Like the Messiah Who comes forth from her, Israel has suffered death and will experience resurrection.
This chapter records the second of three pairs of dreams that mark important transitions in Joseph’s life. The first pair being those he shared with his brother’s and father, who became the interpreters of them (Gen. 37:5-11). The result being his sale into slavery (Gen. 37:18-38). The second pair, recorded here, are interpreted by Joseph, after he explains that the interpretation of dreams is a gift from God. Where the former dreams foretold Joseph’s future authority and almost resulted in his death, the dream of the cupbearer foretells his future reinstatement to his place of authority and the baker’s dream foretells his death.
This chapter is also filled with Messianic symbolism from start to finish: the bread (Chori: white linen/unleavened) and wine, the three days, the pit (As Joseph puts it), a metaphor for death, and the restoration of the cupbearer, a type for resurrection. All is pointing to the redemptive purposes of God for His chosen people Israel, to be carried out through Joseph (A type for the future Messiah).
1 And it came to pass after these ha-d’variym the words/things, the one who provided the king of Miytzrayim Egypt (double distress) with drink, incurred guilt due to an offence, as did the baker; against their lord, king of Egypt.
“After these words, things, events” is more than a reference to the physical events of the previous chapter. It is a reminder of the d’variym, the words themselves and their spiritual significance. This is seen in the repetition of the phrases, “HaShem was with him, and that which he did HaShem made to prosper”. These phrases form a foundation for what is about to unfold.
Both Yarchi and Rashi note that according to Midrash, with regard to the cupbearer’s offense, a fly was found in Pharaoh’s cup, and in the baker’s case a stone was found in the baked goods served to Pharaoh. This is more likely than the Targum Yonatan’s assertion that they both tried to poison the Pharaoh, given that such an act would have seen them executed immediately.
The cupbearer’s offense would have been considered less serious than the baker’s because a fly could have flown into the cup at any time and is therefore unlikely to be a premeditated act, whereas the stone had been baked into the goods and is therefore seen as a premeditated attempt to chock Pharaoh to death: or at very least, an attempt to cheat Pharaoh out of the true weight of the bread, a form of theft. It was not uncommon in ancient Egypt for various factions to seek to assassinate the Pharaoh in order to place a ruler on the throne of Egypt who would be sympathetic to a different political agenda. The conflict between the Pharaonic authority and the Egyptian priesthood is well documented. It’s possible that the baker belonged to such a faction.
The identities of the two princes of Pharaoh are of great importance with regard to the meta-narrative of Scripture. The cup and the bread will become central symbols for both Israel and the nations. We find that the cupbearer is a bearer of wine and the baker of broken bread. We are being introduced to the elements which will latter represent the poured out blood and broken body of our Messiah Yeshua.
2 And displeased, Pharaoh (Great house) placed the two into the custody of the official: the prince responsible for drink and the prince responsible for baking. 3 And they were given into a prison house of the prince of executioners into the house, ha-sohar the round place, where Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) was imprisoned.
In Genesis 39:1 Potiphar is called Pharaoh’s official and Prince of the executioners. In the present text the prince cupbearer and prince baker are given to the official (Potiphar), who gives them into the care of his sub commander (Prince of Executioners). Alternatively, both titles refer to Potiphar, just as they did in Genesis 39:1.
The Hebrew term ha-sohar apparently refers to the shape of the prison which was possibly built as a cylinder going down into the ground. This would explain Joseph’s use of the Hebrew ba’bor (well, pit) in verse 15.
4 And the prince executioner placed them in the care of Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) to vay’sharet (minister to) them, and it came to pass after yamiym (a year, many days) of confinement: 5 That the two men dreamed a dream, they dreamed in the one night, each man interpreting his dream, the one who provided drink and the baker to the king of Miytzrayim Egypt (double distress), who were imprisoned in the house, which was round.
As previously stated, “The prince executioner” probably refers to Potiphar’s subordinate but may refer to Potiphar. Either way, Potiphar is in the chain of command and at least partly responsible for giving Joseph this opportunity.
We notice that once again the Hebrew y’sharet (minister to, serve willingly) is employed to describe Joseph’s care of these men. Even in prison Joseph is a minister of God to those in his charge. His generous spirit and integrity are sustained because HaShem is with him.
The Hebrew yamiym can denote a period of up to a year. In the present context this means that the cupbearer and baker were in Joseph’s care for a period of at least a year before they had their respective dreams.
The Hebrew, “Ish c’fit’ron chalomo” is usually translated as, “each man according to the interpretation of his dream” and is said to mean that each man dreamed according to his station. I have rendered the phrase, “each man interpreting his dream”. I believe that the text is inferring that the men each attempted and failed to interpret their respective dreams to their satisfaction. This would help to explain the phrase “We have dreamed a dream and no one can interpret it” (v.8).
The belief that dreams could contain prophetic messages concerning the future was widely held throughout the ancient Near East and is attested to in part by Abimelech’s experience in Genesis 20:3. This makes Joseph’s offer of interpretation in the following verses an inviting proposition and gives him the opportunity to prove himself to be an accurate interpreter of dreams.
It is interesting to note that in verse 5 the cupbearer and baker are called by their occupations alone without the Hebrew sar (prince) being used to refer to their now former positions of authority.
