Genesis 37:29-36


Verse 29,30  And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.  And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?

I.    Reuben returned.

A.     Reuben's absence.

1.       Evidently Reuben was gone when the brothers sold Joseph.

2.       Somebody had to take care of the business while the other brothers were taking care of wickedness.

B.     The Bible states that Reuben returned to the pit, not to the brothers.

1.       When he returned, his chief interest was to find out how Joseph fared.

2.       We can know from this that Reuben thought about Joseph while he was working with the flocks.


II.    When Reuben discovered that Joseph was gone.

A.     You can imagine the shock Reuben had when he discovered that Joseph was not in the pit.

1.       The word "behold" suggests a traumatic experience for Reuben.

2.       He probably erroneously guessed that Joseph was dead.

3.       The last time he saw Joseph, the brothers were talking about killing him.

4.       It was at his suggestion that they put Joseph into the pit so he could deliver him to their father again.

5.       He could very likely have concluded that the brothers had taken Joseph out of the pit and killed him, after Reuben left to take care of the flocks.

B.     "He rent his clothes" is referring to Reuben tearing his outer garment as a sign of great grief, a common Biblical expression.


III.    Reuben clearly believes Joseph is dead.

A.     His returning to his brethren reveals that he thought they had killed Joseph.

1.       He had no doubt that the brothers had committed the deed.

2.       He was honest in dealing with those he loved.

a.       Many people believe their loved ones cannot do anything evil.

b.       They can believe it about their enemies, but not about their loved ones.

B.     "The child is not" is an expression stating that Joseph is dead.

1.       Genesis 42:13 - When the brothers explain their family situation to Joseph (whom they do not know is Joseph), they use the expression to explain that one brother is dead.

2.       Gen. 42:32 - The expression is used when the brothers rehearse before their father what they told "the man" in Egypt.

3.       Gen. 44:20 - Judah explains to "the man" that they have a dead brother.

a.       It seems the brothers came to believe their own lie!

b.       This is a natural trait, for we all know people who lie so often, they come to believe their own lies.

C.     "I, whither shall I go?"

1.       A statement of complete bewilderment.

2.       Shall I go to the grave, or to where the body is if you haven't buried him, to see for myself?

3.       Shall I go home to tell dad?

D.     It seems we must make some assumptions between verse 30 and 31.

1.       The brothers must have explained to Reuben that they didn't kill Joseph, but sold him into slavery.

2.       When they showed Reuben the money, he would have to believe them.

3.       Then, it seems, they all joined in the conspiracy against their father.


IV.    This may or may not be a good time to discuss the question, "What would have happened to God's plan for Israel's salvation from the famine if Joseph had not been sold into Egypt?"

A.     Some take the position that God's plan would have been stopped if Joseph hadn't been sold.

1.       This is clearly not the case.

2.       Men do not stop the plans of God.

B.     Some take the position that God determined that the brothers would sin, and used that sin to bring His plans to pass.

1.       This is clearly not the ways of God.

2.       Acts 2:23 - Peter declares that Jesus was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, but that the individuals committing sin by carrying out His counsel did so of their own voluntary free will.

3.       God never predetermines anybody to sin, but God knows they will sin and even allows them to sin, then uses their sins to carry out His sinless plans and purposes.

4.       A proof text is Psalms 76:10, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shall thou restrain."

C.     The truth of the matter is that if the brothers had not sold Joseph into slavery, then God would have used other means to deliver Israel from the famine.

1.       What that means would be, we do not know.

2.       We do know that God has many options open to Him that we can't know or understand.

3.       As proof of this principle, notice the promise given to Solomon in I Kings 3:14.

a.       God told Solomon that if he walked in His ways and kept His statutes and commandments, that God lengthen his days.

b.       Solomon didn't fulfill the requirements of this promise, therefore, he didn't receive a lengthening of days.

c.       If he had fulfilled the requirements, God would have lengthened His days.

