Parashah 9: Vayeshev “and he settled”
B'reisheet “in the beginning” (Genesis) 37:1-40:23 Psalm 112
'Amos (Amos) 2:6-3:8 Mattityahu (Matthew) 1:1-6, 16-25
by Messianic Teacher Dr. Daniel Boley
2 … When Yosef was seventeen years old he used to pasture the flock with his brothers, even though he was still a boy. …
The idea that Yosef was considered “just a boy” at this time shows how modern western, and even suburban culture, can bleed through to our translations.
The Hebrew word translated “boy” here is נַעַר [na-ar] meaning: a boy, a lad, a servant, a youth, a retainer; a young man
Messianic Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889) wrote in Sketches of Jewish Social Life
The tenderness of the bond which united Jewish parents to their children appears even in the multiplicity and pictorialness of the expressions by which the various stages of child-life are designated in the Hebrew. Besides such general words as “ben” and “bat(h)” – “son” and “daughter” – we find no fewer than [eight] different terms, each depicting a fresh stage of life.
The following is extracted from this enlightening work:
Childhood Stage Masculine Form Feminine Form Example Scripture
new born יֶלֶד [yeh-lehd] יַלְדָּה [yahl-dah] Ex 2:3, 6, 8
nursing baby יָנַק [yah-nahk] Isa 11:8; Ps 8:2
nursing & eating עוֹלֵל [o-lel] Lam 4:4
weaned one גָּמַל [gah-mahl] Ps 131:2; Isa 11:8; 28:9
toddler טַף [tahph] Est 3:13; Jer 40:7; Ezek 9:6
becoming firm & strong עֶלֶם [eh-lehm] עַלְמָה [ahl-mah] Isa 7:14
youth נַעַר [nah-ahr] נַעֲרָה [nah-ah-rah] Est 3:13
ripened one בַּחוּר [bachur] Isa 31:8; Jer 18:21; 15:8
* Though not all forms are found in Scripture, I think I got all the forms in the correct places. If you can help fill in this chart, with biblical references, I would appreciate it. Please let me know.
The idea that Yosef used to “pasture” (more literally “was pasturing”) the flock comes from the Hebrew word רָעָה [ra-ah] meaning:
to tend, to pasture
used of a ruler, used of a teacher (figurative)
used of people as a flock (figurative)
shepherd, herdsman (substantive)
to feed, to graze
used of cows, sheep, etc. (literal)
used of an idolater, of Israel as a flock (figurative)
in this verse in the Qal active participle form רֹעֶה [ro-eh]: tending, pasturing, shepherding, etc.
Historian and biblical scholar Ray Vander Laan brings out that it was, and still is among the Bedouin of the Middle East, the youngest of the family that tended the flock. The boys and girls right with a small flock might be as young as eight years old. Older children might oversee several flocks from higher ground, with an adult making rounds and providing oversight to any number of flocks belonging to the family. (A wealth of information to enhance your Bible study within its original culture can be found at www.followtherabbi.com.)
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary (JFB): Joseph being seventeen years old, was a shepherd over the flock – he a lad, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Oversight or superintendence is evidently implied. This post of chief shepherd in the party might be assigned him either from his being the son of a principal wife, or from his own superior qualities of character; and if invested with this office, he acted not as a gossiping tell-tale, but as “a faithful steward” in reporting the scandalous conduct of his brethren.
3 Now Isra'el loved Yosef the most of all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a long-sleeved robe.
Possibly because Yosef was the “firstborn” of Jacob's chosen wife Rachel who had died (Gen. 35:19).
… the son of his old age …
Nachmanides explains that all of Jacob's children were born to him in his old age, therefore, “he chose Joseph as the son to look after him in his old age, and this naturally increased his affection for him.” (The Soncino Chumash, p. 230.)
Joseph was the youngest for some time and would therefore be around “home” more as Jacob's age was showing more and more.
… long-sleeved robe …
many versions read “coat of many colors” or something similar.