6 And Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) entered toward them in the morning, and saw them and behold they were zoafiym (sad, angry, troubled and perplexed). 7 And he enquired of the s’riseiy (officials, eunuchs) of Pharaoh (Great house) who were with him in the place of confinement, house of their lord, saying, “Why are your faces full of raiym (bad, evil, worry, sadness, distress, and misery) today?”
We notice that Joseph, who has had Mercy Himself add comfort to him in his distress, now “adds mercy” to the troubled cupbearer and baker. Like all great men of God, Joseph allows the overflow of his experience of God’s love and mercy to affect those around him. He is looking for an opportunity to comfort these men who have been placed into his care.
The Hebrew raiym, used here to describe the faces of the men can be translated a number of ways and allows for an ambiguous interpretation. It may mean that the face of the cupbearer was distressed and the face of the baker was full of evil intent. If the conjecture concerning the sins of each of the men is true, it makes sense that the would-be assassin (baker) would be angered by his incarceration and what he perceived his dream to mean. The cupbearer on the other hand is simply distressed due to his inability to interpret his dream and troubled by his present predicament.
8 And they replied, “We have chalom chalam’nu dreamed a dream and no one can interpret it.” And speaking toward them Yosef said, “Is it not l'elohiym (to God, gods, judges) that interpretation belongs? Let me saf’ru (relate, number, recount, rehearse) for you.”
The phrase “We have dreamed a dream” can also be understood to say, “We have dreamed a firmly bound thing” or, “We saw a firmly bound firmly bound thing”. In other words, the doubling of the phrase establishes the certain nature of the dream outcomes. These matters have been established by God and will come to pass.
Neither the cupbearer nor the baker, nor any of the other prisoners, had been able to make sense of the dreams.
Joseph’s response may have been understood in a slightly different manner to his intended meaning. Alternatively, Joseph used the generic term elohiym (God, gods, judges) in order to make it easier for the Egyptians to accept the help of a Hebrew. To Joseph, elohiym referred to the God of the Hebrews but to the cupbearer and baker the term elohiym could be understood to refer to the Egyptian deities. Regardless, Joseph was saying that the accurate interpretation of dreams was made possible by God. It is only after Joseph establishes the authority of God that he offers to recount the meaning of the dreams.
9 And the prince of providing drink recounted his dream to Yosef and said, “In my dream behold, all of a sudden a vine grew before my face: 10 And on the vine three tendrils and it (she) sprouted buds as it (she) ascended and blossomed, and produced ripe grapes in a cluster of fruit. 11 And the cup of Pharaoh was in my hand and I took it and the grapes I pressed into the cup and gave the cup into the palm of Pharaoh.”
The writer of Genesis includes the title prince (sar) again, perhaps denoting the fact that the cupbearer is soon to be reinstated. The rapid growth of the vine and the singling out of three tendrils, as well as the quick ripening of the fruit, are all elements that indicate the imminent outcome. The specific nature of the fruit of the vine (Grape juice, wine) is important because it relates this easily identifiable symbol to the meta-narrative of redemption. The wine of the cupbearer’s dream, once it is joined by the bread of the baker’s dream, provides a foreshadowing of the blood and body of Messiah. This is also in keeping with the fact that Joseph is a type for the Mashiyach.
Another important aspect of the cupbearer’s dream is the fact that Pharaoh takes the cup directly from his hand without the cup bearer having drunk from it to test for poison (one of the most important steps in presenting a cup to a king). This denotes Pharaoh’s complete trust in the cupbearer (according to the dream), and infers future favor where the cupbearer is concerned.
12 And Yosef said, “This is the interpretation of it, the three branches are three days.
13 In three days you'll return and yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head vahashiyv’cha and return you to you position and you will give the cup into Pharaoh's palm in the way you did at first as the provider of drinks.
The idiom, “lift up your head” can mean to count (Exodus 30:12), meaning that the cupbearer will be once again counted worthy in Pharaoh’s sight. The same phrase can also mean to reestablish position (Psalm 3:3; 27:6). In addition, this phrase is used to describe the release of a prisoner (2 Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31). The exact same phrase is used in verse
19, as a word play, followed by the qualifying terms, above and hang.
14 When this occurs remember me and show kindness toward me I plead, make mention of me to Pharaoh and bring me out from this the house.
Joseph is certain of the interpretation he has received from God. Thus he affirms his faith by requesting that the cupbearer use his position to help deliver him from prison.
Unfortunately the cupbearer will soon forget Joseph’s plight (v.23) and it will be two years before he recalls Joseph and his gift for interpreting dreams (41:1, 9-13).
15 For I was carried away from mei-eretz the land of Ha-Ivriym the Hebrews, and also here I've done nothing at all to warrant putting me in this ba’bor (well) pit.”
It’s worth noting that this is the first time that Joseph breaks his silence and protests his innocence.
The phrase, “Land of the Hebrews” shows that at very least Hebron and the surrounding area was known to belong to the Hebrews at that time in history (Approx.1900 BCE).
It is no coincidence that Joseph employs the same Hebrew word ba’bor (well, pit) used to describe the empty well he was thrown into by his brothers (Gen. 37:24). He sees the connection between these two injustices and longs for deliverance. Perhaps, based on the fact that he was freed from the former pit, he relates it to his present captivity because he believes that through his dreams God has shown him an already established future deliverance.
