Notes on Genesis (xviii)

‘Come therefore, now let us kill him and cast him into this pit; and we shall say “Some wild beast has devoured him.”‘ (Gen 37:20)

Angered by his dreams, Joseph’s brothers plot a terrible revenge. In some ways their handling of Joseph anticipates the treatment Christ receives: the ‘casting down’ into a pit the casting down of Jonah into the depths (37:20 and Jonah 2:4; for Jonah as a type of Christ, see Matt 12:39), the twenty pieces of gold for which he was sold the thirty pieces of silver for which Christ was betrayed (37:28 and Matt 26:15), and the dipping of his coat into the blood of a goat has overtones of the sacrifices that the shedding of the blood of Christ will render redundant (37:31 and Heb  9:12f 10:4. The text at Acts 20:28 is confused, but the Authorized Version translates ‘…the church of God, which he has purchased with his own [i.e. God’s] blood’, a very high Christology.)

Joseph is sold to Ishmaelite merchants, confusingly also described as Midianites. They are making their way with camels from Gilead, a hilly region to the east of the Jordan, towards Egypt, and are presumably intended to be understood as the descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael, who had been dismissed with his mother Hagar into the desert (21:14), although Ishmael was the brothers’ great-uncle. But the earlier story is echoed in the verb used in the Septuagint for the brothers’ act of ‘casting down’ (37:20), which is the same as that used for Hagar’s casting Ishmael down under a bush (21:15).  

So this story looks in more than one direction. And it sets in place the great movement in the biblical narrative to Egypt, from which the exodus will occur.

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