Sforno: The coat was a sign that Jacob had marked him out for leadership. (The Soncino Chumash, p. 230.)
JFB: a long tunic with sleeves, worn by young men and maidens of the better class.
Keil and Delitzsch: an upper coat reaching to the wrists and ankles, such as noblemen and kings' daughters wore
כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים [keh-to-neh pa-sim]:
כְּתֹנֶת = a tunic, an undergarment; a long shirt-like garment usually of linen
פַּסִּים = plural of כַּס [pas] the palm (of the hand) or sole (of the foot); implication (plural) a long and sleeved tunic.
This is the same phrase found in 2 Sam. 13:18: She [Tamar] was wearing a long-sleeved robe (this was how they used to dress the king's daughters who were virgins).
4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they began to hate him and reached the point where they couldn't even talk with him in a civil manner.
sibling rivalry can be a horrible thing and has driven some to murder (e.g. Cain and Able)
“couldn't even talk with him in a civil manner”
“couldn't” – they were not able (לֹא יָכְלוּ [lō yahk-rū])
“even talk with him” – some translations render this “speak to him” – in the Hebrew is דַּבְּרוֹ [dahb-rō]
The וֹ at the end is a direct object suffix meaning “him.”
The root word דָּבַר [dah-vahr] means to speak, to declare, to converse, to command, to promise, to warn, to threaten, to sing. It is the verb form of the noun דָּבָר:
דָּבָר [dah-vahr] means speech, a word, speaking, a thing: speech; a saying, an utterance; a word, words; business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension).
Both דָּבַר and דָּבָר are pronounced “dah-vahr” – the only difference being that with דָּבָר the second “ah” is held a microsecond longer.
From looking at the two forms of this word it is easy to imagine that not only could these half-brothers not “even talk with him in a civil manner,” but that their actions went along with those words.
5 Yosef had a dream which he told his brother, and that made them hate him all the more.
Joseph seems to have an excitement about his relationship with the LORD and His revelation to him that makes him want to share it; possibly expecting whoever he shared this dream with to be just as excited as he is.
Not everyone is excited about a true relationship with God.
Some will rejoice with you (e.g. Phil 2:17-18)
Some will be jealous / envious (e.g. Matt 27:18; Acts 17:5)
Some will scoff (e.g. Ps 1:1; Acts 17:32)
Some will not care (e.g. Matt 13:18-19)
This introduces the first of six dream related passages in the Joseph narrative each of which seems to be readily understood.
This dream was readily understood by Joseph's brothers;
Vs 9-10 by his brothers and his father;
Gen 40:5-19 two dreams by Joseph; and
Gen 41 again two dreams by Yosef.
Gen 40:8 gives us a clue as to why these dreams could be so readily understood, “Don't interpretations belong to God?”: הֲלוֹא לֵאלֹהִים פִּתְרֹנִים in the Hebrew.
הֲלוֹא [hah-lō] means “have not?” or “after all”
לֵאלֹהִים [lā-lō-hiym] is “to God”
ל is an inseparable prefix meaning “to,” or “for”
אֱלֹהִים means “gods” in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative
פִּתְרֹנִים [pit-rō-niym] is the plural of פִּתְרוֹן [pit-rōn] “interpretation” which comes from פָּתַר [pah-tahr] meaning to open up, i.e. (figuratively) interpret (a dream)
According to the limited abilities of Google Translate various other forms of this word include:
לִפְתוֹר [lif-tōr]: solve, resolve, figure out, unravel, interpret; and
לְפַרֵשׁ [leh-phah-rāsh]: interpret, explain, elucidate, construe, gloss
God is the One Who gives understanding (cf e.g. Dan 2:20-23), but also,
as we better understand the Hebrew language He created and uses to communicate His love letters in the Taanakh, as well as its figurative and symbolic meanings, the more easily we will understand
vs 7 We were tying up bundles of wheat in the field when suddenly my bundle got up by itself and stood upright; then your bundles came, gathered around mine and prostrated themselves before it.
