top of page

Genesis 

Chapter 36

Esau’s family

v1 This is the story of Esau’s family. Esau is also called Edom.

v2 Esau took his wives from the *Canaanites. They were:

          Adah, who was Elon the *Hittite’s daughter

          Oholibamah, who was Anah’s daughter (Anah was Zibeon the Hivite’s son.)

v3      Basemath, who was Ishmael’s daughter and Nebaioth’s sister.

v4 Adah was the mother of Esau and Eliphaz. Basemath was the mother of Reuel. v5 Oholibamah was the mother of Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These sons of Esau were born in the country that is called *Canaan.

v6 Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, his servants, his cows and his animals. He took all his property, which he had gained in *Canaan. And he went into a region that was far away from his brother Jacob. v7 He did this because their possessions were great. Their possessions were so great that they could not live close together. The region where they were could not produce enough food for all their animals. v8 So Esau lived in the hilly region that is called Seir. Esau is also called Edom.

Verse 1

Jacob’s family is more important than Esau’s family. So Genesis tells us Esau’s family first. When it has done that, it tells Jacob’s family. It tells us the more important family afterwards.

Verse 2

The Hivites were another *tribe.

Verse 6

‘Esau went into a region that was far away from his brother Jacob.’ That region was Seir. (See verse 8.) But Esau already lived in Seir when Jacob returned to *Canaan. (See Genesis 33:14.) So these verses probably mean that Esau had moved to Seir before that time. Perhaps this sentence is a short way of saying this:

·     ‘Esau went into a region that was far away from his family.

·     He went far away from his father Isaac.

·     And when Jacob returned to *Canaan, Esau was far away from Jacob.’

Verse 7

Jacob and Esau each had great possessions and most of these possessions were animals. These animals needed to eat grass. And there was not enough grass in a small region.

v9 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau was the father of the Edomites. They live in the hilly region that is called Seir. v10 These are the names of two out of Esau’s sons:

          Eliphaz, the son of Adah (Adah was Esau’s wife.)

          Reuel, the son of Basemath (Basemath was Esau’s wife.)

v11 Eliphaz’s sons were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. v12 Amalek was another one of Eliphaz’s sons. His mother was Timna, who was an extra wife of Eliphaz. These are the grandsons of Adah, who was Esau’s wife.

v13 Reuel’s sons were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These are the grandsons of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.

v14 And Esau had 3 other sons. They were Jeush, Jalam and Korah. Their mother was Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife. She was the daughter of Anah, who was Zibeon’s son.

v15 This is a list of the *tribes who were Esau’s *descendants.

          The *descendants of Eliphaz, who was the oldest son of Esau:

                      the *tribes of Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, v16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek.

          These are the *tribes of Eliphaz in the country that is called Edom.

                                  They were *descendants of Adah.

v17    The *descendants of Reuel, who was Esau’s son:

                      the *tribes of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah.

          These are the *tribes of Reuel in the country that is called Edom.

                                  They were *descendants of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.

v18    The *descendants of Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife:

                      the *tribes of Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

          These are the *tribes who were *descendants of Oholibamah, Anah’s daughter.

v19 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau is also called Edom. These are the *tribes who were members of his family.

Verse 15

A member of the *tribe of Teman was called a ‘Temanite’. Job had a friend who was called Eliphaz the Temanite. (See Job 2:11.) He was not the first Eliphaz and he was not Esau’s grandson. He was a *descendant of the first Eliphaz. But he had the same name as the father of his *tribe.

v20 This is a list of Seir the Horite’s sons. (The Horites were the people who already lived in the region.) These are their names:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan.

These are the princes of the Horites. They were Seir’s sons in the country that is called Edom.

v22 Lotan’s sons were Hori and Heman. Lotan’s sister was Timna. v23 Shobal’s sons were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam. v24 Zibeon’s sons were Aiah and Anah. Anah found the wells of hot water in the desert. He found them while he looked after his father Zibeon’s *donkeys. v25 Anah’s children were Dishon and Oholibamah. Oholibamah was Anah’s daughter. v26 Dishon’s sons were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Cheran. v27 Ezer’s sons were Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan. v28 Dishan’s sons were Uz and Aran.

v29 This is a list of the *tribes of the Horites:

Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan.

These are the *tribes of the Horites. They lived in the district that is called Seir.

v31 This is a list of the kings who ruled the country Edom. (At that time, no king ruled Israel’s *descendants.) v32 Bela, Beor’s son, ruled in Edom. The name of his city was Dinhabah. v33 Bela died. And Jobab, who was the son of Zerah of Bozrah, ruled instead of him. v34 Jobab died. And Husham, who had come from the region of the *tribe of Teman, ruled instead of him. v35 Husham died. And Hadad, Bedad’s son, ruled instead of him. And Hadad defeated the *descendants of Midian in the country that is called Moab. The name of his city was Avith. v36 Hadad died. And Samlah, who had come from Masrekah, ruled instead of him. v37 Samlah died. And Shaul, who had come from Rehoboth on the river Euphrates, ruled instead of him. v38 Shaul died. And Baal-hanan, who was the son of Achbor, ruled instead of him. v39 Baal-hanan, Achbor’s son, died. And Hadar ruled instead of him. The name of his city was Pau. His wife’s name was Mehetabel. She was the daughter of Matred, who was Mezahab’s daughter.

v40–43 This is a list of the *tribes who were Esau’s *descendants. Each one had its city. The names of the *tribes were:

Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram.