16 And the prince of baking seeing the good interpretation said, “I also dreamed and behold, all of a sudden three baskets of chori white bread (white linen) were upon my head.
The fact that the prince of baking spoke only after hearing the first interpretation, infers that he was not intending to take up Joseph on his offer at first.
The use of the rare verb chori (choor, charar), which comes from a root meaning white stuff, white linen, indicates that the bread in the baskets was unusual in some way. I understand this to be a concise way of presenting the idea of matzah unleavened bread in an Egyptian context prior to the establishment of Pesach and the days of unleavened bread. The Hebrew matzah is used only in Genesis 19:3 prior to its use in Exodus 12:8 and is used in the context of Avraham meeting face to face with a manifest representation of God. This seems to be a unique use that is intended to convey the time of year that the event occurred. The same need is not present here, nor has the Pesach been established, therefore it seems probable that the use of chori rather than lechem (yeast filled bread) in the present context, is intended to denote matzah or an historical Egyptian equivalent (unleavened bread).
The cupbearer saw events unfold before his face, but the baker sees the baskets on top of his head. This is the first indication that the dreams have tragically different meanings. The cupbearer witnesses the events of his dream from within his own body, whereas the baker witnesses the events of his dream from outside of his body. This is an almost universal representation of a transitional death experience.
17 And in the highest basket there was a selection of every kind of baked goods for Pharaoh, v’ha-oph and the birds (flying creatures) ate from the basket on my head.”
The Hebrew oph meaning flying creature, is used to refer to carrion that feed on the flesh of fallen corpses (1 Kings 14:11; 16:4). The fact that the birds are eating Pharaoh’s baked goods without fear, shows that the baker is absent. The phrase “every kind of baked goods” represents the full range of the prince baker’s responsibilities. The basket that is being plundered is on top of the baker’s head, the head being the symbol of authority. Therefore, the plundering is taking place over and above the authority of the baker. This is another way of conveying loss of position. In the case of the baker, he had already lost his position and had been imprisoned in a pit (metaphor for death), thus the dream must be speaking of a further demotion. The only demotion lower than prison is death.
18 And Yosef said “This is the interpretation of it: the three baskets are three days.
19 It will come to pass in three days yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head meialeycha v’talah otcha al eitz above and hang you upon a tree: and the birds will devour your flesh from above.
The similarities with the cupbearer’s dream end at the three days. Here, the phrase, “yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head” is employed as a sort of morbid word play and is qualified by the phrase, “meialeycha v’talah otcha al eitz above and hang you upon a tree”. There is historical evidence that the Egyptians practiced an execution method where the body of the victim was impaled on a long spiked stave and lifted into position outside of the city walls. This is probably the means of the baker’s coming execution.
There is of course a correlation with the “hanging on a tree” of the cursed (Deut. 21:23) and the crucifixion of Messiah, who is the bread of life (John 6:35).
20 And it came to pass that after three days it was the birthday of Pharaoh and he prepared a feast for all his servants. And he lifted up the head of the prince of the drinks and he lifted up the head of the prince of the baking in the midst of all his servants.
The repetition of the three days is an indication of God’s hand on the events and conveys a sense of completion and resurrection. The cup bearer is metaphorically dead in prison and after three days he is resurrected to face judgement and is given new life, whereas the baker is metaphorically dead in prison and after three days is resurrected to face judgement and is condemned to death. Both are lifted up, and each one is judged according to his deeds. This is of course a clear depiction of Yom Ha-Din (The day of Judgement).
The wine of the cupbearer’s dream is a foreshadowing of the blood of the Messiah, and the chori (matzah) unleavened bread in the three baskets symbolize the Messiah’s body and His resurrection is seen in the restoring of the cupbearer because the life is in the blood (wine).
21 And he lifted up the prince of the drinks to serve drinks again and he gave Pharaoh's cup into his palm. 22 And the prince of baking was hung (2 Samuel 21:9) according to the interpretation of Yosef.
Joseph is thus established as one whose interpretations are trustworthy. The events transpired just as he had interpreted they would.
23 And the prince of drinks did not remember Yosef, he ceased to care and forgot.
How soon we forget the charitable acts of others. While we’re in a place of torment and suffering we often turn to others for comfort and benefit from their care, but when we are free once more, we quickly forget those who remain in the place of torment that we had once endured. However, the forgetfulness of the cupbearer is part of God’s timing. The cupbearer will recall Joseph at just the right time so that he can have maximum exposure and gain high position from the Pharaoh.
This failure to remember Joseph is a prophetic link to the future of Israel. A future filled with the rhythm of being forgotten and redeemed (Exodus 1:8). We see here, that Joseph is also a type for his people Israel, a people whom a subsequent Pharaoh will not recognize. Like the Messiah Who comes forth from her, Israel will suffer death and experience resurrection.
The reinstatement (resurrection) of the cupbearer is followed by two years of waiting. Joseph awaits God’s deliverance and the crown of authority promised to him in his dreams. In many ways this is like our spiritual journey in Messiah. We meet Him and experience freedom/resurrection from sin but this is only the beginning. We must then continue to hold on to our trust in God as we await His kingdom come, when Messiah will return and we will enter the Olam Haba (World to come), the ultimate fulfillment of our hope in Him.
© Yaakov Brown
Hatred, while dangerous, is no match for jealousy.