“tying up bundles of wheat” in English comes from two related words in the Hebrew: מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים [meh-ahl-mim ah-lū-mim], the root of each is אָלַמ [ah-lam] meaning
Strong's: to tie fast; hence (of the mouth) to be tongue-tied
BDB: (Niphal) to be dumb; to be bound: (Piel) binding (a participle)
“prostrated themselves” here comes from the Hebrew word שָׁחָה [shah-khah] meaning
Strong's: to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God)
BDB: (here in the Hithpael) to bow down, to prostrate oneself before superior in homage, before God in worship, before false gods, before angel
While Yosef's brothers focused in on the idea that he would rule (מָלַךְ) and have dominion
(מָשַׁל) over them, (which he eventually did, Gen 42:6; 44:14) also
Gen 42:24 Shim'om (Simeon) was bound and imprisoned
Gen 43:33 they were תָּמַהּ [tah-mah]
Strong's: to be in consternation
BDB: to be astounded, to be stunned, to be amazed, to be dumbfounded
Gen 44:16 they were speechless
9 He had another dream which he told his brothers: “Here, I had another dream, and there were the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrating themselves before me.” 10 He told his father too, as well as his brothers, but his father rebuked him: “What is this dream you have had? Do you really expect me, your mother and your brothers to come and prostrate ourselves before you on the ground?”
On the surface this appears impossible, Joseph's mother Rachel is already dead (Gen 35:19), so we know there has to be more to this dream.
“sun” here is the Hebrew שֶׁמֶשׁ [sheh-mehsh] meaning the sun, but also sunrise, sun-rising, east, sun-setting, west (used of direction); the sun (as an object of illicit worship); openly, publicly (in other phrases); pinnacles, battlements, shields (as glittering or shining)
With the idea of the שֶׁמֶשׁ paying homage to Yosef we can see the whole land, from east to west, openly submitting to him.
“moon” here is the Hebrew יָרֵחַ [yah-rā-khah] means moon in the normal sense, but
following “sun” it may also indicate the totality / completeness of Joseph's rule (i.e. both day and night).
Another form of this same word, יֶרַח [yeh-rakh] also means the moon, and a month (lunar cycle). In this we are reminded that the moon has no illumination of its own, but reflects the light and brilliance of the sun. Yosef's rule will be affective, and affect people, both directly and indirectly.
“eleven” is written as the combination of one [+] ten: אַחַד עָשָׂר [eh-khad ah-sar] (the word pair forms being different than the words individually):
אֶחֶד is one and harkens back to the “Sh'ma” beginning in Deut 6:4
reminding us that Joseph's rule is God-given
עֲשָׂרַה is ten reminding us that as ten is exponentially greater than one, so God's rule and reign is exponentially greater than the rule and reign of any man
“star” is כּוֹכָב [ko-khahv] which can refer to the blazing points of light seen in the night sky, but כּוֹכָב is also used in reference to brothers, youth, numerous progeny, personification, God's omniscience (figurative), and of the Messiah
Yosef had a father, mother, and 11 brothers, so on the surface the meaning of this dream appears obvious. But considering that Rachel was already dead, that makes the obvious meaning impossible, and throws the fulfillment into the realm of the impossible: something the LORD specializes in (cf Lk 1:37)!
For further investigation …...
Gen 40:9 a vine … גֶפֶן [geh-phehn] Strong's to bend; a vine, especially the grape; BDB a vine, a vine tree, used of Israel (figurative), used of stars fading at Jehovah's (Yahweh's) judgment (metaphorical), used of prosperity => cupbearer was lifted up and restored to his position
Gen 40:16 three baskets white … he was a baker so the inference is that it must have been white bread: white here is חֹרִי [kho-riy], also refers to a cave-dweller or troglodyte; from חוֹר [khor] which Strong's says means cavity, socket, den; BDB a hole or cave; GoogleTranslate defines חִוֵר (same root) colorless, pale, pallid, wan, pasty-faced, bloodless => all point toward deathlike appearance: baker was hanged