These are the *tribes of Edom. Each one lived in its own district. Esau was the father of the Edomites.

Verse 31

‘No king ruled Israel’s *descendants.’ It is difficult to understand why this verse is here. Israel’s *descendants had no kings until very many years later. The first king of Israel was Saul. (See 1 Samuel 10:1.) Writers who wrote after that time knew about kings. Perhaps a later writer added this comment to Genesis.

Chapter 37

Joseph and his brothers

v1 Jacob lived in the country called Canaan. His father had lived there too.

v2 This is the story about the things that happened to Jacob’s family.

Joseph was 17 years old. He was looking after the *flock with his brothers. He was helping the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. Joseph told a bad report about them to his father.

v3 Israel had many children. But Joseph had been born when Jacob was an old man. So Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved his other children. Jacob gave to Joseph a special long coat with sleeves. v4 Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved all Joseph’s brothers. They hated Joseph. They were angry whenever they spoke to him.

v5 Then Joseph had a dream. His brothers hated him much more when they heard it. v6 Joseph said to them, ‘Listen to the dream that I have dreamed. v7 Look! We were binding bundles of corn in a field. Then my bundle got up and it stood up. Your bundles of corn came together round my bundle of corn. They *bowed down to my bundle.’

v8 Joseph’s brothers said to him, ‘You will not rule over us. You will not be the master over us.’ So they hated him much more because he had had that dream. And they hated him because he had told them about it.

v9 Then Joseph dreamed again. He told his brothers what he had dreamed. He said, ‘Listen. I have dreamed again. This time the sun, the moon and 11 stars were *bowing down to me.’

v10 Joseph told that dream to his father and brothers. His father was angry with him. His father said, ‘This is a bad dream that you have had. Do not think that I, your mother and your brothers will *bow down to the ground in front of you.’ v11 Joseph’s brothers were jealous because of him. However, his father remembered what Joseph had said.

v12 One day, Joseph’s brothers went to their father’s *flock near Shechem. v13 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Your brothers are feeding the *flock at Shechem. Come. I will send you to them.’

So Joseph replied, ‘Here I am.’

v14 So then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Go now. Look to see if your brothers and the *flock are well. Come back and tell me.’ So Israel sent Joseph from the valley called Hebron. Joseph went to Shechem.

v15 A man found Joseph while Joseph was wandering in the fields. The man asked, ‘What are you looking for?’

v16 Joseph replied, ‘I am looking for my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding the *flock.’

v17 The man said, ‘They have gone away. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan.’

So Joseph went to find his brothers. He found them at Dothan. v18 The brothers saw Joseph a long way off. They planned that they would kill him when he came.

v19 The brothers said to each other, ‘Here comes this dreamer (Joseph). He is a master in that. v20 Come now. We will kill him. Here are some pits (large holes in the ground). We will throw Joseph into one. Then we shall say that a wild animal ate him. His dreams will not help him then!’

v21 Reuben heard that. The other brothers wanted to kill Joseph. But Reuben stopped them. He said, ‘Do not kill him.’ v22 Reuben then said, ‘Do not hurt him. Throw him into this pit (large hole) here in the desert. Do not hurt him.’ Reuben planned to rescue Joseph. And then he would take Joseph back to his father.

v23 So, when Joseph came to his brothers, they took off his special coat. He was wearing the long coat with sleeves. v24 The brothers seized Joseph. They threw him into a pit (large hole). The pit was empty. There was no water in it.

v25 Then they sat down to eat. They looked up and they saw a group of *Ishmaelites. The *Ishmaelites were coming from Gilead with their camels. They had loaded their camels with gum, *balm and *myrrh. The camels were going to carry those things down to Egypt.

v26 Then Judah said this to his brothers. ‘We could kill our brother and we could cover up his blood. But we will not get any reward if we do that. v27 We will sell our brother to the *Ishmaelites. We will not hurt him. He is our own brother. He is a member in our family.’ Judah’s brothers listened to him.

v28 Then those *Midianite traders went by. The brothers pulled Joseph up. They took him out of the big hole. They sold him to the *Ishmaelites. The price was 20 *shekels of silver. Those traders took Joseph to Egypt.

v29 Reuben went back to the big hole. He saw that Joseph was not there. He was very upset. And he tore his clothes. v30 He went to his brothers. And he said, ‘The boy has gone. I am in trouble.’

v31 Then they took Joseph’s coat. They killed a goat. They held the coat while they lowered it into the goat’s blood. And then they lifted it out again. v32 The brothers sent the long coat with sleeves to their father. When they came home, they said, ‘We have found this. Look to see whether it is your son’s coat.’

v33 Jacob knew that it was Joseph’s coat. He said ‘It is my son’s coat. A wild animal has eaten him. It is certain that an animal has torn Joseph to pieces.’

v34 Then Jacob tore his clothes. He put rough cloth on his body. For a long time, he showed how sad he was about his son. v35 All Jacob’s sons and daughters came to comfort him. But Jacob refused to receive comfort. He said, ‘No, I shall go down to the place where dead people are. But I shall still be sad about my dead son then.’ So Joseph’s father wept for him.

v36 Meanwhile Joseph was in Egypt. The *Midianites had sold him to Potiphar. Potiphar was the captain of the guard. He was an officer of *Pharaoh.