37:1 Va’ishev Now dwelled, remained, abided Yaakov (Follows after the heel) in the land where his father had m’goreiy made his pilgrimage (sojourned), in the land of K’naan (Lowland). 2 These are the toledot (generations) of Yaakov (Follows after the heel). Yosef (YHVH [Mercy] will add)…
Genesis/Bereshit 37 begins this way, “Yaakov dwelt, remained, abided in the land of his father’s pilgrimage.” Avraham and Yitzchak--Yaakov’s fathers—were temporarily employed in the land as sojourners while on their pilgrimage with HaShem and in a generational sense, toward the Land of Israel. Yaakov on the other hand, had become a permanent resident following his exile and pilgrimage of return. The Webster dictionary defines the word sojourn as, “a temporary stay,” others have inferred the idea that to sojourn is to work and live in a land while journeying to another. Both these ideas are present in the text of Genesis 37:1.
This concept is important for us today both physically and spiritually. Firstly Yaakov being a resident, one who dwelt in the land, has the right to return to the land of promise. Today we see the media and the majority Muslim world surround the physical land of Israel, often demanding that Yaakov/Yisrael leave the land for the sake of peace. In fact the schools of surrounding Muslim nations teach that the Shoah—Holocaust—is a lie and the religious zealots in these same nations preach that the genocide of Yaakov is the only answer. It should be noted that even in the unlikely event that Yisrael/Yaakov were to leave the land, he would eventually return, not by his own strength but by the strength of Hashem—God. Avraham and Yitzchak saw the promise and journeyed toward it, but Yaakov received the promise. This parashah (Torah portion) begins with Yaakov, the follower, rather than Yisrael the overcomer. This is because it was while he was yet seeking that God found him.
Spiritually speaking perhaps we should do a reboot of our Messianic/Christian philosophy and consider this; Avraham and Yitzchak journeyed but Yaakov dwelt. It has become popular to disassociate ourselves from immutable truth with the words, “everyone is on a journey,” while this is of course true, it must be held loosely within the mystery of absolute truth. What if we, as followers of and heirs with Messiah are no longer on a temporal journey? What if we are already dwelling? Those who journey suffer fatigue and look perpetually forward to a goal, which, as long as they journey, is always out of reach. What if we, like Yaakov, have begun at the goal? What if we are beginning at our destination in order to find our destination? Of course this is only possible if we have a Yosef.
It’s important to note that Genesis 37:2 begins with these words, “These are the generations of Yaakov.” Then, in the very next line it says, “Yosef”. Without Yosef (YHVH adds) there are no generations of Yaakov/Yisrael. Yosef, being a type for Mashiyakh (Messiah) allows us retrospective insight into the plan of God. Yosef is called “The lord of dreams,” He dreamed (chal’m made firm) a dream (chalom). His dreams are firmly bound both to the earth and to the universe in the eternal plan of God’s redemption for humanity. Who is our Yosef? Who is our lord of dreams? Is it not Mashiyakh Yeshua? It is Yeshua who leads us from our destination in Him to our destination in God, the Olam Haba (World to come). He is the Goal and the Beginning.
Does all this mean that we are no longer sojourners? No, but, one who dwells temporarily in a land that he will one day dwell in permanently is beyond the temporal journeying of humanity. We have already begun an eternal journey in Messiah that is outside time and space. In Messiah Yeshua we live in the eternal present. Our forebears gave us the hope (ha-tikvah) which they heard from the Word (ha-D’var) of God. Now in our time we have been given the success of Yaakov, the filling of that hope, the ability to dwell in the journey through Messiah. We have been made secure and from security we birth transformation—both personal and corporate.
Yaakov dwelt, abided, remained, and lived in the land his fathers’ had journeyed through—on their way to where Yaakov would dwell (His bones were brought up from Egypt to be interred in the land of Israel), and this was made possible through the life of the Lord of dreams, without Whom there would be no generations of Yaakov.
Yaakov’s son was 17 years old, he was shepherding the flocks, and he was a youth with his brothers— with the sons of his father’s wives (nisheiy) Bilhah (troubled) and Zilpah (A trickling). Yosef (YHVH [Mercy] will add) brought back a bad report about them to their father.
When Yosef was 17, Yaakov was 108 years old and Yitzchak, at 168 years of age was still 12 years from his death.
This event occurred nine years after Yaakov returned home and at the approximate time of Leah’s death according to traditional dating (Seder Olam 2). This helps make sense of the fact that Bilhah and Zilpah are mentioned but Leah is not. Rachel had already passed away. It is worth noting that Bilhah and Zilpah are called nisheiy (wives) here. Among the Patriarchs, so called “concubines” were afforded the status of wives. Thus their sons are legitimate heirs.
Yosef is seen here in the role of shepherd from a young age. This has great significance in Biblical thought because Israel’s prophets, rulers, kings and leaders were often called to their positions from the practical vocation of the shepherd. Additionally, God Himself shepherds Israel and calls her leaders shepherds. This allusion to Yosef’s vocation illuminates that which is to come.
Yosef is called a “naar” (youth) because, with the exception of Benyamin, he is the youngest among the brothers.
The text can be understood to be saying that, “Yosef was with his brothers and specifically with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah” or, “Yosef was with his brothers the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah are: Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
Yosef’s ill report regarding his brothers seems to be nothing more than the tell-tailing action of a young sibling. It is impossible to tell whether he was informing his father of idolatrous practices or other defiling sin. The normal response from siblings who become the victims of tell-tailing is to despise the whistle blower.
