Basically , this chapter just runs through Esau’s children and grand-children and takes a long-winded approach to saying that Esau fathered the Edomites, after he left Jacob and Canaan behind.
The story line goes back to Jacob’s family, and we learn that Joseph has become Jacob’s favorite son, and that Jacob had made him a fancy multi-colored shirt. Because of the favoritism Jacob has shown Joseph, the other eleven boys don’t like him much. (37:1-4)
To make matters worse Joseph starts having dreams where he is in charge of the whole family, except it seems for Dinah. This makes his brothers even angrier. (37:5-11)
His brothers, who are working instead of dreaming, take the family’s sheep to Shechem to feed them. Jacob tells Joseph to go join them and help out, so Joseph heads out to find his brothers. When Joseph gets to Shechem his brothers aren’t there and some stranger finds him wandering around in a field (probably day-dreaming) and tells him that his brothers have taken the flock to Dothan, so he heads that way. (37:12-17)
Joseph’s brothers see him coming and decide to kill him, throw him in a pit, tell everyone that some beast ate him, and then “…see what will become of his dreams.” But, Reuben the maid-breeder, convinces the rest of his brothers not to kill him, and just throw him into the pit. His intention is to rescue his little brother later, and take him back to Daddy.. (37:18-22)
So, when Jacob arrives in camp his brothers take his pretty coat, and throw him into a pit. (37:23)
The boys then sit down for supper and spot some traders headed for Egypt, Judah convinces most of his brothers to sell Joseph to the traders for 20 pieces of silver. (37:24-28)
When Reuben notices that Jacob is gone, they all decide to smear goat’s blood on Joseph’s pretty coat, and they take it to Jacob, who believes that a beast killed and ate his son. Jacob losses it and starts dressing like Tarzan, and mourns hard for his lost boy, who we find out has been sold to the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard in Egypt. (37:29-36)
Sometime after selling his little brother into slavery, Judah marries a Canaanite woman named Shuah. Judah has three sons with Shuah: Er, Onan, and Shelah. (38:1-5)
Judah then gets Er a wife named Tamar, presumably after he’s grown up a bit, but God doesn’t like Er, so he kills him. (38:6-7)
After Er dies, Judah has Onan marry his late brother’s wife so he can get her pregnant. Onan marries her, but instead of getting Tamar pregnant, he spills his seed on the ground since any child wouldn’t be considered his for some reason. God gets mad at Onan for pulling out, and kills him. Sell your brother into slavery, no big deal, but refuse to get your brother’s wife pregnant=death. (38:8-10)
Judah sends Tamar back to her father because he thinks that his sons keep dying because of her and he wants his youngest son Shelah to live long enough to give her a try. (38:11)
Then Judah’s wife dies, so he and his buddy go see what his sheep shearers are up to. (38:12)
Tamar hears that Judah is nearby so she dresses up like a prostitute to see if Shelah has grown up yet. (38:13-14)
Judah spots her, and not knowing who she is, offers her a baby goat for some sex. She says ok, but only if he’ll give her his ring, bracelets and staff to hold until she gets her goat. He says ok, they have sex, and she heads back home to her father’s house. (38:15-19)
Judah gets the baby goat and has his buddy try to deliver it so he can get his jewelry back, but his buddy can’t find her. (38:20-24)
Three months later, Judah hears that Tamar has been selling herself and has ended up pregnant. So Judah has her brought to him so he can burn her alive for being a whore. When she gets there, she shows him the jewelry, and he decides not to kill her. (it’s OK because she was a whore for him and not some stranger) She later has twin boys: Pharez and Zarah. (38:25-30)
Now we turn to Joseph.
Since Joseph had been sold into slavery he had done quite well for himself, and had become the overseer of his owner’s estate. God was good to Joseph’s owner, Potiphar, for appointing Joseph as overseer. (39:1-5)
Potiphar’s wife develops a hankering for Joseph and starts trying to get him to sleep with her. Joseph keeps turning her down, then one day she grabs him by his cloak and he runs away leaving his cloak behind. She tells everybody he tried to rape her, and Potiphar throws him in prison. Where the warden takes a liking to him, and puts him in charge of all the other prisoners. (39:6-23) Joseph doesn’t know how lucky he is that it wasn’t his dad deciding his fate, because we all know that Jacob would have killed him and every man town, then taken the women and children as slaves.