The account of Joseph’s life begins in this chapter.

Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. So, Reuben had the *birthright. But Reuben had carried out a wicked deed against Jacob (Genesis 35:22). So, Jacob decided that Reuben should not receive the *birthright. Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But they too had upset Jacob (chapter 34). So, Jacob chose Joseph to receive the *birthright. Jacob’s other sons were angry. Except for Benjamin, who was still very young, they were all older than Joseph.

Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This probably showed that Joseph had the *birthright. And Joseph had special dreams. These dreams were *prophecies. They showed that Joseph would become the leader of the family. But Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams. In fact, they hated Joseph.

Joseph’s brothers were working away from home. They were looking after Jacob’s animals. Jacob sent Joseph to them. Jacob wanted to know what was happening. This was an opportunity for the brothers to attack Joseph. Their first plan was to kill Joseph. But Reuben had a secret plan to save Joseph. Perhaps Reuben wanted to please Jacob. Then perhaps Jacob might change his mind about Reuben’s *birthright. But when Reuben was away, Judah made another plan. Judah and the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Then they pretended to Jacob that Joseph was dead.

Jacob was very sad. Nobody could comfort him. He felt as if his only *righteous son was dead. But Joseph was not dead. In fact, Joseph became a slave in Egypt. God allowed these things to happen because God had a plan to save the lives of many people (Genesis 45:5).

Notes on the verses

Verse 1 Jacob made his home in the country where his father Isaac had wandered about.

Verse 2 Joseph was a helper for his brothers. (Actually, they had the same father, but they had different mothers. So they were only ‘half-brothers’.) But Joseph was more important in the family than they were. Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s favourite wife. But these brothers were just the sons of *concubines. When Joseph returned to Jacob, Joseph told a bad report to his father. People usually think that the brothers were not looking after the animals well. But the Bible does not say what the bad report was about.

Verses 3-4 Israel (Jacob) upset his family. He gave more to Joseph than he (Israel) gave to Joseph’s brothers. The coat was very special. It was not a coat that Joseph would work in. It made his brothers angry just to see Joseph wear it. They had to work hard, while Joseph wore a special coat. And he did not seem to work like them. Joseph was special. He was Rachel’s first son. And Rachel was the wife whom Jacob really loved. So, Joseph became Jacob’s favourite son.

Verses 5-8 Jacob had decided that the *birthright belonged to Joseph. Joseph’s first dream seemed to show that this decision was right. In the past, God had spoken to Jacob too by means of dreams. But Joseph’s brothers were unhappy about the dream. Perhaps they did not realise that the dream was from God. So, they hated Joseph even more because of his dream.

Verses 9-11 Joseph’s second dream was about the sun, the moon and 11 stars. It seemed as if Joseph’s family really would *bow down to him. Rachel, his mother, was probably already dead. Leah may have looked after him as his ‘mother’. The two dreams were rather similar to each other. So Joseph could expect that they would probably become true. The writer does not tell us whether God showed their meaning. Joseph’s family might think that Joseph did not really have such dreams. But Jacob continued to think about the dreams. Previously, Jacob had dreams that came from God. So, Jacob was not surprised if Joseph had such dreams.

Verses 12-13 Shechem was a long way from home. It was also the same place where the brothers had killed many people. It might have been dangerous for Joseph to go out alone. Jacob did not think that. However, Jacob was anxious about his other sons. And he trusted Joseph. Joseph would tell Jacob the truth about what was happening. Joseph was a loyal son who always obeyed his father. So Joseph went.

Verse 14-17 In fact, the brothers were not still at Shechem. Probably there was not enough grass there for all their animals. So, they had to move to another place.

Verse 18 Even before Joseph arrived, his brothers were plotting to kill him.

Verse 19 The brothers were angry with Joseph because of the dreams. If Joseph’s dreams had no meaning, there would be no reason for the brothers to be angry. So probably, the brothers were thinking that the dreams might be right. And they were jealous of God’s plan for Joseph. So, they tried to stop God’s plan. If that was their intention, they were very foolish. God is much more powerful than this. Nobody can successfully oppose God’s plans.

Verses 20-21 The brothers intended to leave Joseph without food or water. Then, he would soon die.

Verse 22 Reuben was the oldest brother. So he probably considered that Joseph was in his care. If Reuben saved Joseph, perhaps Jacob would respect Reuben again.

Verses 23-24 The brothers took away Joseph’s coat. Jacob wanted to show that he (Joseph) had the *birthright. That is probably why he had given the coat to Joseph. So, the brothers were trying to take the *birthright from Joseph.