3 Now Yisrael (Overcomes in God) loved Yosef (YHVH [Mercy] will add) more than all his other sons because he was the son of his old age. So he had made him a K’tonet pasiym (Literally a tunic flat: meaning that it reached the palms [flat] of the hands and the soles [flat] of the feet).
Up till this point the name Yaakov has been used. That is, the follower after the heel, the man. Now the name Yisrael is employed. Why? Because not only is Yosef, Yaakov the man’s favourite son, he will also become the favoured one and deliverer of Yisrael the nation.
Many a modern parenting manual will look poorly on Yaakov favouring Yosef, however, there is plenty of Biblical precedent for favouritism. Throughout Scripture God Himself is portrayed as favouring a one person over another, even to the point of saying, “I loved Yaakov and Esau I hated” (Malachi 1:2-3). In fact, one could say that Yaakov was honouring God by favouring Yosef.
The Zohar suggests that Yosef (like Yaakov) was a more spiritually attuned than his brothers, and thus gained his father’s favour.
Avraham favoured Yitzchak over Ishmael, and now Yaakov favours Yosef over his brothers. The Patriarchs were simply affirming that the subject of their favour was the one who was to guard the spiritual heritage of their descendants. In a society where everyone’s a winner, this Biblical favouritism is a concept that the modern western mind cannot abide. Regardless, God’s favour remains on His people for His Name’s sake and in spite of the Politically Correct protests of the liberal media. He will continue to honour and favour those who look to Him.
K’tonet pasiym is interpreted by Rashi as, “a garment of fine wool”, which may well have been the case given that Yosef and his brothers were shepherds. The now famous coat of many colours idea comes from Yafeh Toar, which says that it was a long-sleeved embroidered tunic made of variously coloured strips of fine wool.
The second of the two Hebrew words, “Pasiym” comes from the root “pasas” meaning to vanish or disappear. It is of course true that Yosef will soon disappear from his father’s sight. However, his father will see him again. To Yaakov Yosef will be thought dead but he will see him resurrected.
This garment may also have denoted authority, even the highest authority in the family under Yaakov himself. That is, the status of the first-born.
4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not overcome their hatred in order to speak to him in shalom.
The special attention Yosef received only fuelled the tension he had already created by bringing a bad report of his brothers to his father. It may be that his brothers had truly done wrong and were sore at being exposed, then doubly so when they saw Yosef being treated with a prestigious garment.
5 Then Yosef (YHVH [Mercy] will add) chal’m (bound firmly: dreamed) a chalom dream and told his brothers—and they increased their hatred toward him, stewing on it (letting it go round in their minds).
The Hebrew “Chalom” is employed twice in sequence to emphasize the dream and its prophetic nature. The primitive root CH-L-M means to firmly bind. Therefore the remez (hint) inferred by the root tells us that Yosef experienced a dream that was bound firmly twofold. That is, it had already been established outside of time and space as a certainty. From the perspective of the dream Giver (God), Yosef was already the ruler of his brothers and would become ruler over Yaakov’s household.
The Hebrew, “vayageid l’echayv vayosifu od sono oto” translates literally as, “And came to his brothers an increase (yosef) of continually cycling hatred toward him”. This is a Hebrew wordplay using the same root word from which Yosef’s name is derived, to show an adding/increasing of hatred rather than an adding/increasing of status or wealth.
It may have been immature of Yosef to share the dream with his brothers, however, he may simply have been excited by what he perceived to be the certainty of it and wanted to share that excitement with his siblings. Whatever Yosef’s motivation for sharing the dream, his brothers saw it only as another way in which he was usurping their position and stature.
6 He said to them, “Please listen to Ha-chalom the dream chalam’ti I dreamed.
We could read, “Please listen to this firmly established thing that is firmly established”. This in part is what the brothers are hearing. Throughout Scripture, beginning with Avraham, dreams are known to be a means by which God speaks and conveys His established purposes to his chosen ones. The sons surely know of the stories of the dreams of their father and forefathers. This only intensifies their ill feeling toward Yosef.
7 V’henei and now, behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field. V’henei And behold All of a sudden, my sheaf arose and stood upright. V’henei And now, behold, your sheaves turned around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
As we can see from the following verse, there is no doubt in the minds of Yosef’s brothers as to what the dream means. Surely Yosef also understood its meaning. Was he wise to share it? Probably not. But, it seems that HaShem intended for Yosef to do so, knowing that the progression of favour placed upon Yosef would ignite a jealous rage in them that would end in their selling him into slavery in Egypt.
We can see that this first dream alludes to the future, when Yosef’s brothers will seek grain (Sheaves) from Egypt and will bow before Yosef, the supplier of grain (Sheave). The fact that they turn around to bow to him in the dream shows t’shuvah (repentance), and a change in their attitude toward Yosef in the future.
It is also important to note that Yosef’s sheave arose, that is, it needed to be lifted up, to rise from the ground. In other words, the dream also prophesied the time of his trouble, a time when he would be brought down to the ground. It is from this position that he will arise and stand upright, firm.
8 And his brothers said to him, “Will you ha-maloch be the king tim’loch king of us? Will you mashol rule and have tim’shol dominion over us?” And there came to his brothers an increase (yosef) of continually cycling hatred toward him because of his dreams and because of his words.