While Joseph is running things at the prison, the Pharaoh throws his chief butler and chief baker in prison where Joseph is put in charge of them. After they had been there a while the two men have dreams that make them sad. When Joseph sees that they are upset he asks them what’s going on and they tell him that they have had dreams but have no one to interpret the dreams for them. Joseph tells them that interpretation of dreams is for God to do, so he will do it. (40:1-8)
So, Joseph tells the butler that his dream means that in three days he will restored to his old position. And, Joseph asks him to put in a good word for him. (40:9-15)
Then the baker, thinking he’ll get good news also, has Joseph interpret his dream. Joseph tells him that in three days the Pharaoh would remove his head, hang him on a tree, and that birds would feast on his flesh. (40:16-19)
Three days later the Pharaoh throws a big party, gives the butler his job back, and hangs the baker. (40:20-22)
The butler forgets all about Joseph. (40:23)
This chapter starts with more dreams. This time the dreams are from the Pharaoh. In the first dream seven fat cows are eaten by skinny cows. And in the second seven good ears of corn are eaten by seven thin ears. The really strange thing about this last dream is that corn didn’t exist in the Middle East until sometime around the 16th century AD, some 3,500 years after the pharaoh’s dream. In fact, no one in the Bible would have eaten corn, known what it was, or have even seen it, except possibly Adam. (41:1-7)
The pharaoh’s dream interpreters can’t figure out the dreams, and his chief butler suggests talking to Joseph. So, the pharaoh calls in Joseph, who gets cleaned up and goes to the pharaoh. (41:8-14)
The pharaoh tells Joseph about his dreams, and Joseph tells him that they both mean the same thing: that God has shown him that there will be seven good years in the kingdom followed by seven years of famine. (41:15-32)
Joseph then advises the pharaoh that he should put somebody in charge of things to collect a 20% tax on all food crops for the next seven years, so that those crops held as taxes can be used to feed people for the following years. (41:33-36)
After asking his advisers if they know of anyone who has God’s blessing to do such a job, the pharaoh makes Joseph a prime minister of Egypt and gives him jewelry, fine clothes, and the pharaoh’s own second chariot. Pharaoh then changes Joseph’s name to Zaphnathpaaneah, and gives him Asenath the daughter of a priest for a wife. Joseph is 30 years old when this happens. (41:37-46) No explanation is given for the pharaoh’s belief in God.
During the next seven years, Joseph collects a lot of corn (seemingly from South America since corn won’t be in Egypt for another 3,500 years) and has two sons Manasseh, and Ephraim. (41:47-53)
Then the seven bad years start. Joseph uses the corn he had stored to feed Egypt, and soon people come from other lands to buy corn, because the famine is worldwide. (41:54-57)
Jacob hears about the corn in Egypt, and since his land is suffering from God’s famine along with the rest of the World he sends ten of his remaining sons to buy some of this amazing new grain. Benjamin stays home because they are worried that he might get hurt. They, like everyone else, have to go to Joseph for the purchase. (42:1-6)
Joseph recognizes his brothers, and disguises himself so that they won’t recognize him. He then accuses them of being spies, and tells them to send one brother to get their youngest brother and return with him or they will be thrown in prison. He puts them in jail for three days, then changes the terms for their release. The new deal is that they can buy their corn and take it back, but one of them has to stay in prison until they return with their younger brother. (42:7-20)
They reluctantly agree, and Joseph has Simeon shackled and lets the others out. Joseph then has his men fill the brothers’ grain sacks, put their money in their sacks, give them some provisions and send them on their way. During their trip home the brothers discover that their money is in the sacks which confuses them. (42:21-27)
When they get home they tell Jacob about what happened. Jacob says that there is no way he is going to send Benjamin to Egypt, because losing another son would kill him. (42:28-38)
What will Jacob do? Will it be revealed why God is trying to starve everyone to death? Will we learn how Joseph got corn from South America, and will he get potatoes also? Will the boys find suitable sisters or cousins to marry during this famine?
Tune in next time as we finish the book of Genesis and at least one of these questions is answered.
For those of you who are interested, I have included below an updated family tree for Jacob’s family to account for the two sons of Judah which came from his buying the widow of his two oldest sons and using her like a prostitute.