Verses 25-27 It was better for the brothers to sell Joseph. Then they would not murder their brother and so they would not be guilty of that. Also, they would get some money. Joseph would become a slave.

Verse 28 The traders included both *Midianites and *Ishmaelites. They were travelling together. The *Midianites were friends of the *Ishmaelites, who were a larger group.

Verses 29-30 Reuben was elsewhere when the brothers sold Joseph. So, Reuben did not know that his plan to save Joseph had failed. Perhaps Reuben only realised this when he returned to rescue Joseph. Reuben tore his clothes. This action showed that he was very sad. People usually tore their clothes when a relative died.

Verses 31-32 The brothers made a plan in order to pretend that Joseph was dead. They put blood from a goat on Joseph’s special coat. They handed the coat back to Jacob. None of the brothers felt able to take the precious coat for himself. They knew that they did not deserve the *birthright.

Verse 33-34 Jacob seemed even more sad about Joseph than he (Jacob) was about Rachel’s death (Genesis 35:16-20).

Verse 35 The only daughter of Jacob that the writer has told us about is Dinah. But people did not speak much about their daughters.

Verse 36 In *Hebrew, ‘captain of the guard’ means this. It means the ‘chief man among the killers’. So it might mean the chief man among those who provided meat for *Pharaoh’s *household. It might mean the leader of the army. Or it might mean the chief man among those that killed murderers as a punishment.

*Pharaoh ruled over Egypt. All the kings of Egypt were called *Pharaoh.

Chapter 38

Judah’s family

v1 At that time Judah went down, away from his brothers. He turned aside to stay with a man from Adullam. The man was called Hirah. v2 There, Judah saw the daughter of Shua, a *Canaanite. Judah married her. He had sex with her. v3 She became *pregnant and she had a baby son. Judah called him Er. v4 She became *pregnant again and she had another baby son. She called him Onan. v5 She had another baby son in addition to those. She called him Shelah. She was in Chezib when he was born.

v6 Judah took a wife called Tamar for his oldest son Er. v7 But the *Lord saw that Er, Judah’s oldest son, was wicked. And the *Lord killed him.

v8 Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife. Have sex with her. Become the father of children for your brother.’ v9 Onan knew that the children would not be his. So when he had sex with his brother’s wife, he spilled the liquid from his sex part. He spilled it onto the ground. He did not want to have children for his brother. v10 The *Lord was angry about what Onan did. And the *Lord killed him too.

v11 Then Judah said to his son’s wife Tamar, ‘Stay in your father’s house. Stay a widow until Shelah, my son, is a man.’ Judah was afraid that Shelah might die, like Shelah’s brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

v12 After some time, Judah’s wife, who was Shua’s daughter, died. Judah was sad. When he was not as sad, he went up to Timnah. He went there with his friend Hirah, the man from Adullam. Judah’s men were cutting the wool off his sheep at Timnah.

v13 Someone told Tamar that her husband’s father was going up to Timnah. He was going there to cut the wool off his sheep. v14 Tamar saw that Shelah was a man. But Judah had not made her Shelah’s wife. So she took off her widow’s clothes. She put on a *veil and she covered herself up. Then she sat at a cross-roads. The cross-roads was on the way to Timnah.

v15 Tamar had covered her face. She wanted Judah to think that she was a *prostitute. Judah saw Tamar. He thought that she was a *prostitute. v16 He went over to Tamar. She was at the side of the road. Judah said, ‘Come. Let me have sex with you.’ He did not know that the woman was his son’s wife.

Tamar said, ‘What will you pay to me if I have sex with you?’

v17 Judah answered, ‘I will send to you a *kid from my *flock.’

Tamar said, ‘Will you give a *pledge to me until you send the *kid?’

v18 Judah said, ‘What *pledge do you want?’

Tamar replied, ‘I want your *seal and string. And I want the stick that you are holding.’ So Judah gave them to Tamar. He had sex with her. She became *pregnant by him. v19 Then Tamar got up and she went away. She took off her *veil. She put on her widow’s clothes.

v20 Judah sent the *kid with his friend, the man from Adullam. Judah wanted to get back his *seal and stick. However, the man from Adullam could not find Tamar. v21 He asked the men that were near, ‘Where is the *prostitute that meets people in the *temple? She was by the side of the road. She was at the cross-roads.’

The men replied that there had not been a *prostitute there from the *temple. v22 So Judah’s friend went back to Judah. The friend said, ‘I could not find her. Also I spoke to the men that lived there. And they said that there had not been a *prostitute there from the *temple.’

v23 Judah replied, ‘Let the woman keep for herself the things that I gave as a *pledge. We do not want people to laugh at us. As you can see, I sent this *kid to her. But you could not find her.’

v24 After three months people told Judah, ‘Tamar, your son’s wife, has had sex. She is expecting a baby because she has had sex.’