In classic Hebrew a king reigns with the consent of his subjects whereas a ruler dominates them against their will. If this is the intended meaning here, then the brothers are incredulous at the idea that they might willingly consent to Yosef ruling over them as king. This is of course exactly what will happen when they seek help from Yosef in Egypt.
9 But then he chalom dreamed an od reoccurring/cycling chalom dream va’safer and recounted it to his brothers, saying, “Henei Behold, now, I have just chalam’ti dreamed a chalom dream od reoccurring/cycling. And Henei Behold, Suddenly, there was the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowing down to me!”
This dream is similar in meaning to the first but is not the same. The second dream includes not only symbols of Yosef’s brothers (stars) but also alludes to Yosef’s father (Sun: Yaakov) and mother (Moon: Rachel, who is already dead).
In the ancient East the sun, moon and stars were worshipped as deities and had masculine and feminine designations. Even today in some Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries, the sun and moon are used as symbols on bathrooms to distinguish between them for male (Sun) and female (moon) use.
Yaakov’s dream is communicating the fact that he will rule over his father’s household, and that he will rule as God’s representative, over the false celestial gods of Egypt. This is prophetic not only of Yosef but also of Yisrael. This is why Yosef must rule over the house of Yaakov, that is, the people of Yisrael. Thus it is through Yosef that Yisrael will gain her freedom from slavery to the false gods of Egypt.
This is also a drash (comparative teaching) for our time. Many in our time pursue false gods and many of us have come under subjugation to false gods, sin and misguided syncretism. However, God has supplied us with a Yosef, Messiah Yeshua, and God with us. It is Yeshua Who offers to deliver us from our subjugation to sin and idolatry. In fact, this is why a majority of the Jewish nation did not accept Yeshua at His first coming. It was part of the plan of God to make Yisrael like the sons of Yaakov, their ancestors. Just as the sons of Yaakov rejected Yosef (their redeemer) at first, many of the Jews of Yeshua’s time also rejected Him. However, like the sons of Yaakov, their ancestors, Yisrael the nation, the Jews of these latter days, will come to Yeshua in repentance and receive deliverance from sin, hatred and the oppression of the nations who seek our destruction. The nations would do well to remember that our Messiah, like us, is a sheave, risen and standing in a field of sheaves, blood of our blood, the King unto Whom we will willingly bow as individuals and as a nation. Romans 11 speaks of the day yet to come when all of the ethnic people of Israel will be saved through Yeshua our King Messiah.
10 He told it to his father as well as his brothers. Then his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is ha-chalom the dream you have chalam’ta dreamed? Will we really come—your mother and I with your brothers—to bow down to the ground to you?” 11 So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father shamar, guarded, kept, paid heed to ha-D’var the Word.
Here is another significant difference. Yosef also tells his father about the dream. This was either the misguided confidence of youth or an act of incredible bravery. Either way, Yaakov’s response, while it is initially one of rebuke, ends with contemplation. Like Miriyam (Mary) the mother of our Mashiyach, Yaakov ponders the words of his son.
The Talmid Yochanan calls Yeshua Ha-D’var, the Word (John 1:1). In the present text we could read retrospectively, “His father paid heed to Yeshua (Ha-D’var). In fact, that is exactly what Yaakov was contemplating. He was hearing a dream that foretold the resurrection of the dead. After all, Rachel, the mother of Yosef was already dead. In order for her to bow before her son she would have to be resurrected. Therefore, Yosef’s dream also tells of the last day, Yom Ha-Din, when even the Patriarchs and Matriarchs will bow before the Eternal King of Israel and the Nations, Yeshua, for Whom Yosef is a type.
We notice that the hatred of the brothers has now turned to jealousy. Hatred, while dangerous, is no match for jealousy. At first Yosef’s brothers hated him but did not see him as a real threat, now they feel threatened, and have become jealous, feeling powerless to prevent Yosef’s dreams from coming true. As a result it is not their hatred but their jealousy that acts as the catalyst for the sinful actions that follow.
12 Then his brothers went to graze their father’s flocks at Shechem (Place of burdens). 13 Yisrael (Overcome in God) said to Yosef (YHVH [Mercy] will add), “Aren’t your brothers grazing the flocks in Shechem (Place of burdens)? Come, let me send you to them.” “Heneini Here I am, ready, in awe and willing” he (Yosef) said to him (Yaakov).
Yosef’s response to Yaakov is one of profound obedience and humility. Heneini is used only in situations of absolute devotion and willing obedience. It’s no coincidence that this same word has been employed in the past at times when other fathers’ have been about to lose or seemingly about to lose their sons (Gen. 22:1, 7, 11; 27:1).
14 Then he said to him, “Go now, and check on the shalom (peace) of your brothers and the shalom of the flocks and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Chevron (Company of friends) and he went to Shechem (Place of burden).
The double use of the word shalom here is in stark contrast to the inability of Yosef’s brother’s to speak to him in shalom (v.4).
The remez (hint) at an allegorical interpretation is poignant. Yosef is leaving the company of friends to go to a place of burden.
15 A man appeared to him there, wandering in the field, and the man asked him, “What are you looking for?” 16 “I’m looking for my brothers,” he said. “Please tell me where they’re grazing.”