4.       There are many conditional promises like this in the Bible.

a.       It is our place to fulfill the requirements of these promises in order to receive the blessings.

b.       If we don't meet those requirements, we won't receive the promise, and may reap the opposite, the judgment of God.


Verse 31,32  And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.

I.    The brother’s conspiracy.

A.     They took Joseph's coat.

1.       Verse 23 - They removed the coat when Joseph first came to them.

2.       It is remarkable how providence came into play every step of the way, providing what was necessary for God's will to be carried out.

B.     Killed a kid of the goats.

1.       The picture is that blood must be shed when there is sin.

2.       There is a sacrifice for their sinfulness even when they didn't know they needed it.

3.       Jesus Christ made a sacrifice for our sins before we knew we were sinners.

C.     The coat was not torn, but only dipped in blood.  For comments see the notes under verse 33.


II.    Sent the coat, with a lie.

A.     Concerning the word "sent".

1.       It is apparent the brothers did not present the bloody coat to their father in person.

a.       The brothers could have sent the coat to Jacob while they were still away from home.

b.       The brothers could have sent Joseph's coat to their aged father after they returned home.

2.       The scripture doesn't seem to give us this information, but we can be sure of some things:

a.       They were cowards toward Joseph, and cowards toward their father.

b.       They couldn't face the fact that Joseph's dreams would come true, and they couldn't face the fact of their fathers sorrow over "the death" of Joseph.

B.     Reason would ordain that the brothers would not be so cruel as to subject their father to unnecessary grief.

1.       The fact that the brothers "coldheartedly" sent a blood splattered coat to their father indicates their depravity.

a.       It must be remembered that God will use these wicked brothers as the foundation of the twelve tribes of Israel.

b.       It must be remembered that God uses us, even though we are as wicked as these brothers.

2.       If they loved their father at all, they would want to be with him when he was told of his son's death.

a.       There is no doubt in my mind that they love their father, but their hatred of Joseph is greater.

b.       The lesson for us is that we must be careful because the hate we have for someone can hurt those we love.

C.     The brothers could always fall back on another lie: they didn't know that Joseph was wandering about in the desert looking for them.


Verse 33, And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.

I.    There must have been many of these coats.

A.     If we compare this coat to the song, "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton, we might erroneously conclude there was only one coat like Joseph's coat.

1.       We ought to remember that the coat was not a coat of many colors, but a coat of colors, a coat expressing royalty.

2.       People of royalty wore coats like this.

3.       Jacob would recognize Joseph's coat since he was personally involved in its sewing.

B.     To the careful observer, the coat not being ripped would have been evidence of foul play.

1.       Jacob reasoned that Joseph had been torn into pieces, but failed to notice that the coat was not torn at all!

2.       After all, what father would even consider that his own sons would be guilty of the murder of one of his other sons?

C.     The plan of the brothers worked just like they expected it to.

1.       They presented the proper evidence, and their father reacted exactly like they wanted him to.

2.       There is a great movement in Christianity today where preachers and churches present a situation, calling upon the natural man in such cunning ways that people are tricked into making "a decision for Christ".  This has opened the door for an great increase in trickery, and wickedness in the Christian community.

D.     A civil war could have started right here if Jacob had concluded that the Canaanites and the Perizzites had killed Joseph.  See chapter 34 for a reason why these people would want to "get back" at Jacob.


II.    The garments of Joseph.

A.     Gen. 37:33 - The coat of many colors.

1.       This is an earthly garment which Joseph wears to symbolize his royal appointment.

2.       John 19:23 - Jesus also wore an earthly garment; without seam, woven from the top throughout, which symbolized his royal appointment.