Judah said, ‘Bring Tamar out and burn her.’

v25 When people were bringing Tamar out, she sent a message to her husband’s father. She said, ‘My child’s father is the man that owns these things. Here are the *seal and string and stick. Please notice who owns them.’

v26 Then Judah said that they were his. He said, ‘Tamar is right and I am wrong. I did not make her my son Shelah’s wife.’ Judah did not have sex with her again.

v27 When the time for the birth had come, there were *twins inside her body. v28 When she was having pains because of the birth, one *twin put out his fist. The nurse who was helping at the birth took a red *thread. And she tied it round his hand. She said, ‘This child was born first.’ v29 But as the baby pulled back his hand, his brother was born instead. She said, ‘How you have pushed yourself out, Perez!’ v30 Afterwards his brother was born. The brother still had the red *thread on his hand. His name was Zerah.

Reuben, Simeon and Levi had all upset Jacob. They were his three oldest sons. Jacob did not want them to have the *birthright. So, Jacob decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright. But now, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. So, Judah became Jacob’s most important son. Judah was Jacob’s 4th son, after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. But much of Judah’s life would also disappoint Jacob.

Judah had three sons. The first son, called Er, married Tamar. But Er was so evil that God killed him.

The people then had a custom that they considered important. If a widow did not yet have a child, the unmarried brother of the dead husband would marry the widow. Then, they would have children together. So, Er’s brother, called Onan, married Tamar. But he too was evil, and God killed him.

Judah promised that Tamar could marry Judah’s last son, called Shelah. But when Shelah became old enough to marry, Judah did not arrange the marriage.

So, Tamar made a plan. She covered her face so that nobody would recognise her. She pretended to be a *prostitute. And she tempted Judah.

Afterwards, Judah discovered that Tamar was expecting a baby. He was very angry that she had acted as a *prostitute. He wanted to kill her. But she was able to show that Judah himself was responsible for her situation.

Judah felt very guilty. He confessed that he had been unfair to her. And he allowed her to live. In fact, she had *twins (two babies born together). The oldest, called Perez, received the *birthright among Judah’s *descendants.

Judah’s character and attitudes changed after this event. Before it, he was responsible for the sale of Joseph as a slave (Genesis 37:26-27). Afterwards, Judah himself offered to become a slave in order to save Benjamin (Genesis 44:16-34).

Among Jacob’s sons, Judah was the oldest son who received Jacob’s *blessing (Genesis 49:8-12). And that *blessing was very special. Jacob said that Judah’s *descendants would include the kings of the *Israelites. And the special *descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15) and of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) would be a *descendant of Judah too. This special *descendant means Jesus (Hebrews 7:14). God sent Jesus to free people from their *sins.

Notes on the verses

Verses 1-5 The writer never tells us the name of Judah’s wife. Jacob’s sons did not marry into their own *tribe as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had done.

Verse 6 Tamar was probably a *Canaanite.

Verse 7 The writer does not tell us what Er’s *sin was. This was the first time that God killed one particular person only. (Or anyway, Er is the first one that we can read about.) In the great flood, God had killed nearly everyone. And in Sodom and Gomorrah, he had killed all the inhabitants except for Lot’s family.

Verses 8-10 Tamar had no children and Onan was unmarried. There was an ancient custom for people in this situation. The family expected a dead man’s brother to have sex with the dead man’s widow. If a child was then born, people accepted it as the dead man’s child. It meant that the child would *inherit instead of the brother. However, the brother was the child’s actual father. It is not clear whether people expected the brother to marry the widow. Perhaps they expected him just to have sex with her. But, among the *Israelites, the brother had to marry her. Sex between people who were not married was always wrong. Onan was evil because he was doing a wrong thing to Tamar. A wife or widow was ashamed if she had no children. Onan was not obeying God. God had told Onan’s relatives to have large families. Also, Onan was not obeying his father.

Verse 11 This promise meant that Tamar and Shelah were engaged.

Verse 12 Instead of ‘his friend Hirah’, some translations say ‘his *shepherd Hirah’. Hirah may have been a *shepherd. But here he was Judah’s friend. The time when people cut the wool off sheep was a very important occasion. There were *feasts for the men that cut off the wool. And there was much wine at the *feasts.

Verses 13-14 We do not know whether *prostitutes usually wore *veils. Tamar wore one so that Judah would not know her. Maybe other *prostitutes wore *veils so that people did not know them. Tamar covered her face because she did not want people to know her.

We read here, ‘Then she sat at a cross-roads.’ But some translations say, ‘Then she sat at the side of the road. That place was on the way into Enaim.’ The original *Hebrew text has this. ‘Then she sat at the opening of the eyes.’ Some writers a long time ago thought that it meant this. ‘She sat where two roads came together.’ That seems to be a likely place for a *prostitute to meet people. There, people were going from one place to another.

Verses 16-17 Sex between very close relatives in a family was very evil. But Judah did not recognise her. He agreed a price for sex.

Verse 18 A ‘*pledge’ was a thing that a person gave as a promise. It was a promise that the person would pay a certain price. The person had agreed about the price. When the person had paid the price, then he or she received the *pledge back again. Tamar asked for some things that belonged to Judah. The *seal was a small tube that someone had made out of metal or stone. It had special marks. Those marks showed that the *seal belonged to Judah. The owner kept the *seal on a string. The stick probably had special marks on it too. So those things could only belong to Judah. They could not belong to anyone else.

