Favoritism should cautiously be guarded against. You would think that Jacob would have learned that lesson from observing his father’s affection for Esau.

5: Joseph’s dreams portraying his advancement above his brothers didn’t help ingratiate him to them either.

11: But Isaac paid attention.


II. Joseph is thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers (12-24:)

18: The brothers conspire to kill Joseph

21: Reuben intends to help Joseph

22: Joseph is cast into a dry pit, without his colorful coat, to await the brothers’ determination on what to do with him


III. Joseph is sold to Ishmaelites/Midianite merchants (25-30:)

26-27: Judah suggests selling Joseph to a passing caravan headed to Egypt; and the brothers agree.

28: Twenty pieces of silver (split 10 ways?)

29: Reuben returns to help Joseph but finds him missing


IV. Joseph is sold to an Egyptian captain; but his brothers pretend not to know anything about his disappearance (31-36:)

31-32: Joseph’s colorful coat is dipped in animal blood and sent to Jacob for identification

33-35: Jacob mourns Joseph’s all-too-apparent demise by wild animals; and his whole family (including the guilty brothers) join him

36: Meanwhile, the Midianite caravan arrives in Egypt and Joseph, who had announced his dream of being a leader, becomes a slave in the house of Potiphar.


Meditation Points:

  1. Were not these the same people who would avenge the honor of their sister? And now they would kill their little brother?
  2. Who would expect complete harmony among siblings who share a father but not his affection?
  3. And who would expect men with such sin in their hearts to understand, let alone agree with, one whom God Himself favored highly?
  4. That Reuben would save Joseph is admirable and unexpected.
  5. Humanly speaking, it was the greed of the older brothers which saved Joseph.
  6. Twenty pieces of silver.  What is your life worth?
  7. As Jacob deceived his father, so now his sons deceive him.
  8. God had prevented Joseph’s grandfather from going to Egypt.
  9. From sovereign to slave; from a hole in the ground to the great city.




  1. What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher’s interpretation of the story? He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I’d like to hear other opinions.

  2. Alex, I concur with the comments that Cynthia made to you following the Shoher article.

    ” … I will summarize why I disagree with his interpretation:
    1. He mentions that the Jews have a law that punishes kidnappers and murderers of Jews and that the brothers weren’t punished. This seems to be one of the reasons why he feels they couldn’t have intended to kidnap or murder Joseph, but the Law (Torah) wasn’t given to the Jews until Moses (quite a bit after Joseph lived), therefore, there was no law in force at the time this story takes place.
    2. He mentions that when Joseph went to find his brothers at Shechem, they had moved away to Dothan. In his opinion, this shows that his brothers had decided to “play a joke on him”, but the clear indication of the text is that they moved on to Dothan before Joseph ever arrived. They did not see him coming from far away until he sought them out at Dothan.
    3. The conversation among the brothers clearly indicates a plan to kill him, until Reuben suggests leaving him in a well to die so that they don’t personally shed his blood. Apparently Reuben leaves the group for awhile, though it is not explicitly in the written account, and while he is gone Judah suggests selling Joseph into slavery when he spots a caravan of Midianites coming. His thinking, as he states in the text, is that it is better to get some profit from their brother Joseph than to just kill him. Reuben is upset when he returns and finds Joseph gone because it spoiled his plan to rescue his brother Joseph later.
    4. If you read later in Genesis 42, when his brothers come to Egypt to get supplies during the famine, they discuss among themselves that they are having problems because of the sins they committed against Joseph. They have clearly harbored much guilt through the years for their evil actions and the grief they had caused their father.
    5. Mr. Shoher mentions the youth of the “boys” and believes them to be too young to have such evil intent as to purposely want to kill Joseph or sell him into slavery. But Joseph was the 11th of 12 boys. All 10 of his older brothers, plus a sister, Dinah, were born before him. This would make the majority of them well into adulthood, even at the rate of one birth per year. They were not boys but men.”

    His argument is neither literal nor strong; though a few of his comments are worthy of further consideration.

      a. Joseph’s brothers were not punished for murder or kidnap. True. They did fully expect Joseph’s retribution following the death of Jacob, however, as they knew Joseph understood their intent quite well; and only the grace of God prevented it. Read Genesis 50:15-21.

      b. To declare Judah’s overall righteousness because of his later change in character seems a bit hasty. Remember his affair with a harlot (Genesis 38:11-30).

      c. Shoher’s bracketed addendum refers to editorial changes to the text. I’d like to see some hard evidence to support his leaning on the theories of textual criticism. It’s too easy to declare that text is not genuine rather than to submit to its teaching in faith.

    No, one cannot say that Joseph’s brothers intended only to play a practical joke on their little brother. Their evil and hateful intent was to be rid of him by leaving him in a waterless pit (not too unlike condemning him to hell) to die; but their following Judah’s suggestion that they might be rewarded for their effort, actually ended up saving both Joseph and themselves.