This verse is reminiscent of, “A man wrestled with him till day break” (Gen. 32:24). It is possible that the man who guided Yosef toward his destiny is the same man that wrestled with Yaakov.
The Targum Yonatan, Pirke Eliezer and Yarchi all say that the man who appeared is Gavriel (Mighty one of God) in humanoid form. Rambam says that he had been sent to lead Yosef to his brothers.
17 The man said, “They pulled up camp and moved on from here. For I heard them saying, ‘Let’s go to Dotay’nah (two wells).’” So Yosef (YHVH adds) went after his brothers and found them in Dotay’nah (two wells). 18 Now they saw him from a distance. Before he was close to them they plotted together against him in order to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Henei Behold, now comes the baal ha-chalomot husband, lord, master of the dreams!”
These sons of Yaakov and brothers to Yosef were planning murder. A far cry from their father’s righteousness.
The mocking proclamation, “Henei Behold, now comes the baal ha-chalomot husband, lord, master of the dreams!” is both ironic and prophetic, even bordering on blasphemy, given that Yosef’s dreams were a form of conversation with HaShem. We notice that they call Yosef the lord of the dreams, that is, lord of the two specific dreams he had shared with them. The first dream being the firmly established future fact of their willing submission to Yosef (A type for Moshiyach). The second dream being the established future fact of both Yosef’s father’s willing submission to him and of the final resurrection.
20 Come on now! Let’s kill him and throw him into one of ha-borot the wells, so we can say that an evil animal devoured him. Then let’s see what becomes of his dreams.”
A careful reading of the Hebrew text provides the reason for the qualifying phrase in verse 24, “Now the well was empty with no water in it”. The translation, “the well” for the Hebrew ha-borot is strengthened by the meaning of the name Dotay’nah (two wells). In other words, they wanted to put him in one of the two wells. Given that at this point the intention was murder, they were probably meaning to throw Yosef into the well that was filled with water. Thus the counter solution of Reuven in verse 24.
21 But Reuven (Behold a son) heard and rescued him out of their hands, saying, “We must not beat him to death.” 22 In order to rescue him from their hand and to return him to his father, Reuven (Behold a son) said to them, “Don’t shed blood! Throw him into this well here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him!”
Reuven seems an unlikely hero here. After all, he had lost standing in Yaakov’s household due to his sin with Bilhah, and he probably suspected that Yosef, as the favoured son of Yaakov, would receive some of his status as first-born (Gen. 35:22; 1 Chron. 5:1).
In order to convince his brothers not to kill Yosef, Reuven had to come up with an effective, if temporary, alternative (Gen 42:22). This tells us that the brothers were intent on killing Yosef, a sad reflection on the moral character of Yosef’s brothers.
Reuven seems to point out an alternate well (one of the two), the one without water in it, knowing that Yosef has more chance of survival in the empty well.
23 So as soon as Yosef (YHVH adds) came up to his brothers they stripped Yosef (YHVH adds) of his tunic (K’tonet pasiym [Literally a tunic flat]). 24 Then they took him and threw him into the well. (Now the well was empty, with no water in it.)
Up till now Yosef had still been approaching. At once upon his arrival (obviously oblivious to his brothers’ intentions), Yosef was taken and stripped of the garment that symbolized his status as favoured son and ruler over his brothers. Yosef pleaded with his brothers not to throw him into the well (Gen 42:21).
The stripping of Yosef’s garment is also prophetic of the stripping of Yeshua’s garment prior to His execution (Luke 23:34).
25 Then they sat down to eat bread. When they looked up, v’henei and behold, at once, there was a caravan of Yishm’eiliym (Ishmaelites: Hears God) coming from Gilead (Witness heap/stones), with their camels carrying gum, balsam, and myrrh—going to bring them down to mitzrayimah Egypt (double distress).
The Targums of Onkelos and Yonatan call the Ishmaelites, Arabians; and the Targum of Yerushalayim, Saracens. They are descendants of Avraham’s son Ishmael.
A remez (hint) appears in the meanings of the names in this verse. Those who hear God have come to bear witness to Yosef’s (Yaakov’s) double distress. That is, the present distress of Yosef and the latter distress of Israel. The Ishmaelites bring myrrh among their goods. A fragrance associated to death and morning.
26 Then Y’hudah (Praise) said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come on! 27 Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites. Let’s not lay our hand on him—since he’s our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers listened to him.
The fact that Y’hudah is listened to infers his position as leader of the disgruntled brothers. Reuven had to support his call for moderation in the treatment of Yosef, whereas the brothers agreed straight away with the proposal made by Y’hudah. Whatever we decide regarding the motivations of both Reuven and Y’hudah, they are both responsible for delivering Yosef from the murderous hands of their brothers.
28 When some men, Midyaniym (Strife) merchants, passed by, they dragged Yosef (YHVH adds) up and out of the well and they sold Yosef to the Yishm’eiliym (Ishmaelites: Hears God) for 20 pieces of silver, and they brought Yosef (YHVH adds) to mitzrayimah Egypt (double distress).
It’s clear from the both the text and from ancient mapping, that the Midianites and the Ishmaelites were close neighbours of similar ethnicity (The sons of Ishmael had intermarried with the Midianites and vice versa). This is why the Targums call both peoples Arabians. The answer to the interchangeable use of these names is that they were traveling and trading together.