B.     Gen. 39:16 - The garment left in Potiphar's house.

1.       Joseph left his earthly garment behind when he began his work to save Israel from the famine.

2.       Phil 2:7 - Jesus left his earthly garment behind when He began the work to save us from our sins.

C.     Gen. 41:14 - The change of prison garments to "presentable garments".

1.       When Joseph went from prison to meet Pharaoh, he dressed accordingly.

2.       When we meet King Jesus, we ought to leave our prison garments (what we wore when we were lost) behind and be clothed in garments suitable to serve the king.

3.       When Jesus rose from the dead, he left his grave clothes in the grave.

4.       When He appeared to his disciples, he was clothed, but what He was wearing and where He got it is not mentioned.

D.     Gen. 41:42 - The royal garments.

1.       Joseph's brothers didn't recognize him because of his strange clothes and strange language, for he always spoke to them through an interpreter.

2.       Rev. 1:13 - When Jesus appears to John, he is clothed in a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  He recognized Him because he was in a spiritual condition.


Verse 34, And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

I.    He probably blamed himself for Joseph's death, reliving the details Joseph being torn into pieces by wild animals.

A.     This is useless, but that doesn't mean we all don't do it in times of trouble and stress. 

B.     Renting his clothes and putting sackcloth on his loins is a typical Biblical custom to show great sorrow and mourning.


Verse 35, And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

I.    They were very miserable and hypocritical comforters.

A.     They could have confessed what they had done to Joseph, gone to Egypt, found him, and bought him back, thereby stopping their father's mourning if they were really trying to comfort him.

1.       To do this would mean confessing what they had done, and they didn't want to do that.

2.       It seems the brothers were unable to tell their father what they had done.

3.       Their conspiring in this deed is very evident, for even Reuben didn't tell his father the truth.

B.     I don't know whether the daughters knew the entire story or not.  The Bible doesn't tell us one way or the other.


II.    It was not right for Jacob to refuse to be comforted.

A.     He should have sought the comfort from his remaining sons instead of refusing to be comforted by them.

1.       His actions could have driven his sons further from him.

2.       The only reason his sons weren't driven further from him is because they were guilty and knew it.


III.    The brothers never really know that their father loved them.

A.     When Joseph was at home, all the brothers knew Jacob loved him more than them.

1.       Twenty two years later, in Gen. 44:34, Judah desires to stay instead of Benjamin.

2.       Judah is saying either one of two things.

a.       Jacob still doesn't love me as much as he loves Benjamin.

b.       Judah can't stand to face his father's grief if he loses Benjamin.

B.     Another thing to notice right here is the attitude of Jacob.  He, like all parents, should have let each child know they were loved.


IV.    Jacob, like us, shouldn't say "we will die mourning", or "I'm hurt so bad, I won't ever get over it".

A.     We shouldn't spend our lives remembering the hurts of the past.

B.     We don't know what joy lies before us when the sorrow of mourning comes to an end.

C.     We must reconcile ourselves to the will of God, trust Him in all things, and exercise the hope that is within us by looking for His return.

D.     Let us be careful not to make more or less of a given situation than is truly there.


Verse 36, And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.

I.    Sold into Egypt.

A.     Joseph could have been sold into any nation, but God intervened for the good of Israel.

B.     This act of buying and selling a "common" slave is the beginning of the destruction of Egypt.

1.       To the Ishmaelites and Midianites, the transaction is simply a matter of making a living.

2.       In a few short years, this slave will be buying and selling Egypt!


II.    Sold to Potiphar.

A.     His name means "who is of the sun", or "a fat bull".

1.       The name reveals that Potiphar was a religious man according to Egypt.

2.       One commentary stated that Potiphar was a eunuch, though married.  I don't know where that information came from.

B.     He is an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard.

1.       God allowed Moses to be trained in the house of Pharaoh.

2.       Now He will allow Joseph to be trained in the house of one of Pharaoh's officers and guards.

3.       It is very interesting how God always prepares us today for the things He wants us to perform tomorrow.

a.       We should never despair over our circumstances, because God is using those circumstances as a proving ground for greater victories.

b.       Nothing happens by chance, but providence rules over all.