Bible study 37 – Genesis 37

A new and exciting story begins! This time it’s Jacob’s son by Rachel, Joseph, who gets to be the main character. He hasn’t been mentioned since his birth, but he’s Jacob’s favourite “because he was the son of his old age”, and presumably because he was the son of his favourite wife Rachel.

His brothers don’t like Joseph; partly because his father prefers him, and partly because he keeps telling them about dreams where they all (along with the celestial bodies) bow down to his supremacy. So when the brothers find themselves alone with Joseph far away from home, they plot to kill him and throw him into a pit. Reuben, less violent than his brothers, convinces them to throw him into the pit alive, so that he can secretly rescue him later. But this plan is foiled when Judah figures out that there is no profit in a dead body: let’s sell him into slavery! And they do; or maybe some passing traders find him in the pit and sell him themselves, the story is kind of ambiguous. In either case, Reuben comes back to find the pit empty apart from Joseph’s robe. So the brothers dip the robe in goat’s blood and show it to Jacob, telling him that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Jacob is stricken by grief.

(The slave-trading part didn’t make much sense to me. If traders are willing to just take random people sold to them by the road as slaves, what’s to stop them from taking random people just walking along the road as slaves? Joseph had to walk alone to get there; why didn’t the traders just knock him down and take him as a slave when they passed him on the road? That would have saved them the money they paid to his brothers. I don’t know how slave-trading worked in the bronze-age Middle-east, but it just seems a little too easy to restrain some random person and sell him to nearby traders as a slave.)

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