Verse 20 Judah sent the *kid so that he would receive his *pledge back.

Verse 21 Hirah asked for a ‘*prostitute that meets people in the *temple’. Before, in verse 15, the writer used the word for an ordinary *prostitute. A *prostitute from the *temple was more important than an ordinary *prostitute. It was more polite to ask for a ‘*prostitute from the *temple’. But only people who served *idols would use a *prostitute from the *temple. So, perhaps Judah served *idols at this time.

Verse 23 Judah was a rich man. He was afraid that his friends would laugh at him. They might laugh because a *prostitute had kept his *seal and stick. Actually, she had stolen them. Judah had tried to pay the *prostitute with the *kid. And Judah emphasised here that Hirah certainly knew it.

Verse 24 Tamar was engaged to Shelah. Her father had promised to give her to Shelah as a wife. So, when Tamar had sex with someone else, that was *adultery. *Israelites used to punish people that had done *adultery. Later, the *Israelites threw stones at such people until those people were dead, as a punishment. But Tamar was also guilty because she had become a *prostitute. Judah felt great shame that a member of his family had become a *prostitute.

Verse 25 Tamar was able to prove that she had had sex with Judah. She still had his *pledge. The *seal and stick had special marks. They could only belong to Judah.

Verse 26 Judah knew that he had done something wrong. He had been unfair to her. He had not done the things that he promised to do. He had not followed the custom to help her to have a baby. So, he confessed that he was wrong. Afterwards, he acted in the right manner. He never had sex with Tamar again.

Verses 27-30 Tamar had *twins. It was important for the family to know who was born first. That son would have the *birthright, and he would become the leader of Judah’s family.

Chapter 39

Joseph in Egypt

v1 Now the *Ishmaelite merchants took Joseph down to Egypt. Potiphar, an officer of *Pharaoh, bought him from them.

v2 And the *Lord was with Joseph. Joseph did well in everything. Joseph was in the house of his *Egyptian master. v3 Joseph’s master saw that the *Lord was with Joseph. The *Lord helped Joseph to do everything well. v4 So Joseph’s master liked what Joseph did. And so he had Joseph work with him. He made Joseph the manager over everything. He put everything that he owned into Joseph’s care. v5 From the time when Joseph became the manager, the *Lord *blessed the *Egyptian’s *household. The *Lord *blessed it because of Joseph. The *Lord *blessed everything that the *Egyptian had at home. And he *blessed everything that the *Egyptian had outside in the field. v6 So the master left everything in Joseph’s care. The *Egyptian did not worry about anything. He himself only looked after the food that he ate.

Now Joseph had a handsome body and he had a handsome face. v7 After a while, his master’s wife looked eagerly at Joseph. She said, ‘Have sex with me.’

v8 Joseph refused. He said to his master’s wife, ‘Look! My master is not worried about anything in the house. That is because I am here. He has put everything into my care. v9 I have as much power in the house as my master has. He has not kept back anything from me except you yourself. That is because you are his wife. I could not be so wicked. I could not *sin against God like that.’ v10 The wife continued to talk to Joseph every day for many days. But he did not listen to her. He did not have sex with her and he did not come near her.

v11 One day, Joseph went into the house to work. No men that belonged to the house were there in the house. v12 The master’s wife seized Joseph’s clothes. And she said, ‘Have sex with me.’ But Joseph left his clothes in her hand. He ran away and he went out of the house.

v13 The master’s wife saw that Joseph had left his clothes in her hand. He had run away out of the house. v14 So the wife called to the male servants that worked in the house. She said to them, ‘Look! He has brought a *Hebrew among us, who is playing unkind games with us. The *Hebrew came in to have sex with me. I cried out loudly. v15 When the *Hebrew heard my loud cry, he left his clothes with me. He ran away and he went out of the house.’

v16 Then the wife put the clothes aside near her until Joseph’s master came home. v17 She told the same story to the master. The wife said, ‘The *Hebrew slave that you brought among us came in to me. He tried to play unkind games with me. v18 Immediately, I shouted and I cried out. The *Hebrew left his clothes behind him. He ran away out of the house.’

v19 The master heard what his wife told to him. She said, ‘That is what your servant did to me.’ The master was very angry. v20 Joseph’s master took him and he put Joseph into prison. He put him in the prison where the king’s officers kept the king’s prisoners.

v21 But the *Lord was with Joseph. He was kind to Joseph. He caused the keeper of the prison to like Joseph. v22 The keeper of the prison put all the prisoners into Joseph’s care. That is, all the prisoners that were in the prison. Joseph did everything that people had to do there. v23 So Joseph had many things in his care. And the keeper of the prison did not worry about those things. That was because the *Lord was with Joseph. Joseph did everything well.

Joseph was just a slave when he arrived in Egypt. But soon, he began to have a successful career. Joseph worked for an important man called Potiphar. Soon, Potiphar realised that Joseph had many skills. Joseph was responsible and capable. Everything that Joseph did was successful. So, Potiphar gave Joseph authority over everything in his (Potiphar’s) *household.