Twenty pieces of silver equal 5 shekalim, which is the price for the redemption of the first-born sons of Israel (Num. 3:45-47). This is the Torah’s way of saying that Yosef will receive the status of a first-born. He was after all, the first-born son of Yaakov’s beloved wife Rachel (Ewe), a shepherd born of a sheep. Yosef was to be a shepherd of shepherds. Sound familiar? It should. He is a type for our Moshiyach Yeshua, the Shepherd, born of His sheep.
Alternatively, if we take the twenty pieces of silver to be twenty shekalim, then this is the redemption price for one who is dedicated to HaShem (Lev. 27:5). Also an allusion to the Messiah.
29 When Reuven (Behold a son) returned to the well and saw that Yosef (YHVH adds) was not in the well, he tore his clothes. 30 Then he returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone! And I—where should I go?”
Reuven was obviously not made party to the plan to sell Yosef and so he returns, possibly from his assigned watch, to find that his brothers have done away with Yosef. This is possibly why he is recorded later saying, “Therefore, behold, also his (Benyamin) blood is required” Gen 42:22. Which infers that Reuven may not have been aware of the selling of Yosef. The act of tearing his garment is symbolic of mourning, meaning that he believed Yosef to be dead, probably murdered. It’s quite possible that he found out that Yosef was still alive only after Yosef himself revealed the fact. Again, this conveys to us that Reuven had lost all respect and authority as first-born son. Reuven was distraught because, not only was Yosef missing and presumably dead, but also, as first-born he would have to give an account of this to his father which would only further diminish his standing in the family.
31 So they took Yosef’s (YHVH adds) tunic, slaughtered a billy goat, and they dipped the tunic into the blood. 32 Then they sent the K’tonet pasiym (Literally a tunic flat) long-sleeved tunic, and it was brought to their father, and they said, “We found this. Do you recognize whether or not it is your son’s tunic?” 33 He did recognize it and said, “My son’s tunic! An evil animal has devoured him! Yosef must be torn to pieces!”
It seems that the brothers manufacture the evidence for Yosef’s murder as a response to Reuven’s plea, “Where should I go?” They may have reasoned that if Reuven had concluded that Yosef might have been taken elsewhere rather than murdered, so would their father. It is possible, given the inference in Gen 42:22, that the brothers also hid the dipping of Yosef’s coat in blood from Reuven.
The phrasing, “Then they sent the K’tonet pasiym” infers that they sent the tunic ahead of them with a servant and only after Yaakov had received the initial news did they arrive to give explanation. If this is the correct reading it reflects very poorly on the brothers, showing their actions to be cowardly and undignified.
Yaakov’s sons (Perhaps with the exception of Reuven) lied in two ways: first, they lied about what they had done, pretending that Yosef had been killed accidentally by a wild animal, and second, they lied by omission when they failed to correct their father’s assumption that Yosef had been ripped apart by a wild animal.
34 Yaakov tore his clothing and put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons got up along with all his daughters to console him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, “For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” So his father kept weeping for him.
Yaakov uses the word sheolah (Sheol: holding place of the dead) and not kever (grave). He is professing his belief in the afterlife. This long before the Hellenization of the known world. Those who say that Jews did not believe in the afterlife prior to the Hellenization of the known world are simply wrong.
“All his daughters” refers to Dinah and his daughters-in-laws (Rashi & Rambam).
The fact that Yaakov refused to be comforted brings to mind another text that prophecies events which were to occur at the time of the Messiah’s birth:
“Thus says Hashem; ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel, weeping for her banim children, she refuses to be comforted for her banim, because they were no more’” –Jeremiah 31:15 [Mt.2:18].
In this text Rachel is seen as the mother of all Israel’s sons. This adds to the symbolism of Yosef’s second dream.
With reference to the phrase, “mourned for his son many days”, [yamiym (days) can be interpreted as years], and based on Megillah 17a Rashi says that Yaakov mourned for the full 22 years until he was reunited to his son Yosef.
36 Meanwhile the Midyaniym (Strife) sold him into mitzrayimah Egypt (double distress), to Potiphar (Belonging to the Sun) an official of Pharaoh (Great house), the commander of the bodyguards.
Either, the Midianites here are those traveling with the aforementioned Ishmaelites or Yosef has been sold to them by the Ishmaelites.
Potiphar and Pharaoh are thought to be titles rather than proper nouns. An alternate reading of this verse sees Potiphar as the Chief Officer over Pharaoh’s prison guards.
Yosef has travelled from Chevron (Community of friends/brothers) to Shechem (Place of burden) to Dotan (two wells) and down to Mitzrayim (Double distress) and into the service of Potiphar (one belonging to the Sun), under the Rule of Pharaoh (the Great house over all the deities of the heavens). However, in fulfilment of his firmly established dream, he will one day rule over Potiphar (the one belonging to the sun), and his generations will leave Pharaoh’s great house of false gods desolate. Yosef’s suffering is serving God’s purposes. One might say that God caused Yosef to suffer so that he could one day deliver his father, mothers and brothers, Yisrael.
“Yet it pleased HaShem (Mercy) to bruise Him. He caused Him to suffer.
If He makes His all of himself a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days,
and the will of HaShem (Mercy) will succeed by His hand.” –Isaiah 53:10
“But in this way God has fulfilled what He foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Messiah would suffer.” –Acts 3:18
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,