The promise that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) was starting to happen. God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph.

Joseph even impressed Potiphar’s wife. She wanted to have sex with Joseph, who was an attractive young man. But Joseph knew that God does not permit such behaviour. So, Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife was angry with Joseph. She lied that he tried to *rape her. So, Joseph became a prisoner.

Even in prison, Joseph impressed people. The guard realised that Joseph was responsible and capable. So, the guard gave Joseph authority over the other prisoners. Soon, Joseph was managing the prison. Joseph was still a prisoner. But even in the prison, God made Joseph successful.

Notes on the verses

Verse 1 The writer now goes back to the story about Joseph. This verse reminds us about Genesis 37:36. The writer tells us that Joseph went ‘down’ to Egypt. He probably means that a lot of the land in Egypt is lower than the mountains in Canaan. But Joseph had gone ‘down’ in another way. He also went ‘down’ in his social importance. He became a slave. He was not still a favourite son in a rich family.

Verses 2-3 In this chapter, the writer often tells us that the *Lord was with Joseph. Joseph suffered. But the *Lord was still taking care of him. And the *Lord made Joseph successful. So, Potiphar appointed him to do more important tasks.

Verse 4 Joseph soon became more important. He was a useful person and people trusted him. At home with his brothers, his own family did not respect him. But here in Egypt, his master respected him. That is clear. Soon, Joseph had authority over everything. But he worked well. He did not cheat his master.

Verse 5 God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph. In other words, Potiphar became more successful because Joseph was working for him.

Verse 6 Potiphar did not worry about his *household. That shows how much Potiphar trusted Joseph.

Verse 7 Joseph would not do wrong things. The situation was very difficult for him. His master’s wife had a lot of power.

Verses 8-9 Joseph was responsible to his master. But Joseph also knew that he was responsible to God. We can see that Joseph was a *righteous man. He did not care about his own pleasure. Instead, Joseph thought about what God wanted him to do.

Verse 10 This did not just happen once. The master’s wife tried to tempt Joseph every day.

Verse 11 The master’s wife had probably sent the other servants out.

Verses 12-13 On this day, the master’s wife held Joseph’s clothing firmly. So, Joseph could not just walk away, as he had done on other days. But Joseph refused to do what she wanted. He ran out of the house. She was still holding his clothing. He had done the right thing. But the master’s wife now had evidence that seemed to prove her lie.

Verse 14 The master’s wife pretended that Joseph tried to *rape her. When the wife talked to the servants, she even blamed her husband. She said that he had brought a foreign slave into the house.

Verses 16-18 The master’s wife repeated her lies to her husband. She wanted him to punish Joseph. She was very angry with Joseph. Perhaps she felt ashamed that she tried to tempt Joseph. But she was not sorry. Like Joseph’s own brothers, she hated the fact that Joseph was *righteous.

Verses 19-20 The master’s wife had said that Joseph had tried to *rape her. The usual punishment for that was death. Potiphar put Joseph into prison. It was a special prison. If a servant of the king had to go to prison, the king’s officers kept him there.

We do not know why Potiphar did not kill Joseph. But Potiphar was the captain of the guards (Genesis 38:36). So, perhaps Potiphar was responsible for the prison too. Potiphar knew that Joseph was capable. Perhaps Potiphar thought that Joseph would be very useful in the prison.

The writer does not use people’s names very much in this story. He talks a lot about ‘he’, ‘she’, the ‘master’ and the ‘master’s wife’. Perhaps it showed that the people in the story belonged to different social classes. Joseph was a slave. Potiphar and his wife were the master and the master’s wife. They even had the legal right to kill their slaves.

Verse 21 God caused the keeper (guard) of the prison to like Joseph. But the guard did not prove that Joseph was not guilty. He did not take Joseph out of prison.

Verse 22 Soon, Joseph became very important in the prison. He had authority over all the other prisoners. Even in prison, God made Joseph successful.

Verse 23 Again the writer tells how people trusted Joseph. And the writer reminds us why Joseph was successful. Joseph was successful because God *blessed him.

Chapter 40

Joseph tells what some people’s dreams mean

v1 Some time later, the *Egyptian king’s *butler and baker both did something wrong against their *lord, the king of Egypt. v2 *Pharaoh (the king) was angry with two of his officers. They were the chief *butler and the chief baker. v3 So *Pharaoh put them in prison. That is, the guards kept them in a house. The house belonged to the captain of the guard. That was the same prison that Joseph was in. v4 The captain of the guard told Joseph to look after the *butler and the baker. So Joseph served them. They were in prison for some time.

v5 One night, both the *butler and the baker dreamed. They had both served the king of Egypt. He had put them into that prison. Each man dreamed his own dream. And each dream had its own meaning.

v6 Joseph came to those men the next morning. He saw that they were unhappy. v7 So Joseph spoke to those officers of *Pharaoh. They were in prison with Joseph. They were in his master’s house. Joseph asked the men why they had sad faces that morning.

v8 The men answered him, ‘We have had dreams. But there is nobody that can tell their meaning to us.’

Then Joseph said to the men, ‘It is God who tells their meaning. He tells what dreams mean. Please tell your dreams to me.’

v9 So the chief *butler told his dream to Joseph. The *butler said, ‘In my dream I saw a *vine in front of me. v10 There were three branches on that *vine. Immediately when it had *buds, its flowers opened from them. Bunches (groups) of ripe *grapes grew. v11 I had *Pharaoh’s cup in my hand. I took the *grapes. And I squeezed them so that their juice went into *Pharaoh’s cup. And I gave the cup into *Pharaoh’s hand.’

v12 Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is what it means. The three branches mean three days. v13 In three days, *Pharaoh will lift up your head. He will give to you your job as *butler again. You will give to *Pharaoh his cup of wine. You will give it into his hand, exactly as you did before. v14 But please remember me. Please be kind. Tell *Pharaoh about me, when you are doing well. Please get me out of this house. v15 Actually, people stole me from the country where the *Hebrews live. And also I have done nothing wrong here. I should not be living in a prison.’

v16 The chief baker saw that the meaning of the dream was good. So he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream. I had three baskets of cakes on my head. v17 In the top basket, there were very many different kinds of foods. I had baked them for *Pharaoh. But the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’

v18 Joseph answered, ‘This is what it means. The three baskets mean three days. v19 In three days, *Pharaoh will lift up your head. He will take your head from you. He will hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat your *flesh.’

v20 It was *Pharaoh’s birthday on the 3rd day. He made a *feast for all his servants. He lifted up both the chief *butler’s head and the chief baker’s head among his servants. v21 *Pharaoh gave the *butler’s job back to the *butler. So the *butler again placed the cup of wine into *Pharaoh’s hand. v22 *Pharaoh hanged the chief baker, however. It happened exactly as Joseph had said. He had said it when he had heard their dreams.

v23 However, the chief *butler did not remember Joseph. He forgot him.

Joseph was responsible for all the prisoners. So, Joseph was a skilled manager. But Joseph was also a holy man. And he knew that his relationship with God was very important. Even in prison, Joseph was still a *righteous man.

Two prisoners had strange dreams on the same night. They thought that their dreams had an important meaning. But they did not know the meaning. So, they were worried about the dreams.

Joseph told the prisoners that God knew the meaning of their dreams. Then God showed Joseph the meaning:

·     The *butler’s dream meant that *Pharaoh would free the *butler. And *Pharaoh would reappoint the *butler to his old job. Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about his (Joseph’s) situation.

·     The baker’s dream meant that the baker would soon die.

Three days later, these things happened as Joseph had said. But the *butler did not tell *Pharaoh about Joseph. It was not yet the right time for *Pharaoh to free Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. But Joseph did not yet know about this plan.

Notes on the verses

Verse 1 *Pharaoh was the special name that all the kings of Egypt had.

Verses 2-4 These men worked for the king. So, they went to the special prison for the king’s prisoners. Joseph was responsible for the prisoners in that prison.

Verse 5 The *Egyptians believed that the gods sent dreams. They had many ‘wise men’. Those ‘wise men’ said what dreams meant. The two prisoners were unhappy. Each one believed that the gods had sent a message to him. They could not discover what the dreams meant.

Verses 6-7 Joseph really cared about the prisoners that he looked after. He even noticed that the men were anxious. He encouraged them to tell him why they were worried.

Verse 8 Joseph did not believe in their false gods. But he knew that the real God knows the solution to every problem.

Of course, most dreams have no special meaning. But sometimes God uses dreams to speak to people. Joseph had such dreams in the past (Genesis 37:5-9). And he could remember these dreams (Genesis 42:9). Perhaps he was hopeful about the future because of these dreams.

Verse 9-11 The chief *butler’s dream described the work that he used to do. He would make drinks for *Pharaoh. And then the *butler would give the drinks to *Pharaoh.

Verse 13 ‘Lift up your head’ means more than one thing. It can mean that the person does well. His head will not be down in shame any longer. He will show his face. He will not be sad. That was how the chief *butler would be.

Verses 14-15 Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about Joseph’s situation in prison. Joseph did not deserve to be in prison. Soon, the *butler would be free. And the *butler would be important again. So, the *butler would have the opportunity to speak to *Pharaoh about Joseph.

Verses 16-17 The baker’s dream also seemed to describe his work. But something was wrong. The birds were taking the bread that belonged to *Pharaoh.

Verse 18 Joseph was honest. He told the meaning of the dream, although the meaning was bad news. He did not pretend that the dream had a good meaning. He did not say that in order to please the baker.

Verse 19 ‘Lift up your head’ could also have another meaning. It could mean that someone would put very strong thick string round a person’s neck. Then someone would hang the person. That was what happened to the chief baker.

Verses 20-22 *Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. Kings often did special things to prisoners on the king’s birthday. It was a way for the king to show how important he was. *Pharaoh had the power of life and death over his people. He could order someone’s death. Or, he could make someone important.

*Pharaoh did whatever he wanted. But God knew what would happen.

Verse 23 Joseph remained in the prison. It was not yet God’s time for Joseph to be free.

bottom of page